Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Flipped," finding the perfect "balance" in your classroom

This article prompted me to reflect on my own classroom evolution.
I was recently sharing with another teacher about my evolution and said that I am in search of a new word because "flipped" classroom doesn't seem to fit my 6th grade math classroom model. Although many recognize that "flipped" is a continuum of definitions, it also seems to carry a connotation that all the content teaching is from video. Teachers who truly study or practice the model know differently. I am pleased with the goal of my evolution, creating a student centered classroom with more time to work with my students. Without technology this would not be possible. The largest success factor is my e-generation students. They are so comfortable with technology, my only task is to train them how to learn from video, data analysis, experience and adjust their learning tactics in response to learning feedback. As 6th graders, they have whole heartedly turned into little e-generation learners supporting each other on  24/7. In week 6, my students are practicing mathematical practices on their own by persevering problem solving in ongoing dialogue outside of the classroom. But I have digressed, back to the "flipped" classroom. I think the term "flipped" is useful in giving us a model to help identify and support the shift of teachers into the next model of teaching brought about by the rapid change in our e-generation students and technology. "Flipped" describes the major shift into the world of teaching fully with technology at every level of purpose. This would include the full at-home video content delivery at the high school and college level to the partial content delivery at the middle school level. My shift into the world of the flipped classroom was a search for the perfect balance (at a 6th grade level) of independent learning, content delivery, and a student centered classroom where I get to teach rather than deliver content. If you were to speak to my students as we enter week 7, they would acknowledge the training that has been happening each week in our classroom.We have arrived at the perfect balance of learning for our classroom (this week)  by adding one more learning skill each week until we found our classroom functioning at a peak use of time on learning. I did not know where this point would be until we met that balance. That balance is defined by the students, teacher and classroom culture, rather than some outside definition of a teaching model.  I expect this balance is not a static model and will continue to evolve as my students grow. I expect my students will continue to grow and respond adjusting their learning tactics to the learning environment I create. In response, I will continue to build and add to our new model of learning as needed. As I reflect here, I see my classroom environment is defined by "balance" so I guess the adjective that would best name my classroom today is "the balanced class".

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week 5 - successful and not so successful

Week 5 has been interesting with flipping lessons. I still am only flipping about two per week. I am waiting for my students to  demonstrate an ability to keep up with the work and stay organized. This will be my signal to add a third day of flipped content. I am hoping to flip content at least 3 times a week. This week I also exported my smartboard class lesson as a PDF and uploaded it to Edmodo for additional review of class notes. It was handy for those who were absent too. Students had watched an introductory video on the content, and only had to answer one question with not notes. I delivered more content and examples on the smartboard in class the next day. Most of the notes came from this. Exporting the PDF allowed students to relax and listen rather than worry about writing down all the  notes. They filled  in the the remaining notes that night from the PDF. I guess I flipped the content in stages over two nights and one lesson. This was a successful way to deliver the content and still gave me more class time to work with students on problems. My end goal is to increase classroom time with practice

What was not so successful is the parents and all their questions. They are not sure about this flipping and their student's homework/classwork grades. Homework/classwork grades in my class are only 10% to track the learning progress. Parents want their children to have nothing but A's in the grade book and can't seem to understand that 10% will not impact the overall grade to any great degree. I use an online assessment tool and students get a percent of achievement almost daily. We don't expect high percents until we have practiced a concept for a few days. Parents want to see 100 percent achievement on every homework. It is a shame that learning is so grade orientated. We incorrectly teach students to earn A's rather than learn content.

One problem I have is the students who are focused on getting the answer but not learning the content. Several students in each class are copying answers from their group work rather than understanding the concept and doing it themselves. I can see this from the lack of notebook work and questioning in group discussions. This week, I will be implementing notebook checkers at the start of every class to check notebook work from preceding night's classwork/homework.

I still need to figure out how to support--

  •  struggling students who are not used to thinking and just used to getting the right answer any way they can
  • high achievers who think they should have an A every day on every new lesson
  • parents who are having trouble shifting their understanding of the flipped classroom and class/work homework grades

Monday, September 17, 2012

Starting week 4- looking for regular routine

So far flipping the class is taking a lot of training of my students with organizing and note taking from video. This is the beginning of week four. I am hoping we are into the swing this week. I also have to teach them how to collaborate more in their groups in class. One thing for sure, running a flipped class uses all the 21st century skills, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creating. I think all the training will be worth it in the long run. It will make the students better learners and thinkers. 

