Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jumping In With Both Feet

Wow!  The first 5 days of school felt like 5 weeks.  It was a great week, but we covered a lot of ground and seemed to get in a good routine very quickly.  It was an exhausting week, as the first week of school always is.  Thursday included Open House that evening, so that day felt like a double shift.

But I'm a "good" tired and am very pleased with our first 5 days.

I did begin to develop a sinus infection by late Friday afternoon, so this weekend I'm medicating myself and resting.  And will probably visit the clinic for a shot.

In my Algebra 1 classes, I began building up our flipped classroom from Day 1, until we finally watched a video together on Day 4.

While going over policies and procedures on Monday, I introduced the "big 3" of how our class is going to work - communication via Edmodo (not new to my students; our district has been using Edmodo for about a year and a half), a new retake and redo policy (after reading Rick Wormelli this summer), and flipped lessons.

Tuesday and Wednesday the students worked in pairs on a Problem Trail I got from "Activities by Jill" on Teachers Pay Teachers.  It was a great activity.  I got to hear lots of mathematical discussions, observe students teaching each other, pre-teach concepts we will explore later, and review concepts students have seen in previous math courses.  I experienced what I hope will be commonplace once flipped lessons are the norm in my classroom - individual time with lots of students.  While we weren't focused on flipped lessons these two days, students would ask the occasional question about them.  They were very curious about what was coming.

Thursday was "the big day."  I walked them through how to find the links to the lessons on Edmodo.  We discussed how to be "FIT" when watching a video (via Crystal Kirch). Then we watched the first lesson together.  I modeled pausing the videos, talked about the importance of rewinding when necessary, and discussed how to ask questions about the lessons and get them answered.  I previewed how questions would evolve from "Do you have any questions about this lesson?" to "Ask a question about this lesson - either something you don't understand or a higher-order question to ask your classmates."

Thursday night I got to talk to the parents who attended Open House.  They, too, got a preview of the "big 3."  They seemed very interested in and open to the flipped lessons.  The only question asked was, "Are YOU making these lessons?"  It was obviously important to this parent (and I assume others) that the kids get instruction from me.  I'm glad I decided to approach my flipped class in this manner.  I know the parent who asked that question and taught his older son, and when other parents had left the room he asked, "How are you going to have time for all of this?"  I told him honestly I wasn't exactly sure but was working on a good routine.

I've had several parents tell me they think the flipped classroom is a good idea, and I've heard more than one say they will watch the videos with their children.  Yea!

Friday we talked about iTunes U (we are a 1:1 iPad school).  Most students were able to join my course and download at least the video they are to watch this weekend.  I have a small handful of students without access at home.  They were relieved to hear I had an option to make flipped learning work for them.  One student doesn't have access at home AND couldn't get enrolled in my iTunes U course.  I used Air-Drop to send the video to his camera roll.  Another student was worried about things not working for him and asked that I also Air-Drop the video to him.  We have lots of options!

[After some poking around this weekend, I discovered the limit for enrollment in an iTunes U course is 50; I have 53 Algebra 1 students, so that is why 3 were unable to join.  I have created a second, identical course and will get those 3 enrolled tomorrow.]

We spent the rest of our time in class practicing concepts from Thursday's video lesson, and I gave them all the guided notes for next week.  They can watch videos on their own schedule, as long as a video is watched by the day I've told them it is due.

I only saw two issues, one minor and one which might take some work.

The minor issue deals with the fact that middle school students "wake up in a new world every morning."  As students encountered problems on Friday they were a little less familiar with (most of the lesson was review), I would remind them I did an example like it on the video the day before and to get those notes out.  They would look at me a little strangely.  I hope they begin to more readily make the connection between the video one day and the work the next.  I think they will.

The other, larger issue involves a particular student.  He is autistic and receives special education services but is very bright and wanted to take the advanced, Pre-AP Algebra 1 class instead of the inclusion, regular Pre-Algebra class.  He deems the videos "a waste of his time" (his words to the resource teacher).  After talking with his seventh grade math teacher, I found he has a history of working ahead but then missing important information because he is not paying attention.  I could see this right away as we watched the first video together.  I talked to the resource teacher (she is my partner teacher in Pre-Algebra), and she talked with him that afternoon.  We decided to give him one lesson of guided notes at a time (instead the whole week's worth) and remind him he will have to redo notes that are not done correctly the first time.

I had a private discussion with him about our plan.  I told him I knew he wasn't crazy about the videos; he replied, "No.  I'm not."  I told him I knew he could do it, though.  I mentioned the first assigned video was only seven minutes long and said I knew he could give me seven minutes.  He said, "No.  I can't."  We had a little more discussion, and as he walked off he said, "I'm going to skip parts.  To make a statement."  Whoa!  We had a short discussion about defiance.  At lunch, I once again touched base with the resource teacher.

After lunch, the resource teacher came in to observe and let the young man know she was aware and involved.  After she left, I saw him writing on the notes and thought he was trying to do them without the video.  As I approached him, however, I saw the video playing (he had finished our work for the day).  He was not listening to the video, but he was writing what was showing on the screen.  I'll take it!

I look forward to learning how I can adapt the flipped classroom to individual student needs.

My exit slip Friday was a "3-2-1":  tell me 3 things you think you're going to like about this class, 2 things you are concerned/worried/unsure about, and 1 question you have for Mrs. Gibbs.  I learned a lot about my students from this activity!  They are excited about the flipped lessons (a major subject of their responses), but they are concerned, too.  What if the videos don't work at home?  What is class going to look like?  I think most of their concerns will be answered over the next couple of weeks.  Two students' question for me was, "Do you really think a flipped classroom is going to work?"  I hope they eventually realize I wouldn't invest what I've already invested and will continue to invest into the process if I didn't think it was going to work.  And I continue to share my enthusiasm as we become immersed in the process.

I went to Edmodo and wrote a "how to access video lessons" post in case some of them forgot on Sunday the procedures we discussed Thursday and Friday.  My partner teacher has suggested a "cheat sheet" to send home for students and parents; I think it's a good idea and will probably do it soon.

I also asked them to post "Watched!" after they've viewed the video and completed the notes.  I want students to see that others have not had problems with the videos and that this is going to work! And I was excited to see that three of them had watched the video before noon on Saturday.  The list of "Watched!" replies continues to grow throughout the weekend.

Wow!  This is a long post.  But the purpose of this blog is to be a place to record my observations and thoughts, so I can refer back to them later.  If you have stuck with me to the very end, you are to be commended. :)  Maybe subsequent weeks won't require as much brain-dump.

I can't wait to see what happens next week!

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