Monday, October 13, 2014

Week 6 - We Will All Be Numeracy Teachers

This past Friday was a PD Day - and since the new push in the board (and the province) is numeracy, we got to kick the day off with some numbers fun. I was part of the cross-curricular numeracy committee that was charged with planning the morning sessions of our day. We are lucky to have some very passionate teachers and administrators and came up with a plan that we were hopeful would achieve our goals.

We set out to do two things:
1) Try to get everyone to relate to numeracy and realize that it connects to their subject area
2) Accentuate the connection between a growth mindset (which was a focus of ours last year) and success in mathematics - ideally getting staff to recognize how our culture is fine with saying "Oh, it's OK, you're just not good at math" but would never dream of telling someone it was OK to not be good at reading at a young age.

Here is what we came up with:
- Fishbowl: Numeracy team discusses their attitudes toward math and how they got there
- 4 corners: image of 4 different weather that staff chose to match their math attitude - discuss these attitudes within these groups
- Create a graphic organizer to compare "Mathematics" and "numeracy" in cross-curricular groups (ah-ha moments were shared with the whole group afterward)
- Sort skills as "Literacy" or "numeracy" (these came from board/ministry documents that we cut up and gave to groups in an envelope, ah-ha moments were shared with the group)
- Break
- Shared reading of our board's Balanced Mathematics Instruction K-12” poster
- Online mindset inventory to get staff thinking about their own mindsets
- Brief video clip of two different student mindsets when asked a question in class & share some quotes about mindset
- Brainstorm ideas of how to improve mindset within our classroom, school, and parent community (gallery walk to share)
- Brief Michael Jordan video & his story

It seemed to go pretty well. There was a lot of discussion throughout the morning among the different groups of staff for many of the items listed above. It seemed to evoke a lot of thought around the ideas we were hoping for and allowed a lot of them to relate personally to the overall ideas. We have asked everyone for feedback via Google Forms and the responses I have seen so far have been more positive than negative. We are hoping to be able to come up with our next steps from this feedback so that we can keep things as relevant for our staff as possible.

If you have any ideas or suggestions to share with us please leave me a comment below :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Week 4 & 5 - The Passion for Teaching

As a proud Queen's University alumnus I eventually read through all of the issues of the Queen's Alumni Review that make it to my mailbox. I have been inspired by a couple of articles over the years about a couple of stellar professors there that are using more modern teaching styles that are more student-centred than the typical lecture. In the 2014 Issue 3 edition there is a letter from the Principal, Daniel Woolf who talks about his experiences as a teacher. He talks about teaching coming natural to some but always felt he had to work at it. One of my favourite lines in the letter:

"Having now been on the instructor's side of the desk for three decades...and having taught dozens of courses I have noticed huge changes in technology and pedagogical methods - the overhead projectors I used for years are largely a thing of the past in the era of Moodle and YouTube. One thing, however, hasn't changed. Effective teaching depends less on delivery methods, or technology, or even outright mastery of the material, than it does on a passionate enthusiasm for the subject and ability to arouse the same interest in students."

I have to say, he has hit the nail on the head - and people still recognize this. Two weeks ago I hosted an info night about the flipped classroom, a few different families were in attendance from one of my classes and a class of my colleagues, and by the end two of the mother's summed it up nicely "It is obvious that you are passionate about this method of teaching, and that probably makes you a better teacher when you use this method, and that is all we can ask for." It was the highlight of my night, and made all of the questioning worth it.

I have seen this a lot in the other teacher who is using the flipped model (on a smaller scale at this time) in one of her classes. She could have retired a few years ago and is so excited to be trying something new. She is so excited that even her fears of trying it before I was teaching the same course as her could not stop her - she is diving in and her students are loving it. Today we were talking about a PLC and she said to me - "My friends keep asking me why I am doing this, and I tell them that I was tired of doing the same thing for 26 years. I needed a change, and I feel passionate about it again."

The only surprising part of what she said was the indication that she had started to lose her passion - as she has always been a very dedicated teacher. I love getting to work with her and it seems as though we are beginning to influence more teachers in our department to look at using parts of the flipped model in their classes. I love that I can find in teachers, at various point in their career, what I hope to find in myself at all points of my career. I keep saying that the day I am not trying to get better, the day that I don't want to try something new, is the day I will retire (but hopefully, it will be the day before that happens). :)

Here are some in-class highlights from the last two weeks:
- tried PowToon to have students communicate a choice between two job options
- observing student discussions about physics (i.e. correcting quizzes without seeing an answer key collaboratively)
- Grade 9/12 activity day (a quite successful one I must say)
- using Gizmos to develop an understanding of adding vectors
- using examples to dispell misconceptions about relative velocity
- trying Prodigy Game for the first time
- super ball investigation (using a bouncy ball to measure the height of a tall room)

Happy October everyone!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 3 - Students Recognize Need for Timely Feedback

In my Grade 11 Physics class I have had the chance to see how well they are capable of working together. I am seeing students helping each other with concepts, asking one another questions, and working through problems together. They are often asking their questions in pairs or groups - which is great. There are still kinks to work out and some of them are not completing tasks for homework consistently, but that seems to be changing slowly.

