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!


  1. Hi Mickie,
    How nice to have someone respond to you with ideas that will save you some time. The book we use is Pearson and they have homework videos already made that are similar to yours. Also I don't know if you are familiar with but they are a site that has videos made already too. They are divided by grade level and common core standard. I really like them and will use them for my classes from time to time. When do you start school? I can't wait to see how your students like the flipped classroom.

    1. Hi Jan,
      I start school tomorrow (8/4), and students return 8/11. We will begin videos the Thursday after returning. We will watch the first one together so I can teach students how to watch videos.

      When do you go back?

      I'm not familiar with learnzillion, but I have used Virtual Nerd and will continue to encourage students to watch their videos for supplementary/different perspectives.

      Thanks for stopping by! I continue to read your blog, too. I can see us moving to standards-based grading at some point. Seems a natural progression from things we are now doing.

    2. Hi Mickie,
      We go back to school August 14th. Years ago we use to start after Labor Day. I can't believe you start at the beginning of August. Too early! I'm like your blog and am anxious to hear how the kids do watching the videos for homework. What do you do when they don''t watch them? I can see that being a huge problem with my kids.

    3. We get out at Memorial Day, so it's a trade-off.

      Right now, I'm planning on trying what I've read on other people's blogs. Most teachers make the kids watch the videos when they come to class if they didn't the night before. They miss part of whatever activities are going on in class and have to make them up on their own that night (plus the next video, if there is one).

      I'm not sure what I think about that policy, but the general consensus seems to be the kids learn real quick they want to be prepared when they come to class.

      I facilitate a "Homework Help" in my classroom each morning before school, and I'm hoping kids who didn't get it done the night before will take advantage of that time and come watch their video.

      Algebra 1 is the top math offered at my school and tends to be a more responsible group of kids, but there are always a couple who strongly resist completing homework (even though they pay for it with lack of understanding and poor grades).