Monday, April 30, 2012

#flipclass chat - a ton of thoughts

Excuse the craziness of this post.  I just needed to get my thoughts out before heading to bed and I will hopefully make sense of them later.  These are just some things that I want to think more about after the #flipclass chat tonight.

And, I have about 20 tabs open on my browser and I want to close them :)

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on my ramblings based on your experiences!

1. To look at more deeply - based on Inquiry Learning
Still a little stuck on the inquiry learning in a math class (vs. science, where I think it is easier), but I would like to do a little more "why does this matter" and "where would I see this" sort of stuff to help with student engagement.

2. To look at more deeply - Standards-Based Grading
3. To continue to look for - ways to "flip" without necessarily using video. Using articles, pictures, ??? what else in math?  How can I encourage students to make their own meaning of the content and to find their own ways to learn it/master it... with my videos just being ONE tool instead of THE tool?

4.  Student self-pacing. How much do I want it? Now that I will have the videos all made, students can work ahead as far as they want.  How will this affect the "5 minute WSQ" discussions and questioning that I do every day in class when everyone is on the same page?  Do I want to have a place where everyone has to be for that day's discussion, but they can be working ahead (or behind???) for the application/practice part of the day?

Do I want to have "testing" days in class, or do I want students to take the unit tests when they are ready?  What would this require of me in terms of coming up with different versions of the test?  Grading time?  Making all those answer keys?  Student cheating?

Right now I have students self-pacing the mini-quizzes, and some are doing great while others are sucking... they can't manage their time without me telling them exactly what to do and when, so they just don't take the quizzes at all.  It's too much freedom for them.  How do I balance between the kids that can handle the freedom of self-pacing and those that can't?  I need some sort of organization/system to help with this.

Also, I would need them to meet certain checkpoints before they could move on.  Maybe that's what the quizzes could be?  You can't move on until you master this quizzes/set of mini-quizzes.  Then, that would lead towards mastering the unit test...

If I did set up "checkpoints" along the way in a self-paced class... what would those checkpoints look like and what would I do if students DIDN'T meet the checkpoints.  Right now, since they have their weekly "deadlines" with the WSQ charts, they have to finish the assignments.  That may mean that some of the students "finish" the assignments but don't really get much out of it because it was rushed to get done and avoid the "homework cards" we give at our school. 

5. Learning "Activities" in class. My students are mostly working on practice problem sets - that is their "assignment" and that is all they do, even when offered other activities - different matching games, card sort games, making vids on iPads, etc.  They would rather just do the work and get it done than do something "fun" with it.  I saw an example tonight (link) about a 5th grade math teacher who does a "tic-tac-toe" board of different assignments and the kids have to pick three to do.  I kind of like that idea in the fact that I could provide a few different ways for the students to practice/master the concepts and they could have more choice in the matter.  Lots more planning on my part, though...

With this - how would I monitor student completion of assignments (especially with the homework policies at our school)... would the assignment itself be "complete 2 of the following 5 tasks", or what?  And would I set deadlines to those tasks, or just to watching the videos on time?  With the management my "WSQ chart" helps provide (I finally feel SANE and like I'm not always overwhelmed with assignment checking/completion), how would this change/transition if I went towards that path?

6. Technology.  There is so much out there. I need to remember to not get overwhelmed by all the tech and just choose what is going to suit my needs.  I am currently still fighting with myself over continuing with Edmodo, a class blog, where/how to host videos, using GoogleSites/Docs/Apps for everything... I just need to decide and figure out how to give students a "one-stop shop" for everything they need.

New tools will always come up and I can "pilot" them to see how they go and if they flow.

Great quotes about flipping:
  Point is to shift some cognitive load off of class to free up time for discussion/help/lab 

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Feeling a little overwhelmed this week, and it's only Sunday night...
 I think it may be the fact that I can see summer in sight.

  •  I have two and a half more units to make flipped videos for, and just two units to get the curriculum modified and tweaked from last year. I started using camtasia studios to edit my videos with about a month ago, and I love it...the downside is I spend twice as much time making every video because I add an intro, edit some stuff, add annotations, etc. I think they are better quality videos, but the time is definitely wearing on me.
 Making the videos seriously takes a lot of time, and if I had to give advice to a newbie, I would definitely say to start small. I am a very goal-oriented person and once I start something, I have to finish it. If I wasn't that way, I may have slowed down a bit more on fully flipping this first year because I am worn out. I love making the videos once I start and get in the groove, but at this point in the year sitting in a comfy chair reading a great book just seems so much more appealing.

Word of advice: start with one class only. I'm not a fan of the "half-flipped" class as some of my students want, but if that works for you, start there. You don't have to make a video for every lesson. Don't burn yourself out. Don't try to make each of them perfect the first time around either.

  •  I have a couple of other assignments related to the flipped classroom to complete, and as excited as I am about them, sometimes you just can't see the light at the end of the tunnel! I started my weekend to do list with six items, and I am ending it with six items, still. More things just got added as the weekend went on!! 
  • My math analysis colleague and I are considering putting together a mini summer course for our students to complete over the summer (similar to a summer packet like they have done in years past, but this time with video support like flipped classroom lessons). However, that adds one more thing to my plate to get done before the end of the school year when the kids head off for summer. I don't necessarily have to have all the videos recorded, but I do have to have them all planned out. 
  •  This week is crazy with 30 minute classes all week instead of the usual 54 because of our state testing. And next week is ap testing. This leads to crazy, stressed kids. And, for my math analysis kiddos, my class is a lot of times the only non-ap class they are taking... So guess which class gets put on the back burner? 
  • Did I mention I am out of my classroom four, maybe five, times this month?

