Monday, August 31, 2015

Building Community

Building Community is one the absolute most important concepts one must employ in order to have a successful school year. It must also be done starting on Day 1. Students need to know that you care, that they opinions are valued, and that you will treat them like humans.  Students will only take risks when they are comfortable with you and the classroom environment.

That is why I will do practically no math on Day 1 of each of my classes. We will do various activities to help facilitate the growing of a community. Here is my plan.

Remind- Students will sign up to receive weekly remind texts from me and gain the ability to chat with me via texting.

Answer Garden- I have a question asking students to give me their first reactions to when they hear "math class."

Google Survey- Students will answer 10 questions about themselves in a google form. I am going to use this survey to make Kahoots about the students so that everyone gets to know their classmates.

Learning Style Survey- Students are going to visit a site and answer questions about learning styles, and will then post their results into a padlet that I created.

Kahoot - The class will play a kahoot that will be mostly about me, my family, my hobbies, and what a flipped classroom really is.

Socrative Space Race- Students will join pairs and compete in  Socrative Space Race using 10 Algebra 1 Review Questions.  (Can't share this because I don't know how.)

Blog- Students are going to blog in the LMS answering the following prompt "I wish my teacher knew...".  They may write about anything.

While these activities are going on, I will be distributing graphing calculators and note packets.  This will be the only day I had anything out. The students will be responsible for their group material after this day.

Possible issues may involve getting the really shy student to participate or joining the vast age differences 12-17. I will be anticipating these and will be able to help each of these situations.

I want my students to go home on that first day and tell their parents that I really wants to get to know them and that I care.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Flipcon15 Reflections

As I sit here reminiscing about FlipCon 15 this summer, many things stand out in my many memories.  These memories include old friends and new friends, my PLC, volunteering to moderate the virtual sessions, attending some other great sessions, the boat ride and the dinner at the baseball stadium. What I took away from  FlipCon 15 was so much more than that too.

First let me briefly explain my experience with flipping my class and what aspects of it I use. I teach high school mathematics, particularly Algebra 2 and a remediation of Algebra 1, and will be entering my 4th year of flipping. I use flipped learning with three of my classes and flipped mastery with the other two. After teaching the same thing for 16 years, I needed a change, and chose to start flipping at that time. I loved teaching the second level of Algebra, but I figured if I was bored, the students had to be. I also wanted to build better relationships with my students, and to give them more engaged class time. Flipping was the perfect fit.

Back to Flipcon15.  I miss my “flipping family.” It was nice not be the only one that understands and supports the power of flipping, not being the only one that is willing to take risks for the students’ benefits, not being the only one that has a chaotic classroom, and having others completely understand you when you say, “the louder my classroom is, the more learning that is taking place.”  

Having participated on a weekly basis in the #flipclass chat on Monday nights since October of 2013. Here is my first tweet to #flipclass:
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It took me several months to get up the nerve to actually really participate in the #flipclass twitter chat. Once I did, I learned so much and met so many people. I mention this PLC in this reflection of Flipcon15, because it allowed me the opportunity to meet people prior to attending the conference. It also made attending Flipcon15 by myself less scary, since I felt like I was meeting old friends.  I wasn’t shy to hug Kate Baker (@KtBkr4) the first time I met her because it was like I knew her for many years. I didn’t hesitate to walk up to Crystal Kirch (@crystalkirch) and ask her about sharing her WSQ with newbies. I introduced myself to Lindsay Stephenson (@MrsStephenson3) after her session and we became best buddies. I invited Carla Jefferson (@MrsJeff2u) to ride with me to the evening events, because I knew she was staying at the same hotel as I was. This is why I refer to “missing my family” since it truly was like a huge family reunion. As I reflect, I think it is imperative to possibly get everyone registered to attend these conferences involved in a twitter chat. It really makes the experience so much more.

This was my first year volunteering as a Virtual Moderator, and I truly enjoyed doing that. Not only did I get to sit in some great sessions and hear and see the presenter first hand, I also got to see the conversation going on in the virtual world and facilitate that conversation. I was the voice of those online as I asked their questions to the presenter. I will most certainly volunteer to do that again, and hope others get the chance as well.

My take aways from the conference are so many, that I am still trying to work through it all. I attended the Grade Divide presented by Kate Baker and Lindsay Cole, and felt that the conversation on grades and grading could have been the Keynote Speaker or a whole day discussion. What does an A in a class really mean? Is that A the same understanding in some other teacher’s class, teaching the same course? Is it fair to have a 60% chance to fail and only a 40% chance to pass (for those on a 60% is a D- scale)? I have hated grading for the last 20 years, and as my philosophy of teaching changes, I hate it even more. We aren’t giving the right feedback, nor are we grading the right things, in my opinion.

Another session that I attended that I am still trying to wrap my head around is Crystal Kirch’s, Formative Assessment on the Fly. Her session was so jam packed with great ways to assess students progresses in your class, that I am trying to explore and see which ones work and which ones I could do without. The issue I am having right now, is that I really feel that I could use them all, and am trying to figure out those appropriate spots for each. Right now, of all of them that are new to me, as some I have already used and like, I am really like, since it has many different ways to assess in a formative way.  Since I have 19 years of work done, goformative allows you to upload already created worksheets and create answer boxes for problems. That’s pretty cool.

The keynote speaker, Paul Anderson, was absolutely amazing. His presentation was thought provoking, funny, engaging, and brilliant. He had all of us laughing and chatting about ideas in twitter. He used great cartoons and connections that we all know to get his points across. Some of my favorite quotes, which are listed below, come from this Keynote presentation.

Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams also kept us entertained and continued to challenge us to think outside the box and to take risks. They encouraged us to not get stuck in a rut, and not to get too comfortable, because we should always be moving forward.

Some quotes that I got from this two day conference are listed below. There are many more, but these are the ones that touched me or really encouraged me to be a better teacher.

“You are the most important resource in your classroom!”- Paul Anderson
“Technology should be the hub that leads us into the real world.”- Paul Anderson
“From STEM to STEAM to STREAM to HAMSTER FLOAT.”- tweeted by Kristin Daniels (during Paul Anderson’s Keynote)
“Don’t put a grade on it if you want students to keep working. Putting a grade ends the conversation.” - Lindsay Cole and Kate Baker

In summary, Flipcon15 and the #flipclass twitter group is the absolutely most important professional development one can attend. The support is so superior than any other group I have been a part of. One the last day of Flipcon15, I commented how I really wished it was much longer, and it did feel like you do when you leave a family reunion. You were really starting to be a huge part of it, remembering the family, when it is all over. Flipcon16 can’t come soon enough.