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!