Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week 5 Reflections

The weeks this year seriously feel like such a blur.  It's like "go, go, go" and come home to see Grayson.  I've been doing a really good job being productive at school during my prep and lunch so I don't have to bring much work home at all (except grading tests).  Hopefully I can keep this up.

Highlights for this week:

1. Starting the use of the "Today in class" sheet to help students set goals and hold them accountable for doing work.  See my post about that here.

2. Back to School night. While the turnout wasn't great (probably 11 parents total from my 107 Math Analysis students, and another 10-11 from my 61 Algebra 1 students), the night went really well.  I talked a little about the transition to Common Core and focused  on the purposes of the assignments students would be doing in my class.  I think having the communication lines open through the weekly parent updates has helped.

3.  Students re-assessing on concepts they failed and finding success!  I have found that students come to me so jaded from the traditional school system.  The "get my points in whatever way possible to keep my GPA up" mentality of years past instead of "let me show you what I've learned" mentality I want from them.  I don't make them retake a whole test if they failed, I want them to reassess on the concepts they did poorly on and show me they've learned.  I don't even require them to reassess on ALL the concepts from a certain test at once.  I just want them making progress towards mastering the learning goals, even if it's one baby step at a time.

4.  Students have their first student-created video due tomorrow, and the ones I've seen so far are great.  My instructions to them have been to fully work out the problem on paper first (written clearly, use colors, step by step), and then use a piece of paper to cover their work and uncover it step by step as they explain verbally what is going on.

Here are some samples (just the first few turned in, varying qualities)

Things to work on:

1. I literally have a few students who are scared to death of me.  They are afraid to communicate with me, they are afraid to ask for help on their blog, etc.  I'm not sure where it stems from and I'm really not sure how to break that mentality.  I know about it because their friends have told me, "Mrs. Kirch, _____ hasn't been doing the blog stuff because he/she doesn't know how and is afraid to ask for help".  Another example: I require students to print their own reassessment templates when they want to retake a test.  This is simply so I don't have to waste a lot of paper printing templates for students who may or may not show up.  I keep a few extras in my drawer for students who simply forgot or who had printer issues (and ask them to replenish what they took in the next couple days).  But, I had 2 students on Friday who literally woke up for their retake, realized they didn't print the template, and so were too afraid to come and retake it because I would be mad at them for not having their template. Seriously?  I had 5 other students who did the same thing, simply were honest with me that they either forgot or couldn't do it, and I gave them one of mine and asked them to replenish my stock by printing their copy for me.  This is definitely "something to work on", but I'm not really sure what to do.


This next week marks the end of the 1st 6 weeks grading period.  Two of my classes are doing great, and the other class still has a LOT of F's... the students are not showing up to reassess on concepts and I have to get to the bottom of WHY.  I think I may try to have some individual meetings with those students in the next 2 days and hopefully they will reassess this Thurs/Fri.  It's not because they aren't capable; they simply did poorly on the first test of the year coming back from summer and haven't taken the time to redo it.  Frustrating for me, but it has to be up to them at some point!

On a final note, I'm getting to the point in my Algebra 1/Course 1 where I feel like I am doing so much against my philosophy. I need to remove much of the instruction from the classroom setting so class time can be more student-focused and I can work with the students who need me the most.  It's just tough with a new curriculum, not even knowing what I will be teaching a month from now, and not having the time to make any videos.  We will see what I decide to do as the year goes on...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Today in class, my plan is to... (my latest brilliant idea :))

So this year I've been struggling with my students using their time wisely and productively.  So, I decided about 7:15 on Tuesday morning to put something together which is now called the "Today in Class" form.

Students come in and get one every day.  At the beginning of the period, they check off what they PLAN on getting done that day with just a SLASH.  I give them guidance in terms of what "on target" students should get done.

We always start class with our WSQ chat activity, which takes about 10-15 minutes of class.  Then, they have 35-40 minutes left of "work time".  Without a plan, some students don't get much done and class can be very unfocused.  I needed to provide a little more structure for them without completely holding their hand and telling them exactly how to spend their time.

Throughout the period, as they work on their assignments, they make the SLASH into an "X" to show they actually completed it.  I can walk around and just glance at the student's sheet to see where they are at and how they are doing that day without needing to interrupt their work or discussions if needed.

