Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Nuts and Bolts of my Flipped Unit on Equilibrium

Since I’ve now ‘dipped my feet into the flipped class‘ I thought I’d share some of the nuts-and-bolts of how I did it, with a little more detail than previously offered.

The class I’ll describe here is year 1 (11th Grade)  IB Chemistry, with both Standard Level and Higher Level students. This unit, on equilibrium, is the last unit of the school year before heading out on summer vacation. It’s also the first unit I’ve truly flipped. I didn’t give a single lecture during class time. These students had seen a handful of videos from me previously in situations where I was absent and wanted to deliver content, but they had never experienced the full flipped model.

First, here is the tracking sheet I created. Unfortunately, I created this a few days into my flipped unit, so it wasn’t as effective as I’d like. In my previous post, I mentioned that a significant improvement would be to create a tracking sheet for the students. So I figured there was no reason to wait until next year to create one.

Next, here is a screenshot of this unit within  my Moodle page. It gives you an idea of how I organize things for my students. The directory that contains the videos worked better than posting the videos individually.

Screen Capture of the Equilibrium Unit of my Moodle Page

The image below is from my calendar. I create a class calendar for each class using Microsoft Word and save it as a webpage. I then post this to the Moodle site and students (and parents!) can access the calendar. I don’t use a typical teacher planning book, so I don’t find this takes any additional time. Yet I see a tremendous benefit to students to follow what’s happening in the class, especially if they are absent. And parents seem to appreciate being able to access the calendar to see what’s going on.

Calendar of the Equilibrium Unit

For this unit, I asked them to watch the first video as homework after we took the test on the previous topic. Then in class, I gave them a simulation activity I developed/modified from others. The students worked in small groups to complete the simulation. Since this was a short class (60 minutes compared to a normal 80-minute block) the students didn’t finish. Friday was our next class together and 80% of my class was absent for sports tournaments, and I was absent for my own tournament. So I gave a reviewsheet on stoichiometry and the mole for the remainder of the students. I asked my Higher Level students to watch the first video for them and take notes. Then on Tuesday when I saw them again, we completed a lab on equilibrium. This is not a lab that I use for internal assessment for IB, so the handout is fairly straightforward for the students.

As I type this, it is Thursday and the students had a work day in class today. I gave the students the tracking sheet today and then simply gave them time to complete everything they need for the unit. I then went around and helped students that needed it. I also have a work day planned on Monday, followed by the unit test on Wednesday. I’ll be very curious about the results…and will put up a post after I finish marking their exams. I’m also going to ask the students to reflect a bit on the format of the flipped class just to get some feedback.

For the homework, I didn’t collect any of it. I simply posted answers on Moodle and expected students to ask me questions if the didn’t understand something from it. I think this is a bit more passive than the typical flipped class. It tends to fit my teaching style a bit better, though, where I expect students to take ownership of their learning and advocate for themselves when they need help. That said, I am definitely trying to push myself to be a bit more proactive in helping students. That’s one of my stated goals for using the flipped model. I wasn’t perfect for this class, though.

I definitely feel that the flipped class model is helpful for this mixed class, as the Higher Level students have more work to finish. They obviously have more homework as well, but they can work at a pace that suits them. And Diploma students often have a lot of deadlines between all of their classes. I think this model gives students some flexibility. If they are being hit with a paper for Economics and an exam in math, they can go a bit lighter on their chemistry homework for a day or two to compensate. Then they could compensate by putting in a bit of extra work in chemistry to prepare for the exams. I like that this model gives students some choices. One student chose to use some of my class time today to study for an economics exam. The student had the courtesy to ask if he could work on something else. I said yes, as I like students making decisions for themselves. I’m sure there are teachers that would not appreciate students working on another class during their time. And I respect that. It just fits my style better to give students as much flexibility as possible. If I were using a lecture model, the student wouldn’t have had that choice, as most of my class period would likely have been spent on delivering a PowerPoint.

This particular class has had some difficulty being focused and productive in the past when I’ve given them work time. In my opinion, giving them the tracking sheet helped keep them focused. They could check off work they completed and see that they still had work left to accomplish.

