An innovative teaching method, based on an approach known as the ‘flipped classroom,’ was featured at the beginning of the North Crawford School Board meeting last week.
After the meeting was called to order, the board and others in attendance adjourned to Spanish teacher Jessica Wick’s room for a presentation on her teaching methods.
This year, the teacher decided to implement some of the new educational methods being brought forward. One part of the new method requires the teacher to create videos to teach the skills and techniques students should learn. The video allows students to take in the subject at their own pace and when they can reach it. It helps students who miss classes. The idea of ‘flipping’ the classroom is to have the students do work while in class and have them listen to the teacher’s presentations at another time and place.
“It frees class time to apply skills,” Wick told the board of the video presentations of the material.
The approach allows student to move at their own pace, which might be slower or faster than other students in the class.
For the teacher, it means making videos for the whole unit rather that trying to stay one or two days ahead of the class, Wick explained.
The Spanish teacher offers the students a variety of ways to approach homework from traditional worksheets to online homework.
Although the students do watch videos as part of the class, Wick doesn’t insist the students watch the videos at home because she’s not sure all of the students have the ability to access those videos at home.
Some students use netbooks provided by the school to watch the videos in the classroom, while others use I-Pads available at the school’s library to watch the videos.
In addition to learning from the videos, students are also working in groups on collaborative projects. This has led to A-Students in the groups tutoring other students. Wick is a believer in the group process.
“The collaboration has definitely helped,” Wick told the board. She cited higher test scores as proof the new ‘flipped classroom” approach was working.
Although the approach has proved successful in a number of ways it has presented the teacher with a bigger burden.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Wick told the board. “I’ve never felt so challenged as a teacher.”
Whether it’s as an individual or through collaboration with others, Wick says the students are “liking learning on their own.”
How much better are the students doing? Wick reported that scores on the semester finals are up about five points on average. She believes the new approach helps students who are absent a lot, helps students who need more time to learn the material and helps other students, who have been to afraid to ask questions in the past.
Wick was quick to credit the support of the board and the administration, as well as the support of school librarian Liz Bransky, as instrumental in making her classroom efforts a success
“Without my netbooks and Smart Board this wouldn’t have been possible,” Wick said. She noted that at conferences, other teachers interested in the flipped classroom approach say they don’t have the technology in place to try it at this point.
Wick’s most incredible story of success involved a student in a plan to take three years to complete two years of Spanish. Under the old teaching method, the student was failing. However with the new approach, he has becomes an A student.
After a brief discussion, the North Crawford School Board approved allowing high school students to take a survey developed by Passages, a battered woman’s shelter located in Richland Center. A concern is that the study will broach delicate subject matter, according to North Crawford District Administrator Dr. Dan Davies.
Like a somewhat similar county study done in the school system, copies of the survey will be shared with the parents, who will be given an option to have their children not take the survey. Among the subjects the students will be interviewed are: understanding if they have knowledge of what makes a healthy dating relationship, dating relationship violence, sexual assault, stalking and date rape drugs.
One of the meeting’s surprises occurred during the discussion of the retirements in the district. As was expected, bookkeeper Danna Bell retired. The board previously approved hiring Demetri Andrews to replace her as the school district business manger. The board was also informed custodian Jane Jones was retiring. However, the surprise that seemed to catch some board members off guard was the retirement of longtime district bus driver Michael Steinmetz, who also served as an aide at the school and for many years was director of the the summer recreation program.
Another resignation of some importance in the district was the decision of school board member Miguel Morga to accept a job in Illinois as an AFCME union representative and leave the board. The position is similar to a position he has held in Wisconsin during the past few years.
In other business, the North Crawford School Board:
• approved the continuance of a contract for occupational therapy service with Vernon Memorial Healthcare at a modest increase in rates
• agreed to continue the student insurance plan with increased coverage provisions with Student Assurances the low bidder
• approved a $500 donation to the Village of Gays Mills Pool, which is heavily used by North Crawford Students
• tabled approving summer rec positions until more information could be obtained
• agreed to use money from the beverage revenues to fund the Trojans Scholarship Program
• approved summer school requests
• approved the list of 2014 high school graduates
• approved continuing an agreement with the Seneca School District to share the services of the North Crawford Director of Special Education Pat Wenske pending a clarification of hours and costs between the two districts
• approved Jesse Swenson as a volunteer girls track coach
• heard a suggestion from Independent-Scout editor Charley Preusser to form a reconciliation committee to use conflict resolution resources to help resolve conflicts that currently exist between some parents and students and the district
• agreed following a closed session to offer contracts to all teachers currently employed in the district and authorized the administration to offer a 100 percent contract to history teacher John Armbruster