 I am trying to stay positive, make my to do lists, stay organized, and take it one step at a time. Friday night is almost here... Again :)

 In better news, I am getting really great feedback on the student survey my kids are doing and am excited to get the final 30-40 responses between today and tomorrow so I can start blogging about it all. 

 Hoping to breathe a little this week and find time to blog at some point before friday's reflection post. We will see how it goes... One day at a time!!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Reflections on Week 12 (Lots of Lessons Learned)
This week I feel like there were a lot of new lessons learned and and ideas to put into my "flipclass toolkit".  I say that every week, but it's true.  I love seeing growth and progress in making this classroom structure meaningful and useful for my students.

My students are finishing up a survey on their thoughts and feelings regarding the flipped class and those results will be ready next week (survey is due Monday, I have about 50% of the responses so far).  Thank you to Scott Harkness  for letting me use/modify his survey!  Algebra 1, Math Analysis

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! 

For those of you who read my weekly reflections consistently, you will notice a change this week compared to the past.  These posts will be shorter with links to more detailed external posts on specific topics.  I was finding (for myself) that it was hard for me to go back and find a previous post on a specific topic because it was hidden among a huge weekly reflection.  So, hopefully this will alleviate that problem.

Other posts from this week:
1. Letter to parents about the Flipped Classroom - I've updated the letter I sent home in January this year describing my flipped classroom and the expectations for students and parents.  Please feel free to use/modify for your own use!
2. Four reasons how Blogging has changed my life (my teaching life anyways). A reflection on how reflection has been so useful for me.
3. My Three-Month Blog-Aversary. Reflections on my "favorite posts" thus far as well as the four most important things I have learned about the Flipped Class so far.
4. What would you tell a student next year?   I asked my students: Imagine it was August 2012 and you were asked to come speak to Mrs. Kirch's classes next year about the flipped classroom.  What would you tell them?  Be as detailed as possible. Here is what they said (constantly updated post, 7 new responses at top for this week)
5. The power of using parents as a motivating tool in the #flipclass - I started having students call home to tell their parents they were unprepared for class any day they showed up without their WSQ complete.  It was pretty cool.

Math Analysis
Lots of stuff to talk about for Math Analysis this week!

This section includes: 
1. Asking HOT questions on the WSQ
2. WSQ as a management tool in class 
3. Google Docs Chat Sessions
4. Pros and Cons of Take Home Tests (and what I've learned)
5. Test results for Unit R, S, and T
6. General reflections for the week

1. Asking HOT questions on the WSQ
For the "summary" portion of the WSQ, I pose questions for students to respond to and answer.  Sometimes they are lower-level questions to check for understanding.  However, this week I added at least one really "HOT" (higher-order thinking) question to get the students thinking.  Even some of my top students didn't know how to answer them!  I really liked this because they came to class eager to learn and find out how to answer the question.  I was able to do a few different small group activities where the WSQ time was focused on that one question.  Here are the two examples from this week:

-How does the graph of tangent relate to the Unit Circle?  Explain in words but also with a visual similar to those given to you in the video for Sine and Cosine.

-Why is the "normal" tangent graph uphill, while the "normal" cotangent graph is downhill?

They were given mini-whiteboards (blank one side, graph on other side) and markers to draw, collaborate, and come up with an explanation together from the ideas they had thought through the night before.

One student said: 
What I liked most was when we were using the white boards to try and explain why the graphs were drawn as they were. I don't know if that was part of flipped or if it would be still in the traditional class but was the best thing because it shows us why and how they relate to each other and the unit circle a bit better than the website given only because we could talk.

2. WSQ as a management tool in class  
The WSQ chart, if I do say so myself, has been one of my greatest inventions :) 

If you haven't seen my WSQ chart, here are two samples for Math Analysis here and here.
A few simple reasons:
-Students don't have to spend 10 minutes on Monday copying their homework down in their agenda every week
-Absent students have no excuse for not knowing exactly what they missed and exactly what is expected of them

One of the biggest reasons, however, is the fact that it takes one more thing off of my plate.  Student assignments are no longer something I have to manage - the students manage it themselves and the WSQ chart helps keep them organized and on target.

Now I can manage helping them get it done  and no so much if they got it done

I've mentioned before that I hate spending class time checking homework, and I am horrible at keeping up with students who are absent and making sure they complete their make-up assignments.  Using the WSQ chart has completely eliminated those concerns.  Yes, now I do "check" homework daily in class, but now it is just a part of the daily routine where students ask me to sign off assignments as they complete them (fully AND correctly), with the only deadline being the end of the week.  Sometimes, honestly, I don't even check the work, I just let the students self-monitor and put a "B" (needs blue signature, fully completed on time) or "R" (needs red signature, fully completed but late).  I will spot check certain students who I know weren't fully on task, but for the most part, I see the students completing the work all period and am able to trust them.  Once that trust is lost once, I do have to check each individual assignment.
3. Google Docs Chat Sessions
I decided to hold two chat sessions this week using Google Docs as the forum.  I figured it was an easy platform that didn't make students have to sign up for something new to participate.  The only cons were that students were shown as "anonymous users" so I didn't know who I was talking with.  In a way, it was nice though, because then I didn't worry about WHO was asking it - I just answered!

Here are the archives from the chats:

I was pretty happy with the turnout (for Unit T, I had 25 students on at one time, with several more who came in and out - out of a total of 72 students).  Students seemed to find it helpful as well.  Many students logged in after the chat session was over and just read through the questions since they couldn't make it during the time frame I was available. Google Docs is not the perfect tool, but I will probably stick with it for the rest of this year since we are so near the end.  I really like how Google Docs is completely live... meaning you see letter-by-letter what the students are typing, and you don't have to wait for their whole question and for them to push "enter" to see it.

