Saturday, September 15, 2012

#flipclass 2012-2013 Week 4 Reflections: long week, but still some progress!

Hard to believe we finished the fourth week of school!  Honestly, this week was a blur.  Starting with finding out Monday morning that my class was broken into over the weekend and two laptops stolen, to having summer exam make-ups for my Math Analysis students Tues/Wed both before and after school (craziness ensues, but at least it was on my timetable and not on theirs), to a pep rally assembly on Friday for the big rivalry game... I honestly am having trouble trying to remember this week!

This week I tried to focus on the use of "flex time" (Thanks Graham and Carolyn!) as well as remind my students what our goals were in a flipped classroom. 

In addition, I had some visitors on Thursday who really loved what they saw, specifically in the interactions students were having in class and how they were working together to clarify questions.

I also rearranged my furniture on Friday afternoon, creating a u-shaped "small group" area in the middle of my classroom.  So, now I have table groups around the edge, quizzing rows on the right side, and a small group focus area in the middle.  We'll see how I like it this week, I may rearrange on Friday :)

  • Other Posts this week:
    • We had a live G+ Hangout for our weekly #flipclass chat this week.  I was honored to be a live guest and chat with 9 other amazing educators about norms in our flipped classrooms.  Watch the hour-long video archive here
    • I ran into three former students in the last week.  Read their encouraging comments here.
    • See the progression of my Math Analysis students in asking questions (HOT ones!) and what I had them do with them in a two-part post here and here.
    • The three things I hope my students can clearly see are our goals and purposes of our flipped classroom...I sent these out on Edmodo, talked about them in class, and blogged about them here.

algebra 1.

My Algebra 1 kids are showing improvement. I remember writing that last year every week as well, and I think that is just fine... as long as we continue to progress.

I had to remind my students of two important things this week:

1. Communication and Responsibility.  I had 3-5 students in each period this week not watch the video before class and not communicate with me.  I want them to know that I understand if something comes up and they can't do it at home once every so often (NOT if it becomes a habit though!!), but I do expect them to communicate with me BEFORE HAND (I have a GVoice number they can call or text if they can't email or Edmodo me).  My freshmen students are having a lot of trouble understanding that point.  I spoke with the students who that applied to individually outside and the next day, it was better.  There are still a couple who I just don't know what to do with because they don't get it - and parent phone calls home don't help!

2. Three important parts of succeeding in the flipped classroom
  • You MUST take notes in your SSS!
    • I have some students who still watch the video and write zero notes down.  One in particular came in for tutoring on Wednesday morning and needed help so I asked him to get out his SSS packet... which was empty for that concept!  He said that he watched the video, but took ZERO notes.
    • I probably need to do a better job of being "anal" in checking their notes the first few weeks of school next year.  I didn't do that this year and I hope it's not something I regret. Students aren't used to this freedom and responsibility.
  • You MUST answer the "Secret Questions" to the best of your ability!
    • This only applies to a few, but I have some students who write their answers as "Idk" or "this was tricky" instead of actually giving me an answer.  I tell them that even if it is wrong, they need to give me their answer because it helps me find out where they are stuck and if several students have similar wrong answers I know what misconceptions to address.
    • One random note, I find it "funny" when a student answers the last question on every WSQ like this... "The part I'm most confused about is... nothing, this was easy". And then proceeds to get all the "secret questions" wrong.  Metacognition and self-awareness training needed!
  • You MUST check your answers to your PQ's
    • Students will still lie to my face about checking their answers.  They will call me over to sign off their PQ and I will ask them, "Did you check your answers?".  They will say yes to my face, and I will glance at a couple problems which are glaringly wrong... I'm not sure what my next move is here.  I have gone over this daily, gone over the importance of it, why we do it, had them discuss in groups and come up with reasons for checking... but still DAILY I have multiple students in every period lie to me that I catch, and I know multiple more that I don't catch.  I'm wondering if a consequence would help alleviate it, like if I catch you lying about checking your answers you will get 15 minutes of detention?  I hate using punishment like that but I am not sure what else to try...
    • The reasons WHY I want students to check their answers (which we discussed in class) are:
      • To make sure they are doing them correctly
      • If they aren't doing them correctly, to know that they are doing them wrong so they can ask questions
      • To get help when they need it, which sometimes they don't know until they see a wrong answer.
In other news, students took their Chapter 1 test this week.  Well, some of them did.  In period 1, 13 of 38 students took the test and in period 2, 23 of 36 took it.  I warned them that if they did not have all their WSQ assignments signed of (or completed ready to be signed off) by test day on Wednesday, they would not be able to take the test.  This included online WSQs, HOT questions, PQs, song/chant recitation, quizzes (at least taken, preferably passed), and any other activities (they did a "write your own word problem" poster this chapter).

