Monthly Archives: August 2012

Flipping: The First Week

Well, the first week of flipping my classroom is almost over.  I’ve noticed so many improvements!!

First, I stressed the importance of watching the videos right from the first day.  I told students that I would not be lecturing during class, so if they didn’t watch, they would be lost.  As was expected, there were a few students in each class that forgot to watch, but they watched in class on their smartphones or laptops, and were still able to complete the activity.

Second, classroom management is a breeze!!  I realized that the reason I spent the first five minutes of class trying to get the class to pay attention was because they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing, so they did what they wanted – they socialized.  Now, at the end of each video, I tell them what they will be doing in class.  All supplies are laid out for them and they can get started even before the bell rings!

Mind you, we haven’t begun the actual math curriculum yet, just technology tools, so there wasn’t a whole lot of confusing concepts to explain.  Also, I haven’t given an “opening question” for the same reason.  We’ll see how things change during week two!  But so far, I am very excited about how successful my students will be this year!!

Rational Expressions – 37th Birthday

This conversation actually happened on my 37th birthday (which was years ago, by the way).

It was very humbling to realize that I am not always the cleverest person in the room.

First Week of Classes

Pursuant to a discussion at a November Learning conference this summer, I’ve decided to spend the first week of classes teaching my IB students about some internet tools and tips for their research, both in IB and in college.

Here’s the itinerary for the first week:


  • Expectations of my class
  • Sample video
  • Navigating my course website
  • Introduction to QR codes



  • More efficient Google searching
  • Country codes and internet suffixes
  • Using the “site:” command


  • Introduction to
  • Introduction of (with the WayBackMachine)


  • Introduction to Diigo

We can always start math next week, right?

Pictures of My Flipped Classroom

Here’s my room!

My tables are set up so students can work in groups of four.  Students aren’t all facing the front of the room, because they don’t have to.  I’m not the center of attention anymore.  They need to be facing each other, because that’s where the knowledge and collaboration will be coming from.

I did move most of the tables against the wall so that they were near the electrical outlets in the room.  I figure if I want students to bring electronics into the room, they should have a power source to use them.

The IB learner profile is up, plus I have a vision statement posted above my SmartBoard, but that’s it.  This is their room, so they will fill the walls with their work.  It will look much different in May!

I’ve got my shelves filled, not only with math books, but with puzzle books and random novels.  It’s kind of a nice area for a couple of students to chat.

My teacher’s desk is pushed against the wall to remove that student/teacher barrier.  Now I can go to the students instead of them coming to me.

I still don’t have my rolling whiteboard yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Well, that’s my room!  I haven’t done everything I wanted to do, but I’ve done all of the necessaries, and I’ll do the rest as the year goes on.  Hope you like it!!

Rational Expressions – Rylan’s First Math Lesson

It’s Monday!! Time for a new comic!

You met Kyler last week. The little guy is Rylan. He’ll be 2 in September, but again, the limitations of creating characters in BitStrips makes him look a lot older.

The Debate: Facebook or Twitter?


One thing that is very important to me is the ability to communicate with my students during the school year.  I think this is critical in a flipped classroom because I want students to ask me questions about the videos they’ve watched, or about the closing “teaser” question that I pose before I dismiss them from my class that day.

In the IB program we have ManageBac, which compiles a list of upcoming assignments and tests.  I also (thanks to my colleague) have Google Moderator on my Google site.  But honestly, how many students are going to check those on a regular basis?

So I took the opportunity to email my students over the summer and ask them which they would prefer: a provate Facebook group where they can discuss the current project or upcoming test, or a Twitter hashtag to follow discussions within our class and from other IB students around the world.

The results were rather interesting.  Out of the 50-some responses I got, only one vote was for Twitter and the rest were for Facebook.  That’s not even the interesting part!  Students told me the reason for their preference.  They said things like:  I don’t have a Twitter account, I don’t use Twitter, I don’t know how to use Twitter, and so on.

Is it possible that I am even slightly ahead of my students when it comes to technology?  I never thought I would see that happen!!

So yes, my plan for August is to create a private Facebook group… for now.  But I now feel obligated, and rightly so, to teach my students about Twitter – what you can do with it, how you can connect with people around the world, how you can find resources that will help with any research assignment – the list is endless!

