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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Flipped-Mastery Classroom - My Thoughts So Far

I have tried the flipped mastery model in most of my classes at the point.  Flipped mastery is where all the direct instruction is on video and the students work through the material (worksheets, activities, labs, etc) at their own pace.  

Starting Small:

I really wanted to give this a try and wanted to test the waters by starting small.  Some good advice I received a while ago was "If you want to try something new, try it in the spring with students you are familiar with and can work out the bugs.  This way you'll know if it's something you want to do in fall with your new students."  I decided to try flipped mastery with my last period Algebra 1A class on the topic Absolute Value Equations and Inequalities.  

Since I was starting small and this was a lesson I usually don't have time for in the curriculum, I only had direct instruction and worksheets.  I know that's terrible, but I'm starting small remember???  I posted all the videos on my website, created all the worksheets that corresponded to those videos, and gave each student a packet of papers.

The one problem I ran into here was that since I was starting small and only flipping one outcome, there had to be a deadline.  I was going back to my regular teaching habits after this.  

What I liked:

I loved that the students could work at their own pace.  In that particular class there were about 2 students who were incapable of listening and taking notes at the same time and either had notes they didn't understand or listened and didn't have the notes or the entire lecture took twice as long as usually so the entire class could wait for them to keep up.  

I was able to work with students one-on-one during this time.  Since I was no longer standing in the front of the classroom, I was circulating.  I was watching facial expressions for confusion or frustration, I was making sure students were on task, and I was spot checking for understanding.  

With the spring sports season here, I was missing 3-4 students everyday due to early dismissal for games.  Those students no longer 'missed' any information, they picked up where they left the next day.

In our district, our homeroom is called PODs and it's 40 minutes long.  It's used for assemblies, club meetings, remediation, the problems of the day, etc.  Because of PODs I was able to have students come to my room during that time if they were falling behind with the work and not making up for it at home.  

Activities, games, and labs will be more personal.  Again, I haven't done any of this with the flipped mastery yet.  Since students will be a different places at different times, I will be working with smaller groups of students for these things rather than the entire class.  

State Exams.  If I decide to go all the way with flipped mastery, the motivated students will have the opportunity to finish the curriculum before the state exams are given in May.  Every year I feel like I do these students an injustice because they are held back by the slower students and could possibly do even better on the state exams.  

Homework.  It's now up to the students if they want to do homework.  Is tonight a good night to get some work done?  It's their call.  I feel that this is a great skill to be learning in school.  

What challenges I ran into:

Some of my students have very little time-management skills, but again, this is an important skill to have and learn.  At the beginning of each class I wrote on the board what the students should have completed to be on pace.  If any of the students were not at that point by the end of class, I wrote them a pass to come during PODs.  Some of them didn't show up and this falling behind business builds and builds.  I believe that under this model the student at least have the opportunity to learn time-management much more than under traditional models.  

I feel that flipped mastery is an all or nothing concept.  The first few days after going back to my regular teaching, my Algebra 1A students were very challenging.  It was only 8 school days that we were under the flipped mastery model, but they didn't want to listen to me anymore.  Sitting still in their seats and having all of their attention in one place a the same time wasn't what they wanted to do.  I'm still trying to get their attention back.  Plus, not all students finished the outcome at exactly the same time.  Some finished early and some are still not finished.  And the students missing class, this feels like such a hassle now.  I really wish I had the rest of my curriculum flipped.  

Where do I go from here:

I am still feeling the guilt with the state tests coming up at the end of next month that I decided to focus my energies on flipping the remainder of my curriculum for CP Algebra 1 (CP is College Prep).  There are students in there who are bored to tears waiting for their classmates and I can't sit here with the tools and knowledge to let them move ahead and not use it.  

I am willing to share all of my materials, you will just need to go to my Algebra 1 tab at the top.  It will have the videos, worksheets, activities, etc.  Help yourself and of course leave feedback :)  As of today (4/5/14) I have most of outcome 19, Writing Linear Equations, available.  