Things I’d still like to do better next year:

  • More demonstrations to start classes. I think this would be a good way to give the students more background.
  • I need to plan out the entire unit a bit better. This includes having the tracking sheet from the beginning.
  • Be more clear with my students about due dates. I have a relatively small class, so I often become overly flexible on due dates. I think it would benefit this group to be more clear with due dates. This unit was a bit weird, though, given there was one day in the middle of it when almost all of us were gone. And based on giving students more flexibility, one thing I’m thinking about is simply having the students turn in all of their work at the end of the unit.
  • I still think I can be more proactive in going around and helping students. I have a small class, and I think I can do better at visiting each student and checking on their work, making sure they are getting the help they need. And even in a larger class this model creates more time to visit with students. I need to take advantage of this.
  • I think, for my DP classes, that I’ll include a list of relevant syllabus statements on the tracking sheets next year. I don’t want the tracking sheets to just be ‘work to be completed’ but also ‘concepts to be learned.’

I’m excited about the possibilities of this model, now that I’ve experienced it first-hand. I can see the benefit in putting in the planning time before the unit. So this summer I hope to put together the entire first unit for the classes I’m going to flip next year. Then my job will be to stay one unit ahead the entire year. I have most of my PowerPoints ready to go (although I tend to modify them every year in an effort to improve them), but I’ll need to create the videos and tracking sheets and make sure the workflow is logical.



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Dipping my feet into the flipped class model

Well, I finally did it! I flipped two classes. I’ve been contemplating this for a looooong time and finally put it all together. Well, maybe I didn’t put it ALL together, but I flipped my Pre-DP Chemistry class for a unit on stoichiometry and my Year 1 DP Chemistry class for a unit on equilibrium. So now I’d like to offer some random thoughts on what I did, how I did it and how I think it worked, along with some feedback about what I think I should have done better.

I’m not convinced that my ‘method’ of flipping will be for everybody. But if you’re exploring the option of flipping your class, I hope my thoughts provoke some reflection on your part about how to do things better in your own class. And I welcome comments, questions and suggestions. I am, by no means, highly accomplished at this.

  • For better or worse, I’m still sort of an ‘old-school’ teacher. For a subject like chemistry, while teaching to the IB syllabus, I tend to rely (maybe too much?) on lecture as a means of delivering content. I don’t intend for this to be a debate/discussion about that. I’m more interested in the flipped class model and how it can work for my style of teaching. And I think it might lead me to more creative ways to get the students to learn/practice AFTER the lectures. That’s my hope. But more on that later.
  • I am creating videos using BB Flashback Express 2 Recorder (Found here.) My school pushes Jing, but I found BB Flashback Express Recorder better, as it allows for longer recorder. (I actually used BB Flashback Express Recorder previously when I created videos for my IB Chemistry Higher Level students to give them some AHL content that I didn’t have time to deliver in class.) I am using the freeware version, so I can only save the videos as Flash videos. I have found this to work, as students can watch them on my Moodle page. (Maybe a bit more on Moodle later.) I’ve thought about upgrading to the paid version so I can save the files as .avi. That would allow my students to watch them on other devices. Not sure…but if the students push me in this direction, I’ll probably move that way.
  • I find it takes about half the time (or even less!) to record a video as it does to give the same lecture. (This isn’t about preparation time…but actual delivery time.) My lecture style is very interactive. I don’t just monotone the content. I get students answering questions along the way. I pause for them to take notes. With the video, I ‘interact’ by asking them to pause the movie and work ahead of me, then check their answers. This doesn’t take any time. And I don’t have the conversation with my class that I normally do during a lecture. But I still talk in my style, crack my corny jokes and try to get students to think while they are listening.
  • I find the preparation time for each lecture is a bit longer than for a standard lecture. If I make a mistake in a lecture, I can pause the PowerPoint and fix the mistake. I can’t do that in a video. I also tend to put a bit more thought into sequencing my delivery in such a way as to provoke thinking. In a classroom setting, I tend to be more spontaneous based on the discussion. So I tend to plan my delivery which takes more time.
  • Initial student feedback from my Pre-DP class was positive. Students feel they benefit from being able to pause the video and catch up, or rewind to hear it again. I ended up having them watch the videos in class last week, as I was gone the first day I flipped the class. About half my class was gone also, so today I had them all watch the videos they needed. (Either the first one if they were gone, or the second one if they were here last week.) My expectation is that all of the students will catch up on both videos before I see them next Monday. (Due to a scheduling conflict with an awards assembly, I won’t be seeing the students again until Monday.) I found this model to be perfect for this scenario of students and teacher absences. All of the students were productive and engaged in learning. Wow.
  • Initial student feedback from my DP Chemistry class is mixed at this point. Due to my absence last week, I’ve been a bit out of touch with this class. Today they’re doing a lab and the Higher Level students have a video to watch on a topic. Hypothetically, they should have already watched the first HL video. It’s a small class and I haven’t gotten a feel for their opinions yet.
  • For the worksheets in my Pre-DP class, I actually posted answers. Not worked solutions, but just mathematical answers. So when students completed their questions, they could check their work. This is something new for me, but I think I like it. Students can get instant feedback on their work. (A note about grading in my classes. We use an ‘IB Diploma Program’ of grading. This means students are graded on exams and labs. Only. So I don’t grade them on effort in class and homework. So giving them answers to check their work makes sense within this model. And so far, I haven’t found students to just cruise by writing down the answers. They know they need to actually do the work, rather than just writing down the answers.)
  • I do not think I will use the ‘mastery’ model that others are using. (See Brian Bennett for an example of the mastery model used with a flipped class.) I intend (at this point) to keep the students on a pretty set pace. I will have them complete labs at the same time and work towards a unit test for each topic. I will likely re-visit this idea next year.
  • I found the Vodcasting Ning to be a very helpful resource.
  • As for improvements, one thing I really need to improve is the sequencing of the unit. I am not very good at long range planning. So I think it will be really important for me to plan the entire unit next year when I flip the whole class. This includes having every video already recorded, along with the in-class work.
  • As part of the improvement mentioned above, I think I need to give the students some sort of tracking sheet to organize their progress through the videos and the work. Some people use Google Forms for this. Others create handouts. I haven’t decided how to do this yet. One thought is to use Moodle somehow.

