Save the Day with Flipped Lessons: Our Superheroes in Reading and Writing Workshop

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by Guest Bloggers and Literacy for All Conference Speakers Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry-Paul

Are you like us? Do you occasionally turn to YouTube for tips and tutorials? From baking salmon so that it’s flaky and crispy to changing a flat tire, we turn to YouTube to learn. It has also helped us in the classroom. If we have a tough grammar or writing concept that we’re going to teach, we might refer to TeacherTube and YouTube as resources. These online tutorials have been like superheroes to us as adults, and we began wondering how we could create online lessons to help our students too.

Over the past few years, we have been thinking deeply about the pedagogical approach known as flipped learning. Traditionally, flipped learning has been defined as a learning environment where students learn new content independently. Such learning has typically occurred outside of the classroom for homework, and this approach has been used primarily with high school students in content areas such as science or math.

We were intrigued. And yet, we had questions. Does flipped learning work for elementary and middle school students? How could we incorporate flipped learning in reading and writing workshop? Could we design lessons to be used in the classroom, as well as out? Could we use flipped lessons to teach new content and to review previously taught material? But mostly, would flipped learning truly benefit our readers and writers in elementary and middle school and if so, how?

Picture a reading or writing workshop with a whole-class minilesson and the teacher conferring with students one at a time after the minilesson. Now, add to this image a few students learning additional reading and writing strategies from a flipped lesson on their own after the minilesson. In this blended-learning environment, students can take ownership of their learning and access instruction on reading and writing concepts that have been previously taught or concepts that are new. Flipped learning allows each student to move at his or her own pace. We discovered additional benefits as well.

  • Individualized Instruction – We love the gentle chaos of the reading and writing workshop. By gentle chaos, we mean the individualized learning that is taking place. Our students are not in lockstep and our instruction is differentiated. Flipped learning helps our students access the instruction they need, when they need it. How many times have we had students who say, “I’m done!” during the first week of a unit? And how many times have we had students who need to review strategies over and over throughout the course of the year? When using a flipped learning approach in writing workshop, students can set goals at the start of the workshop, mid-way through the workshop, or at the end. In these ways and more, flipped lessons can be used to foster individualized learning in the classroom.
  • Efficiency – How many times in our classrooms have we wondered aloud, “If there were only two more of me…” or exclaimed, “If only I could just clone myself!” In the reading or writing workshop, teachers are juggling multiple balls in the air on any given day. Flipped learning can be used to help our workshops run more efficiently. Picture this. On any given day, some students need help with a revision strategy. Others need practice inferencing. And still others need help getting started with selecting a book or an idea to write about. All of this is happening while you’re trying to confer with students or teach a minilesson to a small group. Flipped lessons function as superheroes who save the day! Flipped learning helps all students get the specific instruction they need, when they need it.
  • Engagement – Flipped learning is a way to increase motivation and student engagement in reading and writing workshop. These short, creative lessons capture students’ attention and they feel encouraged to apply what they have learned to their reading or writing. We want to encourage our students to become active participants in their learning. Flipped learning helps students take initiative and become engaged learners.
  • Assessment – Flipped learning requires rich, iterative assessment to move students forward. It is not a replacement for face-to-face interactions with teachers, and neither is it the panacea for all writing ailments in the classroom. Our role as teachers is critical. Our students NEED us to teach, guide, and follow up. As a result of accessing a flipped lesson, a pathway for students to assess themselves and receive additional support is key. Also, students should have a clear understanding of exactly how their teacher plans to assess their progress. This assessment can take many forms from conferring with students, to reviewing their reading or writing notebook or drafts, to completing an entrance/exit ticket, and more.

For these reasons and many others, we began using flipped learning in our reading and writing workshops. If you’re intrigued about flipped learning in your writing workshop, a great place to start is to think about 3-5 lessons that would be good to flip. Ask yourself, “Which lessons do I find myself reteaching during the school year?” These might include: a lesson about how to write a single paragraph, a lesson about how to identify a theme in reading, or a lesson about dialogue punctuation. Then ask yourself, “Are there any lessons that my novice readers and writers might want to refer to over and over throughout the year?” “Any for my advanced readers and writers?” Reflecting on questions such as these along with the needs of your students can help you to brainstorm your first lessons to flip.

We’re looking forward to talking much more about flipped learning at the Literacy For All conference in October. If you’re curious about flipped learning in the reading and writing workshop and would like to start making flipped lessons, come join us!


Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry-Paul, authors of Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach & Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning, are speaking at the Literacy for All Conference being held October 23-25, 2016 in Providence, RI. You can also find Dana and Sonja on Twitter at @LitLearnAct and on their Facebook Group called LitLearnAct.

Dana and Sonja’s session at the conference is:

Monday, October 24, 2016

10:30 pm – 12:00 pm- “Flipping Without Flipping Out in Reading and Writing Workshop”  (Grades 5-8)

Five Ways to Create a Digital Reading Workshop

danajohansen1by Guest Blogger Dana Johansen, 2015 Literacy for All Conference Featured Speaker, Teacher, and Author

My reading workshop has transformed over the past five years- now it is digital. Have I tossed out students’ reading notebooks? No, of course not! Have I removed all the books in my classroom library and bought ebooks? No, students need printed books. Does a digital workshop mean that all my assignments are online? No. It’s a balance. My students have spiral reading notebooks and digital reading notebooks. They have a three-ring binder and an online folder. There is a harmonic balance of blending everything I hold dear (real books, fresh new chart paper, spiral notebooks and pencils) with technology that supports learning (Google Docs, KidsBlog, and Twitter).

