Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A small part of my plan

Second semester is looking exciting for my World Religions Class. I'm experimenting with flipping my classroom, at least for the first unit. Once I see how that goes, I'll evaluate and make adjustments for units that follow.

For now, I'm working on flipping my unit on Hinduism. I've got a project in mind, but before I describe the project (in another blog post), I want to explain how students will be grouped in class. Weighing the pros and cons of how to form groups always bogs me down. For this upcoming project, though, the classes will have specific job descriptions. What better way to fill a job description than to do a job application? So I am creating a google form job application for all of my students to complete. Students will have a choice about what job they are applying for, though they may end up with a different job. Each class will have two to five team leaders, depending on the size of the class. I will first consider those students who apply to be team leaders, but I confess, I may tinker with the team leaders a bit so that those who are leaders end up in leadership roles.

Once I have chosen leaders, the leaders will review the job applications and will be able to pick their teams anonymously as I will remove names and substitute pseudonyms on the completed job applications.

Here is an overview of the whole process:
  1. Students will complete online job applications for our Hinduism project. These job applications will be done in google forms.
  2. I will download the google forms and put the data into a mail merge document that is the job application.
  3. I will print the job applications.
  4. Team leaders will be chosen in each class.
  5. Each team leader will chose their team based solely on the job application.
What do you think of this plan for grouping students for projects in a flipped classroom? Let me know any ideas you have to make this plan better.

Further blog posts will detail the flipping and our first unit project on Hinduism.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

What kind of reggae singer?

Matisyahu is the Hebrew and stage name for a Hasidic Jewish Reggae singer. Seems like an odd mix, but in our world of mashups, Matisyahu is not such a surprise. It's hard to listen to Matisyahu without getting a smile on your face. Frankly, it's hard to listen to any reggae music without a smile, but the apparent contradiction between the joy in Matisyahu's voice and his somewhat stiff appearance takes the audience off guard.

If you want to learn a bit about his background, you can checkout this video

The point of this post, though, is not to educate you about Matisyahu, but to explain how his music became a part of an assessment in my World Religions class that engaged my students in modern day media and ancient beliefs.

Students picked a song from Matisyahu to analyze in terms of how the music and lyrics embodied Jewish faith. Students used a google doc to sign up for a song. By using google docs, I assured that no two students used the same song. Students were able to sign-up at home at their convenience and did not need to see a chart in my classroom. By using google docs this way, I also rewarded those who started early; they had a larger selection of songs.

I gave students a few links on Matisyahu, but mostly left them to their own devices. As juniors and seniors, they are quite familiar with this type of work, especially as they have done similar projects for me before. I gave them the rubric and off they went. I got some amazing work from my students. It turned into a sort of literary analysis of Matisyahu's work in terms of Judaic beliefs. Students demonstrated familiarity with stories, practices and beliefs of Judaism. They also interpreted the music in terms of its mood and related that mood back to ideas found in Judaism.

This is definitely a project I will tweak and use again next semester when I teach World Religion again.

Why don't you enjoy a little Matisyahu "King without  a Crown" now?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The gift before the holidays

We are down to the last few classes of the semester and I don't have time to start a new unit. My classes are semester-long classes, so I need some quality ideas around which to plan my last few classes before the end. As students take time off to complete college applications, study for the SAT, and due to sickness, these lessons would ideally be self-contained, one block lessons.

My perfect solution has come in the form of TED talks. I have been a great fan of TED Talks since introduced to them by @kdsl at a professional development session about two years ago. Adora Svitak hooked me and I've been using TED talks with students ever since.

The first TED talk lesson we did this week was a talk by Malcolm Gladwell "The Strange Case of the Norden Bombsight." The talk tells of the creator of a device created to guide bombs accurately from planes to their target. As in all intriguing stories, there are twists and turns as the story unravels. The consequences are unexpected and unintended.

With my juniors and seniors, I began the lesson by asking students to spend some time considering questions about consequences. I asked them to define consequence, think about how consideration of consequences affected their choices, how often they think we accurately predict consequences, whether or not we predict consequences better or worse than they really are, and what unintended consequences are. I shared some stories from my life of unintended consequences. These were light stories that were not meant as moral lesson but more of a "you don't know what's going to happen when you....." type of story.

We then watched Gladwell's video. Students then had a few further questions to consider cooperatively and as a whole class in discussion. We ended with students brainstorming inventions that may have had unintended consequences.

The class was not necessarily something someone with a PhD in Philosophy would have immediately recognized as a Philosophy class, but as a Philosophy teacher - as any kind of teacher - my first priority is to get my students thinking. They were able to hear a story and share with one another ideas that they had in response to the story. They thought about a few things in a new way today. These last few periods before Christmas break are not wasted. In fact, this freedom to start something short that we don't have to finish up in a rush, it's a gift.

Here's the Gladwell video

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