Monday, July 23, 2012

The Man in the Mirror

Recently, I have been approached by several people (2 people can legally be considered several –correct?) to write about my experiences “flipping” my classroom.  After a rather active #sschat tonight that I attempted to moderate regarding this model; I felt the need to get some thoughts down on paper.  What follows are those disjointed thoughts.

Prior to those thoughts a few disclaimers:
1)   It is the middle of my summer so be gentle.
2)   I am not an expert on this model so be gentle.

With that said, I am going to concede some high ground to people who have issues with the model or the term in general.  Here are my concessions:
1)   Yes, this is still hw.   I understand all the issues and opinions around hw in general but I work in a district that strongly encourages hw. Y
2)   Yes, some kids will “never” complete their hw.  I would argue there are numerous initiatives you could attempt to get those children to engage in any sort of class.

Here are a few more thoughts before I really start:
1)   I did not coin the term “flipping” but like any blanket term  - it can be manipulated in any number of ways.  Think of the numerous images your neighbors would think of when you say the term “teacher”.
2)   Like a great pitcher in MLB (none of which can be find in the NY Mets bull pen), “flipping” is one more pitch in my repertoire.
3)   Often, I hear about kids not having the tech at home; I am sure there are a few cases where I would be forced to concede this to you.   I would like to submit this to you; how many of your kids can sit in their room and watch a 5-9 minute video on their phone.  My kids don’t need a desk/pen or anything that they don’t normally have with them.

Step 1 – Back story.
After attending #educon and longer pattern of research, I decided to “flip” my Freshman World History Class.  We stayed “flipped” from basically February through June.  I have been blessed to steal some ideas from great educators that I have worked with in brick and mortar colleagues and my PLN that I lovingly refer to as my Twawgs (Twitter = Dawgs).  Ultimately, I flirted with becoming an old school “Sage on the Stage” teacher too much early in my career.  Moving towards this model would ensure I never ended up hating teaching or my career.

Step 2 – How It Worked.

After a few missteps, here is how it looked in my class by June.  Students were asked to watch videos as HW.  They were not asked to take notes or do anything besides watch the video and think about what they watched.  I moved towards having videos “due” on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday and Thursdays. 

Class would begin with some form of discussion or practice quiz on the videos.  Less and less, I would grade these quizzes.   More I used this to clear up confusion.  We had some great discussions after the videos.  Several of the discussions started with simple prompts like – “This video reminded me of….” – “The thing I did not get was…”.

Each unit had a list of objectives and students were allowed to select from a list of ways to demonstrate understandings of these objectives.  Most units included DBQs – where kids used primary source documents to answer questions.

 Why I will continue to “flip”
  1. I believe 25 1:1 conversations are so much better than 1 25:1 conversation.  “Flipping” took my handcuffs off.  The videos allowed me to cover content in a valid professional way.  It allowed me to use class time to speak with students individually regarding their understandings, their misconceptions, or their concerns.
  2. The trade off is so worth it.  These videos and the model allowed me to do more activities in class.  The best in-class discussion I have ever been a part of happened this year.  I was able to step out of their way and they discussed serious issues regarding peace and justice.  Being able to attempt lessons that looked like chaos (some kids working in a writing lab, others completing a reflection on a primary document, others structuring a debate) made it all worthwhile.  This created opportunities for students to create content or articulate their beliefs.  The best benefit I have received from this model is the amount of time – we got to spend working on reading or writing skills.
  3.   Answer this questions – when do the kids need you?  I feel like moving to this model, I was able to present for my kids when they truly needed me.  I feel like when I was a kid, we sat and got the info and then were sent home to do the important/difficult stuff at home- alone!  I would rather be in the room when the kids are doing work that is moving them up Blooms Taxonomy.  In a way, I look at the typical pyramid structure of Blooms as an indicator of how much; I want to be in the room with the kids.

Hopefully, this year I will continue to improve as an educator.  Slowly but surely I am getting better out of the kids way.  Thanks to tonight’s conversation, I have numerous ideas on how to better implement this development in my instruction.    Please feel free to reach out to me here or on twitter to ask questions or (better yet) give me advice.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

For #psychat


Set up room with desks facing each other around room.
A vs B
C vs D
Create as many match - ups as your class needs!
Give the kids a control sheet - just ask and I will send you mine.

