Sunday, December 16, 2012

There are no words

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Positive Publicity Makes for a Long and Exciting Week

Last week was one of the longest weeks of all time.  It started out normal enough on Monday, but Tuesday turned into something altogether different.

For this all to make sense, I need to give a little background information.  My class has partnered up with a class in New Jersey (taught by John Fritzky) and a class in Texas (taught by Todd Nesloney).  We have been attempting to have the kids in our classes blog with each other about math (as we are all currently flipping).  We barely had one post under our belts when Hurricane Sandy struck.  The hurricane hit New Jersey pretty hard, and Mr. Fritzky's school was powerless for 2 weeks.  They ended getting back to school in a week & a half, but in a different building.  Needless to say, our blogging got put on hold.  As often happens when something devastating occurs, the good in people starts to come shining through.  In this case, the good came from my students.  As we were watching CNN throughout the week, and seeing the photos of New Jersey, my students first reaction was concern for their buddies in Jersey!

"Mrs. Bush, are they ok?"  
"Mrs. Bush, have you talked to Mr. Fritzky yet?"  
"Mrs. Bush, how are they handling not having power?"

And on, and on, and on...But the most powerful comment came from one of my quiet kids...

"Mrs. Bush, what can we do for them?"

I know, goosebumps, right?!? This made my heart happy, and I knew we needed to plan something, but we weren't sure what.  Then our music teacher mentioned that our music concert was coming up early in December.  We decided that we would sell carnations, and have all the proceeds go to the families in Mr. Fritzky's class.

I contacted a local flower shop, and they came through...BIG TIME!  Alpine Floral donated over 350 carnations to our class.

Fast forward to Tuesday.  My students were wired all day, looking forward to the concert and the carnation sale...but it was a good wired :)  About 10 minutes before the bell rang, the office called and informed me that a reporter from our local paper was wondering if he could talk to me for a few minutes after school.  This was the same reporter who interviewed me last year about my flipped classroom, so I figured it was just a follow up.  I walked the kids out & came back to talk to the reporter.  He noticed my room was in shambles (we'd been making posters and buckets for donations).  I told what we were doing.  He was impressed.  We then spent the next hour and a half talking about the flipped classroom.

I had to take off, at that point, and get to the music concert, we had some flowers to sell!  I had students beat me there (and I was plenty early).  Throughout the lower elementary concert, my students sold well over half the flowers.  We sold out by the end of the upper elementary concert.  At some point in the evening, the reporter showed up: he snapped a few pictures, chatted with the kids, then took off.

Once I finally got home (8:30...still hadn't had dinner), I was oddly energized.  My kids did amazing, and we made over $350.  Our next step is going to the store, getting some gift cards & sending them out to Jersey!

My hope is that I can actually bring some of my kids to the store with me, but I'm not sure if the logistics will work out or not.

So are you wondering about the article yet?  I expected that I would get a small article...I was not expecting this:

Kenowa Hills Teacher Becoming Expert in "Flipped Classroom" Concept

I don't really know how I feel about this article.  It's really nice and very complimentary, I think I just have a difficult time patting myself on the back.  And I certainly don't feel like and expert.  None-the-less, it is still reassuring to get some positive press right now.

As I mentioned, this all happened on Tuesday...which felt like a Friday...which made the week take forever!  As exhausting as the whole experience was, I would do it again in a second.

Some days I love my job.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tightening up the some degree

A few weeks ago I was venting here about my students not getting their work done, and I posed the question, "Do my students have too much freedom?"  I decided the answer was, yes...and no!  It totally depends on the kid (as is true in every classroom, huh).  So here is the solution I came up with.  On Monday, the students & I went through and set up a calendar for the entire unit.  I told them they are allowed to work ahead of me, but they cannot get behind.

I love that the students have been able to quiz out of certain aspects of a unit, and it is a big point of pride for the kids who are successful in quizzing out.  I didn't want to lose that, but I wasn't sure how to make it work with the newly, more rigid schedule.  I mentioned this to the students because I'm all about being transparent, and quite frankly they have really good ideas!  Once again, I wasn't disappointed.  One child said to me, "Mrs. Bush, why don't we just skip that section and do whatever we have next?"  Another child responds, "Or we can make our student made videos during that time."  And yet another chimes in with, "Or we could help other kids."  In my head I'm thinking, mean just like I had you doing before?  DUH!

Sometimes it's easy to get stuck on the fact that if one thing isn't working, then everything needs an overhaul, and that isn't so.  In this case, my kids who are responsible & on schedule still have the same options they've always had.

And so the week began with our new plan in place.  On Monday, we all watched the first video together (it is agonizing to watch yourself on video btw).  I made the decision to watch it together b/c I thought we could all use a little refresher on what's expected when we watch the video & complete our WSQ.  Also, we had a few new students and I wanted them to get a clear idea of what is to be expected.  In addition NO ONE passed out of our first learning goal, so I knew that everyone needed to see the video.

The next day, it was magical!  Everyone had their work done (b/c we did it together), and was ready to move on (as a side note...yes I realize it was only magical b/c we did everything together in a group, but let me just bask in my moment of happiness, ok?)  I was able to get to everyone and help with a very difficult concept.  The fact that I was able to get around to everyone also helped me realize how difficult this concept was, and therefore led me to our next day's activity...angle bootcamp!

As luck would have it, on Tuesday I had some visitors in my classroom.  I was just getting ready to send the students off to work & I mentioned how they were really lucky that day because there were 3 adults in the room to help (myself, my parapro & a parent helper).  One of my students raises their hand & says "Mrs. Bush, there are a lot more than 3 adults."  At which point I turn around & see our curriculum director standing there with a consultant from Alaska.  Then in walks my superintendant with another consultant from Alaska (long story on the consultant part...but they are experts at mastery teaching helping out our district).  I took a second to introduce myself to the consultants, then I was off & running.  What I found really exciting was that they (all 4 of them) went around the classroom for 5-10 minutes talking to students.  Asking them what they were working on, how the classroom runs, how they manage their work, etc.  I don't know what the students said, but I do know that they all seemed impressed when they left...YEAH!

Of course on Wednesday there were several students who hadn't done their homework the night before.  Being a woman of my word, those students stayed in for recess that very same day to finish up their work.  By Friday they were pretty much all caught up again.  While I am NOT a fan of making kids miss all their recess, I do think they need to realize what their priorities need to be.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Do my students have too much freedom?

This year I've been dabbling in some mastery/self pacing with my math class.  I've both loved and been discouraged by what I've found so far.  I found out early on this year, that when you are the only person in the building who is attempting any sort of "mastery" teaching, holding students accountable to only moving on once they master a concept is not realistic.  My report cards are not standard's based, the students are graded by unit.  Again, making mastery teaching unrealistic.

So how have I loved my attempt so far?  I have seen a large number of students blossoming this year.  They have the freedom to skip out of lessons they already know, and move on to more challenging material that they might not get to otherwise.  I see other students who see their peers moving ahead, and work really hard to keep up with them.  It's been a beautiful thing...and for those kids (who are also uber responsible and always come prepared), it's working.

That brings me to the other chunk of my students (which is a lot larger than I'd like) who struggle to get any work done in class or out of class.  This group of students gets to the end of a unit and still has several videos yet to be watched.  Taking the test becomes pretty difficult when you don't do all the lessons!  So what do I do for those kids?  I feel like I have done so much hand holding already, do I really want to do more...aren't I trying to teach some time management skills this year too?  Some independence maybe???

