Saturday, 13 April 2013


For the past few months I have been reading a lot about flipped learning (mainly on the internet, with the exception of Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams book - which is well worth a read). There are so many educators out there who have done such amazing things with their classrooms - it is all very inspiring. The main problem for me right now though is it's maybe too inspiring. Is that possible? Like, I want to try everything everyone else is doing. I want to have a perfectly set up structure, class room, units of work for the whole year mapped out, and lots of videos already made. But, I have realized, I am only human and I have limited amounts of time. I also have a husband who I am driving a bit mad with all this at the moment!

So, I've decided I need to focus. First things first. I need a structure, and ideally I would like the first units of work for Years 7, 8, and 9 mapped out with most videos completed by the start of Term 2 (which is next week April in Australia). I am almost there.

So the structure I've decided on is borrowed heavily from Crystal Kirch, and materials she has on her blog, Flipping with Kirch. Her blog has been an invaluable resource for me, as is her idea of homework being a "WSQ"(pronounced "whisk") which stands for Watch, Summarize, Question. This is the format students follow when watching videos. They watch videos and take notes, summarize the video in their own words and then ask a question relating to the content.

In Term 1, I "practiced" watching videos and taking notes with my students in class. We watched the videos together (at first with me pausing the video at certain points, gradually moving to another student pausing the videos, to then them watching videos on their laptops individually or in pairs). I introduced them to the Cornell note taking system and we peer assessed and discussed good note taking and note taking that "needed improvement". So the students already know what is expected of them when they take notes. The new bit for them is the "Question" part at the end. I know that will be a bit of a struggle at first to get good questions from them, but I am planning on gradually introducing the notion of HOT (Higher Order Thinking) questions and Bloom's Taxonomy throughout the term. One step at a time...

The WSQ will ideally form the first 10 minutes or so of class, when students will work in small groups to discuss their summaries and questions. I will go over the main points with them briefly as a class, but I am hoping to keep the "teaching from the front" to a minimum. The majority of class will be spent with students working on problem sets.

At the moment, I have mainly relied on the textbook resources for the class work. Shameful, I know. One of the key reasons I am doing this is to have less dependence on the textbook, and more problem-solving or open ended activities. That is the overall vision for me. Since starting at this school I've noticed that in maths the students are heavily reliant on the textbook and seem confused and scared when you try to get them to do something more open ended (the exception to this are my Year 7s, who are keen to try everything - which to me shows that they are being taught well in primary and come to secondary loving maths and being very open, and then we, their secondary teachers, do somthing to kill that openness and creativity. Not good!) But, I realise that this whole flipping thing will be a huge culture change in itself. The students are used to the teacher regurgitating the textbook as a powerpoint, mindlessly copying it down and then doing some questions from the book. They are usually fine with the basic skill and drill type questions, but as soon as they come to word problems they flounder. They are not used to having to think for themselves, or take responsibility for their own learning. So, I figured if I try to change everything all at once I may be setting myself up for an epic fail. I thought, flip first, get them used to the video lectures, summarizing for themselves, and asking good questions. Then I will gradually introduce more "rich" tasks. And lets face it, part of the reason I've stuck to the good old text book is time. It's taken a lot to get to grips with recording the tutorials and screen recordings, and set everything up. And I figure that although I'm almost set for the first few weeks of term, I will spend a lot of that time reflecting and tweaking things that haven't worked, so I want to be as prepared as possible.

So the goal of the first few weeks of this term is to get the students watching the videos as homework and submitting quality WSQs. Once that is in place it will be time to spice up the lessons!

Sample resources I'm using this term are here (Year 9 Unit on Trigonometry)
Cover sheet
WSQ Sheet
Practice Quizzes
Youtube Playlist

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