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How to Begin a Project-Based Flipped English Unit

posted Jan 21, 2013, 1:33 PM by Kate Petty

8. How to Begin a Project-Based Flipped English Unit

WRITTEN BY: KATE PETTY - originally published MAR• 01•12
It doesn’t take long for an English teacher to realize that it is necessary to drastically alter the classroom lesson plans for a flipped classroom.

Just the thought of putting my lectures for Macbeth online and then “guiding” the students through my traditional study guide made me cringe.  Don’t get me wrong, what I love(d) about study guides is that they guide students through the reading and help them understand the things they can’t figure out on their own.  But, study guides are useful in traditional classes for students who are actually reading the text and using the guide to, well, guide– at home without the teacher.  Not in a classroom where the teacher is around when most of the text is being read and clarifications can be made.

Nope.  I quickly realized I needed another path if I wanted to flip my classroom.  How will my students demonstrate understanding?  How will I assess?  HOW CAN I MAKE MY CONTENT SO INTERESTING THAT BOTH THE STUDENTS AND I ARE ENGAGED?

After a couple hits and misses I’ve decided that my classroom will be project-based.  FIRST, I need to figure out what I want my students to know (my essential question) and SECOND, figure out how they can demonstrate that knowledge.

How to Create the Project?

1: The Essential Question- this is content and standards-based.  An English teacher has to start with the end in mind when creating these projects.  At the end of the unit, what do you want your students to know?  One question that arches out and can umbrella many concepts.  An example for the novella Heart of Darkness might be “How does environment affect us?”

2: Demonstrate Understanding:  The project is determined by three factors: Common Core Standards (CCS), ISTE.NET standards, and my own standards.  Common Core dictates the content rubric for the overall project.  ISTE.NETS dictate the digital product that will be produced to demonstrate understanding of all subject-area and digital objectives.  For the example above, How does environment affect us? you will think of a project that allows students to demonstrate that we are affected by our environment and uses Marlowe and Kurtz to demonstrate how the Congo River environment affected them.

An example with the essential question above (How does environment affect our character?) using literature: I can use the CCS to determine that my students need to be able to identify 2 central themes (policing and exposure) and follow their development through implicit and explicit support from the text (CCS Reading 1-3).  The product will be a collaborative essay (CCS Writing 2) written in Google Docs (ISTE.NET 2 and 5).  Students will read, take notes, discuss, and create the project in class.  Groups will find and develop a thorough folder of notes in a shared Evernote Notebook as homework (ISTE.NET 3).

An example using writing: I want to teach persuasive form (CCS 1).  My essential question for this unit is: How do we persuade at-risk students to come to lunchtime tutoring?  My students will research persuasive elements and find examples of them online through sites including YouTube (ISTE.NET 3).  They will then create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that demonstrates understanding of the persuasive elements they learned and convinces people to come to lunchtime tutoring. (ISTE.NET 1, 6)  Publication does not only include the video for this one- we also aired them over the school-wide morning announcements.

By the end of the first semester I had developed a list of everything digital I wanted them to know using ISTE.NETs, The Horizon Report, and 21st Century Skills.  I found that I could sneak them into the projects they were working on without any trouble. My students became digitally literate.

My thinking became: What is my essential question? and then How can the students demonstrate mastery of this digitally?

My List of Digital Understanding?

  • RSS: GoogleReader and Pulse (I use this for SSR throughout the year)
  • Synthesize Information Fromm Multiple Sources
  • Audience: Facebook/Text vs. Academic
  • How to Give Feedback
  • Blog: Revise/Commenting
  • Social Bookmarking- Delicious and Diigo
  • Social Notetaking/Gathering: Evernote
  • Copyright/Fair Use Creative Commons
  • Podcasts
  • Photo Essays
  • GoogleDocs
  • Wiki: Set up pages for units
  • Digital Video: iMovie
  • FanFiction

My List of Resources:
Work That Matters: The Teacher’s Guide to Project-Based Learning
Edutopia: Top Ten Tips for Assessing Project-Based Learning

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