Here are their comments:
  • I participated if it meant logging in at around 10 to see what everyone else asked about. It is actually quite useful if the unit is especially hard.
  • No, i was not home while the chat was open. However, i believe this would be useful in other situations. It is pretty fun and helpful.
  • Yes, I participated in the Unit S " Chat" on Sunday night. I felt that this was quite a fun, useful device. It help me clarify on a lot of things. I think this tool would be very useful in other situations that might involve clarifying or reviewing.
  • The unit S chat was very useful because it had hints on some of the problems on the test and i that definitely helped me understand those problems and get them correct
  • I did not ask questions on the Unit S "chat" except for the one Mrs. Kirch used as a sample, but I did have the chat open in case any questions came up that I had not thought about.  I found this a very useful tool for Unit S, but the Unit T chat seemed very hectic and confusing.  We can figure it out though... :)
  • I didn't write in it but i read the comments and they helped.
  • I only logged onto the chat after it was closed. I find that most of my questions are answered because one of my fellow classmates had already asked it. Again this would be a useful tool if the majority of the class took advantage of it.
  • yes :) I liked it because i got my questions answered and it was fun seeing everyone else type. This would definitely be useful in other situations
  • I did not participate in the Unit T Test " Chat" on Wednesday night, but I did read the whole chat. I thought it could be useful and helped me see what I should know for the upcoming test the next day. I do believe this would be a useful tool in other situations.
  • I did not participate, but i think it would be useful in situations that are much bigger, such as preparing for an AP test or the finals.
  • I was more of a stalker than a participator, because any of the questions I had were already answered by student, but I was still there to see if anything else that I hadn't thought of came up. It's really cool that kinda thing is possible and I hope it continues for the next tests and the final
  • No i didn't participate, but i read the comments.
  • This was useful because I had many unanswered questions about the test that would of remained unanswered if the chat was not available. Yes, it is useful for any last minute questions. 
  • I did participate in the "chat" on Sunday night. I thought it was a great way to get last minute questions answered and it would be a useful tool in other situations, since sometimes I have last minute questions at home that I never thought of at school, plus the questions that others have may also help other people.
  • I didn't participate in the chat, however I did look over the contents of it. It is very useful. 
  • Yes, I was really confused with a problem and Mrs. Kirch answered my question as I was typing it this was really cool. 
  • I didn't ask any questions but I did go on and I read the questions and answers that others posted and that helped me in seeing what others were struggling in and seeing if I needed help on that as well but maybe having two chat sessions might help, one two days before and the other the night before so that we can still get other questions answered (just a thought).
  • Yes I did. It was EXTREMELY useful. I enjoyed it, and I'm sure Cadie Heron got a perfect explanation for her question. lol.

4. Pros and Cons of Take Home Tests (and what I've learned)
I gave my students take home tests for Units Q,R, and S.  This is what I've done the last three years because these tests are very long (even with a short amount of questions) because they deal with trigonometric identities.  I have wanted my students to have as much time as they needed to wrestle with the questions and make sure their test score showed their true understanding of the material.  Being a take home test, I allowed them to use their notes and resources to take the test.

With the flipped classroom, however, I may be going away from take home tests next year.  What I found is that students did not take the in class time as seriously as they should have because they knew they would be having a take home test.  They didn't memorize the identities because they didn't see the value, knowing that they could use their notes on the exam.  (When, in reality, it is still very important to have them memorized so you can recognize them throughout the problems).  Because of the flipped classroom videos, they had almost TOO MANY resources at their fingertips that it was not really their knowledge that was tested, but their ability to search long enough to find a problem close enough to the one on the test and then copy right along.

I am torn over this, because if students have to take these three assessments in class next year, I could see them taking two days each, and I don't like that.  Maybe I need to present the Take Home Test differently?   Maybe I should tell them it's an in-class test until the day before?

Two things stuck out to me that are making me reconsider:
1. Students have to record their times that they spend on the tests.  When I see a student spending a total of 5 hours on my take home test, the only thing that tells me is "What the heck was this student doing in class the last two weeks that they need 5 hours to take this test?".  That just tells me they aren't prepared.  Now, 2 hours would be an appropriate amount, maybe even 3 for some of my slower learners.  But, most of my students spent between 4-7 hours on each of the take home tests, which I think is ridiculous.

2. The first in class test back from these was horrible.  I ended up only grading half of them and giving the rest of the students zeroes with a forced reassessment.  I feel like the take home tests decreased my students study skills from really good to little to nothing.  They showed up unprepared (even with the use of an index card) and I was so frustrated when grading them that I just stopped and only graded those who actually got the three trig graphs correct (it was only a three question test).  In class on Friday, we had a conversation (more like a one-way conversation, but still) about my disappointment in their choices and (hopefully) my encouragement of what they should be doing.  I hope I see some improvement in the next two units and I am disappointed in myself for not anticipating this issue.

5. Test results for Unit R, S, and T 
You will notice I have not posted data for Units R, S, and T on my "flip data" tab.  That is because I changed the assessment so much from last year to this year that I don't think it would be an accurate comparison, although my students did do well on R/S (see about T above).  I am planning to keep the Unit U and V tests pretty much the same so I will be able to end the year with two more Units of Data for Math Analysis.

