Saturday, October 26, 2013

Week 9 reflections - Proud of my students

Every week is just flying by - are we seriously 1/4 of the way through the school year already?

This was a crazy week; I took Wednesday off to present two webinars, which split the week nicely in half.  It was also really nice to have more time to spend with Grayson in the middle of the week.

If you want to check out the archives for both free webinars, please see the following links:
  • Webinar:  "Flipping with Kirch".  Archive here.
  • Webinar:  Flipped Learning and the Common Core State Standards: Flipping the Math Classroom.  Archive here 
I am really happy with the progress I am seeing in my Math Analysis class.  Students took their Unit H Test this week and did super well.   Here are the results from 104 of my 106 students.

Something new I am doing this year is keeping track of student mastery on unit tests with a "Green and Yellow" chart.  Green means they have either an A or a B on the test, Yellow means they have a C.  It's nice to just have around so I can easily talk to students daily who need to be studying to re-assess on a certain unit.  I tell them that by the end of the semester, they have to have green or yellow for everything, so it's a modified version of mastery.  The only difference is they still move on with the class, but have to be working back on reviewing and studying old material to learn it and re-assess.

Students like it because they can check easily without having to go online the gradebook which units they need to go back to.  It's interesting also to have a quick comparison between classes (can you tell which class is my top class?).  I also like to make sure to congratulate students who got their first "green" of the semester, or even their first "yellow" for some of them.

Speaking of congratulating students, I also have "Club 95", which is for students who get a 95% or higher on any unit test (including reassessments).  They get a certificate that goes on the wall, and just gets stapled on top of each other as they gather more through the year.  I had a student who got her first Club 95 this week and she cried... it was seriously so awesome!  

I also have a student who has gone from a 40% to a 64% (almost passing - 65% is passing for us) in just about 2-3 weeks of focused work getting her missing work in and re-assessing on tests.  I am so darn proud of her!

One more thing about the green and yellow charts above.  Units A-D were the units students covered over the summer as "let's review Algebra 2 to get you ready".  They had about a week of review and then took a test.  Unit E was the first "flipped" unit of the year.  You can see that students struggled on Unit E, but check out how F,G, and H have been.  I really feel like a lot of that is due to them being adjusted to the flipped classroom and to the expectations and flow of the class.  Far from perfect, that's for sure, but it's a neat thing to see!


My students' blogs are coming along quite well, and I am really happy with their Student Problems and Student Videos.  They have to come up with their own problems given specific requirements.  Here are some recent ones, for you math teachers out there (you can see all the instructions at

  • Solving logs given approximations - Write a logarithmic expression that can be expanded using all three properties (product, power, quotient) of logs (they have to understand how using those properties comes about and what there needs to be in order to use them)
  • Graphing exponential equations - Write and graph an exponential equation that does NOT have an x-intercept (they have to understand how to appropriately place the asymptote and how to choose the value of "a" in the equation to make this happen)
  • Graphing logarithmic equations - Write and graph a log equation that has BOTH an x- and y-intercept. (they have to understand the asymptote of a log graph and where to place it so the graph touches both axes)
Please check out my students' blogs, and feel free to comment on their posts!  We haven't done much with commenting this year, but I'm sure they'd love to get comments!


Hmmm not much else this week.  It was Homecoming Week so Friday we had an assembly and it was just a catchup day.  Monday we reviewed, Tuesday we took the test, Wednesday I was out (but class continued on like normal without me!!! I <3 Flipped Class!), Thursday was really our only normal day, we did some Peer Instruction on exponential graphs and their parts, and then just worked on practicing graphing.

Next week we will finish Unit I and the students have Friday off (day after Halloween, go figure!) while teachers have a half-day PD.

Looking forward to another great week!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week 8 - I love Peer Instruction!

Seriously, I do!  It really has made the WSQ chat time of class so much more valuable and focused than anything I've done in years past.  (I posted about it a few weeks ago here).  The students really seem to enjoy it as well, and find it very beneficial.

One thing I tried out this week (we did Peer Instruction on Thursday and Friday this week) was purposely picking problems that went one step beyond what I taught on the video.  This helped to challenge every student and provided for some great conversation both as a class and in groups.

I also feel it provides a little bit of that teacher-instruction that some of my students are still craving as I'm weaning them off the traditional classroom.  (Even though in peer instruction, I am really not doing any instruction myself, I'm simply putting the problem on the screen, timing them, and asking for votes... but for some reason just having me lead the activity makes them feel like "old times")  Keep them happy = they work harder for you!