So, while my curriculum spans almost the entire year, I think I will have to make adjustments and include lessons on Twitter, so that students are better connected, better informed, and better communicators.

I welcome any thoughts that anyone has about how you communicate in your classroom.  I’m sure there are options out there that I either haven’t considered or don’t know.

First day is almost here, fellow flippers!!

Rational Expressions – Kyler’s Calculus Hobby

My goal is to have a new comic posted every Monday.  This one has my older son, Kyler.  He’s actually only 7 in real life, but BitStrips can be a bit ageist when it comes to creating characters, so he looks more like he’s 12 or 13 here.  You’ll meet my other son, Rylan, next week.

Classroom is Set Up!


I think I’m finally happy with my room setup. I change it every year, for some reason, but this year I wanted to change it so that it reflects what a flipped classroom should look like.

There are seven things that I insisted on for this year:

  1. Wireless Internet in the Room – I requested this over the summer. Believe it or not, students could not access the internet with their devices while they were in my classroom. It seems a little counterproductive, especially if I want to assign tasks that required internet access. Students need access to more than what I alone can offer within the classroom. So I went into school weeks after the request and sure enough, I found one of those big circle things on the ceiling in my room. I was elated!
  2. Desk Against the Wall – The desk, a.k.a. “my personal space” was a nice barrier between me and my students so that I could monitor them like a supervisor watches his workers, and they had to come humbly to me for any questions they had. (Okay, maybe that analogy is a bit harsh, but you get the idea.) Now I’ve removed that barrier between teacher and students. Students and I are now working toward a common goal – everybody learning. I work with them and learn with them as I spend time with each group discussing and guiding the process.
  3. Tables in Groups – I’ve had this for a while, but with the teacher desk out of the way, I can spread the groups out more, making everyone more comfortable. The reason: Kids need to talk to each other, in their own language. I am no longer the only expert in the room. Before the bell rings, they know everything required in order to get working. They can also communicate their interpretations of that knowledge freely.
  4. Rolling Whiteboard – Okay, this has been requested, and hopefully it will happen, and here’s why. Not all students find paper and pencil the best way to work things out. In previous years, I often had students ask if they could use my whiteboard to do their work, take a picture of it with their phone, and email the picture to me. I love that idea! Students need different ways of expressing themselves in writing. Since I only have one whiteboard and one SmartBoard in my room, I figure it won’t hurt to have a two-sided rolling whiteboard so more students can work in this way.
  5. Blank Walls – No motivational posters, no work from previous students, no formula lists with colorful backgrounds, nothing. This year is a blank slate, and as the year goes on, they can decorate the walls with anything that everyone feels is appropriate. The classroom is their room as much as it is mine. In the past, some students have made posters, playfully poking fun at me. Others have written me sonnets – that’s right, sonnets! – telling me they missed me when I was absent. I’m not sure what’s going up there this year, but then again, I don’t need to know. I’m not the only creative mind in the room. The only thing that I will be putting on the walls this year is the…
  6. IB Learner Profile – As an IB teacher, I am required to post this in my classroom. I could have just listed the ten qualities of IB learners. I could have even bought the official IB poster ( Instead, I made my own series of ten posters, just because I wouldn’t have been happy with the only option available. Students need to see that they are free to express things in their own way. Students need to know that my way is not necessarily the only way to say or write something, or even do something. I welcome other interpretations of what I’ve given to them.
  7. Bookshelves with Puzzle Books – I figure there will always be those that finish the activity well in advance, and they may need something to do. Rather than texting or getting on Facebook or YouTube, students are given the option to work on games and puzzles. Students need to be given every opportunity to solve different kinds of problems. My worry is that the puzzles may be seen as a reward, and students will work too quickly and carelessly just to be able to enjoy that reward.  Any comments on how to avoid this are welcome.

What does your flipped classroom look like? As I’ve mentioned, this is my first experience flipping my classroom, so any input from experienced “flippers” will be greatly appreciated.

I am SO looking forward to the first day of school!

Rational Expressions – Dad’s Mad

Hello fellow math bloggers!

This is my very first blog.  I will be sharing my experiences flipping my math classes for the very first time!

It is my sincere hope that anyone else thinking of doing the same can learn from my successes and my mistakes.

I invite any input and suggestions from anyone who is following me.


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