For some closing thoughts, I’m really pleased with the flipped class so far. I don’t have any data to support the notion that student learning will improve. That will come later, and it won’t be done in a very scientific manner. And I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts. As they arrive, I’ll add more to the blog and/or the comments below.

And as I said, I’d love for feedback/comments/suggestions.

Until next time.

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A Spontaneous Push (from a student) for Flipping the Class

Today in my physics class, students are collecting data for a self-chosen research question. It’s a very simple lab using only tennis balls and simple measuring equipment like meter sticks and stopwatches. The students had to develop a research question and method. Ultimately, they’ll graph their data using either Excel or Logger Pro.

A student asked me about how to calculate averages in Excel. It’s something they’ve seen before, but this student simply couldn’t remember it. Lightbulb moment! If I had a tutorial up on my Moodle site about how to manipulate data in Excel (averages, etc.) it’d be a great resource for students that need extra help with things like this.

I love it when students push me to become a better teacher, even if they don’t realize it.


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Sustaining Momentum Redux (Alternate Title: Decisions, Decisions)

Wow. It’s May 5th, and I haven’t put up a blog post since April 25th. And ironically enough, that post was about sustaining momentum. I can see now that I really didn’t sustain any momentum. At all.

But I have excuses. And lots of them. Of course, that reminds me of my 7th grade shop teacher’s saying about excuses. “Excuses are like armpits. Everybody’s got a couple and they both stink.” So what have I done since the 25th of April?

  • Mentored two 5th grade students for their PYP Project, including an afternoon at their presentations.
  • Guest-lectured in a 4th grade class about SCUBA diving as a passion and how it can lead to action (similar to the PYP Project they’ll complete next year…wonderful timing I didn’t plan).
  • Spent three days in the Danube Delta with the science department trying to find a new place for our Group IV project for our seniors next year. (Two of the three days were a weekend.)
  • Spent another day working with the science department on our curriculum. Exhausting work, but oh so necessary and helpful. I wish we could spend a whole week together. Without having to lesson plan for being gone.
  • Spent an entire day getting trained on our new student information system. (For which I’ll be the coordinator next year.)
  • Given up planning time for more training on the SIS for next year.

Oh, and I tried to teach, all while lesson planning for two days of being absent. Yikes! Now I have a huge number of tests and labs to grade. Which I should be doing right now, instead of writing to my blog. Who says procrastination is only for students?

But there is a point to all of this. If you’ve read some of my other posts, I’ve mentioned that I am going to pilot a flipped class model this spring for a unit. I’ve decided to flip the unit on Equilibrium for my DP students. I have a small mixed class of Standard Level and Higher Level students, so this will be an interesting experiment in differentiation. I have about a week and a half before I get to start the flipped class, so I’ve got some time to do more planning. I feel this is critical, as I need to make sure I do it right the first time so that I can evaluate my pilot. I’m also contemplating a small flipped unit with my Pre-DP grade 10 students, to give them a taste of what next year will be like. Wait, did I say ‘…WILL be like’? I meant to say, “..what next year MIGHT be like.” Next year I have two separate classes, one SL and one HL. So I won’t need to do as much differentiation. But I really think flipping the class might give the HL students the extra detail they need to be successful on Paper 2.

So there you have it. I’ve rambled on enough and need to get to marking.


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