The #XPLAPcamp question of the week is asking for teachers in the community to reflect on 2 things that worked well this year and 2 things that could be improved for next year. From my point of view the year was very successful. I had several students compete in the State National History Day competition, they made a plethora of projects that demonstrated learning (board games, movie trailers, trading cards), and I had a 92% pass rate on the state mandated US History and Constitution End of Course exam. I know that we are not supposed to care about standardized testing but my students achieve this success without specifically focusing on the standardized test but administrations judge teachers on their scores so we need to consider any innovations in that context. Since South Carolina typically has an average passing rate somewhere in the 60s I think it is important to note that gamification and non “drill-and-kill” methods are more than just superfluous extras but are key elements of engaging students.
The last two weeks for me personally have been a mixture of intense highs and lows. My new baby (almost 5 months) was baptized on Sunday (May 13th) and we had a wonderful Mothers Day/Baptism party to celebrate. The next day my 5 year old son spiked a high fever and by Tuesday was admitted to the hospital with a severe infection in his eye where he stayed until Saturday. I had gone to work to administer the standardized test on Tuesday thinking that my wife was taking my boy into the doctor to get some medicine only to be pulled out of the room to rush to the hospital. It was a difficult week full of fear and prayer and long nights. I was not worried about EOC test scores at all so it was with a bit of an ironic chuckle that I received the email that I had finally broken the 90% mark with my passing rates – at that point I didn’t care as long as Ben didn’t lose his eye. I did have to have a lesson plan for the sub that would be covering for me on Thursday and Friday though so as I sat next to my boy’s hospital bed I put together a Google Form asking my students to give me their perspective on the school year. The form was completely anonymous and was based on the 2+2 feedback that we are using in the #XPLAPcamp slow chat this week. I want to share some of that feedback with you; not to brag on my teaching but to show how much my game inspired design has had a positive impact on students and their point of view in my classroom. One point to note is that most of these students would have ranked History as their least favorite or most difficult classes heading into this year.
Q1 What did you like about the overall US History Class this year?
XP Grading Related
I liked how the grading scale was different and the creative ways of review; The ways you can achieve points; The way the grades are like a game; In this US History Class I liked how the grading was different. You could never go down grade wise we worked to bring our grade up. I like how it was self paced and everything was set up to know when the due dates were.; The games provides and all the opportunities for extra credit; That your grade can never go down always going up; I liked how my grade never went down in the class and how I did the end puzzles.; I liked how the grades were set up, mainly how your grade could not go down!; I liked how the grading worked.; I like how our grade was not able to go down and I like the xp as the grade book.; I like how our grade never went down.; The grading scale; I liked the point system where my grade was always going up.;
Independence/Voice & Choice
Overall, I liked how the grading system was and the way we could do different missions depending on the season we were on. I liked the variety we could choices from and the activities that involved art/coloring.; That I could turn in missing work at anytime; Independence because everyone knew were they were and what they needed to work on.; You helped us get a feel of working on our own without the teacher above us telling us we need to get something done.; Overall I enjoyed the independence that we were given to complete our work in this class.; I liked how we did really creative activities that no other teacher did.; It was more laid back than all of the others and didn’t put as much stress on me as other classes did
No Late Grade Penalty
I liked that we could turn in notes and missions late and we still got full credit.; I liked that we could make up any notes or missions we missed over the semester without getting points taken off.
It Was a Game
the way it was set up like a game, not your standard classroom; The fact that it was set up like a game.; It was a game; You found different ways to teach history; i liked how there were games integrated into the course
I liked learning with the peers around me and learning with new techniques.; I liked doing collaborative things with my peers and I like how the class was set up.
Q2 What a big picture thing that you thought could have been improved?
In the first semester we were just taking notes then moving onto the test. While in the second semester we started to do more group and in class activities that helped me remember more of the things that were on the test. I suggest to have some type of activity for each three episodes that we take notes on. Something that involves the whole class.; the guild system, because they were not used much and a better use of the gold system.