For next year:

In our district many of our freshmen struggle with passing an Algebra 1 course in one year, so we split it into a two-year course:  Algebra 1A and Algebra 1B.  They receive 1 credit for each one.  There is one very small problem with this: There are students who are either misplaced or they mature over the summer, but whatever the case may be, but they probably could have passed the course in one year rather than two.  This holds them back from taking courses like pre-calculus and calculus because of the required prerequisites.  Under the flipped mastery model, these few students could work ahead and potentially pass both courses in one year and be able to move on to Algebra 2 the following year.  Almost like they were in CP Algebra 1 instead.  

Summer Math:

Here is what we have been doing for our summer math program for the past few years.  

The students are required to complete 10 problems from 10 sections successfully on  During the first week of school, we ask our students to log-in to their studyisland accounts and show us this information and it is their first grade for the new school year.  
The problem is that some of the students pay other students to complete the work for them.  We have no idea who took the tests and it has become a real problems in our school.  
In order to put some students out of business, why not have the summer math requirement be to learn the first 1 or 2 outcomes for their next course using the flipped mastery model?  And, if a student is so inclined, he could complete more than 2 outcomes.  When they come to school in fall, they can take the outcome tests they are ready for.  You can't hire someone to learn something for you.  Maybe these student 'business owners' will become tutors instead ;-)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SBG Questions and My Answers

Recently, I received an e-mail asking me to share how I used SBG (Standards-Based Grading) in my classroom.  For those of you who use SBG, feel free to respond to these questions as well either in the comments, or leave a link in the comments if you post about this. Here are the questions posed:

1) How do I convert proficiency to a grade (eligibility, report cards)?
2) How many levels of proficiency?
3) How do I measure proficiency (3/4 problems = proficient?)?
4) How does group work fit in (who gets credit for being proficient)?
5) What counts as having demonstrated proficiency (quizzes/test, classwork)?
6) How do you motivate students to complete projects or other assignments if they have already demonstrated proficiency?
7) How do I create a list of outcomes?
8) How do I track data?
9) How do I communicate data to students/parents?

My Answers:

2) Let me start by answering the second question first.  How many levels of proficiency?  In our department, we use three levels.  Not Yet Proficient (N) is when a student doesn't prove that he has all the skills required for the outcome.  Proficient (P) is when a student does show all the skills required for an outcome.  And High Performance (H) is when a students takes the knowledge from the outcome and applies it.  Before our department started SBG we all sat down and decided what particular skills were needed for each outcome.  We are still tweeking those skills to this day and my guess is that we will still be tweeking until we retire.  

1) I know that many schools require number grades and parents want to see those as well.  It helps with eligibility and class rank.  So until everyone becomes more familiar with SBG we will need some way to convert grades.  To convert to a number grade, we start be determining what percent of the outcomes a students is at least Proficient in.  Next, we determine what percent of outcomes the student is High Performance in.  Then we add those two numbers together and finally use the following conversion chart to determine their number grade:

3) How do I measure proficiency (3/4 problems = proficient?)?
You won't be doing any math like this under this particular system.  The reason is because you may have a student get 3/4 of the problems correct, but might be missing some very important skill.  Instead of a certain percent of the problems correct, you will be looking for a certain set of skills.  I want to write about a few different examples.  In both examples you are giving an exam on graphing linear inequalities.  Solid lines, dotted line, graphing lines correctly, and of course shading.  

Example 1:  A student does everything correctly on the test, but most of the shading is incorrect.  Under traditional grading the student might pass the test because she received partial credit for the problems.  My issue with this is that this students doesn't understand how to shade an inequality and this is a problem.  She will need that skill for a later outcome.  With this SBG system, the student would be required to retake the test because she didn't prove she knew all of the skills necessary.

Example 2:  A student makes a few careless mistakes on the exam such as miscounting when plotting the y-intercept, or in one problem accidentally uses a positive slope when it should have been negative.  With the traditional grading the student will most likely pass the test, but now it's impossible for the student to receive 100%.  Test cannot be retaken and those careless errors will be holding him back all quarter.  With SBG the teacher asks herself if the student is proving that he has the skills required.  Making a one-time error with slope or carelessly counting doesn't mean the student doesn't know how to graph linear inequalities.  Perhaps he should take more time to look things over though.

