Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Year 3 of Flipping - 1st semester student reflections

I'm interspersing survey responses with free response answers, so enjoy!


I would say these are pretty good results overall.  The students feel like the video is an effective way of learning.  They definitely like the shorter videos (who wouldn't?), but even on "longer" days (15-17 minutes total), they appreciate the videos split into shorter segments.


The students' biggest complaint this year (besides learning the technology behind the blogs) has been the summary... But, it's interesting how not a lot of students liked it, but most of them admitted it helped them a little bit or a lot. I still am struggling with the balance between open summaries and guided summaries.  Right now, I am just mixing it up (guided summaries come more often).  However, students are so used to answering mindless questions in their other classes that they haven't quite grasped the point that they are supposed to be the "big ideas".  I think the day I brought my 5th period class to the computer lab and went through a WSQ together with them and explained how to use the summary questions to guide them towards focusing on the big idea of the lesson was helpful - and definitely something I need to make the time for next year.


I still always get the "why do I have to ask a question if I don't have one?"  I still am not happy with finding a way to integrate this more into class time (except for answering the questions for students who actually have real questions).  I do require the students to type their question on the Google Form, and they are supposed to label it as a "Confusion", "Discussion" or "Example".  Then I use conditional formatting for the words "Confusion" "Confuse", and "Confused" and so all of the "real" questions are highlighted in red.  They are also supposed to jot the question down on their SSS packets for reference in class the next day.  So, the GForm is for me (feedback before class), and the SSS packet is for them (so they remember where they were stuck or confused).  We'll see how a few tweaks go second semester. 


I actually didn't realize how much the students liked the secret questions. Now I just need to remember to have the "U small group" each day for students who didn't get them right.  I have it on my "Daily Agenda" now so I've done a better job of that.  I want it to be a positive thing - like if you didn't get it, that's totally cool - now let's just go over it again, in a different way and more one-on-one, to see if it makes sense.


SECTION 2: Best (or most memorable) moments this year
  • Probably when I got my first A on a test.-. A couple of my friends failed that test and I saw my A and I thought to myself "if I actually study I can pass the tests" 
  • The day I got my first club 95.
  • When i got a B on the Unit E test i thought may this class won't be so bad after all
  • i think it would be a day where i took about 3 quizzes and had a group discussion, i felt really productive. (:
  • The day that we had to sing all those Disney songs to memorize the formulas because you were so excited to teach them
  • The first day stand out the most because I was very excited to meet my new teacher and experience the new flip classroom
  • The first day of school when I got my schedule and saw I got Mrs.Kirch, I totally FLIPPED out! (Do you get my joke?)  
  • The last day before winter break stands out to me most because those videos of Mrs. Kirch's son were really cute.
  • The day that stands out the most was the beauty ratio day because the activity was really fun and the fibonacci haiku that Mrs. Kirch made was funny "Turkey is Dead" LOL.  
  • I think the day when everyone had to dance to "odd positive, odd negative, even positive, even negative."
  • The day that stood out was the day that we got assigned all the practice test and how frustrated I was but then after the test I was pretty happy that I did all the work.  
  • The most memorable one was the day after we learned the aysmpotoes, etc. song. I remember watching your husband dance to it and then watching you do it the next day. The entire class recited the song so many times!
  • The day that I realized I needed help and you weren't scary like most people would tell me that was like the 2nd week of school
  • The day you talked to me and almost made me start crying in the middle of class. It really is something that I will cherish because you are only the second or third teacher in high school to really talk to me about it. Thank you very much Mrs. Kirch you really have made an impact on me.  
  • the moment i broke down and realized that i was actually struggling and had to work harder and get my act together
  • It's still going to be that day that I teared up over my first club 95 (my first A) and my table, the best table I've sat with in that class, that just gave me so much support and were also proud of me and that one A. It was the best day of this first semester for sure.

I blogged at the end of last year that one of my goals for this year was designing better WSQ chat experiences, and I think I've been pretty successful with that.  My go-to's are Peer Instruction, Card Sort/Categorization activities, Challenge Problems (putting a problem on the screen a level harder than anything they saw the night before and having them work thru it in their group), and then (I don't have a name for it) I will give every group member a different, but similar problem, to work thru.  The problems are similar enough they can discuss and help each other, but different so each student is held responsible for doing it on their own.

