Friday, March 9, 2012

Reflection on Week 6 (A week full of questions)
Week 6 of the Spring Semester is now over.  The first grading period has ended. Hard to believe we are 1/3 of the way through the second semester, but we are!  

This week I am full of questions, comments, concerns, considerations, and... more questions.  Any thoughts, ideas, experiences, or advice is appreciated.

All Reflections from This Year can be Found Here. 

Overall, this week was incredibly exhausting and probably the hardest week I've had all year.  Do any of your weeks ever sound like this? Just a quick overview:
Monday - normal school day, led our department meeting after school, #flipclass chat as soon as I got in the door from work (5pm PST) until almost 7pm PST by the time I got off.  Fun, but also kind of stressful.  Then had to grade a set of Algebra 1 tests.
Tuesday - normal school day, two separate parent conferences during my prep, two parent phone conferences after school, mandatory Algebra 1 intervention session to lead, and then realizing I was going to be gone the next two days and I had to get stuff put together for that.  Ended up staying at school until 7pm getting stuff done for a total 12+ hour work day with no break.
Wednesday - district meetings all day in a collaborative effort between our union and Superintendent.  Good discussions with all the department chairs from all of our high schools and intermediate schools, but another crazy busy day with no personal planning time or rest.
Thursday - leadership team pull-out day on campus.  Another good day, but another day out of the classroom with no personal planning time or rest. Found out that three of my students were throwing things at each other and calling each other names in my class that escalated to a fist fight at lunch.  Lovely.
Friday - normal school day, but so completely exhausted from the week I'm surprised I made it through. Stuff to deal with from when my subs were here, missing about 8 kids per class due to a CAHSEE boot camp workshop for struggling Sophomores (that I found out about this morning), and caught a student who tried to forge 8 of my signatures on her homework chart.

With that being said, the ability to have my students continue to work on mastering content while I was absent was incredibly freeing for me as a teacher.  Also, the freedom to not stress myself out over all the students who were absent today because they can still get the make-up lessons via video was great. The learning is in their hands.  It is their responsibility.  I tried to remind myself of that daily as I was out and about in my various meetings.  Stressing myself out was not going to help them learn any better.

*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

This week saw me focus on the "Guided Summary" for the WSQ instead of the "Open Summary".  An open summary means the students watch a video and summarize in their own words what they felt was important from what they heard/saw/did.  A guided summary means I give them 3-5 questions that they need to answer after the video to help guide their thinking and writing to what really are the most important pieces of concepts.  The students overall seemed to really like the guided summary more than the open summary, so I think I will continue with that, with an open summary thrown in there every so often to mix it up.
One student said:
Having guided questions has helped me understand the content a little better. If I ever do not know the answer to a question, I then go back and watch certain parts of the video until I am able to answer the question. This way I catch little things that I misunderstood the first time I watched the video.
I don't want this week's post to be negative, but since I was out of my classroom so much this week (and today they took a test so it wasn't a normal class), I am going to bring up some concerns, issues, and questions I have seen or asked this week.  However, to remain on the bright side, there are some positives I've shared for each of these concerns/issues.
1. Many students are still passively copying notes from the videos and not actually doing it themselves.  I caught this on Tuesday because I made a typo on my calculator in the video so the answer I put in the lesson was actually incorrect.  I made a YouTube annotation with the correction, but several students had already watched it and some students watched it on SchoolTube where the correction was not made.  So, when I was checking their work in class, I saw several students still have the wrong answer written down - which means they just passively allowed me to plug the answers in the calculator for them instead of trying it themselves.  It was nice to see just as many students who asked me about the mistake either on Edmodo or as soon as they came into class.  I guess I just get frustrated by lack of effort at this point in the game.  How do I get those last few students to realize they are doing this work for their own good and they are basically wasting their time if they don't actually do any thinking or trying themselves?
2.  Students are still struggling with giving me those deep, connection-filled answers I am looking for.  I describe it that they are "okay with settling for crappy answers".  I have tried a few different questioning procedures in the few days I was actually there this week, from whole-class discussion to small group discussion to individual reflection.  I even had students  be the ones to lead the discussion and I sat in the back and just jumped in when I felt it was needed.  I like that, but it also takes the students a lot longer to make it through a discussion when they are leading it.  Is this a good thing for them to struggle through or is it a waste of time?  How can I get them to really pursue thinking deeper than surface level?  How can I get them to pursue good answers, whether it be from them, their classmates, or me, when they ask a question?  How can I help to increase that passion for learning and understanding?