4) How does group work fit in (who gets credit for being proficient)?

Personally, I don't grade group work.  However, I do try to hold students accountable to their groups by giving incentives other than grades.  Just recently we used Monopoly Boards in group work.  Sometimes I think the incentive with group work is being able to work with each other.  Also, when there are group members who are not doing their fair share in a group, they are usually the ones who do poorer on the test and that could be considered their 'punishment' for not contributing.  

5) What counts as having demonstrated proficiency (quizzes/test, classwork)?

This answer is easy:  Whatever you want to count, will count.  More often than not I use a test to prove proficiency.  That may not be the best way to go about it, but for now it's the easiest thing for me.  I'm actually glad you asked this question because it has forced me to realize that I should broaden my resources in this area.  Perhaps I'll have an update for you later on this.

6) How do you motivate students to complete projects or other assignments if they have already demonstrated proficiency?

One thing that motivates students is getting High Performance.  I do have paper-and-pencil High Performance tests for each of the outcomes I teach, but I also allow and encourage projects.  I am much more diverse for High Performance than I am for Proficiency.  

7) How do I create a list of outcomes?

That's the hard part.  Our department spent a lot of time working on our list of outcomes.  They are geared toward our state test, Algebra 1 Keystone Exam.  You are welcome to use those if you like and you can find them here.  

8) How do I track data?

You will need to either speak to your IT person or do this manually.  We use to do the grade conversions manually, student by student.  But our IT guy did something (I don't know what) in PowerTeacher so that we can put the grades in there directly.  

9) How do I communicate data to students/parents?

This is another problem we still face in our district.  We have tried open meetings, sending e-mails home, sending papers home with the students, asking the students to explain the process to their parents, I have information up on my class website, and I talk about it on meet-the-teacher nights and parent-teacher conferences.  I think we have so much confusion with parents because their child in now in 9th grade and I'm changing the grading system.  Their entire educational careers were based on traditional grading, and at least 9 years of the child's grading was traditional too.  Unfortunately I don't have a great answer for this question.  I believe that many parents become less involved once their child reaches high school.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

McDonalds Monopoly Boards - Algebra Style

Algebra 1 is full of so many connections, but I feel that too often my students believe that each lesson is isolated, having nothing to do with the previous one.  In an effort to help my students make these connections, I stole the idea of the monopoly board for my classroom.

I know that if my students were motivated to sit down and try to figures these things out, they could.  If the students already know how to convert standard form of a linear equation to slope-intercept, and they can graph from from slope-intercept, then they don't need to show them how to graph from standard, or even how to write an equation from a graph.  Thus was born the Monopoly Board Algebra Style.

It's certainly not as flashy as McDonald's and I should probably work on that.  That would be cool. 

Each class is split into teams or 3 or 4 that work together to collect monopoly pieces and put them in the correct space on the board.  I teach the outcome in 4 lessons (or more for my lower level classes) and each lesson has an exit ticket with about 4-5 questions.  Here is what saves me a lot of time:  I don't write anything on their exit ticket, I only staple monopoly pieces to their papers as feedback.  If they got one question completely correct, they get 1 monopoly piece.  2 correct, 2 pieces, etc.  When they receive their exit ticket back in class the next day, they work together as a team to determine which questions they got right and to use their monopoly pieces together to tape on the board.  

The columns on the boards are Graph, Table, Slope, Intercepts, Standard Form, and Slope-Intercept Form.  Each row is given something different. 

Below is the file for you:

The first two pages of this file are the monopoly pieces.  I cut these apart, throw away the pieces that say 'given' and put the remaining pieces in a paper bag.
Pages 3 and 4 of the document are the monopoly board.  I copy these 1-2 sided and give one board to each group.

After the students are done learning the outcome, I collect their monopoly boards.  For each row that is complete and correct, I give each student in the group a piece of paper to write their name on. For instance, if a group got four rows completely correct, each member of the group would get four papers.  Then we have a chinese auction.

