Category Archives: flipped classroom

Gamifying My Flipped Classroom

I have been doing reading on gamification and its impact in the classroom for a while. I have seen posts on Twitter and blogs from a variety of teachers who are making it work, but it just never seemed like it was a good fit for my classroom. How do you add games to Chemistry?!

I have been listening to Chris Aviles a lot recently and his system really seemed to make sense. Think of a typical role-playing game and you will see that the classroom isn’t much different. The student is the game’s main character with certain abilities. The people in your group are your guild that you compete with. The assessments are the Quests your character must go through and accomplish in order to “level up.” And the classroom is the world in which you are currently competing. When you look at it from this perspective, gamification of the classroom should be a piece of cake.

But here is the other problem my co-teacher and I were having with this idea when I presented it to her last year. Some kids just don’t like to play games. Whether that be an actual video game or the game of school, some just don’t have the personality or the abilities to compete. It would take the right combination of students with the right personalities and the right level of ambition/competitiveness to make this work.

And so entered my 6B class.

When we played Nomenclature Boggle a few weeks ago, this class was cut throat. They are yelling their scores to each other, racing to finish just one more word before the timer ran out, and did it all with smiles on their faces. Some of the students in the class had accrued more points in 2 rounds than one of the other classes did in 3. I knew that this class would be totally into a system that allowed them to compete against each other.

So here is how everything works (and this very much follows . The class still has all of the same assignments as it would have before: Tests, Quizzes, Labs, HW, Quarterly. The average a student has in each of these categories averages to give them their Experience Points (XP). The students can also earn Achievement Points (AP) for a variety of additional tasks, some earned by behavior in the class, some outside. For example, asking an Awesome Question earns 50 AP, wearing your school ID is 10 AP, getting your name on the morning announcements is 100 AP. AP combines with XP to form a student’s Level in the class. So, someone who is a C student when it comes to assessments can actual have a Character Level above someone who is an A student because of AP. I have published 5 of these AP Badge categories for the students and the remaining 10 I came up with are all hidden. Once any student in class achieves that Badge, I will then publish it for all to see. Why do I keep it hidden? I want the students to be themselves, not purposely do things just to earn points. Plus, as Chris mentions, it leaves me a way to reward something a student does without having to predict it in advance.

But, the real key to all of this is the spreadsheet that I got from Chris. Here is a screenshot of it.Gamification Leaderboard screenshot

This spreadsheet keeps track of all the points the students earn during the marking period from either XP or AP. I have hidden the names of the students so you can only see their Character Names and Guilds. But, the real genius of all this comes from the script that Chris and one of his students wrote to automate the entire process. Here is a shot of it:Gamification Points Site

This is a website created from the Leaderboard spreadsheet that allows me to check off any student (names were removed from screenshot), Guild, or even whole class, and assign AP to them. Only myself and my co-teacher can see this site so students never know the hidden Badges nor can they cheat and assign extra points themselves.

So, we are off on a new adventure in 6B (no pun intended). We are flipping, doing guided-inquiry, and now gamifying the classroom. From Day 1, I have told my students that this is a ‘Classroom in Beta’ and to expect crazy on any given day. Now let’s see how crazy this actually gets!

[The files created by Chris Aviles can be found at Chris’ Teachers Pay Teachers site. Please also reach out to him (@techedupteacher) for additional information and assistance in setting up your class]

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What does a typical #flipclass lesson look like?

“What does a typical flipped lesson look like?”

This is one of the most common questions I get asked when I talk to educators about the Flipped Classroom. The truth is there isn’t a “typical” lesson in my class. Every class has a general plan, but since each student is working toward an individual goal, each day is different. But, my classes on Monday went really well so I wanted to share what was happening along with some pictures to illustrate.

On Monday, we were finishing the work we were doing on Electron Configurations and starting the unit on Naming and Forming Compounds. I had a DO NOW on the screen asking students to write the electron configurations for Zn, Ba, and Rn. Since the lesson on EC was 4 days prior (one of the negatives of block schedule) most of the class was confused. I asked a student who felt he knew EC’s well to come up to explain it to the class and answer their questions.

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Now came the divide. The students who were still struggling and wanted more practice were given a few more elements to complete on the side whiteboards. Those who were ready to move on worked on the “Homework.” Homework is in quotes because I don’t assign outside of class HW other than to find Chemistry in the world around you. All homework is actually classwork, but it is called homework for the traditionally minded. As the students finished the HW, they gave it to me or my co-teacher to grade and provide feedback on the spot. If they did well, they moved onto the assignment posted in Google Classroom; if they didn’t they were given the opportunity to complete another. [Note: we use a modified mastery learning system in which students can complete up to 4 versions of any of our Quizzes, HW, Tests, or Projects. Some students do it just to add extra grades; some do it to offset low grades. No matter what all are more knowledgeable at the end.]