I don't think they really took me seriously, to be honest.  Out of the students who weren't able to take the test, about half of them are "really good kids" who were just missing one or two things.  Others really haven't done much.
(I have had more parent calls and counselor meetings in these first three weeks than any year in the past, but part of that is my effort to try to support the needy students EARLY with the hope they will not struggle as much if we can figure it out now instead of once report cards go home).

To not make this crazy for myself, while half the class was taking the test, the other half was calling home informing their parents of the situation and the make-up date.  Students have to come in at 7am on Tuesday to make it up.  All in one day, so I don't have to make more separate versions and make my life crazier.

Now... I am prepared to have students in one of three camps on Tuesday:
1. Students who finished all assignments and show up ready to take the test.
2. Students who haven't finished all assignments but still show up Tuesday to take the test (and won't be able to)
3. Students who don't or "forget" to show up.

Ideally, all my students would be in camp #1.  But, I am not going to be idealistic and believe that to be true.  So, the question is... what am I going to do with students in Camp #2 and #3?

I have already given them the "support card", so I can't give them another one because it is for the same set of assignments.  I could call home again. I could send them to the office on a referral.  I don't know what would work for some of these lowly motivated students.

I have considered saying, "Well, you can't start Chapter 2 until you finish Chapter 1 assignments", but honestly right now, that is creating more stress and craziness for my life than I need with students who are not mature or ready for that freedom.  I would then have to monitor how much they are actually getting done to catch up with the class and consistently bug them to get caught up, and then in reality, how are they ever going to catch up?  I know in an asynchronous, mastery-based classroom that is how it happens, but in a class of poor-performing, low-motivated, freshmen students who have already failed Algebra 1 at least once... it doesn't work that way.

For the students that took the Chapter 1 test, all but 5 got a C or higher.  Students who get a D or an F will have an individual meeting with me so we can look at their notes, their PQs, etc and talk about how to better prepare themselves, how to track their progress, how to ask questions, etc.

Lastly, Chapter 2a starts the first chapter I am requiring my students to resubmit their online WSQs if they did a really crappy job the first time.  My students are not reading the questions or answering them fully. So, we went over it on Friday, and for Concepts 1 and 2 they either got "approved" or "must resubmit".  These resubmissions are due via Edmodo by Monday, so we will see how they go. 

Update on the week based on my plans and goals I wrote in Week 3

1. Make intentional time to "interview" and talk with every group about the math.
  • I did a good job of this one or two days this week. It's still on my goal list for this next week.  Period 2 still has some major immaturity (and thus classroom management) issues that I find myself having to do more management and "stay on task" than actually engaging with the students.  I'm hoping our seating change on Monday will help a little with that.

2. Actually look through my students' work in their notebooks. Ask them questions. Have them work out the problems in front of me.

  • Did a better job of this, but still not satisfied with the progress my students are making. Why do I encounter students like this every year?  Ones that are so well-trained to just lie to themselves... act like they have the work done but don't understand it but won't ask questions?!?!  Where does that come from? When does it begin? How can we stop it?
3. Ask students to solve problems on their mini-whiteboards more often for me to look at.

  • I did this every day this week.  It also holds them accountable to actually doing what I ask them to do.

4. Make intentional time for "small group" instruction on whatever concepts I feel need the most focus.  I am doing this in Math Analysis at the  :30 of every hour and I think that may work in Algebra 1 as well. 

  • I was only able to do this on Thursday.

algebra 1. My plans and goals for this next week:
I feel like the four goals I have listed above are ones I want to keep for a while, until they are accomplished or become such routine and habit that I am doing them without even thinking about it.

1. Make intentional time to "interview" and talk with every group about the math.

2. Actually look through my students' work in their notebooks. Ask them questions. Have them work out the problems in front of me.
3. Ask students to solve problems on their mini-whiteboards more often for me to look at.

