Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reflections on Week 2 (growth, learning, and new ideas!)

Week 2 of the Spring Semester is now over and I feel like this has been a week of growth and learning.

All Reflections from This Year can be Found Here. 

*Each week, I spend some time personally reflecting on the week - what I did, what worked, what didn't, what I liked, what I didn't, etc.  I try to organize my reflections in a similar manner each week, since they do get pretty long: (1) Math Analysis; (2) Algebra; (3) Sharing and Collaboration; (4) Other Thoughts; (5) Running lists (Things I've heard this week that I love; Characteristics and qualities of my flipped classroom that I want to keep; Changes I've made this week that I like; Ideas I'm still contemplating and experimenting with).  I hope these reflections give you insight into my classroom and give you some ideas to try in your own flipped classroom.  I appreciate any comments, feedback, ideas, and follow-ups that you provide, so please comment and join in on the conversation!

Math Analysis 

My Math Analysis students continued to work on Unit M (Conic Sections).

I remember teaching this last year (and the last three years) - I would spend two days on each conic: one day going over a few examples, one day having the students practice. These questions are pretty complex - imagine having to take an equation, identify the conic (we'll go with hyperbola for this example), complete the square with two variables, identify which direction the branches open, identify the center, identify a & b, use that information and apply your knowledge to find the vertices and co-vertices, identify the transverse and conjugate axes, use the formula to find c, apply your knowledge to find the foci, pick one of two methods to identify the asymptotes, and then plot everything I have mentioned and graph it accurately. 

Okay I just lost some of you on that description :) My point is, this is A LOT to go over, learn, and understand.

In class, with all the questions, comments, and confusions when teaching the examples to the whole class, we would MAYBE get through two examples in class. The students would go home and practice a few, generally still confused, and then come back to class when my goal was to have them practice all period but so many of them were still confused that I had to go over another example in class, leaving them little time to practice on their own and actually get help. 

Now, let's transition to this year with a flipped lesson: one night watching four examples on video (20 minutes of video total split into two parts - Part 1 and Part 2), one day in class practicing in groups getting questions answered and confusions clarified, another night watching two examples (Part 3) on video and completing two on their own (with video support (Part 4) for those two if the students still didn't quite get it), and another last day in class working through examples and practicing. 

When students arrived to class this week, they were already "pre-loaded" with all of the vocabulary, relationships, examples, etc that would give them the tools to succeed.  I had them get in their groups and the first thing they did is have a discussion.  I had one student read their summary out loud to the group. (If you don't know how I do homework yet in my Flipped Class, check out My Favorite WSQ for a description) Group members have been shown how to be actively engaged in this process and to "stop" or "pause" the reader if they feel like something is missing or wrong or needs to be clarified.  Some groups are getting good at this, some groups still need some practice; however, overall I really liked what I was hearing.  

After the summary is read and discussed, each group member reads their question.  I did the "question" process in two different ways this week: for ellipses (the conic section we studied on Tues & Wed), students had to trade their notebooks in a circle and a different group member had to actually write down the answer in words to their question.  If they couldn't answer it themselves, they could ask a friend or me, but it was a test to see if they could answer it themselves.  For hyperbolas (the conic section we studied on Thurs & Fri), I had students write down the answer themselves to their own question and then share with their group members.

For the rest of the period time, the students worked in their partners and small groups working through problems.  I started a new thing this week with a stool that I have in my classroom.  Instead of mulling around the whole period and monitoring, I actually took my stool and plopped down in front of a small group of students and just watched and worked with them for 3-5 minutes.  Then, I would pick up the stool and pick another group of students who needed some help and sat down.  Sometimes, I picked a group who had raised their hand with a specific question; sometimes I just picked a group who I wanted to hear what they were saying, talking about, and working through.  I thought it was neat.

I made a few other changes in Math Analysis this week that I will be experimenting with for the next unit before deciding if to continue.  It has to do with the students self-pacing and self-evaluating.  What I told them on Thursday is this:

"Some of you need to do all 10 hyperbolas for practice in order to understand the material.  Some of you probably need to ask me for more practice.  Some of you could probably master the material after 8, or 5, or even 2.  Once you feel you have mastered the material, you can prove it to me by taking the Concept Quiz for Hyperbolas.  If you can get an "8" [a perfect score], you will be excused from the rest of the Hyperbolas assignments and can move on.  If you try and don't get an "8", you need to go back and practice more until you understand it better.  Basically, you have the right to receive a 'waiver' for certain assignments once you show me proficiency on a certain concept."

