Friday, March 2, 2012

Reflections on Week 5 (Freedom...a good or bad thing?)
Week 5 of the Spring Semester had me trying out some new things in my flipped class; more specifically, giving the students more FREEDOM to self-monitor and self-evaluate.  It was scary, but I think it was good.  We will see...

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

If you haven't read my "Conversations and Observations - Every Single Student" post from Tuesday, check it out.  I love the way that using a Flipped Classroom pretty much requires that all students stay involved and engaged in their learning at all times.  I think it is easy for students in a traditional classroom to take a backseat role and be very passive.  Not that there aren't passive students in a flipped classroom... I just feel like it is much easier to spot and easier to re-focus the student on the task because it is more individualized and not in front of the whole class.  In addition, I have really seen the way that the Flipped Classroom can help to differentiate instruction for a variety of learners .  That is another task that I have always had trouble with in the past, and I feel so much better about the quality of education and support that all students and all learners are receiving.

Students did AMAZING on the Unit N Test.  I will be finishing my data this weekend; it is post here.

I notice that I still have several groups of students in my Math Analysis classes:
1. The kids who are doing really well, get their work done, and keep moving forward to the next lesson/concept.
-I feel these students are fully taking advantage of the Flipped Classroom and it is so exciting to see them working hard and striving to be their best.  I am also able to have these students work as peer tutors and help their classmates if they are done with the work they want to complete that day.  It's like having a second me to help in class!
2. The kids who are doing really well, get their work done, and then just feel like sitting there doing nothing (and in my opinion, distracting the students who are still trying to work)
-While I'm glad the students are doing well and getting their daily work done, it does frustrate me that they are okay with "getting their work done so they can be lazy".  They could easily work ahead and never have anything to do at home because they could get it all done in class, but they choose not to.  At some points, I have to ignore it.  However, this week I had three guys who I had to keep after class and talk with because they started to be a huge distraction to the other students.  That was Thursday, and today (Friday), they did much better of continuing to work the whole period.  I hope this continues.
3. The kids who are working really hard to understand the material and work the whole period, asking questions when needed.
These are the students I feel the Flipped Classroom helps the most.  These are the ones who normally got lost in a normal lecture because the pace was too fast or they needed more examples to understand.
4.  The kids who are struggling but don't really get it, and will only ask for help if you ask them directly if they need it.
I check in with these students often, and I hope that as we continue this semester, they grow more confident in asking for help themselves, taking full charge and responsibility for their learning.
5.  The kids who are greatly struggling, won't ask for help, and will say they are fine when you ask them if they need help.
I really don't know what to do with these kids.  I hope they come around by the end of the year...

Update on "Self-Monitoring"
I really like the way I am running my class where students take the quizzes when they are ready and have to monitor their own progress.  First, it helps me because it saves me a lot of time grading quizzes that they would often fail (when I gave it to them as a whole class).  Second, it helps them because they can spend their time wisely learning and only take the quiz when they actually understand the material. 

A few issues I noticed this last week that cause me concern.
1. Some students kept putting off the quizzes and then take them all in one day right before the Unit Test.  I can remind them every day to be taking the quizzes, but I am truly leaving this in their hands.  It's unfortunate that some of them chose to do this, because they can only take each quiz once per day.  If they wait until the last day and fail it, they cannot take it again before the test (My policy is that all quizzes are taken before the Unit Test, and right now the Unit Test is on one set day.  However, the Unit Test is about 3-5 school days AFTER we finish learning the content, so there really isn't any reason for them to wait until the last day to take the quizzes because by that point we are already 3 days into our new unit!)
2. Some students never actually got around to taking all the quizzes for the concepts covered on the Unit Test. Same comments as #1. Don't know why this happens, and since I am really trying to put the responsibility in their hands, I can only remind them, I can't force them...
3. Some students wanting to take the quiz right away, before even trying a few practice problems on their own.  I am concerned about this for several reasons.  One, I think there is value in a certain amount of practice (not repetitive, busy work though).  Two, I think the students are somewhat taking advantage of the "waiver" and just trying to get out of any homework.

Ideas & Thoughts for continuing on:
1. Should I require a certain amount of Practice be done before the "waiver" can be taken even if the students feel they get it?  This could be as simple as one problem they have to complete correctly on their own before taking the quiz.  Today, I did that for Unit O Concepts 7-8 - I put 3 specific problems everyone had to complete.  Then, there was the rest of the assignment for those who needed practice, but those who "got it" could take the quiz.