I ask these questions not because I actually expect anyone to answer, but because they have been weighing on my mind lately.

As of now, we all set up a schedule together at the beginning of a unit.  I give them the time frame for the unit.  Our last unit we had 3 weeks to work on...there were 8 learning goals to be mastered.  That worked out to be about 1 video every other night...not even every night.  Not to mention our in class time.  If a student actually works the whole math period, they could get everything done without ever having homework. To me, this seems fair.  I'm not assigning homework every night.  I even let them work with each other to help each other out.  So why is it that I have students who (3 weeks later) only have 4 of the 8 learning goals done?  Have they been absent?  No.  Is access to the technology the problem? Again, no.  So what gives?  I don't know if it's that they don't know where to begin, am I possibly giving them too much control over when they learn things.  Is there such a thing as too much control?  Apparently I have a LOT of rhetorical questions this week!

When I began this blog, I planned on using it as a place to reflect, and plan changes.  Right now I need to figure out something to change to make this run more smoothly.  I don't want to take away the potential for students to test out of learning goals...But I feel like my kiddos need more structure.  So here is my least for the time being.  For our next unit, we will again set up a schedule.  I will continue to give students 2 days per learning goal.  This time, however, I am going to mandate which video is to be watched.  If they don't need to do that video, they can either have the night off, or they can move on to the next learning goal.

I like this idea because it allows me to give them a little more guidance on where they should be.  But what about those kids who still don't do the work?  Let's face it, there are still going to be kids that don't do the work.  What do I do with them?  I have a couple of ideas floating around in my head:
1)  Keep them in from all recesses (I already do that with limited success).
2)  Have them call home (again, I've done...success is short lived)
3)  Keep them in from all other additional stuff (assemblies, etc.)
4)  They miss their specials until the work is done.
5)  Keep them after school & require their parents to pick them up.

I really, really, really hate to hold all those options over their heads, but quite frankly I am at a loss of what else to do.  I have very good relationships with almost all of my kids, they just don't do the work.  I don't understand their sense of apathy.  It's hard for me to relate because I was never that kid.

So I guess I put it out there to you all...what do you do with the kids who don't ever do their work?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

How am I making this work?

In the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to talk to a few groups about my flipped classroom.  First, I spoke at our "Fired Up" conference, which is a conference for all the student teachers in the area.  It was a great experience, and they asked a lot of great questions.  Many of them revolved around how I am actually getting this whole thing to work.

About 2 weeks after that, I attended EdCamp GR, where I led a session on the flipped classroom (with the help of another teacher from the area...thanks @davidfouch).  That session also went well, and a lot of questions revolved around how the flipped classroom looks different to every teacher.  Personally, I think that is one of the best (and most challenging) parts to a flipped classroom.  You can make it your own.  That, however, is also one of the most difficult parts to explaining a flipped classroom because there isn't a one size fits all approach.  That being said, I think it really helps to see examples of how it could be done, to give you a starting point.  Therefore, I'm dedicating this post to how I actually organize/run my math time.

Before I even get into the system I use, I want to mention that I have been working hard on having "I can" statements that go with every unit.  I refer to those statements throughout the videos, discussions, etc.  They are also always posted on my classroom wall.

To start out, the students all go home with a calendar that we have filled in together that maps out when each student should do each video.  They can certainly move faster than our schedule, but not slower.  They also get a cover sheet that has our guiding questions, required videos and required problems on it.

Each night (or every other night) the students come to class having completed their WSQ's.  Basically, they Watch the video (and take notes), Summarize the video (answer the guiding questions) and write an example Question...get it, WSQ.  We host our videos on our Youtube channel:  Here's one example of a video for those of you interested in checking them out.  We try to add humor into our videos...if at all possible.  I found that throwing in little songs at the end & not being afraid to be goofy helps a lot (for an example, tune in to 8 min 40 sec).

Here is an example of what the guiding questions looks like to the students.  I try to make the guiding questions some of the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

After they have their WSQ's done, they sign up to meet with me.  I typically meet with a group of 4-5 students.  The first thing they do is check each other's answers from the video.  If anyone got something different from the group, it's their job to help them figure out what they did wrong, and why it was wrong.  This is also a great way for me to tell who was just writing down what I write, and not really doing any practice.  After they do that, they call me over to discuss the guiding questions.  This has helped me a lot in regards to time management, otherwise I'd spend all my time in discussions, and no time working on practice problems.

Once they get the all clear from me, they work on their practice problems (these are what used to be homework).  They self correct their answers and then can quiz on the learning goals.  I keep track of this is a couple of ways.  First, I have my master copy of who's done what (if I ever lost this I would be in major trouble!).  The date of the discussion is marked on the chart.  Once they take a quiz, it is either marked with pink or green (pink means they didn't pass, green means they did).  

Each child also has a file folder where I keep all their quizzes.  At the end of a unit I send it all home for them to study from.  I also have a file for each learning goal, so the students can access the quizzes when they need them.

I think the last organizational tid-bit I have for you is my folder system.  I have a folder where I keep my master highlighted page, as well as all the answer keys to the quizzes.  I've found that having an answer key easily accesible makes getting the students immediate feedback much more doable.

I realize this is a lengthy post, hopefully it is helpful too!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hmmm, something's not totally working right now...

For the past few weeks I've been thinking about my Flipped Class and how it's going.  I haven't been totally satisfied, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why.  I think it was a sense of feeling like my math classes were fairly chaotic and that I was spending that whole time making sure kids were on task, rather than checking how their math was going.  I also didn't like that even though I was have discussions about math every day, I didn't feel like I could tell whether they could actually solve a math problem!  Knowing the why is great, but kids have to know how to actually solve the problems too!

All our discussions revolved around the how, but they kids never really solved problems until they went off to practice.  The problem was, that I was so busy having discussions that I couldn't watch them solve their practice problems.

Last year, all I did was watch them solve their practice problems (minus the discussion).  I think that now, after having reflected upon the process, I realize that I need both.  So here's a little comparison of the before and after renovation of my math class.

Students would complete a WSQ:

  • Watch the video, and take notes...often being prompted to "stop and solve"
  • Summarize the video (intro sentence, vocab sentence, answer guiding questions & give an example)
  • Question (what questions did you have, or could you pose to your classmates)
Then they would meet with me & we'd discuss all that
Practice problems come next (done and checked independently)
Once the kids practice the required problems & understand them, they quiz to show mastery

What didn't work
  • I never got around to checking the "stop & solve" problems from the videos
  • The summaries were not great...the intro & vocab were good, but not really as important
  • The guiding questions were a great discussion point, but often students forgot to do them.
  • The questions were terrible.  The kids were just making something up because they "didn't have a question" and coming up with a question for their peers was "too difficult".
Students complete a WSQ:
  • Watch the video, and take notes...often being prompted to "stop and solve"
  • Summarize the video - students are now asked to answer the guiding questions only (but they better make them good)
  • Question (give me an example problem that is similar to the problems from the video)
What I like so far
  • I am checking their "stop & solve questions during our discussion time
  • I am making them solve a practice problem with me before I let them go to their desk to work independently
  • Students are getting more comfortable making student made videos, and it is starting to motivate the others.
Hopefully with these changes, the students and I will finally start to get into a rhythm during class!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Skyping in School!