3. I caught a student forging my signatures on her homework chart today.  I was so incredibly disappointed.  This goes to show that some students are still doing their work to avoid punishment rather than to actually learn something from it.  I really feel like most of my students are coming along, but how do I reach those final few?
4. Although I give students a task list of things to work on, I don't think some of them always know how to prioritize their time to get the support they need in class.  In the past, students would come in on their own time to retake quizzes.  Now, they can do that in class if wanted.  That does mean, though, that sometimes they spend the period working on quizzes rather than struggling through the new material they may need help with.  Do I need to structure time a little more?  Do I need to guide some students more, or just let them figure it out?  I know this was especially true when I wasn't here this week; students were supposed to work on Unit P Concepts 2-3, but they had their Unit O Test on Friday. So many of them spent their class time taking Unit O quizzes (which should have been done last week) instead of working on the new material.

5. Four types of students that concern me in the flipped class:
  • The "Senioritis" student - this is the student who doesn't really want to do any work in class and would rather socialize.  She doesn't need my class to graduate, and even though she is very bright and worked very hard first semester, now that she has been given more freedom, she doesn't know how to use it wisely.  She frustrates me greatly because even though she is still friendly and will joke around, she doesn't get down to work when she needs to and always finds an excuse.  She doesn't necessarily take me seriously when I try to explain to her what she needs to do, and I don't think she would respond positively if I laid the law down hard on her at this point. 
  • The "Lazy" student - I seriously wonder every day if this student actually watched the lesson or copied, because he can never answer even my simplest questions from the video.  And then he acts like he is confused when I ask him to see the work he has done.  He tried to show me an entire assignment of incorrect answers on Tuesday for angles of depression because he was too lazy to flip the worksheet over and check to make sure he got the same answers that the answer key had.  That is the epitome of laziness in my eyes.  Why do the work for 10 problems wrong instead of making sure you are doing it right and actually learning?
  • The "Halfway Everything" student - this student has already been caught cheating twice in my class this year, as well as last year in math (different teacher) and another subject this school year.  I feel like he only does enough to try to scrape by, and even if I just gloss over everyone else's work to sign off, I feel like I actually have to look at his work because I just have the feeling that he will lie to me about what he has completed and what he has done because of his cheating habits.  I know that his lack of effort will come back to bite him on the tests, but at the same time I have already caught him cheating twice on quizzes this year and I know if he wanted to, he would find a way to cheat on the test as well.
  • The "Coming along" student - I have to end with a positive one.  This student struggled with the freedom he was given in the flipped class in the beginning, but has really started to come along.  He tries to work ahead of the class on a daily basis and overall has been doing really well. I am very proud of his progress and the fact that I feel he is "figuring it out" - the fact that it's not about just doing the work, but it's about learning and mastering the concepts.
Things I want to improve on based on this week:
1. Increased student interaction and communication online the night they are watching the video.  Several ideas floating through my head of how this can happen.
2. Increased ability on the part of students to confidently talk about and explain the math, not only in their small groups, but also to anyone in the class.

I guess my biggest question/concern is if my students will figure it out eventually or if I am just letting them have too much freedom to guide their own learning. Is too much of a good thing a bad thing?  Do I need to limit it?  Since this is my first year flipping, I don't know how much is too much and what guidelines or boundaries I need to put in place, if any at all. 