Using the classroom funds, I purchased scented markers, glow in the dark bracelets.  a whoopee cushion, mustache duct tape, and a notepad.  The students will put their papers in the paper bags for the items they would like to win.  I pick a name out the bag and that person gets the prize.

Yeah, yeah, the chinese auction is fun and I'm well aware of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.  But the real learning takes place when I hear the students talking about the monopoly pieces and where to put them.  Just getting started is a huge learning experience for them.  A nice little bonus:  I saw students trading duplicated pieces they had and even giving them away to other groups.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Systems of Linear Inequalities Game on Desmos

This game needs a name yet.  Your help is appreciated with that endeavor.

First I'll tell you how we played it in class, then I let you know what the students suggested, and finally I'll tell you want changes I think I'll try next time.

Initial Rules

Break the class into 5 teams.  I use 5 teams because desmos has 5 colors other than black (purple, blue, red, green, and orange).

Each team starts with 1 trailer (ordered pair): (0, 2) (0, 3) (0, 4) (0, 5) and (0, 6).  Each a different color.  

The inequalities y < 1/1 x + 0 and y > -1/1x + 0 are the two inequalities.

The overlapping shaded region is the area that is safe from tornadoes, so the players will want to move their trailers there or actually move the shaded region.

Each team rolls a die to see what they can do:

1) Change one of the slopes to whatever they want
2) Change one of the y-intercepts to whatever they want
3) Change the direction of one of the inequalities
4) Move a trailer to where ever they want (must be visible on the screen)
5) Get another trailer
6) Unleash a tornado. 

To unleash a tornado, I numbered each region of the graph that was created by the inequalities, except the overlapping shaded region, then rolled the die.  So if the regions were labeled 1, 2, and 3, and I rolled a 2, all the trailers in the region labeled '2' would be deleted.  If I rolled a 4, 5, or 6 then the tornado never formed.  

We played this for the entire period (45 minutes), and the team with the most trailers by the end of the class was the winner.  I had two teams win with 3 trailers each.

The Students' Suggestions

There should be more ways to unleash tornadoes.
We should start with 2 trailers.

What I Will Try Next Time:

Instead of rolling 1 die, each team will roll 2 and then decide which they want to use.  I think I will still begin the game the same way, but because there are two dice and more options, the players will have the opportunity to add more trailers and unleash more tornadoes.  

What I Loved About The Game:

Students were practicing skills they normally hate.  Such as:

Determining if an ordered pair is a solution to a system of inequalities.  We had great discussions about trailers being safe from tornadoes or not based on where they were located.  They asked if it was safe to be on the dotted line.  They asked if it was safe to be in any shaded region or just where they overlap.  

The students discussed what would happen if they changed the direction of the inequality in one equation as opposed to the other.  Would their other trailer be safe?  Where would the overlapping be?

They debated about how to change the y-intercept or the slope to make one of their trailers safe but not one of their opponent's.  

I can't get these discussions when I hand out worksheets, but tornadoes sweeping away their mobile homes, they're all over that.

Here's what our 'game board' looked like at the end of class:

Thoughts?  Comments?  What about a title for this?

*UPDATE* 3/29/2014

I played this game with a different class and we tried the following rules and it made the game more exciting.

1) Roll two dice, allow the students to determine which number they want to use.  If a 6 is rolled, a tornado must be started.  

2) When a 6 is rolled:  Number the unshaded regions so that all numbers 1-6 are used.  So if there are three unshaded regions label them 1&4, 2&5, and 3&6.  This way a tornado always forms.  

We also discussed ways to damage your opponents mobile home.  Perhaps there could be a way to steal their tires so they can't drive to another location.  

Have any of you played this game?  Any feedback for me (good or bad)?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

For My Step-Daughter

My step-daughter is in her third year of college.  Her major?  Education.  I wanted to give her some advice on getting a job, but decided to give this advice to everyone.  Please add your thoughts to the comments or provide a link if you have something to add.

Dear Brianna,

I'm so excited that in less than two years you will enter the great world of teaching.  You will hear many people try to talk you out of this, but I've seen you with kids, and teaching is where you belong.  Right now the job market is very competitive and I want to give you an advantage.

