Saturday, September 2, 2017

How to Flip Back to School Night

In a previous post I shared about the results of flipping Back to School Night. Today, I'm going to show you step by step how I used blended learning to achieve those results.

The first few days of school:  (Nothing crazy here)  Have your Class Expectations typed up on either a Gdoc or Word document, photocopied and distributed to the students.  I also include an area on the document for student and parent signatures.  Give your students a few days to obtain the parent signatures.

I do not read the expectations document to the students in class because all teachers in all other classes are doing the same thing and my expectations will get lost in the shuffle.  I do tell the students that they are to read the document carefully before signing.

So what do students do instead of passively sitting listing to me drone on about the course expectations? We are jumping right in to learning activities: icebreakers, group work, problem solving,  etc.  For the 2017-18 school year, I'm going to start with an editable Escape Room / Break Out activity created by Nouvelle ELA. I don't normally purchase items from Teachers Pay Teachers, but not being experienced in creating my own breakouts yet, I thought this was a worthy investment, and at less than $6, a real deal!

Recording & Delivering the Video:
There are a few simple steps for recording your video and making it interactive for parents and students.

  1. Prepare your recording space by adjusting the lightning, background props, and alerting others that you don't want to be interrupted. Since you are providing an overview of your course, it is important to record your video in your classroom space. I put a sign on the door stating that I'm recording and do not want to be disturbed. 
  2. Create a title slide for your video using Google Slides or PowerPoint. Keep it open on your desktop.
  3. Have open your Course Expectations document.
  4. Open Screencastomatic or Camtasia, and select recording a portion of your screen and have the picture in picture on. You want folks to see and hear you. So don't be camera shy! You will size the frame so that it captures the slide first. Tip: you don't need to put your slide in present mode, simply have the recording frame capture the area of the slide.   
  5. Record a quick introduction stating your name and the course. Hit PAUSE on the recording. 
  6. Switch to your course expectations document, resize the recording frame, and hit record.
  7. As you talk through the expectations, you will slowly scroll through the document. Try not to read from the document verbatim, and do not ramble!  This video must be kept under 15 minutes. 
  8. If you plan on importing the video into EDpuzzle or another interactive video tool, strategically pause after important moments so that you will have spaces to insert the questions which will check for understanding while watching the video.
  9. After you have finished talking through your course expectations, pause the recording, switch back to the title slide or create a slide that includes your contact information, resize the recording frame, and record a brief closing message. This will give your video a more polished feel by capping the ends with an opening and closing slide.
  10. Create a handout of questions to accompany the video. If using an interactive video tools such as EDpuzzle, insert the questions to check for understanding. 
  11. At least two weeks prior to Back to School Night, assign the video lesson as homework, the student and parent must watch it together! The two week timeframe allows parents to work around their schedules.
  12. So as to prevent tech issues from occurring, provide multiple avenues with which parents and students can access the video and reinforce that all answers are to be written on the question handout page. No matter the hardware, EDpuzzle allows for folks to view either by signing in to their account or through Guest Mode, so parents can experience the tool along side their student, but you don't have to worry about the student not completing the assignment if they have trouble logging in to their account at home. 
  13. As students turn in the questions page, review the responses and make note of any patterns: if many got the same question incorrect, then you need to address the issue on Back to School Night and follow up with the parent individually in an email.

After the Video:
Following up with parents after the video is important for community building and creating an open dialogue with parents.  All parents should be sent an email thanking them for their completion of this task and inviting them to Back to School Night.

If your Back to School Night is anything like mine (9 minutes per class with 5 minutes between each), it is impossible to do a deep dive and convey all of the information about your course to parents. Also, due to work schedules and such, not all parents attend Back to School Night, so rather than thinking of this event in terms of information delivery, focus on how to let the parents in the room experience your class with a short learning activity. Let the video be the information delivery mechanism, as you can ensure all parents and students take the time to view it and answer the corresponding questions.


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