Tag Archive | flipped classroom

Can I PLEASE do my homework?

Recently, Ms. Proch and I took two huge steps: we flipped our Pre-AP ELA 9 classes and we also implemented Outcomes-Based Grading (Standards-Based Grading for my American readers). Needless to say, we’re really excited, but I’m also a little bit hesitant/nervous/anxious/terrified. I’ve done both before, but not in an English class. Math made some much more sense to me when it came to exactly what my class time versus homework was going to look like, but English is a whole new kettle of fish.

Today is the first day where I noticed a huge difference in what my class is like. I assigned some prep-work (the work my class will do the night before a class) last night for my students to do. (You can check out my class website for the resources mentioned.) Their job was to watch a short video on Shakespearean Insults and to do a little reading about how to paraphrase when reading Shakespeare. Today in class, we took our knowledge about how to read Shakespeare and applied it to how to write like Shakespeare. They were tasked to act as a “secret admirer” to another student in my class and write them a kind letter. In theme with Valentine’s Day this week, this letter could be romantic (not required) or platonic, whichever the students were comfortable writing, so that I can pass them out anonymously on Friday for a little Valentine’s pick-me-up (some of them were super sweet–I almost cried reading how kind-hearted my students are).

Here’s where my students were struggling with the flipped concept: they were working, but not very hard. I reminded them that the assignment was to be completed by the end of class. They had more than sufficient time to complete this work if they were working diligently, but many of them were not. As the deadline drew nearer–fifteen minutes left, ten minutes left, five minutes left–the students began to panic more. Several students put up their hand at the five minute marker, and asked if they could take this home for homework.

Normally, I would be OVER THE MOON if a student willingly volunteered to take work home so they could complete it and “do a better job,” but I’m in the process of retraining their thinking on how class works. I said no, and they were dismayed. I took time to have a “teachable moment” and explain that they need to be maximizing their class time or we aren’t going to accomplish anything all semester. I’m lucky to have a spectacularly motivated crew, so they were on board with actually being productive. I am also fortunate that I get to keep my class all afternoon, so we dipped into some of fifth period to get the letters done to their satisfaction.

All in all, this was a great learning experience for me: I need to be grateful for my very eager students, I need to be more diligent with managing class time, and I need to reinforce the difference between prep work and class work (and the absence of homework).

My question to you, as readers, is what strategies do you use to help your students to transition their learning habits from a traditional classroom to a flipped classroom? 

What the “Flip” Do I Do Now?

No. I am not using flip as a curse substitute. I am starting to wonder if flipping my classroom is really worth it.

Pedagogy says, “Yes!” My own reasoning says, “Heck, Yes!” But everywhere else I turn seems to say “Why are you deviating from the norm?”

I decided to flip my ninth grade math class. It’s a year-long course, so there is plenty of time for different instructional methods to be used and experimented with. What’s been getting me down lately is all the negativity I’ve received in response. It hasn’t been an entire class, but it has been just enough students and just enough parents to bother me and make me question my teaching ability.

As a first year teacher, I am well aware that I have made (and will continue to make) mistakes. It’s part of my learning. Mistakes are where the real learning happens. Unfortunately, my students hate making mistakes.

I’ve set up my Math 9 class so that the videos are like an appetizer to the lesson. They do a few easy examples or maybe explain a few processes. Nothing earth-shattering, but certainly less information than I would give during a “regular lesson.” Each assignment that follows is carefully crafted to progress from easy questions to difficult questions, in an inquiry-style format. Students are more than encouraged to work together in teams to figure out the processes.

Some students hate this. They don’t like change, and they don’t like making mistakes. Perhaps it’s that I’m getting tired and need a break, but I am having a hard time tolerating all the student-criticism. When I was in school, I would never have dreamed of criticizing the teacher’s teaching style. I may have complained to my mom, but it certainly never left my home. My mom would always tell me that the teacher knows what he/she is doing, and there is are reason for how they teach. I always left it at that.

I have also had a few parents recently who have asked if I would mind “teaching normally.” They weren’t rude about it or anything, but it is frustrating. I am trying to teach their students how to learn independently rather than regurgitating math examples. They don’t seem to see the broader picture.

Perhaps who I am frustrated with is me. One of those mistakes that I was talking about earlier is not communicating with the parents about this change in teaching styles. Next semester, I will send home an email highlighting the exciting changes to my classroom.

