Category Archives: Flipped Classroom

My experience with my new flipped math classes!

Flipped Classroom – First Five Days: Grads Talking to Seniors

Last year, during the first five days of school, I invited my former students to visit my classroom, either in person or through Facetime, to talk to my current seniors and give them encouragement and advice. The response was overwhelming! The graduates were eager to share their experiences with the new seniors. Even though the graduates had schedules of their own, I was able to organize a schedule where each class of seniors was able to hear from one or two students each class, for the entire week. I was also able to make sure that the seniors were able to hear from students from two distinct groups: (1) recent graduates and (2) graduates from over a year ago.

Recent graduates proved to be very helpful with the college application process – which schools to apply to, financial aid, scholarships – as well as the stress of finishing all of the work required to earn their International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas – multiple internal assessments, papers, and an extended essay.

Graduates from over a year ago were extremely helpful with advice about the college experience after admission – attending classes, getting involved in campus life, etc.

The event was so successful, and the feedback from the seniors was so positive, that I decided to do it again this year. Once again, the response was incredible! Personally, I smile because I’m able to see my former students again. For the students, the advice they received was so valuable, even though it was scary at times. There was a common thread to all conversations, with small differences in the details.




In general, the seniors were given the following advice:

  • Submit everything before the deadline. Any college-related application that was submitted on the deadline would greatly reduce your chances of getting accepted. Any IB work should also be done before the official deadlines so that it’s not hanging over your head.
  • Apply to a variety of colleges – “reach” schools, state schools, and “safety” schools, knowing that even if you don’t get into your dream college, you will still have a successful and meaningful college experience.
  • Enjoy your senior year – this is the last time you will be around your closest friends every day, so enjoy that time and make memories.
  • Actively research scholarships – there are many scholarships out there that people don’t know about. Do your research and apply to the reputable ones. And you can apply for scholarships each year you attend college, not just your freshman year.
  • Recognize that IB is preparing you for college, moreso than other advanced classes – Most of your time in IB is spent doing independent research and writing original reports and essays, so being able to manage your time, balance your activities, and take ownership of your learning in college is easier if you’ve been in IB.

Each graduate then spoke about his or her unique choices, experiences, problems, stresses, solutions, and strategies. They discussed how they narrowed down their college choices, how and when they applied for scholarships, how they strategized to get the most financial aid, what they do with their spare time, when they study, how they deal with dorm life, and so on. The answers varied greatly at this point and the seniors recognized that there are many ways for each of them to be successful at college.

I’m hoping with so many different perspectives, the seniors realize that there is no such thing as the one right path for everyone. I also hope they realize that if they plan and work hard, things will work out. Maybe not the way they dreamed, but they will certainly work out for their success and happiness.

♥ Thank you to Edward, Lea, Sophia, Adithya, Jess, Erin, Bobby, Angie, Jia, Veronica, Maanas, and Pam, for fielding random challenging questions. Video calls, talking to groups, answering questions without the opportunity for preparation – each of these things is difficult, but you handled all of it like professionals. I can’t tell you how proud and impressed I am with all of you. ♥


Flipped Classroom – Building Community Before Day One

When I think of my first day of high school, I think of the anxiety I felt: the building seemed huge, the people seemed old, and the idea of balancing multiple classes was overwhelming. So when I look at my rosters for my incoming Algebra 1 students, I can’t help but sympathize.

For several years, I had been using a survey created by a colleague to introduce myself to my IB seniors, and to find out more about them. And this year, when I found out I was teaching freshmen for the second year in a row, I knew it would be a great idea to find out more about them too. So, I created a similar Google form survey for them to complete, and emailed it to all of them. (If you decide to do this, remember to email it to yourself, and “blind-copy” the students.) The survey contained questions about last year’s math class experience, how they felt coming into this year, what other activities they would be involved in, and anything else I should know about them.

