Sunday, October 30, 2011

What's a typical day look like?

This is a question I've been asked more and more as the year has been progressing, so I thought I'd take this week's post to walk you through what my "typical" day looks like.  Rather than make a really long post, I'm going to break it up into two different posts.

I'll start with the homework, as that is where the biggest difference lies from the traditional method of teaching.  Each night, the students watch the next day's lesson on-line.  Right now I am taping my lecture using my document camera into i-movie.  From there I upload it to schooltube, which compresses it all for me.  After it's done compressing, I post it to my classroom edmodo site.  I just dropped a ton of tech lingo,  so if you're unsure of any of those terms, please check their hyperlinks ;-)  I have featured edmodo on my technology blog:, if you're interested in hearing more about that feature specifically (believe me, it is amazing).

I have embedded an example of one of my videos below, for you those of you wondering what it might look like.  Our school uses Math Expressions, so I basically go through the lesson from the book.  You'll notice at the beginning of the video I have posted the students "learning goal", I do this on every video and the students are required to write it in their journal.  They know that the learning goal is what is the most important thing they remember from the lesson.  So for this lesson, the students really needed to come away understanding which dimensions they need to determine perimeter and area of parallelograms and triangles.

I'll post next week about what happens once the kids get to school...tune in to find out more ;-)

Sunday, October 23, 2011


This week in math we didn't "flip" as normal because we were reviewing for our 2nd test, and we had two days worth of MEAP testing to contend with.  For those of you not from Michigan, MEAP testing is our state mandated testing that we take every fall, and it is a beast.  As we weren't doing our normal flip, I wasn't sure if I would have much to write about this week, but boy was I wrong!  I spent yesterday grading tests and looking at some of last year's data.

Let me preface this information with the knowledge that this test was, by far, the most difficult for my students last year.  That being said, I decided to compare last year's class scores to this year's scores.  First, I looked at their MAP testing averages (this is another assessment tool our school uses).
Last year's class average:  202
This year's class average:  206
That indicates that this year's class is slightly higher, but not by enough where I would think there would be much of a difference in overall performance.

Here's the exciting news!
Last year's class average on unit 2 - 79% (that is after they had a chance to retest)
This year's class average on unit 2 - 89% (this is without a retest opportunity yet)

I was blown away by the numbers!  To be fair, part of this growth could simply be because I have now taught the subject before (last year was our first year with our new math program), and I know more of what common issues to look for.  However, I can say that without a doubt, being able catch their mistakes early, and work more one-on-one has been a huge factor in their success.  What's even better, the kids are so proud of themselves!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Some exciting data...

For my first unit of flipped math, I experimented with flipping only one of our two math sections.  Last week I mentioned that my flipped class averaged about 5% more growth than the non-flipped class.  That was before I had all my tests in (there were a few absences, and a few retakes that were yet to be done).  I now have all the retesting/testing complete, and the results were pleasantly surprising!  My flipped class averaged 12% more growth from their pretest to their post test.  Wow!  While I was hoping for positive results, I didn't expect this.

As an added bonus, I also presented my flipped class to my Board of Education and they were extremely enthusiastic, giving me a ton of positive feedback.  I posted about that here.

We are now into the tail end of our second unit in math (a very short unit on area and perimeter).  We will be testing at the end of this week.  I did not give a pretest this unit...I absolutely intended to, but we had our state mandated MEAP test, which took up a large chunk of time, and last year when I gave the pretest for this unit, my students got almost everything wrong.  It is the most difficult unit of the year, and I can't wrap my head around why.  Basically, the students need to know how to find the area and perimeter of parallelograms, rectangles and triangles.  They are allowed to use their formula sheet on the test.  On next week's blog I plan to give a brief summary of how last year's students performed on this assessment, and a breakdown of how last year's kids compare to this year's students.

This week I did experience quite a bit of frustration with the students who aren't watching the video at home.  The students who don't have internet access aren't my biggest issue.  They have been trying to come in right off the bus (and even during their lunch) to watch the videos, and I have been very proud of their responsibility.  My issue comes from the students who have access to the computer at home, but still don't do the work.  I haven't really decided what I want to do about that.  I talked to the students about the issue & they recommended splitting the groups up, putting the kids who don't watch the videos in one group, and the kids who consistently watch the videos into another group...I have to admit, I have considered it, but the idea of not allowing some students to participate in flipped math goes against my core as a teacher.  But on the other hand, if they aren't watching the videos as homework are they really participating in flipped math right now?

As you can see, I am having some inner conflict, but I am hopeful that I'll work out a solution soon :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Presenting to the Board

A few weeks back my principal asked me if I would be willing to present my flipped classroom.  I was a little apprehensive, as I am just in the beginning stages of the process of flipping my classroom.  I agreed, and we presented on Monday night.