More Guild Freedom (I had assigned semester-long guilds)
Being able to pick our own groups within reason. Letting people pick who they want to work with in groups as long as they do their work.; More free will to be able to change groups because the group I had was the smallest and one wasnt here most of the time and the other wasnt really doing her work so it lead to something that was a group project into a individual.; The table groups and how they worked and affected the students grades (guess I need to explain more because the grades were not harmed).; easier individual missions and letting students, within reason, pick their own groups. You could do like a request form and let people choose three others they would like to work with.
Flipped Class Style Needs Tweaked
The table groups and how they worked and affected the students grades.; teaching in front of the class from the beginning; To lecture throughout the entire course and have more content in the videos that matches the test we have.; Teaching in-front of the class more; Next year you should do ed puzzle for a unit because some people learn better that way. Do a lecture after people do the ed puzzle.; THE NOTES!! Just sitting and listening to you talk is boring and I loved the guided notes that were given as study guides. The notes should be in that format!!! (they had about 30 mins worth per week); The videos were boring.; The videos could have been more interesting.; I think the style of notes could have been improved. I personally like taking notes from the lectures better than the videos.; The episodes that we took notes on. Some of them were too long, repeated themselves, and were worded weird.; In my opinion, I feel like that the notes could be improved. The episodes were interesting, but they were time consuming to me and a lot of my peers.; how notes are set up; I thought we should’ve gone over the notes more.; amount of lecture; I feel the thing that could be improved would be doing more lectures; The thing that could be improved is that you could do more lectures for the notes.; I feel like their should more ways to complete the notes.
It was all good
i thought it was good; Its all good.; None; I don’t think there was anything big that needed to be improved.; I don’t think there is a need for improvement
Q3 and 4 were about items and assignments (skipping these for now)
Q5 Do you have anything else that you would like me to know? (A Few of my favorites)
I have gain a well amount of respect for this class and history. You’ve shaped my careers thank you so much
Thank you for encouraging us to study hard and pushing us to work hard.
what you got going is good just kinda weird at first
I’ve really enjoyed your class; this year has been one of the most entertaining when it comes to history.
Your class is entertaining and relaxing for the most part.
Thanks for being a great history teacher. Continue to yell and be excited about history.
Overall, I thought you did a great job teaching us!!! I enjoyed your class and how there were always options to choose form. Thank you sooooo much!!1:)
I honestly thought that I would not do good in this class because History is my worst subject but I did good because of all the different activities and review we did.
I really liked your jokes.
My Thoughts on the Student Reflections
The students really like the grading system and the ability to design their own experience. When it comes to the XP system the students that commented suggested that they like that their grades don’t decrease. In some of the other comments the students are skirting around the issue of mastery grading, self-pacing, and the ability to design their own XP strategy. I was also interesting that some students really liked being independent while others like collaborating which was factored into the design. Surprisingly, not one student mentioned anything about a specific reward, badge, or item.
I do need to figure out a better way to deliver base content knowledge. The students really like the creative expressions and project based learning. They were not very happy with the flipped style recordings. At some level this is based on their preconceived notion of “teaching” and “learning”. Many students still see the test scores as the only measure demonstrating their understanding and want more direct lecture thinking that that is how they will learn the facts on the test. I don’t believe that is necessarily true but I do believe that the students need to have a baseline of information that is detailed in our standards guide. While I know that project based learning will help with deeper understandings the students are still expected to obtain a breadth of information as well. This is a difficult balance and one that I’m sure will be in constant flux.
Overall the students thanked me for a great year, said I was a great teacher, or gave me a small reason why they enjoyed my class. A lot of this is tied into simply trying to think about and designing the class with their classroom experience in mind. As a relative introvert this also has allowed me to set up situations that allow me to comfortably interact with the students to develop relationships. We share a common classroom language, goals, and curiosity.