The results came back in a Google spreadsheet. And I was amazed at the sincerity of the responses, but more importantly, I was grateful. I learned that two of my incoming students are shy and don’t like to talk in class, one student likes to socialize but promises he will get his work done. Several were nervous about math not being their best subject, while others were worried it would be too easy. Some responded to the survey using nicknames, which I made a note of. Some students had a great summer, and others lost family members happen during those months. I kept notes on all of this so that I can be more sensitive to each student as they walk in my classroom.

But I wanted to do more. I wanted them to know that I appreciated their responses, and I had carefully read each one. So for every response I got, I sent an email back to the student, welcoming them, encouraging them, letting them know that I would do whatever it takes to match my instruction to their learning paces and styles, but more importantly, letting them know that I value each of them as a unique human being.

Knowing their names is pointless, though, if you can’t match them to the faces. So once the first day arrives (tomorrow), I will have each student make a name plate out of a folded piece of paper. Then, table by table, I will take pictures of the class, promising the students that the pictures will not be published in any way. I will also clarify any pronunciations with them and make notes of any that may cause me trouble. My homework will consist of looking through the pictures and remembering all of the students and the pronunciations of their names. The next time I see those students, I will quiz myself by going around the room and naming all of them. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. I can only imagine how special I would feel if the teachers of this huge building already knew my name by the second day of classes.

I think that the teacher-student relationship has a lot to do with how valued a student feels in high school, so I am always looking for ways to strengthen that relationship, whether it’s before I ever meet them, while we work together in class, or the following year when they’ve moved on to their next math class.

Often I stay in touch with my students long after they graduate. Sometimes it’s just an annual “happy birthday” message from me on Facebook, and sometimes it’s checking “I will attend” on a wedding invitation.

I’m excited to see how the survey and emails to students will affect the classroom environment on day one, and I can’t wait to match these names and personalities to their faces. I am hoping that stress and conflict will be reduced greatly, and I’m hoping that they see me as not just as their teacher, but someone who genuinely cares about them, and will be there for them when they need it.

Whether these students realize it or not, they now have someone new in their lives who will be thinking about them for a long time, wondering about their futures, and excited for what they are preparing to achieve in the many years of opportunities that lie ahead of them.

This is what teachers do – teaching children is my job, but caring about them is my purpose.

Flipped Classroom – First Five Days

This is the fourth year I will be implementing the First 5 Days in my class.

You may recall that my school is on a modified block schedule this year, meaning that some classes meet every day, and others meet for about twice as long every other day. How can I do First 5 Days if I see some classes for 5 days, some for 3, and others for only 2?

Teaching Empathy

The solution is somewhat of a band-aid, but it gets the job done with no time lost. I’ll explain using the five days that will be used for my “every day” classes, followed by how it will be used in the block classes.

The emphasis of the first five days is still on two things: (1) empathy, and (2) internet research skills. And I think I’ve done a good job at connecting these two seemingly disjoint topics.

I spent the summer researching videos and activities that would work well with my students, and the whittling process took some time as a result. Here’s what I came up with:

Day 1: Perspective – a video of the “moving sculpture” that changes from two giraffes to an elephant depending on where you stand, a video of cylinders that can look like cubes depending how you rotate them, an activity in which the description of a house has different meaning to a burglar and a real estate agent, a discussion of internet suffixes to gain different perspectives on the same issue from different groups of people in different countries, and a video of Simon Sinek’s bagel story

Day 2: Perspective – a video of 25 different world maps, a video zooming into a cell and out to the universe, an activity in which students discuss their meanings of words like, “tolerance” and “community,” a discussion of EasyWhoIs to find the author of a website, and a video from Apple about perspective

Day 3: Compassion – a video explaining where compassion comes from, a video about giving, a six-word story activity, an activity about the positive aspects of failure, and a discussion about Google search shortcuts

Day 4: Compassion – a video on compassion, a video about the link between failure and compassion, a guessing game in which a famous story of failure is read and students guess whose story it is, an activity in which students identify with classmates who have gone through the same failures, a discussion of the WayBackMachine and how we can better understand how people felt when tragic world events occurred

Day 5: Empathy – a video on the difference between sympathy and empathy, a talk show game in which one student is a host and the other has had something fictional happen to them, an activity in which students must create a fictional student with a personality and must determine what this students would think/say/do about school or life in general

Since some classes meet everyday, this is the schedule I will use for the first five days. In block classes, I will see them twice as long every other day, so this is what the schedule looks like:

First Class – Perspective (Day 1 & 2)

Second Class – Compassion (Day 3 & 4)

Third Class – Empathy (Day 5) & first math lesson of the year

It’s not ideal, but I am interested to see how it works. I will also be asking students for feedback afterwards, and I will share that in a later post.