6. General reflections for the week
Two things I'm taking away from this week:
  • I would like to continue to work towards a more mastery-based classroom where students take assessments (including the big tests, not just the mini-quizzes like I am doing now) when they are ready and they can't move on unless they show proficiency!  I feel like this would be motivating for students to LEARN because they couldn't just BS their way through the work, do "ok" (C,D) on a test, and move on.  They would have to get an 80% (that's my proficiency rate, I might make it 75% but we'll see) or they would have to go back and work some more on it.  I really feel like all students are capable of learning even the hardest material with time, dedication, focus, hard work, and great instruction.
  • This student's comment made me think: The best part of the flipped class this week was receiving a mini lesson on how to find the "mark". The reason why I take pleasure in expressing my joy of being taught be you in person is because I believe that your teaching skills are best presented when lecturing. Your loud and clear voice project perfectly across the classroom. The only part that I disliked was how there was only one of you. I constantly needed your help the first few days working on the trig graphs but instead I was forced to rely on my trustworthy friends. :D  I do want to do a better job next year of having the small group mini-lessons in class.  I feel like that would provide a balance of some traditional instruction that some of my students still long for (a little appeasement is not bad), and it would be a great support structure as well.  It would give me that little bit of "lecturing" that I do enjoy doing, but in a much better way (groups of 5-7 students instead of 40!).  I even have ideas of how to set up my classroom next year in a way that would be more conducive to this - having areas of the classroom for students who feel they are at certain levels of understanding... but I'll keep tweaking and thinking about it.
Algebra 1

This section includes: 
1. I hate highly dislike Standardized Testing
2. General reflections from the week

1. I highly dislike Standardized Testing
This week started our CST testing... 7 days of students taking two hour exams to supposedly measure their mastery of the content from all their subjects all year.  I do like looking at CST scores as a general measure of proficiency, but I hate the "test prep machine" our school turns into the month before these exams.  I hate what my classroom turns into as we do "sample released questions" and "test prep strategies".  Why don't I just keep teaching and hopefully real student learning will come across?  Oh, the never ending debate.  Except we are going to Common Core, so I hope it will be better soon.

2. General reflections from the week
We are currently on Chapter 11: Rational Expressions.  It is the hardest chapter of the year by far, because it requires that students have mastery over the material in Chapters 1,2,7,8, and 9.  My students have been doing pretty well so far and I know from experience that it starts off really rough, but gets better with time.  I have really enjoyed being able to have the students watch 2-3 examples on video, come to class and have me work out 1-2 problems on the board traditionally, and then have them work in groups.  Them coming to class with some "previewed content" really helps the class to run more smoothly.  I would really like to do a better job of doing mini-lessons continuing from this point, whether that be with the whole class when the content is really difficult (like this chapter), or just with smaller groups when my top students are ready to move on.

Sharing and Collaboration

I have two webinars coming up in the new two weeks - one on May 1st for a group of teachers in Sacramento and one on May 9th for anyone through  I will post the link to register for the Sophia webinar when I get it.  I hope you will be able to join in!  Both webinars will be an "intro" to the flipped classroom for teachers who are interested in learning more about it and hearing about how I run my flipped classroom.

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.  Connect with @bennettscience to find out more.

Other Thoughts
6 weeks until summer. This has been a wild ride, but one I am SO glad I joined!

From a Math Analysis Student.  After some of the days I had this week, I really needed to hear this in the Week 12 Reflection.
Thank you, Mrs. Kirch, for EVERYTHING that you have done for us!  I really appreciate having so many opportunities to let you know what I think about the class, and I'm glad you care so much about us (enough to sit for two hours in a "chat" to answer questions).
CHARACTERISTICS AND QUALITIES OF MY FLIPPED CLASSROOM THAT I WANT TO KEEP (this list is now kept on a separate page here and is updated weekly)

1.  Parent phone calls for unprepared students

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.

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

All Reflections from This Year can be Found Here. 

The power of using Parents in the #flipclass

I guess this post should probably be titled "The power of using parents...anytime" because I probably should have used this tool even before I started flipping my class.

Our school has somewhat of a "parent phone call policy" where teachers are pretty much required to call home once a student has missed two or three assignments in the class.  This generally gets annoying, as it takes time from my conference period making phone calls for irresponsible students.

Here's what I've tried this week, and in one week, it's worked wonders.  I'm highly contemplating doing this from the beginning of next year, and then hopefully it won't really need to be done that much anymore!

I posted last week about what I had done last Friday, and I continued doing that all week.  Any student that did not complete their WSQ (Watch the video, answer the Summary questions, and write their own Question) had to call home and tell their parents this:

"Hi _____, this is ______.  I'm calling from my math class because I am not prepared for class today.  I didn't ________________ (watch the video, complete my WSQ, etc).  I didn't do it because _____________________.  I could have come in during the morning, during seminar, or during lunch to watch it in Mrs. Kirch's class before class began, but I didn't"

The parents usually have questions at that point, and I can get on the phone and clarify any concerns, talk about the student's grade, behavior, or any other concerns that I have.  The student has to stay right next to me when I am talking with the parent.  Sometimes, the parent asks to talk to the student again after I am done.

I was a little concerned about doing this at first because of the time it takes me away from the students who actually came prepared and need my help.  However, the students have gotten very good at working with each other and asking each other questions.  Also, although the first two days I did this I had to make 8-10 phone calls in some classes (make a call, walk around and help, make a call, walk around and help, etc), by the end of the week it was 1-2 students a class and really didn't impede on supporting the other students.

I chose to do this because when my students come unprepared, it is 95% of the time not because of access to technology - it is because of laziness and the choice to not do it at home because "I'll just do it when I get to school".   One student does not have consistent internet at home and we had to call on Friday because he did not have the video watched.  So, we set up a plan for him to borrow a flash drive on Monday from me to get the videos for the rest of the chapter.  He forgot to ask for the flash drive.  So we called again on Tuesday, and he had to explain how it was his responsibility to ask for the flash drive and he forgot.