I asked specifically about Peer Instruction since we have used it so much.  I don't really have a consistent method to it - it really depends on the type of problems, if they can be written as multiple choice answers, and how the students are responding to the problems.

This response makes me smile... The students don't really enjoy doing the practice, but they realize it helps them learn.  It's like the athlete who doesn't always enjoy the hours of practice and work, but they realize it will pay off.
This is the first year I've made PQ problems "optional" or "student discretion" for completion.  It's my way of giving students some freedom and self-responsibility for doing the amount of practice that they need to master the content.  My students are definitely not the best at this yet, and don't always do the practice they need, but they are working on it and are realizing things about themselves.

I've tried to improve upon this as well this year.  For this new semester I have small groups for the daily concept quizzes every day - today I actually didn't even let the students pick up the quizzes on their way in; they picked them up from me after meeting with me at the U... I think that's a good move because then they can't avoid it or say they don't need to go over it with me when they don't pass it :)
I also have a structured small group right after each of the WSQ chats for students who were still confused after the Peer Instruction or whatever problems they did.  This is just for whoever decides to come over.  That helps catch a lot of the students who need the help.
I also have a few random students who, when they need help, will just come sit at the U as a sign to me that they need more focused help.  I haven't really made that the norm, but I really like that...

We had an incident a few months ago where the Practice Test was assigned as a mandatory assignment because I wasn't happy with the students' effort in class. It ended up being a very long Practice Test (usually it has about 2 examples for every problem on the test... this one had quite a few more).  However, the students learned from that experience that it's valuable to put the time in the few days before the test to complete the practice test.  So much so, for this new semester it is mandatory every unit (it's the only mandatory practice assignment before a test).

I didn't realize this until a few students commented on the survey... The first few days of school when I explain the flipped classroom I mention that I will hardly be up front during class and I won't really be giving instruction in class.  I think for next year I will definitely rephrase this, because there are certain times when whole-class clarifications are needed and they have been very valuable (as seen in the responses above).  The students who mentioned that actually said it gave them a very scared/worried attitude towards the flipped classroom because they took it as me saying I wouldn't be there for them to support them in class (even though I meant it as the exact opposite).  Definitely a good thing to think about...

