Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flipped Classroom without the Flip

(This is an update to my July 23, 2014 post "Fraction Review with ThingLink".)

Fractions is one of those concepts that my students always struggle with.  It's not something I should be teaching according to the eighth grade common core curriculum, but it's a skill they really need for some of the other topics this year.  In the past, I have spent way too much time reviewing fractions (like a whole month!), so this year I decided to take just one week and have the students use my "Know Your Fractions" ThingLink for an independent self-paced review.  It's sort of a flipped classroom model without the actual flip -- they weren't watching videos at home and coming to school to practice and apply what they learned.  Instead, in class everyday they watched the video(s), completed practice problems, and took one or two ThatQuizzes.  Some of my students were able to complete the classwork without any help from me, but for those who needed me, I had more time to devote to helping them than if I had been teaching a whole group lesson. 

This concept of self-paced learning worked so well with my classes!  The students were all very engaged in the lessons, did well with the practice problems, and the classroom management was a breeze!  They all knew the routine and moved from one activity to the next with minimal direction from me.  Some of them even went back and watched the video again if they were having trouble before they asked me for help.  The class completed a section per day, with the exception of "Fraction Operations".  I actually split up that section into two days, one for adding and subtracting, and the next for multiplying and dividing.  Each day there were a few students who finished the classwork early, so I had some additional activities for them.  

I will definitely use this again next year, with a few tweaks.  I did not have a review of simplifying fractions, which all of my students could really use.  I actually took a day off last week from my ThingLink lessons to review simplifying fractions before they moved on to the next topic in the ThingLink.  I will be adding simplifying to the first section of my ThingLink which is currently just "Equivalent Fractions".  I will also be switching the "Mixed Numbers" section and the "Fraction Operations" sections so that students will be able to write their answers to the operations problems in mixed number format instead of leaving them as improper fractions.  I don't know why I didn't think of these things when I created this, but we learn from our mistakes, right?

Even though this went super well, I would not use this style of instruction all the time.  It was perfect for these review lessons, but as for teaching a new concept, I really prefer the more traditional lesson for my special education students.  When I asked them what they thought of learning like this, they all said they liked it, but I miss the interaction with them and the class discussions we have in my usual style of teaching.  

Another added benefit of this flipped-but-not-really-flipped style is that I was out sick on the last day of the fraction review, but the lessons went on as planned without a hitch.  I wonder if they even knew I wasn't there??? 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

2 birds...1 stone

For the first few days of school this year, I tried to "kill 2 birds with 1 stone" so to speak.  First days are usually for going over classroom rules and teacher expectations, and most teachers conduct some sort of icebreaker activity for everyone to get to know each other.  This year my goal was not only to do these standard activities, but to use this opportunity to introduce and familiarize my students with some of the technology we will be using throughout the year.

Day 1 goals:  
  • explain my rules and expectations
  • introduce Nearpod

Day 1 activities:

My students participated in a Nearpod presentation in order to become familiar with the format of Nearpod and the various types of interactive activities that can be included in a NPP.  The first several sides displayed the same information that in the past I had presented with PowerPoint, such as my contact information, how much I LOVE math and hope they will too by the end of the year, supplies they will need, an overview of my teaching methods and classroom routines, and my favorite quote:

Created with quozio.com

Then I had a slide which instructed them to put in their earbuds and watch the following video, reminding them to pay close attention because there would be a quiz afterwards.  (I purchased a class set of cheap earbuds at the dollar store so every student will have them whenever they need them. They are all in ziplock bags labeled with each student's name and do not leave the classoom.)  They all seemed engaged in the video (which I created last year with VideoScribe).

Screenshot of the final frame of my video

When everyone was done, the quiz began!  I created a question to go along with each of the nine expectations that had just learned about.  Some of the questions were fill-in-the-blank, some were multiple choice, and others were draw-its.  My hope is that when we do our next NPP for a content topic, I won't have to go through explaining how Nearpod works because they should all already be familiar with it and this will save some class time. 

multiple choice question in Nearpod

Day 2 goals:

Day 2 activities:

For the second day of school, I had the students interview their partner and then create an Explain Everything video about their partner.  I did this same activity last year and you can read my blog post about it here for more details.  The only thing I changed this year was the order of the activities.  This year I started by showing them the video I made about my partner (my roommate Mr. Basso).  Then I had them interview each other.  When all the interviewing was complete, I had them follow along with me in Explain Everything as I demonstrated what each tool did.  I gave them a few minutes to try each tool before introducing the next one.  This allowed them to become comfortable with the app before they had to use it to create their video.  Once I felt they were ready, I explained how I wanted the final product to be organized (I had them answer 2 of the interview questions per slide, with a total of 5 slides altogether in their video).  Then they all went to work.  Most students only completed 2 of the 5 slides, so we will be completing the videos on Monday.  But the next time I ask them to use Explain Everything they will know exactly what to do, and this was a perfect way to get to know my new students!