4. Make intentional time for "small group" instruction on whatever concepts I feel need the most focus.  

      algebra 1. My continued focus for improvement: 

      1. Student responses to the online WSQ questions. I'd like to do some more critiquing of their writing (in a positive way) and show students what great, good, poor, and bad responses look like and how to improve them.

      • We'll see how the resubmissions go this weekend. I hope to see improvement with the WSQs they will be submitting this week.

      math analysis.

      Math Analysis is still going well. I am actually very happy with the progress we are making.  Students have seemed to adjust well to the routine.

      There are just a few areas of concern:

      1. Students must complete all their WSQ chart assignments before the test.  However, I am not strictly enforcing daily deadlines, just suggested pacing as they work through this.  I'm hoping that students learn from experience and learn to manage their time for THEMSELVES, not because a teacher is forcing them to.  We just finished Unit E on Tuesday, and they are taking the test in class on Monday.  I had many students who had taken NO Unit E quizzes until after Tuesday (when they are supposed to be taking them daily), and even more who showed up Friday wanting to take them on the last day.  They can only take each quiz once per day, so they are causing stress for themselves and me.

      Right now, they just have to have "taken" the quiz to be approved for the test, but I am considering implementing that they must have "passed" the quiz to be approved for the test (which makes sense...).  My only concern with that is I think many more students would not take the test on the class day, causing more make-up/re-takes to happen later on.  Would implementing that "rule" encourage students to make sure to start the quizzes earlier, since if they didn't pass them they won't be able to take the test on time, and would also receive a "support card"?

      2. I am dealing with a little bit of resistance from some students who are struggling with the flipped classroom.  I have had individual conversations with these students and I hope that their attitude improves.  I feel like a lot of it is coming from the fact that they feel they can be resistant because it is a change, but they don't necessarily realize that these changes are fully supported by the admin, counselors, and my colleagues...I am just the first one to be trying them.  We'll see how this improves as time goes on (oh I hope!)

      Update on the week based on my plans and goals I wrote in Week 3

      1. Mix it up - WSQ chat variations and  2. More uses for the questions they come up with.
        • I really like what I did with the HOT questions this week. (see posts above)
        • Having students write answers on the whiteboards holds them accountable, so that even if I'm working with another group, I can see what the others groups have been doing.

        math analysis. My plans and goals for this next week:
        1. Meetings with students who did not succeed on Unit E test.  Look at their PQs, SSS packets, study habits, work habits in class, time management, etc... all to help them get on the right track. 

        2. Hold students more accountable for getting a few things signed of EVERY DAY on their WSQ chart, including quizzes.  A little hand holding might go a long way in helping them learn time management.

        math analysis. My continued focus for improvement: (same as last week)

        1. Challenging the students that need challenging and working with the struggling students (I already know exactly who they are).

        2. Continuing to do small group teaching every day on the :30


        1. Kirch,
          Too bad you're not on the East Coast, we can commiserate on the process of evolving freshmen into responsible students who can manage freedom during some "social development" sessions (the fun version of professional development).

          I admire all that you do, but reading your reflection, I kept thinking that you need to simplify-- All the acronyms and steps seem overwhelming!

          While most are testing their boundaries to see what they can get away with, maybe some of the students are overwhelmed and are trying to skip steps to keep up. Try simplifying your steps or at least the number of things you give them at once. I get it that the flipped classroom is concerted chaos and an organized three-ring circus, but freshmen in the beginning of the year may only handle 2 of the 3 rings. Just a suggestion!

          My other suggestion is that yes, at least for the beginning of the year, you have to check that they are doing their work. What about some positive motivation/reward for getting their quizzes completed daily: bonus points on the test or silly prizes like pencils or stickers or candy (seems elementary, but they eat that up!)? I avoid using negative reinforcement. The ol' adage of catching more flies with honey than vinegar works.

          I love reading about what you do! You amaze me!

          1. Hey Kate,
            Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that some of the freshmen really don't know how to balance so many changes, #1 being the transition to high school. My main frustrations come from when I only do give them 1 or 2 steps to follow (like I started with) and they can't (or won't) follow directions. In addition, not only are our classes so huge, the level of students in there varies so much that it almost feels like I am teaching 3 different classes. Some kids I still have to teach how to get out their packets every day because they haven't even figured out that simple routine. Others are already done with Chapter 2 and we just started it 2 days ago. I don't feel comfortable at all with allowing for asynchronous in my Algebra 1 class because it would be utter chaos (in a bad way).

