Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Big Hairy Plans... with a Slower Start

Last summer, inspired by #blogamonth, I posted about my BIG, HAIRY, AUDACIOUS goals for the year. Coming out of my first year of trying BYOD at the time, I was super excited to convert the rest of my courses to a more flipped and independent style of learning. I had lots of great ideas - many of which I was able to implement - and had a fantastic year on the whole.

However, almost 5 weeks of strike action in my board in May left me, as a teacher, rushed and disorganized for the last month of the school year. Some of my big ideas got pushed to the side as we were instructed to forgo all large projects and focus on content delivery instead. I had to drop an entire unit in general science, and in other courses concentrate only on the content I believed would benefit my students the most next year. 

As a result, the process of converting full courses to a more technology-based, independent learning style was interrupted, and I came away feeling unsatisfied with the state of my courses. I won't go so far as to say I was disillusioned or unenthusiastic about continuing to introduce project-based learning and flipped resources to my students, but I recognize that I haven't been as gung-ho to start creating as I was this time last year.

Hence, this blog post. 

I still have ideas rumbling around in my head, and I'm hoping that by putting them out there, I can build on what others are doings and inject a little more excitement into my planning. Classes start in exactly three weeks - how can I share my passion for learning and help students achieve like never before?
In Every Course
I was inspired by the IGNITE sessions I saw at ISTE2015 - five minute blasts of information designed to share an idea or a passion without delving into a whole lot of detail. In what might be my one big, hairy, audacious goal this year, I would love to kick each and every one of my classes off with an IGNITE session. It might be an awesome video or TED talk, it might be me highlighting a new tech tool some students might like to try, it could be a quick worked example or a brainteaser, or even something done by a guest speaker (or maybe one of the students themselves??). Something to start the class where we're all on the same page before breaking off into groups or independent work for the rest of the period.

Also in every course, I'm looking for more collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. The more I can get students to connect with other students elsewhere in Ontario, or to create a product to be showcased to the world, the more authentic the learning becomes. I'm grateful to be part of an amazing PLN and I'm hoping to really tap into the wealth of resources "the room" brings to the table! If you are interested in having your class collaborate with any of my classes, please let me know!

In Grade 12 Earth & Space Science
I want to blow this course wide open. There are so many AMAZING resources online (search National Geographic Geology on youtube alone to find some fantastic videos), and we live in such a geologically rich part of the province, that I want to bring the best of both the technological and the natural world to my students. 

I am going to flip the order of the course (usually I start with Astronomy and then move into Geology, but I'll start instead with Geology so we can get outdoors and explore while it's warm), and have the students discover what they can about the Earth from their own backyards.

I am also looking at:

  • a Layered Curriculum style of class where the students can choose the assignments and resources to help them master the curriculum expectations, using point-values for various tasks.
  • making unit tests mandatory for only two or three of the five units, with students choosing which tests they write and what they do to demonstrate their mastery in the non-test units.
  • making more use of pinboards to curate news on certain topics, like recent volcanic activity, earthquake impact, fossils, or Pluto; or to provide resources like this board I've started putting together on mineral identification. I'm still very new to "pinning," but I love the visual layout.

In Grade 11 Math
While I didn't teach this course last year, it was the first course I flipped two years ago, and I'm anxious to run it again with improvements. 

My biggest goal for this class is to change the format of content delivery (I've tried a couple different ways, outlined here) to make the information easier to access. I am also going to automate the majority of the "exit slips" the students use to demonstrate mastery of a learning goal. Instead of submitting on paper, students will complete the learning check using a Google Form, which will then be marked immediately (and automatically!) using Flubaroo. This will provide them with instant feedback, cutting down on a lot of this craziness, and helping with tracking.

I would also like to put in more inquiry-based activities. I struggle with this in math, so I'm on the lookout for great MCF3M activities others have used and had success with! Eventually I'd like to spiral the course, but I think that will have to wait at least another year.

In Grade 11 Physics
I started converting this course last year part way through the semester once I had time to wrap my head around it. I found it to be very well-received and I will be converting the rest of the course this year. 

I'm looking to review how I test in Physics (there's been a lot of good discussion around the role of math in Physics evaluation), and while I wasn't very successful at introducing more inquiry-based or rich assessment tasks last year, I would like to focus on that again - less learning by rote and more learning by experimentation.

I'd also like to try different ways of engaging the students in the physics that happens around them. Twitter Challenges have worked well in the past; perhaps a class Instagram account (very new territory for me!), or creating a video series as a class?
Now that I've got it down in writing, that's my next challenge - to practice what I post, working toward what will be my best year in the classroom yet. What about you? What are you trying this year?


  1. Love the initiative and drive - especially relating to the Earth Science & student collaboration goals you have. If I can be of any help at all - don't hesitate to ask (or include!)

    1. Thank you, Rob! There is still a lot of the Earth & Space course to figure out, but I'm excited. Semester 2, I have grade 9 science again. I would LOVE to do a big project on invasive species in Ontario, ideally along the lines of Karen Stadler's Travelling Rhino Project (, but on a more province-wide scale. I will certainly be taking you up on your offer of expertise, and would love to have you Skype/GHO in as an expert if we can find a good time!

  2. Good luck Heather on this coming year. How exciting to be able to apply the collaboration and flipped learning. All the best an d looking forward to hearing about your students' and your learning.

    1. Thank you, Rola! Let me know if you think of any place my grade 9s can collaborate with your students later on in the year :)

  3. This all sounds really exciting, and I can't wait to read about how it's going throughout the year. I envy that you get to teach the Grade 12 Earth & Space Science class!


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