Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm Liking What I See

Wow...where to begin? How do I organize my thoughts and observations?

There are lots of good things happening in Room 12 at Arab Junior High School!

I'll start with the easy stuff. All the technicalities of watching videos at home are working. No one is having problems accessing the lessons.

I think there were three instances of students coming to class without their completed notes.  Each instance was addressed, and I don't see it becoming a big issue.  Several students watched all the videos for the week last weekend.

Things with the autistic student went beautifully this week.  As he would finish with the day's assignment or activity, I would give him the notes for the night's assigned video.  He is in my lunch period, which has 10-12 extra minutes, so he was able to watch (without listening, still) every video in class.  Once he begins something he feels compelled to finish it, and he dislikes having to take things home to finish, so this has worked out well for him.  The resource teacher and I have told him that new material (such as he will encounter this coming week) will really need to be listened to, and we have encouraged him to get some headphones to bring to class.

I'm loving the dynamic of the flipped classroom.  Students come in to some sort of warm-up/starter/before activity.  One day they prepared a foldable.  One day we played Kahoot!.  They get their notes out, and at some point I go around the room and check them.  This is when I've been answering questions they've recorded.  After the starter we do something to practice the lesson topic.  This week included a couple of days of practice problems and three days of different group activities:  an "Order of Operations Challenge," a writing expressions "Walk-About," and word problems.  I wrap up class with different kinds of exit slips/formative assessments.

I'm having time to do things I never had time to do in my traditional, go-over-homework-take-notes-start-your-homework classes.  One day our starter was creating quadrant cards/Frayer models for vocabulary introduced in the video.  I've never been able to give vocabulary the kind of emphasis I think it needs.

I mentioned last week on Twitter (and maybe my blog post) one of my favorite sounds is hearing students having mathematical discussions with each other and me.  In my traditional classroom I got to hear it every once in a while.  With all of the interaction between students in the flipped classroom, I'm hearing it almost daily!  It's music to my ears!

It's very freeing to be able to come to class and start DOING.  I love the kids knowing what's going on when they come in the door.  The pump is already primed, and the learning and demonstration of knowledge begin to flow.

Friday was a problem-solving day.  Last spring I asked my Algebra 1 students to reflect on the End of Course Test.  Several students said they wished they had had more practice with multi-step, complicated word problems.  So I resolved to do a better job this year preparing students for those types of problems.  The video students watched Thursday night was the longest one they had seen (15 minutes).  In it, I discussed and demonstrated the use of formulas and worked through a multi-step problem.  In class, students were put in groups and given a set of problems to work through together.  There were a few moans and groans ("a, b, AND c parts?!?!?"), but I told them they would thank me in April.  Most accepted that.  They worked together so well and everyone finished with the assignment and turned it in before the end of class.

When I thought about how that lesson would look if it had not been flipped, I knew the examples - while only 15 minutes on a video - would have taken most of a class period to get through.  Students *might* have had a few minutes to get started on a problem or two but definitely wouldn't have had time to get in a group and get any meaningful amount completed.  The assignment would have been taken home for students to work on by themselves.  Some of them would have finished, but many would have gotten frustrated and given up.  I probably would have seen many of them in my room the next morning with cries of "I don't get it!"

So, instead of students struggling alone at home, they were able to experience success in class.  And they will be more willing to try the next set of problems I give them.  Win!

Concerns at this point?

I detect a small number of students not listening to the videos.  While one of the benefits of video lessons is students being able to watch the videos at their pace and in their own way, I'm concerned students will miss things and not understand new material if they don't listen to what I'm saying as I work examples on the notes.  I guess I'll wait and see what happens as we get into unfamiliar topics.  I worry students won't really "get" the importance of listening to the instruction until after they are behind and confused.

I'm a little concerned about beginning the aforementioned new material (students will be introduced to functions this week for the first time).  I have fears of hearing a chorus of "I didn't understand any of that!" as students enter class.  So far, though, none of my fears have materialized; maybe this one will prove to be unfounded, too.

I'm beginning to worry a bit about my time.  I will need to start making new videos within the next two weeks, and maybe even this week if I decide to add a video I'm thinking about for the intro to functions unit.  I'm spending all my planning and after-school time in day-to-day preparation; I have no idea when I'm going to record videos.  I'm thinking about designating Sunday afternoons as video time and going to the school each week to record lessons as needed.

This week I'm going to ask students for their first feedback since actually watching videos and experiencing a flipped class.  I'm really interested to see what they think.  And I want to know their suggestions and ideas.  I have a few of my own, but I know they will think of things that I haven't.

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