At the end of the period they turn them in, and I just skim thru them (2 minutes or less) and see if any stand out to me as a student I need to talk with the next day (either they are way behind or they didn't get much done in class).

So far, we've done it for TWO DAYS.  And, this has been the most productive and focused two days EVER. Seriously.

This is the word doc version (see it here) so the formatting is a little off but you get the diea.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Week 4: Ups and Downs

We had our first test in Math Analysis this week and it was either up or down.  Many students did very well, and many students did very poorly.  As a teacher, I can usually sense that ahead of time... but since one of my goals for the class is that students take responsibility for themselves and learn how to value practice for learning rather than just practice for checking an assignment off a list, sometimes I have to wait until the students experience failure for them to learn.  I can tell them day in and day out how to prepare and to take their assignments seriously, but it doesn't really hit them until they don't do well on an assessment and realize that something needs to change.

So, I am obviously disappointed that not all my students did great, but I think a lesson was learned.  And, since my goal is learning, all students will be able to reassess for 100% credit on the exam.   I think that many of them will begin to work on their habits of "playing school" and checking off assignments just to get credit... and hopefully start to figure out that true learning is what is important.

There is one thing I've done differently this year that I don't think helped this first situation - I am not checking or signing off homework on their WSQ charts at all this year.  They still have them (don't forget you can purchase my WSQ chart templates from my new TpT store here!), and they are supposed to be getting them signed off by a partner in class (still keeping some level of accountability), but I found it to be such a stress and waste of my time to try to get around to sign off every students' chart last year that I chose to not do it.   This means there are students who aren't finishing their practice work.  But, I am hoping (sooner rather than later) that they find out that the practice work is beneficial to their learning and will lead them to success on the test.   We will see how this pans out.

One thing that seems to be working well is my "not prepared" list.  Students who don't do their WSQ before class simply put that day's date on the chart and head over to the side of the classroom to watch the lesson.  They know that if they do it on their own (without me prompting them) they receive NO consequence.  (Unless it becomes a daily habit, then I will discuss with that individual what is going on and talk about potential consequences).  For the most part, the students are doing great at it and it's a stress relief for me.

On a totally random note, Dropbox camera upload sync is amazing.  Students take a picture with the iPod, open the Dropbox app, and BOOM their pictures are on the three class laptops!  Love it!  This will be great once they start making their own videos as well.

So, I actually took pictures this week...but I used the iPods mentioned above.  And synced them to the class laptops... and then cleared out the class Camera Uploads folder at the end of the week, deleting the pics I took as well. Fail. I'll try to get some more this next week :)

Short post, I know.  And, it's not even color coded.  But, it's a weekend and I'm having way too much fun spending time with my husband and amazing smart and cute 3 1/2 month old :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My new TpT store! - WSQ chart templates

After much cajoling from other teachers, I have made editable (.docx) templates of my current WSQ chart structure and put them on my *new* Teachers Pay Teachers page!  

Check the set of 10 WSQ chart templates out here - they are currently on sale for 50% off for this week only!

Thanks for your support!

Week 3: Finally getting started!

This was our first full week of actually learning new content in the flipped classroom.  Routines are slowly being put into place and students are coming along at different paces.

Every day when students come in, I have an agenda for the day that looks something like this.  I edit the HOT questions right before class based on what I saw in the online WSQ.

We also review the WSQ expectations.  They were given to them in detail here, and summarized on this slide:

My big focus for this year is having variety in the WSQ chats.  Here is what we did this week:

Mon - Students had a WPP for this concept, so their WSQ chat was to partner up with someone in class and to go over their problem, work with each other to make sure they solved it correctly.  They then had to post it on their blogs.  Below are links to the MentorMob playlist that they embedded on their blogs.
SAMPLES OF FINISHED WPP'S (I just picked 3 random ones of varying performance) 

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Tues - Another WPP
SAMPLES OF FINISHED WPP'S (I just picked 3 random ones of varying performance) 

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Wed - We had the "Polynomial End Behavior Dance" (I'll have to post a video sometime, but I am still waiting to get it from my student) and then students were given 16 polynomials that they had to categorize, describe the categorization on a sticky note header, and then answer some questions when I came around to them. (Gosh why didn't I take pictures!!).  I'll just say the dance was to Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and it was pretty hilarious.