By class time Friday, I had seven students who had showed me proficiency on the Hyperbolas Concept Quiz and were "waived" from the remaining practice and were able to work ahead on the next assignment.  I had two students who tried the Quiz right away on Thursday and made several mistakes.  So, they had to go back and practice some more and could take a different version of the Quiz on Friday.  The second time, they all passed.

Excitements about this:  
1. Students don't have to sit around feeling like they are doing meaningless work.  Once they get it, they can show me they get it and can move on.
2. Students will have to learn how to self-evaluate they progress.  They have to "know what they know" and decide if they are ready for it.  If they think they are, but then end up not passing the quiz, hopefully they will learn from this and discover how to know when they really have mastered something.

Nervousness about this:
1.  In math, there are always different ways to set up or phrase a question.  Students could practice a few of them, and then take the quiz that has the question set up or phrased in a different way and not know what to do because that certain set up/phrasing was supposed to be practiced in question #5, but they didn't get that far.
2. Students could practice a few, show proficiency on the Concept Quiz, and then think they know it well enough to still pass it on the unit test a week later.  They don't look at the material at all or review it; they don't practice the questions they have been "excused" from; they don't review the videos they have been "excused" from... and then they fail that Concept on the test.  This is obviously a learning experience and if it happens once, I would hope the student would take charge of their learning and learn from that mistake to not let it happen again.

There is one major issue with this as I have it set up right now - there are still deadlines for all of the assignments that students must meet or they will receive "red lines" (late credit) for certain assignments or WSQ's.  So, if a student goes home and decides to only practice 2 of the 4 questions because they feel they "get it", and then show up to school and take the quiz before class and DON'T get an "8", they will receive late credit for the remaining two questions they didn't complete on time.   Students either have to have the assignment completed or the "waiver" completed by its deadline.  Right now, I still feel like the daily deadlines are important for my students.  I know that some teachers just have weekly deadlines for students, (or no deadlines at all) but at this point, I feel like my students are not ready for that much freedom and need some guidance.

I will be experimenting with this for Unit N and then deciding how to tweak or modify it for the future, or get rid of it all together.

As far as the WSQ charts go, they were MUCH better for the Math Analysis students this week.  Most of the students got everything done on time.  I do have a few homework cards to write for students who didn't (1) watch the video on time twice in one week; (2) complete the required assignment twice in one week; or (3) scored less than 60% of the points in all of the categories (Watch, Summarize, Question, and Assignment).  Most of the students learned from last week and got their stuff done on time.  I still have one student who refuses to write any summaries (he "doesn't have enough time because he has sports practice") and I gave him a homework card even though he doesn't fit into any of the categories because I warned him daily, gave him a final warning on Thursday, and he still showed up on Friday with no summaries written.

Algebra 1 

 Algebra 1 class started off on a "fun" note with the horrible results from the Chapter 6a test.  Students were assigned mandatory remediation that began this week and will continue next week.  They have to come either before or after school every day for a focused "session" on a certain concept that they didn't pass on the test.  If students did well on a certain concept, they could get excused from that session.  Several students have gotten excused from certain sessions.  

When I presented the remediation, I gave the analogy of running a marathon (finishing the marathon is like passing the test).  I told them that if your goal is to run a marathon (pass the test), you have to prepare.  You have to train your body and your mind, or you will show up, try to run it, and puke all over everyone (fail the test miserably).  I told them we will be in training for the next 7 school days so we can successfully finish the marathon (pass the test).   The training will not always be easy.  Sometimes they won't want to come because they would rather relax, hang out with friends, etc.  But in the back of their mind, they need to remember that if they don't train, they will show up on the day of the marathon (the day of the retake) and it won't be a pretty picture.  I challenged them to think about that when their alarm goes off in the mornings (is it worth it to push snooze or will it pay off if I wake up now and get to school for the 'training' session) and after school (is it worth it to hang out with friends and socialize or will it just pay off to go to Mrs. Kirch's room and go to 'training'?).  

