Sunday, July 27, 2014

NMSI Training, Year 3

For the past 3 summers, I have attended 4 days of "Laying the Foundation" training at a Birmingham-area school.  My "Year 3" training was this past week.

NMSI is the National Math and Science Initiative.  From their website:

"NMSI's mission is to improve student performance in the critical subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).  NMSI's programs transform teaching, transform schools and are transforming education in the United States."


"NMSI's Laying the Foundation Program is strengthening the existing teaching corps through professional training resources aligned with Common Core State Standards."

I became involved in the training when our high school began the process of offering Advanced Placement (AP) courses and my eighth grade algebra classes became Pre-AP Algebra 1 classes.

In a nutshell, each year I have been given access to and learned how to teach lessons that prepare students for their AP classes and exams when they are in high school.  The lessons are in-depth, often cover multiple standards, and promote higher-order thinking skills.  Most are designed for cooperative learning.  Lessons introduce foundational topics for the study of calculus and statistics in grade-appropriate ways (they began developing lessons for third through fifth grades this past year).

This summer (as in the previous two) I was introduced to several lessons that I can use or adapt for use in my classroom this year.  We worked through the lessons as if we were students.  The level of the lessons we covered ranged from sixth grade to Algebra 2.

After six hours of math, I left with a headache each afternoon!  We did a lot of thinking.  I always leave these trainings identifying better with my students:  how they feel sitting and working hour after hour, how they feel after lunch, how they feel on Friday afternoon.

But I also noticed how fast the time passed each day.  While we were working hard, we were active.  We were moving around, we were discussing with group members, we were doing some hands-on activities.

That's how I want my flipped classroom to be this year!  I want the kids to look up at the end of class and say, "What?  Algebra is over already?!?"

The best part of the week was the collaboration.  I had been in the training with most of the other teachers for all three summers.  This year the group was smaller; I think we had whittled down to the ones who really wanted to be there.  Attitudes were positive.  We laughed and had a good time.  We shared with and learned from each other.

While the training had nothing to do with a flipped classroom, the lessons will work nicely in a flipped classroom.  I can see many of them being used in an Explore, Flip, Apply model.

When I introduced myself on Tuesday, I mentioned I had been working on making videos for flipped algebra classes.  No one really responded in any way; I'm not sure how many were familiar with "flipping."  But one lady showed me something the next day she thought I might find useful, saying she had thought about my videos.  She was my partner on Friday, and she shared how she does a type of flipped classroom without videos (students have to look up whatever topic she gives them, and they write down examples and any questions they have).  She said she loves it and it lets her do activities in class (including the lessons we were learning) she wouldn't be able to do otherwise.

It was nice to have some encouragement and affirmation!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chapter 1 is Ready + Basic Organization

I've attempted to insert my first picture. :)
I finished recording videos for Chapter 1 of my textbook (Larson Algebra 1) this week.  Chapter 1 will really be divided into 2 units: a review unit of expressions and equations and an introduction to functions.

I've decided I don't really want to record anything else until these lessons are being used by students and I begin to get feedback.  My daughter (who will be in my class; I am currently the only Algebra 1 teacher in the school) watched one of the videos - she asked to - and she didn't have any horrible criticisms.  But she's already had a good idea or two, and I know other students will, as well.

The eight videos I've made will last at least the first 3 weeks of school; I feel good about that.

My fear is that the start of school will be so busy (as it always is) and I will find it hard to make the next set of videos.  I have this nightmare of being ready to go home from school one day and realizing the kids need a yet-to-be-made video uploaded for THAT NIGHT.

I've decided on one change in hardware:  a fine-point stylus.  I've made videos with my finger and my mesh-tip stylus.  I prefer the stylus, but it is noisy on my non-glare screen protector.  Maybe to the point of being distractingly irritating.  So I've ordered a different stylus from Amazon and will see if it's better.

So, what's my plan with this flipped classroom?

I have a legal pad where I'm mapping out lessons, planning classroom activities, and jotting down ideas and questions about flipping as they occur to me.

I have printed ready-to-fill-out notes for my students since I've had my SMART Board.  They will continue to get these notes, but I think I'm going to give them the blank notes for the week all at one time.  I haven't decided if I will do that on Friday or Monday.  I will check each day to see if students have filled out their notes.

Our school has emphasized strategic teaching the last couple of years, with each lesson having a Before, During, and After strategy.  Some days this has been hard to do.  Now I see the "Before" strategy being related to the video.  Students might work a warm-up with practice problems from the lesson (Kahoot! or Socrative will be utilized), and then there will be some sort of "Flip Chat" with a partner or a group.  Students will discuss the questions they had from the lesson, hopefully answering each other's questions.  I will give small-group or whole class instruction as needed.

Then students will do an activity - scavenger hunts, task cards, problem-solving - to practice and apply the concepts of the lesson.

Class will end with an exit slip or lesson quiz.

I can really see moving direct instruction to an at-home video completely transforming my class time!  I've always wished for 15-30 more minutes in class, and I think I'm going to get it!

I do teach another prep:  inclusion Pre-Algebra.  At this time, I do not plan to flip those two classes.  I began using interactive notebooks with those kids last year, and they were very successful.  To attempt to keep things manageable, I am going to continue with the INBs for those students and only flip my Algebra 1 classes.  But if I see that it will be a huge benefit to my Pre-Algebra kids, I will definitely consider flipping them at a later time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Chat-Full Evening

So, this post doesn't have anything specifically to do with my flipped classroom, but I had such an amazing experience, I had to share.

