Sunday, February 23, 2014

Week 3 reflections (+ my Unit Circle derivation activity/student blog posts AND some student reflections)

CCSS Course 1

Let's be honest, an asynchronous class is CRAZY.  However, I really think it's beneficial.  Here are some of my observations:
  • About 5 students in every class never have homework anymore because they do all their work in class
  • Setting up the room where they sit at a certain table based on their progress is motivating for many students.  They WANT to be at "Table A" or "Table B" and not at "Table E" or "Table F".  Getting to "move up" when they finish a certain activity is exciting.
  • I get to do a lot more of "just in time" instruction - for the students who need it, when they need it, covering the topic they need.
  • My lowest students, although they may not learn everything in the course, will at least master SOME content
  • Students taking quizzes when they are ready is much better than giving all students the quiz on the same day.
I do my best as I am walking around (constantly, with my "stamp" in my pocket to approve students to moving on) to have a few certain things I'm glancing at to question the students on before I stamp.  I know that some things are sliding through the cracks for some students, but I always touch base with them on at least one important thing.  I basically have my teacher workbook and then a sticky note on each page with the questions I want to ask about or look at for that lesson.  Sometimes I feel like I go over the same "lesson" five times in one class period, but it's with smaller groups of students "just in time" when they are ready to hear it.

I think I'm going to continue to work with this method of "asynchronosity" (I don't really think that's a word, but hopefully you understand what I mean).  I still don't even know what I am teaching 6 school days from now so hopefully I can get the materials prepped.  It was nice having the entire unit (one month) mapped out and all the videos/QR codes pre-linked for the students.  I may be working one week at a time for this next unit since we haven't been given the units yet.  With the new Common Core course, we are using Units of Study from our district.

Math Analysis Honors

Things are still going well.  This week students did their first "derivation" activity and derived the Unit Circle from special right triangles. Here is the activity worksheet they used.  They had to complete a blog post assignment (directions here) describing the activity and what they learned. 
Here are few blog post examples (the first 10 turned in; some are great and a few aren't so great)

It was really neat to see a concept that students mostly hated from Algebra 2 (they are exposed to the unit circle at the end of the year) turn into something that actually makes sense and really isn't that bad.  Once they realized the unit circle was just made up of 3 triangles reflected into all four quadrants, the big picture finally came together.  I'm excited to read the rest of the blog post reflections.


Many of my Math Analysis students are struggling with the freedom I've given them in terms of practice problems.  I am very torn with this.  I don't want to make all the practice problems mandatory because then it just becomes busy work for some students - they complete it because they have to, not because they want to learn and practice.  However, this means that many students (most often the ones that need it the most) don't do much practice... One or two problems from a set of 10 is "enough" - but it's clearly not come test day.  I am trying to give them this responsibility but it really is a struggle to find the right balance of "let them learn from their mistakes and figure it out" and "force them to do what they should do even though it won't be meaningful right now, at least it will help them pass the test". 

I feel like a little bit of balance is found in my requiring them to have all their notes done (there's no excuse there - even if they can't figure out the problems themselves, they can follow along with me) and participating in the WSQ chat activity where I am purposefully incorporating a certain amount of practice through a group/partner activity or peer instruction.  However, in math, sometimes you just need to practice, practice, practice until it becomes so routine even the most complex problems are as easy as 1+1=2.  I'm not sure how to teach the value of that work ethic outside of the 54 minutes I have with them. 

It reminds me of my coaching days - I would have 2 to 2 1/2 hours each day with my girls, and during that time, they were MINE. I would make them work hard, I would make them go through the drills and practice at the highest level until I was satisfied with their progress and effort.  Outside of practice I had no control over what they did, how they ate, etc... but during practice I trained them and most of them carried over that mindset and mentality into other areas of their lives.  Two hours a day with twelve girls is a lot easier than 54 minutes a day with 33-37 students.


I sent out a brief survey asking my students about my "three e's"... I always refer to my flipped class as more effective, enjoyable, and engaging than a traditional class.  In my opinion, it is.  So, I wanted to hear my student's opinions.  I've only gotten 4 responses since I just sent it out on Edmodo over the weekend, but they said some good things...

Is my (flipped) class more effective than your previous (non-flipped) math classes?