Graduates Talking to Seniors

Like last year, I have also scheduled graduates from my class to talk to this year’s seniors about applying to college, and what college life is like.

This was a huge success last year, in that the seniors were less stressed about what was coming up in their lives.

I’m actually looking forward to Monday more than usual this year!!

Flipped Classroom – Year 6

This year, the school has adopted a modified block schedule. There are two periods – one at the beginning of the day, and one at the end – that are normal periods, meeting every day. Then there are six block periods meeting every other day – three on “A” days, the other three on “B” days.

This is what my schedule will look like:

As you can see, all of my Honors Algebra 1 classes are blocked, so they will be following a simpler Flipped Classroom format. And IB Math Studies is a “onesie,” so that’s an easy flip too.

But some of my IB Math HL/SL classes meet for 55 minutes every day, and some meet every other day for 90 minutes. Over a two-day period, that’s a discrepancy of 20 minutes!

The solution: Flipped Asynchronous Classroom! I’ve used (somewhat) in my IB Math classes so far, but it has never been as necessary as it will be this year.

How does it work? To make the classes truly “asynchronous,” I give them all of the assessment dates for the year, in advance, and they work at their own pace to make sure they are ready for each formal assessment. I also give them a “pacing guide” so that they can tell whether they are ahead or behind. During class I keep track of their progress and answer individual questions. If any student gets too far behind, I have a conference with them. If it becomes habitual, I contact parents so that we can find better solutions.

Because these students are seniors, I believe they will benefit tremendously from this true Flipped Asynchronous Classroom model. It encourages them to do a little bit of work each day, rather than do it all right before the test.

Now for Honors Algebra 1: In order to flip these classes, I have set up pages using Blendspace. Each page has a set of tiles, and each tile has a link to either a video, a page of notes, or an interactive activity to reinforce the knowledge. Students will be required to watch the video and take notes during the evening, and show me their completed notes in order to participate in the class activity. If they haven’t done this, they will be required to watch the video and complete the notes during class, instead of participating. This should motivate students to get their work done in the evening, especially since it’s just a video and notes, not a bunch of practice questions. This should prove interesting, because these are freshmen, not seniors. It will be a steep learning curve for them, but I know this, and I plan to help them a lot in the beginning.

I’m very excited for this year. Yes, it will be an interesting experiment, but I love a good challenge!

Flipped Classroom – Blue Shirt Khaki Pants Day 2017


Today was my birthday, and to follow tradition, my IB students paid homage to my high sense of fashion by wearing the patented blue shirt khaki pants outfit.

I tried to convince them that this type of wardrobe choice saves them a lot of time figuring out what to wear every day, but sadly, they told me that this would just be a once-a-year thing.

Anyway, here are some pictures of me with my beloved learners.




And even my father up in Canada decided to dress up! Thanks, Dad!!


Flipped Classroom – New First 5 Days

I am teaching on-level Algebra 1 this year, and I wanted to spend my First Five Days with them teaching them something that would not only create a good relationship with them, but would also help them build good relationships with each other. I want to make my classroom a space that makes them feel safe to be themselves and make mistakes without feeling embarrassed.

I remember hearing from a number of experts, including Alan November, saying that the one skill that employers and college professors agree is missing from high school graduates is empathy. So, over the summer, I researched how others teach empathy: clear videos, meaningful activities, guided discussions. There is a lot of information out there, and I spent a lot of time filtering through it and sequencing it properly.

I also wanted to incorporate the technology lessons in, since they are still valuable to students during high school, so I tried to find ways to related the empathy lessons to the technology lessons.