1) Start a professional blog.  I bet you think you have nothing to offer the blogging community or the readers because you don't have your own classroom.  You couldn't be farther from the truth.  Blogging gives you your own space to work through your ideas.  If you have an idea and want advice, like a lot of advice; blog about it.  Have a great lesson that you want to share?  That's the place.  Here's the best part, once you start sharing, you'll find a goldmine of others' ideas.  The ideas grow exponentially, it's overwhelming.  Prospective employers will love to see that you seek out your own (free) professional development online.  One blogger I know has been offered a teaching job because of her blog.  A job she never applied for.

2) Create a 'class' website.  This might seem silly: to create a website for imaginary students, but it's better to say at an interview "Here is what I have created." rather than "Here is what I plan to create."  Have a website where students (and even parents) can go for lessons, class news, links to other sites, etc.

3) Network with other teachers online.  In my opinion, twitter is the best place for this.  Follow teachers you admire, participate in education chats, offer solutions, ask questions, share, steal, and network.

4) Attend a professional conference.  Just like networking online, attending a professional conference is the face-to-face version.  I get so fired up after attending a conference I can't wait to get back to my classroom.  This is enthusiasm that can't be faked.  Any employer would be blind to not see it.

5) Be different.  Think outside the box and make yourself known.  What will make your resume stand out?  QR codes linking to you blog, website, and/or a video?  What will make your interview memorable?

6) Be confident.  I sit in on interviews in my district and nothing gets my attention first more than confidence.  Confidence helps with so many things in teaching.  It helps with classroom management, respect from colleagues, and positive attention from administrators.

7) Visit classrooms even when you don't have to.  I know that you are required to complete observations while you are in college, but don't stop there.  Even after you graduate, watch other teachers.  The thing that kills instruction is teaching in isolation.  Get out there and see what other teachers are doing.  Then steal their ideas.

I know that you are going to be an amazing classroom teacher.  Your students will be very lucky to even know you.  Welcome to a great profession!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Why One-Minute Student-Made Video are Valuable

I attended another BER conference this week.  "Best, New Strategies for Using iPads, Phones, Mobile Devices and Other Cutting-Edge Technology to Strengthen Classroom Content Learning" with Zachary Walker, Ph. D.

One of the take-aways that I got from this workshop was one-minute students-made videos.  It hit me when he made us do it at the seminar.  He told us to get out our devices and record each other talking about something we just learned and we were given a time limit to finish.  This short activity forced me to be focused and realize what the main points were.  AND since it's on video it could go public!!!

Yesterday I gave my students the assignment to create a one-minute video about how to find slope.  I gave this assignment when there were 10 minutes of class left and told them that we would be recording tomorrow with Educreations.  They were to use the remaining class time to figure out what they were going to say.  That's when the magic happened.  The students were going back through their notes and trying to really understand the lesson, they didn't want to look like idiots on the video.  They were asking each other questions, they were summarizing, it was truly amazing to see.  I couldn't help but mentally compare this assignment to a worksheet.

Here were my directions:

1) The video must be no longer than 1 minute.
2) You must talk about how to find slope given a table, an equation, ordered pairs, and a graph.
3) Everyone must speak in the video
4) I am posting your videos on twitter so that the world can see it.  I will also send the the hashtag to the administrators and your parents.

Here is a sampling of the videos.  You will be able to find them all on twitter with the hashtag #oswald032114

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Educreations and Absolute Value Equation Sample Videos

A reader asked me to share some of the videos that I'm using in my flipped lessons.  You are more than welcome to them, but I would like to introduce you to educreations if you haven't discovered it yet.

Once you are there you can search the many videos to see if someone has already created a video to suit your needs or of course make your own.

At the flipped classroom workshop I attended last month, the presenter suggested that your video include the following things:

  1. Learning Objectives
  2. Engagement - this might include multiple voices
  3. Delivery - stay on topic, stop the repetition.  In my words:  don't be annoying
  4. Content - make sure the students are learning something
  5. Assessment - what do they do after they watch the video?  

Below are two videos that Mr. Pod and I have created for our outcome on Absolute Value Equations.