So, what about those parents who aren't available by phone during the class period?  The student had to write a letter home during class, show it to me, and bring it back signed the next day.  Depending on the student, we may have followed that up with a phone call as well.

I really liked this for several reasons:
1. It puts the responsibility on the students for everything, like it should be with homework completion.
2. It doesn't take away from my planning time to make discipline phone calls.
3. It makes the students admit to the parents what they did and have that conversation immediately (and sometimes right in front of me)
4. It encourages the students to do their homework instead of being lazy and putting it off because they don't want to get in trouble with their parents.

Sometimes we forget that our students are still teenagers, and getting parents involved is a great way to keep them on track.

Here are some student comments on having to call parents:

  • I actually like this because it informs the parent that the student didn't do their homework.  Now, the parent will keep an eye on the student if they do their homework
  • yikes. Please don't pull such mean tricks on us again. Though I was not affected because I continuously try to complete the WSQs to the best of my ability.
  • Well I did not have to call my parents, but I think this affected me just to always do my homework and stay on task.  I think it is a good idea for students who don't do their homework to call their parents because it lets them know that their child isn't doing what they need to be doing.  In that case, now parents can ask what is for homework every night. 
  • I didn't have to call home but I think this is a good thing to do that way students are forced to do their homework...unless they want to call home which i know no one wants to do
  • I believe this motivated me to finish homework on time, but luckily I already do that.  This just showed me the consequences and made me realize that I should never slack off.
  • If i had to call my parents, i wouldn't like it but i guess that could also set me straight.
  • It didn't affect me much in the work ethic part of class, because I am usually on top of my work, even if I turn it in at lunch. It did show me how much you care for us to succeed in you class though, well on top of what you already do.
  • It scared me every time I thought I forgot something at home. :)  I thought it was very effective though because it meant people couldn't slack off without getting some kind of consequence.
  • It made me learn my lesson. I actually like it.
  • It made me want to complete my WSQ/Hmwrk no matter what! i don't want to stress out my parents or have them worry, or worse get in trouble. BUT it is good that they do get more involved.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What does my Flipped Classroom look like? (Updated Letter to Parents)

Here is an updated letter I will be sending home to parents at the beginning of the school year about what my flipped classroom looks like.  It is edited from an earlier version (January 2012) and is still under construction.

Dear Parents,
Your child has an exciting year of math coming up in my classroom!  Things will be a little different in your student’s math class than you may be used to. We will be implementing a teaching model known widely around the world as the “flipped classroom”. What is a “flipped classroom”? Please take a few moments to watch the presentation I have put together for you, which can be found at .

In short, a “flipped classroom” switches around the traditional order of teaching with the purpose of creating a more in depth and supportive environment in the classroom when the teacher is present and able to help students. It allows for students to receive a more individualized math education, thus resulting in them understanding the content at a higher and deeper level than before. In addition, it challenges students to learn how to take charge of their learning, becoming resourceful learners. Lastly, it provides time for more discussion and questioning during class time, helping students to become reflective communicators and to think more deeply about the subject.

What does homework look like now?

For homework, students will be required to watch video lectures created by me, where I will teach them the lesson and give examples in the same way they would receive it in class. However, because the students are watching the lessons on video, they can pause, rewind, or re-watch any segments of the video at any time. This allows students to learn at their own pace and become more self-directed, having to know when they need to go back over a certain concept they did not fully grasp the first time it was explained.

Each lesson is specifically designed to be around 5 to 15 minutes long, which should take your child between 15-30 minutes to watch, take notes, and reflect on what they learned.

These videos can be accessed at for home viewing, on SchoolTube for school viewing, or students can get the videos on a flash drive in order to watch them without internet access. All direct links are also accessible at the class website, . Because the videos are online, they can be accessed on any internet-capable device, such as a cell phone. Videos can also be uploaded to iTunes from a flash drive and synced with a student’s iPod to watch offline. Other options are also available by request, such as getting the videos on DVD to watch on a TV instead of a computer.  If you have concerns about your child having access to the videos, please let me know and I will make accommodations.

While watching the videos, students are taking notes of important concepts and examples in their SSS packets that are provided for them. When they are done watching the video, they write a summary of the concept they learned about. This summary will sometimes be a paragraph, but other times will be answering questions I have posed to them to think about and answer.  The quality and depth of their summary informs me of how much they truly understood what they watched and what misconceptions they may have that need to be further explained. After the summary, students write at least one question regarding the content. This may be a question that they do not know how to answer and need explained, or it may be a question that they do know the answer to, but is an important piece of the concept from the video. Students are challenged to make their questions “HOT” questions (“Higher Order Thinking” questions) and have been provided with question starters on Edmodo to help deepen their thinking.

This process is called a “WSQ” (pronounced wisk), and stands for “Watch – Summary – Question”. Underclassmen (9th-10th graders) are also required to add a “V”erification portion to their “WSQ” (making it a “WSQV”, pronounced wis-quiv) where a parent or guardian signs their summary and question, along with the time frame in which the student watched the video. Upperclassmen (11th-12th graders) parents can request that their students be put on a required “WSQV” contract if their students need more monitoring in finishing the homework.

There will still be a few nights where homework will look like regular “homework”... students will be doing review worksheets and practice problems. This generally occurs the few nights before a test. However, now students have access to the lesson online and can re-watch it if they don’t remember how to do the problems assigned in the homework.

What does classwork look like now?