I finally decided to build up the the idea of empathy by spending a day on perspective, two days on compassion, and two days on empathy.

Here are the results:

Day 1: Perspective

  • Begin with a YouTube video of a sculpture by Mattheu Robert Ortis that looks like two giraffes or an elephant, depending on where you stand.
  • Give each student a piece of paper and ask them to draw any part of the classroom. Then, let each student share what he or she drew, and why he or she decided to draw that. Discuss how each person can see different parts of the classroom, and can interpret a given assignment in many different ways. Two people can draw the same thing, but from different angles and in different styles.
  • Discuss what it means to have perspective when you are doing research. Show them as a way to see if the author of an article shares the same perspective as them. As an example, use to find out more about the author of a Martin Luther King website, with shocking results.
  • Share an image that demonstrates how two different perspectives can both be true but incomplete. Discuss how it’s important to learn from other people’s perspectives rather than argue.
  • End with a YouTube video about perspective, produced by Apple.
  • For homework, have students get a personal story from a relative that they do not live with, e.g., how their grandparents met, how an uncle got his first job, what it was like when an aunt was attending college.

Day 2: Compassion

  • Begin with a YouTube video about compassion, produced by Happify.
  • Let students take the story they collected from a relative, and whittle it down to exactly six words. (This is based on the “six-word story” by Ernest Hemingway.) Let students share their stories and share how they feel about them. Let other students share how they feel while they were listening.
  • Discuss what it means to understand how it feels when something happens, especially if it happened somewhere else in the world.
  • Discuss the shootings in Munich on July 22. How would we know how the Germans were feeling?
  • Try Google, but quickly realize that we are only getting information about the American perspective, so it is difficult to show compassion.
  • Introduce the Google command “site:” which allows you to search by domain suffix. We need to use the command “site:de” along with keywords “munich” and “shootings” to search exclusively in German websites. The results are much different, but much more meaningful.
  • Introduce the Google command “filetype:” which allows you to search by file types, like “filetype:ppt” for Powerpoint presentations, or “filetype:docx” for Word documents.
  • Introduce the Tech Dictionary website, that lists all domain suffixes and what they mean.
  • End with a YouTube video of Thupten Jinpa explaining the obstacles that stop us from showing compassion. This video is produced by Big Think.
  • For homework, have students complete a survey about who they are and how they feel about world issues, future life events, high school, and taking my Algebra 1 class.

Day 3: Compassion (continued)IMG_6862

  • Watch a YouTube video by TrueMove H about giving.
  • Interview each student on video, asking them the same questions that were on the survey.
  • While doing this, focus on what’s going on in the classroom: Watch the students gather around the students that have just finished being interviewed. Listen to the discussion that follows. The students that haven’t been interviewed want to know how it felt to be interviewed on video. The students who just finished their interviews assure them that it was short and there was no reason to be nervous. There is definite evidence of students showing compassion here.
  • Ask them what was happening in the world on their birthday? What did certain websites look like?
  • Introduce and the WayBackMachine. Look up certain websites to see what they looked like decades ago.
  • Look up the New York Times website on September 11, 2001. Let students try to understand how it felt when that happened. (I discovered that these students were all born after September 11, 2001, so 9/11 will now be taught in history classes as an event that they were not alive to learn about at the time.)
  • End with a compilation YouTube video of people showing compassion to others in many different situation. Discuss how little effort and time it takes to show compassion. We just need to pay attention and recognize others in need.
  • For homework, have students find a story of a famous person who failed many times before he/she became successful.

