Thursday, March 27, 2014

1st official day of "flipped"!

I DID IT!!  I made a video (well, it took me 3-five minute videos actually) and posted it (them) to my YouTube channel, and subsequently assigned the kids to take notes on them. (I have preprinted notes that we normally use in class, so now the students will simply fill them in at home).  It took a few tries to figure out TouchCast and how to load it to the internet, but I managed.  So what came next?

Let me tell you!!  I spent a few hours the night before thinking through what "the next day" should look like.  For now, it will have to be synchronous (baby steps), so I made an agenda on the board (so I would remember what I needed them to do in class), and composed a "good problem" for them that would check their understanding of what they had learned.  That was the 2nd item on the agenda.  The first was for them to answer the question: Why do we need to know the washer method?  We had just finished learning the disk method and I wanted to know why we couldn't just keep using that method.  Wasn't that method "good enough"?  I was pleased that they had that answer ready to give me!!  But then something happened that I wasn't expecting....they had their own questions.  In my head I was thinking "I should have thought of that/those questions, that's a good question!"  Boy, old habits (me being in control of their learning) are sure gonna die hard!!  So they proceeded to ask clarifying questions and then I decided that they really needed to "get to work" and try the problems I had chosen for them to complete in class.  Once again....overachiever on my part (too many questions for them to finish).  It will take me awhile to cognitively accept that fewer is actually better because they are going DEEPER!!  And they are DISCUSSING!!  I was thrilled about that!!

However, all of a sudden I felt "lonely".  No one was focusing on me!!  What was I supposed to do?!  Of course I knew the answer to the question already, but nevertheless, I was mentally adjusting to me not being the center of attention.  I felt like Cinderella (not the princess version that goes to the ball), the servant version who has to jump on command when a group needed me to intervene because they couldn't resolve their solution without me taking sides (affirming one side was correct and the other side made a mistake) or assisting the group who had another clarifying question.  I have to adjust to a new role!!  The best part is that I REALLY LOVE THIS NEW ROLE!!  Everyday that I am in the front explaining, the voices in my head are screaming (THEY should be DOING something other than listening to you!!  THEY should be active, not passive!  THEY should be discussing, not copying notes!)  I want those voices to go away, and today was the day!!!

Here is the funny part: the mental shift is not just mine!  The first question I heard was "was that ALL we had to do for the video and take notes?"  It really seemed "too easy" for them!  But the math power that was unleashed today from their working together on those "hard problems" they have been skipping (or faking doing) on their homework was such a "rush" to feel!  I can't wait to feel it more and more!

As a side note:  100% of the students in my first period watched the video and filled in their notes.  Only 1 student in period 2 skipped it and two had been absent the day before when the new instructions were given.  I made all 3 of them watch the videos immediately (2 on their cell phones and 1 at my computer) and as soon as their were finished, they jumped right into their groups and started working!!  I don't think I will necessarily have that success rate everyday, but I was thrilled that it started off so well!!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Run Forest, Run!!

     I love that I can get my students to run to class on test days.  I was discussing with my students about their test tomorrow and as we were reviewing, I put 6 of the formulas (they were supposed to memorize) up on the board.  I then proceeded to have them tell me what those formulas were.  As expected, they can collectively tell me with no problem.  However, many of them commented with "If we had only had the formulas on the group test, we would have done better." (more on the group test to follow)  I then told them, "by the way, remember: if you get to class early tomorrow, you can start the test early.  These formulas will be up on the board."  Someone then asked, "will you leave them up there until the bell rings?"  GENIUS IDEA!!  I wish I had thought of it myself, but no matter, I am definitely stealing it!!  So I said, "Sure!!  I will erase it when the tardy bell rings."  You would have thought that I had just opened up a treasure chest and everyone was able to dig in!  My 6th period welcomed that news eagerly as well.  Honestly, my intent had been to leave the 6 formulas up all period, but why spoil a good suggestion?!  So, again tomorrow I will have my students RUNNING to class to take a test!!  And, after all, it benefits them by giving them a few more minutes.

