Category Archives: Flipped Classroom
My experience with my new flipped math classes!
You may recall that I started tutoring a high school IB student in Florida. Well, I’ve had four tutoring sessions with her, and things are going amazingly well. It’s still a bit clunky with my sketchy home Wi-Fi, but other than that, I feel that she is getting the same high quality of instruction as the students I tutor in person. Here’s my system:
On my MacBook, I use FaceTime to video chat with her. We have each other’s cell phone numbers so that’s what we use to contact each other. Using FaceTime allows me to read her facial expressions to see if she understands or maybe needs a different explanation of the concept. When the Wi-Fi connection is good, this proves very valuable, but sometimes the screen freezes, which makes for interesting conversation: “Do you have a question?… Are you there?… Hello?” On the bright side, if I only had audio, I wouldn’t be able to tell whether she was pausing to process ideas, or whether I lost the connection altogether.
On two-thirds of the same Macbook screen, I open a Google Doc. This allows her to copy and paste questions from assignments or test reviews so that we can work through them together and add our individual contributions to the same document, and we color-code our contributions. (The original question is in black, her contributions are in red, and mine are in green.) Usually I have time to look at them before the tutoring session begins, so I can write some notes that will remind me how to solve later, and may give her an idea of where to start.
Beside the MacBook is a separate device, my iPad. On it, I use an application called BaiBoard 3. This application is similar to a Google Doc, in that two people can contribute to the same page, but it’s for drawing instead of typing. So, if I need to draw a picture in order to explain my process or understanding, I go to the iPad and start drawing with my finger. (For those that have used Google Docs, you understand how difficult it may be to draw a picture in a Doc.) This has come in very handy when I need to use right-triangle trigonometry or division of polynomials.
The trickiest part was payment. Normally when I tutor, I get paid with cash or a check. But it’s not that easy when your student lives so far away. I honestly didn’t know much about transferring money, so the student’s father and I both started investigating. Her father discovered something called Zelle, which allows anyone to transfer money from their bank account to another bank account. All you need is the recipient’s permission and cell phone number. The student’s father now prepays for three hours’ worth of tutoring at a time.
I decided to keep track of total tutoring time and payments using Google Sheets, which is like Microsoft Excel. I’ve allowed the student’s father to view this document, just so that he doesn’t feel like I’m overcharging. On the Google Sheet, I keep track of how long each session is, and how much money I’ve been prepaid. Then when I reach or exceed three hours, I email the student’s father to let him know. He requested I do this so that he can stay current with payment.
So there it is! I know that there are other better applications I could be using to accomplish everything, and if you know of any, please let me know. But for now, this seems to be working for both of me and the student. The only app she hadn’t used before was BaiBoard, but once she downloaded it and gained access, the rest was easy.
Yesterday, we finished reviewing for her semester exam which she is taking today. Hopefully she does well. She does seem very pleased with how things are going, and with how much she understands now. She admitted to feeling much more confident about her semester exam. I must say that I look forward to working with her more next semester, and finding ways to make the whole experience even smoother and even more productive.
Like most teachers, I like to do tutoring after school for those who need it, and are not in my class. I will usually meet a student at the local library for about an hour once a week in the evening, answering any questions they have about the week’s assignments or working ahead in the curriculum if there’s time.
Since I live and work in different cities, I can tutor students from both cities. But I never thought I would be given an opportunity like this:
I received an email from a father who was concerned about his daughter’s success in a junior level IB math class. The difference is, they live in Florida!
He ran across my name by doing a search of IB math teachers online. It’s a good thing my online presence is positive, because I think I was one of the first teachers he contacted, if not the first.
Once I agreed to tutor his daughter, it was time to figure out logistics. How would we communicate? How could I watch her work and point out errors as they come up? How could the father compensate me for my time?
After doing some research, we (the student and I) decided to communicate face-to-face using Facetime on our laptops. We also downloaded BaiBoard 3, an interactive whiteboard app, to our iPads so that I could watch her work and give written feedback on the spot as well. Surprisingly, the easiest part was working out the transfer of funds. Most banks have this and make it easy for customers, regardless of the bank they use, to transfer money from one account to another.
So, it’s all set up now. We met briefly yesterday just to introduce ourselves, and the father paid me in advance for the first three hours. We even tested the BaiBoard app by writing “Hello” to each other. And everything went very smoothly.
Our first session is on Monday evening, and I’m very excited about this new way of tutoring. Perhaps if I’m successful, I could look into tutoring more students in other states, and maybe other countries.
If you would like to follow my progress, please let me know, and I’ll post more as the sessions progress.
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. ♥
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.
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?
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!!
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.
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!
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!!
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 easywhois.com as a way to see if the author of an article shares the same perspective as them. As an example, use easywhois.com 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.
- 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 archive.org 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.
- 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:
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.
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:
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!
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!!