SECTION 4: How did you feel about the Flipped Classroom at the beginning of the year?  How have you transitioned?
  • I felt really excited at the beginning of the year about the flipped classroom because of the whole concept of "working at your own pace". And I still do. I learn the material pretty quickly and I have a ton of resources to help me.  
  • At the beginning of the year, I didn't think I would like the flipped classroom. I would hear all these stories from other students about the class. Now, I actually like the flipped classroom over the traditional system. Obviously, there's always room for improvement, but the flipped classroom has proved to be a fun experience.
  • At the beginning of the year i was not a fan of the flipped classroom as we had spent hours watching videos over the summer. Over the course of the semester, i started to enjoy the flipped classroom more because of the on demand aspect. Being able to do my homework in different places without a textbook was really helpful throughout the year as well as being able to watch old lessons for review.
  • Hated it, I honestly did. I would complain and whine about to non-Kirch kids. Boy has that definitely changed. The flipped classroom has helped me so much, I don't know how I'm going to do it next year going back to a regular math class. I just appreciate the time it saves us in the classroom and how we're able to do other things because we've already learned the concepts for the most part.  
  • I felt at the beginning of the year that the flipped classroom was going to be really hard with lots of work. However, my feelings have change because I realized that it's simpler than I thought and the work isn't so hard.
  • I was really scared and loathing the flipped classroom at the beginning of the year. So many people were telling me how horrible it was and I was already going into lots of other difficult courses--so nothing was helping me there! However, I have grown to love the flipped classroom because I find myself understanding the material more without it having to be repeated 5023947309 more times because 2 other people don't understand the concept. I also love flex time in class because it keeps me busy with what I need to do, not what benefits 5 other people in class.  
  • At first I thought it was something new, then it got easier over time and it seems like it's a more efficient style of teaching than some of my other classes 
  • I was a bit hesitant mainly because mainly of my classmates have complained about the flipped classroom. However, as I got into the curriculum, I found that it was best for me and that I really liked the flipped classroom concept. It wasn't terrible or difficult to learn from and it had helped me learn more efficiently.  
  • At first I thought it was really hard and weird. But, now I kind of find it beneficial. Such as the videos at home, it MAKES me have to watch the videos or I wont be prepared in class
  • I didn't hate it, but it really stressed me out thinking I wouldn't be taught anything because things were so fast. It has changed because even though the videos may have been confusing to me still, I was able to come to class and ask questions without worrying that Mrs. Kirch would get mad reteaching it.
  • I felt it was all very new and overwhelming. It has gotten better since the beginning as I have managed to get use to some things. I think all that was given with the technology was hard to deal with in the beginning because I was expected to learn it so fast and It was hard for me. I still don't feel one hundred percent sure about the flipped class but I'm managing to work with it.
  • I thought it was somewhat awkward watching you speak from your kitchen (?) Now I am used to it and I actually do not mind as long as I am learning. After all, I do not pay attention to the background as much, but mainly to the lesson and the songs, since I can play them all the time.
  • In the beginning of the year I hated the flipped class room. I thought i was going to not learn as well without the teaching in class. Over the sememster by feelings changed. I learned to like it more! One time i needed to review a lession for the practice test at home and the videos let me review the problem i needed. The flipped classroom became very useful with the videos and i enjoy them.  
  • At the beginning of the year I didn't really liked flipped classroom because I had one my previous year and the teacher didn't teach at all. However, Mrs. Kirch definition of flipped classroom is very helpful and I learned a lot out of it. My feelings changed over the course of this semester. A specific time that help me change my opinion is when I actually listen to the video carefully and got an A.
  • I thought that it was a silly thing, something that was preached about for its revolutionary nature in education. I'm not too sure about what I thought back then now, but I know that it works (because I'm passing the class).
  • At the beginning of the year I was very hesitant but then I learned to like it because I was actually learning and my grade reflected that.  
  • I felt that the flipped classroom was going to be confusing for me. My feelings have changed and now I think it makes math more fun and less boring in class. As a student, we have more time to talk to our teacher and get any help needed in class.
  • As I've said before, at the beginning of the year I thought the flipped classroom wasn't going to be very effective. However, this particular class is in fact effective. Specifically, the organization of the WSQ sheets and the video playlists have helped change my opinion to be more positive.
  • I was flipping out cause people had told me that it was hard. and I was like oh no Jesssuuuussss, HELP ME. But I honestly love the class! I love how its structured. Would I love all my classes like this? No. I think because of the work I think I would only be able to handle one. But I honestly enjoy this class very much.  
  • At first, i thought it was interesting, then i found it overwhelming, but now i feel fine about it. I've adjusted to it some, and i'm still adjusting. Having my peers to talk with and when we all earn as a class; i found that those moments really clicked for me, having someone to help me and always be available. 
  • In the beginning of the year, I thought the flipped classroom was going to be very difficult. However, as I adjusted, I thought the flipped classroom was actually easier than a regular classroom. For instance, I enjoyed the group discussions in class and how we could take quizzes in our own time.  
  • OMG I was EXTREMLY scared when I heard I got Mrs.Kirch. I heard that she was a really difficult teacher and that I would stress out. The only view I have different is that Mrs.kirch isn't a horrible teacher the student just really needs to be on top of their stuff. I have been very dependent on my teachers for my whole life and this hit me like a big yellow school bus. The student becomes independent of their work, the teacher is there to SUPPORT you, not to SPOON FEED you the work(although I perfer being spoon-fed).
  • Honestly, i did not like the idea of the flipped classroom, i wasnt really open to new things. my feelings have definitely changed because math used to be my worst subject and now i enjoy it because i know whats going on.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~    SECTION 5: FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT/BLOGGING ACTIVITIES

Student problems are basically when students make up their own problem with given requirements.  The amount of learning that a student gets from these blog assignments really depends on the amount of effort and focus that they put into it . This has been a struggle this year - I think starting the year with everything new and then the blogs and technology made some students just see it as one more assignment for them to have and not as the valuable learning experience that it is designed to be.

More students disliked the student created videos for several reasons - uploading takes time and it's awkward to be talking on video (even though their faces aren't on them).  But with all the complaining they give me, 80% of them say it helps them learn... So, it is definitely something to keep and tweak.
We've had 5 student-created video assignments so far this year, so I don't really think it's that overwhelming - 5 videos in 18 weeks.

