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End of Term Reflections: College Edition

Look who's being all productive! Two blog posts this weekend, plus several other school tasks.

The summer term of MTH 113 is almost over. We had our last regular class meeting this past Thursday; the final exam is next week.

I had my Pre-Cal Trig students write a reflection/evaluation for me this week. There's not a lot of technology use (I've missed it!), so I asked them to get out a piece of paper and write.



I asked them to address some or all of the following prompts:
What worked? What didn't? (particularly in the areas of videos, how class time was structured, and practice)
Suggestions for changes/improvements
What did you learn?
What do you wish you understood better?
What advice would you give a student taking MTH 113 with me this fall?

My students had good insight and gave good suggestions. They were very thorough and wrote more than I expected. (I would say something about this being a surprise to me since the class is made up entirely of young men, but someone…

Let's Start at the Very Beginning #flipblogs

Life happened, and I missed the first #flipblogs Twitter chat. I start school next Tuesday, so who knows what will be going on Wednesday evening? I hope to get to participate in the next #flipblogs Twitter chat, but even if I don't I can write a blog.

This week's #flipblogs prompts:

1) What inspired you to start flipping?

and

2) What was your first step to make the change?

I've shared this story before, but it's always good to reflect on "where it all began."


I first heard about flipped classrooms from our district tech guy as we were launching our 1:1 iPad initiative. The description of the methodology was basically, "Students watch the lecture via video at home and do homework in class."

I quickly dismissed the idea.

How on earth would I have time to make all those videos (because I wouldn't want to use videos others made)?

And the thought of trying to keep a classroom controlled while working "p. 222: 2 - 222 even" was a nightmare.

Already?!? #flipblogs

Thanks to the brainstorming of Andrew Swan (@flipping_A_tchr), Crystal Kirch (@crystalkirch), and Matthew Moore (@matthew_t_moore), a new way to share ideas about flipped learning has launched: #flipblogs!

The idea is we will blog about a common topic then participate in a live Twitter chat.

Here is Andrew's blog post with information about the new venture.

The first assignment for #flipblogs is:

"Write about a fun, rewarding, gratifying, or otherwise super-positive class experience that you can be pretty sure only happened because of flipped-learning practices."



I've blogged about all sorts of experiences that only happened because I flip my instruction. I thought about summarizing - again - these experiences but that felt like a cop-out. I tried hard to think of something specific.

And I did.

Her name is Taylor. She was in my Algebra 1 class my second flipped year.

Many times during the year, when I said, "Time to pack up!" at the end of class, Taylor wou…

Hope - It's a Beautiful Thing

So, I'm teaching this Pre-Calculus Trigonometry class for a local community college. As I mentioned in my previous post, it is scheduled for one night a week, 4.5 hours. There are 9 class meetings and the exam.

I have a lot of material to cover in 9 class meetings.

After the first test, we have a test scheduled for every other week until the final. That means a whole unit of material in about a class and a half.

It's overwhelming (for students AND me).

Even with the flipped format - which, I'm sure, makes the situation more bearable - it is hard to make sure material is covered AND students understand it in a class and a half. I still feel I am throwing material at my students and hoping some of it sticks.

Our second test covered trigonometric expressions, identities, and equations.

Yikes. Learn all these trig concepts AND use every algebra skill you might have ever been shown.

Students were nervous and unsure as they came to class. Watching them take the test was hard for…

Taking My Flipped Game to a New Level

Last spring I was asked to teach two classes for our local community college. I agreed (spring is a blur, so I'm not sure I can be held accountable for my actions, LOL). Only one of the classes made: Pre-Calculus Trigonometry.




The class meets one night a week for four and half hours.
That's right. Four and a half. Hours.
This flipped teacher can't stand to listen to herself for more than 10 or 15 minutes anymore.
And I'm supposed to teach for 270 minutes?
And my students. My poor students. They're supposed to listen to me (and absorb) for 4.5 hours?
I knew from the get-go I would be flipping my class.
Everything about this - the class structure, the students, the material - is completely different from my 8th Grade Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1 classroom.
But I took what I know and ran with it.
I decided what I needed to cover each week - with only 9 class sessions, it's a TON - and split it into topics for videos.
I decide what to give as practice for material.
I …

Thoughts on End-of-Year Reflections

OK...so school's been out over a week, and I gave my end-of-year reflection Google Form over two weeks ago, but I did want to jot a few thoughts to help me remember what I wanted to continue to work on next year.




WIN: "Mrs. Gibbs provides opportunities to work together" got 100% "agree" or "strongly agree"! Partner work/group work/working together/working with friends was probably the most-mentioned in "Things I enjoy about this class."

Flipped lessons/videos were a close runner-up, and one student said s/he would probably use my YouTube channel in the future.

Students wished we did more activities involving food (the Pythagorean Theorem activity with Cheez-Its was a favorite with my Pre-Algebra kids).

"Cheat sheets" and partner tests were a plus, according to my Algebra 1 kids. (As I blogged here, this is an area I continue to explore.)

The Pythagorean Theorem was once again the winner of "What is one thing you learned you wi…

The (beginning) Evolution of Testing

As this school year comes to a close, I keep thinking about an area of transformation I want to continue to explore: testing.

Two things have led me to change my approach to testing:
1) The desire for students to have access to resources to assist them on tests.

2) The desire to extend the cooperative atmosphere of my classroom to testing.

