Starting A Flipped Year: Part 2 – Half-Day One

Flipped Learning is a great way to make sure no class time goes to waste, but here is a plan for the students’ first half day.

In part 1 of this short series I included the full email I send to parents and students before the year begins.  In this post we will talk about how I put that email to work on the first day of school.

Every year our first day of school is a half day with students followed by a teacher in service. I take this half day as an opportunity to give every student the opportunity to get on the same page with beginning of the year information, policies, and procedures. I understand that not every student has equal access to technology nor does every student anxiously await the opportunity to check their email in case their teachers have been kind enough to provide them some optional or early homework assignments. I use my 23 minutes with students to call their attention to the email I sent and quickly hit the highlights that I want them to take a closer look at before we meet again. On of the most important things I direct the students’ attention to is the Google Form from the email that includes many of the details for the who, what, when, where, and how of the class. Check out the PDF version of the form at the link HERE or click the picture below. 

In all honesty, much of this form was developed by my fellow math teacher and I have adapted it to my classroom.  There are a some key elements that we felt were important to include. 

  1. Gathering additional parent emails to do our best to ensure I contact everyone I can digitally.
  2. Answer “grading” question for parents and students as quickly as I can.
  3. Use the “I understand this expectation” box to highlight both key procedures and some of my key education beliefs.
  4. Highlight then re-highlight how students or parents can contact me or get help.
  5. I also gather information about access to internet and technology from students and their parents. 
  6. Finally, I gather just a little information about their school work load. 

If you watched my old introduction video that I included at the end of Part 1 in this series you saw that it was a very on sided “talking at” video.  In the past, after the students watched the intro video they did a “quiz” on the video of policies and procedures.  While the quiz was a somewhat effective accountability tool, I don’t know that it set the right tone.  I feel that the more energetic video along with a more informal google form to gather information rather than “Quiz” parents or students sets a much more relational tone. 

I do “assign” the video and google form to students on the first half day of school after we have looked through the highlights of the email. I will even give them “practice points” for completing the assignment. In the end, I want the information, and the points simply becomes a way to track who has at least logged in and clicked some boxes.  While I am confident not every student reads carefully and reflectively each expectation and follows every link in the email or form, I have now made multiple documented efforts to provide expectations and communication with all students and parents.  

Because my district, and good practice, dictates that I make every effort to communicate classroom policies, procedures, and routines to students and parents, this is also one of the few times in the year that I will make full class-set paper copies and send this with each students.  I also send a parent verification form that gets sent back to ensure parents received the packet in an effort to make every effort to get universal communication and coverage.   As an anecdote, I asked a fellow teacher in my building if he had watched the link I sent him a few days ago.  I was referring to a YouTube link I thought he would enjoy and that he might use for his classes. I was a little surprised when he told me that his wife and son sat down and watched the link together and then filled out the Google Form.  I was referring to the fun link, but he has a child in one of my classes and it was the links in my email he was referring to.  We sometimes forget that even teachers we work closely with do not follow the minutiae of our classrooms, and they see a different perspective of our classrooms just down the hall when they are in the role of a parent.  I am hoping to get some good constructive critique when we talk on Monday. 

Why all the effort for something a student or parent may not even read?  

I am attempting to start modeling and training the flipped method right from the start. 

  1. Make resources available early
  2. Don’t retread all of the information in the resources but also be sure to reference the resources to highlight their importance.
  3. Give opportunity for EVERYONE to have access to the resources and complete tasks.
  4. Get communication and interaction between students and resources, and students and teacher going as quickly as possible.  In this case teacher and parent communication as well.

One of my first classroom activities of the year in every class is an origami activity to help train student on how to “watch for information”, but modeling early gives me an example to refer back to before any formal training on procedure or routine has occurred.  All classrooms have spoken and unspoken rules and procedures but if we make the first effort, and every effort, to communicate with parents and students it will go a long way to lessening fears, reducing frustration, building trust, and providing flexibility. 

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