Algebra 1
Data from Chapter 8b will be posted later this weekend.  Students took the test on Monday, but with me being out for two days in a row and a few make-ups, I still haven't finished putting all the numbers together.

On Tuesday, I took about 10-15 minutes of each of my Algebra 1 classes to do a little bit of teaching and modeling on how to watch a video.  If anything has been made clear to me in the last few weeks, it's that our students have never been taught HOW to learn on their own.  We have held their hands for way too long.  We have spoon-fed them just enough information to pass the standardized tests, and now they don't know how to take information presented and make sense of it.  This is one of my continual goals - to teach my students how to learn.  It's like that Chinese proverb says:
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Are we "giving" our students fish on a daily basis, or are we teaching them how to think and learn on their own so they can be successful in the real world?

Sometimes I love the flipped class with my Algebra 1 classes, and sometimes I get very frustrated.  I don't know how to deal with the struggles and issues I am facing this year with these students in general - it is worse than I have ever had in my teaching career.  The reason I chose to flip Algebra 1 this year (instead of just trying it in Math Analysis) is because first semester it wasn't working with these kids.  They weren't doing their regular homework, they were struggling with learning the material because they would forget what they learned in class, they weren't taking responsibility for themselves, etc.  I figured that something had to be done, so I decided to try something new.  I couldn't stay in that frustrating situation and do nothing about it.  While I feel the flipped class has shown improvement and has been helping, I am just so frustrated that it has revealed character traits of my students in a new light.  I can understand (somewhat) that a student may go home and not understand the homework. (I say somewhat because with all the technology resources, me being available 24/7 on Edmodo, and 2.5 extra hours of tutoring I offer every day, there really isn't an excuse).  What I CAN'T understand is that a student would go home, have computer/internet access, and choose to not spend 10-20 minutes watching a video, taking notes, and thinking about the material so they can participate in class the next day.  What I CAN'T understand even more is that it would happen and then students would show up to school and not even ask to watch the video - they would rather sit there and do nothing.  When about eight to ten students in each of my classes (of 36-38 students total) do that on a daily basis, I just don't know what to do.  I have been trying to alleviate it by focusing on the positives, helping the students who are working, and letting the students who don't try and don't care just do what they will (which is normally just sitting there staring at their paper all period), but I feel like I should be doing more.  Should I?

Sharing and Collaboration

At my Tuesday meeting, someone in the audience mentioned a comment such as "Have you thought about using different strategies to meet your students' needs, such as Flipping the Classroom?"  My eyes immediately perked up and as soon as the meeting was over, I went straight over to meet the lady who mentioned it.  Come to find out, she is our District's Educational Technology Specialist and she is writing a short article about the Flipped Classroom in the next newsletter.  We chatted for a few minutes and she took my information down and will be coming to visit sometime soon.  How exciting!

I will be having several other visitors in the coming weeks to come see my Flipped Class in action.  A principal and two math teachers from a local high school will be stopping by on the March 23rd.  I'm excited to share my Flipped Class with others for several reasons.  One, I want this teaching strategy to spread because I feel it is so effective.  Second, I love to get feedback and ideas from outsiders on my Flipped Classroom and what they think might help it.

Still working on getting all the data collected from my Flipping Teachers Survey... It's been a crazy week (or two, or three) and haven't had time to look through it all and decide how I am going to share it all. I will get it done soon :)  If you still haven't filled out your info, please do so!  It is still open.

If you haven't checked out my Blogroll on the right hand side of other flipping teachers, do so! It is only through sharing and community that we learn and grow!  Also, be sure to use #flipclass on twitter to join in the conversation.  If you are a "flipper" and  a "blogger" and don't see your blog on the right, please let me know. I would love to follow you and read up on your experiences!

