After reading Catlin Tucker’s blog post, 5 Strategies to Engage Learners Around Flipped Instruction, I was inspired to reflect on and revise a mini-unit I designed focusing on the short film Alike by Daniel Martinez Lara and Rafa Cano Méndez. This silent film sheds light on the subtle ways that creativity can be absent in the classroom.

When I watched Alike for the first time, I appreciated how the film used color, expression, and music to tell the story. At first, I worried that my students might not fully grasp the film’s deeper meaning, but I was pleasantly surprised that they did. Students who generally struggle to read at grade level could engage with this assignment in ways equal to their classmates who read at or above grade level.

I love reimagining a unit or lesson after I have taught it a few times. Each time I return to an assignment, I add strategies, like polling, discussion boards, and partner work to make the experience more engaging. As I’ve embraced blended learning, I have transformed many of my whole group, teacher-led lessons into student-centered, student-paced learning experiences using different blended learning models.

From Whole Group to The Playlist Model

The playlist model presents students with a sequence of learning activities that they self-pace through. Ideally, the playlist includes everything a student needs to be self-sufficient, from video directions and instructions to links and resources. That way, I can work directly with individual or small groups of learners as the class progresses through the playlist. This time allows me to provide one-on-one instruction and support, conference with learners about their progress, provide feedback on their work, or conduct side-by-side assessments.

I decided to redesign my mini-unit on Alike using the playlist model. I designed the mini-playlist below for 6th graders to complete in two 45-minute classes and one 90-minute block session. Starting it at the beginning of the week provides the flexibility of adding more class time to finish up towards the end of the week if necessary. 

Playlist ActivityDescription
Overview SlideshowThis is a slideshow overview of the playlist with instructions and links.
Warm-up PollCreate a poll or multiple choice question in Mentimeter or Google Classroom to get students thinking about the topic or theme of the video.
How often do you engage in creative activities at school?
-Every day
-Once a week
-Once a month
-Rarely or never
2. First Viewing of the videoStudents watch the film for the first time without preparation or discussion. This first viewing allows them the time and space to interact with the video without expectations. The goal is to enjoy the film.
3. Discussion Board PostUsing Padlet, or the discussion feature in your LMS, gives students a place to reflect on the first viewing of the film.

Project Zero’s “Connect, Extend, Challenge” Thinking Routine inspired this discussion board prompt.
After watching the short film, Alike:
–What are some connections you made?
–How did the way creativity is shown in this film expand how you think about what being creative means?
–What do you wonder about?
4. Second Viewing: Alike Video with Embedded Questions
Use Edpuzzle to embed questions in the short film. The video automatically pauses to present a question, and students record their answers. The best part is that you can see how much of the video they watched and view their responses. I have provided a link to mine if you would like to view or use it.

Example questions:
–What does “alike” mean? Put it in your own words.
–List 2 synonyms for the word “alike.”
–What do you notice in this scene?
–Describe in detail how______is feeling and what he may be thinking.
–Explain what happened here.
5. Partner Discussion and ResponseStudents choose a partner, discuss the film, respond to questions, and complete creative activities together. The video is available in our learning management system (LMS), so they can rewatch certain parts during their discussion. 

This “discuss and respond” activity is a great place to insert a recorded video instruction. Students may need to be reminded how to engage in a substantive discussion, reach a consensus, and work collaboratively to share their thinking. My favorite part of this piece is the question that asks them to write a script for a 1-2 minute portion of the film.

Note: Since students are self-pacing through the playlist, I ask them to put their names on a post-it note and put it on the board to signal they are ready for the partner work. That makes it easier for them to find a partner when they are ready.
At the end of this mini-unit playlist, students reflect more generally on the theme of creativity and what they think about it after completing this playlist. They have the agency to decide whether they want to write, record, or draw for this final reflection.
Here is an example of what this mini-unit may look like in an LMS.

The beauty of the playlist model is that it shifts control over the pace of learning to the students. In the past, I guided students through this sequence of activities as a whole group. It was teacher-led and teacher-paced. Students enjoyed it, but I was aware that some students struggled to complete the individual activities in the time I designated for them. I also didn’t have the time and space to connect with learners because I guided the entire experience.

It was exciting to reimagine a learning experience I had done previously as a whole group through the lens of a blended learning model that shifted control to students and to see the positive impact on the students and their engagement. I also enjoyed the time it created to provide personalized support and connect with learners during our class period.

Amy Tobener-Talley teaches ELA, ELD, and Digital Technology at a dual-immersion language school in Sonoma County. She is bilingual (Spanish), Google certified, and passionate about leveraging her 15 years of experience to modernize teaching and learning. Through the use of digital tools and blended learning techniques, she has created a student-centered environment in which her students engage and thrive in active learning online and offline. She is eager to collaborate with other professionals to continue on a path of growth and improvement.

Want to learn more about blended learning and the playlist model? Check out Catlin Tucker’s online, self-paced courses–Getting Started with Blended Learning and Advancing with Blended Learning.

2 Responses

  1. I love this! I have been working on something similar and busy thinking of all the things I need to change up in the moment. I need to add a list of things students might do when they finish. I also like your idea of having students write their names on a post-it when they are ready to work with a partner; sometimes pacing through self-paced activities can be challenging when students are moving in and out of partner/group work. Anyway, I so appreciate seeing examples of your activities and how you are sequencing them.

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