When students come into class, we begin by reviewing their “WSQ’s” in a variety of ways. We may go over a few samples as a class, or students may discuss either in partners or in small groups. This time allows the class to refresh their memory on what was watched last night as well as to clarify anything that was not clear during the video lesson. We also go over the questions that students have asked either as a whole class or in small groups. Similarly, we may go over a few problems as a class, but most often students work in their small groups and get assistance from me in a smaller group as needed.

After the “WSQ” portion of class is over, students work in small groups on a set of practice problems or activities to help them practice and develop full understanding of the concept. Students are encouraged to work with each other and help each other out and are constantly reminded that one of the ways they can really find out if they understand a concept is by explaining it to someone else. I am constantly walking around from group to group, helping explain things and clarifying confusing parts.

In the “flipped classroom” model, students still take short quizzes on each concept a few times a week and still practice learning concepts by using the songs and chants I have developed. In addition, there is still the opportunity for whole-class teaching and review if the large group needs to go back over a concept. However, most of the teaching is now focused on smaller groups of students who need help on certain concepts, leading to fully differentiated instruction and support.

What does a “flipped classroom” require of you as a parent?

The “flipped classroom” enables you as a parent to be more involved in your student’s math education. Most parents tend to agree that they do not remember much from their high school math classes and do not feel they can support or help their student at all when they are home doing homework. However, with the “flipped classroom”, there are several very easy ways you can help your student:

(1) Provide your student with a quiet place to watch the lecture video (preferably with headphones to limit distractions) each night. If internet access is not available at your house, provide your student with the time to stay after school to watch the video in the school library or my classroom.
(2) Ask your student questions about what they watched and have them read their summary out loud to you.
(3) Read their summary yourself to make sure it sounds complete and makes sense.
(4) Read the question they asked and see if they can answer it.
(5) Encourage them to take their time while watching the videos, which means they pause, rewind, or re-watch portions of the video when the teaching is going too fast or when students need a minute to
make sense of what was taught.
(6) Watch the videos with them so you can learn along with them and help them when it comes to doing regular practice at home the night before the test!

What does a “flipped classroom” require of your student?

In reality, a “flipped classroom” does not change the fact that students are expected to go home and do “math homework” for 30-45 minutes a night. The only thing that is different is the type of “math homework” that they are doing. Instead of doing mindless practice problems where they can do the problems without really thinking about them, get stuck on the problems or do them incorrectly, or simply not do the problems at all because they think the problems are too difficult, students simply have to watch a video, take notes, and reflect in a summary and question. Students are expected to come prepared to class each day with the background knowledge of each concept, ready to learn it better, deeper, and faster. Students are not expected to have full mastery of the content before they arrive in class, although many students will be at that level.

The “flipped classroom” requires your student to take responsibility for their learning in several ways:
(1) Students must plan time to watch the video when they are still fully awake and able to make connections between content. (Before 10pm is highly suggested).
(2) Students must take initiative to re-watch videos they need to see again.
(3) Students must make sure that if they are absent, they still watch the required videos and come to class prepared.
(4) Students must make sure that they take initiative to communicate with me either online or in person if there are issues with watching the videos. This includes coming and seeing me before school, during seminar, or during lunch to watch the videos before class begins as often as possible.

What if your student watches the videos every night but still does not understand the content?

Individualized or small group tutoring and support is still available for students before, during, and after the school day. During that time, I can sit down with them and go over more examples and try to explain it in a different way. Students can contact me anytime via to ask when I am available, although I generally have a consistent schedule that is posted in the classroom.

How does the “flipped classroom” work with the Fundamental Structures at [our high school]?

Students will still be held accountable for completing the “WSQ” on a nightly basis, just like a regular homework assignment. Failure to do so will result in the progress discipline policies of the Missed Assignment Cards (“Homework Cards”). The policies listed below are subject to change.
• “WSQ” charts (see sample at end of letter) will be collected on a weekly basis, and students must have a minimum of 60% of the available points to not receive a homework card. Students will receive differing amount of points based on if the assignments are completed on time or late.
• If a student is missing any TWO assignments by the end of the week (this includes Watching, Summary, Question, or corresponding Assignment), they will receive a homework card.
• The assignments that correspond with the WSQ’s should  be fully completed by the next class day. Students are given plenty of class time to finish these assignments working with me and other classmates; however, if they are off task or absent they will have to make it up on their own time and make sure it is fully completed before entering class the next day.

Students will receive points in the HW/CW category of their grade for each week based on the percentage they have completed, so it is very important that students strive to reach 100% of the boxes filled with two points each.

STUDENT NAME: ___________________________________________ PERIOD: _________

[ ] I understand the changes that will be taking place and the expectations for my student. We have internet access at home and watching the videos nightly should not be a problem.

[ ] I understand the changes that will be taking place and the expectations for my student. We do have a computer at home; however, we do not have consistent internet access at home, so please make accommodations for my student.

[ ] I understand the changes that will be taking place and the expectations for my student. We do not have a computer at home, so please make accommodations for my student.

Parent/Guardian Name: ________________________ Relationship to Student: ____________

Parent Signature: ___________________________________________

Best way to contact me from 8am-2pm during the week
[ ] Email: ____________________________________________________________
[ ] Phone: ____________________________________________________________
Questions, comments, or concerns:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How blogging has seriously changed my life (my teaching life, anyways!)

1. It is a great reflective tool to think through what I actually did that week, how it worked, and to think through what could be done better in the future.  I feel like reflecting is essential to succeeding as a teacher - you have to be able to recognize what is working, what isn't, and take steps to make whatever you are doing better and more effective for your students' success.  You can say that you reflect, but I think I've always said that I was "reflective".  Until I started actually blogging about it and putting it on paper, I feel like my reflections weren't super beneficial because I wouldn't take the time to really think through things.  Now that I blog several times a week, it forces me to be reflective and actually make meaning of it.