Every Monday there is a #flipclass chat on Twitter (8pm EST).  Check it out and join in.  Read my post about my first Twitter chat experience here:

Other Thoughts

I asked my students the question "Is your Flipped Classroom time useful and productive for your learning?"  This stemmed from a comment one student wrote on their Second Semester Survey where she asked "What's the purpose of the classroom now?"  So, I really wanted to know what my students thought about their actual class time and if they thought it was useful for their learning.  While I did not get responses from every student, I did get several and they all said many similar things.  One comment that stuck out over and over again is that my students would actually prefer NOT to do little activities and games - they would rather just work and practice and take quizzes to show proficiency. They commented that they felt they were engaged and left class feeling productive when they were just given time to learn what they needed to learn. I found that interesting because I honestly expected most of the students to respond that they wanted more games and activities.  My students don't want the "froo-froo".

During our Leadership Team Pull-out on Thursday, we had several discussions on Rigor & Relevance as well as Student Engagement.  I really thought about how the Flipped Classroom can help with both of those.  Because students are learning at their own pace and can re-visit content as much as possible, it allows the freedom to develop increased rigor and more real-life relevance for our students in the problems we have them encounter.  I know that sometimes I felt I was (well, sometimes I feel like I still am!) watering down my curriculum because there were students in the class who just couldn't handle it, and so I would teach to the middle.  Now I feel like I can appropriately challenge all students, helping them to think more deeply and make connections in ways that previously was not possible.  In addition, I feel like the Flipped Classroom can greatly increase student engagement because the students are finally the ones in charge and doing the learning.  There really isn't time for them to not be engaged (and those that choose that path quickly find out that they waste their time and it's better to stay on task and continue to work).  I feel like many of my students are finally figuring out how and why to learn for their own good instead of just going through the motions.


What I hope all students are eventually able to do:

"When you are not present in class, my ability to focus and stay on task is the same. When you are there, i usually work with my group to complete the work, same as when there is a sub."

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.  Answers to questions must show deep thought and connections as much as possible.

2. Every so often, just pick a place in the classroom next to a group and sit on my stool for a while, helping if needed, but listening in and guiding the group along. This includes sitting down to work with them if they have problems, but also sitting down and just questioning them, probing them, and getting them to think, speak, and make connections.  It's awesome the conversations you can have in a flipped class if you really pursue them and try to stretch your students' minds past the procedural.

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. 

4. Every so often, make the classwork due at the end of class to keep students on their toes and to keep them on task during class.

5. Students can receive a "Waiver" for assignments once they have shown mastery on a quiz- They are just going to be waived from the practice quizzes, but they still need to watch future videos.  There is information presented in the videos that they need to hear, even if they don't need to do all the extra practice.

6. After the initial group WSQing, students can work with whoever they want (unless problems arise), or they can choose to work by themselves.  The ultimate goal is that the students are learning, making connections, and making sense of the content. 

7.  The "Summary" part of the WSQ can be several different things - a real, student-developed summary; a written summary response to questions I've posed (guided summary), etc.

1. No new changes, just continuing to implement ideas and changes from last week.

IDEAS I'M STILL CONTEMPLATING & EXPERIMENTING WITH (running list each week with updates):

1. 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)... This will be tied in with the "Guided Summary" I will be starting to try out.  I think this is going to be put off in its entirety until this summer.

2. Begin coming up with activities students can do to apply their knowledge or practice their knowledge in different ways once they get the basics.  Again, this is something I think may just start to happen over the summer or next year since right now it's just crazy.

My brain is fried for the week. I might think of more to share later, but that is it for now...

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

All Reflections from This Year can be Found Here. 


  1. Great stuff.

    I am doing the flipping with 6th graders, so let me tell you, I know the feeling of is this too much freedom. I dont do it as open as you are (though I would like to get there), but conversations dont happen in 6th grade easily, and group work is so tough.

    I like (love?) the idea of taking a quiz to move one and when they feel they are ready. Are you using paper for this, or an edmodo quiz or something else. Do you have multiple versions of quizzes in the case when they dont pass it? How do kids show you they are ready to take the quizzes and to move on?