Thurs - We did a form of "Peer Instruction".  I picked two problems and gave students time to solve the first one.  Then I had them vote on answers A-E (A-D were real answers, E was chosen if they didn't yet have any of the answers.  In two of the classes, 90% of the students got the correct answer to the first one within the time frame.  So, the students who didn't were told to come to the U after the WSQ chat time (which they did and we went over it together).  In the third class, it was still split about half and half so the students who chose the correct answer were told to get out of their seat and go help an "E".  It was awesome!  Students were up and moving around and found someone to help and they were explaining it.  (Again, I should have taken pictures!)
The second problem I purposely chose to be tough and require something I didn't go over explicitly the night before.  I gave the students two minutes and then purposely had them vote.  100% of the students were at answer E, which gave me the opportunity to explain that imaginary and irrational zeroes have to come in conjugate pairs.  Then I gave them a few more minutes to finish the problem and had them vote again.  Students who had it right moved on to the practice work, and students who were still struggling got help on finishing it correctly.
PEER INSTRUCTION PROBLEMS (I chose several in advance and then based on their WSQ responses chose the two - one from each concept - that I knew would be most beneficial to students.

Fri - We did a whole class activity on sketching polynomials based simply on their zeroes/multiplicities and end behavior.  I put up a problem and students worked in groups to draw it.  For the first problem, I purposely left out the end behavior and let students struggle for about a minute until a few raised their hands and told me I needed to give them more information.
Then, students had to create their own 4th degree polynomial by starting with the zeroes and working backwards.  They were guided through the beginning and then in their groups had to work together to discuss and finish figuring it out.
(it's due Tuesday, so only 1 has been turned in so far)
Example 1

On Monday, they are going to do a card chain activity with polynomials.  You can see that activity here.

I am having students submit their HOT questions both on the google form and write it on their SSS.  So, in the morning I skim through and pick out 2-3 questions that are repeated often to decide on what needs to be focused on that day.  Because they have them also written on their SSS, as I walk around that day, I can glance at the questions and make sure we have discussed them and students don't have any further questions.  Many students are still not writing it on their SSS, but I keep emphasizing it so hopefully they will get in the habit soon.

If there are a few questions that stand out, we will go over them as a whole class before beginning the small group WSQ chat.

Their online WSQ form says this:
The part I’m most confused about is... - use this space to write your HOT question. OPTION 1: If there is something you are confused about, phrase it in the form of a question and write it here. OPTION 2: If there is nothing you are confused about, write a good discussion question for class tomorrow and write out a detailed answer to it. OPTION 3: A final option is to write your own example problem from this concept and solve it verbally step by step.

I've asked students to label their question as either "CONFUSION", "DISCUSSION" OR "EXAMPLE", and then I have some automatic color-coding going on so I can quickly and easily see how many of each I have and which questions are really the "confusing" ones I need to focus on.
For students who don't come prepared, I have a roster tacked to the wall called the "not prepared" list.  If students are not prepared, they simply put today's date next to their name and get on a computer.  If they do that without asking, no worries, no consequence.  If they wait until I find out they didn't do it, then there is a consequence.  I have told students as long as it doesn't become a habit, it isn't a problem.  Out of my 107 students, I have one who has been on the list 4 out of the 6 days and another 3 out of the 6 days.  I've had individual conversations with those kids and hopefully they will figure it out soon that it's more beneficial to them to come to class prepared.  We will see how the next week goes.

Many students have figured out they can finish their work and start the next video in class with the iPods if they manage their time well.  Hopefully more and more students will realize this.
In terms of adjusting to the flipped classroom, students are coming along.  The biggest struggle they have is with the technology... not the WSQ part, since they did that over the summer for their review work, but in terms of creating their blog, uploading pictures, creating MentorMob playlists, etc.  For some students, this is overwhelming.  I don't know how I am going to adjust it for next year, but I need to.  50-60% of the students did it without any help beyond my instructions (see and for the instructions they are given).  So, I don't think it's a good use of time to have the whole class go to the computer lab to learn how.  I had a few days after school and mornings where I was available with computers in my room to help, and that put us up to about 80%.  The remaining 20% (approximately) aren't really coming in for help and are complaining and then staying up hours upon hours at night trying to figure it out.  I have tried to be explicitly clear in class that they are NOT to stay up struggling with the technology; if they can't figure it out then wait until the next day to do it together in class, but some students are refusing to do so and continue to stay up hours working on it.  I'm not sure how to alleviate this issue, but I'm still working on it!