In my quest to include more writing in math, I've been trying to figure out a way to make it something fun...not an easy task.  Enter Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd) and John Fritzky (@johnfritzky) and our tri-blog project.  I connected with these two on Twitter & was asked to do a quad-blog with them.  We were unsuccessful at finding a 4th person, so our quad-blog became a tri-blog.  The premis of our blogging will revolve around math (as we are all flipping our math classes to some extent).

Each week, one of our classes will be the "bloggers", where the students write blog posts.  We haven't totally worked out what the posts will be about...specific math content, what we're learning currently, reflections on how flipped math is going, etc. are all some ideas I've been thinking about.  The other 2 classes will be the "commenters".  They will read the blog posts and will then respond to them.  Our hope is that students not only think more critically about math (and are able to verbalize it), but also that they are more careful with their writing...after all, someone will be reading it.

This week the students got to "meet" each other via Skype.  The process of getting Skype to work in all of our buildings (mostly mine) was a bit of a process.  Luckily, my tech team came through with about 20 minutes to spare!  The whole day my students were asking questions and watching the clock.  A few of my kids were literally shaking with excitement.  Me?  I was more concerned about making a good impression & getting the tech to work!  Once the Skype calls came through, the kids did great.  They were asking some really good questions, and it did what we (the teachers) hoped it would the kids excited about writing!

In all honesty, this activity was one of the coolest things I've ever done with a class, and I am very excited to see how it plays out this year.

Things are starting to click

This week we have been very interrupted by the MEAP test (our statewide assessment), so I feared that I wouldn't get into the rhythm that I so much desired for another few weeks...Luckily, I was dead wrong!  To give you perspective, I think I need to back up to the beginning of the week.

On Monday, the kids followed the same MO that they've been following since we started truly flipping (only a few weeks), and barely turned in their homework.  It is one thing if a student doesn't have access to a computer, but it's completely another if they just don't feel like doing the work.  By Monday I had students who hadn't turned in a single WSQ for unit 2 (and we had 3 days of in class to work on them).  After another excellent #flipclass chat on Monday night, I decided to send out progress reports.  So the next day I got everything in order, and everyone who wasn't through at least the first 3 WSQ's, practice problems and quizzes received one.  Students were not happy about it...parents were even less happy (thankfully most parents were unhappy with their kids, and not me).  The following 2 days of math were like a different class.  My students were on task (with a few exceptions), and most of the kids were caught up by Friday.  I also had a handful of students who, by the end of the week, were done with all the learning goals, so I got to try something I'd been wanting to try all year...student made videos!

My students finally realized why I'm asking them to write practice problems in their WSQ' they have something ready when they make their own videos.  Many of my studentes were in the hallway when they were making their videos, and one of our intervention specialists was eavesdropping as he walked back to his classroom.  He commented to me later, "They're really talking about math...their conversations are right on target!."

Below are a few pictures that show my students working during math.

Making student made videos on the iPad.

Sharing the iPod touch to complete their WSQ.

Creating a video together.

Teaching each other math during our discussions.
In addition to math starting to finally click, we also got a chance to Skype with two other 5th grade teachers.  I'll be creating an entirely separate post on that topic...but in short, it was one of the coolest things I ever done with a class.

Once we got through Monday, the week was full of wonderful thinking, learning, creating and talking about math!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

That was chaotic...and pretty cool too!

This week was a week of firsts.  We had our first assessment, our first front-loaded inquiry project, our first chance at watching videos & completing WSQ's independently, and our first chance to quiz out of a learning goal to prove mastery.

Let's take these firsts one at a time:

This week my students took their first assessment of the year.  Last year (my first year of flipping), my class average on test 1 was a 90% (after the students had a chance to take the retest).  This year my class average was an 83% (no retest yet).  While this is not as high as last year, I also need to consider how my classes compare in their baseline scores.  Last year's class averaged a 206 on the NWEA MAP test.  This year's class averaged a 204.  Slightly lower, but not a significant amount.  What I'm finding is that so far this year's class is performing close (or slightly lower) than last year's class.  So what was different?  One major difference was that I didn't let the kids do any of the videos independently during the first unit (last year I did).  While I find this necessary, I do believe that had they had a chance to watch them independently they probably would have done better.  Secondly, these are different kids.  I always find it difficult to compare one group of kids to another when personalities can vary so much.

After their first test, we attempted our first inquiry project.  You can find more information about it here.  During the inquiry project I had a chance to walk around and look at the students misconceptions that they already have.  As I asked them question after question, it was clear (even to them) that they didn't know how to solve the problem correctly.  That being said, I did have one group that were definitely headed in the right direction.

Upon completion of our attempted inquiry, the students were then assigned the first video in unit 2.  This was the first time that they were able to watch the video & complete the WSQ on their own.  There are definitely some kinks to work through, but overall it went pretty well.  When they came to class the next day I found that most (definitely not all) students had done the work & were ready to have a discussion.  That's when I ran into the problem of there being only one of me & a lot of them that needed to talk.  We developed a sign up sheet & I got around as quickly as possible.  One thing I found that helped speed up the process was letting the first person read their summary completely, then having the rest answer the guiding questions that were supposed to be in the summary.  My student's summaries must include the following:
  • Introduction sentence - what was the learning goal
  • Vocabulary sentence(s) - in your own words, define the key vocabulary
  • Main points (5-7 sentences) - answer the guiding questions (these are HOTS questions)
  • Example - come up with your own example of a question that is like what we learned about
I'm not sure what I expected out of the discussions, but I was able to clear up some misconceptions as we talked (mostly confusion about perimeter and area).  

One thing I want to adjust next week is finding a better way to manage the quizzing procedure.  I spent a lot of time giving/checking quizzes for students because they wanted to move on to the next lesson.  What I found was that barely any of time was spent actually working through problems with kids, it was all talking with them about math.  I feel that was beneficial, but I still need to find a way to get around and check in on the kids as they're solving their practice problems.

I also am noticing a potential problem brewing.  I have a few students who have a lack of motivation to do anything at home.  This could be solved if they use their class time wisely because I'm not requiring a video every night.  However, they also are the students who accomplish very little during class.  With me doing mastery teaching, they are going to HAVE to take some responsibility in their work or they will not get very far.  I'd love some advice on that particular issue from anyone who has had the problem in the past.

After math that day (because we only had one day of that this week) I felt many things:  energized AND exhausted, excited AND's amazing how one person can feel so many emotions in the span of an hour!  Luckily it was much more energized and exciting than the latter."

Our final first of the week was the students being able to quiz out of certain learning goals.  As I mentioned in my post last week, I had the students take a pretest and mentioned that if they did well, they could potentially "quiz out" of certain learning goals (because they already know how to do them).  This week those students had a chance to take those quizzes, and many of them did, in fact, quiz out of certain aspects of the unit.  So as of now, I have 60 total students who are doing a variety of different things that span four of the five learning goals in our 2nd unit.  It is exciting to see the students excited about the fact that they can learn at their pace.  While this benefits everyone, I think this really benefits the "high" kids who (in my humble opinion) are often left to fend for themselves because they "already get it".  I could write an entire blog post on that topic, but this is not the time or place for me to get open up that particular can of worms!

That being said, the week was full of exciting, organized chaos...and I loved it!  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Whoa, that's crazy!

Last week we finished up the last video that went with our first unit.  At the end of each unit, my math series has a "practice test" that is given to help the students see exactly what types of questions will be on the regular test.  Similar to last year, I had kids all over the board when I scored them.  That is not unusual, as I'm looking for certain things when I grade their tests (for example, do they show their work, label their answers, etc.) that they may not know on the practice test, but surely know on the actual test.