    Right now I try to make <7 minute videos that pertain to the next day in class. I generally give them a couple of examples (sometimes one that is wrong) and then a couple to work out.

    Could you explain your classwork to me a bit more? (Should I go back and read a previous post?) Are students expected to finish an assignment at home if its not done in class?

    Ok, enough for now :) Go Flipping! Have you heard about the conference in June in Chicago?

    1. @Mr. Gold - thanks for your comment. I think no matter what grade level you are at, it will be tough... we are asking students to do things that they have NEVER done before. We are challenging them and stretching them past their level of comfort. I would love to see what your sixth grade class looks like!

      As far as my quizzes go, I already had a daily quiz system in place and just started the whole "waiver" thing a few weeks ago. So, I have "Quiz paper" and "retake quiz paper" that is organized for them. I have between 6-8 different versions of the quizzes (I use Kuta Software for the most part to help with doing this). So, each day is a different version throughout the chapter. Right now, the kids are self-evaluating when they are ready to take the quiz based on being able to do a few of the classwork "Practice Quiz" problems. Some of them still try to take the quiz without trying any problems (just doing it from watching the video) - some do well and pass, some don't because they need more practice, but they are learning. I want them to learn to "know what they know" and I think this comes from experience, so I am letting them do that.

      The important thing about the quiz is that each quiz only covers one concept, so it is between 1-4 questions depending on the concept.

      My videos are between 5-15 minutes. For Algebra 1, I try to limit it to 12 at most. I do the same thing you do with some explaining, a few examples, and then give them a few to try. I always make a "part 2" of the video that works out the ones I ask them to try so they can check their work.

      In Class, students are basically doing one/many of these:
      1. Watching videos if needed (behind or ahead of schedule)
      2. Working on "Practice Quizzes" (PQs) that go with previous night's video
      3. Taking quizzes based on the PQ
      4. Discussing key questions I give them to answer after the video
      5. Getting answers to the question(s) they had to ask before coming to class either from their group members or from me.

      Students are given a weekly list of assignments to complete and they are checked daily. So, for full credit they have to keep up with the expected daily pace, but they can still get late credit at any point past the expected pace. (Still working/tweaking this). So, if a student does not finish what is on the "task list" in class, it is brought home to be finished. Some students choose to spend their class time either watching videos, taking quizzes, etc, and thus have to bring some of the practice problems home. They have to learn to balance their time, make priorities, etc. Most of them seem to be coming along, but my freshman/sophomore Alg 1 students still struggle and need some more guidance. It's a work in progress. Hope that helps explain.

      Sorry so long :) I have heard about the conference; I won't be able to attend this year, sadly. Are you going? I am looking forward to watching it online since some of it will be streaming!

    2. Not too long, easy read!

      Your classroom setup sounds fantastic. It seems that you have things in place to keep each kid engaged in something at all times. I would really like to know more about how you plan the weekly tasks and manage. I am only a 3rd year teacher and still working on how to teach, as well as trying to integrate all the tech :) Especially if you have any ideas on implementation in a pre-algebra 6th grade.

      As we have spoken about before (on edmodo) some of this will take time to implement since I dont have videos much ahead of where we are as a class right now, but soon I will be able to have kids go ahead and some linger back if needed.

      Are the PQ's the practice problems?

      I was asked to present at the conference. A bit daunting, but I am flattered.

    3. Thanks! I have what I call "WSQ charts" for the students (which goes along with what they do at home Watch -Summarize- Question). I just posted a new post on Class Time and there is a sample WSQ chart you can click on to see what it looks like there:

      I kind of know how much content students should be able to learn in one day just based on experience (I am only a 5th year teacher right now, but after once or twice of teaching the same course you get a feel for pacing). One of the things that has helped me the most is that I have taken the learning away from "textbook sections" and more towards concepts I want them to master. You have probably seen my "Unit Maps" I've sent out on Edmodo; if not let me know and I'll send a sample your way. Each Unit Map is broken down into Chapters/Units, and then each Chapter/Unit is broken down into the specific "learning targets" (I just call them concepts for the kids) that I want my students to learn. While it is all aligned with the textbook, it is easier for me to teach certain concepts at a time rather than looking at the textbook sections. You could easily do that for your Pre-Algebra class and that would help in organizing the weekly tasks and stuff.

