Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poster Child of Success

I'd love to be able to say that EVERY student in my classroom is experiencing success with the flipped classroom, but I'd be stretching the truth if I did.  However, here is what I have learned (and I'm really happy knowing this), the students who are willing to take ownership of their learning are learning much better.  And by this, I believe they have a much deeper understanding of the concepts and they are learning how to decode in mathematics/statistics so they can attack problems.

I had a few students stay afterschool for help with their homework today and it was very enjoyable.  It wasn't what I have sometimes frequently experienced in the past (student shows up and says "I don't understand anything" and waits for me to pour them a glass of magic potion/or use my wand to put a spell on them so they don't have to do a thing but wait for the divine knowledge to "hit them"). Instead, we all sat down and worked the problems simultaneously, comparing our work and answers as we went (i.e a true collaboration).  It was great!  And while I was working with the Calculus students, the Stats students had formed their own group on the other side of the room and were working together as well.

Moving on to my "poster child". One student stayed awhile longer to work on problems that were in their chapter packet and ask questions from it.  Yesterday, I handed back their most recent quiz and she had scored a 22/25. That was exceptional for her, as she is not my strongest math student (admittedly so)! When I had graded it, I had done my own "happy dance" and when she got it back, she did hers.  I need to explain this student's math history.  Per a conversation at the start of school, she had told me that she was probably going to struggle.  One day in class, she had informed me that she didn't need to understand the concepts because she would just memorize what to do.  I insisted that wouldn't be possible and asked how that had worked out for her so far.  She tried to convince me (or herself) that it had worked out "good enough". But I continued to remind her that there are just too many things to memorize and, although she would have to do SOME of that, it really was going to be more important that she UNDERSTAND what she was doing.  Well, today was the day of admission! After her quiz score and going over a few "challenging" problems from the classwork pages, she realized herself that she is in fact understanding it.  What I told her is that (besides the fact that I am really proud of her) she has learned how to decode problems so that she knows what strategy to use.  And while she has come in for help a few times, her growth has really been a result of her jumping in everyday and working with her group on problems.

She agreed with this and I asked her if she felt like she had more ownership over her learning this year and her answer was "hell yah".  This was out of character for her so I chuckled.  But she went on to tell me that she was worried at the beginning of the year about the flipped classroom and now she loves it. Her reasons were exactly what I was hoping to hear and had figured out on my own by observing my students: "I can ask questions in class that I never felt like I could ask in a traditional class. In a traditional class, even though the teacher asks 'does anyone have questions?', I always felt like I couldn't ask them because if the teacher explained it again, and I still had questions, there were always other kids who were saying 'she's so dumb, why doesn't she get it?'. (I know kids felt like that in my classroom too.  Sad part is that there are often more of them than there are the smart alecks who think they know everything).  Besides, we all work together and we know that there are things that we all struggle with, so we help each other. In a traditional class, we only got to discuss on group test day and then the real test was 2 days later.  By then, it was too late for me to "get everything" that I didn't know. (I never thought about this, but when she said it, I knew she was right) And I know that if I am not doing well, I can get help and it is my responsibility to do that."  Some of her explanation was actually eye-opening, while other parts are what I knew I wanted to accomplish with this new environment. Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.  Even though it takes longer with the students to discuss, they get SO MUCH more out of it!  And they are so comfortable with making mistakes and fixing them now.  I have taught them about "party foul" which is erasing before we detect where their error is (and then only erase the minor mistakes to fix it--not the whole thing).  They have adjusted to that so well. I love this learning environment!

Ironically enough, while this student was working on old problems, a former student (from last year) came in to visit me.  She was amazed at all the changes (whiteboard covering 3 walls, a cart of laptops, desks in groups of 4 around the perimeter of the room).  I had started whiteboarding (with some mini versions that I made last year) and flipping the lessons (video notes online and practice in the class) at the end of school (and the students really liked it). Some of the reasons they liked it was because they could watch the videos over and over (or for review) and that they got to work on the difficult problems in class and discuss them. She was commenting on how much better it must be for this year's crop of students, and I agreed it is.  I am SO GLAD that my blinded eyes were opened!

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