Wednesday, July 8, 2015

5 Questions Every #FlipClass Teacher Must Answer

As I've presented on my WSQ method many times at conferences and on webinars, I have come to realize that the WSQ is just one tool that helps to address many questions and issues that arise when flipping your class

While this list of five questions is not all-inclusive - there really are more than just five things you need to consider - I really feel like it summarizes the key questions that teachers need to consider and address in order to have a successful flipped class.  There is not a right answer for each of these questions; rather, each teacher must consider their students, their school, their personality, and their resources in order to answer them effectively.  In addition, these are not in "order of importance" nor is one more valuable than another - all are necessary!

In summary, a flipped class does not come with a "cookie-cutter" method that can be replicated across every classroom.  However, you can set your students up for success by answering these questions:

  1. How will your organize content and material for students so they are able to easily and consistently access it?
  2. How will you hold students accountable for watching, engaging with, and interacting with the video or learning object?
  3. How will you provide your students with structured, guided processing time after the video for them to reflect on and consolidate what they learned?
  4. How will you gather feedback from students about their understanding of the material before they enter the group learning space?  And, how will you use this feedback to guide the activities that the students participate in during class?
  5. How will you facilitate discussion (and TWIRLS) among students during class time?  This includes considering ways for students to improve and deepen their understanding and demonstrate it to you and their classmates in a variety of ways.

I hope that you have answers to those questions, and if not, you will reflect on them this summer in order to answer them.  I'll spend the rest of this post explaining how the WSQ method help to answer these questions in my classroom.

Each unit comes with a WSQ chart that outlines all of the video assignments with time lengths, due dates ("you can work ahead but you can't fall behind"), practice and application assignments, guided summary questions, and anything else necessary for their success in that unit.  Students know exactly what is expected of them for that unit and what concepts they need to understand.  It also organizes the process of what they do when they watch the video - they must "W"atch, "S"ummarize, and ask a "Q"uestion.  In addition to the WSQ chart, the video tutorials are organized in playlists on our class blog (we did not have an LMS at the time).  They are hosted on playlists as well as on YouTube via LessonPaths playlists so students have two ways to access them.  For students without internet, they are loaned flash drives at the beginning of each unit.  For students without computers, they are given DVDs at the beginning of each unit.  The classroom is also open before school, lunch, and after school on different days for students to use the class computers.  The organization of the content and materials makes students questions and confusions decrease dramatically.  They know where to find the materials, they know what to do with them, and they know what I expect out of them.

The entire WSQ process holds students accountable for not only watching, but engaging and interacting with the video.  Any student can show up to class with "notes" that "they" took from the video, only to have remembered nothing.  Because they also have to submit a timestamped Google Form with some original thought given to the summary questions as well as submitting their own question and trying a few "secret questions" (which they submitted to me on the Google Form, because this was before programs like Educanon, EdPuzzle, and Zaption were available that would allow for students to submit them throughout the video), they can't just saunter in with "notes" and claim to have watched the video.  They actually had to do something with it!

Because the WSQ is submitted via a Google Form (with the exception of the few students without internet access at home who were able to turn it in handwritten daily), I am able to use formulas in the response spreadsheet such as Vlookup and ImportRange to track which students have and have not yet submitted the WSQ form.  Students know before they even walk into class I will know if they haven't turned it in yet, and their job is to tell me before I ask them about it!  In addition, it much easier to read through all student responses (or at least skim) when submitted via a Google Form, which holds them accountable for writing thoughtful responses and not just scribbling something on a piece of paper before they come to class.

With the WSQ, students are asked to do more than just "W"atch the video - they have to reflect and think deeply about what they learned as well.  This helps to avoid the "in one ear, out the other" syndrome that happens when information just comes at you but you don't do anything with it.  Students have to be paying attention and the guiding summary questions help to cue them in to the most important parts of the concept.  Because time is set aside simply for processing the material, students are much more likely to make personal sense of the content and come to class ready to dive deeper and discuss questions that they had.   For the "Q"uestion part of the WSQ, students have to ask a question, even if they understood everything.  Instead of writing a question they are confused about, they can write a higher-order thinking (i.e. not a yes or no question, requires a thoughtful response) question that would be a good discussion question for the concept.

I receive an enormous amount of feedback from the students with every WSQ submission.  I usually look at them once at night before bed to get a glimpse into if they are getting the main points and what type of questions they are asking.  I then look at it when I get to school and make any adjustments or changes to the plans I had for class that day.  I am able to see how students explain the concept in their own words via the summary questions, see if they are using the academic vocabulary I am looking for, and get an overall sense of understanding based on the type of questions they are asking.  In addition, because of the "secret questions" they had to solve on their own, I am able to see how many students were able to solve a problem correctly independently before class.

The biggest purpose of having organization, accountability, processing time, and feedback, is so that we can truly make the "best use of the face to face time" we have in class - for me, this means students actively involved in higher-order thinking activities that are student-centered.  My goal is that my students deeply understand the material at both a conceptual and skill level, and that they have opportunities to demonstrate TWIRLS (thinking, writing, interacting, reading, listening, speaking) in class on a daily basis.  If a student can explain the concept to another student, that generally means they understand it well.  Class always begins with a WSQ chat, which has three parts to it:
  • Discussion Activity:  This comes in many forms… I'm doing a session at FlipCon15 this year called "Winning WSQ Chats" that will go over these in detail. You can find a brief summary / example of 5 types by clicking on these links: Traditional Discussion Activities, Student Created Work & Blogging, Peer Instruction, Hands-On / Kinesthetic Activities, Inquiry & Discovery Activities.
  • Checking in / Answering Questions: My students were seated at tables of 4-6 students, so I had 6-7 groups to "check in with".  This allowed me plenty of time to ask each student what questions they had, clarify misconceptions, and follow up with the discussion activity.
  • Small Group / Going over Secret Questions / Reteaching or revisiting complex concepts: Once the discussion activity was over, there was the opportunity for any student (but students who didn't get the Secret Question(s) correct were highly encouraged to come) to come get some clarification on a tricky problem or go over a couple more examples from the practice together.  While we didn't have this every day, it was an option available.  With some concepts, I would have a "large" small group of 10-15 students, but we still came to the "U" for focused instruction and allowed the students who felt confident to not have to sit and listen to instruction they already understood.

What do you do from there?  I did a lot of student-created content and blogging.  I also had a quasi-mastery based quizzing protocol.  Some teachers do a lot of project based learning, asynchronous mastery, gamification… the list could go on and on.  There isn't one right version of "Flipping 2.0".

But, if you are going to get there, you need to answer those five questions to set the stage for success.  I use the WSQ method… I'd love to hear how you've answered those questions!

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