When I put a problem up on the screen, I always give between 2-3 minutes for students to answer them individually.  When I ask for answers, there are several options, and what I do with each option.  The second part of this peer instruction time takes another 2-4 minutes, depending on the problem.
  • All the students (or all but 2-3) get it right - I tell the students who still don't quite get it to put a * by it, and when the WSQ chat is over they will come to the U and I will go over it with them.
  • 10 or so kids don't get it right - We review the problem orally as a class, which provides those kids a little more time to finish (sometimes they don't have it right because they need more time), and gives them that hint they need.  If they still don't quite get it, they will come to the U after the WSQ chat time.
  • 1/2 the class doesn't get it right - All the students who get it right stand up, and go help somebody who is sitting.  Once that student understands, they also stand up and go find somebody to help.  Once everyone, or all but 2-3 students, are standing, I ask them to return to their seats. Same as before, if a student still doesn't quite get it, they are asked to put a * and come to the U.
  • Only 6-10 kids get it right - The students who got it right stand up and each of them go to a table or 1/2 of a table and work with a small group of students.  Once students get the right answer, they stand up and join in on the helping.
  • Nobody gets it right - I begin the problem on the board and clarify some misunderstandings or misconceptions that I sense they are having.  I don't solve it all the way, but give them another minute or two after I've done the first few steps.  We then "vote" again and see where we are at.

  • I did have a student who wanted to try the "flipped" "flipped classroom".  Meaning, because of her schedule, she wanted to watch the videos in class and do the practice at home.  I was more than willing to have her try it out if she thought it would help.  She did for a couple of days and then I noticed her working back with the group.  She said that she found it to actually be more time consuming and would rather do it the "real" flipped classroom way.  I'm glad she had the opportunity to experience that, sometimes I think our students need to experience both ways so they can see the benefits of the flipped classroom.
  • I took one of my class periods to the Mac Lab this week to do some guided instruction on watching videos.  Yes, we are over 2 months into the school year, but this class period still seems to be struggling.  I have half the class with A's and B's, and the other half with D's and F's.  Never had a Math Analysis class like this before, but I needed to find a way to help support them.  After a conversation with our principal, I thought a day in the lab might help them with some of their struggles.  Thankfully, Wednesday was the PSAT day and a "catchup" day in class so they didn't actually miss out on a day of something new.
  • I projected the video on the big screen and had all the students open up the Sophia tutorial and WSQ form on their computer.  We talked about a few things:
    • Be "FIT" when watching videos (see my FAQ page for details on that)
    • Preview the WSQ questions before watching the video.  The guiding questions I choose are supposed to be the "Big Idea" behind the lesson.  I was greatly surprised to find only about 5 of my 36 students actually look at the questions before watching, which means they spend a great deal of time after the video trying to think back through what they learned and don't watch with a purpose.
    • With that, answering the questions/writing the summary throughout watching the lesson as they pull together key ideas and see the "Big Idea"
    • How to appropriately pause, rewind, and take notes.  I have structured times for them to pause, "Just Pause It" comes on, but there are also times when a big callout comes on the screen, or when I say a key phrase from one of the guiding WSQ questions... again, I was surprised to find so many of my students did not actively pay attention or pause during those times.
    • How to attempt the secret questions.  The WSQ we did together had two parts, so we watch the first part together, and then they watched the second part on their own computers.  In between, they were to attempt one of the secret questions.  I was surprised to find a student working on the first secret question TWENTY  MINUTES after we ended the video!!  I reminded the students that the secret questions were to measure their progress and let them know what sort of questions they needed to ask the next day.  If they don't understand it, they are to write how far they got, where they got stuck, etc (NOT "IDK" THOUGH!!).  Then, they are to MOVE ON!  Again, I was surprised that even though I've mentioned this many times, students were making their lives harder by  not following my instructions.
  • Students responded well to the activity.  Here is what they said:
    • The lab idea was awesome but I doubt we will be doing that often. I still liked doing my homework there, I didn't need the extra help but I'm sure the other kids appreciated it.
    • Hello Mrs. Kirch :) Today went good. I liked being in the computer lab and it was beneficial because I saw if the way I watched the wsq's was correct or not.
    • Hi, Mrs. Kirch. I think today's class was actually very helpful. Before, i would just watch the videos without knowing what the summary questions were. So, i would often have to refer back to the videos while doing my summary questions. This will save me some time. :) Also, I think being in the computer lab is good every now and then because we can go over the material together.
    • I liked it! It felt really productive, and it helped me notice the "important" things in the videos the first time watching them.
    • i thought today's class was pretty decent but i still prefer to going at my pace (sorry children) in class. Being in the computer lab once in a while is fine though to get people caught up (???) in how to understand WSQ's and how to watch your videos. 
  • I did find it interesting that two students directly told me in person that they liked the lab activity better because they like it when I teach them myself in person.  I was really confused because I purposely DID NOT do any teaching beyond the video that day.  I was just there to pause it, remind them to write things down, rewind the video, and model good viewing habits for them.  But somehow, just my presence in the room seems to make it feel different for some students. I talked about that with them, and told them that when they are watching it on their own, they just need to act like I am there with them in the room telling them when to pause it and think about things.  I'm not sure what else to say though...
  • Since the PSAT took all the juniors outside of class, my 1st period class had ten students (seniors and sophomores).  They just had a work day, and then I chatted with them for about 10 minutes about how the class is going.  I mainly asked them the big question: "Am I asking too much of you?  Am I making this class too difficult for you?".  That is the complaint I hear the most because I require the students to do concept quizzes, blog posts, use technology, etc - all things the other Math Analysis classes don't have to do.  But, I do them because I feel that they help students to learn and master the material, and to go deeper with it in terms of understanding the content and seeing the connections among the material throughout the year.
  • The answer that those students overwhelmingly had was that yes, my class is tough - but it helps them to learn and they've gotten used to it now.  That was encouraging to hear on my end :)
  • I asked them what they most time consuming part was, and they said it was typing up the WSQ after watching the lesson.  This led me to talk about guided summaries vs. open summaries and why I made the change to mostly guided summaries.  They agreed that the guided summaries help them to focus on what the important ideas are.
  • One change I made based on that conversation was for their blog posts, they usually have to write 2 paragraphs - "What is this problem about" and "What is the trickiest part of this problem?".  I took away the first paragraph because they basically answer that question in the course of solving the problem on video or in their picture worked out step by step, so it was just one extra task for them to do.  I figure, if it's not hugely important to me and it relieves a little stress on their side, I don't mind modifying or adjusting it.

