Thursday, April 19, 2012

Getting Closer to Success

After speaking with my geometry class on the importance of watching the videos as a preview for the next day's lesson, I have had a little more success.  The only way that I could get students to watch the videos was to instate a quiz over the videos each day.  It took a few days, but I now have the majority of students watching the videos every night.  To encourage them to take notes over the videos, I allow them to use their notes on the quiz the next day.   I truly feel that this part is the most important.  The students were not taking notes over the videos and were thus not truly prepared for the class the next day.  Despite several days of modeling note taking with them, I still was not getting the desired results.  Allowing them to use their notes on the quiz makes them feel as if they were "getting to cheat", as one student told me.  I don't see it that way, though.

The quiz over the videos is generally 5 questions that cover the main ideas from the videos.  For example, last night's video was over finding area of parallelograms and triangles.  The first two questions  asked the student to provide the area formula.  The third question asked them to explain how to find the height for three different triangles (as modeled in the video) and another asked them what color the parallelogram was in the video (just to make sure that they at least played 10 seconds of the video).

I'm happy with the progress that this class has made toward flipped instruction, but I'm not thrilled.  Since we teach in a 4x4 block system, the students will be trained to just where I need them when it's time to get a new group of students.  Ultimately, though, the students are being challenged perhaps for the first time in their lives.  I think that most students are apprehensive of this technique because they've never had a teacher before that expected them to take initiative of their learning.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


This week is the beginning of a new term. I have spent the last few weeks developing ideas to help facilitate flipping the instruction. Many of my students have been resisting the move; I believe it's because they're being held to higher standard. I'm hoping that next term will be more successful, but I will need the students' commitment to flipping. To help facilitate their involvement and their commitment, I've dedicated an entire day to the purpose. Below is a list of ideas that I believe will help the students reach an understanding that they can and will be successful using flipped instruction.

1)have the students discuss their concerns or challenges about flipped instruction in their groups

2) encourage students to help their group mates to offer solutions to their challenges

3) ask students to reaffirm their desire to be successful in the class

4) encourage students to communicate about math outside the school day by integrating twitter as a homework help platform

5). Meet with individual students who consistently have not done their part in the class to see if we can develop a partnership for their success

6) model note-taking skills from one of the videos

I expect that the students will enter this term with a new focus on success. I'm hoping that they will start to internalize that their learning is not limited to the prescribed time of the classroom but rather needs to continue after they are home as well as when they are with their friends.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Moderate Success

After discussing the issue of not completing the video responses in my Geometry class, moderate success had been made.  I started seeing an increase in the number of students who were completing the video responses at home as well as the Edmodo assignment.  Even for those students who didn't traditionally complete their assignments were at least getting the assignments completed before class started.  I did notice, however, that the students who were completing the video responses at home seemed to score higher on the practice activities.  Whether this is cause/effect or just a correlation has yet to be determined.

The students finished their first test last week with interesting results.  The students who completed their video responses did very well, where as those who didn't scored very low.  There were no scores in the middle.  I had 6 students who needed to retake the test and 4 came in to retake.  I'm very pleased that I have the majority of the class focused on mastery. 

Student success is moving strong in this class.  Despite the high student count (24), we have managed to keep pushing them.  All but 1 student has moved forward into the 2nd unit and most are expected to finish sometime this week.  The classroom aides and I are constantly pushing them to do more each day since they need to complete 4 units by March 22.  I was putting in grades one day after school and I had this feeling of....well, you know the feeling you get when you're sure something is going wrong, but you don't quite know what it is?  That's the feeling I had.  I spent about an hour scrutinizing the data before me and realized that at this pace, I was going to have a tremendous number of students who were not going to finish all 4 units.

This created a big problem.  It's not that these students aren't working hard every day.  They simply are having a very difficult time grasping the deeper concepts.  This puts them at a serious disadvantage.  I had to figure something out, because I knew it would be unfair to simply put zeros in for all the assignments that they didn't finish.  I went to my principal with this problem and we came to a conclusion, or at least a really good question posed by my principal.  So would a student who has successfully completed all four units have earned an A in the course?  What about a student who has successfully completed only 3 units?

