Friday, February 17, 2012

Reflections on Week 3 (solid strides in the right direction!)

Week 3 of the Spring Semester is now over and I feel like this has been a very solid week in making strides towards what I want my flipped classroom to look like and feel like.

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

I am very happy with the growth I have been seeing with my Math Analysis students.  I have really been encouraging them daily to "take charge of their own learning" and "manage their time wisely to help them succeed".  I feel like that is really starting to click with a lot of my students.  It's definitely far from perfect, but I love the progress I have been noticing.
This week in Math Analysis we implemented the new "self-pacing/self-evaluating" process I described in my Week 2 reflection.  Basically, I allowed students to be "waived" from certain assignments once they could show me proficiency.  If it was super easy for them and they understood it after watching the video and completing the WSQ,  they could come to class and take the concept quiz and then move on rather than spending the period practicing a concept they had already mastered.

Here are my thoughts on it from the first week of implementation.  I feel like I need to continue to use this for at least a couple of more weeks to really get a grasp on if I like it or not:

What was good:
1. I had a lot of students take advantage of the opportunity to just take a quiz in replacement of 10-20 practice problems.  Then again, Unit N that we just started began with VERY easy concepts they had all learned before (converting from degrees to radians, converting from radians to degrees, drawing angles in standard position, finding supplementary and complementary angles, and finding coterminal angles).  Thus, even some of my lower level students were able to pass the quizzes perfectly within the first day after the video.  The sixth concept (finding reference angles) had fewer students taking the "waiver" and more completing the entire assignment.

2. It was pretty easy for me to give the students instant feedback on their work because there was one version of the concept quiz that was used each day (the version changed daily depending on what day the students decided to take the quiz), so I could grade it right away and go over what they got incorrect if they did not score a perfect 8.

3. I felt better about the work that was assigned to the students because they were doing it for their own good and for their own learning, not for the sake of getting the assignment done or feeling like they were doing busy work.

What wasn't so good - I will describe two specific scenarios with students that happened this week.
1. Student 1 came into my classroom on Wednesday morning to take Concept 6's quiz.  I was busy working with my Algebra 1 students, so I did not know what he was doing specifically.  He brings up his quiz packet to me for me to grade and he did Tuesday's version of the quiz (there is a big whiteboard right by the quizzes that says "Today's Version: ______".  I told him that he would have to complete the correct version because the answer keys to yesterday's version were already public and possibly floating around.  By that time, the morning bell was about to ring so he had to come back during our seminar class.  He took the correct version and I had time to grade it.  He solved one of the problems correctly, but the other incorrectly in a way that clearly showed major misconceptions about the concept (reference angles).  I asked him if he had watched the video the night before and he said no.  He did not watch the video and did not even look at his SSS packet the night before. He just came to class (cocky, in my opinion) and assumed he would know how to take the quiz.  This situation with Student 1 can happen very often in this "self-evaluating/self-assessing" model.  I think Student 1 learned from this lesson and I hope won't make that mistake again of just assuming he's mastered the content instead of at least practicing it.  I told this same story to my classes (anonymously, of course) and made the point that before you take a concept quiz, you need to have (1) watched the video because I do convey more important information than basic rote mathematical operations and examples - the stuff I describe and talk about, the connections I explain, etc are all important to the overall understanding of the material, (2) completed the full WSQ to really cement the information in the student's head in their own words instead of mine, (3) tried at least a few of the homework problems on their own to make sure they can do it without my help on the video.  I think this is something I will have to continually remind my students of.  They waste their time (taking the quiz instead of practicing) and mine (grading) when they come in unprepared and cocky.