  • Reflection and feedback from this week (I send out this weekly survey, and get about 4-5 responses a week)
    • I am now more used to the flipped classroom and not as frustrated as I was in the beginning of the year.
    • It's better, but I'm still bad at the material even when I give my effort. It gets frustrating, but it's definitely easier to get used to even though I tend to fall behind in retaining all the concepts.
    • The Mac room. It was mostly simply because most of us had already been finished with one of the concepts and as a student I know most people don't like watching educational videos at home but correct me if I'm wrong. It was interesting and a good day. I just love it when a teacher just explains everything to us orally and as a group like a regular class would.
    • Thank you Mrs. Kirch for all the patience and understanding you demonstrate towards us cheesebuckets. I think this kind of classroom and atmosphere is just what I needed this year.  
    • Material is extremely easy for me and I easily learn it. The computer lab activity helped me greatly by allowing me more fun time at my house. 
    • On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say 7. The peer learning? I think it's called helps me best because it provides that one-on-one teaching and if you don't understand how to work out a problem, there are usually several others who also don't understand it and it isn't as embarrassing to admit. And then the U sessions right after if you still don't completely understand are very helpful. 
    • It's still hard for me, but I like doing the WSQ chats because I know on the spot what I'm doing wrong or right

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 7 - students seem to be adjusted; good results continuing!

This was an insane but really good week.  

This was the first full unit after my "integrity" speech with my Math Analysis students, and I continually tried to emphasize "Do the work to learn and master the material, not to get the signature and the points."  I think it went fairly well.  I'm obviously concerned that students won't be able to self-evaluate very well at this point and will end up doing poorly on the test.  But, I think that lesson is best learned through experience.

They did have another test this week (Unit G) and did AMAZING!  See pie charts of my class results here.  It was a pretty tough test on analyzing the parts of rational functions, but students all said they thought it was easier than they expected because of the practice they did.

Looking at how my students have been performing this year, the last two units (F and G) have been VERY good. Units A-D were review units that they did over the summer, and E was our first "real" unit.  I chatted with one of my classes about it and they made a conjecture that F and G have been better because they were more adjusted to the flipped classroom at that point.  E was tough because it was the first real unit and they were still trying to figure out what to expect in my class.  Hopefully that conjecture is true and it will continue!


On Wednesday I had the privilege of presenting at Chapman University in one of their Teacher Ed classes about Flipped Learning.  It was awesome to see so many passionate and excited teachers with so many great questions about the flipped classroom and its implementation.


