Inside Lakota Learning
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The Lakota learning experience is one filled with inquiry, innovation and discovery. Every student's learning style, passions and interests are different, which is why the experience of one student will never be exactly that of another. It's why Lakota teachers and support staff are committed to student-centered learning and providing a personalized approach marked by differentiated teaching methods. 

Let the Lakota Learning Team explain what that means and how that goal plays out on a daily basis in our classrooms. Through this blog, they'll guide parents and community members through the strategy behind Lakota's student-centered curriculum and how different methods meet students' educational needs. And because learning doesn't stop at school, they'll provide tips and strategies for how to be partners in the learning process and create a positive learning environment at home. 


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Caitlin Huxel's classroom with students all spread out working in small groupsWhen something is upside down, it is most likely hard to read, hard to understand, and ultimately just looks awkward. We may turn our head a little to try to see it clearly. Perhaps we even turn it around so it is right side up and looking “normal” again. We all have an idea of how things in the world should look. We get used to seeing things a certain way and gain a sense of comfort from the things that are constantly “right side up”.  


Take, for example, education - specifically the acts of teaching and learning. For most of us, we would probably agree that our “right side up” image of teaching and learning is one where the teacher teaches the content to the students during the school day and then students practice the content independently at home.  For years and years, this has been an educational norm...until now.  


On the flip side, recently there has been a shift toward various models of teaching that emphasize a more personalized, student-centered, and differentiated environment. Currently in Lakota, these models of teaching are being explored, developed, and embraced by many teachers in various grade levels across the district.


More specifically, I have found my passion in one model that literally flips the traditional teaching and learning image upside-down. It’s literally called “The Flipped Classroom”. The students receive the content at home (thank you, technology!) and then practice the content the next day in class with the teacher.  Over the past six months, I have discovered that the flipped classroom provides an environment for learning that is incredibly personalized, differentiated, and effective.  Here’s how it happened for me…


I am in my 14th year of teaching and am currently a sixth grade math teacher at Endeavor Elementary. Last summer, I made the decision to go “all-in” and flip my classroom for the 2018-2019 school year. I knew that flipping was not going to be an easy task.  Not only would it be a huge undertaking on my part to put it into action, but philosophically, I felt it was going to be a challenge to get students and parents to believe in its purpose and trust me.


Student works independently on math assignmentRemember that when things are upside-down, we usually first turn our head and give it it a funny look.  I was preparing myself for the funny looks.


A few weeks into the school year, we held our annual curriculum night for parents. This was the night that I was going to share my plan. I had 3-5 minutes to convince these parents to trust me on this journey. The main thing that they needed to hear was that their child would not be bringing home “traditional” math homework this year. Instead, I would simply be expecting students to watch a video for homework, follow and complete my notes, and come prepared the next day with any questions. I explained that in class the next day, we would quickly discuss the big idea from the video. Then, students would be required to complete an independent task related to the skill, at which time I would be available for help and questions.


This used to be the “traditional” homework….you know, the one that many parents ended up helping with, or hunting down a YouTube video to first re-learn the content themselves before helping their child? But I needed them to hear that I was flipping it, turning this on its head, completely upside-down. I was so nervous.

And then, wait for it...they applauded. On Curriculum Night, just a few weeks into the school year, these parents applauded. They were going to trust me on this journey with their children. I exhaled a sigh of relief and I haven’t looked back since that night.  


The hours that I spend outside of the classroom recording the videos for my students is time that I get back with them each day in the classroom. My mantra this year has been that I want my students to try, struggle, get frustrated, and grow each day with me in class. Their job at home each night is to simply prepare for the next day.


And on that “next day,” I get 45-50 solid minutes to talk one-on-one to students who are a bit confused, to provide enrichment opportunities to students who are ready to move on, and most importantly, I get to know my students as learners. They ask questions, answer questions, struggle with new concepts, have “ah-ha” moments, and take ownership in their learning each and every day.  I am so happy that I took the leap and attempted this flip. But I am even more thankful for the students and their parents who have supported this from day one. It may have felt upside-down at first, but it sure is starting to feel like this is, in fact, “right-side up” for all of us.


Here are some parents’ thoughts on how this model of teaching has made an impact:


Young boy works on a scaled drawing in math class.“I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for all of your hard work. #### came home today and was so excited at the improvement in her math MAP scores. Her accelerated progress is due in large part to your tremendous effort and care. ##### enjoys the flipped classroom lessons, and for once, enjoys her math homework. I have also enjoyed helping her with homework (she has never wanted me involved until now!). I know first-hand how much work goes into creating these lessons and engaging students in mathematics, and we appreciate you!”


“Thanks for all your support at school and home (through our laptop)😉. I absolutely LOVE the video lessons for homework. It makes homework much more pleasant. I never thought I’d be dividing fractions in my 40’s but you’ve helped me learn it all over again as I listen to your lesson while I make dinner. Lol. Honestly, it’s great. I have spent  many nights the last few years searching YouTube for videos on how to do his homework so I could learn it and then try to teach it to him when he returned home from his hockey practice. This is soooo much better!!!!”


Mrs. Huxel - I just wanted to say "thank you" for all that you have done to engage #### in math this quarter. The videos that you have spent time creating nightly in order to free up time to provide more individualized learning in the classroom has been extremely well received and has engaged her learning. In addition, you have tapped into ####'s love of "teaching" in the class by allowing her to help other kids. It has helped her learn the material and (hopefully) to also help other kids as well. I wish you could hear how she talks about it at home, as she LOVES taking on this leadership role...and she feels really successful at math right now.

You started the school year with a girl who LOATHED math (and ALWAYS has). You now have a student who says math is her FAVORITE subject. That is quite a turnaround and I never expected to see this day.

Thank you for your investment in your students!”


“Hi Mrs. Huxel, I just wanted to let you know how much #### likes your nightly math videos. He happily does them each night (he has never happily done homework before). Thank you for all that you do for your students.” 

Caitlin HuxelCaitlin Huxel is a sixth grade math teacher at Endeavor Elementary. You can connect with her on Twitter @MrsCaitHux or through email at caitlin.huxel@lakotaonline.com.



Posted by lauren.boettcher@lakotaonline.com  On Jun 12, 2019 at 10:39 AM