Your mini lesson ran long. Now, you can either scrap your centers, or you can rush through them, which doesn’t really do them or your students justice – and you’d put so much time into getting them ready…
Guest Post by Elizabeth Clarke from The Big Kids Hall
This doesn’t happen in a flipped classroom, because your lesson happens at home. Kids come to you with the skill you’re teaching, and they’re ready to do math instead of listen and take notes about math. There are a zillion reasons lessons get bogged down in a whole-group setting: I got off on a tangent, one of the kids didn’t get his medicine this morning, a fire drill, a holiday, you name it. In my room, too many kids were spending too much time waiting for others to catch up (or catch on) and becoming disengaged. It was time for a math block rescue!
Why I Flipped My Classroom
A couple of summers ago, I attended the EdCamp in Fort Worth, Texas, where my parents live. I did an afternoon session with Todd Nesloney and his teammate, Stacey Huffine. (They’re @TechNinjaTodd and @TechNinjaStacey on Twitter.) Todd explained how his low-SES students grew leaps and bounds by watching their math lessons online and taking notes at home as homework, which freed up all kinds of time for doing math at school.
When I got back home, I gave some real thought to it and realized that not only would this free up time for the rotations that I’ve always wanted to do well, but were often rushed, but flipping would also allow me to truly differentiate my instruction. If all of the base lessons were already compiled into a library, it really didn’t matter If different groups were on different skills. Kids could access the lessons as they were appropriate for them. They could also go back to review a skill they’d forgotten or were missing. Sick? At Disney? No worries. You can’t miss a math lesson if it’s always available.
Making the Lessons
Here’s a fourth grade lesson on area I made the first year I flipped:
The lessons don’t have to be flashy or complicated. In fact, to focus on the concept, they really shouldn’t be. They’re most effective when they cover one skill or topic and are at or under ten minutes. That having been said, the lessons weren’t difficult to make, though I did have to make a couple of investments.
My school laptop has ActivInspire on it, so I just made the slides like I would for a regular lesson. If you don’t have that kind of software, PowerPoint or Google Presentations will work just fine, though you might need some clip art to make your visuals.
To voice over my slides, I picked up a headset with a microphone (about $30 and totally worth it) from Amazon. I also bought a Wacom digital pen and tablet so that I could write on the screen. This was the most expensive part of the set-up, and as a lefty, it doesn’t always work quite as well as I’d like, but the alternative was to try to write with the mouse, which would have been really ugly.
Finally, I needed an onscreen recorder. There are some out there that are pretty pricy, but I’ve found that screencast-o-matic is easy to use and a real winner. The free version works well, and for $15 per year, I get some extra tools, storage space, and the ability to easily upload to YouTube, DropBox, and save the video to my computer as an MP4. You can find it at ScreenCast- O-Matic.
I also got to know a very good website, Sophia.org , which is a flipped-classroom learning platform. I upload my videos to it and it tracks when the kids sign in and for how long. I add a 4-question quiz to each of my lessons, so I can judge how well each kid got the gist of the lesson, and it gives me that data, too. I can also attach a worksheet for extra practice when I want to. Best of all, it’s free, my favorite price.
I looped up with the class with which I first flipped to fifth grade, so I had to make a second set of videos. (So much for ‘I only have to do this once’!) With the second set, I got better with the pen. I also decided that the kids’ math notebooks work much better if they were standardized. I bought a set of interactive notebooks from Teachers Pay Teachers and modeled my lessons on those examples. I would strongly suggest that you do that, too. You could also use workbooks, if your district provides ones that are consumable.
Do I Have to Make My Own?
Not necessarily. There are lots of other teachers’ videos on YouTube, and there are some professionally done ones on sites like LearnZillion. I just wanted to be the one to deliver the instruction and to know exactly what was said and how, so I did my own.
Okay, but what about…
Yes, I have a few kids (two, in fact) without consistent internet at home. They, the media center specialist, and I worked out a before-school deal that gets the lessons done in the morning before school.
I do have a child who sometimes just doesn’t bother, so he’s unprepared when it’s time to do rotations. His consequence: he bumbles around during class and does his lesson at recess. At the age of 11, blowing off the lesson is a behavioral choice. He knows that he doesn’t learn the math as well, and he knows it’ll cost him part of his recess. Up to him.
YouTube is blocked to the kids’ Chromebooks at my school. Many of my lessons are loaded directly into Sophia or are on Vimeo, which isn’t blocked. I do upload a lot of the lessons to YouTube anyway for parent access or if Sophia’s stuck on stupid. It also makes the videos accessible from phones and tablets, so kids can do the work at the ball field if they have to.
Flipping my classroom has benefitted my students. Parents have really liked it because now they know exactly how I’m teaching each concept, and they don’t have to rely on memory to help their kids. There’s more time to do math during math, and I can differentiate my instruction, so that I can better meet the needs of each child. This was the rescue my math block needed!
Elizabeth Clarke is a 22-year veteran, with most of her experience in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. She lives and teaches in the Charlotte, NC area, and can be found on The Big Kids Hall Blog, and Teachers Pay Teachers.
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