The big comments on the WPP's were all the extra steps they took in making as compared to the other blog posts.  They had to created them on MentorMob and then embed them on their blog.  While some students quickly adjusted and figured out how easy it was, I have decided to change them to be more like student problems, which the student's appreciated.

This has always been something that's been "okay"... and I've never really found a way to make it better. I've tweaked it this year from how I did it last year, and already have some ideas of how to change it for next year... but I might wait until then to change everything up.  The purpose is to be a valuable learning experience where students can think critically about the problems and evaluate the process, but then also learn from their classmates explanations and way they organize the problems.  Unfortunately, for most students, this activity has just become "another assignment" to do and they just rush thru it, turn in crap, and usually turn it in AFTER the unit test, which complete nullifies the purpose of learning from it in order to help them on the test. Argh! This is something I want to figure out.

Just like PQ problems... students don't love them because they require work and thinking - but they realize how much it helps them!
SECTION 6: What life skills do you feel you've learned from this class?
  • The life skills that I have learned have definitely shaped me for the future because I have seen a difference in how I began the year and who I am today in terms of better communication, taking more responsibility, becoming more engaged over the material, and having sharper organizational skills.  
  • This class has taught me the importance of being honest and being responsible for the actions you do. 
  • I'm responsible for my actions and own education, I can't have everything handed to me  
  • I learned to have more personal responsibility without the guidance of teachers or adults.
  • In terms of life skills learned, I learned that even though it's really hard at first, if you give it your best and try hard, the results will show.
  • I learned that even if you don't get caught cheating, you cheat yourself. That's worst then getting caught in my opinion.  
  • Its teaching me that i have to be WAY more responsible for myself and my learning. If i want to succeed i have to take charge in what im doing.
  • I learned that integrity and honesty is an important trait to have because it helps me become a good person.
  • I learned to be more independent on my work and to have more trust and security over my own decisions and that i am responsible for what i do and learn. I can be in charge of my own learning rate.
  • Wow, well...what can I say? This class has definitely taught me that everything I do is my responsibility, and if I want to succeed, only I can do it. No one else is going to be asking me to re take tests is the real world. If I want to succeed and reach med school (which is my goal), then I must do everything to the full extent of my abilities. And even then, I have to give it my 110%
  • I've definitely seen a change in myself because of this class. I've learned to take responsibility in the things I do. I know I have to take the initiative to better my education by doing things ahead, and review things on my own, and asking for help myself. It really has made me into a stronger student and person and I know that will pay off in the future. Also, after that nasty WSQ chart incident in the beginning of the year, I know and understand what integrity is and what it means in terms of your life, may it be in your relationships, school, career, etc.  
  • Oh goodness, this class has taught me so much in this one area. With FITCH and KIRCH, I mean one thing I learned the most is to be honest, you're only cheating yourself with cheating (copying other's homework, letting others copy, not understanding the value of your signature <- that one is a biggie) so thank you especially for this Mrs. Kirch. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Week 18 Reflections - Lessons Learned + Continuing to Tweak

Course 1 - Learning lessons with the "internal flip"

I've made a few tweaks to my "internal flip" class as I'm trying to figure out how this will work.  Originally, I had the students seated homogeneously by current grade in class so the kids could work at the same pace as those around them.  As the last couple of weeks have gone on though, there was definitely students at different locations even at the same tables.  Two things that added to this were:

1)  if a student was absent, they came back behind, and
2) the fact that this unit they had to use compasses to do triangle constructions and most students didn't have one at home (and we can't "require" them to buy that $1-2 supply), so they can only do that part of the work at school.

So, the last 3 days I have just made a list on the board for each table and put a range of assignment #'s for that table.  So, for example, it would look like this:

Table A - #31 and higher
Table B -  #28-30
Table C -  #25-27
Table D -  #22-24
Table E -  #19-21
Table F & Rows  - less than #19

Then, the students would go to the appropriate tables and all be working on the same assignment. They would move "up" to the next table as they moved on.

This change made things a lot better.

