I gave them a choice:
1. A short story on the topic of resilience
2. A reflective/narrative essay in the style of NPR's This I Believe essays that narrates an incident from their life that was negative, then reflects on what belief is shown through that experience
The results were pretty equal - half of my students chose each. Their short story concepts ranged from a pregnant teen to Mexican Nazis who perpetrate an Aztec genocide. The This I Believe essays had incidents as mundane as an F on a report card to deaths, divorce, and parental alcoholism.
And an amazing thing happened in class -not just in one, but in both periods: I stopped having to manage them. Every time I heard talking, they were bouncing ideas off each other, asking how to spell a word, or proof-reading for each other. Suddenly, my classroom truly flipped. They were taking responsibility for themselves AND helping each other. I was so impressed that I took a few videos of them working:
What is equally exciting is that I checked my email and Twitter at 10 PM that night, and saw that about 15 kids had already sent me drafts or tweeted a question. About an essay. At home. On their own. And when my support kids came in this morning, ALL of them had worked on it at home. These are kids who have never willingly done an essay in their lives.
When you work at a school like mine, where homework is the realm of AP and leadership students, that is a pretty significant victory.
Oh, and I'm down to just a small handful who haven't passed the Night test yet (around 90% have passed). Every single student who reviewed with me passed it immediately after our review.
This could be the first year in which I don't give a single F in any class for the semester. Just typing that freaks me out a little - and if you saw where they started, you'd understand why I'm so freaking proud of them.
I really feel like this has been the most successful year by far. My only regret is that I started so late. If I had flipped from day one, I bet all my students would have passed the CAHSEE.
There's a pretty good chance that I'll be moving to history next year so it may change the content a bit, but flipping is in my classroom to stay fo'sho (as my kids say). I mean, how can you argue with these results:
-clear evidence of mastery of the content
-no students failing
-enthusiasm and enjoyment in class
-higher test scores
-students happy to be there, doing work rather than socialising
I know I can't argue against that.
To help my student teacher, I filmed myself reviewing Night with my 5th period class. We didn't cover everything, and I know I made some mistakes on facts/details (that's what happens when you try to do it without notes!). There are videos for each chapter.
In the last video, we shot it a day later so it's just me and my friend Omar. He took the most amazing notes during our review. And he's failing every single class. Except mine. I am so freaking proud of him for working so hard in my class and for recognising his own need to change his behaviour. I believe that if he were in a fully flipped high school, he would be an A/B student. He is one of the main reasons I know I'll never go back to the traditional model ever again.