I ran into two of my students last year who are now in AP Calc and asked them about the blog stuff.  They agreed that the first couple weeks is really hard but then it gets easy and it's not an issue for the rest of the year.  I was glad to hear that from students who have actually experienced it because that is my perspective; it's just hard to get the current students to understand that.
I have really tried to amp up my Parent Communication this year.  I am sending out a weekly newsletter update.  I don't know how many parents are reading at this point, but at least I am trying to keep them informed.  You can see my parent newsletters so far here.
I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks as students get used to the way things work in my classroom!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Upcoming Webinar: Oct 23rd, 4pm PST

Please join me in an upcoming webinar on the Flipped Classroom, focusing around structuring a flipped class for student success with the WSQ.  Free registration is here.  Register soon, as spots will run out!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Week 2: It all begins...

This was the second week of school, and we have officially now ended the "summer review" and have started the "real" flipped classroom.  Friday was the first day, and overall it was really great.  Here are some reflections:

1. Students were to watch Unit E Concept 1 before class on Friday. We had a review test on Thursday, so they were told this on Wednesday.  I had a feeling many would forget, so I sent out a reminder on Edmodo.  Regardless, out of my 107ish Math Analysis students, I had 65 submit the WSQ.  Some students said they just forgot; others said they weren't really sure what they were supposed to do.

So, what did I do?  Well, right when the students walked in if they did not have their WSQ submitted they were instructed to go off to the side of the classroom and not take a seat in their groups.  This ranged anywhere from 10 kids to 20 kids in my 3 classes.  I began class and went over the WSQ expectations for all the students and just reviewed what they were supposed to have done.  I also went over the technology policies in class (laptops, iPods, personal devices). 

Then, the students who were not prepared completed the WSQ in class, using one of many devices available to them.  They were told that today's date (9/6) would be listed next to their name on the "Unprepared Roster" (still coming up with a good name for it, thinking something to do with Cheesebucket :)).  If it only happens every so often, no biggie, just come in and take care of it.  If it continually happens where they are behind, then there will be parent phone calls and other consequences.

I will keep reminding my students, "You can work ahead, but you can't fall behind"

2. I spent the rest of the period focusing on the students who came prepared.  They got in (modified) groups and had their first WSQ chat.  We did a short class review of the key vocabulary, and then I chose 4 HOT questions that the students came up with to go over with the class.  I think that is what I'm going to do first this year.  Then, they got into their activity today.  My goal this year is to really come up with different activities for them to do during WSQ chat time.  Today, they had to write their own quadratic equation to complete the square and put in graphable form, identifying all key parts (sorry if you're not a math person and I totally lost you!).  This is something they are going to be posting on their blog as a "Student Problem".  So, they worked with one another, each coming up with their own problem but checking with each other.  Once that was complete, they could move on to the regular practice and other activities for that day.

3. Speaking of HOT questions, I was SO impressed with my students for the first submission.  I would say 80% of them phrased their response in the form of a question and 100% of them ask a question (rather than saying "I understood everything").  I'm making them submit the question on the google form but also write it in their SSS packets on the corresponding concept's page.  So, I can quickly skim through the questions before class to pick out 2-4 ones that seem to be repeated over and over again... then, as I walk around and work with students, I can glance at the question they have written down and make sure they got it answered. Hopefully the good questions will continue!