2. It is an effective place to keep a record of what has happened so I can look back and actually remember how my teaching progressed throughout the semester and how my students came along (with all the ups and downs!)  This helps me to remember that I can't start a brand new year expecting my students to be like my classes were in June - they need to start from the beginning!  Oftentimes I struggle in the beginning of the year thinking that students should be "further along" than they are, but by blogging and being able to look back at exactly how my students were doing at a certain point in the year, it reminds me that my "new" students are on that same journey and it will take time.

3. It is an amazing way to share ideas with other educators all over the world that you wouldn't otherwise be able to share with.  I have made so many connections, it is amazing.  I almost feel like I know some of my "online teacher friends" better than some of the teachers at my school, because online we are all willing to share ideas, strategies, & ups and downs.  It is an amazing, encouraging support community as well and is a constant reminder that we are all in this together!  Also, sometimes teachers at your own school are "turned off" by all your new ideas because (for some reason) they see you as a competition.  In the online world, we are all here to support and help each other reach our ultimate goal of student success.

4. It keeps me sane. And it keeps my husband sane.  I have to get my thoughts out somewhere - I used to either let it fester inside or just talk forever about teaching stuff with my non-teaching husband.  He enjoyed it to an extent, but after a while (like when he talks about marketing and real estate for a long time), he just can't handle it anymore.  Now I have a place to talk as much as I want about my teaching and education, and people can choose to read or not.  It's almost therapeutic to just type and think and make meaning out of what I spend at least 50 hours a week doing.  Already I have gotten a ton of people asking me how I write so much and if I ever sleep.  I kind of smile and laugh because honestly, blogging HELPS me to sleep at night.  Otherwise everything is just running through my brain and I won't be able to fall asleep.  Once I have it on paper, I feel like I can rest :)

There are probably more, but I think 4 is enough for tonight.  And, now that I have them on paper, I feel like I can rest :)

Questions for you:
1. How has blogging changed YOUR life?
2. If you haven't started blogging, WHY NOT? :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

3 month blog-aversary... What I have learned thus far

When I first heard the phrase "lifelong learner" in my teaching credential classes, I don't think I realized how true that would be for me.  I really do feel like I am constantly learning new things, trying new ideas, and modifying the way I do things to fit student needs.  In my five years of teaching thus far, no year has been identical to one in the past.  While certain consistencies definitely carry across the years, every year has brought about changes and tweaks to not only try to make my methods better, but to suit the needs of the learners I have each year.

Today celebrates my 3 month "blog-aversary".  It's hard to believe it was only January 22nd that I delved into the world of blogging and twitter, but it was.  I feel like I have grown so much in these three short months and learned so much about being an effective teacher, especially in the "Flipped Classroom" setting.  The ideas that I have been able to try out and the feedback/conversations I have been able to have with others have been absolutely essential in my professional growth.

So, with that, I would like to do two things in this post:
(1) Reflect back on the last three months and look at some of my "favorite" blog posts (other than my Weekly Reflections, which I think have been essential in my growth as a Flipped Teacher)
(2) Reflect back on the last three months with the most important lessons I feel I have learned

My "favorite" blog posts

  • What does my Flipped Classroom look like? (letter to parents) - This is the first letter that I sent home mid-year explaining the change.  I'm hoping to adjust and modify this to use for next year since I will be starting to flip from Day 1.
  • My Favorite WSQ  and Using the WSQ to deepen student understanding and academic conversations in my Flipped Classroom, as well as my WSQing strategies pagewhen I came up with the idea of the "WSQ" over Winter Break, I really had no idea if it was a good idea :).  I thought I would give it a try and see how it worked.  I had no idea how central and vital it would become to my flipped class and how much the idea would spread to other teachers in all content areas to use a similar tactic in their flipped classes.  I really like how the WSQ has evolved (going from "open summaries" to "guided summaries" with questions, requiring the students to seek out a written answer to their question, starting to have portions of it submitted online so I am ready to support and give feedback at the beginning of class, teaching my students how to have focused conversations about the math and how to discuss problems and misconceptions, etc)
  • The following are posts that show student growth my class.  I still remember these exact days, these exact moments.  These were the days that reminded me that using a Flipped Classroom really is helping my students think deeper and better.  These were the moments that showed me WHY I use a Flipped Classroom. (1) Today my flipped class was... amazing (2) Conversations and Observations - Every Single Student (3) Truly differentiated instruction... (4) Getting students to talk about math... (5) Student-Directed Teaching
  • My Goals for the Flipped Classroom - I set these goals for myself near the beginning of the semester.  So far, I feel like I am reaching most of them.  I am seeing improvement in test scores, improvement in A's/B's and decrease in D's/F's on almost every exam this semester.  I am seeing an increase in homework completion by some students who struggled first semester (there are still those that don't do it regardless).  I am meeting my goal of talking with every student every day, although I can continue to work on trying to spend a little more time with those who need it, because sometimes they get the short end of the stick.
  • 9 reasons why I'm a flipping convert - a great summary of some of the best reasons why I truly believe the flipped classroom is one of the most effective ways to "run" my class.
  • Craziest Hour of My Life... first #flipclass chat - reflections, thoughts, and MORE QUESTIONS! - My very first Twitter Chat.  While this first one was an overwhelming experience, it has become a highlight of my Monday nights and always gets me thinking.  I get to connect with new teachers every week and share ideas, thoughts, struggles, and concerns.  #flipclass has completely changed my attitude towards twitter - I used to think it was a useless site where celebrities posted stupid stuff that nobody should really care about except people read it because they are obsessed.  Now I realize how valuable of a tool it really is when used with a purpose.
  • John Wooden and the Flipped Classroom - I really do want to start a new blog dedicated to John Wooden and his sayings - and how they apply to me as a teacher and a coach.  His maxims, as well as the way he modeled them and lived them out during his long life, have so much impact on the way that I think and the way that I teach and coach.
  • Struggles with Motivation and Efficacy - I still remember writing this post during my 2nd period conference period after a very rough 1st period.  I was so incredibly frustrated and I just had to get it out.  I did not expect the amazing amount of support and encouragement I received on twitter and my blog after writing this post.  While there are still days like this, I am reminded that I am not alone, teenagers are still teenagers, and that me implementing a flipped classroom ideology is a complete and total mind shift for students and it sometimes is really hard to understand.
  • Initial Impressions (Part 1 of 3) - this post gives the reflections from the first official visitors I ever had to my flipped class.  While I was a little nervous to have guests, it was one of the most exciting moments to "show off" what was going on in my classroom.  To see the excitement and the wheels turn in this teacher's head after seeing a flipped class in action was truly rewarding.
  • Critics of the Flipped Classroom - My post "criticizing" critics of the flipped classroom who have never really tried it themselves and who just take the opinions and words of writers and speakers online of what the flipped classroom is.  I was a little nervous in pushing "publish" on this post, not knowing what sort of response I would get.  It has actually become one of my most read posts, right underneath my posts on WSQs.
  • The day without the flip and the two days that followed Back to the Flip and Flipping over my flipped class this week :).  It was a great experience to go back to traditional for a day.  For one, it was nice to mix it up.  But, most importantly, it verified and clarified so much for me about why I flip my class.