Speaking of presentations, I've got a lot coming up!  Please feel free to sign up and join me (both are FREE!):

I wrote in a previous post about my explorations with Peer Instruction as a part of my WSQ chats (thanks to Troy Faulkner for commenting about his recent appearance on Jon Bergmann's podcast "The Flip Side" talking about Peer Instruction, find it here!).  I also tried a modified version of what I described on Friday.  Instead of doing it whole-class, each student was given a half-sheet of paper with 7 problems on it (w/ multiple choice answers).  They were given 2 minutes to solve them all (they were quick and easy log problems).  At the end of the two minutes, they all had to put their pencils down.  I had each group choose a group leader, whose basic role was to lead the group in going over the answers and then explaining the right answers to anyone who did not get it right.  I then went around and checked their "scores" and checked in with any student who didn't get 7/7.  I thought it was a nice change to the whole-class peer instruction method I've been using.

I came up with a tentative could-be inquiry activity for using the properties of logs to develop the properties for expanding and condensing logs.  It's too late to use as an inquiry this year (students are watching the video this weekend going over the laws), but I'm going to use it as a WSQ chat activity on Monday instead.  You can see the worksheet I made here.  We'll see how it goes.  I want students to see that using the properties they already know (converting from logarithmic to exponential form, change of base formula, etc) they can actual derive the product, quotient, and power properties used in expanding and condensing.


I've talked over my ideas for flipping my "Course 1" (algebra 1) Common Core course with another teacher and think I have some better ideas for what I want to do.  Now I just have to find the time to record the videos!  Basically, I want to take any of the mini direct instruction lessons that are needed and put those on videos for students to watch during class time on our iPods or laptops.  I have enough devices for students to do this in partners (which I would pick for them, of course).  Then, instead of spending 15-25 minutes going over the instructions, directions, basics, etc, students could watch a 5 minute video which they could speed up or slow down to meet their needs.  I just feel like it is not effective at all standing up front delivering that instruction, even though I have smaller classes this year (35 and 28, respectively).  It goes against everything in my teaching philosophy.  However, there is still some instruction needed so I have to find a better way.  I will definitely blog as I am able to get started with it, which I really hope is soon...


Some student comments from this week's reflection and feedback survey:
  • The year so far is going great and I have adapted well to the flipped classroom. I even think I like it better than a traditional classroom.
  • It is starting to get easier for me, know that I have gotten use to the flipped classroom.
  • The year in the beginning was hard because I wasn't used to the flipped classroom but since I now have adjusted it really does help. 
  • The best part of the week was being able to work on the assignments in class and being able to not only ask others for help, but give them help and answering their questions because it helps both of us. 
  • My favorite part was taking the test and knowing that I was prepared for it. 
  • The best part of the week was learning the chants for unit G which really helped for the test.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My method of using "Peer Instruction" for my WSQ chats

As I've blogged about several times before, my focus this year is on having different activities for the students to participate for the discussion part of the WSQ chat.  The old "discuss your summary questions" or "discuss your notes" just wasn't cutting it anymore.  I found my students needed some sort of objective and goal that they could be held accountable for and show proof of their participation and focus.

So, I decided to try out a form of Peer Instruction after learning about it on the #flipcon13 virtual conference.

Here is what I do:

1.  Choose a problem (or problems, usually 2-3 max since this is just a first 10-15 minute of class activity) that assesses a key concept from the previous night's lesson.  I do this on Kuta Software so I can have multiple choice answers.  I usually have several to choose from and then based on the WSQ responses the night before will pick a few that address some misconceptions.

2. Put JUST the problem on the screen and give the students a time limit (usually 2-3 minutes) to solve the problem individually.

3. Uncover the multiple choice answers and give the students about 30 more seconds to decide on an answer.  If their answer is not up there, they are to choose "E".

4. Take a class vote for each answer. I call out the answers and students raise their hands for A,B,C,D or E.

5. The next step depends on how the class voted.

a) If all but 2-3 students got the correct answer, those students are instructed to put a ** by their problem and after the Peer Instruction they will come to the Small Group U in my class and go over it with me.

b) If at least 10 students got the wrong answer or chose "E" (usually it's "E"), I have all the students who got the correct answer STAND  UP and find someone who is SITTING DOWN to help and explain the problem to.  Once that person understands and figures it out, they STAND UP as well and see if there is anyone else sitting down.  This continues for about 1-3 minutes or until everyone is standing.