With that in mind, I went back to my grade book and deleted all the individual assignments and created 4 new ones.  Each unit is now worth 5 points.  The expectation is still there that the students must successfully complete all four units.  Once I created the assignments, I then placed zeros in the units that were not completed.  Once a week, those zeros will be replaced with a score from 0 - 5 depending on how much of the unit the students successfully completed.  I really like this system.  It gives me the autonomy to gauge each student against specific criteria and then determine where they are in their learning.  Within the first 15 minutes of making this change, I received over 30 emails (mostly from students) wanting to know how they went from a 100% to something MUCH lower.  Once I explained the new system to them in class, students understood and we had an extremely productive day.  I had the most assignments turned in that day than any day previous.

We're making success with the most at-risk students.  It makes me smile every day to see how far these kids have gone.

Monday, January 30, 2012

As Week 2 Comes to an End

The experiment is getting mixed results.  The pre-Algebra group is doing extremely well.  I so far have 1/3 of the students who have finished their first unit within a week.  Out of that 1/3, 4 that are about to complete Unit 2 by the end of this week.  I am very pleased with the students' focus and dedication to mastering the material.

My geometry class, on the other hand, is proving to be more challenging.  Students simply are not completing their "homework" prior to class.  Despite the fact that their "homework" is to watch one or two five-minute videos and then respond to two questions, students seem to not have the ability to perform such a task.  This has really hampered the effectiveness of flipping classroom instruction.  If the students are not willing to watch the videos at home, then a lesson is still needed.  This then cuts into their practice time.

I have identified several reasons for this disconnect.  The largest issue I'm having is students stating that they don't have internet access at home.  Our school purchased mi-fi cards for many students who mentioned at the beginning of the year that they didn't have internet at home.  The school collected the devices at the end of the first semester and then re-dispersed them "first come, first serve" at the beginning of the new semester.  I have a difficult time feeling empathy for my students since they were told on the first day of class all of what was to be expected.  The students who are complaining about lack of internet at home didn't go to request the mi-fi cards early.  All of the mi-fi cards have been handed out.  They appear to happy with playing the "victim" card rather than trying to be resourceful.  There are many places in town that provide free wi-fi access.

I'm completely disappointed in this group.  We had a long discussion today about making the right decisions to be successful.  I reminded them that they DO have the time, but they simply choose to spend it doing something else (more exciting than Geometry, I'm sure).  I explained that they can work on their assignments during lunch, before school, or even deciding to stay after school so that they can get their work done. 

I really hope that this helps to turn around their work ethic.  If this doesn't improve in the next two weeks, I may have to decide to abandon flipping instruction. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First Day

I introduced the idea of flipping to both of my math classes today.  The response was a bit interesting.  One class got involved in a serious discussion weighing the benefits and the disadvantages and the other simply sat there with nearly no visible emotion.  My Pre-Algebra class seemed to have no feelings about flipping intruction.  A few of them seemed interested, but most appeared to be apprehensive.  Most of them became excited when I discussed that the class was going to based on their individual pace.  I explained that students who wanted to accomplish more can and those that need more time have it.  They weren't too happy to hear that most of the instruction is based on vodcasts and on other websites, but I alleviated their fears by informing them that I and a visiting classroom aide will be there every day to help them during their struggles.

I was very proud of my 19 Geometry students on the first day.  The class consists mostly of repeater students and only 3 first time Geometry students.  Two of the three were in my Algebra 1 class last semester working on their 2nd attempt.  I introduced the concept of flipping instruction by asking them which they would prefer to have:  90 minutes of instruction with little time for practice or little time spent on instruction and a lot of time for practice.  The students had a serious discussion about the proposition and everyone weighed the advantages against the disadvantages.  I was not surprised that most of them preferred the latter.  I then proceeded to ask them how they felt about watching the notes from home and then having class time devoted to practicing and mastering the concepts.  Everyone was excited about having time to complete their practice in class, but several concerns were immediately put forth.    One gentleman said he was concerned because "what do I do if I have questions?"  Another young lady said that she learns "better when the teacher is right in front of me."  In addition to their fears and concerns, I had one of my own.  How do I get students who don't do their homework at home to watch videos at home of someone else doing math?