Day 4: EmpathyCqtwo69VMAAziQe

  • Watch a compilation YouTube video, of celebrities discussing their failures.
  • Read the stories of different celebrities and their failures, and have students guess who you are talking about.
  • Play a game where, as a class, we count to 50, with each student saying the number after the previous student. The only rule is that if a number is a multiple of 3 (like 6 or 21) or has a 3 in it (like 13 or 37), you say “red” instead of the number. If any student says “red” when they should have said a number, or vice versa, we start over. How long will this take?
  • As the game progresses, I kept saying, “It’s okay to fail,” like a chant. Hopefully they remember that.
  • After the game, discuss how it felt to make a mistake. How many mistakes did we make? Does it matter, since we succeeded in the end? What matters is that we kept getting better with each mistake until we ultimately made it to 50.
  • Have students pair up as Speaker and Listener. Speaker shares a story of failure that he or she doesn’t mind sharing. Listener is given the five steps to active listening (Make eye contact, Remember the facts, Imagine the situation, Ask how they feel, Show you care) and demonstrates them during the conversation. Have students switch roles.
  • Discuss how the Listener demonstrated empathy during the conversation. How did it feel just to know someone was listening, rather than offering solutions or taking over the conversation?
  • End with a YouTube video of philosopher Jay Shetty, about learning from failures.

Day 5: Empathy (continued)

  • Watch a YouTube video of Brené Brown, produced by RSA, on empathy, and how it is different from sympathy.
  • Review the five steps to active listening.
  • Have students pair up as Speaker and Listener. Each Speaker is given a slip of paper with a different story on it that describes a small failure that could happen (e.g., forgot to tie shoelace, ate soggy cereal for breakfast). Each Listener is given a suggestion of how to listen incorrectly (e.g., don’t make eye contact, interrupt the Speaker with a story of your own).
  • Have Speakers pretend to be overly upset with their situation. Have Listeners follow the instructions on their slips of paper.
  • Discuss how it felt when empathy is not shown.
  • Now switch roles and have the new Listener show empathy. In what ways was this better?
  • End the week by inviting students to take a Google Forms survey of how much they have learned about perspective, compassion, and empathy.

I was excited to read the student responses to the survey. Here’s what I saw:

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There are comments that accompany these results, so I will be spending the next few days reading over these, in order to find ways to improve.

This week was definitely different enough to attract the attention of the Instructional Coach, Digital Learning Coach, and the Principal. The Principal even featured these First Five Days in his weekly “Friday Focus” email to the entire staff!

I look forward to seeing how these First Five Days improves the environment in my classroom, and I can’t wait to use the lessons we learned to help my students be academically and personally successfully this year.

Thanks to Alan November for introducing me to the idea of the First Five Days the technological tools that I share with the students.

Thanks to Aaron L. Polansky for showing me the connections between perspective, compassion, and empathy.

Thanks to the administration at Coppell High School for trusting me to have an idea and run with it.

Flipped Classroom – Graduates Tell Seniors about College

One of the frustrations of teaching advanced classes, like the IB Math classes I teach, is the tendency for students to focus too much on GPA, especially as it applies to college applications. Students frequently value GPA over learning, which leads to a constant battle over a point or two on every test.

I thought that I could deal with this frustration by repeatedly telling seniors that GPA isn’t as important as they think it is. There are other elements of their college applications that weigh equally or more than their GPA.

There are two problems: (1) I went to college in Canada, and (2) I went to college decades ago. Both of these facts made me less credible as a college advisor in their eyes.

So I decided to try something different: A month before school started this year, I wrote a post on Facebook, specifically directed to any of my former IB seniors who have been in college for at least a year. I asked if any of them were available to visit with my class and give my students a better and clearer overview of the college application experience and college life once they attend classes.

Within hours, IB alumni were responding and I had a full schedule of guest speakers ready to share their experiences.

Each period of each day, for the first five days, one or two IB graduates answered questions from the seniors. The questions were very specific and well thought out, and the answers were wise and personal at the same time. The graduates clearly enjoyed the opportunity to share what they knew, and the seniors had a sense of reassurance that the process, though grueling, would get them into the right college.













(pictured above – Jeanna, Sarah, Laura and Ryan, Pranav, Sanjani, Ashley, Christina, Mio, Akshaya, Archie, Shreya, Michelle)

Was it all worth it? Did the seniors appreciate the effort? I allowed them to give feedback through a Google Forms survey. Here are the results of a couple of questions:

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If 98.1% of the seniors (52 out of the 53) felt the same or better about college, I’d say that this was a success!!

