Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Revisited: My Favorite WSQ

Over the next year, I'll be revisiting some of my favorite (and most popular) posts from the last (almost) 5 years of blogging.  I hope to add extra insight and reflection to these posts from my experiences both in my classroom and in training and coaching other teachers with flipped learning.  Any changes from the original post are changed to blue font.

My Favorite WSQ was originally published on January 23, 2012. 

The WSQ method has been the most impactful strategy in my flipped classroom experience.  It gives some structure and a consistent routine for both teachers and students to thrive in what is most likely a new learning environment.  In addition, I believe it answers what I have come to believe are the "5 Questions Every Flipped Classroom Teacher Must Answer".  While there is definitely more than one way to answer these questions, I have found that the WSQ method addresses all of these questions and allows you to have all 5 X's in the image below.

If you are interested in learning more about the WSQ strategy, I recommend that you check out my book, Flipping with Kirch: The Ups and Downs from Inside my Flipped Classroom, which was released in May of 2016.
  • 1.      How will you organize your content and materials in a way that is easy for students to access and follow?
  • 2.      How will you hold students accountable for actually watching and engaging with the video content?
  • 3.      How will you structure in processing time for your students to make sense of the material and internalize it?
  • 4.      How will you gather feedback from your students before they come to class, so you can effectively structure class time to meet their needs?
  • 5.      How will you facilitate discussion, collaboration, and higher-order thinking among students during class time?

See original Google Drawing at

~Original Post Below~ 
Any changes from the original post are changed to blue font.

A "WSQ" (pronounced wisk) in my class is what we call "homework" in my flipped classroom. It stands for this:

W - Watch
Students must watch the video for the assigned lesson and take notes in their SSS packets (this stands for "Student Success Sheets" and I have them for each unit/chapter; see more info on my FAQ page here) I have created for them. I check to see that these notes are complete and thorough and that everything I wrote down the students have. Because they can pause and rewind, there is no exception for these notes not being well done and complete. I don't spend class time specifically checking notes - I look at them while the students are working and I'm visiting with each group.  So, they know the notes will be checked at some point, but I'm not going to waste 5-10 minutes of class time checking them.

Some of my very high achieving students have asked "Do I have to watch the video" and under certain circumstances, I say "no", but you still have to complete the notes on the SSS packet. A lot of times these students know how to figure out the problems without my explanation and I have no problem with them completing the notes that way. They have to check their SSS page versus the finished SSS page on Edmodo to make sure their notation and answers are correct. I rarely had a lot of students do this - only the top few each year would consider it. 

A few issues I am already noticing with this is that there are still important things that I say about the concepts that students miss if they don't watch the video. This includes details about how/why we do something, details about notation, etc. Some thoughts that have come to my mind to alleviate this is to divide the videos into sections (whether this becomes separate videos or just a heading on the video). The first portion of the video must be watched by all students of all levels and will cover the basics, vocabulary, notation, purpose, etc. Then, the second half will cover the few examples I go over for the students before their first class day. I'll still have to think about this. Thoughts? Update: As time went on, this is what I did. I normally had an intro to the concept and all examples were worked out on separate videos.  Sometimes there was one example video, other times there were 2 - an "easy" examples video and a "medium" examples video.  "Hard" problems were almost always reserved for class time where there was collaboration and immediate support. 

For my Algebra 1 students, I already have been making an additional "part 2" of most videos that has even more extra examples than in the main video for students to watch or go back to later. I like that setup because the main video covers 2-3 examples, depending on the length of the problem. However, in my SSS packet I have at least twice as many examples for students to work through. I still want those to be explained to the students; I figure the more the better! Then they have no excuses! Having the extra examples was valuable.  When students need additional practice or review, they are right there for them.  When I need to fresh example to help explain something, I don't have to go find one.  I definitely recommend this!  There is also the underlying thought in the back of students' heads of "Gosh, I'm glad the video didn't cover ALL these examples!"  They are grateful that it is shorter.

S - Summary
Students have to write a summary of what they watched in the video. This is supposed to be completed immediately after watching to pretty much judge "Did you understand what you just watched?" I tell the students that their summary tells me if they understood the video or not. If I can't make sense of their summary, then they probably didn't understand it well enough because they couldn't verbalize it. I tell them that if they can't summarize it, they need to re-watch it because they didn't get it. If you have read other posts on this blog, you know that this evolved to consist of lots of types of summaries - full summaries, guided summaries, guided summaries with sentence frames, etc.  Whatever scaffolds my students needed to help learn how to effectively summarize and show their ability to process the video content, that's what I found a way to do.  You can learn more details of all the ways to approach the "S" part of the WSQ in  Flipping with Kirch: The Ups and Downs from Inside my Flipped Classroom,