I had to think for a moment to figure out a solution to their valid concerns.  To be honest, these were the same concerns I had when I first started learning about flipping instruction.  I decided that I can't completely remove direct instruction from class time.  I posited to provided 20 minutes of review instruction to them that would allow them to ask questions and to tie up any loose strings.  I figured that if they watched the videos at home then all the ground work would be done and therefore I could save a considerable amount of time from having to provide direct instruction.  The rest of the class time would be devoted to practicing that material and mastering it.  I also explained to them that if they were to watch the videos at home it would open up substantial time to complete discovery activities that would normally be reduced so that we could fit in direct instruction. 

Over the past few weeks, I have continued to run procedures for flipping instruction through my mind.  I talked with colleagues hoping to derive some epiphany or at least some sense of direction.  I spent hours perusing forums and social networks trying to see what other teachers had done with they flipped their instruction.  At the end of the three weeks I developed a series of procedures (imperfect I'm sure) that I think will also ease my big concern mentioned earlier. 

The Procedure
  1. Students will watch videos about the next day's lesson.
  2. Students will take notes on the videos
    •  I will model the note-taking process and have the students practice it several times in    class at the beginning of the course.
  3. I will not provide assistance to students if they have not taken notes.  Thus, they must watch the videos and take notes from the videos in class before I will assist them. 
My ultimate goal is to hit the road running on Monday with full implementation of flipping instruction in both classes. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Setting the Scene

The purpose of this blog is record my experiences as I begin implementing flipped instruction for my Pre-Algebra & Geometry classes in high school.  Our school runs a 4x4 block with classes approximately 90 minutes in length.  My Pre-Algebra group is 18 students who have struggled in a year-long Algebra class, despite having had the same math concepts covered for the past 4 years as they progressed from 5th to the 9th grade.  The Geometry class is a mixed class of sophomores and juniors, several of whom are on 2nd attempt. 

My school has made several advancements in technology that has made flipping a reality.  We recently purchased MacBook laptops for each student grades 7 - 12.  We also purchased Mi-Fi cards for students who do not have internet access at home.  With the integration of this technology, the math department has decided to pilot Math XL for School with two teachers.  I volunteered to start using this in my classroom.  This program allows me to create assignments within minutes and the students then input their answers online.  This means that they can do their homework from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection.  Math XL is  a great program because it provides immediate feedback per problem for the students.  It lets them know if their answer is correct or incorrect, and if it's incorrect there are three or four tutorial aides to help the students figure out what they did incorrectly. 

The Plan
My plan for these two classes is to assign video lessons as their homework for the night as well as taking notes based on those videos.  I don't plan on creating my own videos (for the most part) but will use Khan Academy as my video database.  Students will then respond to several conceptual questions regarding the video lesson using the assignments on Edmodo.  Class time will then be devoted to practicing and mastering the concepts of the lesson. 

The Pre-Algebra class will actually be ran almost as an independent learning lab.  I have already created several complete units in which the students can complete the units at their own pace.  The only requirement is to have all the units completed in time for final exams.  Students who complete the Pre-Algebra units can then begin working on Algebra 1 units that I'll create as needed.

Flipping instruction in Geometry provide more time for discovery learning.  I have a class set of TI Nspire touchpad calculators as well as TI Nspire Navigator system.  I've ran into timing issues in the past where students were not able to finish activities because we still needed to squeeze in instruction for the day.  Flipping will reduce the need for long instruction time so the activities can actually be utilized to their fullest extent.  The remaining class time will be spending practicing and mastering the concepts on Math XL so that the amount of work to be completed will be minimal outside the classroom.

I expect that this will be cumbersome and will probably not seem to be worth the amount of work in the beginning, but then again, what does?  I'm certain that this will work and it will be successful in the end.