Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Braeden's Impact on MY Learning

A couple of weeks ago, I presented 2 sessions at TCCA in Houston, Texas.  I presented "Connecting Kids to Math" and "Flipping for Homework".  I love presenting at and attending this conference!  It is one of my favorites, and it is absolutely free...and they serve you lunch...and they have keynote speakers like Angela Maiers and Jennie Magiera!  Check it out for next year!

I have been presenting both of these topics for some time now, and I feature many of my wonderful students in them.  One in particular is featured in "Flipping for Homework".  His name is Braeden Hopkins.  It is because of this little soul that my mindset about homework and flipped learning completely shifted!  He joined me that weekend at TCCA when I presented this topic.  His involvement in that session was incredibly impactful for myself and the participants. 

I am now an Instructional Coach on our 5th grade campus here in Montgomery ISD.  I love that I get to still see my fourth grade students from last year! Braeden's mom and I got to talking at our campus book fair, and I shared with her that I would be presenting this topic again that coming weekend.  A day or so later, she asked if Braeden could come watch.  I was so excited!  In her email, she also said this:

Talk about validating that I did right by my kids that year!

There he is, watching Mrs. Storer completely "nerd out" about his VR head seat! It really was pretty cool!  Braeden was brand new to our campus that year, and after getting to know him pretty well, I knew this kid would change my thinking!

One of the first things that Braeden told me when the school year started, was that "we are all just robots in this school."  Pretty powerful statement from a 4th grader!  But I totally got it!  In his own words, he was letting me know that he craved and wanted personalized learning and differentiation.  

In my heart, I knew that I was doing all that I could to reach each of my students, but there is always, always more than can be done!  Because when you think about it, each year we have to grow as a teacher.  We don't get the same set of kids each year, and it is up to us to do all we can to reach every student.

I started the school year with no homework.  I don't see very much value in assigning homework in elementary school, specifically traditional homework. Traditional homework, in my opinion, looks like packets of review work that is handed out on a Monday and due the following Friday.  I was that teacher that gave packets of homework to my students, and I saw first hand what it did to my kids.  It did not excite them about school.  It did not foster a love of learning.  It did not make them want more out of their educational experience. It actually did the complete opposite.  

It was around the middle of the school year, that I came across a blog post by Justin Birckbichler about flipped learning.  I had heard of this concept, and was very intrigued by it.  So I decided to take a chance on it with my kids!  I put a little bit of a spin on it though, and named it Flipped Homework.  What I should have called it was Flipped Experiences, because it ended up becoming more than just homework, in my opinion.

I am very honest about all of the mistakes that I made along the way in this journey.  I own them.  It is those mistakes and my students that helped me grow.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely!

One of the first lessons that I created was about friction.  I called the lesson "Friction Fun", and asked the students to show me a real world example of friction.  They were told that they could submit in any way that they choose! We were using Edmodo as the platform to share their work.  Check out the wording in this prompt--"Wouldn't a video be super cool!?" Even though I opened it up for anything as far as submission, my wording proved otherwise.  First mistake.

Now don't get me wrong, I LOVED the submissions!  The kids enjoyed creating them, and I know that they will never forget what friction is!  Check out one of the videos below by my friend, Brady!

My second mistake was requiring my kids to turn something in.  I should have made every assignment optional.  

Another flipped experience that I gave my students was about simplifying fractions.  Here is where I made my biggest mistakes of all, and where Braeden stepped in to show me the light!

So many mistakes in my many!!

Another mistake that I made was in the video that I provided them, it is pretty much a white screen and my voice for almost 2.5 minutes. I know what my kids probably did!  They fast forwarded it until it got to the end, and then started their work.  I don't blame them.  I would have tuned out as well!

Braeden asked if he could show his learning with Minecraft and a screencasting tool.  I was all for it!  He spent many nights perfecting it, and when I was able to view it with him, I was on the verge of tears.  Why wasn't this the norm in my class?!  Why wasn't this traditional!?  Check out the video below!

Goosebumps the entire time that I was watching it!  He proved to me, using Minecraft and Bandicam, that he knew exactly how to simplify a fraction.  He did all of this without having to touch a sheet of paper!  Such a beautiful thing!! Braeden further proved the power of personalized learning and how not every child learns in the same way or in the same amount of time!  I am forever grateful to this boy for pointing me in the right direction!

I recently read a blog post by Eric Sheninger, and there was so much about this post that I agreed with!  If student learning and success is the ultimate goal, we need to rethink homework. As he further states, current homework practices are creating a culture of dislike when it comes to school and learning.  We need to reverse this.

The point of this story is that we must do better for our students.  Whether it is in relation to homework, classwork, or relationships, we must do better.  Be open to learning from your students.  My former students are the best teachers that I have ever had-hands down!  I wish they knew the impact that they have had on MY life.