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???