My digital reading workshop is a blended-learning environment, which Catlin R. Tucker describes as a hybrid style of learning in which educators “combine traditional face-to-face instruction with an online component” (11). This teaching approach allows me to meet the needs of all my learners. I have found that it increases engagement, provides greater opportunities for individualized learning, and creates spaces for collaboration and participation. The Common Core State Standards call for students to read complex texts, identify literary elements, and read a variety of texts, both print-based and digital. My digital reading workshop helps me achieve these goals.

The following scene is a snapshot of what my digital reading workshop looks like in action. The purpose of this lesson is for my fifth grade students to transfer the strategy work they did with the digital text, Pixar’s La Luna, to the print-based text, My Ol’ Man by Patricia Polacco.

“I’m impressed by all the thinking we’ve been doing!” I say to my class. “We’ve been learning how to identify symbols in our reading. Yesterday, we talked about one strategy for noticing symbols. It was, “Noticing objects that are important to the characters.” If you look up here at our class chart, we created a list of the symbols we noticed in the short film, La Luna. So let’s see. Leah noticed that the little boy’s hat was important to him and Mira noticed that the broom was important to him. You can see that we created a long list of possible symbols in La Luna.”

“After we generated a list of ideas, you wrote on our blog. I was excited to read your posts about what these objects might symbolize. I noticed that some of you accessed the digital charts in your digital folders and reviewed what we talked about in class before writing your blog posts. Good strategy! Your posts revealed some thoughtful interpretations!”

“Today, we are going to think about La Luna some more and connect our strategy work about symbols to the book My Ol’ Man by Patricia Polacco. This will give us more practice today looking for symbols in texts and making connections between texts.”

After reading My Ol’ Man to the whole class, I ask my students to talk with their reading partners about the symbols they found. I also ask them to connect their interpretations about these symbols to those from La Luna. After students meet and talk, we come back as a whole class and discuss. Using a combination of digital texts and print-based texts helps my students learn to read across a variety of texts, use the strategies they’ve learned to identify the literary elements, and construct interpretations about what they’ve found.

Here are five ways that you can create a digital reading workshop experience in your classroom:

  1. Virtual Reading Logs– Having students use an online reading log or book list can save paper and time. I do not have my fifth graders log their pages each day but I do require them to keep a list of the books they’ve read. Each student has a Google Doc that is shared with me. Students cannot lose their list and can access it easily.
  2. Tweet Authors– Tweeting authors live during your reading lessons is a great way to connect your readers to the global community. Take a moment during a minilesson to ask students if they have any questions for the author and then tweet. I like to print out the authors’ answers and post them on a bulletin board in the classroom for students to reread throughout the year.
  3. Blogging– Creating a classroom blog provides an excellent space for students to collaborate and participate. It also improves readers’ writing skills. Grant Wiggins discusses the importance of creating authentic writing experiences for students. He says, “By introducing a real purpose, a real audience– hence, consequences– we get the feedback we desperately need to become good writers” (33). Blogging provides a real audience for our readers, and in turn, helps them become better writers.
  4. Classroom Charts– Posting pictures of your classroom charts to your classroom website, blog, or a shared Google Folder is a great resource for your students. No longer do you need to keep all those charts hanging in the classroom. Students can refer to them online. Plus, they can access them at home. This is a terrific way to make your workshop digital.
  5. Digital Bins– Creating a text set of digital texts is a great way for students to read across texts and use the strategies they’ve learned in class. Plus, it is really fun! Imagine creating a symbolism digital bin with two photographs, an advertisement, and a short film. Students can use the strategies they’ve been taught in class to identify symbols and construct interpretations. To create a digital bin and learn more about them, visit LitLearnAct@wordpress.com

References:

Cherry-Paul, S. & Johansen, D. (2014). Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Tucker, C. R. (2012). Blended Learning in grades 4-12: Leveraging the Power of Technology to Create Student-Centered Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Wiggins, G. (2009). Real-World Writing: Making Purpose and Audience Matter. English Journal, 98(2), 29–37.

Dana’s bio:

Dana has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. She currently teaches fifth grade in Connecticut and is earning her doctorate in Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dedicated to the ever-expanding applications of technology in the classroom, Dana is a literacy consultant who presents on Flipped Learning, the Digital Reading Workshop, and STEM in the English Language Arts classroom. Passionate about this work, her first book, Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning, co-authored with Sonja Cherry-Paul, helps educators use technology in exciting new ways to teach students how to interpret the literary elements and do close reading.

Follow Dana on Twitter @LitLearnAct or visit her at LitLearnAct@wordpress.com

Dana’s Literacy for All conference sessions include:

  • Digital Bins: Creating Digital Text Sets (Grades 3-8)
  • Power Blogging: Strengthening Students’ Reading Responses, Independent Writing, and Book Clubs (Grades 3–8)