Variations on the WSQ (see previous posts here)
I worked on modifying the "Summary" portion of the WSQ this week in Math Analysis due to some student feedback on a survey I had them take (I will be posting several times later this weekend with the results of the survey).   I think the students need a little variety in writing their summary, because writing a full summary/paragraph every night can get kind of old, let's be honest.  And, it is very easy for the students to totally miss the point when they have to come up with their own summary from scratch.  While I think under certain circumstances this is very important, I also think it is important to teach and guide the students in organizing information.

So, I've decided to incorporate a "Guided Summary" option into the WSQ. What that means is that I provide the students with a list (3-5) of guiding questions that must be answered in their summary.  I have emphasized that the answers to each of their questions should be detailed, specific, and several sentences long.   The purpose of any type of "summary" is to help the students (1) process and make sense of the information in the video; (2) make them "think", "speak", and "write" like a mathematician; and (3) be held accountable for watching the videos.

Several benefits I can see from this:
1. Gives students a starting point as well as guides them to focus on the important parts of the video. 
2. Guarantees that their summaries focus on what I want them to focus on and not the "meaningless crap" that I read in a lot of summaries.
3. Teaches students by modeling what "HOT" questions look and sound like, since I try to have most of my questions be "HOT".
4.  Gives us a common point of discussion when we come back to class.

I will be testing this out all next week, and then decide whether to use it full time, go back to summaries full time, or to switch between the two for the rest of the year.

Here are the sample questions I've provided for this next week:

Friday homework - 
1. When reading the word problems, what it is important to take note of? What are two ways you can deal with this specific example? (Concept 9 Example 4)
2. Write a basic right triangle word problem that uses the Pythagorean Theorem.  You will eventually use this for your WPP.
3. What are the similarities and differences between angles of elevation and angles of depression?
4. What are the two ways you can convert angles that are in degrees/minutes into a decimal degree (hint: by hand and by calculator – be specific)

Monday homework - (Part 1 required; Part 2 available)
1. Describe in your own words how the Law of Sines is derived.  You may draw a picture to help explain.
2. The Law of Sines can be used whenever you have AAS or ASA.  When have you seen these before and what did they mean? (think 
3. Why is it important to circle your “pairs”?  What does doing that enable you to do?
4. Rate yourself on Problem #1 (1=I had to watch you do it all the way through; 2=I had to watch you intermittently throughout the video; 3=I had to watch you at the beginning and then I finished it; 4=I did it all by myself and fast forwarded to your answer)

Tuesday homework - (Parts 1,2,3 required; 9 more extra examples available)
1. What are the two “walls” you can hit when solving SSA triangles, and why are they “walls”?
2. Describe what Mrs. Kirch meant by the “bridge” between the answers.  Why is it a “bridge” and how do you get both values for the 
“bridge”? (Think Quadrant I/II and sine)
3. List out the three most important things you need to remember when solving SSA triangles (this is a personal question; think about YOU)
4. Describe how you would know it was a “No Possible Triangle” example without doing ANY work?

Wednesday homework - (Parts 1,2 required, parts 3,4 available)
1. When given SSS, which angle do you have to find first and WHY?
2. Describe the process of plugging the Law of Cosines in your calculator when looking for an ANGLE.
3. Describe the process of plugging the Law of Cosines in your calculator when looking for a SIDE.
4. When can you start using the Law of Sines with an SSS or SAS triangle? (part 2)

Student comments on this week from Math Analysis
Question: "What was your favorite part of the Flipped Classroom this week?"
-I think my favorite part of Flipped Classroom is being able to take quizzes on my own time because sometimes, when taking quizzes with the class, there are some I know I will fail anyways so it is just a waste of time. This way, I can take it when I am ready. Also, if I pass, I don't have to do homework (which is the case all week :D). 
-I enjoyed the questions instead of the summary part that we did. 
Question: "Do you feel like you are becoming a more responsible student because of the Flipped Classroom?  Why or why not? 
-I think I am becoming a more responsible student because I am forced to do everything on my own time so I learn to get things done.
-I feel that I am, because now I am responsible for whether or not i take the test. The decision is my choice and therefore i get to decide the grade that i want
-I do feel that I have become a more responsible student because of the flipped classroom. I learn the concepts required, but I also learn the important skill of time management. If I have 54 minutes to talk about WSQs with my group, answer the "HOT" questions, do homework, and take four quizzes, I have to set priorities for myself to get everything efficiently done. This really is my favorite part about flipped classrooms because I have some freedom to make these decisions for myself.