I had roughly 15 students (of my 60) who scored 97% or better, so I gave them the option to just test Friday & get it done, rather than wait until Tuesday with the rest of the class.  They all chose that option (and they all did well).  Then they took a pre-test for the next unit.  I explained to them that if they showed on their pre-test that they knew how to do certain learning goals, then they wouldn't be expected to do the WSQ's for those goals (they could just take the quizzes & test out).  They just stared at me.

Finally one student spoke up & said, "So you're telling me that if we already know how to do something, we can just skip it & move ahead."

I said, "Yes, isn't it a waste of your time to sit here learning stuff you already know?"

His response, "Are you for real?"

My response, "Yes, I'm for real."

His response, "Whoa...that's crazy!"

So here's the I'm going to see whether all my thinking/pondering/rambling/musing this summer will pay off.  Is this going to work?  I don't know yet, I guess we'll find out this week, but if it does, then would be totally crazy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Attempting the WSQ

My plan for the beginning of the year has been simple...lots of hand holding.  I plan on having my students complete WSQ's to go along with all of our math videos.  I anticipated that it would be difficult, which is why we are doing pretty much everything as a group.  Up until now, we have watched the videos together, written summaries together and asked our questions together.  What I have found so far is that writing summaries about math is HARD!

The kids want to show a problem, and then show the solution.  That's not a summary (at least not in my book).  I have given the students some guidelines about what should be included in a complete summary.  They are as follows:

  • 1 sentence that introduces the topic - This is definitely NOT difficult.  My videos always start out with our learning objectives, and all they have to do is restate it.
  • 1-3 sentences explaining the vocabulary - Again, this isn't very difficult.  The only challenging part is that the students are being asked to explain the vocabulary in their own words, no copying straight from their notes.
  • 5-10 sentences that explain the main points of the vides - This is VERY hard.  My advice to the kids is to try write it as if you're explaining it to a 4th grader (I have 5th graders).  They can use examples to help them explain themselves, but their explanation has to be more than just solving the problem.  I've recommended them using time order words to help them out.  First....Then..., etc.
  • The final part of their summary is the students coming up with an example problem of their own. I want them to use these when they make student made videos in the future, but we're not there yet.
After chatting on Twitter with the infamous Crystal Kirch, she recommended that I use some guiding questions for the kids to answer in their summary, rather than it be a straight up open summary.  I like the idea (add it my ever expanding list of things to do), and I do think it will help give the kids some focus.  So I sat down this weekend to develop some guiding questions for my next unit.  I've got a grid below that breaks down how I'm going to assign things next unit, as well as the guiding questions I have.  Hopefully it helps, because right now the kids are floundering :(

I'd love some feedback on what you've been trying, and whether you've had success incorporating more deep thinking into math.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

First Week Keepers - Goal Setting

One thing I worked on last year was helping the students develop goals, and then work towards them.  We often reflected on our blogs in regards to how the goals were coming along.  This year I found a really cute activity that connected goal setting to art (not one of my specialties).  Basically I had my students come up with 2 goals for the school year.  One had to be school related, one couldn't be school related. 

My goals were:
1) I hope to create more real world math application projects.
2) I hope to run at least 3 times a week (and not just when I'm training for something).

Then we drew a little picture of ourselves peeking over the goals.  They turned out totally cute, and I've somehow suckered my students into believing that I'm a good drawer (ha!).  

I got this idea for this (and the directions for the drawing piece) from an Art Projects For Kids blog.

First Week Keepers - Creating a Classroom Vision

As much as I love teaching, I tend to dread the first week of school.  I recognize and understand the need for all the team building that takes place, but I want to just jump right into the curriculum!  So this year I was on a mission to figure out how to start curriculum (sort of) but also include a lot of community building activities.  I'm happy to report that there were several activities I did with my 5th graders that I will definitely keep for upcoming years.  Full disclaimer...none of this has anything to do with flipclass, so if you want to tune out now, go ahead (I promise, no hard feelings).

At one of our back-to-school PD days the teachers participated in a vision making activity.  We're currently reworking our district vision, and they wanted our input (go figure).  As we were completing this activity, I thought about how I realize I have a vision for my classroom, but do my kids?  Why not complete the same activity (with some changes) with my class.  So here's how it went down:

First, I posted the question, "Why are we here?" on the board and had the students write their personal opinion on a sticky note.  I got a few giggles (and a few odd looks) when I told them to write what they think, not what they think I want to hear.  From there, they paired up with one other person & tried to combine their thoughts onto a new sticky note.  Then they paired up with another pair and combined their thoughts to a new sticky note (now a group of 4).  In the end, I had six different answers to the question I posed earlier.  The picture below shows what they came up with (their words, not mine).

That was all for Day 1...on Day 2, when the kids came into the classroom I had combined their six opinions into one, and I asked them if I managed to get everything in.  The following was on the board:

We are here to learn so we will be successful in life.  We want our learning to be fun and applicable to the real world.

Most students liked it, some weren't totally happy yet, so I asked them what they would change.  We then had a really good discussion about how we should put something in there about people learning differently, and how it's important that everyone gets a chance to learn.  I also had a few stuck on the desire to add something about sports.  I asked them to tell me more, and one talked about wanting to get an athletic scholarship, therefore he needs to do well in school...huh, I could've easily brushed his idea aside, but I'm glad I asked the follow up question.  So here's the final version of our classroom vision.

We are here to learn so we will be successful in life (college, sports, jobs).  We all learn differently, but we all CAN learn.

I thoroughly enjoyed this activity, and will continue to use it in future years.  And while this was pretty powerful for the kids to have a say in, it's going to be even more powerful when I reference it this year during our lessons.  Everything we do is going to connect back to this vision.  

After we finished the vision, I asked another question: "What can you do to help us accomplish our vision?"  Again, they did some independent thinking, and put their ideas on sticky notes.  Out of that activity came our class rules.  These are rules that the KIDS came up with, not me.  Now that's not to say these are the only rules we'll have this year, but I plan to let the kids realize it when we need to add a rule.  

I'm hoping that since I've done all this from the ground up, rather than the top down, I will see more buy in this year...let's hope so.

PS - I'm really glad that a few kids had #4 down, because I certainly like it ;)

Monday, August 20, 2012


Last night my husband & I sat down and watched Moneyball, and oddly, it made me think about being a part of the flipped classroom movement.

For those of you who haven't seen Moneyball, it's a baseball movie.  I'm not a big baseball fan, in general, but I am a sucker for a good sports movie with a happy ending.  In short, it's about the Oakland A's, and how statistics became a huge part of baseball recruitment.  The main character in the movie (Billy Beane) takes a risk on a very unorthodox way of recruiting/scouting baseball players.  He and his assistant decide to use all sorts of statistics that end up giving each player a percentage.  Using numbers allowed the scouts to overcome the bias that used to surround baseball scouting (his swing is too ugly, etc.)

In the movie, Billy Beane takes all kinds of pounding from the press, his coaching staff, the media, etc.  He really goes out on a limb to try something new because he knew that the same old recruiting methods wouldn't work in Oakland because they had a significantly smaller budget than most other teams (like the Yankees, for example).

As I watched, I began to notice a lot of similarities between education and baseball.  Our schools are still running on a very old philosophy.  Students should sit in rows, listen (not speak), and memorize what the teacher says...okay, hopefully that is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.  Children today are not the same as the children of 50 years ago.  What worked then doesn't work now.  This is not new information...people are well aware of this problem, and yet nothing is changing!  Why?  Because change is hard.

