Tag Archives: beginnings

First Flipped Lesson

With my first Math 8 class this week, it was also my first flipped class. I was a bit worried about how the students would react to the idea.

I began by introducing the idea with the handout I had created. After I had given the basic explanation of what a flipped classroom meant and before I explained why I was planning to do this, I asked the students why a teacher might want to do this. The answers were exactly my rationale: “Because then if we are frustrated with the problems the teacher is there” and “We’ll have more time in class”. As much as any class is when you talk course outlines, they seemed excited.

I kept the first video very simple. I used the explain everything app on the iPad to record and set up a google form for the students to record some simple information as a test. Before the school day was even over I had about half the class’s responses turned in.

The biggest problem I foresee this week is keeping that momentum going. I want the students to be as engaged this week as they were on that very first day. So, back to the planning today!

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Flipping Math Introduction

I started seriously getting to work this week on planning for my flipped math classroom. I’m excited, but also a little overwhelmed. Since I haven’t taught math since a new curriculum was rolled out, I’m feeling a little challenged in taking on the flip at the same time as the new content.

I had spent the summer researching different flip models and reading blog posts about flipping. So I thought putting together an outline would be easy. Immediately I ran into some fundamental flipped classroom questions that I wasn’t sure how to answer.

First, I tried to define to parents (and students because I feel that by secondary school students need to be in charge of their own learning) what the flipped classroom was. That forced me to also be sure about what I meant by a flipped classroom. It was a little difficult because I was aware I didn’t want to get into too much jargon: educational or technical, so in the end I settled on the simplest explanation I could design.

Next, I went into a how/why/when etc trying to anticipate some of the basic questions that might arise when I introduce the idea. The why is simple because I could focus on the class time that the flipped classroom will give me to work with students directly.

The when was a bit harder for me to determine. Having never flipped before I had to think realistically about its use. What if I can’t sustain it throughout the year? What if the students/parents hate it? I decided to be deliberately vague and gave myself an ‘out’ in case any of my ‘what if’s’ came true. By suggesting that the flip may not happen every class, I removed the expectation for the class to be run this way every class.

Finally, I needed to explain the assignments and the assessments. Again, since the flip will be new to me, I had to do a little bit of teacher philosophy soul searching combined with fortune telling to try and see where this might go. I settled on explaining that there would be accountability for the video watching, but again, I chose to be vague about what that might look like. Although I most likely will use some type of google form or an edmodo post to ensure students are viewing the videos, I didn’t want to be overly explicit and therefore wedded to one method of assessing.

There were still some ideas I had for the outline that I didn’t include. For example, should I include links to some documentation on the flipped classroom model? Was it too vague not to break down the assessment piece more directly? Was the explanation too simple overall?

I’ve posted below the document I created; I’d love any feedback and suggestions anyone has!

Flip Explanation2011.doc

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Technology and Course Outlines

Two weeks before school begins and I decided to start up my year as I usually do with updating my course outlines. Now it’s only one week before school opens and I still haven’t finished writing them. Yes, it’s partially because the weather has been spectacular and the PNE opened, but it’s also because I am a bit stumped as to where to go with my outlines this year.

I teach three different grade levels of English Language Arts and I am teaching one Math 8 for the first time in a long time. The English courses have a standard course outline with the learning outcomes and general department guidelines and thanks to a generous colleague I have a similar outline for math as well. But those aren’t the outlines that I find the kids are interested in, and nor am I quite frankly.

Students are always more interested in the outlines where I explain explicitly what we will learn (the units) and how (projects, writing, assessment etc). And that’s where I find myself bogging down this summer. As I explained in my first post, I have big technology plans this year. Those plans all involve students, to varying degrees, using the internet and various social media devices to communicate. This means having to explain to both students and parents why I feel this exposure is both safe and necessary for their learning. Not an easy task.

When my friend’s daughter started kindergarten, she was given the standard permission form that many districts use regarding the use of photographs in the school. She refused to allow her daughter’s photo to be used because she thought it might be in some negative way. Fast forward two months and the daughter comes home crying with a photo of her class all sitting on the firetruck that came to visit them, only the daughter’s face has been blurred out and she couldn’t understand why. My friend went and signed the form the next day.

The story illustrates an important point – the consent forms do nothing to explain why the students’ photographs are useful in the educational process. It also does nothing to cover the other technology that I plan to have students use – which in some ways can be more exposing than a simple photo. My friend is not unintelligent, nor is she anti-technology, but since no one explained the importance to her of the photo release form, she didn’t sign it. How can I expect any different of my students’ parents unless I explain myself fully and completely.

So even if the sun is shining (again), I will continue to bash something out here that I hope will both the importance of the technology use in my classes, as well as the necessity.

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A head start to a new year

I finished my education degree in 1999. Back then a requirement of our practicums was to write what were called ‘reflections’ on our teaching practice. I hated the thought of writing them. Like most of my classmates, I felt that I was ready to ‘just teach’ and that writing about what I had done was just a make-work project.

However, being the good student I was (I can hear the groans that my classes would give me at that!), I always did them regardless of my personal feelings. And inevitably, after sitting down to write them, I felt like I really had learned something in the process. I liked talking about my mistakes and my successes. I liked thinking back about how to do it differently. I liked the way it forced me to slow down and really think. Now, 11 years, many different schools, varied subjects and thousands of students later, I feel like I need to return to reflections.

This is a big school year coming up for many different reasons, but for me, especially, on a personal level for my practice. The more I thought about the upcoming year, the more I wanted to challenge myself and by extension, my students, with some changes to my teaching.

First up is the adoption of edmodo. Edmodo is “a secure social learning network for students and teachers”, according to their website: www.edmodo.com. After attending their online conference last week (#edmodocon), I’m even more energized to try out. I have used a google site in the past to communicate with students and a posterous blog to communicate with parents. I’m hoping to use edmodo to blend the two together. Originally I had planned to only introduce the website to my junior classes, but after the conference, I’m considering expanding to all my grade levels.

Second, I’m teaching Math 8 again for the first time in many years. With the help of a learned colleague who suggested the idea, I have decided to try flipping my math classroom. There is a myriad of websites talking about this idea at the moment, so I won’t go into detail about it (mostly because I’m still deciding on how I plan to implement it!), but a great introduction can be found here: www.flipteaching.com.

Lastly, obviously, there is this blog: this chance to reflect out loud and publicly. Honestly, I resisted the whole idea because it seems terrifying to me, but how can I, as a teacher, demand something of my students (like I do with almost any type of public display of their work, be it presentation, wiki, blog etc.) that I am not willing to risk doing myself. So, here I am, reflecting.

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