A few other things I learned:

  • For these two weeks after break, I made a new formatted assignment chart for them where a space fits perfectly for my "stamp" to mark them off.  I just kept the stamp with me and marked them off as I came around.
  • After EVERY video assignment there was another assignment called "Call Mrs. Kirch over to discuss".  This helped to alleviate the issue we had before winter break where students would never check in with me.  Now, they were forced to.
  • Even though I thought I formatted it easily, I still had many students who didn't understand that #1 came first, #2 came after, etc.   They wanted to work on #8 because their friends were even though they hadn't finished #5.  We had to have many many many talks (probably every day the first week) about going in order.  Some students still didn't get it even at the end of this second week. 
  • I put a single QR code on the back of the assignment chart that sent students to a single Sophia tutorial.  With all 40 assignments for the 11 class days (keeping in mind that probably 15 of the 40 assignments were simply "Call Mrs. Kirch over to discuss"). Bad idea. It took forever for the pages to load on the iPods (all working off one network at the same time) since there were so many things to load.  Even though it takes more work to do the different QR codes for each assignment, just do it :)

Things I'm still not too sure about

  • By the end of two weeks, I had half of each of my classes not "on target" by at least 1 day, if not 2-3. Now, this unit was more difficult in terms of the supplies needed (so students couldn't really do work at home unless they bought a compass).  However, I chatted with those students every single day in class and told them they needed to come to my tutoring hour the next day to get caught up.  And not a single one of them showed up. Any day. All week.  Structuring class like this, where they have to finish one assignment before moving on, will no doubt lead to students who are "behind".  But, is it helping them to actually master the assignments they do cover?  Where is the cutoff?  I finally gave those students an assignment # to get to by Monday class time (with 2 opportunities - Friday lunch and Monday morning - to come in for help getting caught up)... and if they don't, it will be detention for every assignment they are behind, to basically "force" them to come in.  Not my ideal solution, but we'll see if it works for these students.

Going forward from here

  • I just got our next unit on Friday (that I start teaching in a week, but that's another story).  So, I'm going to do my best to get everything ready.  I'm going to get some feedback from my students this week on the new assignment chart format, the new class setup (where you sit based on what as'g you are on), as well as discuss consequences with them for not staying on track when we start the next unit.  Based on their feedback, I'll tweak things.  However, I've informally discussed it with several students already and they seem to really like it.

Math Analysis - Refocusing with some structure 

We started "2nd semester" material this week, and are at the awkward place where we are learning new stuff but now have to take a week break for final exams.  I am excited about a few of the changes I am making for 2nd semester, and was planning on waiting until true 2nd semester started to go over them (in case I get any transfers at semester).  But, after day 1 of starting our new Unit, I had to lay the law down.  I've been very flexible and way too nice in giving the students more freedom than they can handle, like I mentioned in my last post.  I am going to start requiring certain assignments from the WSQ chart and assigning consequences if they are completely.  Most notably is the notes from the WSQ in their packets - I now will be walking around to check them every day at the beginning of class.  I don't know how some students think they are going to be successful if they don't have any examples to refer back to.  I likened it to showing up to a traditional class and sitting there staring at the ceiling, ignoring the teacher the whole time, and expecting to learn.  I told them that showing up to class without being prepared (doing the WSQ) and then sitting in class (rather than going off to the side to get the WSQ done) is disrespectful to me (the teacher), hurtful to them (they are missing key information), and disrespectful to their peers who came prepared and want to deepen their understanding and not just have lazy classmates leech off of them.  So, I hate to feel like I'm babying them, but I have to check and if the notes aren't complete, off to the side they go to get caught up before joining class again.

I'm also thinking through how to support students more with the quizzes.  I feel like I have done something similar to this every year at this point of the year, and can't remember why I don't start it sooner.  Every day after the WSQ chat, I tell all the kids that did not get 8's (perfect scores) on any quizzes they took the previous day to come see me at the U to check in with me.  Sometimes it is just a quick look, they find a stupid mistake, and they move on.  Other times I will sit down and work out the problem correctly with them so they can find their mistake.  I think it's important and definitely worth the time to do it.  Since the students take the quizzes on their own time, there's only been max 5 students who have had to come.

I'm looking forward to sharing the results of my end of 1st semester survey soon.  Maybe with finals week I can find some time to blog during the school day.  Lots of great feedback, comments/suggestions, and ideas.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Week 17 reflections - struggles and goals as the semester comes to a close.