Back to the movie, this new way of thinking about baseball was a huge one thought it would work.  This was only 10 years ago!  Now look at the game.  Statistics plays a huge role in the scouting and recruiting of baseball players.  Because Billy Beane took a risk & tried something different, he changed the face of baseball.

This is what I think is starting to happen with the flipped classroom movement.  Teachers realize that the same old methods aren't cutting it.  When I first heard about the flipped classroom I was at a point of being highly frustrated with the system.  To me, flipped classroom was the answer.  Am I perfect at it yet?  Nope.  Will I ever be perfect at it?  Nope.  And I think that's what makes it work.  It's an ever changing method of teaching that is completely tailored to the teacher & students using it.

Similar to the movie, there is a lot of press surrounding the flipped classroom.  Thankfully, most of it is positive.  However, all this publicity leads to misunderstanding.  Many people who hear about the flipped classroom think it's all about the videos.

Say it with me's not about the videos!  It's about being able to reach kids where they are, and take them farther than they ever dreamed.

Monday, August 13, 2012

All you have to do is ask

In one of my recent posts, I was grumbling about not having funds for Camtasia.  I had gotten a chance to play with it at a conference I went to this summer, but was disappointed when I found out my district didn't have the software.  Well...apparently the spectacular people at TechSmith read my blog & took pity on me.  They gave me a copy of Camtasia to try out this a hearty thank-you goes out to TechSmith, you all are amazing!

Since then, I also got a partner in crime who wants to try this whole flipped/mastery thing out with yeah for me!  She recently came over & we were able to get our entire first unit filmed.  The week that followed allowed me some time to toy around with Camtasia & I am loving it so far :)  I'm still trying to figure out all the in's & out's of the program, but I can record, zoom, highlight & put in notes, which are the most essential pieces to enhancing the videos (in my humble opinion).

I also recently got my youtube channel up & running.  This is where I plan to store all of our flipped classroom videos.  If you're interested in checking out the videos that Jodi & I made, you can access my my channel here.  I've heard there is a way to require the students to answer a question during your video to allow them to move on...if anyone knows how to do that, I'd appreciate the info!

If you watch the videos we've made so far, you'll notice I've had to do a lot of work making the transitions in the slideshow come in at the right time.  I don't have a tablet to write on, which I think would make the process even easier for us & for the kids.  I think there is something to be said for students watching how I actually solve problems by hand.  I asked our tech department if they happened to have a tablet laying around (a girl can dream, right?) & they actually do have one that I can use!

On a less positive note, I found out recently that I do not get my i-pad back next year...they had to give it to a different teacher to be used for a different purpose...It's all tied to the funding that was used to purchase the i-pad.  I understand the why, but it still stinks.  I was hoping to get the students more involved in the video making process this year, and that was going to rely heavily on using the i-pad.  Being the optimistic person that I am, I won't let that stop me.  I'll write a grant for an i-pad...unless anyone has one of those laying around too ;)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Making videos as a first experience

If you remember from some of my past ramblings, I've been trying to figure out a way to get another teacher to flip with me this year.  I am excited to announce that one of the other 5th grade teachers in the district (different building) is also interested.  We got together earlier this week & filmed the entire first unit of videos.  I still have to edit & post them on youtube, but they are recorded, which is a start.  I have one edited & posted, which I've embedded here :)  Keep in mind, I am a rookie at Camtasia, I'm sure there is more I can edit, but I don't totally know how to do it steps :)

After several discussions, this is how we see our day/year starting out.

We'll begin with a video on how to watch a video.  We'll be utilizing a modified WSQ that I learned about from Crystal Kirch.  Then we'll continue into Unit 1.  We plan on watching & completing the WSQ in class for the first unit.  Heavy guiding at first, in hopes of them doing it right the rest of the year.  Mastery will not start in unit one...

Unit 2 we'll start weaning the kids off of us watching the videos in class & them watching at home.  I'm not sure that mastery will start in unit two either...we'll see how things play out.  When I think of mastery teaching in my class, the kids are going to be taking quizzes on each of the learning goals (our "I can" statements).  They must pass the quizzes to move on.  This will allow (to some extent) the ability for the students to pace themselves.

Hopefully, by the time we get to Unit 3, we'll have all the quizzes set up & ready to go :)  That being said, I'm realizing exactly how much we have to do for each unit.  On our to do list:

  1. Make slideshow for each learning goal.
  2. Make video for each learning goal.
  3. Edit video for each learning goal.
  4. Write multiple questions for each learning goal that will be input into Moodle.
  5. Repeat for next unit!

A few things to note (and some concerns too):
  • Positive: I really like us recording the videos together (it's way more fun)!
    • Concern:  How in the world are we going to make this work during the school year when we aren't in the same building.
  • Positive: I particularly like that one of us can ask the questions we know the student will ask, and the other can answer.
    • Concern:  How in the world are we going to make this work during the school year when we aren't in the same building.
  • Positive:  Mastery - I'm very excited by the whole concept, it's exciting where this can take the kids.
    • Concern:  How in the world are we going to make this work during the school year when we aren't in the same building.
We are hoping that our principals will give us some time throughout the year to work on this long list of items...keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Top 25 Teacher Moms

My blog was nominated for the "Top 25 Teacher Moms" through Circle of Moms.  The qualifications are as follows:

  • Mom
  • Teacher
  • Blogger of creative ideas, creative lessons & classroom resources
Being a mom and being a teacher are both incredibly important to me, which makes this category a perfect fit.  If you read my blog, and have found it helpful in your classroom, I'd appreciate you voting for me :)  You can vote once a day until August 9th.  To vote, click on the badge in the right corner of my blog.  Or click here.

Thanks everyone!  Much love!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Vision of Mastery

At the Flipped Class Training I attended recently, I was forced to sit down, and think about what my class is really going to look like in the fall.  I've had all these ideas bouncing around in my head & I haven't gotten a very concrete plan in place.  I've been watching, researching & listening to podcasts on the Flipped Classroom, and there seems to be a variety of opinions of how a class might run.  The three main people I've been listening to are:  Ramsey Musallam, Brian Bennett & Jon Bergmann.  I'll attempt to break down their beliefs (and if I got them wrong...sorry Ramsey, Brian & Jon), but you would probably have better luck checking out their blogs.  All of these Flip Class pioneers believe that we need to evaluate what we do when are kids are with us.  The guiding question of a flipped classroom is: What is the best use of my face-to-face time with the kids?  Do we want them to do the lower level thinking, or higher?  Everyone who is using the flipped class method feel that the higher order thinking should be done in the classroom, when the teacher is there to guide & assist.  There are some other minor differences in how the three gentlemen I mentioned above run their classroom.

Ramsey has the belief that you should have an inquiry that gets the kids interested, but slightly confused, then they watch the videos as needed to help them through the inquiry.  He's not a strong supporter of the mastery concept.

Brian believes in using videos for concepts that you have to repeat over & over again.  He tends to front load his videos (showing them first), then lets the kids work through higher order activities in class.  Brian allows his students to watch the videos & do the work at a time that suits them.  He even goes so far as to let the kids work on other subjects during his class time (assuming they've completed the required coursework for him & have mastered the concept).

Jon definitely believes in the mastery concept.  He sets limits for his students in regards to how many videos they need to finish by a certain time.  His kids go at their own a certain extent.

