Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Flipping for Book Chats with Flipgrid

Here are few things we know about middle school students and reading:

  • Students want choice and voice.
  • A recommendation from a peer typically outweighs one from a teacher.
  • Interest can trump ability.
  • Readers need direction when finding the right read for themselves.
  • Learners become stronger readers by spending time reading.
So as teachers how do we provide them with all of those opportunities while not losing the focus of supporting students on proving mastery of reading standards and skills? Over the last several years, we have incorporated several different practices in order to find the perfect blending of best literacy practices and student choice (which one could argue is a best practice).

On the first day of school, students decorate an index card with words and images that represent them as an individual. I collect these to use as equity cards with our Free Reading Fri-Yay celebration each week. We choose seven to eight different cards each week; those students lead a quick one- to two-minute book chat selling their book to their classmates and making recommendations. Their classmates can add new titles to the "Must Read List" that is in their ELA composition notebook. As their teacher, it gives me insight into reading preferences, learning styles, challenges, and interests which I can document on the back of the card to help drive my instruction and support my unique readers.

While this process was working to a degree, I noticed that students were struggling with book chats. They would either get caught up in the speaking portion of the chat and forget the important aspects of the book they were promoting or they would get caught up in the details of the book and they would forget about the speaking skills we had been developing. Also, I noticed that my readers were also forgetting to write down their next great read on their list and would often abandon selecting a book at all.

As I was searching for a way to meet all these challenges, I came across Flipgrid. With Flipgrid, I could create a grid with a separate topic for each class. Every two weeks, instead of speaking their book chats live in front of the class, they would record it as a video on Flipgrid. We created a list of expectations:

  • each chat could be up to 90 seconds long
  • chat books that we had not read in class or that had not been chatted numerous times
  • include a summary that convinces others to read that book
  • avoid big spoilers
  • recommend who would enjoy that book

What is great about Flipgrid is that students can access it on any device from a desktop to a smartphone.  They can record their video as many times as they would like. Because they were limited to 90 seconds, my learners knew they had to write out their book chat and practice it in order to get all the important details within the short time limit.

I set the topics to need my approval before they went live to our grid. What I saw from my students was amazing. The quality of their speaking and the books that they chose to share drastically inclined. Their personalities blossomed. Although these book chats were only due every other week, I began having students post multiple chats a week to share with their peers. (Of course, it didn't hurt that they were seeing how many views and likes they were accumulating.) And while giving students a voice helped every student grow, I noticed the biggest difference with my ELL, ExEd students, and struggling readers. They were engaged in book chats at a new level; they had the time to think, practice, and share their reading with their peers because it removed some of the obstacles that they face in the classroom.

Student-voice is a powerful thing...and with Flipgrid, I was able to deepen their voice as readers and give them an authentic audience to share their reading. If you haven't ever used Flipgrid, check it out. Your students will thank you for it!

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