The one thing I need to remember next year is to have any potential on-campus visitors complete a background check, as per district regulations. Also, it would probably be a good idea for the seniors to think of their questions in advance, to avoid big gaps of silence in the conversation. I think next time I will also have students document for themselves any new information they hear in the conversation that will affect their decision, and tell them to keep this documentation in a place where they can access it as they progress through the college application process.

I’m very pleased with how this turned out. Even though the graduates were admittedly nervous, they were honest and professional, as were the seniors. The discussion was meaningful and educational. And I think everyone, myself included, learned a lot during this first week.

Thank you to all of the graduates who volunteered their time to make this such a big success!


Blue Shirt Khaki Pants Day – January 8, 2016

It was once again a surprise when I came to school on Friday, the day before my birthday, and saw a sea of blue shirts and khaki pants, as my students decided to dress up like me for my birthday. Not only that, but I was further surprised when alumni showed up in similar colors! What a great day! As ever, I am honored and humbled by such a show of appreciation. My students are the best, and they make teaching so worthwhile. Thank you so much!!

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Flipped Classroom – Progress Report on my On-Level Algebra 2 classes

What a difference! I have now been flipping my classroom for three weeks, and the changes have been quite remarkable. Before I explain, let me share the process that I’ve developed to make sure students can easily keep up with the pace of the class:


Step 1: Make a Keynote presentation – I use my snipping tool to cut and paste directly from the notes. These notes had already been created by my incredible teammate, Michelle Bellish, with solutions worked out in detail by my equally incredible teammate, Penny Martin. On Keynote, I work each problem, adding text on top of the notes as I go. I use varying animations and transitions to make it look more appealing to the viewers.



camtasiaStep 2: Create a Camtasia project – I record myself going through the animated Keynote, explaining each step as it shows up on the screen. (I’ve tried writing out the steps by hand during the recording process, but that makes the videos longer.)

Step 3: Convert the project to a video that is uploaded to YouTube – This allows anyone to view the lesson on my YouTube channel. The expectation is that my students will watch the video and take notes while watching. In order to receive their assignment the next day, they must show me their completed notes.


zaptionStep 4: Create a lesson in Zaption – This allows me to insert multiple-choice questions directly into the video that students must answer in order to continue watching. I get a copy of their answers and use this to see who watched the video as instructed, and how well those students understood what they watched. Thank you to Stacey Roshan for recommending Zaption!

Step 5: Update the notes used in Step 1 – I copy and paste the video link from Zaption at the top of the page in the Word document. That way, when I give them the notes at the end of class, they know where to find the video that evening.


schoologyStep 6: Create a new page in my Schoology classes – Schoology is our school’s mandatory platform for teachers to share notes, assignments, important dates, etc. Each of my pages on Schoology contains the embedded video, a PDF of the notes, and another PDF of the assignment. This is for any student who is absent for any reason, so that they do not get behind. It is also for any student who lost the notes that I had given them.

Step 7: Keep a printed roster during class – I use this to keep track of who has watched the video (by checking Zaption analytics), and shown me their completed notes. Those students are given a copy of the assignment. Any student who cannot show me the completed notes for any reason must watch (or re-watch) the video and complete the notes before receiving the assignment. Once students complete the assignment, they receive a copy of the notes for the next lesson. When the end of class gets close, I give a set of notes to anyone who has not yet received them, so that everyone has a chance to watch the video for that night.

Step 8: Alternate between walking around the room and working with a small group that still struggles with the material – With the small group, I can give more individual attention, and I make sure they do not feel embarrassed about needing it. I openly communicate my belief that, rather than compare themselves to their classmates, all students should embrace how strong or weak they are in mathematics, and at the same time, strive to get a little better each day.

I have been supported throughout this entire process by my campus leaders, Mike Jasso and Kayla Parker. Mr. Jasso has even shared my blog posts with counselors and department chairs on campus. (I was quite honored and humbled by that.)

While tweaking this process, I wanted to do everything I could to make it foolproof. The video is on Schoology (which they should be checking for all of their classes anyway), and a link to that same video is at the top of the notes that I hand them personally at the end of class. The questions are embedded in the video so that they can’t keep watching until they’ve given an answer. The video is an exact replica of the notes so that, at the very least, they can copy what they see, even if they don’t completely understand it, and then ask questions the next day.