I have 77 students who got below an 80% on the test that are in the "training" group.  For Session 1, I had 36 students attend; Session 2 had 28 students attend.  Both sessions had about 3-5 students waived from that specific session.  So, attendance is just under 50%, which honestly is not that bad for the first week.  After a few parent emails/Edmodo messages and phone calls this weekend or on Tuesday, I am sure attendance will improve but I would be stupid and stressing myself out if I thought 100% of the students would show up for every session.  In my dreams, my ideal world, my perfect classroom - yes... in reality - no.

Let's talk about the "flipped" part of Algebra 1.  This week we were covering Chapter 6b, which was systems of equation word problems.  All along, I was planning on this test being an "Open WSQ" test - meaning the students could use all of their WSQs  and practice problems on their test.  I didn't tell the students until Friday, the day of the test, although I did give a new hint every day that most of them figured out before Friday.  I still need to grade those tests, so we will see how they did, but I hope the results are good.

I want students to realize that if they do a good job on their WSQs and don't just write crap down (which right now, most of their summaries are simply crap - two sentences that come straight from the first few things I say on the video with little or no thought beyond that), the WSQs can be very helpful for them in many ways.

I do need to take more time in my Algebra 1 class to work on the summaries as a class.  The only issue is, there are still several students (probably 5-10 a class every day, out of 36-38 students in every class) that show up not having watched the video and/or written the WSQ.  I guess I could still do it, I just need to make it a priority. 

In terms of the usefulness of class time, I feel like my classes made progress this week.  They still need daily reminders of my expectations for group work and even within the class period they have to be reminded to get back on task, but I still feel like there is progress.  I need to remind myself that these are CP freshmen and sophomores who are still in Algebra 1 because they have struggled with math in the past - and normally it's not just struggled in math, it's struggled with general study skills and time management.

The time that students spend on my class outside of class is still pretty pitiful.  They will, for the most part, watch the videos. [In fact, I stopped in and chatted with our librarian and one of our counselors who were supervising our "Library Late Night" we had this Wednesday and they said many of my students were in the lab watching my videos and they loved what they saw - the students were pausing, taking notes, rewinding, etc - everything they were supposed to be doing!].  However, if they leave class with one or two problems left unfinished, their assignment is to finish them before class the next day.  They don't.  For the most part, anyways.  The only reason they should leave class with a few problems unfinished is if they are off task.  They are given plenty of time to work through them. If I feel like the whole class has been on task and working hard and still don't finish the problems, then I will cut down the assignment.  But, when I see them off task and not focused, there is no way I will reward them for that behavior by cutting down their assignment.

Thus, so far, one of my goals of cutting down HW cards in Algebra 1 is not coming to fruition.  75% of my students in each of my classes for Algebra 1 this week will receive their first HW card.  I am hoping they will learn sooner rather than later that it really just takes a little bit of effort, responsibility, and focus to meet my expectations.  I'm not expecting them to work magic or to become math superstars overnight - I just expect them to try their best and work hard in class.  We will keep working...

Sharing and Collaboration: Staff Presentation 

I presented My Flipped Classroom to my entire staff (teachers, admin, counselors, etc) at our Delayed Start PD this week.  Overall, the response was very positive.  I will be blogging later this weekend about their thoughts, questions, and concerns based on a Google Forms survey I gave them. (Pre-presentation and Post-Presentation survey)  So far, I have about 40 responses to each survey, which is about half our staff. 

Our Principal also told me I may be getting visitors from three nearby school districts who want to see my Flipped Classroom in action.  One of her mentors, a retired Principal, sits in on many of our Leadership meetings and discussions and was there for my first presentation of the flipped classroom last week.  He liked it so much he told some of the other Principals that he works with and they want to learn more about it.  Hopefully I will be able to blog about that soon!

I did get a call from one of our Assistant Principals on Friday.  He got an email from a concerned staff member about student use of electronics in the classroom.  We have a very strict policy regarding cell phones, iPods, etc.  Students are allowed to "have them" on campus but they should not be visible at any time they are on campus.  He asked if I allowed students to use iPods or other devices during class.  At this point, I told him no.  Because I have three laptops, students have been able to use those if they needed to watch the videos.  Only a few students have the videos loaded on their iPods or have 3G and can stream them. I do have a few, however, who will be in my classroom outside of school hours (before school or after school tutoring) and will use their personal electronic devices to watch videos on.  He said he was fine with that, and he was even fine with the students using them during my class time with my monitoring and under the system I have in place.  I was glad to hear of his support for an issue that will probably come up at some point in the year.  It also reminded me, though, that there will always be others who will not be supportive of any "changes" or "modifications" of the rules, even if it leads to increased student understanding, engagement, and involvement in their learning.

