Teachers are masters at wringing every second out of our limited instructional time. Last year, though, as I graded student writing –and made a list of all the topics I needed to go over with my kiddos–I realized there simply was not enough time to cover it all during class. While I knew many teachers were flipping the classroom, assigning reading or lessons at home that were then practiced during class, I had never seriously considered it since I was hard pressed to get students to spend even ten minutes finishing work they had begun in class.
I usually hold mini-conferences with my young writers, either individually or with small groups, discussing what they did well and what their next steps should be. At times I feel like a broken record repeating, “Before diving into your opinion on this topic, you have to grab your reader’s attention and give them a reason to care about it.” Finally, it occurred to me that I could create a video of these same mini-lessons, and instead of having to deliver each one personally, I could use my conference time to triage student essays and then prescribe the lesson that would benefit each student the most.
The multi-media format appeals to a variety of learning styles, and it lets me use color and graphics to highlight important concepts and I can include lots of model texts. To create each video, I started with a Powerpoint presentation, then I scripted it and used the Record Slide Show feature to narrate and animate each slide. The program even let me save it in different formats, so I could upload them to the internet and put links on my class webpage.
Students tell me that they often go back to the videos again and again, or pause and play them while they write. It was effective, too. Their writing improved by leaps and bounds. In fact, my struggling readers and writers averaged about the same on the state writing assessment as did the advanced and gifted students at our school. I can tell you we were all celebrating their achievement!
Best of all, this year, when it was time to tackle text-based essays again, I already had several solid lesson videos I could reuse. This leaves me free to work on adding to my collection. I’m currently working on one that focuses on the introductory paragraph in an essay. I will be making it available for free as well. If you want to be notified when I post it, please subscribe.