2. Student 2 is one of my top students.  He had an A all first semester and received A's on all of his tests so far.  I just graded the Unit M (Conic Sections) test last night and he received a 70.5%.  I watched his face when he received his test back today and he was in shock.  I think it is the lowest test grade he has ever received.  When I had a chance today, I went over and talked with him.  I sat down and went through the places he made mistakes.  A lot of the mistakes were not major misconceptions, but small missing pieces of content that connected with each other led to a "train de-railing" effect as the problem went on.  I explained his mistakes and then talked to him a little bit about his actions over the last week.  To be honest, I had a feeling that something like this (a low test grade for him) would happen, but I wasn't going to say anything about it ahead of time, because I don't think it would have done any good.   He needed to experience it to realize what needs to change.  He is a student he wants to do the minimal amount of work but still receive the good grades.  In certain units, he has been able to get away with it because the content has been easier.  He took advantage of the "waiver" in this unit, meaning for a few of the concepts he did a little practice, took the quiz and did well on it, and that was it.  He didn't "practice practice practice" the concept until he knew it like the back of his hand, didn't see the concept in a variety of different setups or formats to make sure he still knew how to work with it... he basically just did the littlest amount of work he could get by with - and look what happened.  I didn't really have to explain much of that to him because he realized it.  He knows he was trying to do as little work possible and now he has first hand experience with what lack of hard work does.  I really hope Student 2 takes this as a learning experience and changes his effort and focus in class.  He is capable of great things and is very bright, but he needs to realize that laziness does not pay off.

My thoughts on the process as a whole:
1. Students need to learn and experience through the process of self-evaluating and self-assessing.  We can talk to them about it as much as we want, but sometimes they just need to experience the process themselves.  They will try and sometimes succeed right away, but I think they learn quality lessons when they try and fail and then realize what they need to do to succeed in the future.

2. I'm still hoping this "take the quiz when you are ready" thing is working as far as student honesty goes.  Integrity is one of the character traits that I highly emphasize in my class, and during the first semester, we always took the quizzes together at one time, in rows, no talking, etc.  With this method, however, students take them at any point during the period and are supposed to put everything away and not talk while they are quizzing. I am monitoring and can tell who is quizzing and who is working.  However, I know that a kid who wants to cheat will find a way to cheat.  My goal is that they fully realize that the concept quizzes (worth 15% of their overall grade and can be retaken an infinite amount of times) are for their own good and for their own learning and if they choose to cheat on them just to get out of doing homework problems or some other reason, they are only hurting themselves, because when the tests come (75% of their overall grade), they will not know how to do it.  I really feel most of my students understand that fact, but I think cheating is always a valid concern from any teacher.

Other thoughts on Math Analysis from this week

The Unit M Test results were really great.  I will be posting some more detailed information in a post later this weekend as I am collecting data comparing the test scores from last year (not flipped) to this year (fully flipped).  I will be doing a "Data Analysis" post after every assessment to post the results and talk about the differences between the years for both Math Analysis and Algebra 1.  I will link to that post here when it is complete. DATA POST #1 - UNIT M

If you have any data that you have collected about your flipped classroom, please feel free to share it.  That is one major request I have seen from teachers thinking about flipping - they want to see the proof in the numbers!

Algebra 1


This has been a pretty crazy week overall for Algebra 1 with the mandatory remediation my students have had either before or after school every day.  The attendance has been pretty good, ranging from 29 students up to 46 students for each day (2 identical sessions offered each day).  I had a total of 76 students assigned to the remediation sessions and only 11 of those 76 students attended zero sessions.  Everyone else attended at least one.  Today was the final session before they take the test on Tuesday, and I had 46 attendees.  Unfortunately, that means that 30 students did not get the "practice test" or answer key that goes along with it.  I will be posting it on Edmodo, so the proactive students will still be able to access it.

I am excited to see the results on Tuesday.  I hope there is a correlation between the number of sessions students attended and the increase in their test percentage.  I want my students to realize that hard work, time, and dedication does pay off.

A few concerns did spark my attention this afternoon while students were working on the practice test.  Concepts we had covered in Session 1 and 2 were already forgotten!  Once I gave them a couple hints they could follow through with it, but I won't be able to do that on the test Tuesday.  I gave them a "study schedule" to follow over the weekend, but we will see who really does it.  I don't want them to feel like all their time was wasted.

One awesome thing I saw at the remediation sessions was the aspect of the flipped classroom that is really growing - students working together, asking questions, pointing out errors, explaining how they solved things, etc... all that was happening without my complete direction or instructions in these after school sessions!  They made me proud!