  • (Just to prove that not all students have come around...)  Traditional teaching, describing math on the board or projector, is a whole lot more enjoyable because even though we may have all the time in the classroom, being taught in the classroom and then having the homework be passed out during class makes you able to understand since you're already done taking notes.
  • (from a student who hated the classroom structure at the beginning of the year but now is finally realizing the benefit of the 24/7 support, just-in-time help, and other features of the flipped classroom) This Particular math class has proven to be more effective because the teacher doesn't just lecture and bores us, but is interactive, on top of all her students (especially the lazy ones) and is always willing to go to great lengths to help us learn. She has shown the out-most devotion to her students, even by doing things she isn't asked or required of. The learning material itself is heavily reliable because its packets focused with all the key information needed to excel in the current unit. There's no need to carry a giant text-book, or aimlessly look through boring pages, her method is clear, concise to the point, and it’s always there for review, as if it were the first time. 
  • No offense to my previous math teachers because I love them but YES. I retain information that I've learned more easily and I think one-on-one learning is definitely better than following up with the rest of the class. There are less confusions and I get to work on things on my own when I'm either ahead or behind.
  • I feel like it is. Yeah it took a while to get used to it, but I still walk around my house singing the songs we have learned. I am not forgetting the material and I feel that with the ability to take quizzes when I feel prepared and retake them is not only helping my grade, but the grades of my fellow classmates who in the past have struggled with the regular classrooms. It is a lot of work, I am not going to lie, but you give enough opportunities to get the assignments completed that it works. The flipped classroom is more efficient because when I don't understand something I have 41 people to ask for help in the class room instead of trying at home, not understanding the work and not learning because we move on to something the next day. I really do think that it is helping me understand the work, not just go through the motions. Also the blog posts, though long, help me understand what I am doing and force me to think about what we are actually doing in the class. I really do believe that the flipped classroom is the way to go in the math world. I feel like it is a better way of learning. 

Is my (flipped) class more engaging/enjoyable than your previous (non-flipped) math classes?

  • Honestly, yes, its not boring , or dead silent, its interactive, and creates a better energy flow, plus we learn all kinds of things from our peers, and the teacher just solidifies our current knowledge. Sadly, it feels class is too short, because as the math gets exciting and invigorating, you enjoy it, so time flies, and you wish there was more time. The class is definitely more enjoyable as a whole. 
  • Definitely yes, class is extremely more engaging, plus it's more serene, and the teacher is always moving around, sometimes it’s like she’s at 5 places at once.           
  • Yes because before my classes would be spent taking notes on what the teacher is lecturing us while in Kirch's class we get time to Practice on things we've learned last Night since we already know the material instead of spending each day on lecture then practice then lecture then practice then test.
  • In some ways yes. During class we do activities that get the whole class involved in learning the material. It can be singing songs or dancing or looking like birds while we do reference angles, but it all helps. Sitting in the groups helps me feel like we are classmates and that we are all there to help each other out. My group is great. We might make jokes about each other, but in the end we are like a little family and are always there to help each other out. And though we sit with one table we have the freedom to go to other tables and ask for help or help one another out and I feel like that is part of the experience of it all. Everyone is willing to help each other out, no matter what they are doing. Then the discussions at the U table for anyone who needs it and not a mandatory thing lets me move on if I understand something or go if I need help. The environment of the classroom is friendly and I am not afraid to ask a question, fearing that I will be laughed at or someone will think it is dumb. Also you have so many people to ask that someone is bound to know and help you out. The little group activities between the table and all the other tables really creates a sense of friendly competition and that just makes learning the material a little bit more fun. Overall the class time is more enjoyable.      
  • I feel like it is. Being in your class I am forced to learn the material. I cannot do nothing in class and get away with it. We are not taking notes during class which means we have to be practicing or asking questions or taking quizzes. There is constantly something to do during class and you can move at the pace you need to. There is no need to sit and wait while the others try to understand a concept. If I understand it then I can move on to practice problems, quizzes, and then the next concept. Doing the full class activities get us engaged at the beginning of the class period and then small groups keep us engaged and then independent activities hold us to our own learning.      

Monday, February 17, 2014

Refining your Flipped Class Practice - interview for Jon Bergmann's podcast

I had the privilege to chat with Jon Bergmann for his radio show "The Flip Side" last week.

Listen to the segment here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Week 2 reflections (sem 2) - Course 1 (CCSS)

Whew.  Trying to figure everything out with a brand new curriculum and a brand new type of flipping is exhausting.  However, I really think it's worth it.

This is what I have given my students: (don't you love how it's "clickable"!! I was so excited and so were they!).  AND, all the QR codes they need are in one place!

I've had to start enforcing deadlines on the students and assigning consequences if these students fall too far behind.  For example, if today is Friday, hopefully they are on Friday's activities.  If they are on Thursday's activities, they are just reminded they need to catch up.  However, if they are still on Wednesday's activities, they get a 30 minute "detention" to come in and get extra help to get caught up.  I'm still trying to come up with a different name for it, because my "detention" is really just "tutoring", but if the students are told to come to "tutoring" they think it's optional, and "mandatory tutoring" just doesn't have the ring to it that "detention" does.  I'll keep thinking...

