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!