Luckily, I had the time to sit down & think things through (with the guidance of flipclass pro Jon Bergmann).  What I've come up with seems (to me) to be a mash-up of Ramsey, Jon & Brian's classrooms.

I intend for my students to work at their own pace (similar to Jon), but within parameters.  For example, they may need to have 2-3 objectives mastered by the end of the week.  When and where they watch the videos is going to be up to them, but I will expect that they have their designated work done by the designated time (similar to Brian).  The beginning of each unit will have some sort of an inquiry project that will hopefully be too hard for them to solve then, but will be totally solvable by the end of the unit.  My hope is that they will get interested in the beginning, want to see the videos to help them answer the problem, then solve the inquiry as the unit progresses (similar to Ramsey).

Other changes in my class revolve around expectations while watching the video, and grading.  While watching the video the students will complete a WSQ...if you're not sure how that will look in my class, click here.  In regards to assessment, I'm not 100% sure how I'm going to grade right now because I don't know if I'll have the flexibility to grade the way I want.  My district works hard to get every kid the same experience, which means we have common assessments.  But here are the plans I'm thinking of in regards to grading.

So what will my typical day look like?  Here's what I'm thinking (I have my students for about 50 minutes a day):
Kids come in & we meet for a couple minutes, just to touch base, then it's off to work!  Kids will be doing one of the following:
  • Watching a video
  • Having a group WSQ discussion (with me present to help give them a grade)
  • Working on practice problems (together or independently)
  • Taking a quiz or test on the computer (using Moodle)
  • Working on another subject...if they are caught up
  • Completing a math lab (that's what I'm going to call my real world application problems)
  • Making videos of their own that center around the assigned topic
So as you can see, it is going to be slightly chaotic...but I'm thinking this kind of chaos is going to be awesome!

If anyone reading this has some ideas that might make this run smoothly, I'd love the feedback.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Learning is so invigorating!

This summer I was completely bummed out because I couldn't attend FlipCon 2012 in Chicago.  I did attend virtually, but it's just not the same.  So you can imagine my delight when I found out that Jon Bergmann was going to be giving a 2 day flipped class P.D. in Muskegon (about 45 minutes from my house).  As if that's not awesome enough, it was only $60 AND I get a copy of Jon & Aaron's new book AND I got lunch both days (it's the small things, right?).

So now I am charged with thinking through everything I'm learning. So here we go!

Day 1
Day one was basically an intro to the different methods of flipping.  It also introduced us to some different software that can be used to create videos.  Some software I got to play with was: Snag-it, Camtasia and  I've used Screencast-o-matic to make my videos this year, so I was familiar with it.  I did find out-that you can add picture in picture on Screencast-o-matic (which I did not know before).  We also got to take a look at several different apps that can be used to make recordings.

I would love to get Camtasia for Mac, but alas, neither my district or I can dish out the cash right now.  I plan on attending EdCampGR next month, so maybe I'll luck out & score a free copy there.  Or maybe the people at Techsmith will take pity on me & just send me one (hint, hint).

Day one didn't leave me too overloaded, as a lot of the information wasn't new to me.  However, I caught Jon on the way out & asked if we could eat together the next day because I needed some guidance on how to get me head around the whole "mastery teaching" thing.

Day 2
We started day 2 watching some sample videos that showed me just how boring mine have been.  They're not terrible, but I know I can do better.  Here are some of the changes I'd like to make to my videos next year:

  • I'd like a partner to shoot videos with.  In the examples I saw, the most interesting style was the conversational style.  Basically there were two teachers having a conversation about the topic.
    • So here's the problem with that...I'm the only 5th grade math teacher in my building, so what now?  I figure I have a couple of options:
      1. Try to buddy up with a 5th grade teacher from another building.  This is a possibility, as one of the other 5th grade teachers is interested.  I'm hoping that I can talk her into it...come on Jodi, you know you want to :)
      2. Try to buddy up with a 5th grade teacher from another school/state (this is actually possible: @guster4lovers & @thomasson_engl are creating collaborative videos cross's crazy!)
      3. Try to buddy up with a 4th grade teacher...many of our standards are very similar.
  • Rather than making videos of every lesson in my math book, I started to find the most essential information.  I turned them into "I can" statements, now I want to make videos of those.  This should equal less video watching time, and more time to apply the knowledge.
We then progressed to talking about moodle.  I have used moodle before, but only to post links, newsletters, etc.  I was introduced to using moodle questions & quizzes...I am going to have a whole post on moodle later, but I'm really excited about what it has to offer.

After moodle, we had lunch.  I had the privelege of eating with Jon, and picking his brain the whole time.  The majority of what we talked about was how to make mastery teaching work in an elementary school.  I'll have another post about that shortly, because I have a lot of ideas running around in my head.

We basically had the rest of the day to spend working on something...anything, really, it just had to be applicable to our training.  Since I have experience making videos, I chose not to do that.  Instead I decided to map out what a unit might look like in mastery teaching.  Below I've embedded a Googledoc that is a rough start to my unit plan.  Please bare in mind it is in rough form, and will be tweaked.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

FlipCon Session "Managing the Flipped Classroom Using Google Apps"

I recently watched another session from FlipCon 12.  The presenter for this presentation was Andy Schwen (@mrschwen), a teacher from Minnesota.  He's known as the master of google forms (okay, I don't know if that's true, but he should be).  He uses Google forms to create assessments.  While the assessment creation is pretty sweet, that isn't what was so spectacular about what he did.  He created another form that automatically analyzes your student's quizzes.  I'm not talking just grading them - this form gives you a breakdown by question, by student, by class...and probably a bunch of other things I don't even realize yet!

Below is the video he shows of everything you can do with the Google Form he set up...prepare yourself, it is crazy!

I didn't want to blog about something I hadn't tried, so I decided to follow his step by step instructions.  I did everything he listed, but my class list was not showing up on my "assessment form"...frustration ensued, but I read further & he recommended checking out Audrey McLaren's set of directions, she had a more narrative form, so I trudged on & visited her site to try again.

I deleted everything I had done so far, and started from scratch, and yet again my class list did not show up on my assessment form.  Thank the lord for twitter & awesome people on twitter because I messaged Andy Schwen directly & he replied within 5 minutes.  I am constantly amazed at what an amazing tool twitter is, & it frustrates me more & more that teachers aren't utilizing it!  However, I've veered off it turns out I was following both sets of directions correctly, but I was inputting one small thing wrong.  This will make no sense to any of you at all (unless you've had the same problem as me), but my issue arose when I cut & pasted my class list url & put it into my assessment form.  The original directions said to cut everything in the url from after the work "key="...however I had to copy everything between the "key=" and the "#" at the end of the url...How in the world Andy knew this I have no idea, but he did & I am grateful because now I have a super sweet assessment tool.