I participated in a Twitter chat last fall right after school started concerning technology, since our school had just gone 1:1.  But that was the only one.

I saw yesterday that #ALedchat was on Monday nights at 9, and I learned (through someone I began to follow after reading her story in "Flipping 2.0") that #flipclass was Mondays at 7.

I now had my plans for the evening!

A Twitter chat is a unique experience.  I did a search for whichever hashtag I was participating in, clicked "all," and waited for tweets to show up.  If you contribute, you add the hashtag to your tweet so it shows up in the feed.

At times I felt like I was in a room with 20 students trying to talk to me at the same time.  Notifications (someone favorited your tweet!, someone replied to your tweet!), direct messages (I didn't even know you could do that on Twitter), new questions, replies to questions, discussions about topics not directly related to the chat theme for the evening.

It was wild!

But fun.

I was almost giddy during #flipclass.  All these flipped classroom "celebrities" - authors of "Flipping 2.0," Crystal Kirch, and even the co-inventor of classroom flipping himself, Jon Bergmann - were there, and we were talking as if we were all in a room together.

There were newbies to the flipped classroom idea - like me - and veterans.  I couldn't get over how friendly, helpful, and encouraging everyone was.  The veterans WANT to help us newbies, and they want to see us succeed.

The #flipclass topic was audience.  It was a little beyond where I am right now - the audience for my blog sort of scares me right now, and I'm not having my students create to share...yet - but it gave me things to think about as my teaching transforms.

#ALedchat discussed the role of positivity in leadership.  While I'm not in administration - nor do I wish to be - I am a leader for my classroom and need to be a role model of positivity for them.  I can teach and model positivity and inspire them to be more positive in math and in life.

I was amazed at how many states besides Alabama were represented in #ALedchat.  Ohio, Illinois, Wyoming.  We educators are truly all in this together!

The big take-away for the evening was connections.  Instant connections.  Other math teachers, other flipped teachers.

If you're on Twitter (and I'm beginning to believe every teacher should be), find a chat that interests you (is there a directory somewhere?), and join in.  You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

First Videos Have Been Recorded!

While school and my flipped classroom experience don't actually begin for a few more weeks, I want to get in something of a blogging groove and tell about my experiences as I prepare to flip my Pre-AP Algebra 1 classes.

There has been preparation before I actually recorded this week, and I hope to go back and share some of the foundation of my decision to flip my class, but since this week's big development was the recording of five videos, that's what I would like to blog about.

The first few lessons of our year are review for Algebra 1 students, so I feel good beginning the year of flipped lessons with material students are already familiar with.

The first lesson I recorded is about evaluating expressions and exponents.  The second lesson involves order of operations.  I felt VERY awkward during these two videos, and when I watched/listen to them I felt I sounded depressed.  But I decided to leave them as is and work on sounding more excited in the next videos.

A note about how I'm making videos:  I've had a SMART Board for several years.  For my 8th Graders, I make notes as SMART files.  I exported these notes as PDF files and uploaded them to Explain Everything on my school iPad (we are a 1:1 iPad school).  I recorded myself filling in and talking through the notes.

I'm new to Explain Everything and not sure if there's a way to use the iPad's camera to record my face (I've read from flipped teachers who like their faces are seen and those whose don't), but I think I'm just as happy to only record my voice.  Hearing myself is weird enough; I'm not sure I want to see myself, too.  I'll see what feedback I get from the students.

The next two videos - writing expressions and equations - felt and sounded a little more natural.

The last video I made - our first problem-solving lesson of the year - was the longest (15 minutes).  This is the longest I would ever want any video to be.  I made a units mistake at the end of the last slide that I didn't catch until I was watching the video through.  I could have re-recorded the slide, but it was a pretty involved problem, and I was afraid I would leave something out if I tried to go through the problem again.  So I've decided to leave the video alone, tell the kids there is a units mistake in the video, and see who can find it.  I'm sure there will be lots of mistakes over time, and the kids will love pointing them out to me!

This week I plan to record videos for our "Introduction to Functions" unit.  I'm a little more nervous about these videos, since the material will be new for my students, but I'm excited to have a good start on videos for the beginning of the year.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Testing, 1, 2, 3.... first blog post.  I'm typically very talkative, but right now I'm feeling scared speechless.

I'm sure I'll loosen up soon enough. :)

Why am I beginning a blog?  Well...I've decided to "flip" my eighth grade Pre-AP Algebra 1 classes this year.  For many of our lessons students will watch a 5-15 minutes direct instruction video at home, and class time will be used for practice and application of concepts.

My goal is to make better use of the time I have with students in class.  I want students to be able to practice concepts when I am available to help them.  I want to be able to have more one-on-one time with students and their particular issues with material.

I have been reading books, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and following other "flippers" on Twitter.

And I have been convinced to go for it.

I will be using the app Explain Everything to make videos.  So far, I have created guided notes in Smart Notebook, exported them as PDFs, and uploaded them to Explain Everything.

I begin making videos tomorrow.

I am a bit hesitant to try to blog about my experiences.  The process of flipping my Algebra 1 classes is going to be very time intensive, and I really don't see how I'm going to make all the videos I want to make AND keep up with a blog.  But Crystal Kirch's blog ( convinced me to record my experiences, so I have something to go back and read and remind myself of what worked and what didn't.

So here I am.  No pressure, though.  I'm not going to make a schedule or tell myself I have to blog so many days a week.  My goal will be once a week, but if I miss a week I won't stress about it too much.

Thanks for reading!