Each round on mine looks like this
Round #___

Teacher asks three questions and a tie-breaker.
A and B compare answers.  C and D compare answers.  Each pair determines winners by comparing number of answers correct - only use tie breaker if there is a tie!

Winners move up one match up.
so next round might be
A (winner rnd 1) vs Z
D (winner rnd 1) vs B (stayed in same seat :{ )
B (stayed in same seat :{ ) vs E? (winner of rnd 1)

Person that lost sits still and faces the winner of match up behind it.
A few of the pairings around the room, I label as hot seats  (put red contraction paper between the two desks).

I love using this to gauge knowledge level, give cheesy hints.  I try to use goof tie breakers that give test hints or create engagement in class.  Many of the tie breakers are me saying pick a number between 0-100 and then asking a random kid their jersey # in a sport or their favorite number.  We will collect hot seats as they take the test!

- I can review with them the questions/concepts that I am concerned about.
- We can have a fun class but make them comfortable with what to study.
- Kids have numerous chances to get points on test.

- Competition can be unhealthy
- Some kids may not move
- May breed over confidence for the test.

One more:
if there is an odd # of kids in class.  Create one hot seat where if kid gets 1 answer right - they get point on test and move on; if they do not get one right - they get one point on test and move on!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I owe you

I owe you!

Ok, so it has been nearly 4 months since my last visit here to the Soup box. In fairness, I have let numerous bloggable moments slip through my fingers.

Since my last post, I have attended Educon, we have dealt with some frustrations regarding our schools filtering software and I am presently experimenting with a modified flip for my classroom.

Educon was awesome and exciting with a touch of depressing. I had a chance to catch up with some amazing people and share some amazing ideas. Hearing Chris L express his vision for SLA was like hearing a smarter, more professional and handsomer version of me express his beliefs. I have stolen so many of his quotes. “If you want to get over on someone who is treating you in a loving manner – go right ahead” – being my favorite.

Educon was frustrating because I saw what education could be and I saw the distance I need to travel to be at the top of my profession. In fact, I have started and never completed 1 blog entitled Getting There from Here about closing that gap. I am hoping to present something on that order to edcampss.

Basically, my thoughts lately have broken down into three distinct areas: instruction, life profession balance and our profession.

Regarding instruction:

1) How in good faith can I be using basically the same exact techniques used by my teachers over 20 years ago?

2) What techniques can I adopt to make my students become the primary actors in my lessons?

3) Is Camtasia studios really worth $300?

Okay, that one has to be explained. It seems like every year (ok for the last 2) I have been getting the urge to flip my class. This year I am trying something with my Modern World Frosh. They were asked to spend 2 nights of hw time on the site Here I collected all the materials related to our next chapter and then we spent a few days discussing the unit in a very relaxed manner. After a few days of discussion they were assigned this menu (

The kids seemed to balk and complain a lot. They really got into the menu items and have created some good work. I am allowing them to hand it in waves so their full awesomeness has yet to be revealed to me. Their complaints seemed to relate to the disconnect they experienced from their instructor. The nights of the hw – I got a lot of: “I don’t understand” and “this is stressing me out”.

Here is what I learned or have come to believe – you must create your own content to flip. Kids do not want to see or here from some outsider. Going half way is never acceptable and my modify flip may be failing because it is a half measure.

To that end, if I want to continue with the flip model, I need to buy a good screen casting program. The real kick in the pants is that I have a Mac mini at home and a PC at school so I may need to purchase several licenses.

Random thoughts on the other topics:

1) How are kids leaving teacher training programs still dependent on the Sage on the Stage model? I feel like that is a real abdication of duties by the colleges/universities?

2) Why would anyone go into teaching for any reason other than to help kids? I am getting frustrated with the amount of times people at the various schools I deal with putting their program/their reputations/their ego before the well being of kids.

3) How do people do it? I see people on twitter that are amazing educators pursuing numerous degrees and still actively participating in their and others development. I am so impressed by them. I need to learn their tricks and techniques. I intentionally lessened my responsibilities as a coach so I could be a better teacher and a Dad but yet I am consistently feeling a time crunch. That is why you have not had a blog post from me in some time!