The "Flipped" part

I made a few important adjustments in the flipped classroom this week in terms of the expectations I have for students and their WSQ's:

1. Students cannot ask "yes/no" questions.  I was getting far too many of them and students were not thinking deeply about the concept.  So, I took a lot of my class time this week spending at least a few minutes at each group's table reading their questions and answers, probing them to think deeper, asking them follow-up questions, and then having them write their new answers down in their own words.  I wouldn't sign off their "Q" until this was done.  At first, I was like "Oh gosh, this is going to be a never-ending process, isn't it!"  But, the second day they were better and by the third day, I was seeing a lot of progress.

Here is the progression that I took my students on this week.  I am looking forward to seeing more progress next week.

A lot of students will ask questions like:  "Do you always have to use the box method to multiply?"  They would write answers such as "Yes because if you don't you'll get the problem wrong."  I told them that if their answer consisted of a "yes" or "no" and then any phrase that had to do with "because you'll get the problem wrong" or "because that's the way you are supposed to do it", or the like, I wouldn't accept it and they had to think more deeply.

So, I started to get questions like this: "Do you always have to use the box method to multiply?  If so, why? What makes it useful?"  I would get answers like this: "You do not always have to use the box method to multiply, but it is helpful because it keeps you organized and makes sure you don't forget anything".

Here is an example of a student WSQ and what my comments would be to them (click on the picture to make it bigger):
 This student asked: 
Q: "Does [sic] the degrees have to be in order from biggest to smallest?  Will it be wrong?"
A: Yes because it will be wrong if it isn't in order from biggest to smallest...we need to keep it in standard form

The discussion we had in our group was:
-Give me more than "it will be wrong if it's not in order from biggest to smallest".  

-Follow-up/Probing questions: Why is it important to put it in that order?  What will it help us do?  How does it help us stay organized?  if it is in standard form, what can we quickly identify?

-Even with a "bad" question, I was able to probe and use follow-up questions to get the deeper thinking I wanted out of my students.

-As the week went on, I saw improvement in students' original questions, and we could still continue to ask follow-up questions.

2.  This led me to adjustment #2.  Students must use at least three math vocabulary words (mine are bolded below) in the "Summary" part of their WSQ and also in their answer to the questions.  This would change the previous question and answer to look like this:

Question: "Do you always have to use the box method to multiply polynomials (specifically, monomials with trinomials)?  If so, why?  What makes it more useful that simple distribution?"
Answer: "You do not always have to use the box method to multiply monomials with trinomials because you could use the distributive property and get the same answer.  However, when we multiply larger polynomials later, such as binomials with binomials or binomials with trinomials, the box method will be the most useful because it will keep us organized, help us to not forget any terms, and help us to notice which like terms we need to combine together.

3. Come up with several different ways to share our summaries and encourage discussion in class.  I am trying to vary the way that I have students working with their summaries and questions so they don't get bored or used to the same thing.  At some point, I want to start keeping a list, so be on the lookout for a new page up top coming soon.  I'll link to it here when it's ready.  Here are some of the ways I've tried so far along with any pros/cons I have found:
-Summaries as a whole class - pick one or two students and put their summaries on the screen.  Read through them, talk about them, critique them, add to them, and then "score" them.  Then have students read their individual summaries and "score" themselves, adding what is necessary based on our conversation. PROS - whole class norming, accountability with whoever's name is "drawn" to be read, whole-class discussion. CONS - takes more time, not engaging for all learners, sometimes embarrassing for student whose summary gets read if it is not good.
-Summaries in small groups - students turn with their groups and a specified number (one, two, three, or four) of students have to read their summaries to their groups.  The students in the group are supposed to stop the reader, question the reader, ask the reader to repeat or clarify, etc as the summary is being read.  At the end of the summary, the group discusses anything that needs to be added or changed. PROS - all students engaged in discussion, students more willing to ask questions and make comments because it is not in front of the whole class. CONS - less accountability since I cannot listen in on every group at all times, possible misconceptions or non-accurate comments or phrasing since I cannot correct immediately, can take a long time if all four share; students can "get out of it" if only one person shares.
-Our "Perfect" summary - in small groups, one student is chosen to have their summary be "made perfect".  The group reads it together and as they are reading it, they cross out words that don't make sense, add sentences or fragments to increase the value and comprehension of the sentences, replace general terms with math vocabulary (and highlight the math vocabulary so it stands out), and otherwise make the summary "perfect" - four brains are better than one. PROS - all group members focused on one common goal, students required to think and speak mathematically, easy to check up on because it is one per group. CONS - teaching students to think and speak mathematically with confidence is a process and is not always easy!

