By CUE Member and guest blogger Crystal Kirch
This Post Will Focus on Flipping the Math Classroom- Post 3 in Our 6-Part Series
Flipped Learning: Have you heard of this trend? Most commonly referred to as a flipped class, it enables teachers to make the best use of the face to face time they have with their students. In math specifically, Flipped Learning allows the classroom to be a student-centered environment with active learners, focused on higher-order thinking activities. I have seen this to be true in the high school math classes that I have flipped over the last three school years: Math Analysis and Algebra 1.
In my flipped learning classroom, all direct instruction is moved out of the group learning space and is provided for students on video, so they can learn the basic content at their own pace whenever and wherever they want to. By doing this, the instruction that is given is much more efficient and effective in achieving its purpose of helping the students understand the basic content. Most importantly, it frees up class time for active learning activities that require higher-order thinking and peer collaboration.
Over my seven years in teaching, I have constantly been looking for ways to engage students in the math we are learning, and find ways to have them become more active participants during class time. By using flipped learning techniques, class time is able to be fully focused on the students and gives them opportunities to Think, Write, Interact, Read, Listen, and Speak (TWIRLS) mathematically.
My flipped learning classroom is structured around a concept called “WSQ” (pronounced ‘wisk’), which stands for “Watch – Summarize – Question.” Before students come to class, they complete a WSQ. This means:
W: They watch the video and take notes in their guided notes packets
S: They write a summary or answer guided summary questions on a Google Form found below the video
Q: Finally they write a Higher-Order Thinking (HOT) question about the lesson to bring to class the next day.
* Find more examples of my lessons and class documents on my website, Mastering Math Analysis with Mrs. Kirch.
The WSQ not only helps hold students accountable for coming to class prepared and for processing the information presented to them, it also allows us to begin class with a discussion and group activity regarding the lesson, focusing on what students had questions about. Because students submitted their questions and comments in a Google Form, I know before they walk in what some common confusions are and what needs to be the focus of the discussion.
After the discussion, students are given opportunities for practice, peer teaching, student creation (they write and solve their own math problems in mini-videos and then post to their student blogs), and small group remediation.
While every class period is different, they all encompass these activities to some degree. You can see the different activities my students participate in, as well as samples of each on my Flipped Classroom Flowchart.
SO, HOW DO YOU START FLIPPING YOUR MATH CLASS?
First, you must decide what it is you want to be able to do with your face-to-face time every day. For me, it was more discussion, writing and speaking mathematics, differentiated and individualized support, and providing opportunities for students to think deeper and make connections with what they were learning. The only way to feasibly achieve those goals was to remove the lower-order instruction and examples from the classroom time.
Next, you must decide what exactly to remove from the classroom space, and when students are going to be exposed to that material. Some lessons are best front-loaded for students, whereas others work best as a follow-up to a discovery or inquiry activity in class.
It is also important to consider video engagement and length. I break my videos into small chunks of 3-7 minutes, and give my oldest students (11th and 12th graders) an absolute maximum of 15 minutes total of video watching per night, and aim for 10 minutes. By chunking, it gives students time to pause and reflect before moving on, and also makes it easier for students to go back and rewatch a specific portion of the lesson they need rather than trying to skim through a 15 minute video finding the part they want.
If I am going over several examples in the lesson, I will break the videos into levels of difficulty and challenge the students to try the problems in each level first before watching me. If the problems are long and complex, I will usually make one video per problem (1-3 minutes each) so students can easily access the problem they need in the future.
Last, you must decide how to hold students accountable for doing their part outside of class. The WSQ is a great tool that guides students to do more than just watch a video – they must interact with it, process the material, and think deeply about what has been presented to them – all before they come to class!
Most importantly, you must know your students and be willing to adjust and tweak your methods as you find what works best. I am constantly in communication with my students, getting feedback and ideas about how the class and their learning is going. This is incredibly valuable, as flipped learning truly is about the students, meeting their needs, and helping their learning.
Crystal Kirch continually strives to find ways to make her classroom more enjoyable, engaging, and effective for her students. She is in her third year using the flipped approach in both her Algebra 1 and Pre-Calculus classes. Crystal currently serves as the math department chair and was voted 2012 Teacher of the Year at her school site. She maintains a teaching reflective blog at flippingwithkirch.blogspot.com where she shares her experiences in Flipped Learning. Crystal also presents at conferences and on webinars about flipped learning, including webinars hosted by the Flipped Learning Network and Sophia.org, and the 2012 CUE Flipped Learning Tour.