A few events coming up:

  • Wed, Feb 5th - I'm hosting a Flipped Class Open House.  If you are in the southern California area and want to visit, find the information here
  • Sat, Feb 8th - I'm presenting twice at OCCue's Tech Fest, once on Structuring Flipped Learning for Student Success and another on Screencasting 101.  Info here.
  • Tues, March 11 - I'm presenting a webinar with Sophia.org on the flipped classroom.  Free registration here.

I just wrote a whole post.  Re-read it, and it made no sense.  So, I'm starting over.  We'll see if this one makes any sense.

Semester 1 is just about over.  This was my 5th semester implementing the flipped classroom my Math Analysis classes.  Every semester I change or tweak something, hoping to make class (and learning) more engaging, effective, and enjoyable for my students.  Every semester I also send out a student survey to get feedback on how things are going.  I'm still waiting for about 15 responses for this semester, and then I'll do a full post with the results.  But, so far, the results are overwhelmingly positive.  The students, in general, enjoy the videos and feel they learn from them.  Same with class time and the learning activities they participate in.  Some love the blog posts and some hate them (mainly just the tech aspect of them).  Most have said they have adjusted to the flipped classroom and actually prefer it now.  The students are grateful that I listen to them and have made adjustments throughout the year based on their suggestions and feedback.

However, despite the most positive responses in 5 semesters, I don't feel like I'm being as successful as I want to be.  I feel like my students aren't taking responsibility for themselves and their learning.  I feel like the passion and deep questioning I experienced last year is nearly absent.  I feel as though I've made little progress in fighting against the point-grabbing mindset my students came in with.  I can't fight a battle I only have a 16% influence on.  My students are still trying to find a way to play the game of school in my classroom even though the rules have completely changed.  They are making it harder on themselves and harder on me.  Students who should have A's just won't put in the practice and focus time and have B's (or C's).  Students are failing and make zero effort to make any work up or retake anything.  It is amazingly encouraging when you see progress and growth (yes, yes, I do have those students who are doing better than expected because they've learned better how to learn and apply themselves...).  And horribly disheartening when you don't.

I also feel like I've had an internal struggle with my teaching philosophy.  
  • Let kids retake anything vs you're doing them a disservice if they can always retake.  (current standpoint: I don't care when you master it as long as you master it. Follow my re-assessment guidelines and you can retake anything all semester)
  • Don't give credit for late work vs let them turn it an at anytime, it's more important that they've learned from it than learned on time.   (current standpoint: I've been accepting late work for no penalty all year.  It's the first year I've never deducted points for things being late.  I'm really not sure if this is a good change or a bad change)
  • Students should never have homework because it takes away from their free time vs homework is beneficial if given appropriately.  (current standpoint: I think practice of some sort in addition to class time is essential to success in math.  Maybe not in all subject areas, but in math, yes. My "homework" is generally the lower-order-thinking video & WSQ, but without them doing that outside of class time, they wouldn't have the time available to practice, apply, and ask questions in class when I'm present.)
  • Don't push the limits, just hide away and be "normal" vs challenge, experiment, and try new things that you think will help students learn.  (current standpoint: sometimes I think it would be so much easier to rewind the clock and be invisible.  But, even thinking back to my first year of teaching, I was always pushing the limits and trying new things.  Now what I'm doing is just more well-known which creates more pressure)
I can't make up my mind and am trying to figure out what I truly believe is best, amongst all the people out there who claim one way (their way) is best.  My weakness of being a people-pleaser is definitely not aiding in this.

Am I alone in feeling this?  I know the answer to that is no...but it doesn't hurt to ask!