Random note - I love teaching math vocabulary with songs!  Here is the one we are using this chapter to help students remember all the stuff about polynomial names and degrees: "Polynomial Degrees" (to the tune of ABC's/Twinkle Twinkle).  The great thing was that when students took their concept quiz, I saw them all counting on their fingers and whispering/mouthing the words to the song to help them remember the names.  

To see more of the songs & chants I use in my math classes, click on this link.

Coming Prepared to Class... issues and solutions

This was a huge week for Algebra 1 in terms of coming prepared to class.  I understand that there are sometimes issues with students not being able to watch the video at night (or sometimes just not making it a priority).  I don't necessarily have a problem with that as long as it doesn't become a constantly re-occurring issue.  What I do have a problem with is students not taking control of their learning and taking responsibility for themselves.  When I begin class, I assume that all students have done what they were supposed to in order to be prepared for class unless they have already spoken to me.  I have mentioned this on several occasions, but this week I decided to really make a point about it.  There would be some points last week where I would finally get around to a group about 35 minutes into class only to find out that one or two of the students in that group hadn't watched the video.  They didn't say anything to me, and there were open computers waiting for them, they just didn't care!! If students came up to me before the bell rang and told me they didn't watch the video yet, they got right to work on one of my classroom computers or were told what number they were in line to get a computer.  I started class and we started whatever intro activity/discussion we had planned while the students who needed to catch up did so.

However, on Tuesday, when I tried the "Summaries as a whole class", the first three names I drew did not have their summaries complete.  At that point, a little frustrated, I told the students, "If you did not watch the video or complete your WSQ last night and have not yet told me about it, get out". I had them go outside my door and wait for me to talk with them.  I got the class started on "Summaries in small groups" and then talked to the students outside.  I told them that I understood that things come up and they may not always have the video watched, but they need to show some sort of concern or care for their education and take responsibility for that action by letting me know in person before the tardy bell rings that they are not prepared.  I told them it was unacceptable to come into class not having watched the video and to then just sit there and not say anything about it.

On Tuesday, I had about 8-10 students in each class that I had to "kick out" and have the short lecture with.  On Wednesday, it was about 4-5 students in each class.  On Thursday,  it was two girls in my first period and nobody for the rest of the day!  That doesn't mean all students watched the video every night - it means that the students who didn't took responsibility for their learning and came and told me in person right away so we could get them started on catching up and joining the class!

So, even though it seemed harsh to have to "kick out" kids three days in a row, I think the point is being made and I will continue to have that rule in place.  If you don't have your WSQ done and you don't come tell me, I will be talking with you outside personally about what it means to take responsibility for your learning.  I really think the kids are starting to get it.

One of my top students in Algebra 1 stayed after class on Wednesday to talk to me.  He was frustrated that I had to take class time out every day to lecture the students who weren't prepared and didn't think the "flipped classroom" was working because I just had to get mad every day.  He didn't think it was fair to him that I waste class time getting "mad" at the students who didn't care. I appreciated him feeling open enough to come and talk to me about it and offered some guidance and solutions.  First, I made him aware that I do look at the clock and no more than five minutes of class is spent on getting the class started and "kicking out" the kids who need to be talked to.  Second, I reminded him that the beauty of the flipped classroom is that you can work at your own pace - whether that be slower or faster than the students around you.  I told him that he is more than welcome to be working ahead and starting the assignments before I actually tell the class to get started.  He needs to participate in the whole class portions (activities, group discussions, etc), but otherwise he can be working on his assignments.  I told him that he can even choose to watch all the videos in one night if he wants and then just work by himself on the problems if he chooses.  He was (somewhat surprisingly) very happy and satisfied with my responses and very grateful that he sensed that the flipped classroom could really help him.  All in a 5 minute conversation!  I am hoping to see him start to stretch and push himself next week; we will see!