The neatest thing that I am seeing so far is students desire for as much formative feedback as they can get. We are using educanon so they are getting a chance to try to process while they are watching the lessons and many if them are taking advantage if the chance to type in an explanation when they get an incorrect answer. I allows me to read their explanation and give them credit for the question if the explanation is correct (which is an awesome feature if the website).

I have barely heard a single complaint when I announce a quiz coming up (my version of a quiz means that students get a chance to be in a test like situation and have me mark it, but there is no mark put on the paper). I have been using Edmodo to do some multiple choice, fill on the blank, and matching that is marked right away for them and then they do some more involved parts in class on paper. The students really responded to getting feedback without the mark and were given time to try to make corrections to their quiz before I posted the answers (and by then most of them did not need to check). I love that the flip class model gives me time to do something like this (or to have me come up one at a time for personal discussion about their results).

We have been through this process once now and they have a second quiz coming up. They seem to be less stressed about it than I have experienced in previous years and I am really seeing students try to focus on concepts and going back to passed lessons as needed. We have also done two labs that involved analysis with graphing and when I gave students the option to hand it in and have me write descriptive feedback or have them swap papers and us do it as a group so that we could do it right away, they chose the latter. 

I was pleasantly surprised by their choice and am hopeful that we can use this process to get them to analyze their own lab work more critically in the future. My intention is to have them work in pairs (not their lab partner) and end up with two labs from different groups that they will look through together.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Week 2 - Students Settling Into Their Needs

I have had the chance to see many of my students start to settle in and figure out some of their learning needs. I tried to accentuate my reasons for using a flipped class model, one of those reasons being that I want them to make the learning environment into their own - that they should explore and figure out what works best for them.

The first week or two is often hard for the new Grade 9 students. They are given more freedom then they are used to, but there is also more demand put on them in their classes. Not to mention they are in a new, bigger building and some are in classes where they do not know anyone. I have started to see them realize the importance of attendance and homework already and they are adjusting well to the use of Edmodo (although I would like to see them use it more as a classroom community outside of school hours).

Grade 11 students are also making an adjustment as they are now considered senior students and their academic demands are often higher than they were in Grade 10. There is an expectation of them being more mature and making better academic decisions. By introducing the flipped class to my students they are getting a chance to focus on things that they need to work on. For some of them this is the realization that their past work ethic is not going to be good enough to get them through a physics course. For others, they have a bit more freedom to focus on an earlier lesson for a bit longer so that they can feel more confident in the material. And for others they are realizing the need to work on skills as basic as note-taking and organization.

On Wednesday we worked on the concepts of displacement, position, and distance. In class I gave them the task of coming up with an example where all three were equal, and one where all three were not equal (thank you Noschese 180 for the idea!). They worked in groups to try to come up with ideas and used iPads to record the idea and take a screen shot to post onto Edmodo. It was great to see them struggle to start with and then find starting points that lead them to understand what aspects they might be missing. It seemed to be a good start and the next class where they had to match "stories" to d-t graphs they did quite well and, as it turns out, was not enough work for them to do!

Next week I am meeting with some of the Grade 9 parents to give them more information on the flipped class (and the following week with some of the Grade 11 parents).

Sunday, September 7, 2014

We're Baaaack!

A new school year always comes with new ideas, new excitement, new students, and new personal goals. One of my goals this year is to blog more often! I have probably said this before, and I don't know if I will be able to keep up with what I would like to do, but I am going to give it a go.

This semester I am teaching Grade 9 Academic Science, Grade 11 University Physics, and Grade 11 Workplace Math (Math for Everyday Life). I am continuing to work on my flipped class this year with the two former classes mentioned and am hoping to build on things that I tried last year. My Grade 9s are working with some videos that have questions embedded via EduCanon (this is new for me) and I hope to developed a lot more in-class tasks for my Physics kids this time around. I have all three of my classes on Edmodo this year as well. I really liked the idea of the kids having App access to our class website. So far so good.

This week I introduced the concept of the video lesson and put a focus on note-taking and the importance of taking the time to process the learning by summarizing and questioning. My Grade 9s had the opportunity to watch a couple of videos and note take in class as well as doing one at home (they won't likely have this concentration of "lessons" throughout the semester) and my 11s got to work at their own pace this week through a scientific numeracy introductory unit.

I am trying to gamify my workplace math class somewhat this semester to engage the group of students more effectively than I did last semester. I made use of Kahoot on the first day of class and hope to use this more in the future. I am also trying to turn the class into a "Game of Life" of sorts - each week I am hoping to come up with 6 scenarios related to what we have learned that week and they will roll a die to see what happens to them. They created avatars this week to introduce themselves to the class including their goals for after graduation. They were very honest about what they wanted and posted the resulting link to our Edmodo site. Here is one of them.

One last big change I have made in my approach to the flipped class this year is that I am hosting a parent info night early on in the semester so that parents can come in to get more information and voice their concerns before we get too deep into the semester.

If you have any suggestions, comments or questions your input would be greatly appreciated!

Cheers to a great new year!