So, what are my goals as this semester comes to a close?
  • I need to decide how much freedom is truly appropriate to give my students.  I basically opened the floodgates and gave them full freedom, which (of course) led some students to basically do nothing.  I'm thinking that the following need to be required:
    • WSQ - No matter how smart or struggling, all students will be required to have the minimum of notes being taken in their SSS packets, the summary written online, and a  question written in their packet.  No more of this "well it's okay you probably don't need it this time".
    • Formative assessments - This includes quizzes, blog posts, and peer evaluation of blog posts.  They are supposed to be used as a tool to see what students know and where they need help.  The peer evaluations have turned into busy work for many students, and I don't know how to make them more meaningful.  I want them looking at each others' work and critiquing it. I also think it's a valuable tool to learn from one another.  But if the students do a crappy job on the post and on the peer eval, it's simply busy work.
    • Practice Test within 3 days of the actual test day.  Since other practice work is "do what you need to", I feel like there needs to be some sort of required amount to make sure the students are prepared.  They won't do this on their own (we learned that the hard way), and if they do it, it actually helps them (we learned this the hard way as well)...
  • Figure out how to motivate more students to make sure they are ready for the Unit Exams the first time around and not depend on re-assessments.  Are they taking advantage of the fact that I let them re-assess by concept and not on the entire unit at once?  Is it not an inconvenience to just re-assess?  It obviously creates more work for me.  I've set up a pretty good system this year to make it not that crazy, but ideally they prepare before the first attempt.

One thing I do love about teaching is the ability to have a (somewhat) fresh start every semester and a brand new start every year.  There is always room to tweak and change and make things better.

Monday, January 6, 2014

#SunShine Awards - thanks for Carolyn and Kathy for giving me something mindlessly fun to do!

I think the rules are widely read, but for those of you who haven't seen this, here they are:

So here is how it works:
Step 1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger (s).
Step 2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Step 3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
Step 4. List 11 bloggers you think deserve some recognition and a little blogging love! (These people can’t include the blogger who nominated you.)
Step 5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate

Step 1 – Acknowledge the nominating blogger (s):
Big thanks to Carolyn Durley ‏@c_durley and  for nominating me!