Other randomness:
1. I had one student ask me if she could work ahead.  I said, "Of Course!" Later, I followed up with her and she said that she is super busy some nights with Marching Band practice and it would be nice to not have to do homework that night.  I explained that she can get it done as early as she wants, and that some busy students would do all the WSQs for the week on the weekend and have nothing to do during the week.  She thought that was awesome! :)

2. I FINALLY figured out how to make the iPods more useful.  Last year I could not figure out for the life of me how to get pics and vids off of the iPods in an efficient manner.  YouTube upload was blocked, I couldn't email pictures from the iPods because of the way they were configured... it was annoying.  Well, last week I came up with the brilliant idea of having a class dropbox account installed on the class laptops, and having every iPod sync with that dropbox account.  How did I not think of this before?  Now, when any student takes a pic or vid on any of the 14 iPods, it syncs automatically to the three class laptops and they can get the file to put straight onto their blog.  Woo hoo!

I'm looking forward to a full week of flipping coming up and hope to see improvement in the student's completion of the WSQs, now that they know what to expect, and continued goodness in the questioning and focus in class time!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Week 1: Getting Started!

Whew!  The first week of school is in the books, which means another summer with my baby boy is that much closer!  It's been a very rough transition being back to work, but I am very thankful that my husband works from home and is able to be the primary caretaker for Grayson.  He does such a wonderful job, and it is great to be able to Skype with them every day during lunch.

As of right now, I am only "flipping" my Math Analysis classes.  The "Algebra 1" class I am teaching (which is in quotes because it's not really Algebra 1 anymore, and I only have the curriculum for the next few weeks so I can't really plan ahead or see the big picture of things) is just too new and I am still trying to figure everything out.  I will say though, after four days of "traditional" teaching - I am SICK of it!  How did I do this for FOUR years before beginning to flip?  I don't feel like I am meeting the needs of all learners.  Even after four days, I already know who the top kids are and can already see them getting bored and frustrated.  I can tell who my really low students are but I don't have time to work with them one on one in class anymore because I have to deliver instruction to the whole class.  The students are not being held accountable for their individual work, and I can see many students just trying to hide behind the others, hoping they can just get by without having to do much work or be noticed.

I am trying a lot of new activities with them, and really trying to make this cookie cutter curriculum work for me, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't a struggle.  I need to find a way to get some of this direct instruction out of the group learning space so I can better differentiate during class time.  The other hurdle I'm trying to overcome is that we have absolutely no resources for practice activities - no textbook, no website, no nothing.  So, we have to come up with it all on our own.  Thankfully, I have a great colleague I am working with this year and we are meeting several times a week and splitting up the workload.  But still, it would be nice to have some resources!!  At least what we are making this year will (hopefully) be able to be used next year.  It's just not what I was hoping my first year teaching as a mom would turn out to be...

Ok, so let's talk about Math Analysis.  The "real" class doesn't start until this coming Friday, since we do some Algebra 2 review and assessments the first week and a half.  But, I'm using this time for "teaching and training" of what the flipped classroom is about, why we are doing it, and learning to work in their groups and collaborate.  I'm really trying to get my students to realize that a flipped classroom is not about watching video tutorials, but about the fact that class time is so much more active, engaging, and enjoyable because they don't have to listen to me the whole time, and that they can receive individual support and work at their own pace.  So far, I feel like it's coming across okay.  We will see after a couple of weeks how they adjust.  Here's what they said in a survey they took the first night of school:

Students are getting their blogs set up this weekend and posting their first WPPs using MentorMob.  I put together several instructional sites for them and basically told them to set it up and if they had trouble to ask for help.  I did NOT spend more than 5 minutes of class time going over instructions.  I figured that more than half the students could probably do it on their own no problem, another 25% could probably do it if they actually read, and the last 25% would need some help... but only after trying themselves.  So far, this has proven to be accurate.

Check out the resources below: - General tips/tricks/FAQ about student blogs in my class - Specific Setup instructions and rules/policies regarding blogging - details for the whole year

I am going to really try and focus on "You can work ahead, but you can't fall behind" this year. I don't want students staying up until 3am stressing because they didn't do a WSQ because they were up studying for APUSH all night.  I want them to take responsibility and plan ahead with their crazy schedules, but also have flexibility that comes with that responsibility.  I know students will have a hard time managing this at first but I hope that it will get better with time.

We shall see how this next week goes! I'm glad it's another 4-dayer.  Having one more day at home with Grayson has been absolutely marvelous :)
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