I guess the bottom line of this is that I want students to be able to make mistakes, then learn from them. Just as I am learning from my mistakes, I want to afford my students that opportunity too.

Motivated?

I’ve been teaching now for nearly six weeks. It feels like a lot longer, but I know that I still have a long way to go on the never-ending journey of becoming the best teacher I can be. Love the clichés? Sleep deprivation + reflection = awesomely overused clichés.

I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks and the common thread in all my frustrations is motivation. I have students who are very motivated by marks, a few students who are motivated to do a good job because they want to, several students who are quite bright but “just aren’t applying themselves,” and even more students who just don’t seem to care.

In an attempt to change all that, I did what I am calling a flip-flopped classroom in my Workplace and Apprenticeship 20 course. I know that many of my students don’t care to do homework (hey – I didn’t either), so I abolished it. I still wanted to have a chance to be doing a flipped classroom-style learning experience, so I recorded my videos in less-than-five minute segments. I simply broke it up into manageable sections. I gave them enough information to get the jist of the topic and a few easy questions. I posted all the answers in the back of the classroom on my AWESOME “Problems? We’ve Got Answers!” bulletin board (I know what you’re thinking… I am so pithy or very lame! I’m still undecided on that one.). They check their work after each assignment, then watch the next video for the next lesson. It has a “short sheet,” which is basically a couple of questions they need to answer during the video to make sure that they understand what is going on, and, more importantly, to make sure they actually watched it. I usually broadcast one of my videos on the smartboard each day, depending on where the majority of the class is.

Here’s the beauty of this plan now. I have the entire class to be circulating. It gives me way more time to be helping students out, and it gives me way more control over classroom management. My back is never to the class, I am always milling about. I can catch problems before they arise. More importantly, the little goof-ball that brought in a laser pointer no longer has anything to point his laser at. Since I’ve implemented this, I’ve been so much happier with how smoothly my class has gone.

I also am loving the no-exam model I’ve created to accompany it. I have them do skill checks, as I’m using standards-based grading with this class. They get a skill checked twice on predetermined dates. These are basically like an exam, but chopped up into manageable, small portions

It’s not perfect. Not by a long short. I still have unmotivated kids. I still have kids off task. I still have hours from [insert insane place you’d like to avoid] where I’m run off my feet and feel like there is no hope for the upcoming generation. But, I have to say, it is better. I can catch more shenanigans before they become problems. I have students who are working hard and are ahead of the class (which means I have to keep ahead of them – not an easy feat some days!). I have most of my students working at the pace I set. I do have a few students who are behind, but since there is no exam looming, I don’t mind giving them a few days to get their act together. At the end of the day, I want them to learn, even if it s a few days later than I had originally hoped.

My favourite part of this is that I can have a unit assessment project. It’s not worth very much (SHH! Don’t tell the students!). It’s worth 10 marks out of 60 for the unit (5 marks per skill, with ten skills in total). It ties everything together and it is open-ended enough to let the students explore something that they care about and could see in their future.

I’ll end this post on one last happy note. On Friday, I asked the students what they thought of the change. Unanimously, they agreed. They all had good advice, like that I needed to get their marks up sooner for better feedback. I knew that one, but I’ll be a little bit more diligent from now on. What hit me was one student who has been a particular pain in the you-know-where (I bet you’re thinking of an ankle bone right?), said that I taught the lessons on my videos really well. The class then started clapping for me. I didn’t cry right then, but I’m certainly shedding a tear now. I can honestly say that even two weeks ago, I would have told you that I would likely never be shedding a happy tear due to this class. Gosh! I’m so glad I was wrong.

Kids have a remarkable ability to be wonderful. Just when you think all hope is lost, they do something that reminds me why I teach. I’ll have to remember this when I’m in the depths of despair next time.

Just Smile and No One Will Ever Know

I was talking with friends today and I wanted to share this story. We all laughed, but it bothered a lot, especially when I was driving home afterward. I’ll tell the story as if I am the friend who shared it. She’s in her early seventies, but regularly works with youth.

My niece lived with me for a while during her elementary and high school years. She was never good at fractions. In grade five, my son was tutoring her to give her a hand with this somewhat challenging topic for her. One day, he turned to me and said, “Mom, I think it’s hopeless.”

I loved baking with my mom as a child, but I can imagine that not understanding fractions could have changed my opinion of it rather quickly. Flickr Photo Credit to CaroleChapman.

