Friday, December 19, 2014

End of the Year Marks Half-Way

This challenging year is half-way over.  I have to say, I'm sad that I'm even thinking about this.  I have always loved teaching and am a bit sad that I don't feel that exact same this year.  Some things have changed, a few more challenges have come up, but overall things are improving.  I still find myself looking for ways to convince the administration that I need to stop teaching Alg 1 and move into perhaps Alg 2 or Precal.  Because we all know that grass is always greener....

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Don't be Afraid to Fail--ya right!

I love/hate the admonition to "not be afraid to fail."  I'm not afraid of failure, but when I finally have the courage to try something new, the very last thing I want is for it to be a failure.  I'm not afraid to fail, I'm just seriously mad when I do fail.  

I flipped my high school algebra class this year.  I've done everything on every "advice" list, and I'm still experiencing many problems.  Our district's available technology is a major problem.  Too many, almost 20%, of my freshmen "cannot" watch my videos for one reason or another.  You would be surprised at how many times their internet is randomly out at home... 

Anyway--I have backup plans and very few of the students are taking the initiative to overcome their inability to watch the lesson (watching my iPad at the beginning of class, coming to school early to use a student computer in a classroom, or staying after school.)  I began giving a notebook quiz to see if they copied the notes from the video, and I give 3-5 questions for them to answer at the end of the video.  I've had 2 parent conferences complaining about my method and several "thank you's" for taking the time to provide the videos.  At the end of the day (or literally the end of the 1st six weeks),  I've concluded that the amount of EXTRA time and work I've put into this new class format (in a textbook adoption year and on the eve of a major shift in TEKS) is not worth it.  My students' grades are not any better than last years'.  I will be restructuring and not relying on the flipped classroom model.  I still love the idea and would LOVE to be able to make this successful, but this year is not the right time.   I will still make videos for home reference, but I cannot rely on the students to watch the videos in order to be prepared to participate in the daily activities.  

If you've read all this so far, I hope you don't think I'm Debbie Downer.  I'm more of a Debbie Disappointed.  I really wanted it to work.

Monday, October 6, 2014


My flipped classroom has some problems.  First, I have several students come to class every day with an excuse as to why they couldn't watch the videos.  They just want to copy the notes really fast without getting the "explanation" on the video.  Then I have those students who won't confess that they haven't watched the videos, but when they ask a question in class and I ask to see their notes, they never have them.

I'm just lost. I decided to make a quiz from the notebook to encourage them to watch and take notes, but that is actually just punitive.  I hate punitive.  I just don't have buy-in anymore. How did I lose it?  Some students love the change, but then the "strugglers" just aren't putting forth the effort.  I really feel like the ones who are not watching the videos are the ones that wouldn't be turning in the homework if I had a traditional setup.  But the problem is that they aren't learning because the "homework" is the learning.  The "classwork" is the practice.

I'm just lost right now.  What am I going to do?

Friday, September 26, 2014

New Year, New Way of Doing Things

More than once I have questioned my decision to flip my Algebra classroom.  In theory, it sounds like an awesome idea, but 4 weeks in and students are starting slack off on watching the nightly videos.  They figure they can get buy with just following the examples in class.  We had to have a heart-to-heart this week.  I "threatened" to go back to a traditional classroom and give them "homework" problems and they all promised to watch the videos everyday.  We shall see...

Also, it is a lot of work.  I hate feeling "caught up".  I like to be ahead.  It drives me crazy that I am making the videos THE AFTERNOON the students are supposed to be watching them.  I got a few days ahead last week, and here I am "caught up" again.   Tonight's videos is made, but I have nothing for our next class.  I fear it will be this way all year.  What was I thinking...?

The other half of this story is that my class time is more engaging and students are enjoying the structure (or lack of structure).  That was one of my goals.  I'm tweaking a few things to make sure they are also learning effectively.  That's important, too.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

End of year

I cannot believe how fast the end of the year has come.  My oldest child is graduating high school, and if I wanted one school year to end slowly--this was the one.  I'm busy trying to prepare myself for changes I want to make next year.  I want more engagement by the students.  I'm not sure how best to do that.  I teach algebra 1 and calculus.  I'm not looking to make any changes in calculus.  Algebra 1 is the only state-tested math class, so I am a little afraid to go out on a limb and try a brand new class structure.  What if my students' scores go down because I tried something new?  I'm okay with failure if I'm the only one who suffers the consequences.

Some of the changes I've decided on are:
1. I got a grant for NewPath Learning, an online algebra review/remediation game-based program.  I'm excited to have something "different" to use with my students.

2. I used Livebinders all year with my calculus class.  I finally found a way to record lessons and save them on Livebinders for my Algebra classes.  In calc, I only scan documents and put them in a livebinder as a resource for my students.  I wanted a way to record "video" of me teaching and put it on a Livebinder for students to watch.  This is my solution:  With my iPad, I can take a picture of the notes/problems.  Using the "ShowMe" app, I can record my voice and any annotations I make to the picture.  After I'm done, I can email it to myself (very easily) and with the link in the email, I just cut and paste it into the Livebinder.  Super simple, quick, and easy.  I'm so grateful to have found something so easy and efficient.

3.  I want to use the Livebinder to semi-flip my classroom.  I want to have the students watch a preliminary video at home and then work on activities in class.  I want to change the structure of lecture-worksheet.  Students absolutely need the practice in algebra, but I think a lot of that practice can be done in class where I know the students are doing it themselves and not copying off their friends.

4.  I really am bothered by the grading structure for my class.  Currently it is 60% tests, 20% quizzes, and 20% homework.  It's the homework portion that bothers me.  Homework is just practice.  Why do I grade their practice like it is a test?  Is accuracy the only thing that counts?  What about effort and improvement? What about those students who make a simple mistake on every problem, get a 30% on their homework, then I find their mistake, fix it and they never do it again?  Does the 30% reflect their knowledge?  It that fair?  Is it important to penalize them for mistakes they used to make?  I want to change to a standards-based grading system for my homework grade.  I need to figure out a way to translate standards-based grading into a numerical grade, but I think I can come up with a fair way.  Next year I will rely more heavily on tests and quizzes and treat homework like the practice it is.

I'm excited for next year, but I'm glad I have a long summer ahead.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Haunted by a Cartoon

This cartoon stresses me out.  I totally believe in the point it is making, but have no idea how to fix it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fave Blogs

I've been exploring the possibility of changing how I teach Algebra 1.  I am bored with the worksheet notes and worksheet homework.  If I'm bored, I could only imagine how the students feel. My main concern is sacrificing cohesiveness and understanding for engagement and novelty.  Certainly don't want to do that!  I've found several blogs written by dedicated Algebra teachers who take the enormous amount of time to photograph and share their interactive notebooks.  I'm intrigued.  This might be the answer for me.  Maybe, but will we spend too much time cutting, gluing, and coloring? I haven't decided yet.  Anyway, here are several of the blogs that share awesome resources.
 Math Equals Love
Don't Panic, The Answer if 42
Square Root of -1 Teach Math

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Finally a contributor?

I have been an internet stalker for quite some time.  I regularly search twitter, pinterest, and blogs in hopes of finding resources and ideas for my classroom. I'm hoping to use this blog to reflect on my needs, wants, successes, and failures on my journey to effective teaching.