     Group tests:  Several years ago I was exposed to the ideas of group tests.  I am so grateful for the days that we taught CPM (College Preparatory Mathematics) because of that concept.  Fortunately that "gem" stayed with our school and most of us use it for every chapter.  I found that group test days were one of THE MOST POWERFUL learning days.  Recently one of my students said, "if it weren't for group tests, I would probably fail this class.  I learn so much on group test days."  Sure there are students who gain a good grade from those tests, but it is such a small percentage of their grade, that it cannot compensate for what they are able to display on individual test days.  However, I have learned over the years, that there is SO MUCH POWER in the mathematical conversations that they have.  I always enjoy when they get into a debate and have to use me to help guide them to a resolution.  It shows that they have passion about what they are learning.  That's a scored point for me!  So as I have tried more collaboration in the classroom (in my preparation for flipped class), I am so enthused to hear the students comment on the value of those discussions for their own learning.  This "new level" has been begging to be used the whole time.  I just didn't have the technology, nor the savvy to unleash it.  I am excited about letting kids converse more in math.  Perhaps I will be able to make more of them fluent speakers!!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Math Junkies

Student A: "These were easy!"

Student B: "Yeah, but it's just integration!"

Student C:  "Mrs. Torres, you've turned us into math junkies!"

If the students are trying to hurt my feelings, it's definitely NOT working with those quotes!  It is so exhilarating when you have students enthused to be in the classroom, excited to be working on math that is really hard.  There are some days that I throw my own pencil down saying "I hate Calculus!" when really it's a love-hate relationship with this math level that is definitely more challenging than any level I have taught before. Its been almost 30 years since I did any Calc!  So my experiences are much like my students right now (only I'm a week ahead of them).  LOTS of practice is required, and I understand completely how they are MANY formulas to memorize (and they keep falling out of my head too).  So we look for similarities and differences together to help each other find devices for remembering them.  Songs frequently work...dances help too!!  Acting out might be even better.  But whatever it is that we come up with, it's so much better if they create it.  After all, it's for them, not me!!  Those sparks don't come "on demand".  You can't pull up the on demand channel and expect to find them there.  Creativity takes time, but in the end, it's worth it because they remember!  Now, let's add the apply.  "Experience required, apply within."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Euphoria and Barbiturates

I am aware of the disagreement in my title.  But having now ventured into the world of wanting to make change for students, and after spending countless hours reflecting on what others have done (reading blogs and following pioneers on the twitter) and going to conferences for technology, I have found that it has truly rejuvenated my thoughts about my teaching!  I feel SO ALIVE!  I don't have enough hours in the day to learn more or try more!  Sometimes when I talk with others, I find myself talking so fast because my thoughts are racing much faster than the words can exit my mouth!  I think it safe to say that I have "big gulped the punch!"  And this state of euphoria seems endless, and I hope it really is!!

Enter "Debbie Downers".  You know what I'm talking about:  the barbiturates that we sometimes work with.  They are usually easy to spot in the teacher's lounge because they are there spilling their depressant drug on everyone.  My mind wonders how they roll out of bed everyday and force themselves to go to work.   Even more mind boggling is how they think they don't need to make any changes in what they do with students!  And, that if they "buck the system enough", it will bend to meet THEIR needs (no change).  It's impossible to go through a week without their "vibe" falling on you in some way.

I'm so grateful for the professional learning network, OF POSITIVITY, that twitter gives me.  Thank you twitter educators for being my fountain of never ending punch!!  Without you, I fear I would give into the barbiturates. Thank you district colleagues who go to Saturday trainings, without pay, because you want to be able to offer your students something more. You inspire me to do bigger and better things too!  When my husband, who is not an educator, can spy on my twitter channels and comment "that is so positive", I know that I have found the "fountain of youth!".