Looking back, I am so glad that I agreed to present.  The Board was engaged throughout the entire presentation, even interrupting a few times with questions.  Some of my most memorable moments & quotes:

~ "Game-changer...that's what I thought about when I listened to you talk."

~ "We need this in every class."

~ "I wish I would have been in your class when I was in school."

~ "What can we do to help?  This is the kind of innovative idea we love!"

~ And finally, my superintendent gave me two thumbs up when I was finished (and a handwritten thank you letter).

Overall it was an excellent evening that gave me a much needed (after having had a frustrating day in the computer lab) boost of spirit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The history of a flipped classroom

I think this infographic does a fantastic job explaining the history & rationale behind a flipped classroom.    I found it John Medici's blog.

The first it all played out

This past week was pretty exciting in my math class.  We started off by taking our first math test, which I will talk more about later in the post.  This week also marked the beginning of flipping with the other 5th grade class (as I mentioned in past posts, for the first unit I am only flipping my 5th grade class, and I am teaching math the traditional way to the other 5th grade class).  Finally, through a Professional Learning Network I belong to on edmodo, I found a new way to post videos that makes it easier for students to view and enlarge.

So, starting from the first event...test #1.  I want to preface this post by stating that I am hesitant to share my student's test data because I don't feel that I was able to truly run my flipped classroom as intended.  Rather than being able to go around and help one-on-one with student homework, I was spending a substantial amount of time trouble shooting technology problems.  That being said, I can tell you that I had several students comment that they re-watched some of the videos while they were studying for their test.  As far as my data goes...I started the unit with a pretest and ended with our district wide assessment.  Class A (flipped class) averaged a 45% on the pretest, while Class B (traditional) averaged a 43%.  After our first test, Class A's average growth from the pretest to the actual test was 44% (meaning, the average test score was close to 90%).  Class B's average growth from the pretest to the actual test was 38% (their average test score was an 82%).  Is this substantial...I'm not sure yet, but my gut tells me that it is.  I am really looking forward to when I am actually able to spend my time not worrying about tech problems (we're getting there).

The second major event this week was Class B began flipping as well.  With the exception of the large number of students who don't have access to a computer, they did very well!  The kids who couldn't view the videos at home came in as soon as they got off the bus & watched them.  I felt like I was finally starting to be able to do the flipped classroom as intended!

Finally, posting my videos online has been a bit of a struggle because they always showed up very small, and they took a long time to load.  I have been using i-movie to create the videos, then turning that into a quicktime movie & posting it on our class edmodo site.  I had a member of my P.L.N. suggest that I use schooltube, and it has been working great!  The videos have been loading faster (although our old student computers keep them from loading as quickly as I'd like), and the kids can enlarge as much as they need too.

I want to end with my highlight of the week:  I was walking around helping kids with their homework when I noticed that a student (who already had the video & notes done at home) was watching the video again.  I asked her why she was watching it again (curiosity got the best of me), and she replied, "I forgot how to find the perimeter, so I thought I'd watch it again to help remind me".  I almost did a happy dance right then and there!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 2 - Getting Ready for our First Test

This week I was approached by our school principal to do a presentation at our monthly school board meeting on my flipped classroom.  Of course, I agreed to, but I am a bit apprehensive about the whole presentation because I don't feel like I have been able to get everything running as smoothly as I'd like to.

Why not???  The real power of a flipped classroom comes from the students being able to get help on the homework . . . in class.  This week I haven't been able to do that because I am constantly trouble shooting technology issues.  The video didn't load, or the kids didn't have time to watch it.  If they are spending their class time watching the video, then how is that any different than the traditional way of teaching?  There in lies my frustration!  This week I have our school curriculum night & I am hoping to get more parents to understand the value of the flipped classroom, and encourage their child to get on the computer and do their homework.

Now that I got my frustration out of the way, I will say this, the dynamic between the two different classes has been quite interesting this week.  Both classes are on our math edmodo site (an aside - edmodo is the platform I am using the post videos and classroom discussions . . . it is awesome, and if you haven't used it with your classroom, you should check it out).  The other 5th grade class has noticed all the videos and are wondering why they can't watch them.  I let them know about what I was doing with my group, and they were a bit jealous.  This weekend the student's homework is to study for their first test (coming up on Monday).  I let both groups know that they could watch the videos as a review - in case they didn't understand something.  The other 5th grade class was pretty excited about that.  We'll have to wait and see whether they actually used them or not.

Next week I'll have the results from the "real" first test.