The tutorial on how to create the Google forms he uses are on his website:

So how am I going to use this?  I've been thinking a lot about assessments lately, and truth be told, I don't like them much (I'm talking pencil/paper assessments - not authentic assessments).  I think they have their place, but I would much rather know that students can apply what they've learned.  I would love to go to more to project based learning (including assessments).  As I said, I think assessments have their place, but I think they need to be used the right way (in case you're not sure the right way - they're supposed to be used to GUIDE instruction).  So here is my thought:

I've been toying with the idea of mastery teaching for the past several months, and I know it's something I want to do, but I haven't figured out how to organize it all.  One thought I've been considering is coming up with some quick quizzes for my students to take after they think they have mastered a content expectation, in order for them to move on.  The thought of creating, then grading, then analyzing all that data is a touch overwhelming.  This is where these google forms come into play. If I can get the quizzes created, then all my students have to do is take them, then google analyzes everything for me...yippi!  Creating all those quizzes sounds like a very daunting task, especially since I want to have more than one for each standard.  But like everything else I've been doing in the flipped class, it's going to be a lot of work at first...but the payoff in the end will be awesome!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Lightbulb Moment

This summer I've been doing a lot of thinking about how my flipped class went last year, and where I want it to go in the future.  As you know, this past school year was my first year flipping, and at the start I was thrilled with how it was going.  The kids were more engaged, and they were out performing last year's class on almost every assessment.  That wasn't the best part, though.  The best part was that I knew my class.  I mean I really knew them.  I could tell you at any given time exactly where each student was, what they did well, and what they needed to continue to work on.

As the year progressed I became less and less content with what I was doing.  I didn't change anything about how my math class ran, which I think became the problem.  I started to see the potential my students had that was being ignored.  At that point, it was so late in the year that I didn't have a lot of opportunity to explore other ways to utilize my in class time.  Buzz words like mastery learning and project-based learning kept running through my head, but I am the first to admit I have zero training in either.  I don't like that feeling of not knowing exactly what I want to do to improve, but knowing I need to make some changes.

So fast-forward to this morning, when I was grocery shopping, and listening to the Flipped Learning Network Podcast (which, by the way, is a wonderful resource for keeping inspired and knowing you're on the right track).  I was listening to week 3, where Troy Cockrum interviewed Ramsey Musallam.  I hadn't been following Ramsey yet, so I didn't know much about him, but I had heard his name dropped by several people during other PD's I've been involved in.  Anyhow, during this particular segment he was talking about how he explains flipped class.  He said (I'm paraphrasing here), think of flipped class like flipping Bloom's Taxonomy.  Typically students would do lower order thinking skills in class (with the lecture), then turn around & do the higher order thinking skills at home.  Flipped class changes that.  Now students are doing the higher order thinking skills at school & the lower level at home.  I hadn't thought about it like all.  But it totally makes sense.  I had a moment, like we love to see in our students, where a light bulb went off & I got it.  Now I have some direction for where I need to take my students in the fall...and I have Blooms to guide me.

So for helping the light bulb go off in my head, I say thank-you, Ramsey!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

WSQ for 5th Graders...and other ramblings

Most people who are out there in the "flipping" world...okay, that sounded bad, but you know what I mean...have heard of Crystal Kirch.  She started flipping last year (like me), and both of us have been blogging about the process.  Her blog can be found here.  Crystal teaches High School math & uses something called the W.S.Q. (Watch, Summarize, Question) with her students.  It worked well for her, and did something that I feel is incredibly important but doesn't happen often enough - it incorporates writing into math, two subjects that seem to be opposites.

After following her blog this year, I knew I wanted to try her W.S.Q. method, but I need to tweak it, as I have 5th graders, and she has high schoolers.  Below, I've embedded the prezi I will use to introduce the W.S.Q. to my students in the fall.

A couple of reminders for myself in the fall:
1)  Spend the first unit heavily guiding the students through their WSQ's.
2)  For each unit following the first unit, do the first WSQ together, therefore keeping it fresh in their minds.
3)  Have some variety for their summaries...paragraphs, lists, bulleted items

If you watch the prezi, you can see that I require them to write a sample problem in their summary.  My thought is to use that sample problem when they are done proving their knowledge.  I'd like to get more students involved in the video making process, by recording themselves solving a problem.  The problem from their summary is a great place to start.

Another idea...

I'd love to have my videos with a whole bunch of student created videos all in one location so if a student is stuck and needs to see sample problems, they will have a whole bunch to choose from.  I've recently heard about MentorMob, which I will blog about later, once I know more about it, but I think it might serve this purpose.  Making several sample problem videos is something I would have liked to have done last year, but realistically, there was zero time!  Why should I be doing all that work, put it on the kids...what's that old saying..."If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime."

It's time to teach these kids to fish!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FlipCon Session "Past, Present & Future"

The session I'm going to review is called "Using Video Podcasting to Revolutionize the Classroom:  past, present & future".  This presentation is given by Jerry Overmeyer, a professor at the University of Northern Colorado.  He started MAST (Math and Science Teaching Institute).

I want to give Jerry credit for his work, so everything that is in blue is taken directly from his presentation...the rest is my impressions/reflection.

The flipped classroom is NOT:

  • about replacing teachers with videos
    • Teachers are even more essential in a flipped classroom because now they need to come up with the "hands-on" and application activities for the students when they get to class.  To have an effective flipped classroom, you need to utilize your face time with students.  If you're making the videos, then just sitting back during class & doing no one-on-one time, then you're not doing it right!  Everyone says "there's no right way to do a flipped classroom"  I agree, there are multiple ways to teach in a flipped classroom...BUT...there is a wrong way.  If students are still trying to do the "homework" by themselves, then something is amiss.
  • an on-line course
    • On-line courses are completely done "on-line".  Face-to-face time with a teacher is non-existent, which I'd argue is the opposite of a flipped classroom.
  • about the videos
    • Are the videos a component of the flipped classroom?  Yes.  However, the power comes from the time you have with your kids after they've seen the videos...You know, all that one-on-one time I mentioned above.
When you start a flipped classroom, ease into the process:
  • You don't have to go all out, all lessons from the get-go.  Maybe start with one unit, see how it goes, learn from, then try another unit later in the year.
  • Personally, I went all out, and I'm glad I did (glad now, it was a little crazy this year while making the videos).
  • No matter how you start, you will find ways to improve.  Personally, I am hoping to add mastery teaching into my room next year, something I wasn't even thinking about until I started the flipped class.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Flip Con 2012 - Keynote

Since I am unable to attend the FlipCon 2012 conference in person, I have purchased the virtual a way I think this might be better because I get to watch every session, at my leisure, from the comfort of my least that's what I'm telling myself :-)

As a way to keep track of everything I'm learning, I decided...of blog about it!

First up is Brian Bennett (@bennettscience on twitter) giving the keynote.  Brian Bennett is a former chemistry teacher from Evansville, Indiana.  He recently accepted a position at South Bend Career Academy.  I've been following Brian on twitter and his blog for the past 6 months or so.  He's also been an active member of the #flipclass pd on Monday nights.  For those of you who don't know what that is, I think I'm going to have to dedicate a whole other post to the topic because it's been a very powerful tool in my learning this year.

I'm looking forward to his keynote because many of his posts have really intrigued and inspired me.  If you're interested in more about Brian, his blog is here.

Brian talked about a lot of different things during his keynote, and it was incredibly inspirations, here are some of the take aways that I want to be sure to remember:

It's all about the choices we make as an educator...
Brian talked about how nothing will really change in education until we make a mental shift.  Having all the technology in the world isn't going to make us good teachers, it's how we use it that will make the difference.  He voiced his frustration of recognizing that even though he was using the videos, nothing had changed.  This particular part of the presentation really spoke to me because I'm also feeling that frustration.  I've got the videos, the kids are watching them & coming to class & solving problems...but I don't feel like I'm there yet.  So where to go from here, that is one of the things I'm hoping to glean from the conference in the next two days.