Here’s how things are progressing: For the most part, students are watching the videos and answering the questions correctly. They are taking excellent notes, and can work on the assignment either by themselves or with others at the same table. There are still a few students that want me to teach the lesson in front of the class, even after watching the video, but this number is slowly decreasing, and I honestly don’t mind doing that for those that still need the live lecture. I am also noticing a growing number of students teaching each other, which is truly wonderful to watch.

Admittedly, there are, and always will be, those that will not do what is asked, for one reason or another. But I do not rescue them. I hold them to the same standards as everyone else, and the date of the end goal (i.e., the test) is the same for everyone, regardless of how they get there. If they didn’t watch the video, they need to do that before I will help them. The reason for not watching is not important. Ultimately, they were given a responsibility, and they still needs to do the work. Otherwise, it sends a message that my expectations vary depending on the student, and if you don’t do the work, I will eventually do it for you. This is definitely not the message I want to send.

At some point, students need to take ownership of their own learning, rather than just doing what they’re told. In my classes, I’ve noticed more students exhibiting this level of responsibility than there were before the flip. I can’t wait to see what happens as the second semester begins!

Flipped Classroom – On-Level Algebra 2 Week 1: “Frustration Week”

Don’t be misled – the frustration was intentional.

Just to update you, I spent this week showing my flipped videos in class and watching the students take notes, just to make sure they knew how to “watch a video.” The note taking went well, since the videos followed the notes exactly. The video watching, on the other hand, was quite frustrating for them. They asked me to pause, rewind, and explain quite frequently. I expected this because, unlike a lecture, the video explains things once, so if a student’s mind drifted, or they were otherwise distracted, that student missed important information. Whenever I was asked to explain in person, I used the same wording that I used in the video.

Were there complaints? Oh, yes! One student took a survey of the entire class, and asked, “Now who understood all of that?” He was surprised when a neighbor sitting right behind him said, “Actually, all of us at this table are working ahead on the assignment now.” And it was true. About a third of the students understood most of what was in the video, enough to tackle the assignment that was handed out beforehand.

Two other students were just mad, admittedly. They stayed after class to tell me how angry they were. They had previously told me that they had been lost in math class before, and before I had decided to flip, they were actually learning. They were worried that they would be lost again because they thought I would be relying solely on the videos to teach them, and I would not be giving them any personal attention at all. I explained to them that all they had to do was watch the video in the evening and take good notes. I was not expecting them to understand everything I said in the videos, just to hear it at least once before they showed up to class. I told them that, from now on, I would be working with a small group that watched the video the night before but still needed some help understanding, and if they wanted to be a part of that group each day, they were more than welcome. They were somewhat happy about that, but were still skeptical.

At the end of the week, I gave all students their assignment for Monday. It was the usual set of notes, with a link to the video at the top. (Everything they need for this and all future lessons is cross-posted to every possible place they would need to find it, just to avoid excuses.) I also announced that on any given day, there would likely be at least three groups: (1) the ones who didn’t watch the video, who would have to spend the beginning of class watching the video before beginning the day’s assignment; (2) the ones who watched the video and do not need any further explanation, who would begin the assignment as soon as they got to class; and (3) the ones who watched the video but needed more explanation or help understanding, who would be in a small group with me going over any questions they had about the lesson and notes before beginning the assignment. It was up to them which group they wanted to be in. I explained that the size of each group would vary from day to day, but we would work through it together.

The response was mixed. Most of them were very unsure. But some were excited at the idea of being able to work ahead. One student asked if he could work days ahead, and I said yes, but since I didn’t have all of the videos done for the year yet, he would only be able to get so far.

So, all in all, I would consider this week a success, even though anyone who would have visited my Algebra 2 classes this week might understandably disagree. I am really looking forward to next week. To be clear, I don’t think it will go perfectly, but I do welcome the challenges that will make me rethink my process and make it better, for me and for the students.

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