The most important lessons I feel I have learned so far...
  1. Every flipped classroom is different, and that is okay.  I have loved being able to share my flipped classroom with everyone and feel honored when someone else finds something useful that works in their classroom as well from my blog.  And, I love finding new ideas from other people's blogs and from twitter.  But, one thing I have found is that there are a lot of ideas that totally work for others that just don't work for me, and that is okay.  The flipped classroom should help to increase student responsibility for their learning as well as engagement with / deeper understanding of the content.  However that plays out in an individual teacher's classroom may be completely different than mine.  I have learned to not get so caught up in finding the "right way" as a whole, but the "best way" for me and my students.  I have also learned that what my flipped class looks like this year may be completely different from how it looks a year from now because I am sure I will change and progress as well. 
  2. Student feedback is vital and important to a successful flipped class.  I want my students to have ownership of their learning, and I want them to feel like it is "our" classroom and not "my" classroom.  I am constantly seeking student feedback and ideas, both formally and informally.  I am willing to try new things and am willing to admit when they are "flops".  Student feedback is essential because it is truly about their learning and what will help them succeed most.  As I have grown closer to my students this year, I have learned to distinguish between what is a "teenage complaint" (and tried to brush those off, especially those expressed to me in anger or frustration) and what is a valid issue or concern that needs to adjusted or changed.
  3. Students need freedom, but they also need accountability.  In a traditional class, students could show up to school, be "present", and "receive" the content.  For some students, this would be enough to pass the tests, pass the class, and move on.  Now that the initial delivery of content is done outside of class, it takes more initiative and responsibility on the part of the student to succeed.  However, when they are held accountable to doing "their part", they are able to truly receive the benefits of the flipped class (which, if you haven't figured out yet, isn't the amazing videos I make [sarcasm intended], but the engaging and active class environment and activities that the flipped classroom frees up time for!) My WSQ chart has really helped with both giving them freedom and accountability.  I never used to have a way to keep tabs on every student and how they were progressing.  If a student was absent, they usually never made the homework up because I never remembered to check it because I never remembered they had been absent in the first place!  Now the students are fully in charge of their own progress.  They are in charge of keeping track of what they have gotten done and when it was completed.  With the WSQ charts come the "Weekly Deadlines" I have set for them.  I feel like my system of "Blue Signatures" (on time) and "Red Signatures" (late) has been working quite well, and provides that little bit of extrinsic motivation our students still need.  I still have not yet figured out the best balance between freedom and accountability for all students, but I feel like this has been a great start.
  4. Relationships with students are so important. Because the flipped classroom gives a lot more ownership and control over to the students, there does need to be a certain amount of buy-in from them that this, although different and weird, will be worth it to them.  Building one-on-one relationships with students helps to aid in having them "buy-in" to the whole idea of a flipped classroom because they know that I am a teacher who cares about them as people (not just students) and who believes in them and their success, even when it is challenging for them.   I know this is an over-used phrase with flipping teachers, but I really do get to "talk with every student in every class every day". I don't know how I used to do it!  I have always had great relationships with my students in the past, but I think it was more of a great relationship with the class as a whole, and certain students who would stand out or who would talk a lot.  Now I am able to have that same relationship with all students, even those shy ones that would normally try to hide in the corner.  Now, when I say this, I definitely still see areas of growth and certain students that I want to try to reach out to a little more, but it is better than in the past.  It is still a challenge to reach out to those shy ones when the loud and vocal students still cry out for your attention.  However, now there is time set aside every day to do that, as long as I am intentional in doing so.

Thank you for being a part of my PLN these last three months.  There are eight weeks left until summer and I can't wait to see what I will get to learn in the next two months!  Then, it will be summertime when I can try to make sense of all this amazing new knowledge and experiences to start flipping from the beginning of a school year!  My summer to-do list related to the flipped classroom is already growing much too rapidly...
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