I knew from that point that she wasn’t all that bright, but we kept up with school. Never once was she held back due to her grades. She got into grade nine and we were baking a cake one day. I used the one-cup measure to pour some milk, but she needed to measure out a cup of sugar. Naturally, I grabbed the nearest measuring cup, which happened to be a one-third of a cup measuring cup,and said, “Here. Just use this.” She turned to me angrily and asking, “What am I supposed to use this for?”

The next day, I went straight to the principle. We talked to her math teacher and, sure enough, she had received 2% on some assignment or test. She was still struggling with her fractions. According to the math teacher, she sat in the back and just smiled every day, so he had no concern as to her learning.

The discussion that followed this story talked about how easy it is to “fake it” in school. I can’t say that I’ve often times just smiled and nodded in school, but I can imagine it happens a lot. That’s a scary thought. We talked about how it would be really hard to ask a question when you feel like you are so far behind that you don’t even know what to ask. Again, I guess this is true. I have been so blessed to not be in that situation, but I can imagine it’s a pretty scary place. What startled me the most is that this is what my friends (age range: 20 to early-seventies) considered a normal for a math class. It seemed like the teacher was completely off the hook for not showing any concern over 2% on an assessment (granted it was likely more of an evaluation, based on the limited facts I have). Where were the teachers in grades 6 – 8? Should they have not made a fuss over the fact that she didn’t understand fractions?

I stayed pretty quiet during this discussion, since I know that I can get pretty passionate about education, and it was pretty lighthearted, but it’s been bugging me for the last couple of hours. I know more than anything that I desperately need to set my classroom up so that I can truly assess each student to give me an idea of where he/she is at all times. I don’t have the answer for this, but I certainly don’t want to have any students “faking it” with a pasted on grin and a few bobs of their head every time I explain something.

Should I flip my class? That would probably be the first step, but even then, I can’t stop there. Diagnostics? Well, they are pretty exam-like, but they do give a pretty good survey of knowledge, provided I design it so that I find out what I want to know. More parent-teacher communication? Absolutely. More manipulatives, inquiry, technology, etc.? I’m sure the list can go on. What do you suggest? Have you had kids “fake it?”

And So It Ends… But Not Really.

I think the stars aligned. Why, you ask? Somehow in the chaos of my final semester, three of my classes all required (well, two required and one was optional) a personal project that was rather open ended. Between my Math Education, Moral Education, and Technology in the Classroom classes, I found a common niche. This niche was in a flipped classroom. Anyone who’s been reading my blog knows that lately, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with them. That is partly due to how awesome I think they are, and partly due to the fact that I’ve had a monster project involving them for the last two months. I elected to do a unit within the Math 9 Curriculum on Polynomials. For more information and a better run down of the project, click here.

So how does this project tie into a critical project for Moral Education? Well, the way I see it, there are two ways to interpret the phrase “moral education:” (1) The act of educating students about morality, or (2) education that is inherently moral. I chose to focus more on the second definition, since we covered the first definition a lot more in class. For my Math Ed class, I created the flipped unit, but at the end of it, I was left asking questions about the equity of using a regular assessment model. How fair was it to assess my students the way that I’d grown up being tested, the way they’ve probably always been tested, and the way that most teachers still test? This, in fact, is less of an assessment and more of an evaluation. How could I build authentic and informative assessment into this unit? I looked at two different ways, comparing and contrasting them with each other as well as with current Quiz-Quiz-Test Model. I came up with a learning contract that uses standards-based grading and an assessment through learning that uses the material covered in the unit to bridge the gap between grade nine and grade ten math, all while enabling me to assess each skill that the student needs to demonstrate in order to fully understand polynomials for the grade nine requirements.

However, I’m not about the ignore the first definition of moral education. Within this classroom, there will need to be a lot of discussion about equity, fairness, and ethics in math education. These conversations need to take place in order to justify why I would even consider challenging the status quo. These conversations could be overtly teaching morals and ethics. Implicitly, I am morally educating my students by treating each student with great respect — so much respect that I want to customize their learning for each of them and give them the opportunity to shine come assessment time, however that may manifest itself. More importantly, I want to provide them with a desire to learn, not just  force them to memorize, material. Showing this kind of respect for their intelligence, effort, and learning is modeling good citizenship for my students.