Now, the assignment posted in Google Classroom kicked off the next unit we were studying. There were 2 instructional videos to watch (both less than 5 min), a Self-Check Quiz in a Google Form (which was auto-graded by Flubaroo with the score and answer key emailed in return immediately), and practice problems to complete (yes, you can read that as a worksheet). The practice problems are necessary because we are at a point where drill and kill is a necessary technique to get students to truly understand what is happening.

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Now, this is why I can’t give you a traditional lesson. At this point in the block, I have 3 levels of students: those still working on the Electron Configuration HW because they needed that extra practice, those taking notes, and those working on the practice problems. That is 25 students spanning 2 different units. But, if a class didn’t have the faster learners, they might all have stayed together on the same topic for longer. I can’t predict that until we are actually in the middle of the lesson somewhere.

The Flipped Classroom isn’t a magic bullet and I don’t think that I am a good teacher just because I use it. What I do know is my students get a greater level of support from their teachers because of it. My faster learners no longer feel like they are being held back, the students who need more support get more attention from me and get more of their questions answered, and I get to talk to every student every day.

The beauty of the Flipped Classroom is that no 2 classes look exactly the same. My Flipped Classroom will and SHOULD look different from yours. You have different kids, a different school, and you are a different teacher. No matter what you do or how you do it, just remember to make the time that you spend with your students meaningful!

[Author’s Note]: this post was originally written at the beginning of October, but was never posted.

My first #flipclass #flashblog

There is a Flipped Classroom chat going on every Monday from 8-9pm EST using the hashtag #flipclass. Like most chats, there is a topic and moderators and I am usually so busy doing other things I forget about it and miss the entire conversation. But, anyway.

Something unique that they do is ask all participants to stop what they are doing at that moment in the chat and write a blog post on the spot discussing their ideas. Then you need to post it back to the chat so everyone can read. As usual, I missed the entire chat, but I tuned it for the topic of the #flashblog: How do you experience community outside of your classroom or school?

Now I get to do what I love the most: talk about my amazing students.

I am the building advisor for the town’s Relay for Life event. This is event is community, not school, based. We have hundreds of attendees, all from the surrounding areas, and only about half of those present are students. This year, my school’s teams raised over $20,000!! That brings our 3 year total to just a hair over $60,000! I am so proud of my students. Most of them stay up with me all night long. We walk the track for hours, participate in all sorts of events throughout the night, gossip, each ridiculous amounts of junk food, and have a great time. Here are some pictures from this year’s event.

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I love participating in this event. Not only does it raise money for an extremely worthy cause, it helps me build stronger relationships with my students.

PS: I have no idea why the photos formatted the way they did. I just inserted them and that’s how they came out.

School Leader Magazine Article

I was asked to write an article for School Leader Magazine–a magazine published by the NJ School Board Association. For those of you not a Superintendent or BOE member in NJ, I wanted to share my ideas with you.

Let’s Stop Talking About Flipped Classrooms and Start Talking About Flipped Learning

A chemistry teacher describes how he refined his approach to a flipped classroom
By Marc Seigel

I will never forget the exact moment that I became complacent.


It was October of 2010, my tenth year in education. I walked in on a Monday, sat down at my desk, opened the folder of my laptop that contained all of my PowerPoints, opened the one pertaining to the unit I was starting that day, and suddenly felt like I was punched in the gut. You see, I hadn’t spent a single minute over the weekend preparing lesson plans or even thinking about what I was going to be teaching that day. My instructional routines had become so automatic and my grasp of the content so precise that I didn’t even have to engage my brain to produce a lesson for the day. My classroom was generally running on autopilot. I knew at that moment that something needed to change and it needed to happen fast.


It just so happened that about two weeks later, I was skimming a publication from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and stumbled across an article about two chemistry teachers (Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams) in Colorado who were using videos they had posted online to teach content to their students. About two years prior, I had begun recording example problems on an interactive whiteboard using a video camera and posting them to my website, but they were only there to supplement what I was already doing. I never considered recording my entire lesson for my students to watch. My students commented how helpful it was to see those problems a second time when they were at home so why wouldn’t seeing an entire lesson help them? So began my flipped classroom story.