We have achieved:

  •  getting everyone trained and online with different web resources. Some students are still working out issues at home with devices. I don't think everyone understands this is not a one time online experience, we are learning this way all year. Many students inform me they just can't get online for one reason or another. They seem to think I am going to say ok, just skip it. I question and problem solve with them. Once they realize they will have to stay for late bus after school work to get online, they seem to find answers to their device problems. hmmmmm.....
  • Everyone seems to have done well with the introductions to problem solving but many are still mixing up work in one notebook
  • The 2-column notes are starting to shape up. There are a handful in each class that still need lots of instruction and I will continue to follow them closely.

My goals for week 4:

  • to launch the students into independent note-taking from video content. We are using 2-column notes which is what my whole school uses but I have found out that not all students are clear on the structure of this after learning in 5th grade. I have created my own notes for students to compare on the second night. This is good for students who need support and models.
  • encourage group collaboration and discussion by asking good questions 
  • assign regular videos, notes, classwork, assistment input, data discussions and get the cycle into a regular routine.
  • train on data driven learning and discussion from online item reports on homework (classwork input to online feedback at night)
  • teach more problem solving thinking, noticing and wondering (extra period to do this starting this week), straighten out notebook organization
  • video some class discussions for reflection and planning

Week 5 goals:
  • make some more of my own videos for lessons. Students enjoy this effort on my part and I am modeling for end of unit video projects.
  • plan some differentiated lessons as we move deeper into the standards
  • video tape a good lesson discussion of an item report for NCTM Dallas presentation

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 3 of school, taking it slow...

 I am trying to keep the flipped as simple as I can. I am still trying to decide where is the best place to host flipped lessons. Mentormob is nice and so is but I don't want to send the students to a million different sites. I want to develop a strong routine from the start so it is always clear. I have a google site that I am organizing with all my content by chapters and standards so students can refer to this for review, documents, links....but I still need a place to present each flipped lesson. I love Edmodo and was thinking I could organize chapters and lessons in the library and share folders but they still need a path. Then I was thinking I could just post the path each night. Video link here, write notes, answer two assessment questions here.....all in Edmodo post. I could make each flipped lesson an assignment in Edmodo and ask the students to write a brief summary, or questions, or maybe a different thing each time to assess they watched the video.

So this is my path:

Google site for all references, content, standards, documents, video links

Edmodo as the door into all flipped lessons

  1. Create library of folders by chapters and lessons for students. 
  2. Post each flipped lesson,
  3.  video, 
  4. lesson objectives, 
  5. notes templete or other documents (google?)
  6.  Edmodo turn in assignment for summary, questions...etc. ,
  7. Assistment link for formative assessment at adjustment points of lessons
My goal is to create a strong routine that is not too complicated for term 1. Get a strong start and maybe add some new technology in term 2.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Reflecting on flipping and structure while writing to another teacher......

 I am flipping all my lessons this year. Last year I only tried it a little in term 4 but I also only had 45 min and it was very challenging. This year I will have 54 min. What I learned last year for most of my classes, flipped or not, was to reduce the number of problems by choosing ones that are specific to the learning goals. If a student knows how to add fractions with like denominators then they only need to show me 1-2 times and move on to the next skill in the learning progression. Interestingly, my students seem to put more effort into the smaller assignments once they realized I was using this work as daily formative assessment. This daily formative assessment became our exit ticket for the lesson. They enter answers on an assessment system for feedback and tracking data. I had more control, was able to track each skill and each student daily. My students became so good at inferring their data that they knew which group to sit in each day without me organizing. I also visited each group every day because I knew from my data which groups and students were struggling the most. Homework is to finish  any classwork and enter on assessment system if they don't get it done in class because the formative assessment data drives the next class. Next they watch video, takes notes and do the launch problem for next day which is also entered on assessment system. This cycle seemed to motivate students to get the work done in class with my support rather than at home along with the next day's flipped lesson. I hope that helps. I don't start school until 8/27 so I will let you know how this plan works this year.

Here is what the cycle should look like and I am going to try it on a small scale from day one and then build up to full lessons.

1. classroom intro to standards, topic, take a preview or review on paper to be entered on Assistment for homework.