6.  Students go back to their seats and we do the next problem.

So far I am really happy with how this is going in one of my classes and pretty happy as it's improving in my other two classes.  I love to see students helping their peers and explaining the problem, and it holds every student accountable for attempting the problem on their own and committing to an answer first.  I think it's a great self-evaluation tool for students to understand where they are at and a great tool for me to quickly see who is struggling.

I also love the collaboration that happens and the excitement of "talking about math" that occurs once we get to step 5b.  Everyone is actively engaged in either explaining the problem or in finding help for the problem.

I could see myself using this as a longer part of class period for some lessons; instead of students working on their PQ work by themselves or in groups at their own pace, they would work thru them in a peer instruction manner.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Week 6 Reflection

Week 6. I can hardly remember the last 6 days!  Sleep deprivation is not so good on the brain - how do our students do it?  My body is so well trained that no matter how exhausted I am, I still wake up between 4:45 and 5am, even on the weekends.  Oh, for a good night's sleep!

Things are going well.  The "Today in Class" that I started 2 weeks ago is still going well. I didn't monitor it as well this week since we started a crazy unit, but it is still a good accountability tool.

We had an "integrity check" on Tuesday for their Unit F WSQ charts.  They took their test on Tuesday, which by the way they did AMAZING on... out of 107 students I only had 7 (? I think) fail.  Most students got A's and B's, and it was a pretty tough test, in my opinion.  Anyways, I am having students peer sign off their WSQ charts this year.  That way I don't waste my time signing charts - I focus on actually helping them.  It also gives them more responsibility for managing their work and their time.  Well, as I suspected (but I let it go on for the whole unit), students were lying and just signing off WSQ charts whether or not the work was completed.  They weren't showing each other their work, they were just hurriedly signing off multiple boxes at once to "get the points".  Well, after I ripped up their charts in front of them and assigned all of them after school detention (yes, it was crazy, but 90 of the 107 showed up; 9 students were excused because I checked through their work and they were actually honest), we had a chat about integrity, but also the purpose of their work.  My students are so used to doing the work to get points and to avoid consequence.  I want them to realize that the work I give them is for their own good and for their practice.  I told them that if they don't need to do all the practice I assign, that is fine... but they better pass the test!  I gave them an incentive - if they don't complete all the "assigned work" but still get an 85% or higher on the unit test, they will receive that % in place of their "assignment completion" score in the gradebook.  Practice work is only worth 5% in the gradebook anyways - basically nothing - but if a student doesn't finish the assignments because they don't need to, I don't want them wasting their time doing work just to get it done and get the points.  Once they feel they've mastered it, move on!  We will see how that goes...
The big point of that discussion was why I have them peer sign off, why they are assigned the work, and the purpose of the work.  And...the big lesson was don't sign something off if it's not complete - that's not living with integrity.

A few quotes from my current students on their weekly opportunity to give me feedback and reflect:

  • The best part of the week was class bonding time when everyone had to stand up and put their arms up like a robot. I love to see how Mrs. Kirch is always so busy and always trying to be their for her students in EVERY single class. I love the way how she treats us and lets us get started on our class work very early and when you're done with that. Everything else shouldn't be as hard.
  • I love this class, although i not much of a singer/ dancer the songs and activities help me remember keys points in the concepts, and I find this very helpful.
  • The best part of this week was working in our groups helping each other out.
  • Class time-The work is generally easy and I don't necessarily feel rushed when working
  • My grade shot up after a reassessment.
  • Learning in how to make a video and uploading it to your blog
  • favorite part was the "today in class..." work sheets, it keeps me organized and sets a goal for the day 
  • to keep up the good work mrs. kirch! i am transitioning well in mrs kirch's class
  • I am getting into the motion of how a flipped classroom works, however the blogs and videos are confusing and I also cannot keep up with all the acronyms that are used in the classroom.
  • Hmm your doing a better job at explaining problems with the class, the year is starting to take it course and by that I mean that I'm finally getting used to my classes and the flipped classroom is getting more comfortable the more I use it
  • Its hard im not going to lie especially when im used to just being given the work. I still honestly would love to have a regular classroom but I like the flexibility with all my other classes. Thanks for helping me adjust. with time it will get easier.
  • Its a lot different than what I am normally accustomed to, I may struggle a bit throughout the year but I will try to move along with the class as best as I can. The flipped classroom is way different but I am slowly getting used to it, as well as all of the other technology that comes with the class.

On the other end of the spectrum, I'm getting closer to an idea of how I can implement flipped learning in my Algebra 1/Course 1 Common Core course.  I'm too exhausted to explain now, but I'll blog about it as I try it!
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