One thing I have noticed is class size is a HUGE factor in the success of an asynchronous flipped class.  I have 34 students in one class and 27 in the other class.  Those 7 students make a world of difference.  Just being able to get around to all of them multiple times throughout the class period (I'm just constantly making rounds around the classroom) and having them work in smaller groups (I have basically 7 work areas in the classroom - 6 groups and then the rows) makes a huge difference.  With 27 students, it's 3-4 students per group, whereas with 34 it's 5-6.

I'm also really trying to figure out how to tweak and work with this method I am developing to make it more effective.

In the first (larger) class, I feel like classroom management is the biggest issue day in and day out.  I have about 15-20 students who will work, focus, help each other, and stay on task.  I can check in with them every 5 minutes or so and they will be fine.  Then, there are the other 15 students who just will not focus!  If I'm not watching over them, they will get nothing done, even if it is just copying an example from me and then trying one on their own.  They will get all the "right answers" and then not be able to explain any of it because someone else just told them the answers.

I have two students who should be on the "top side" of class (students sit in flexible homogenous groups based on what activity they are working on), but instead have been on the lowest end of the class all week and just sit there laughing at each other's antics.  I've had two individual meetings with them and have already called their parents multiple times throughout the semester with no change in behavior, so am at a loss as to what to do next.

I have another student who has been instructed that she must stay in her seat and work with the aide assigned to her so she can focus and get the support she needs.  Every day without fail, if I turn my back on her, she will be out of her seat to "get help from" the boy she has a crush on who also doesn't do much work.

Every day I go back and forth between being completely annoyed with this behavior or just trying to ignore it and focus on the students who are working.  But, both of those responses just are cutting it for me because I want and need to find a solution and way to make it better, but just haven't been able to find it.

Then, I see the student who has gone back and forth between struggling and understanding all year and today he was passionately defending his answer and fighting for being right amongst his group members.  He called me over to see who was right (both of them actually ended up being right, going about the problem in different ways) and the smile on his face when I affirmed his thinking was priceless.

Then, I see the three boys who are already done with the day's work in the first 20 minutes since they were ahead and are able to be "assigned" to a group of students to help them through the activities.  They willingly help out and support their classmates.

In the second (smaller) class, things just seem to be a lot easier.  Having an extra aide in the class is helpful (I have 7 special ed students), but it just seems like the students are more willing to work and be engaged. (This is surprising, since it's the very last class of the day and that's usually one of the worst classes of the day because the students are burnt out and want to go home).

I LOVE seeing the students engaged in their work as they are finally understanding stuff even though they failed first semester.  I had to get on one of my students a lot on Tuesday because she was falling behind and not focusing... today she was at the top table, took her quiz a day early, and got to help her classmates. (So much pride and joy in her face!).

I had a student who honestly I suspected just copied the work for a problem from my answer key (she has struggled all year and usually doesn't understand much), so I sat down and had her explain to me what she did... and she did  so confidently and clearly - she knew what she was doing!

If you know me even just a little, you know I'm all about structure even in a somewhat "unstructured" method of teaching.  So, here's the structure I've been playing with this week:

Entrance - students see the board and find their seat according to their hw chart. I want to see packets open and hw charts out right away so I can make sure students are placed correctly (this is still not happening 100% of the time yet)

5 minutes - review of key ideas as a class.  I just started this the last 2-3 days because I feel it's necessary to touch base with all the students at once and get their minds on the same page.

40-45 minutes - work on individual activities. Every box on the stamp sheet has to get marked off and is supposed to get stamped before students are allowed to move on (some are stamped in groups).  If a student finishes one section, sometimes they "move up" to the next table to be with other people working on the same stuff.

5 minutes - review and next steps. I think of this like a "quick quiz" before they leave class.  I've just done it as a whole class, but I'm thinking of some way to have students all submit an answer.  I have devices for about 1 for every 2 students, so I guess I could just make a simple google form w/ QR code where they put their name and answer, and then pass it to their partner to do the same.  Hmmm... that might work!


Thoughts on Common Core - this is definitely a lot more discovery and conceptual learning than anything in the past.  However, I am liking a lot of the activities that are planned for us in our Units of Study.
I'm really liking how my "flipping" is merging with the common core as I figure all of this out.  The in-class video watching I think is key in supporting and helping scaffold the discovery activities.

-The activities require critical thinking, it usually has some hands-on aspect, it requires discussion and collaboration.
-With flipped instruction, students can work through these discovery activities at their own pace and aren't "forced" to move on before figuring it out themselves just because the class is moving on.
-Students are held individually accountable for their participation in the activities and their understanding of the concepts.  They can't just sit through class and watch someone else do it - they actually have to do it themselves
-I am able to "force" students to do it right before moving on, making sure they actually understand what they are doing.