2. homework: 

  • complete any classwork and enter on
  • watch video, take notes, do launch problem, enter on assistments
3. next class:

  • grouped by data
  • review notes in groups
  • whole class discuss data on launch problem
  • groups work on next lesson problems 
  • teacher visit groups based on data and need
Lastly, I plan to not dive in and overwhelm myself and my students. I plan to teach them how to do each part of the cycle well and demonstrate how it will help them learn better. My goal is to be running this cycle fully by Monday 9/10.  We will see...........

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Students need to experience the benefits of change to believe in the value of it.

I read somewhere recently that students can't be expected to believe in the value of changes for their learning before they have experienced the benefits of such changes. 

Thank you MathManTP for reminding me out how important it is to teach students how to change the way they learn in order to make them accountable for their learning. Once they experience the value of the changes they will make it their way of learning. 

It is important to teach students how to listen to a video. I model (in a funny way) I am the student and I watch a video the wrong way. Next, I ask for ideas on what would make good listening with a "video for learning" which is different than a "video for entertainment." A few tips I have learned from other teachers doing this; keep the videos short (2-3 min) at least in the beginning and set the learning goals of the video up front so students know what they are listening for. I also provide 2 column note templates with very clear goals or some parts started so all they have to do is complete the notes. My school uses 2-column notes in all grades and content areas so my students come trained with this skill. Also, have follow up discussions about the at home experience. I think my biggest mistake in the classroom is not taking the time for discussions because I am rushing through the curriculum. Students always surprise me with their rich ideas.

6 Things to remember in September:

  • Start flipping lessons with quick (2min) videos
  • Model listening to a "learning video"
  • Clearly state goals of video
  • Provide 2 column notes with some parts left blank for notes from video
  • Quick online formative assessment for data to structure collaborative class groups
  •  Make collaborative class groups dynamic, fun, interesting so students experience the value of the change to flipped lessons

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Everybody wins with flipping lessons!

It occurs to me as we all discuss flipping lessons that this is really not any different than asking students to go home and read a chapter for tomorrow's lesson. Yesterday someone asked me what I do about the student that doesn't do the homework. The good news is I don't have to do anything! I don't have to repeat the lesson. Absent or non-homework students can go sit at a classroom computer and do the lesson at the start of class while all the other students jump into the collaborative math work with me. My absent students often check Edmodo for the lesson before class because they don't like to be left out of the collaborative work. Everybody winds with flipping lessons! :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My plan so far....

The problem with technology is there are too many choices. I have been busy exploring sites and reading other teachers' thoughts on best tools for flipping. I am overwhelmed with information so I have decided I just need to start my plan and adjust as I go. This is what I have so far:

Google Site: I am planning to use my Google site to present each unit of work. I don't have a textbook aligned with the current common core standards so I am building my unit around each standard.I will post this link once I have it much to do and so little time...... will be where all communication with students will happen. I call this the doorway into everything we do. Edmodo is so easy to use and the students (at least in 6th grade) like that they can ask me or other students homework questions. If you don't know about, go check it out.  It is a great communication tool for students and teachers. is where I do as much of my assessment as possible. I use this for daily formative assessment and plan to always have a few questions at the end of flipped lessons. This tool is free! It gives you instant data reports and I can create the content. I will start each day knowing who has done the flipped lesson and assess some levels of understanding to organize my collaborative class work.
Take this introduction tour to learn more at their teacher wiki. is a great visual organizer of groups of your favorites. I am building a tab of favorites resources for my students, one for tools to build my flipped lessons, and one that is for academic resources with common core...etc. is a great presentation platform for students and teachers. I am going to use it to present some of my flipped lessons. It is free and teachers share their lessons too. You can create a lesson page with video (yours or someone elses), links, readings, uploads....etc... It makes for a nice flipped lesson page.

Lastly, I have decided to purchase a MacBook Air and Camtasia video software. My laptop is big and old. It has a poor mike and camera and it weights a lot to carry around. I decided this will be worth the investment in the long run as I create all my new lessons.

Let me know if you have any great ideas or your thoughts on my plan.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Research and Development of my flipped math class 2012-13

I will begin my 14th year teaching 6th grade math September 2012. I tried flipping a little bit in term 3 and term 4 of this past school year. I really like how it redistributes my time and makes for a student centered classroom. Now I am reading, reading, reading about all those teachers who are already flipped classroom gurus. My brain is spinning. I have so many exciting ideas and so I thought my blog would be a good place to reflect, gather and organize my thoughts. I am hoping to connect with other 6th grade math teachers who also are flipping. I am going to try to connect through I love Edmodo. I have learned so much from the collaboration and sharing of information from all those Edmodo teachers.