The Reality of a Turn-around Math Classroom

When I made the decision 2 years ago to become a middle school math teacher, there were 3 things I knew I wanted to implement in my classroom (if possible):

1. Flipped Classroom Learning

2. Interactive Math Notebooks

3. Math Workshop

I was ecstatic when I was offered a job at in an inner-city TItle 1 K-8 school; however, I knew that, logistically, one of those elements would be missing from my classroom. (You can’t require homework to be completed through the use of technology if some of your students are homeless.) So, even though I went through the process to become “Flipped Certified,” I knew that I was having to put that dream practice on hold by taking this position. 

So that left two elements to embed into my teaching practices: IMNBs and Workshop.

I was excited to use interactive notebooks because I had heard about all of the success teachers have had with them. Not only do they, IMNBs, serve as a catch-all for everything students do in class (so students can look back at all of the artifacts they have created throughout the semester) but they also keep students organized and give them an easy way to study for their weekly & summative assessments. Bam!

The other element of my teaching practice, workshop, I knew would be a struggle to strongly implement. Let me explain why:

I learned over the summer that the cohort of 7th grade students that I would be teaching this year were 6% proficient on the 2014 state test. That is a tough number to look at. To be fair, those students had a tough year…three different math teachers (one of them being a long-term sub with very little at stake) and very little accountability for their actions. The number of referrals written for student behavior were outrageous. Very little learning took place in the math classroom. Foundational skills were lost, new concepts were ignored, and some of our students graduated the 6th grade knowing less than when they began the year. 

Whoa.

The first thing I had to do was set the norms and high expectations for these kiddos. This was not easy because it was something they were not used to having: norms and expectations. I take that back, maybe there were expectations in the past but these students didn’t know what they were. They weren’t notified when they had met or failed to meet those expectations. The only expectation they were aware of last year were to (1) show up to class, and (2) don’t cuss out the teacher. 

Expectations were explained and norms were put in place. Students took their Unit 1 pretest and scored in the neighborhood of 20%. Not bad. So Unit 1 began, as did Math Workshop.

Workshop in my class consisted of 3 or 4 stations. Independent Practice (practicing questions at the knowledge or application level), Partner Practice (on higher-level thinking problems), Small Group with the teacher, and Computers (a.k.a. online instructional videos). Students would spend 30 minutes at one station each day and rotate the next day.

While a few students thrived in this autonomous learning environment, many of my students struggled. It took me a few weeks to realize it, but I found out that they still don’t have the self-control to work independently, or the foundational knowledge and problem-solving skills to master this content on their own. I decided to let the numbers tell me if I should continue workshop. The students took the Unit 1 Post test last week and the class averages were the following:

Class A: 44%

Class B: 42%

Class C: 60%

Class D: 33%

Those may seem dismal to some of you, but I was THRILLED that all of my classes grew from averages of 20% five weeks earlier! (And if you met my kids, you’d be thrilled, too!) At the end of the day, however, those numbers just weren’t high enough for me to justify continuing Workshop at this time. I need to try something else, pull back on the reigns just a bit, and tighten up the classroom. And I realized that it is O.K. to adjust classroom practices, especially when you notice there needs to be improvement for your students’ success.

So I’m batting .333 for my dream classroom. That’s alright with me. The reality is, is that someday we will be able to bring back workshop and possibly even some methods of Flipped Classroom Learning. Unitl then, we will keep rocking out the IMNBs and keeping GROWING, because that is what education is all about! 

My First Video Blog

Alright, if I’m going to talk the talk, I need to walk the walk. That is what I am doing with this blog entry. I am such a huge fanatic about flipping the classroom and I want to prove how much of a fan I am by flipping my blog!

Flipped videos don’t have to be perfect…just good enough to get your message across.

Due to limited uploading space, I am sharing just a few short clips of a video blog I made to share some of the key reasons why teachers are flipping their classrooms.

Is my video perfect? Nope. (Let’s just say Spielberg won’t be calling me anytime soon to direct one of his movies…or will he?) But, do I get my message across? Well, I guess that is for you to decide.

Follow this link to watch the clips, and then e-mail me (thatmathlady@gmail.com) with any comments or questions you have about flipping: That Math Lady’s Video Blog Clips

An Introduction to Flipping the Classroom

The process of teaching and learning throughout history has been somewhat predictable. Student goes to class. Teacher stands at the blackboard and presents a lesson.

There is very little collaborative learning in a teacher-led classroom. Flipping your class allows for more collaboration with peers!

Student takes out his notebook and scribbles down notes – to the best of his ability – as the teacher is talking and modeling the lesson on the board. Finally, the bell rings and student goes home to practice what he learned at school. Sound familiar?

But what happens to the average student who still needs assistance when they get home? To whom does the student turn toward to get the assistance they need to complete their homework correctly and on time? If only the teacher could come home with them and teach the lesson again, as many times as necessary, until it finally clicks. And while the teacher is there, he or she could probably help with the homework, too!

Let’s propose that the teacher does the instructing at home instead. The student comes home from school and instead of pulling out a workbook, they pull up a video their teacher has made. The student watches their teacher present a 10-minute lesson on the computer and takes notes. They can watch the video once, twice, or as many times as they need. The best part? Students can pause the video if needed, get up and stretch, grab a snack and learn in the comfort of their home without interrupting the teacher!

What happens the next day in class? The student goes to school and the teacher reviews any questions the class may have from watching the video. The teacher does a review problem and then gives the students the typical homework to do in class with the teacher’s support. Because the instruction and the initial learning was done at home, the teacher can better utilize the in-class time to work with small groups as well as individuals. There will also be more time allowed for formative assessment so that the teacher can check for understanding throughout a unit. Just by flipping the traditional structure of learning in school, more time is created for student engagement, assessment and active learning inside the classroom.

Flipping The Classroom is a growing trend around the world. Teachers and school districts nationwide are starting to recognize the benefits of this phenomenon thanks to the growth of technology in our homes and in our schools. There is no better time for you to jump on board and witness these same positive results!

Are you already flipping your classroom?  If so, please share your success stories with us at http://www.thatmathlady.com!