Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Student Ownership

One of the main principles of the flipped classroom is student ownership. Students should own the content by being more active in discovering and learning it. The teacher should step aside in order to guide and coach students.

This week I continued my flipped inquiry teaching. Students were to decide who was the "greatest" of ancient, Mesopotamian civilizations. They began in teams of their own choosing and researched their civilization. Again, this went well. I checked in often, guiding them to points they may have overlooked and pushing them to dig deeper when they though they were "done." I laughed as one student felt he took "like, the most notes ever." Funny because it was not prompted by me, he was just motivated by his teammate and his learning. I loved hearing students say things like, "We should look that up." Then as I prompted students to figure out how to combine notes and make sure it was easy to read (for when they would be separated from their partner), a student said "we should think about this." With these comments, I felt like students were owning their learning.

On Friday they were separated from their partner and participated in mini-match-ups with another civilization. One-to-one they debated who was the greatest. Walking around the room there was excitement and engagement. When finished they needed to chat with their teammate about information they felt they still needed as well as ways to counter the civilization they had just faced. Rather than digging very deep here, they asked for another round of mini-match-ups. I was a little disappointed, but happy about their enthusiasm. I had originally planned to have the match-ups on Friday and Monday, hoping the students would refine and revise over the weekend. However, I got the feeling they were ready to go and I wasn't going to convince them they needed to dig deeper, and perhaps they knew better than I that they were ready.

Monday we had the open discussion. We had seven students in the inner circle (one for each civilization) and seven in the outer circle. Originally, I want the outer circle to have a backchannel discussion. I had never tried this before and unfortunately "Today's Meet" was blocked. Instead the kids in the outer circle took notes down and then switched places for round two. The discussions were great. Students had good content and helped draw quieter kids into the discussion. Everyone was very prepared.

Finally, students posted power rankings (NFL style) on Edmodo. Students did a great job with this. Here's an example:

#1. Persians: Having the biggest empire in the area until Alexander the Great conquered the Persians certainly makes the Persians the favorites in the power rankings. Tolerance of the conquered, excellent road systems, standardized coinage and not to mention the invention of ice cream makes Persia the undisputed king of the power rankings.,
#2. New Babylonians/ Chaldeans:The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Gate of Ishtar, Tower of Babel, what more can I say? How about this, the Chaldeans had a great double wall and an army that conquered the mighty Assyrians. Combined with great knowledge of the skies, time and mathematics, the New Babylonians firmly state their case for their #2 ranking. 
#3. Assyrians: Tough fighters, the Assyrians fight their way up to the #3 spot. Equipped with iron, siege weapons, and the most disciplined army in the world, the Assyrians ruled Mesopotamia with a literal Iron Fist. On the flip side, in the capital city of Nineveh contained the world's largest library. Proving once again that you need brains as well as brawn to rule Mesopotamia.
#4. Sumerians: Sometimes being the first to do something doesn't mean you get to be #1 in the power rankings. This is true of the Sumerians. Although they were the first civilization, created a writing system and sparked the beginning of the Bronze Age, the constant warfare that Sumer succumbed to in the real world also puts them at #4 in the power rankings. 
#5. Phoenicians: It's hard to judge where exactly Phoenicia fits on the rankings due to their different nature. The Phoenicians' vast trading of their snail's purple dye and their abundant cedar trees benefited every civilization. The great ships and command over the sea edges the Phoenicians over the Amorites because of it's strong fleets which allowed for trade in far away lands. 
#6 Amorites: We have to give the Amorites and Hammurabi for creating the first unified code of law, but there's not much else to write home about. They did conquer all of Mesopotamia for the first time though.
#7 Israelites: Rounding out our list is the Israelites. Known as God's chosen people, the Israelites have been through their share of history. They built a grand temple which was pretty impressive. Maybe if they had only listened and followed god's commandments they would be higher up this list.

Excellent, right? I followed that with a quiz today where accomplishments were listed and they had to identify the correct civilization. Many students expressed frustration that some of the items on the quiz weren't in anyone's power rankings. Some said they wanted a study guide or continued to struggle to know what is expected. This leaves me wondering about student ownership. Do they have it? Its seems a bit like they still want to know what the "right" answer is. Perhaps, I didn't need to give them a quiz. Maybe the power rankings were enough to assess their learning. I'm not sure. I have not graded them yet, which may give me a better read. But certainly, I am left with questions. Questions about what I am doing and how I am teaching.  The Flipped classroom and increased student ownership is definitely an adjustment for the student and for the teacher.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful read. As someone who is really only concerned with the history of the United States, I felt myself being engaged with this topic. The power rankings I feel it's a nice touch. Keep up the goods work!