Other Thoughts

 I did have one issue in Math Analysis on Wednesday with a student frustrated with the Flipped Classroom.  At the end of the period (last 2 minutes), I called the class back together to summarize where they should be and to remind them of the expectations that are set on them to guide and take charge of their own learning.  Without any prompting, one male student shouted out "I Hate the Flipped Classroom! I want to go back to Traditional!".  This led two female students to say, "Yeah, I want traditional!".  After quickly making it clear that this was not discussion time and their behavior was not appropriate, I went on to remind the students of what I needed to say.  I pulled the 3 students aside to my back room after class to discuss with them the incident that just happened.  The male student is one of my highest achieving students and was very visibly frustrated, and I think almost embarrassed that he got himself in "trouble".  The other two girls are the ones who have been complainers all year and no matter what we do, they have something to say about it.  I called them back to basically tell them that they are entitled to their opinions, but there are mature and appropriate ways to express their opinions and what just occurred was not one of them.  I reminded them that I am the professional educator and I make decisions based on what I think it best for my students as a whole, and the Flipped Classroom is the model that I am using.

That evening, I actually ran into the young man again at the Library Late Night I mentioned earlier.  I pulled him aside individually and talked about why he was feeling the way he was.  Before this, I had discussed with one of my colleagues how I should deal with the situation, and she said "It sounds like those three students are just trying to give you solutions for a problem, but they haven't even told you what the problem is!".  I agreed - they were all trying to tell me what to do, but they hadn't told me why they were dissatisfied with the Flipped Classroom.  The young man expressed to me that in the past, he was able to get his math homework done in his other classes during the day and never had to bring any of it home.  Now that his homework is watching videos, he has to do math homework and home and that is frustrating to him.  He finally stated the problem!!!  With that, I was able to come up with a suggested solution for him.  I am going to allow him to work at his own pace (mainly working ahead) and not feel tied down to the pace I have set up for the rest of the class.  Ideally, this means that he would take maybe one or two nights a week to watch all of the lessons for the week, and then he could use his time in class (and in other classes) to get done what he needs to get done.  This, coupled with the "waiver" feature I talked about earlier, will hopefully solve his frustrations.  We will see.

As far as the two girls go, I have not talked with them further about their outbursts.  I did change their seats the next day because they were actually sitting right next to each other, and we all know how much easier it is to complain when we have someone to complain with.  We will see how it goes...

"I used to not be able to explain anything I had learned in my own words, but now I am getting much better at it and I feel confident I could explain anything I've learned to a partner"

1. Students actually have to write down the answers to the questions they ask.  This ensures that their question does get answered, and it forces students to practice using academic language in writing.

2. Picking a place and sitting on my stool for a while, helping if needed, but listening in and guiding the group along.  

1. "Waiver" for assignments once students have shown mastery on a quiz (see notes, comments, and things that make me nervous in the Math Analysis post above)

Thoughts, comments, ideas, your own experiences? Please share!!! 

All Reflections from This Year can be Found Here. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Crystal. I love what you are doing. I have not done questioning to the degree you have and I think that is something I am going to add to my next unit. It seems to be working really well for you.

    When I first began with the Flipped Classroom I had the exact some complaints from some of my top students. In the traditional way they worked very hard with the class time I gave them and rarely had any home work because they finished it in class. With the Flipped Classroom I told them that they would have homework each night. This didn't seem right to me....I felt like I was penalizing students for doing what I wanted all along. My solution to it was similar to your, allow them to go at their own pace. I told them they could make their way through the curriculum faster if they wished and perhaps finish the course early and have extra time to review or even begin the next course. Some students took me up on this offer but what I found was that by making the class completely self paced they were able to accomplish enough in class and stay far enough ahead that they never needed to watch the videos for homework. This seemed to get these students on board and also gave them reasons to work hard in class like they always did in the traditional model.


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