            I might need to go back to some of the extrinsic rewards for the freshmen. I have gone away from it with my older kids (just giving EC on the test if they PASS all their quizzes). I also just hate that feeling I get like they are doing it to win a prize not because they actually want to. Some of them just aren't there yet, I guess.

            One other thing I'm already thinking about for next year is that students earn the right to work in groups. I hate the thought, because I want them to learn to collaborate from the get-go, but I think some of them have taken advantage of the fact that we work in groups as a "social" time. If they were better trained and disciplined from day 1, that might not be the fact.

            Overall, I think I started the year in Math analysis and Algebra 1 too closely aligned to one another when in reality, I needed to start my flipped class in two different ways because they are 2 different groups of students. Everything I am doing is working wondering in Math Analysis, but I need to break it down MUCH MORE for my Algebra 1 kids and I don't think I did that great of a job of it.

            We'll see how it continues :)

        2. What is you grouped the freshmen and had group leaders who helped with the "inventory" stuff? You could rotate leaders or select leaders as a reward for having their assignments completed. Think of how to scaffold the students so you don't have to do all the "dirty" work. Also, giving each person a defined role in the group will help the process. I wouldn't avoid the collaboration or punish them by withholding groups.

          As far as asynchronous goes, I don't think my freshmen could handle it either. Some would be ok, but most would struggle. I'll be able to asynchronous on some units, bit not all.

          I know, I know about the intrinsic motivation, but developmentally the freshmen aren't there yet. You probably won't have to do the rewards for long to establish the behavior. Don't make the rewards too big. Small pieces of candy go a looooooong way. Think of it like training a puppy. Biscuits definitely help in the process! And freshmen definitely are puppies.

          More wag, less bark! :-D

          1. Ha, "training a puppy". That's a great analogy and I think it will be on the front of my mind!

            I have group leaders, but the other group members don't have roles. With my seating change Monday, I think I may assign the group leaders (maybe change each week?) and clearly define the "small groups" of 3 they are supposed to have their discussions with. I didn't provide enough structure at first (then again, I learned so much in the 1st 2 weeks about how I wanted to structure it, so it wasn't structured at first!!).

            I might be off to Costco for a bag of candy tomorrow....

        3. Reading your thoughts on Algebra 1 (what to do about those not ready to take ch 1 test, not ready to go on to ch 2, etc.) is similar to my reflecting on what I'll do differently starting Alg 2 next year (and Geom if I flip it).

          I'm still waffling on keeping everyone at the same pace for the reasons you do (ahead okay, behind not) and encouraging them to pace themselves as needed. This year and the past several, we've had SO many classes changed up to and including this past 5th week of school. We have a new school in the district and I don't see that changing next year. It borders on criminal to change students' classes the way they do, but I would bet it will happen as the guesses as to how many will end up at each campus appear to be just that.

          So I'm thinking of keeping them on the same pace through chapter 1 and 2, and possibly not even starting to officially flip until chapter 3. (Put videos up, but maybe watch more in class...I did some modeling but know I need to do more next go-round). Chapter 1 and 2 in Alg 2 and Geom (and every other math class I've taught) are the foundations and mostly review (theoretically). I'm thinking that you can go on from 1 to 2, but you can't go on to 3 without everything being 'good' (whatever I determine that to mean) on chapters 1 and 2. Why have you graph systems if you can't solve or graph an equation? Why have you try to deal with alternate interior angles if you can't name an angle and you don't get linear pairs?

          I'm starting to see clumping of students at different paces. I started out dragging behind my colleagues (spending more time in ch 1 and 2) and now my pace has us finishing ch 3 ahead of many. So I'm backing off and letting those who need to catch up do so. I'll keep on pace so that those who want to work ahead can.

          Sound reasonable?

          1. I like your thoughts on having the students in "clumps" based on their pace. I am keeping most of them at the same place right now, but I can see that changing as the year goes on and some kids need to go slower and others are ready to pick it up. I already have a group of kids who could probably be on the next chapter already... I just don't have the videos ready yet :/. I think I will be exploring asynchronous more next year once I'm fully organized and mostly happy with things :)

            Thanks for reading and sharing :)


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