Monday, February 23, 2015

A Shout-Out to my (non-flipped) Pre-Algebra Kids

This blog is titled "Mrs. Gibbs Flips Algebra 1." But I don't teach just 8th grade Algebra 1. I also teach collaborative Pre-Algebra, also an 8th grade class.

And I DON'T flip those classes.

The decision was originally made to help preserve my sanity. I was pretty sure I did not have time to record brand-new videos and learn how to effectively run a flipped classroom for two different preps.

Algebra 1 was where I needed more rearranging of my class time. It was a group of kids I thought would adapt nicely to flipped lessons. It was a good place for me to attempt a flipped classroom, and if I decided that was the way to go, I would eventually flip Pre-Algebra.

Well, I have no doubt flipping my Algebra 1 classes was the way to go, but I've decided to not flip my Pre-Algebra classes (for now, of course).

I have wanted, however, to give those kids and classes a shout-out (since early in the school year). So here it is.

I overhauled my Pre-Algebra classes last year. I began using Interactive Notebooks. I'm not an INB purist, but I have made them work for me. We take notes using foldables and other resources I have found (mostly through Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers). We glue those notes in a spiral notebooks. Those INBs become a huge resource for my students. They learn organization, of course, but they also learn how to use an example they are given to solve a problem they may find challenging. I let them use their INBs on tests. Several have said they are going to keep their INBs and use them as an aid when they get to the high school next year (YEA!).

I "chunk" my Pre-Algebra classes. We talk about/take notes on a concept and do some practice with it. Take notes on another concept and do some practice with it. Most practice is done in class. I test frequently on small amounts of concepts.

Very seldom do these students have homework. The students in these classes either have IEPs or have been identified through scores on standardized assessments as being "at risk" or "below average" or "not meeting standards." They are often not the most motivated students. Whatever they complete in class is usually all that gets done. So, to ensure I see what these kids know - and not just what they are willing to do after the bell rings - we finish and turn work in during class. Sometimes that means it takes more than one day to finish a concept and practice it, but it is worth it to me.

Here are the benefits of my chunked, INB-centered Pre-Algebra classes
 - Student confidence
 - Student morale
 - Relationships

The students in my collaborative classes aren't overwhelmed with out-of-class work (that many of them would be unwilling to do) and aren't getting in trouble (and receiving low grades) for "not completing homework."

They see what they CAN do. Math has become not-so-scary for many of them. They are experiencing success and are more willing to try whatever I ask them to do. We repeat as a class, particularly before more challenging material, "I can do this! Mrs. Gibbs would not ask me to do anything I could not do."

Relationships are positive. Class is fun (we get to do lots of great activities like scavenger hunts, QR code task cards, Kahoot!, plus students get to frequently cut and glue!). I get to know my students better because they are doing most of their work with me.

I have the same retake/redo policy with my Pre-Algebra classes as my Algebra classes.

Now that I think about it, I see many of the same benefits of my flipped Algebra classes in my non-flipped Pre-Algebra classes.

So, at this point, I don't plan on flipping my Pre-Algebra classes. I am not sure I would see as much compliance in watching videos outside of class as I do with my Algebra 1 students. I have thought about an in-class flip and more self-pacing, but I'm not ready to go there, yet.

But these classes work hard, show great gains, and are becoming confident young mathematicians. And we have a lot of fun in the process.

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