Algebra 1

On Monday, I opened up the door for some more student self-evaluation and progress monitoring.  I was a little nervous (read about my thoughts from Monday here), but I think it has been going pretty well.  

Basically, every day I went over the student's "Task List" and what they needed to focus on for the day.  Our phrase for the week was, "Are you using or abusing your time?"  Whenever I caught a student off task, I would ask them, "Are you using or abusing?" and they would immediately get back on task.  I think they really enjoyed the freedom, and to be honest, it kept me a lot happier this week, too.  Instead of walking around pretty much harping on the kids all period to stay on task, I was up front helping the students who were progressing and staying  on track by grading their quizzes immediately and giving them feedback/help, checking their homework and WSQ's, and providing clarification for students who needed/wanted help.  I will admit I know there were students who didn't get much done in class.  They didn't have me sign off any assignments all week, they didn't take any quizzes, etc.  However, those students wouldn't really be doing much even if I was harping on them the whole period.  I was able to stay focused on the positive and the growth I was seeing with the students working hard.

Overall, the students really seemed to enjoy the freedom that I gave them.  They felt that they did make good use of their time and they enjoyed being able to get the work done at their own pace and take the quizzes when they were ready.  It's only been three days and the "system" is already in place as far as how they take quizzes, get things checked, get help, etc.  I am glad they have seemed to pick it up so quickly because it makes the adjustment period run much more smoothly.

I like what this enables me to do to challenge my higher-level students.  I had one student watch the video and take the quiz that wasn't even due until FRIDAY on Wednesday.  

Our test on factoring next week will be very eye-opening to see if this is a work in progress or a total bust.  I hope I see good results, but this was truly a leap into the unknown and it may be catastrophic.  We will see, and I will blog :).

I still have concerns about how to teach my Algebra 1 students to watch a video to actually learn the material and not just copy the notes.  I honestly think only 20% of my students really know how to do this, but how do I teach them this skill??? I talk often about pausing and rewinding (and even fast forwarding after trying a problem on their own that I work out for them), but how do you teach them to learn material on their own and actually pause it long enough to think about it and actually understand it rather than just copying the notes down.  I really think this is the root of many of my students' problems - they don't get the quality lesson I plan for them because they aren't willing to take the time to process and think about it.  They don't know how to tough it out and really learn something if it isn't easy.

My goals for my Algebra 1 students is that they learn that practice and homework is for THEIR OWN GOOD.  Their goal is to practice enough so they "get it", then test out and make sure they get it by taking the quiz (which they can retake if they don't pass), all to be ready for the big chapter test.  I think that even after just a few days, this is becoming clear to several of my students and I hope I continue to see progress.  

However, I still have a lot of students who don't get it AT ALL.   They continue to write crap down for their homework - meaning, they will write the problem down, show some work that makes no sense, and then copy the answer from the answer key down.  They hope I won't notice when I check homework.  The sad thing is, they are supposed to be working on most of these problems in class where they have the help of anyone around them and... me!  But they would rather waste their time and write crap down than actually try.  They don't get it that doing that is not helping them at all!  It is not about getting the work done, it is about actually learning and understanding what they are doing.  All I want is for them to try, and if there is a problem they don't get, to make a note of it and ask either right then or when they get a chance if I am busy.  Then, they get help on it and learn how to do it RIGHT.  I hope my students come around eventually...time will tell.

Student comments on this week from Algebra 1
Question 1 How has the "freedom" you have been given in class to work on what you need to affected you? Has it helped you? Hurt you? Were you able to stay on task? Did you get most of your classwork done in class? Did you get to take your quizzes?
Question 2  How has the ability to take your quizzes when you are ready with the ability to "waive" assignments affected you?
-It has made me more independent and has help me mature. It has helped me learn how to focus on my work better and I would do all or most of my work and was still able to take quizzes. It has helped me get better scores cause I'm ready for the quizzes more and not have your schedule choose when I have to and totally fail. I have also been able to use the waiver; it's better cause I don't need to waste my time doing extra problems when I already understand the concept.
-The freedom that I have been given in class was good because it helped me in several ways. I was on task the whole time and doing my work. I got my classwork done so I can do other things rather than do my work at home because it would have taken me a long time just to finish it. It was great to take quizzes in class because I got to work at my own speed. I didn't have to wait and have the whole class take it on the same day. That takes up a lot of time when the whole class is taking the same quiz before. I liked the ability to waive the assignment because I know that I am ready. I know that I do understand the concept and not have to do the homework. It is a great way to get students motivated to get an 8 on their quiz because they wouldn't have to do all the extra work!
-The freedom in class I think was a pretty good idea; I think it was good I stayed on task and not only got my classwork done but I also got to work on some of my homework.  I think it's a good idea to get our classwork waived off if we get an 8 on a quiz.  I did get to do all my quizzes and got minor mistakes wrong.  I think taking the quizzes when I'm ready is a lot better because before I wasn't ready so I got poor grades but now I get high grades on them.  I think it's very smart that we can waive our classwork if we get an 8 on a quiz :).

