After over five days pent up in my house with COVID, I am happy to announce that I FINISHED THE SUPPLEMENT PACKS!
In fact, it will probably seem a little controversial, but I'm actually pretty happy that COVID finally found me. This is not to minimize how horrible this pandemic has been for our country, but in all honesty... I needed a forced break.
This year has been trying in new, unprecedented ways already, but the addition of my new position has left me in tears, bitter, and exhausted more than I ever imagined possible. I was forcing myself to go at full speed every second that I was at school, and I was burning out. Badly.
While I would not enjoy going back to my first (and worst) days of COVID, I have enjoyed the last few days of quarantine immensely. I made a book list for the rest of the school year. I started organizing my crazy ramblings into a possible table of contents. And I finished the supplement packs I started at the beginning of the year.
The heavy, heavy fatigue of COVID has emerged as a metaphor for the burden I'd been carrying around before being forced to stop and take care of myself for a minute. I have never been as physically tired as I was in the first days of my COVID spell, but I would also say I had never been as emotionally and mentally tired as I was leading up to my positive test.
As much as it should be a lesson about self-care and perspective, I know I'll go back to school tomorrow with the same over eagerness that will end up in the same burnout. All I can really do is try to remind myself about balance moving forward and do the work that brings me joy (and spend less time on the rest).
I am dismally behind in updates about our personalized classroom. Between inclement weather days, end of the semester, and my coaching responsibilities, I haven't had much time to sit down and summarize what we have going on. Apologies.
However, amidst all those things, I encountered an issue that I wanted to share. One that I know most teachers struggle with. Particularly, in the digital, device-driven age.
Personalization Tip #8
I don't want to say cheating is inevitable, but... cheating is inevitable. Being proactive is the best you can do.
Because I use a self-paced format, student assess at different times. This creates the obvious issue that some kids will complete assessments before others and even get feedback. There isn't much keeping them from sharing their responses with others. And I'm certainly not going to create a unique version of the assessment for each student.
As the semester ended, I had a student who was very near failing. In all honesty, she needed to be proficient in the final unit to even pass. I'm sure many of you know that when put under such pressure, students get desperate. All the re-attempts and supports can't do much when a student has placed themselves in a position such as this one.
So I guess I wasn't surprised when I saw that her answers were identical to another students. (Like... copy and pasted). My initial reaction was to laugh - seeing as neither response was accurate. Then, I had to consider how to approach it. Giving her a zero would mean failing the entire semester, and there was only one day left.
If you've ever been in a similar situation, I am sure you understand the frustration. There were many ways this student could have avoided this situation - possibly failing - throughout the semester. She did not. There was many opportunities in class to get help on this unit. She did not. The strict authoritarian in me is always ready with a "Sucks to suck" response. The human in me just can't.
So I revised the assessment to use a new sample essay. Gave the two offenders a specific time to come and re-attempt the assessment. And ultimately, both passed.
For the next few days, I obsessed about preventing such behavior in the future. Do I need to lock their iPads down when they complete assessments. Do they need to do all of them in front of me? Do I need to explicitly write when they can and cannot get help from others?
While I will be making some changes for the new semester, I came to a clear conclusion. No matter how intentional I am about preventing cheating, there is always going to be someone more determined to cheat. In talking to students in other contexts, they can give me a host of creative ways students cheat - things that I would never anticipate. The thought of combatting all of these possible methods is exhausting to even think about.
Instead, my approach has been to be proactive as I can, and vigilant when assessing work. Here are some of the ways I mitigate cheating in a personalized classroom:
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I wasn't sure they'd LOVE it, but they really loved the sass-factor from both Abigail Adams and Dear Abby. I strongly encouraged them to bring that same sass to their letters.
Reading their letters, I saw pretty consistent ability to pick out her claims. A pretty impressive task when using a letter from 1780!
Week 4, Day 5
And our last day was another learning day. After Daily Dose, we did Unit 1 Calendar as usual, but then I took a minute to review the second folder on the unit: CHECK. Some of the kids were working ahead and onto this section, so I wanted to review what had to be done. Yes. We talked about it the week before, but I've been reviewing what they need to do daily. Like I said in my tip for this post... even if you feel you have told them enough. Keep telling them.
Here are some of the things I did during learning time:
- Provided a few students the passage to complete their CHECK assessment. (I vary the passages to avoid cheating, and I keep the passages with me).
- Corrected Unit 1 Reviews with students using the textbook for their knowledge learning.
- Checked with a couple students who had completed the AP Classroom Unit 1 Progress Check to see how they felt about their learning so far.
- Refocused students who were more excited about the evening's out-of-town football game. Because... teenagers.
- Sat with a group of girls that had been doing too much talking during the prior day's Dear Abby lesson. I wasn't sitting there to punish them, but I made a point to joke around with them a bit to work on building the relationships a bit. As my fellow coach would say, I was making some investments in hopes of cashing in later.