As for the critical side of my project, I have to say it was really intriguing and fun to start to dig into challenging the typical math classroom. I started off by flipping a classroom — a big change to begin with — then I challenged how the videos were made by pushing for a more inquiry-based approach. Then I got to challenge the assessment of such a classroom. This project has really helped me rethink how I want my classroom to look, and it has certainly made me more conscious of justifying why I would do something in a classroom. Is it just because that’s the way I was taught and it worked for me, or is it because it is truly best practice?

So I sat down in front of a video camera one afternoon/evening and I spoke. I gave myself a list of questions, many of which made the final cut, while some did not. I will apologize for a few things: firstly, I didn’t realize how daunting talking to a tiny lens would be, so I had several prolonged “ums” that I edited out, but not as smoothly as I would’ve liked; secondly, toward the end of filming, I started to get a scratchy throat, so my voice gets a bit raspy; and thirdly, it’s quite lengthy–as in it is over an hour–so you may want to grab a coffee and a comfortable chair. Other than that, I am quite proud of how this turned out. I’m glad I took the chance to sit down and reflect out loud. Even the editing process was quite reflective for me. Listening and having an internal dialogue with myself was a really cool feeling, and it has certainly pushed my thinking further and inspired me to keep thinking about these tensions.


If the video doesn’t play, you can view it on Vimeo here. Special thanks to the Vimeo staff for helping me through my uploading difficulties. They have a fantastic staff that helped me troubleshoot through their well-kept help forum. Much appreciated!

It seems like it is time to say that this project has finally come together, from the practical math education side of the polynomials unit, to the moral side of assessment, to the technological side of making this whole thing (the unit as well as how the project is assembled, researched, and presented). While I can officially say, “I’m done,” I need to add in a “… for now.” This project will never be done. It will always be a work-in-progress. It will always be evolving, and I never want to stop learning about it.

Flipped Classroom – EMTH Reflection

*Please be advised: this is not a new post. It is the reflection that used to be on the “Flipped Classroom – Math 9 Polynomials Unit” Page. I just needed to reorganize a bit.

For my final project in EMTH 450 with Rick, I had free range to do anything I liked that pertained to education and math. The possibilities were endless. I changed my mind about 1,000,000 times. I finally settled on what I figured to be a manageable project of creating a set of videos to “flip” a unit in the Math 9 Curriculum. During my internship, I had the opportunity to teach Math 9 for the full 4 months, and I loved every minute of it. While for the most part, I liked what the textbook had to offer, I was not particularly impressed with how it delivered Polynomials. They came packaged in two clunky, non-consecutive chapters. I knew that I needed to avoid using the textbook, so I went hunting for some resources and made up my own work-package for the students, as independently from the textbook as possible.

Since Rick gave me free range to do whatever I fancied (within reason), I decided that I wanted to revamp the way I taught polynomials. Little did I know, that this project actually helped revamp the way that I want to teach in general. I’ll say it one thousand times over — my internship was great. Now, I think I can be more than that. I can see it, so I decided to push myself with this project.

This unit is entirely flipped. There are eleven video lessons, eleven worksheets, a “What Can You Do With This?,” and a project. The assessment is an outcome/indicator-based assessment guided by a learning contract. There is no unit exam. There are no formal quizzes. The closest thing to a quiz is a “skill check.”

I struggled with having this flipped classroom avoid direct instruction. Part of flipping for me was to avoid direct instruction. It seemed that it was inevitable, so I decided that if I can’t fix it, I might as well embrace it in a weird sort of way. Instead of making long and boring videos, I decided to keep them short and simple. I did my darnedest to ensure that my worksheets were inquiry-based. My theory behind this was to give a bit of instruction, just to send the students in the right direction, then let them work in-class on exploring each concept thoroughly. Answers will all be posted on the wall (answer keys coming soon). Students are invited to collaborate with one another.

Part of me thinks I may have had a mental back-lash during this project too. During my internship, I found that students felt bombarded with problems, and there was not nearly enough drill and practice. Both have their place, but I felt that problem solving was interfering with the students understanding the concepts concretely. I decided to not include the “token problems” at the end of each worksheet. Instead, I designed each worksheet to act as a set of notes, since the students wouldn’t be taking any anyhow. Each sheet contains what I think are the essential questions/big ideas (i.e. Explain in your own words how to divide a monomial by a monomial), as well as several examples. Because the answers are posted and students have no set “time limits” for each assignment (which was a big pull for me to the learning contract), every student will get every single question right. They have access to their peers and to me, so finding the correct answers is only a matter of effort.

