Posts Tagged ‘tilted learning’

I have a secret. Tucked away in a not-so-quiet corner of our school (due to current rebuild!) is my classroom. (That’s setting the scene – not the secret). And among the many students who come and go during the day, is a Year 9 class of keen writers. I can’t name them because a) that’s unprofessional and b) they are so clever, they may just read this.  So, let’s call them, Class x. Next week, Class x and I will continue our learning journey together. Having just marked 28 x 3 pieces of their NZ poetry assignment, I know it will be fun.

Now over the years, I’ve come across a vast array of wonderful online tools to assist with the creative writing process, which, as we know, isn’t always an easy one, even for clever people. In the spirit of tilting the classroom and, safe in the knowledge that these students always bring their best to the learning table, I’ve developed a writing lesson (actually give they’re not superhuman, probably lessons) using tools I think will develop their skills, challenge their thinking and (most importantly) enjoy.

Below are the exact instructions these guys will receive via the school’s LMS. The laptops are booked, the links work, the tools have been tested and I’m quietly confident they’ll love this one. I’ve given them options for both online and paper planning and intend to discuss and model mind mapping as most are stuck in the focus cloud rut. We also discussed plot structure and plot types at the end of last term.

These students are working at Level 4-6+ of the NZC so my intention was to keep things open-ended. I’ll let you know how they get on!


In this lesson, you will use an interactive online tool to select key elements of a practice story. Even better, this tool uses tried and trusted tropes (click to find out what a trope is) so in terms of engagement, you’re bound to do well! Our learning objective is for you to structure your writing so there is a clear beginning, middle and end.

Part one: Planning

1. Read this page

2. Add trope to your glossary of literary terms

3. Go to the periodic table of storytelling

4. Note that tropes are organised by column into different aspects of storytelling

5. Have a play – click on different elements (boxes) to find out more about the trope

6. Add any new words you encounter to the class glossary on the whiteboard in the relevant column – I will take a pic and upload to ultranet page for future reference 🙂

7.The discs at the bottom of the page show combinations of tropes for some well-known stories

8. Pick a minimum of four tropes from at least 3 columns to use in your story, read about them, note them down

9. Plan your story using the interactive planner or on paper

10. Print it or take a photo of it on your phone

Part two: Writing

1. Mind Map ideas – paper (see me for templates) or online (try bubblus, mindmup) Note: when mind mapping you are not simply dumping down ideas. The connections are important – especially for writing as your story must have a thread holding it all together in order to flow and be engaging.

2. Start writing – online or in your journal (whichever you prefer)

3. If you are writing online, copy and paste your finished work here , the Analyse This tool will give you a break down of sentence lengths and type, repeated words and phrases and punctuation usage. You can use these stats when editing.

Extra Reading: now or homework: These sites offer more tips on structure in writing, showing not telling and character development

1. Writing Forward – Show Don’t Tell

2. Writing Forward – Developing Characters

3. Helping writers become authors blog – 5 Elements of Story Structure

4. Christopher Brooker’s Seven Basic Plots

Word are like sunbeams, the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.  Robert Southey

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I’ve been following with interest discussions around the concept of flipped learning.  Flipped classrooms were named after a paper published in 2000 (so not entirely new) by Lage, Platt and Treglia where the authors sought to encourage students to learn by doing by giving them access to learning materials before they entered the classroom. This is a concept readily used by tertiary institutions although often I suspect it becomes a way of catching up on missed lectures rather than actively choosing to bring something to the learning table… .

Flipped classrooms freak me out. Not because I’m against the concept which clearly resonates with the NZC value of creating lifelong learners who are active seekers, users and creators of knowledge. Not only do they need to learn stuff with us, they need to learn how to learn. My anxiety stems from concerns around access to technology both outside and inside school for many (most?) of our state educated secondary students. In others words, love the theory, can’t get my head around the practice.

So it was with some delight I came across the related concept of tilted classrooms vie www.edudemic.com.  The more I read, the more I saw opportunities for applying the concept as well as some aha moments where I recognised I have been tilting for several months! Edudemic sums up the difference between the two approaches as:

“…flipped learning is about transferring control to students to make them more involved and more responsible for their learning process, sideways learning is about making learning and study tools accessible to all students.”

Tilting a classroom still uses online resources but blends those with group work, classroom  discussion and after school learning. So far so good. But what might it look like?

1. Proactive use of a LMS: We use ultranet as an LMS. Others schools use moodle and/or wiki. Rather than an online repository for word documents, I aim to include videos, podcasts, quizzes and links to online sites to both extend and support students’ learning. I’m not saying they are all regular users but by showing them the site often in class, there are at least some using this option.

2. Reusable videos: There are some great sites around covering ideas, concepts, texts and can be included in lessons. Kahn Academy, Teacher Tube, TED Talks, the Vlog brothers Crash Course clips and  Upworthy are worth searching and bookmarking. Recently, I used clips off YouTube from a Sunday TV programme on boy racing as a starter for Year 10 formal writing. We also discussed the case of the 4 year-old boy who was killed by a boy racer in Christchurch. This generated a brainstorming session and then planning essays on A3 in groups. Their homework was to write an introduction independently.

3. Mini-lectures: I’ve become a fan of Showme this year. These presentations are easy to create and can be added to a LMS via a link so  students (yes with computer access OR smart phones with data credit!) can review in their own time. The combination of visual and oral cues works well especially with lower literacy learners who definitely prefer this to note taking. Be warned – you’ll need your best radio voice!

4. Interactive online resources: Why recreate the wheel? These are also a great option for tilting learning. This week, I used readwritethink’s persuasion map and essay map with my Year 10 class. We were half way through a formal writing assessment when I judged they were all still struggling with the basics. So I abandoned mission, lucked it with a booking for laptops, got them to complete both planners using their assessment topic and print the results. They have been much more focussed since. We also used the BBC skillwise site as a starter going right back to sentence construction and punctuation by talking about the rules then playing games. I did them first and then challenged students to beat my time. (Yes some did!)

So even in a learning environment where access to technology is not a given, there are ways to at least tilt learning. As well as promoting deep level thinking (SOLO anyone?), encouraging self-management and inquiry based learning, there are other benefits to teachers. This approach enables us to spend more one on one time with students (and let’s face it, core subject classes are large in most state secondary schools), is a less exhausting way to teach and once you have created/bookmarked a few videos/sites, you can reuse them so is less stressful.

None of this is rocket science. In fact flipped learning is based on core pedagogical tennants of relevancy, differentiation and engagement.  And whether you’re a cautious tilter or a committed flipper, developing new ways to enhance learning outcomes is at the very least pause for thought.



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