In class, we talk about the summaries. Since I just started this, we are doing this mostly as a whole-class activity to train the students on what I expect to see. We put a "WSQ" on the screen and read through it. Then, I have all the students vote if they think it was a "Great" "Good" or "Bad" summary of what we watched. Yes, I have had all three levels of summaries and students have realized that if their summary is bad we will say so and talk about it. I ask the student whose notebook is on the screen what they would vote for themselves and then we talk as a class or in their small groups about what is missing, or what pieces that are in there are the REALLY IMPORTANT pieces that should definitely be included. I have students look at their individual WSQ's, give themselves a grade, and add anything they were missing. This was a hugely important "training" piece to what I now called "WSQ Chats".  It's just one of about 20 methods I describe in Flipping with Kirch: The Ups and Downs from Inside my Flipped Classroom,  The whole-class norming takes up more class time than you may prefer, but as I always tell teachers when I'm training them - better to spend a lot of time those first few weeks setting the bar high for what you expect than to spend the entire year frustrated that students continually are falling short of your hopes.

My ultimate goal is that we only have to do the whole-class "norming" process once a week or even once a unit. The rest of the time, the students will be sharing and discussing their summaries in their small "WSQ groups" of four students. That way every student has a chance to talk every day and they are all held more accountable. I want students to be okay talking about what is both good and bad about their summary and realizing what important pieces need to be added. Reflecting back now about 4.5 years later, I never really did this past the beginning of the year and I think it would have been helpful to do it once a month or once a unit.

In my Algebra 1 class, I actually wrote an entire summary with the class all the way through one day. It was a pretty complex lesson on Graphing Systems of Linear Inequalities and I wasn't really happy with the WSQ that was put on the screen. I realized that my students might need a better model of what I am truly looking for, rather than always calling their summaries "bad" or "good minus" (I let them grade themselves as Great +, Great, Great -, Good +, Good, Good -, Bad +, Bad, or Bad -). I think it was one of the most beneficial times for my students to realize what a good and complete and DETAILED summary should look like. That also may be something I need to model once a unit or so to get my students back on track.

Most of all, the purpose of the summary is to get my students Thinking & Writing (at home), and Reading, Speaking, and Listening (at school) - it all comes down to TWRLS... we need to support our students' language development at all grade levels and in all subjects.

Q - Question
At the end of the WSQ, all students must ask a question. The first few days I did this, I had a lot of students respond with "I don't have any questions". They quickly learned that is not an acceptable answer. The question must be related to the content and can be:

(1) A specific question about an example that was worked out and where they got stuck or confused
(2) A general question about the concept and something that was said or explained
or (most of the time)
(3) A question that could be asked and expected to be answered after watching the video. This may be a question you think your classmates might have, or just a good question you think I (the teacher) would ask and expect you to know.

I've streamlined this to be "Ask a Question that is either a Confusion, Clarification, Discussion, or Example".  

In class, we look at a few questions as a group, and I always ask the writer "Is this a question you know the answer to or don't know the answer to?". Then, I have the students answer the question in their small groups and then we share out to the class.

The purpose of this is two-fold:
(1) I want my students comfortable asking and answering questions of each other, especially when they are confused.
(2) I just want my students asking questions, period! That is where discussion and deeper thought come from!

Every day, students ask their questions in their groups of four before getting to work on the problem set. That way, students who have a question they DON'T know the answer to can get it answered, and students who asked a question they already know can see if their group members also know it. I am there to help if the group gets stuck on answering a question.

I found lots of other strategies in working with questions as time went on since this original post.  I'm sure I'll have a repost explaining that soon ;).  

With my Math Analysis Honors students, we go a step further... I challenge them to make their questions "HOT" and move up Bloom's Taxonomy past the basic Knowledge and Comprehension level. I have them tell me what level they think their question is at. I have given them the question starters for each level of questioning (see link on top right) and I think that helps them. The better their questions, the deeper we can probe, and the better discussions we can have.


When I came up with this WSQ idea at the start of the new year, I really didn't have a clear vision of what it would look like. What I described above came out of random thought, to be honest. Every day though, I was able to think about what I liked and didn't like about the process, and the students got used to what I expect. Reflection Reflection Reflection is key to any teacher's success, not just a flipped classroom teacher.  You've got to continually Reflect, Reach Out to others for ideas, and Refine your practices so they are meeting the purposes that you have intentionally set.

I am already SOOOOOOOOOOOO HAPPY with what I have been seeing and we have only done this for 9 or 10 class days! I really hope my students continue to develop their TWRLS, which ultimately I hope leads to them not only understanding the math BETTER but DEEPER!!!

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