To “address” word problems, I decided to have a unit project. This satisfied the old-school innate need deep down inside to have a unit assessment. “At least it’s not an exam,” is what I told myself. I’m not one to undermine or under-appreciate a good word problem, but at least a unit project ties together all the concepts and involves a “real world” situation. It’s a little bit less contrived. I decided to go with an area-based project, which lead me to think about the areas in floor plans. About ten minutes after staring at my computer hoping it would finish my project for me, it dawned on me. I should do a WCYDWT with a floor plan, and then ask the students to work in reverse by creating a floor plan and designing the dimensions on their own. All of a sudden, the “contrived” unit problem sat a lot better with me (and it squeaked in another teaching strategy beyond direct instruction).

My last word about this project, I promise: I am so glad I opted to work with a learning contract. It enabled me to build an outcome/indicator-based assessment and evaluation system that was free of rigid timelines and stress-(and/or vomit-) inducing exams. One of my initial concerns beyond the direct instruction bit was that flipped classrooms somehow guarantee only 20 minutes of homework per night. What about the student who doesn’t finish the in-class work? Does he/she have extra homework? So much for the nice guarantee. If we stick to the guarantee, then what good does it do for that student? Conversely, what about the student who finishes in fifteen minutes? They now have to “kill” 45 minutes. Yes, I could load them with extra work, but I’m going to challenge them anyway. Why not let every student work at his or her own pace? A learning contract does just that. To keep things reasonable, I will set a time-guideline and a conservative completion due date. Aside from that, every student can be working on what he or she needs to be working on.

As always, I welcome, encourage, appreciate, and pray for your comments to pour in. The more feedback I get, the better I’ll become.

Special Thanks to the following: Dan Meyer, Joe BowerSophia (They have fantastic Twitter Support), Kyle WebbRick SeamanEvolving Classroom, and Andy Schwen

This is my utopia right now. I can’t wait to put it into practice.

Is Reading a Textbook a Necessary Skill?

Using a single textbook as a resource is frustrating. Flickr photo credit to casalewebnet2.

I’ve been following the #flipclass chats, as well as doing quite a bit of research on flipped classrooms lately. I noticed a somewhat uncomfortable shift in the change of thinking and the pedagogy, all of which comes with being “new.” There is a growing concern about students loosing out on the “skill” of using a textbook. I can appreciate the value of being able to navigate a textbook, since I have $4000 of textbooks sitting on a bookshelf that I’ve needed to navigate to varying degrees in the last four years. Understanding how to interpret Academia in print isn’t always the easiest task to accomplish. I agree that learning how to do this is, in fact, as very useful tool for the students who are going onto any sort of post-secondary. I could also argue that most people will encounter professional or academic writing at some point in their careers regardless of whether or not they attend post-secondary, whether it be in the the form of a management report, highly involved news article, or a contract.

However, who is to say that a single textbook is the best way to teach this skill? I would like to argue that a variety of resources would teach this skill better. For example, looking at math since that is my background, most school divisions pick a specific publisher or series of math texts to use within their classroom. One one hand, that is fantastic for continuity. On the other hand, students are only exposed to one specific type of writing, style of problem solving, one particular format/layout.

One common fallacy that is easy to slip into — I did during my internship at times — is that the textbook is “perfect.” Once I made up my mind that the textbook wasn’t the bible for my math class, I instantly became a better teacher. I could feel it, I saw it in my students, and my students saw it in me. It was necessary to experiment with teaching from the textbook, but I’m glad I deviated.

As for the continuity argument, the curriculum is designed to encourage continuity. Part of a teacher’s job is to encourage retrieval of prior knowledge when students are learning concepts. Finding out what students do/don’t know through KWL charts, diagnostics, just asking them, etc., can help with continuity, and perhaps even inspire teachers to find other resources to help with continuity far beyond that of the standard textbook.

So here is where I stand now: the textbook is a powerful resource. Why not combine these powerful resources? Blend the use of several textbooks, online resources, self-created resources, resources from other teachers, and student-generated resources. I will admit that this will be a TON of work. I know that teachers are already bogged down with so much work and so little prep time, but why not give it a shot? This will give students multiple perspectives, different samples of academic (and non-academic writing), and a welcome change from their “boring” textbook (let’s face it — how many high school math textbooks do you read just for fun?). This, to me, puts to rest the need to learn how to use a textbook, since they’ll be better at it.

Am I way off base on this?