Sharing and Collaboration

So far (as of 2/17/12), I have received 31 responses to my Flipped Classroom QuestionnaireIf you have not yet had the time to fill out the survey, please try to do so before I close the survey in about a week.  I would like to see between 100-200 responses, as I know there are thousands of teachers out their flipping.  Please send the link to any and all teachers that you know are flipping, thinking about flipping, or have tried flipping.  The survey is meant for all teachers in all subjects, all grade levels, all countries, all levels of experience with flipping etc.  The link to the non-embedded survey is here.  Feel free to email it, tweet it, post it, etc.

I have had several requests already for the results of the survey and I will be sharing as soon as the survey is closed.  Responders do have the option to keep their responses private, so I do need to go through and edit the Google Docs survey and take out any unwanted public information before posting it.  At that time, I will post the survey responses as a whole as well as blog about anything I feel is important.  If you would like to personally be contacted when the results spreadsheet is available, please let me know by commenting below or sending me an email

I have also finished collecting information and questions from my staff from the presentation I gave about a week and a half ago.  I will be posting a blog on that later this weekend as well and will link to it here when it is complete.

Please check out the list of blogs on my right hand side for other "Flipping Teachers" and check out #flipclass on Twitter for lots of great articles, insights, and experiences daily from teachers all around the world!

Other Thoughts

It was a pretty exciting week overall with feeling great about the flipped classroom every day when I came home (just ask my husband - sometimes the day is just full of complaints, but this week I had positive and exciting things to say every day!).  What topped it all off was being voted by my colleagues as "Educator of the Year" for my school.  It was an honor and a great surprise.  It is nice to know that your hard work is being recognized and that people appreciate the effort you are giving to help your students succeed.

I have had several conversations with colleagues interested and exciting about trying to "flip" next school year.  Most of them are going to wait until they have time to prep and prepare over the summer, but I am excited to see the excitement growing! :).  I am hoping with the information I get from the survey I mentioned above will provide support for all of my colleagues of different subject areas with a contact of someone who also flips that same subject area and to whom they can look to for questions, support, and tips.

(I asked students to send me notes on Edmodo about these two questions 1. The flipped classroom THIS PAST WEEK has helped me as a student in these ways... 2. What did you like most about the flipped classroom activities/learning experiences/work we did this week AND WHY? 

STUDENT 1 (Math Analysis):
- This week when I watched the videos, mainly Concept 8 Part 1, I had chances to see if I could get things on my own, by pausing, and then have it explained, which is something that is rarely seen in a regular class and helps me see my mistakes.
- If I want to go back and learn the steps in detail I can, and I won't have to stay after class or get weird looks like I'm stupid . . . 
- The video for the unit circle is a video and not a one time lecture, so I can go back and watch instead of just looking at paper with numbers on it. It explains why everything is what it is, the patterns and the tricks and is an actual help at learning. It's not just mindless memorization, it gives reasons to why thing are what they are.
-It's fun and I feel like the flipped classrooms are a less stressful way to learn and if more teachers try it then less people will be stressed out, so it's like helping the world!

STUDENT 2 (Math Analysis):
-The flipped classroom this past week has helped me as a student because I could work at my own pace. Concepts that I had once covered were refreshed in my memory, and for concepts which were a bit more challenging I was able to still learn at my own pace. I did not have to worry about falling behind because I got to learn on my own time and ask questions in class. Flipped classroom allows me to spend more time on concepts that I need more help on than lessons that I already know.
-The "take the quizzes when you're ready" and "waiver" were a great idea because I could actually decide what to do for myself. We have to make our own choices later on anyway, so why not start now? :) It also helped me because I didn't have to spend too much time on something that I already knew and I could move on to more challenging concepts.

