Monday, February 27, 2012

Action Research Award Winner :)

I was just notified that I am one of the recipients of the MACUL Action Research Award.  I've been asked to give a short (15 minutes) presentation of my findings during our the MACUL conference that is being held on March 9th.

MACUL is "Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning".  I had applied for this award back in January, since I was collecting so much data anyway, I figured, "why not?"  I guess that was a good decision because I won!  Below I have posted my submission, for those of you who are interested.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What to do? What to do?

 As I've mentioned in the past, getting the students to come to class prepared is a huge part of the flipped model.  Lately it seems like I am having more and more students not coming prepared.  This is exceedingly frustrating because they are automatically behind if they aren't ready for the day's lesson.  I've tried posting homework for all to see, I've tried contacting parents, I've tried with-holding fun activities, and still I am getting many students unprepared.  So what do I do?  Do I go back to traditional?  I don't think that's the answer because I am seeing many students who weren't successful last year becoming more and more confident.  I've considered doing both models.  This means more planning for me, but I need to do whatever I think is right for the kids.  Therefore, I decided to list some pro's and con's in regards to teaching one traditional and one flipped class. 

  • Students who come prepared will be able to progress as quickly as they can, which will allow time for some extension projects.
  • Students who don't watch the videos at night will be getting the direct instruction (regardless of whether they do the homework or not).
  • My flipped class would go much more smoothly, and as intended
  • Students who don't watch the video for homework aren't likely to do the traditional homework either.
  • For the most part, the students who don't do their homework are also the students who are the lowest in the first place...would switching back to traditional further separate the achievement gap?
  • My traditional class would definitely not go as smoothly, as the students who are the biggest behavior issues are also the ones who don't do their homework
I am yet to come to a decision on this problem & I'd love to hear your opinions.  We are wrapping up another unit this week, and will begin our seventh unit towards the end of the week.  Let me know...what do you think would benefit all the students the most?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Taking Some Responsibility (gasp)!

Last week I posted about my fractions test scores.  This week I want to post about some changes I've made to how I handle retesting.  In the past, it has always been our (my school and grade level) policy that any student who doesn't pass (below 80%) the test the first time around must do a retest.  Our math program has 2 versions of the same test: version A is short answer, version B is multiple choice.  You'd think the students would do substantially better on version B, right?  Wrong!  The kids who end up needing to retest typically don't do any studying and do just as poorly (often times worse because they don't think they need to show their work) on version B.  This has been very irritating to me in the past, so I decided to make some changes.

Before our fractions test, I let the students know that retesting is no longer mandatory.  It is now a privilege that they must earn through hard work (aka studying).  I gave the students their test results on a Thursday, and gave them until the following Friday to put in 2 days of studying with me during their lunch recess.  After they put in at least 2 days of studying with me (many chose to do more than 2 days), they were allowed to retest.  It was encouraging to me that so many of the kids who didn't pass the first time around came in and studied during their lunch.  Every student who came in to study with me improved their scores.  Not everyone improved their scores enough to pass, but they all went up by at least 10 percent.

While I was pleased with the number of students who did come in a put forth the effort.  I was disappointed by the number who did terrible on the test, but chose to not come in.  Those students will be explaining to their parents why they chose to go out to recess, instead of coming in to study.

Overall, this is a strategy I plan to continue in my next unit.  In the meantime, I am certainly looking forward to having lunch to myself next week.  The unit we are currently studying is on volume and the students will test on it this coming Friday.  Next week I hope to have preliminary volume scores for you, as well as finalized fractions test scores.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Proud or Disappointed...a little of both?

This week my students took the dreaded fractions test.  Before I go into their results, I want to give some background knowledge on this unit and these kids.

First, fractions was by far the most difficult unit of the year last year.  My class (even after the retest) averaged a 64%.  This is not something I was proud of last year, and that hasn't changed.  I have been anticipating and dreading this unit all year.  I dread it because it is really hard and frustrating for the kids!  I have been anticipating it because if there is going to be evidence of flipping success, then it will probably come from this unit.

Secondly, this group of 5th graders did not get fractions in 3rd or 4th grade (due to new curriculum/textbooks, those units got skipped) and were quite a bit behind from the start.  

As always, I will always be honest in my blog.  With that in mind, I think it is important that I also disclose that this year we altered the assessment we gave the students.  We added a question on converting fractions that wasn't there last year, and we shortened the questions on putting fractions/decimals/mixed numbers in order from 5 numbers to 3.  That being said, we sent the new assessment to our "math guru" who approved it, saying that it was still a valid test.

Okay, on to the results.  I've had a lot of inner turmoil in regards to whether I should be excited with the results, or disappointed.  My class averaged a 79% on their first attempt at the fractions test.  The other 5th grade class averaged a 73% on their first attempt, making our total 5th grade average a 76%.

I see the number 76% and I think...hmmm, they didn't do very well.  Then I look at where my group was last year.  The difference between the classes is 12%...and that's before they had the chance to retest!

So I've come to an executive decision.  I am going to go ahead and be happy with these scores.  With some hard work on their part, next week I'll be able to report even higher percentages.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Couple of Observations

This week has been one of the first back since we finished up our MAP testing & I've reclaimed our computer lab.  I've found a couple of trends.

Trend #1:
There are still many students not watching the videos before class, which is incredibly frustrating to me.  Especially when they have the opportunity to watch them in the lab at before school, at lunch, during recess, etc.  I began flipping my classroom because I felt that many of my students would "tune out" when I was doing a more lecture style lesson (even when I use whiteboards, hands on tools, etc.)  I wanted something that would allow me to help them more individually.  What I am finding is that many of the students who tuned me out are the ones who are also not viewing the videos, and are therefore spending the bulk of class watching the lesson, and not getting the one-on-one help they need....sort of defeats the purpose, huh.

Trend #2:
That being said, I have found that several of the students who were not doing their homework for our two week trip back to the traditional method are doing the videos.  I would say that on average I have 5-10 students who consistently don't watch the videos.  When I look at their scores on their tests they correlate to very poor performances (not surprising at all).  So what's the deal?  Are they not watching the videos because they are uncomfortable with the math & don't think they'll be successful?  Or are they not doing well in math because they aren't watching the videos?  It's the age old question: What came first, the chicken or the egg?  I wish there was a way to get them to really put in 100% for a unit and see what happens.  Our next unit is going to be relatively short, so perhaps some bribery is in order.  It goes against all that I believe in as a teacher to bribe students to do what they should be doing anyway, but if I can just get them to give it a real shot, I think they might surprise themselves.

A Couple of Positives
I hate to have a post with a bunch of negatives, as I'm typically an overly optimistic person, so I have to add a few cool stories that happened recently.  I was talking with a student of mine (one who typically won't do traditional homework and who struggles in math) about why she didn't do her traditional homework, but she almost always does the video homework.  She told me that her mom watches all the videos with her and is using those videos to help her learn English (and a little bit of math too).  A totally unintended consequence, but very cool none-the-less.

On another positive note having nothing to do with flipping my classroom, but a lot to do with technology integration which I view as incredibly important, I recently found out that I have been approved to take four of my students to the MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) conference.  There is a student showcase that happens every year during the conference where students get to show off how they use technology in the classroom.  My students are going to be showing how they have been creating Weebly Websites as an e-portfolio.  I told my students this week about the conference.  I let them know about how I chose the four based on everything they had put into their webpages so far.  This announcement happened to coincide with the day of our school carnival, where I got to sell tickets all evening, and I had two of the students approach me with their parents so that I could tell them about it.  One word to sum up their expressions...pride.