-It's almost too much discovery for some students, especially since most of them have never experienced this type of learning before.  Where do I draw the line and just say, "here's how you do it, move on".
-Students aren't used to having to actually try and work and be held accountable so it is a constant battle with some of them...


So, we will see how this continues to shape out.  I totally came up with the QR code exit ticket thing as I was blogging, so that really shows the value of reflection - it helps me to think through, process, and come up with more ideas.

Hoping for a week of discoveries next week to alleviate some of the struggles!

Week 2 reflections (sem 2, year 3) - Math Analysis

We're 2 weeks in to the second semester and I've implemented a few changes that I hope will be positive.

First, I am requiring that all students at all levels of achievement, at minimum, have the examples and notes from the video fully complete.  If that's not done when they come to class, they have to go off to the side and finish that (putting today's date on the "not prepared" list).

Second, I am trying to structure the WSQ chat time to include some aspect of reviewing the key points or common questions (without reteaching it), practicing the concept (in groups, partners, peer instruction, etc), and then some sort of interactive discussion or kinesthetic activity.  My goal at the end of the WSQ chat is for students to be able to self-evaluate and say, "Okay, I learned the lesson, I reviewed the lesson, I practiced the lesson... how much more practice do I need for this concept?  Am I ready to move on or should I focus on some more problems?  Can I do those problems individually, or do I need a group or Mrs. Kirch's guided help on these problems?"  The WSQ chat time takes the first 15-20 minutes of class, leaving 35 minutes for students to continue to discuss, practice, take quizzes, or move on.

Third, I am not requiring any practice problems beyond the video notes and the WSQ chat practice... students are given practice problems (PQs) to complete and they are given the freedom to choose how many they need to do. This is a scary move for me, but I am sick of dictating their every move and forcing them to mindlessly complete problems to check something off a list.  It is a learning experience for everyone... and I do have to constantly stay on them and remind them to make wise choices and that mastery will come with practice.  But, I'd rather that desire to practice be intrinsic rather than simply extrinsic - I think it is more meaningful when they are practicing to learn rather than practicing to get a "stamp" on their assignment chart. Also, because of the changes made in my "first" and "second" comments above, I think this is a more "doable" thing because students are still getting an amount of practice in no matter what.

We had our first test of the second semester and the results were better than I expected - it was a tough chapter, open notes (always do this, but don't tell students until the day of the test so they prepare as if it was not), and we got class averages of 76, 78, and 83. [side note - isn't it just so strange how even within one course of "similar" incoming students the averages can range that much!]. I went back to my data I collected pre-flip 4 years ago and it was almost 6% higher average; 10% less D/F grades and 12.5% more A/B grades.  Obviously this data isn't 100% comparable because it was a different group of students, but it's still encouraging to look back and see a great difference.

Another new thing I am doing this semester is that if a student does get a D or F on a test, I hold it in "embargo" until they come chat with me in person.  I've seen way too many students who don't even look thru their test to see their mistakes and make a plan for re-assessing, especially when they don't do that well.  I've met with half the students who got a D or F on this test already, and it was encouraging for some students to see that with one tiny re-assessment, their grade would be improved up to a solid B because their mistakes were small errors like dropping a negative that led to the whole problem being messed up or something like that.  It also gives me a time to meet with the struggling students individually and talk about focus, work ethic, and how much practice they did to prepare for the test.  We'll see how this continues through the semester to see if it's something I think worth continuing.
I'd like to find a way to do something similar to what Graham (Johnson - does with his "Hotseat", but with 36-37 students and 54 minute periods, I don't have time to check in with all of them in a meaningful way.  But, maybe I can find a way to spread it out over a couple days before the test to make sure they are ready, and keep track of it on a roster so I make sure I hit everyone.  My one hurdle is that my students are so darn good at blowing off struggle and assuring me they are fine even when they can't explain the problem to me. So, I will help them out, re-explain something, and have them work on a couple more, asking them to call me back over if they are struggling.  I'll be honest, sometimes I remember to come back and check in with them and sometimes I just don't with all the students I'm jumping to and from in class. They think they'll do fine on the test despite this, and reality won't hit until they get the test back and see they should have practiced more.

I started using a Concept Chart at the end of 1st semester for students trying to raise their grade and it got such positive feedback I made one for second semester and printed it on cardstock for the students.  I think it's a great tool for them and for me in monitoring progress and am hoping it will lead to students taking a more active role in re-assessing on concepts they struggled on sooner rather than later

To re-assess, students have to follow the instructions at and fill out this half-sheet.  I've changed my re-assessment protocol at least every year, and am hoping I'll be happy with this way.

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