STUDENT 3 (Math Analysis):
-it allows me to review and understand the explanation and the concept from the videos.
-The "waivers" allowed those who understood the concept the following day a sort of reward or a pat on the back; exempting from additional homework (mandatory), but does not take away from additional practice. 
-Also, answering our questions opens additional understanding of the concept (if the question is well-written). It allows a discussion within the group and opens different explanations/answers to one question (maybe/depends).
-Well, there was a particular discussion concerning the similarities and differences between the formulas of the ellipses and hyperbolas. We took into account the similar variables and formulas. But there were minor differences within the formula that played big roles to change the shape of a ellipse into a hyperbola (i.e. a^2+b^2=c^2 vs. a^2-b^2=c^2 or we switch a^2 and b^2 in ellipses while we switch the terms (y-k)^2 and (x-h)^2 in hyperbolas). Such discussions like these help me remember like "Oh yeah! I remember talking about that with my group."

STUDENT 4 (Algebra 1):
-It helped me see that I have done my work correctly. Help me focus more to make a GREAT summary. Also, it helped me prepare for a review of the concept that we learned.
-What I like most about the flipped classroom is that we get to do activities that apply to the concept we are learning. I like doing homework in the classroom rather than at home because it feels relaxed. When I need help on a problem, I can ask the teacher rather than wait the next day to get the answer. This week was very fun because it was a very easy week. We did activities and reviewed concepts that we had trouble on. The flipped classroom is great!

1. Students MUST ALWAYS have a written answer to the question part of their WSQ.  This can be written by them individually or answered with the help of a group member or myself.  The questions must require more than just a Yes or No answer.   This ensures that their question does get answered, and it forces students to practice using academic language in writing.
2. Picking a place in the classroom next to a group and sitting on my stool for a while, helping if needed, but listening in and guiding the group along.  (did not do that as much this week, but I like it)
3. In the videos, always have at least an example or two that students need to work out on their own.  Two ways to do this - #1 - in the middle of the video, tell them to pause it and try it on their own.  Then they can follow along with me once they get stuck, and then pause me again and try from there. #2 - at the end of the video, assign 1-2 problems for the students to complete on their own before class.  Work out these problems in a "part 2" of the video for students to reference if they still get stuck.

1. Our "Perfect" summary - I really like it!

1. "Waiver" for assignments once students have shown mastery on a quiz

2. Coming up with a list of "key questions" myself for each concept to have handy to ask students, to have students discuss in groups, and to show students what "good, HOT questions" look like and sound like (modeling).

3. Splitting the class into three groups (Math Analysis - maybe have them split themselves; Algebra 1 - I would need to split them, at least for a while).  High, Medium, and Low.  High kids work together on their own (or tutor low kid).  Medium kids work with me.  Low kids work with a small group led by a "high kid" tutor.  Will this work?

Thoughts, comments, ideas, your own experiences? Please share!!!
All Reflections from This Year can be Found Here. 


  1. Referring to your last thought about grouping, I have actually tried to have a 'high' student tutor a 'low' student with terrible results. The high student went from A's to D's on his assessments, because he was not getting the practice and feedback he needed to be successful. After I realized what was going on, I told him he needed to work with a student that was at his pace. He quickly went back to excellence in his assessments. I wouldn't recommend peer tutoring except within similar ability groupings. That's just what happened in my experience. Loved the article!

    1. That was my concern. I haven't tried it yet because I've had reservations about exactly what you mentioned. I want to push my high kids to excel and I really believe that happens when they can have high-level discussions with others at their same level.

      In Math Analysis, I really could have it be two groups (high and medium), so I might try that this next week. I could stick with the medium group and have the high kids work together.

      In Algebra 1, I have 5-7 kids in each class who are very LOW. A lot of it is because of lack of study skills, not caring, laziness, belief that they are already a failure etc. Surprisingly, at the end of last semester, I stuck them all in a group together on the side of the room so they wouldn't be distracting to those trying to work, and after a few days they actually started working together well. It was less stressful on me and the rest of the classmates to have the kids who didn't really care interspersed with those trying to work. Then, some of those kids had to eventually step up to the plate and show some effort.

      I think if I try something like this, I will group them high, medium, low, but keep the kids in their groups and not have them switch around per your suggestion.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...