Flipped Classrooms: 101 A “traditional” flipped classroom centers on the idea that lectures normally given in class are recorded and posted in some form for the students to watch for homework. The videos might be posted to YouTube, a teacher website, copied to a flashdrive, or burned to a DVD. A typical 45-minute lecture could be boiled down to about 10 or 15 minutes. Students would take notes, just like they would normally do in class, then come to class ready to engage in something to reinforce the material they learned the night before.


This is exactly how I began my first flipped unit. I chose a fairly easy unit (since I teach chemistry, I chose writing and balancing reactions), something with which my students had always found success. They would go home, watch the videos I recorded using Camtasia Studio from TechSmith and posted on my YouTube Channel (http://bit.ly/seigelchemistry), come to class, and do the homework they normally would have done at home. It was fantastic! Every time a student began to struggle, I was right there to answer his or her questions. The students wouldn’t go more than a few minutes being confused and would immediately get right back to getting their work done. I still gave the same checking-for-understanding quizzes I had always given, the same labs, the same tests. The only thing that changed was where the homework assignment and the lecture happened.


The best part about this method, for me, was students could move at their own pace. Some students would watch all of the videos in one weekend, show up on Monday and just plow through all of the graded assignments. Some students would have the laptops open on their desk (at the time we had Dell mini-laptops, but I now have a cart of Chromebooks) and watch the video as they completed the homework. Some failed the homework assignment even though they took good notes, went back to the videos in class, and had the opportunity to fix the mistakes they made. None of this would have been possible in a traditional model with me controlling every aspect of the daily routine.


This system worked really well. But then I soon realized things were starting to unravel. Since everyone was completing the same homework assignment, and different students were moving at different speeds, slower students figured out that if they just wait for the faster students to complete the assignments, they could just copy their work when it was returned. Also, students who were not good at managing their time in class properly, fell far behind (sometimes weeks behind) and were turning in an entire marking period’s worth of assignments on the last day before grades were due. This last situation caused a tremendous amount of work for me and meant that the students were not getting the timely feedback they needed to be successful.


Once again, things needed to change, and fast.


Stop Focusing On Classrooms and Start Focusing on Learning Those educators who have been successful with a flipped classroom have begun to move to a flipped learning approach. Both are centered on the essential question: What is the best use of my face-to-face time with my students? However, it is the mindset that is different.
  • Flipped Classrooms allow students watch lectures at home and engage in homework in school. Teachers guide students through a series of worksheets or more traditional activities that help them reach objectives and gain the knowledge necessary to pass assessments.
  • Flipped Learning allows educators to use a variety of teaching methodologies to help students reach a learning objective. (www.flippedlearning.org) Rather than focusing on the content they need to learn, students are engaged in activities that teach both content and skills that are necessary for success. The classroom is a dynamic and collaborative environment where all levels of learners are supported.


So, what does this dynamic, collaborative learning environment look like? Well, that’s the beauty of flipped learning–every educator customizes it to fit his or her school, students, and personal abilities. Some teachers use pre-made videos on the Internet; some make their own. Some are the only teachers in their building/district flipping; some are part of an entire flipped school. Some teachers use only their traditional assignments; some allow the students to design their own work. This is not a pre-packaged curriculum–something you just order from a company and everything you need is already inside. Let me tell you what a typical unit looks like in my flipped environment.


One unit my students learn about is solutions. On the first day, the students will participate in a guided-inquiry activity called Introduction to Solution Making (http://bit.ly/seigelsolutionmaking) in which they will learn about calculating concentration of solutions by making two cups of fruit punch. There are no procedures other than for them to make two cups of fruit punch the way they like to drink it. After they make the drinks, they read farther down and it tells them to use the mass of powdered drink they measured and the volume of water they used to calculate the concentration. This is when they realized they didn’t measure anything and have to start again.  Note: While learning how to calculate concentration is the main learning objective, students learn more through their mistakes of solution making. At the end of the activity, the students are free to drink their solutions while they watch the instructional video about calculating concentration (which is linked in the Google Doc of the lab).


The video on concentration is embedded in a Google Form. Below the video are three self-check questions for the students to complete at the conclusion of the video. These questions are modified questions from the unit test and align to the district quarterly assessment. When they answer the questions and hit “submit,” a tool called Flubaroo provides both the student and the teacher feedback on the student’s understanding of the material, and he or she can ask the teacher questions about any errors or misconceptions and get the immediate assistance they need.