Step 2 – 11 random facts about me:
  1. I was a three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball, and softball) in high school - well for two years anyways.  After my sophomore year, I decided softball wasn't in my genes because it was outdoors and I sunburned too easily and I didn't like having to worry about the weather when playing (wind, rain, mud...).  I played outside hitter in volleyball and was nicknamed the "Master Blaster".  I was a few kills away (I think it was 35) from breaking the school record that was held by a girl who played at UConn.  I was point guard in basketball.  Before I started driving (a car), my coach told me that I would be a good driver because I was so used to scanning my surroundings while playing point.  I still think about that almost every time I drive now, over 15 years later.
  2. I went to college planning on being a Physical Therapist and majored in Kinesiology with a focus in Pre-PT. Midway through my first semester, I thought to myself, "What am I doing? I've always wanted to be a teacher" and changed my concentration to Teaching/Coaching and started taking the classes to get my minor in math.  Seeing that I was going to have to take so many science classes (chemistry and physics) also turned me away. 
  3. I coached girls basketball at the JV level my first three years of teaching. I had records of 13-8, 21-0, 20-2, with two league championships.  It was a ton of fun and I miss it a lot, but family needed to come first and it wasn't able to with the time commitment coaching a winter (I mean year-round) sport took.
  4. My first plane ride was my freshmen year college when our basketball team flew to Kentucky for a tournament.  Since then I've flown many more times, but it was definitely an experience for me.  I have no idea what pre-9/11 flights were like.
  5. I had no sports injuries when I was in high school, besides the minor ankle sprain, but once I went to college I had knee surgery (torn meniscus/ lateral cyst removal; played on it for a whole season living on a steroid shot and ibuprofen), achilles tendon surgery (ruptured while I was coaching showing the three man weave, two days after my doctor released me to start jogging from my knee surgery... that was a fun visit to my physical therapist and doctor wondering why the heck I was on crutches again!), and then a few months after I quit my college basketball team due to too much back pain, I collapsed on my desk with a herniated disc (L4-5) in my back and was in therapy for another 6 months. Three major injuries in just about a year and half.  Let's just say my basketball playing career was over.
  6. I met my husband while leaving college basketball practice one day. I had ice saran wrapped to my achilles, knee, and back, and was limping out of the gym gross and sweaty when a mutual friend called me over and introduced me to his friend who had just transferred in.  I won't say it was the greatest first impression, but I guess it goes to show that first impressions aren't everything.
  7. I live 15 minutes from Southern California beaches but probably have only been 2 or 3 times since graduating college 8 years ago.  I don't like hunting (or paying) for parking and the crowds.  I grew up in a small town where there was no paid parking anywhere, it was all free... so it perturbs me having to go anywhere and pay for parking now.
  8. In my small town, we had a Wal-mart, and that's about it.  That is where we would hang out, seriously.  We made up something called "The Walmart Game" where you divide up into teams, pick out a certain amount of random items, and then trade carts.  The first team to correctly place back all the items (yes, there is a test of integrity here!) wins.
  9. When I was in 9th grade, I won a ride on the "Jesus" Balloon at the local hot air balloon festival for having the best attendance in Sunday School.  I got up super early (like 4am) only to go to the balloon field and find out the balloons weren't flying that morning due to wind.  We were heading out of town to go shopping (yes, living in a town with just a wal-mart meant it was a huge planned trip to drive the 90 miles to the nearest mall) so we couldn't wait around for the winds to die down.  It might have been meant to be as I'm scared of heights, but I still would have loved the experience.
  10. I own every book Karen Kingsbury has written.  My husband gets mad because I own too many books.  I know I could borrow them from the library or get them as an eBook, but there is just something about curling up with a good book with real pages that makes reading that much more enjoyable. My dream is to one day have a library like in the movie "Beauty and the Beast", where the whole room is dedicated to books and a comfy reading area.
  11. I really do believe Disneyland is the "Happiest Place on Earth".  We had annual passes for a couple of years and it was so glorious to go there and get away from all the stresses of life.  Walking down main street, listening to the music, not worrying about waiting in line because you could always come back another day... it was wonderful.  We are hoping to get them again soon, but the prices are ridiculous.
Step 3 – Answers to questions asked of me
1. Favorite quote or saying? (Carolyn)  "If it's important to you, you will find a way; if not, you'll find an excuse".  It's on my wall in my classroom.
2. If you could do your post secondary education over again what (if anything) would you do differently? (Carolyn) Not sure... I met my husband there and I'd never want to change that.
3. What inspired you to go into education? (Carolyn) I love teenagers, and I love math... and I love feeling like I am able to make a difference.  Every day is different and every year is a fresh start.
4. If you did not have to work what would you do instead (or would you continue to work)? (Carolyn) I would be a stay at home Mom to my precious little boy.  I'd do that now if I could.
5. What one country that you have not visited, would you like to and why? (Carolyn) I want to go back to Europe and explore. My husband and I love to go on vacations where we can visit places and museums and learn.  We went to Rome and on a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon and besides the language barrier we loved it.  One of these days...
6. What is your favorite way to unplug and unwind? (Carolyn) Curl up with a good book or hulu
7. Strangest food you have consumed? (Carolyn) I don't consume strange food. I'm very picky.  If it looks or smells unappealing, I won't try it.  I'm a VERY picky eater.  I actually looking forward to making Grayson's food at home because I think it will help me to try new things since I'll be making it for him.  I'll eat my portion before I puree it for him though :)
8. What is your favorite movie and why? (Kathy) I'm not sure if I have a favorite.  I like chick flicks and then movies like the Ocean's series, the Italian Job, and the Bourne series.  When Ocean's 11 came out on video I watched it 6 times in one day because I was so fascinated by the plot and how it all came together.
9. What is your favorite form of caffeine? (Kathy) None. Unless chocolate counts.  I don't drink coffee, and I rarely drink soda.  I didn't drink  a lick of soda from the time I was in 7th grade until I was out of college. My older sister's high school basketball coach wouldn't let the team drink soda during the season and I wanted to be "cool" like her so I stopped drinking soda... and just never started again.  Now I can only drink it in small quantities if water isn't an option.
10. Favorite twitter chat? (Kathy) The only one I participate in, I guess... #flipclass.  I don't have much time these days to participate in chats and it seems like when I try I only last about 10 minutes before Grayson needs me again.  One of these days I'll be back!  I tried #caedchat but (sadly) it's too late for me.  I try to get to bed between 8 and 9 when I'm working...
11. Do you prefer salty or sweet? What is your favorite salty or sweet and why?? (Kathy) Depends on the day. I definitely crave both.  The best is a combination - I think my mom calls them "Turtles" - it's a pretzel with a rolo on top.  Salty, chocolate, and caramel. YUM!
Step 4 – My Questions for you:
See Step 5 :)
Step 5 – Now it’s over to you:
I think everyone I would nominate has already done this... and everyone is back to work so I have a feeling nobody really has the time to complete it.  So this chain letter will end here :)
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