Confession time. Even after flipping for several years, there are still days that I think I still haven’t learned some of the most basic lessons of successful flipping. I could preach all day about the amazing things I have learned from great practitioners and exciting innovations I have personally made in the classroom, but as in many areas in life, a habit of ignoring little problems will grow into a big problem.
As with all subject areas, teaching history has its own sets of rules to follow. One of the cardinal rules that I adhere to is to always work in chronological order. Disrupting the flow of events can add confusion more than most things when teaching history. Ironically, this is one of the little mistakes that I still overlook at times when it comes to planning a flipped unit. For students to be successful, they must build upon what they have learned. Giving tasks in the wrong order can severely affect how efficiently students can move through the curriculum.
Little Mistake #1: Sequencing. This week I was grading prework for our unit on the American Revolutionary War, and I noticed a pattern of many students skipping a question. Of the ones who did attempt this, very few answered it well. I realized that this question assumed that the students had background knowledge on a concept that wouldn’t be covered for three more days– Little Mistake #1. Many people would think that this is a simple mistake and that I shouldn’t beat myself up about this– easy fix for next year, right? The problem is that this moves into…
Little Mistake #2: Déjà vu. This was a mistake I had seen the previous year, but I never got around to fixing it! It can be so simple to ignore a mistake and plan on fixing it “later.” From my personal experience, if I do not remedy the situation immediately, I tend to move on to other things and forget that it had ever happened. I wish I could say that this is the first time this has happened this year, but it isn’t. I have seen a pattern of “little mistakes” that passed under the radar and now affect another group of students.
In the larger scheme, these mistakes are typically quite minor–the larger, more glaring mistakes require immediate attention. However, a pattern of these problems can lead to larger issues down the road. There are several steps that I must put into immediate action if I want to stop the cycle!
Action Step #1: Thoroughly Check Content for Proper Sequencing Every Year. When working on new exciting in-class activities, rap battles and so on, it is easy to assume that everything from last year is ready to go this year. As I gain wisdom throughout each year, I find many things that can be fine-tuned even better the following year. This also can help protect me from Little Mistake #2: Déjà vu. For this past unit, if I had thoroughly read through these questions before assigning content, I would have easily spotted this. I allowed other things to capture my attention and let a glaring mistake pass through undetected.
Action Step #2: Stop the Cycle of Déjà vu. At the beginning of each unit, I need to have a document in my folder that lists updates to make for the following year per unit. This is a place that I can remind myself to tweak activities, questions, sequences, etc. as soon as I see them. This is a great way to make sure that proper modifications are made before the next group of students encounter the same content. To give myself a little bit of credit, I did a great job at this… for the first two units last year. I became complacent as the year went on and allowed myself to brush off these simple little fixes for “another day”. When it comes to simple typos in Google Slide presentations or online quizzes, I immediately edit the master document when a student points it out. When it comes to other types of assignments/activities that I cannot quickly do this for, there has to be another protocol in place to remedy the situation.
The takeaway is quite simple: don’t ignore the little things. Create for yourself an action plan of how mistakes are handled as soon as they are identified so you can continue to make your content the best that it can be!