      I am with you on not being too far ahead on videos yet. This weekend I am recording some stuff for my students for later this week. I would prefer to always be 2 weeks ahead at least, but it doesn't always happen. I do have most of my units already planned out; I make packets called "SSS" packets that guide both my teaching and students' learning. So, I can look ahead and decide how many videos I want to make for each unit and even for each concept ahead of time to be able to plan their tasks. Then, I make the videos when I get a chance.

      The PQ's are the practice problems. I put a link to a sample one on that post I mentioned above. I use those instead of textbook problems.

      Congrats on presenting!! What is your topic going to be? I was thinking about applying, but since my school doesn't even get out until the weekend right before, it's just not going to work for me to go this year. And, since this is my first year flipping I feel like I am so much of a learner still.

    4. Could you send me a link to one of the unit maps? I have decided that I need to do this. Using the new Mass frameworks that are out and reflect the common core. The curriculum I am teaching is meant for higher level students and most of mine are just not that level. It is almost entirely problem solving based, which is great if the kids know how to apply the concepts first, hence why flipping appealed. I like the way your quizzes are set up, learn the concepts, then apply to real life situations.

      I am thinking about a task list, give it to the kids sunday night via edmodo. It will have ~ 10 assignments they need to get done that week, with a timeline for when the should get things done (6th graders will need structure for better or worse). But students will essentially decide what they are doing each day, according to what needs to get done on their check list.

      I am planning on presenting "24 hours of math". Essentially the essence of 21st century flipping. Video at home, differentiated data driven instruction in class, all through edmodo. I have made this presentation to school commitees, apple and will be giving it 2 more times this month to teachers at an apple conference and then at Tufts university. Its neat, but like you said, we are still learning. A lot of it comes down to how you can use the tools to integrate technology and flipping. Perhaps by the time the end of June comes around ill actually be implementing in such a way that I am proud of!

      I actually just wrote an email to the superintendent of my district asking him to let me attend the conference. I didnt realize that our 1 or 2 snow days made it so the conference is the last 2 days of our school year... oops!

    5. I sent the Unit Maps to you via Edmodo since they were already uploaded there. Let me know if you want to see samples of anything else.

      I am thinking about transitioning to a weekly task list with little or no penalty as long as students finish the work for that given week.

      How good are your 6th graders about utilizing edmodo? Some of my students still never use it, even when assignments are due on there (they just don't turn them in). Any suggestions for better involvement?

      How exciting about your presentation. I will be sure to watch it once it's online. Good luck with the planning, preparation, and permission :) Hopefully it won't be a problem.

    6. Mine have taken to Edmodo very well. Some dont do their work, but they never have. I want to get kids really into posting questions about the math and then having others respond. Using iPad tools with ShowMe and written responses, I want the kids to continue to teach as well as learn through edmodo.

      I make the quizzes I give on Edmodo and post homework on there, and only accept assignments through edmodo. Some student just dont do it because it is connected to school :(

      I am thinking of how to make it a part of their grade, just like taking a class online. Mandatory 3 responses with content a week, just a thought!

      Thanks for everything!

    7. I have been trying to think of a way to connect Edmodo use to their grade as well, but still haven't come up with a way that wouldn't create a lot more work for me in checking/keeping track of how often the kids post. I'll probably brainstorm some more this summer and try something out for next year. I really would like my kids to utilize Edmodo more; especially since they are high school and I know they are on the internet/facebook every day anyways - they just don't want to log on to Edmodo for similar reasons (it's connected to school).

      Thanks for all your thoughts as well :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...