Sharing and Collaboration

Still working on getting all the data collected from my Flipping Teachers Survey... It's been a crazy week 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!

On MONDAY, MARCH 5TH, there will be the first ever "Flip Class Chat" live on twitter.  Check out this info post and join in!

Other Thoughts
I had my students fill out a survey asking TEN big questions about the Flipped Classroom and how they were feeling about it.  I will be doing ten different posts over this weekend and next week with the answers to those questions and student comments.

After reading through their responses, there were 7 main concerns that were brought up by students multiple times.  I shared them with all my classes on Wednesday.
Here they are, along with my responses to them that I presented to each class: 
1. Students desired whole-class review at the beginning of each lesson. 
A: I think this usually ruins the most positive & productive aspects of the flipped classroom.  While there are definitely times to go over stuff as a whole class in the classroom, I would much prefer to do this in small groups with the students who need it, similar to the review lesson I did on Thursday for the students who needed it. I also think that students would begin to depend on this and not actually watch the videos to make meaning on their own before class. 
2. Students request that more examples be done on each video
A: More examples = longer videos.  See Question #4 and you'll see the contradictory messages students wrote in their surveys.  They wanted more examples but they want the videos to be shorter.  I try to keep my videos between 8-15 minutes (generally between 10-12 minutes) and try to provide a few of each type of examples.  I then do a Part 2 or even Part 3 video that covers more examples for students who need them.  This, of course, makes them take initiative in watching a second, optional video.
3. Students requested that "step-back" forms be brought back
A: This is a process I used last semester for students who missed so many homework assignments to basically "earn" the punishment back a step on the progression our school uses.  Basically, they want a way to get out of doing even the minimal amount of homework I require of them.  They only receive a "homework card" (schoolwide disciplinary process for missing assignments) for every TWO assignments/videos/WSQ's etc that they don't complete each week.  I am already cutting them way too much slack.
4. Students requested that the videos be shorter.
A: See #2 above. Students complain they spend too much time on homework.  However, since September I told them to plan on 30 minutes a night for my class for homework.  During the first semester, hardly any of them actually spent that amount of time.  With videos, they are forced to spend a certain amount of time.  A 10 minute video is usually a 20 minute time frame, then 10 minutes for reflecting and processing via the summary.  I don't see that as being too much.  They are just used to being lazy.
5. Students requested a "Processing activity" other than a summary every night
A: I talked about this above and how I am trying out a "Guided Summary" option where I provide them with questions to answer instead of just coming up with a summary on their own.  I did like the way it guided our discussion in class on Thursday for Math Analysis, and I hope to try it with Algebra 1 this next week.  I really hope this helps them make more sense of the important parts of the lesson.
6. Students requested that the pace of the videos be slowed down
A:  I teach my videos at the pace of the average to high learner. I  think it is much easier slow me down than to speed me up.  I don't want my fast learners to be bored and not want to watch the videos because I teach too slow. I would rather teach at their pace and allow the slower learners to pause me and rewind me as much as possible.
7. Students request more jokes or no jokes at all.
A: It is funny the two sides I have to this - students are so passionate!  I like to include facts from in my videos to incorporate some humor.  Some students love them and want more.  Some students hate them and want me to get right to the math.  I was so surprised from this survey the passion that some students have on both sides of the fence!  I try to balance it and do "jokes" every other video or so to keep it fresh. Too funny that this was actually a big issue on the survey...


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. 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.

1. More independence and freedom (but still very structure and guided) for my Algebra 1 kids.

2. Letting the students pick their own groups and who they work with in class.  I think I want them in their set groups for the WSQ discussions, but then let them know they are free to work with whoever they want.

3. Options for the summary other than a paragraph

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.

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

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