- Provided feedback on the Dear Abby letters for those who stated they prefer in-person feedback. (It might seem difficult to keep track of every one's preference, but I made myself a quick cheat sheet of their results that I just carry on my clipboard).
- Encouraged a student who did a sad face emoji after our Dear Abby lesson. She was second guessing herself so I wanted to show her she did it correctly.
- Asked a student to read her Dear Abby letter to me because I couldn't read the handwriting, but I also felt that she might be able to explain it better orally.
Going through this list, I am reminded exactly why I love a personalized format. These are all things we need to do, and even love to do, as teachers, but we rarely get to do them if we are at the front of the room teaching.
It may seem like I did a million things, but really, I walked into my classes Friday with a very short post-it list of things to do. The rest happened organically. Once upon a time, I was never the teacher who would still be planning her lesson the day OF the lesson (Hello, Dear Abby). Adopting a personalized format has forced me to get out of my own way and focus on what is needed in the moment. It has made me a more present teacher and a much better teacher.
Personalization Tip #1:
As promised, I want to be diligent about sharing what class looks like each week, using my personalized method. This post is about establishing the right culture right from the start.
UNIT 2 is OUT!
I have posted the free release of the Unit 2 supplemental material. There is a vocabulary list, group activities, and many practice activities for students to engage in. Check it out!
Unit 3 Will Be Out October 1.
Now... Let's talk about the first seven days in a personalized classroom. (Well, in my personalized classroom, at least).
Personalization only works when students are comfortable with you and willing to ask questions. In my many attempts at a personalized classroom, I was never really able to get this desired culture at the start of the year. Kids come in apprehensive of the class and you, the teacher, and frankly overwhelmed by all the other classes they are jumping into.
That's why I took a new approach this year. I have always been prone to rushing into the content - usually diving into the first unit within the first three days of school. This year, I wanted something that would get them talking and allow me to interact with them often.
I decided to invest at least a week in my school's "Profile of a Graduate." This is just a snapshot of dispositions we want to see in a graduate from my school (Compassionate, Creative, Responsible, etc). We are trying to embed this more consistently, so I figured this was a good way to start kids on low pressure content.
So, all this week, they were tasked with designing and planning the "Ideal School."
Because the kids were split into committees and given a focus, I was allowed to spend each day walking amongst the groups and getting to know the kids. It also created a less intimidating environment for them to start engaging in class.
It simultaneously let me practice one of the main practices in my personalization style - the idea of the teacher as a coach. Instead of me being up front and guiding them through activities or lessons, they were independently navigating the word. I asked questions when I found them to be stumped, but the ideas came from them.
Our next step - I mean, after their video presentations in - is to have them complete a self-assessment using the POG dispositions. There is no grade attached to this project. They will be annoyed, having put the time in, but it is my gateway to talk about proficiency over points in our overview of personalized learning on Tuesday.
And that's what we've done so far. If you are hoping to engage in personalization in your own classroom, I hope this recap of my first days gives you some ideas about how to establish the right culture. Come back next week for how we transition into flexible work time and pacing.
However, as I mentioned in my last post, I have struggled with how to create materials that will actually result in personalization. Instead, I think any content I have been putting out there just fits into the traditional model, or that it doesn't really make sense on it's own.
I think I have it figured out now. (Maybe).
College Board Supplement Packs!
As I was putting together my own content for the upcoming school year, I knew there was a lot of things I could share, but I knew my own personalization method would probably be hard to digest in a simple download.
Therefore, I gathered up what I have made and merged it with the College Board units. This allows you all to use it however you see fit, and it even includes SOME of my personalization materials as well. Essentially, each pack is just a little extra content thrown together so that you can start playing around with personalization! (Or just survive. Let's be honest.)
You're probably wondering what each of these packs include. Well, let me tell you!
Unit Guide One Pager
Personalization Materials (Conferencing and Intervention Trackers, Personalization Guide, and more!)
Let's talk release of the content...
I have mentioned in the past that I really hate taking money from teachers. I know that so many of your are living paycheck to paycheck because... usually, I am too. That said, I really appreciate when people offer monetary support (and honestly, it allows me to invest more time outside of school making new content).
So here's the plan:
I have already posted Units 1-3 on my TeachersPayTeachers site. (Unit 1 is free!). I am going to list these packs at $5 on TpT. HOWEVER - if you can be patient - I will have a later release here. The later release will be free! It's kind of a thank you to anyone who reads my ramblings. :)
Units 1 - 3 are already posted and accessible below. Unit 1 is free! The others are currently $5.
Now... If you can wait, I will release Unit 2 for free on Sept 1. (It will be in the Free Resources and under a new tab titled "Supplement Packs" under A Year of AP Lang).
Unit 3 free-release will then be Oct 1.
...and if you are interested in personalization...
As always, I hope these materials help! Check back Sept 1 for a free version of Unit 2.