I guess the first change to testing began several years ago when I began using interactive notebooks (INBs) with my inclusion Pre-Algebra classes. I've always allowed those students to use their INBs on tests. It has been important to me that they learn how to use available resources to help them with a task. I also found being able to use their INBs greatly increased the confidence of these students.

I've been a little slower to change with my Algebra 1 students. My thoughts? They're advanced kids. They need to be able to take big, scary tests independently and using only what they stored in their own brains.

As other aspects of my cla…

Coming Up for Air

Yep. That's me. For the past two months.

At the end of January, I decided to attempt to renew my National Board Certification this year (my certification expires in 2018, and I did not understand the "two chances to renew" aspect before a January seminar).

OK...Deep breath...I wasn't planning on this, but maybe it will be a good thing.

Things were rocking along until mid-March. Things at home took an unexpected turn. I found out I was Top 16 Finalist for Alabama Teacher of the Year (definitely exciting, but it required an extra classroom video and reflection with little notice). The May 17 deadline for submitting my National Board renewal was getting closer and closer.

Good stress...Bad stress...A whole lot of stress.

There were a few times I wasn't sure how much more I could take. There were a couple of times I was ready to throw in the towel and run far, far away.

This past Wednesday, I submitted my National Board "Profile of Professional Growth" (a …

The (continuing) Evolution of Grading

Happy End-of-Spring Break!

I've had a great break with some much-needed brain rest. I got a few things done around the house and a nice chunk of National Board Certification renewal work accomplished.

I feel ready to tackle the last nine (YIKES! The school year is almost DONE!) weeks of the school year.

Before the break, I had a mini-breakthrough with grades in my classroom.

I've blogged about grading before. Most of my grading conundrums have continued since that post.

I don't grade everything. Much of what we do in class is practice, and I don't want to put a grade on practice. Many things we do are hard to quantify with a grade. When I give a grade for something, I want that grade to mean something. I want a grade to communicate what a student knows, not how compliant he/she is. As a result, I give relatively (or comparatively) few "effort" grades.

Thanks to my flipped classroom and the amount of time I spend with students as they work, formative assessmen…

Reflections on a Surprising Unit

First: I am not happy it has taken me more than a couple of weeks to get to this blog post. I like to blog while things are fresh and I remember all of the little things.

I probably shouldn't even be blogging today. There are so many other things I need to be doing.

But this is a post that needs to be written, and it needs to be written before I forget EVERYthing (and I know I've already forgotten a lot of the things I wanted to write about).

It was just systems of equations. Nothing special. I teach it every year. I didn't expect anything too different.

But the unit surprised me.


This was the first unit I attempted some self-pacing. I have always struggled with how to handle the kids who "get it" quickly, finish the work I need them to do, and then have time to spare.

I don't want them to feel punished with extra (or busy) work.

I don't want them wasting time.

I don't want to lose whole class activities and discussions.

But I decided it was time to e…

#flipclass Flash Blog: An Essential Aspect of my Flipped Classroom

It's a #flipclass Flash Blog!!!

Wow; this is hard! Just one?

So much is essential to my flipped classroom.


But I think everything goes back to relationships.

It was one of the first things I remember reading about flipped classrooms. You have more time to get to know your students better.

And it's true.

I know where they're weak. Where they're strong. I know things that are going on at home and outside the classroom. I know when they need to be pushed and when they need more time. I know when school is overwhelming them.

And students know me better, too. They know I care. They know I have their backs.

As my flipped classroom has evolved - and it is changing more than I every thought possible - the relationships I build with my students are the cornerstone of everything I do in my classroom.

Knowing my students better is the catalyst for many of the ways my flipped classroom has evolved.

I'm playing around with some self-pacing (blog post to come) because I know my …

You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

I'm a pretty reflective person. I guess that's obvious, given this blog and all, but I've been reminded again this week of the power of reflection.

I just completed two projects that required me to look at my classroom and my teaching, examining what I do and seeing how far I've come. One project looked at my teaching as a whole and one was more focused on my flipped classroom.

And I found the process...emotional. No kidding, I cried after the second project was finished.

I am NOT where I could be. There is more to learn, more to change. Way more than I care to think about.

But I am so far from where I started.

I'm thankful for all those who have contributed to and are a part of my growth. People in my building, district, community, and people all around the country. A few, even, around the world.

I ended this week with a renewed thankfulness for what I do. I love my job. It's hard, and it takes almost everything I have to give.

But it's who I am. My gift.…

Top Ten Posts - 2016

I'm not exactly sure a "Top Ten" is necessary when there are only 17 posts for the year, but I like looking back through the blog to see what people are reading.

10) Summer School Reflections - I feel called to teach summer school, but this one was pretty difficult.


9) Just Keep Swimming - A mid-grading period, mid-winter pep-talk (I have to do this on a regular basis, LOL).


8) #flipclass FlashBlog On Parents, Support, and Homework - I'm always thankful for the support I get from parents and my administration.


7) My Top Ten Posts of 2015 - Here's your opportunity to see older posts, if you're new to the blog. ;)

6) Improving the "Unit with Room for Improvement" - EVERY unit is a work in progress.


5) Trying to Find my Groove - The start of this school year was a bit challenging.


4) That's a Wrap...(but Always Planning) - A brain dump at the end of the school year.


3) End of Year Student Reflections and Evaluation - I love, love, love student refl…