Monday, December 21, 2020

A New Take on Retakes #MTBoSYuleBlog

 It's Christmas Break!


I'm pretty certain I will not get 12 blog posts done for #MTBoSYuleBlog, but I do have a couple of things I want to reflect on while I have a few days to reflect. 

This particular post has been simmering in my brain for a while, but I haven't had time to compose it.

As I have blogged about many times before, I'm a big believer in students having the ability to improve their understanding of a concept, demonstrate that to me, and then earn points back on a test grade.

Several years ago I implemented a broad retake and redo policy. It was a great policy, but there were aspects of it that were challenging to manage.

In the last couple of years, I have done test corrections. Test corrections are a little easier to manage than the full-scale retakes, but there are things about them I don't like.

1) They are a PAIN to grade. I'd rather grade a full set of original tests than a small number of corrected tests.

2) It is hard to get students to correct tests in a way that demonstrates to me that they really understand the concept and why they missed it the first time. "Write a sentence explaining your mistake" often gives shallow answers. "New" work can be copied from someone or somewhere else with no real understanding.

This year I came up with a different way, and I like it better.

Students who wish to make corrections to a test must come before school (I facilitate the school's Homework Help each morning) or stay after school. They make corrections, and I am there to assist if and when they need me.

I get to be there with the students while they work, so I know what they are doing and how they are doing it. I can reteach and re-explain. I can see and hear and then correct misconceptions. I get to KNOW why students missed something the first time.

The best part of this method of test corrections? When students leave my room, their test corrections are graded! I know they got the problems they reworked correct, and all I have to do is refigure their points.

There's been just a little bit of push-back on the requirement to come to see me before or after school, but the ones who have complained mostly don't want to make the effort to do so.

And I'm OK with the opportunity to make test corrections requiring a little bit of effort.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Flipped Classroom Evolution

 It's been a hot minute since I've made a blog post!

We transitioned from hybrid to full in-person learning; we've now transitioned back to hybrid learning.

I have had a couple of things I want to blog about but just haven't had or made the time.

One of the biggest things that has happened in my classroom is a change I've made in my flipped lessons.


I realize I am extremely late to the party, but I began using Edpuzzle!

While there are always students who "click through" a video and simply copy things down without any thought about the material or engagement with the instruction, it seems to have been worse or particularly bad the last couple of years. This year I am especially dependent on flipped instruction, and it is more important than ever that students actually understand and absorb what is being presented in a video.

Students this year were sharing with me how they were just "clicking through" videos. I could tell by the difficulties students were having with practice material in class that they were just "clicking through." A few students began asking for a way that would "make them" watch - and pay attention to - the video, and a few of them mentioned Edpuzzle.

So, after our Fall Break, I took the plunge. As I have recorded new videos, I upload them into Edpuzzle and add questions.

I L-O-V-E adding questions. Where I used to say, "Pause the video here and do ________" (few students actually did), I now put a question where students have to try the problem and enter their answer before they move on. Then the video shares the answer, and they can make any necessary corrections to their work. I'll ask students to make predictions about things or tell me what connections they see between topics. At the end of the video - this has become my very favorite - I ask for a summary or a "in your own words, tell me how to do this" or for any questions they might have or for some other sort of reflection about the video.

I don't grade the Edpuzzle questions, but I do read through them. I can tell if there is a particular problem students found challenging. I enjoy reading the answers to the summary/explanation/reflection questions.

There has been a little bit of complaining about the videos being moved to Edpuzzle; it is taking more time for them to complete video notes (this, of course, is expected and sort of the point). Overall, though, I am a huge fan, and students say they like it better. They say they are "actually" paying attention to the videos and understanding material. I can tell by the way they interact with material in class that their understanding is better.

The one feature I wish Edpuzzle had is the ability to watch the video at a faster speed. I, myself, like to watch YouTube videos at a faster speed, and I know not every student needs the material at a slow pace.

I also upload my videos to YouTube when it is time to get ready for a test. This allows students to use the videos to study at their own pace, skipping and watching faster as needed. (This was also a suggestion from a student.)

I've been flipping my classes in some capacity for...7 years...now??? And this is the first big update I've made in a long time. I'm so happy I did!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Student Thoughts about Hybrid Learning

Week before last I asked students some feedback questions about hybrid learning. We are pivoting off of hybrid this coming week, so I really should have written this post last weekend, but the information I received is still relevant, as I will continue to use some of the things I implemented for hybrid learning AND I feel it is very likely we will have to move back into hybrid learning at some point.

I've said it before, but I love gathering student thoughts. Yes, they think and communicate like young teenagers, but I always get good information and ideas from them.


I asked students about four aspects of hybrid learning: how it was going for them, Zoom sessions, the Weekly Planner, and lesson videos.

The Hybrid Experience
Students enjoy the slower pace of remote learning. They only had to Zoom for academic classes, so they had periods of time during the day that had no official obligations. They like being able to sleep a little later. They like moving at their own pace.

Their favorite aspect of being at home? Being able to eat what they want when they want it.

They don't like not having direct access to teachers while doing their work. They don't like having to deal with sometimes-glitchy technology. They feel they are more distracted at home and have a harder time completing their work (I would agree).

Zoom Sessions
I specifically asked about the Zoom sessions for my class, because every teacher did it a little differently.

In general, they liked the length of my sessions. Since I flipped lessons, I took attendance, did some sort of warm-up/introduction, and then explained the day's tasks/assignments. Students were free to hang around and work on their assignments while still on the Zoom session, but they seldom did.

I didn't realize how much Zoom lagged for many of them. Many mentioned they missed things that were said due to glitches.

The Weekly Planner
The Weekly Planner is a huge hit. One student said, "I live by the planner." I was talking to a group of students about continuing the use of the Weekly Planner, and one student asked, "You haven't always used the Planner?!?"

They like the Planner being organized and being able to find their assignments all in one place. They like knowing if they have completed everything they needed to do for a particular day.

Several asked for due dates to be listed in the Planner. The due dates are on the assignments in Google Classroom, but it is probably easy enough to also add that information to the Planner.

Lesson Videos
I must admit, I was a little nervous asking about the lesson videos. I just wasn't sure this group was "jiving" really well with the videos.

My fears were unfounded. They like all the aspects of videos that are the reasons I use videos: going at their own pace, being able to rewind, having the videos available to watch again later. Yesterday a student wanted to ensure that I would still be doing videos even when we are not following the hybrid model.

Interestingly, several mentioned wishing there was a way to encourage them to watch and engage with the video instead of "clicking through." One class actually asked me to play a video from the board so they could watch it as a class. I think EdPuzzle would do what they're asking for, but then they lose the ability to watch the video at a faster or slower pace if they want??? I'm still thinking about it. The fact that they're self-aware enough to know they're doing something that is not in their best interest is positive.

I can say I am seeing growth in their use of the videos and the notes they take. I sometimes forget the learning curve for how to use an academic video.

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Overall, I thought the feedback I received from students was positive. Most of them are doing what they can given the circumstances and are rising to the challenge. Most of them feel I am adequately meeting their needs.

This coming week I will get to see all of my students at the same time and watch them all work on the same assignment. Things are still not "normal," but I am thankful for any amount of time I get to be with them all together.

This school year will continue to require frequent reflection and adaptation, and we will all continue to take one week...one day...one class period at a time.