What does a good classroom look like...
I think, at least at the elementary level, we do a lot of the group work/collaboration/desk arrangement that he's talking about.  I don's see too many classrooms set up in rows (at least not in my district).  However, it does make it difficult when everything you do isn't group work.  In an elementary we teach everything, and not everything is flipped & group work, so when we need the direct instruction, it does make it a little more challenging.  I guess it all comes down to procedures set in place for when you're doing different types of learning.

What does "class time" really look like...
This is where I want some more guidance.  My focus needs to be how can I best utilize my face-to-face time.  Right now I don't know that I'm using my time as well as I could.  I'm not trying to totally get down on myself, because this year has been an improvement.  However, this improvement and constant reflecting that I've been doing has shown me how much room I still have to grow...which in itself is a pretty amazing reflection.

Menus as assessment = awesome!
Brian talked a bit about using menu's as assessments...more on that later, bc I have some real thinking/planning to do around that.

Overall, a very inspirational start to the I need to play parent for awhile, more posts to come!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

An adventure in self-pacing

I've been very intrigued with mastery teaching lately (as you might have noticed in my last post), but I've not been sure where or how to start.  I decided that one of the best ideas was to ask my students.  During class this week, I talked to my flippers about mastery teaching.  The whole process of trying to go to mastery teaching, self-pacing, etc. is a little overwhelming for me right now, and I wanted their opinion.  I passed out a sheet that had every video/assignment for our last unit (unit 11) on it, and I basically asked them for their help...what did they think I could do to make this work.  The conversation that came after that was so interesting.  Below are some of the ideas that they came up with:
"You should make groups on Edmodo for each unit, then post all the videos within that group."

"You should post all the videos at once so we can just keep moving through them."

"You should give us a packet that has everything we'll need for a whole unit so we don't need to go searching for materials."

"Maybe we can have a quick check at the beginning of the lesson to see if we really need to do it, or if we already understand it."

Notice how they were all talking in present tense...and this is our last unit together :-( Makes me sad these kids won't be able to see how this turns out.

And one of my favorites:

"This isn't fair, if you would've done this this year, we could've been done in March & been working on extensions!"

From that point on, my flipping group were working at their own pace.  Some students are almost done with the entire Unit 11.  Some students aren't even started because they weren't ready to test yet on Unit 9.  It was very nice to not have to make everyone test when I knew they weren't ready yet. 

Here's what I've discovered so far...
First:  Holy cow have I been holding some kids back by making them stay with me @ my pace.
Second:  Mastery teaching is going to really require students to manage their time well.
Third:  Mastery teaching is going to teach students A LOT about themselves as learners.  Already I've had a few students think they were ready to move on, when it was very evident that they were not.

I look forward to some more experimentation, and the summer, where I'll have some time to create some quizzes to use with my math lessons.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oh mastery teachers...a little help here!

My students are wrapping up their unit on multiplying fractions, so we are now doing some quick review before we take our assessment.  I had 2 students who did an entire review page without missing a single question.  The rest of the class...not so what do I do with them?  Make them sit through review that they don't need?  That brings me to my current issues, which all surround mastery teaching.

I've always been frustrated with the fact that as a teacher, I'm almost forced into teaching to the middle kids.  Going too slow for the high kids, and often too fast for the low kids.  I've found that my flipped class (as I currently teach it) allows me to reach out more to some of the students who are having issues.  It also allows the higher kids to proceed to extension projects.  Now I'll be the first to admit, my extensions need work (right now it's limited to things I can find on-line that are already created because I honestly just don't have the time to work on them).

I'm also finding that when it comes time to take our assessment, the students either totally get it, or totally don't-there isn't much in between.  Typically I spend a week reviewing before the test, in hopes that the students who didn't get it yet, will understand when it's not new content.  I think that catches some of the kids, but again, not enough.  Plus, what are the kids who already have it doing?  Twiddling their thumbs (obviously I don't have them sitting there twiddling their thumbs, they are most often helping other students).  But is that the best use of their time?  For some kids, maybe it is.  They thrive on being able to help others.  For others, perhaps not.  Their time might be better spent moving on.

So back to the topic...mastery teaching.  I would LOVE to have the freedom to let kids truly learn at their own pace.  I would REALLY LOVE it if my students took ownership of their learning.  Take the assessment when they are ready, when they truly have mastered the content. 

I brought this up to my principal, and I think I might have him on board with it for next year.  However, that makes me very, very, very nervous for several reasons.

Reason #1:  What if a student doesn't get through it all (all meaning the content)?
Reason #2:  What if a child lacks self discipline and doesn't do anything all year?
Reason #3:  What if a student gets through everything with a month left?

And what about these potential issues:
Issue #1:  How in the world do you keep track of where every student is at in the curriculum?
Issue #2:  Holy cow!  I could see having to have 5 different sets of materials ready for each day.
Issue #3:  Will I now need to make quizzes for each lesson objective to determine if the students are ready for the "assessment"?

Added bonus:
Bonus #1:  With the flipped class, assuming I use the same videos, I should be able to meet each kid at their level/content area.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

We all make mistakes...what I learned from mine.

Last week I finally hit my limit...I decided I was done chasing kids, done forcing the flip down some of their unwilling throats.  I blurted out in class, "You know what, maybe we need to go back to traditional for those kids who aren't doing their video homework." As soon as it came out of my mouth I realized, crap, now I really have to split the groups & I'm not sure it's what I really want.  Long story short, I ended up splitting the two 5th grades into my flippers and non-flippers.  The flippers class consisted of roughly 32 students.  The non-flippers had about 20.  Here are some observations: the good, the bad and the ugly.

#1  I now totally remember why I decided against the traditional model.
#2  The kids who did their homework before, do their homework now.  The kids who didn't do their homework before still don't do their homework.
#3  I had been having a lot of guilt about the kids who weren't watching the videos at home.  Were they still getting the material?...Was them watching videos during class helping them more than I can if I'm teaching in the front of the room?...Is that really what's best for them?  As it turns out, while I don't get as much of a chance to work one-on-one with the kids (because they're watching the video during class), my video does a better job keeping them on task than I do.  That was kind of an eye opener.
#4  A few (3 of the 20 in the traditional group), didn't like it at all & worked really hard to move into the flipped group.
#5  While I'm not a fan of the traditional model, having only 20 kids in class is pretty awesome.
#6  The kids in the traditional group just seem to want to take notes & not do any of the actual thinking involved in class...makes me wonder how much of an issue this is with my flippers too. Next year I'm hoping to use a WSQ method of video viewing (WSQ stands for Watch Summarize Question & I am completely stealing it from Crystal Kirch, a high school teacher in California...more on that in another post).

On another similar, but somewhat unrelated note:
#7  For the most part, the behavior problem & low academic students were in my traditional group.  They are now 1 full day behind the flipped group in math.  They are 2 days behind in science (the class that they switch with during our block).  Is this differentiation, or is it ability grouping?  It just doesn't seem right that my traditional group is 100% composed of "at-risk" students.  Won't this have the opposite effect that I wanted.  Now the high kids are getting farther and farther from the lower kids.  I had hoped to close the gap, not widen it.

So where do I go from here?  Well, as there are only 3 1/2 weeks of school left, I am not going to make any drastic changes.  Next year I plan on keeping with the all flipping schedule.  My hope is that while the kids who need to finish the video, finish the video, I can get to the other students.  Then once they're done I'll be available for questions.  We shall see, but one thing I love about blogging is it gives me a chance to admit my mistakes, and learn from them!