Friday, February 3, 2012

Reflections on Week 1 (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly)

The first week of the semester is now over, and it's time to do a little reflecting of how things went...

This week we started keeping track of our homework on "WSQ" charts, so I had a place to sign off their progress and their work. In an ideal world, I would never check homework every day. I hate doing it. It is probably the thing I dread most as a teacher and I feel like it is a waste of time. However, if I don't check it every day, the kids don't do it. They are not to a place in their lives where they are self-motivated enough to do it because it is good for them and will help them. That is one of my goals as a teacher, to get kids to understand that. At this point in the year, it's just not happening with most of my students. Some of my Math Analysis students are there, but most of my Algebra 1 students are far from it.

Here is the sample WSQ chart from this week for Algebra 1.

Here is the same WSQ chart from this week for Math Analysis.

These charts told the students what Video they needed to watch, and then had a place for me to sign off that they had Watched it, summarized it, asked a question, and completed the corresponding assignment in class.

The way I decided to grade was with signatures.
A BLUE signature means they completed it fully ON TIME
If it is not completed fully, on time, they get a RED/PINK line
Once they complete the late assignment, they get a RED/PINK signature.
If they never complete the late assignment, the line just stays.
At the end of the week, a BLUE signature is worth 2 POINTS, a RED signature is worth 1 POINT, and a RED line with no signature is worth 0 POINTS.
"WSQ charts" are collected on Fridays and input into the students' grades.

The Good: Math Analysis

My students in Math Analysis started off the semester well. They are watching the videos, writing their summaries, asking good questions, and doing fairly well in class. I'm happy with how things are going. We are just starting the tough part of the chapter, so I hope this continues. Most of the WSQ charts looked like the ones below:

Perfect! This student did everything well and on time.

Almost perfect, but got the late summary signed off before the end of the week.

Almost perfect, but still didn't complete summary for C1 by the end of the week.

Not so good...
This student watched all the videos but didn't finish any of the classwork.

The Bad: Math Analysis (again)

With every good thing, there are some places for improvement. One of the reasons why I think the students are doing so well is because of the WSQ charts I have been using. I did not check homework much first semester because I just don't like to take the time in class to do so. Thus, a lot of students did not do their homework very often or completely, unless they were self-motivated. With this new system, these students are very motivated to get their "blue signatures" and to show off that they have gotten the work done. I like the excitement, but I hate the time it takes me to check every day. Instead of being able to walk around freely answering questions and helping, I have to spend upwards of 20-30 minutes of the class period going around and checking off homework. Yes, I make it around to every table and am able to answer a few questions, but nothing like I want my flipped classroom to be like.

I don't have a perfect solution, but I think I know where some of the problem lies. Because students can get "red lines" for work they don't complete on time, they want to get the "red signature" the next day. It takes a lot of time to go back through the make-up work than to just check off the stuff that is supposed to be due. I think I could probably do that in less than 10 minutes total. So, my idea that I am going to try for this next week is that during class I only check off the "on time" work. If students want to get late work signed off, they have to come in on their own time (before school, seminar, lunch, after class, after school, etc) to do so. That way they don't take away from me being to help those that have questions and they have some sort of other motivation to get it done on time (they don't want to have to come in on their own time). We'll see how that goes this next week.

The Ugly: Algebra 1
This week we just reviewed Chapter 6 (systems of equations) because we didn't have time to finish it before finals and I didn't want to just jump right into a test. The three videos they were assigned to watch were all review videos covering some example problems from a new worksheet. Then, in class they were supposed to come together and go over a few more of each type of review problem to prepare for the test.

Here are some samples, starting with the GOOD and ending with the BAD... I'll explain more below.

A student who did everything she was supposed to ON TIME.
This student just had one assignment not complete on time, but she still completed it.
This student had a lot of things not done on time, but she did get most of them done. How she wrote her summary and question for C4-6 without watching the video is above me, but I guess I just didn't look close enough when I was trying to sign off.
This student did all the "homework", but didn't finish any of the assignments. They have the whole class period to work on the assignments, and if they don't finish a few problems they have to do them at home by the next day. This student not only did not have them done on time, he didn't even finish them by the end of the week (after multiple days).
This student didn't do much, and what she did do was late.
This student did hardly anything all week. Watched the first few videos, but that's it.
This student did nothing all week. Out of my 112 Algebra 1 students, I probably had 10-15 of these.

I was very very very disappointed by this week in Algebra 1 in terms of the effort my students made with the flipped classroom. I was hoping that with the excitement of being able to start fresh with a new semester and wanting to do well on the first test of the new semester may bring some intrinsic motivation. I still have to grade those tests from today this weekend, so we'll see how they do. [update: I've graded them.  They were the worst tests I have seen all year.  Out of 96 students taking the test, I had 17 A's (18%), 12 B's (13%), 5 C's (5%), 5 D's (5%), and 57 F's (59%).  The students who did what they were supposed to did very well.  The students who did not watch the videos or finish their assignments did horribly, even as low as 2% on a test where I felt I had at least 20% of the points as "gimmes".  Remediation, reteaching, and retaking are in progress!]  If they end up doing well, that will give me something to think about. However, I'm not really looking forward to grading them with the effort I saw on the homework this week.

One thing that I think may have affected this week was the fact that I told this kids this was "trial week" with the new WSQ system and our normal school-wide punishments of "Missing Assignment Cards" progressive discipline for not doing homework assignments would not be in effect until NEXT week. So, I think most of them just took that as a sign that they could just do nothing this week because they wouldn't receive the punishment. This is an issue I am hoping my students will learn by the end of the year: doing their assignments because they will be beneficial to their learning and not just to avoid punishment.

If the flipped classroom is going to work well, students have to make the effort and want to learn. I still only have 2-3 available computers in my class (with talks in to the tech guy at our school to have a few more within the next few weeks), and some students who show up not having watched the video don't say anything to me until I find out about halfway through the class period! I've got to find a solution to this. I think once I have more computers it will be better. I will also need to buy headphones for most of the computers because most of the kids (surprisingly, with all the iPods that most kids have these days) don't have them. I would be frustrated if kids consistently came in and had to watch the video in class because they are missing out on the help and support available (one of the biggest reasons I am doing this!!!). However, I think I'm more frustrated that kids aren't watching the videos and then don't say anything about it or make any effort to watch the video at the beginning of class! This apathetic attitude is affecting the success in my Flipped classroom in Algebra 1.

We are only in our third full week of Flipping, and with Finals last week, this is really "week 1" where the students need to be trained all over again. We'll keep going and see how it goes!

All Reflections from This Year can be Found Here. 


  1. Keep going, once students see the value (better test scores) of you being their to help they will come to class having watched the videos - it will take time, especially doing something different

    1. Thanks for the encouragement/reminder. I know they will get the hang of it after a while; don't we all wish they would just get it right away :). The nice thing about this blog is when I'm blogging about "Week 15" I will look back and see how much growth they've made!!!


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