Students now move through a series of both required and optional assignments for the unit, which have been detailed on an assignment chart distributed on Google Classroom and on the first day of the unit. (bit.ly/seigelsolutions) While some assignments are labeled as required, I have given the students the freedom to either supplement or replace these with assignments they have designed. This gives all students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding in ways that better suit their needs.


The Future of Flipped Learning Is Now The flipped model does not only apply to teachers and students. Administrators can flip faculty meetings or professional development by giving teachers something to read or research in advance and then engaging them in discussion and activities when the group comes together. Advisors can flip club meetings. The culture of learning has changed for students and schools. When the accumulated knowledge of the human race is sitting in your pocket, teachers no longer need to be the sole source of content knowledge, but rather, need to direct students toward ways to find their own understandings of how to use that content appropriately.

Flux

I have been very bad about posting updates from my classroom. I even signed up to do the blog challenge from #YourEduStory in an effort to force myself to write more and I still failed.

The first assignment was to pick the word that is going to define you in 2015. The challenge was a lot harder than I thought as there were a lot of words that came to mind. I have used Awesome and Audacious before, and while I still love and strive for those words, I know that I will not expressly be striving for either of those things.

I realized that the word that will probably best define my classroom will be FLUX.

When I first started flipping my classroom, I realized that I needed to radically change my thinking about how learning and grading occurred. Over the last 5 years, change has just become a constant for me. In the 2014-2015 school year, I have changed at least 1 thing about every unit I have taught in every course. It may be something simple like changing the HW set for AP, modifying the unit Test, or completely revamping the entire way the Gas Laws unit is taught (which I will write about next week after I try it).
While it is absolutely exhausting and I feel like I am in my first year of teaching all over again, it has also been exhilarating! When I sit with my in-class support teacher to discuss the frustrations I am having with our current system, I get so excited in developing something I have never tried before. 
The best part about having a classroom that is in flux is I have created students who are willing to take risks with me. They know that I am constantly changing class, always looking for improvements. Because of this they remain flexible and open-minded for anything that I might throw their way.
Flux is tough. I often get to the end of the week and think I should just drop all of this and just do it the way I have always done it. Then I stare at my empty classroom and reflect on all of my successes. That’s when I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Transitioning from direct instruction to a Flipped Classrrom

I am writing a pair of articles for Carolina Biology Supply for their monthly newsletter that it is sent to science teachers around the country. I am not sure when they will actually appear, but I wanted to share the first one here.

This year will be my 5th year flipping HS Chemistry. My learning environment is very different than many of my colleagues and I find that my students function better by transitioning into a flipped model of instruction than by simply jumping straight into it at the beginning of the year. I start the year by changing their mindset about learning by altering my assessments (using mastery and student choice) and lab activities (introducing guided-inquiry), and then start using video for instruction about 2 months into the school year. By the time I remove myself from the front of the room and put myself onto the computer, they are so used to thinking differently that the adjustment period is much shorter.
If you are thinking about flipping your classroom, here are a couple of methods that have worked for me for transitioning the students:
  1. Use the videos to start a class discussion–The TED Ed website (ed.ted.com) is a wonderful resource for finding short, animated science videos to illustrate topics and taking the first steps toward using video for instruction. Just How Small Is an Atom? by Jon Bergmann (http://bit.ly/smallatom) and How Big is a Mole? by Daniel Dulek (http://bit.ly/chemistrymole) are two that I use as starter activities to introduce a lesson and begin a discussion on a topic. The TED Ed videos work well because the content is created by educators for educators so it uses simple terms and also gives real-world analogies to make it easier for students to understand. Also, the animation is excellent and helps keep kids’ attention. The TED Ed videos can also be used for instructional purposes as well. One of the few instructional videos I use in my AP Chemistry class is How to speed up chemical reactions (and how to get a date) by Aaron Sams and Mark Paricio (http://bit.ly/kineticsreactions). This video perfectly summarizes everything my students need to know about collision theory and reaction rates for the Kinetics unit. I assign this video for HW, ask them a series of follow-up questions the next day, then we perform a rate-law lab that demonstrates what they learned in the video. Students are then required, as part of their conclusion statements, to explain how the different reactions in the lab illustrate the methods for speeding up the chemical reaction that was shown in the video.  
  2. Record examples you complete in class–The first instructional video I created was simply a recording of me completing two example problems in class. A student made a comment that she really wished there was a way to hear me explain the hard examples again when she was studying. I used a video camera to record the computer monitor while wrote everything out on the interactive whiteboard (IWB) and then dubbed my voice over the writing later. You can do this easily now simply by asking a student to come by during lunch or after school, handing him/her your cell phone, and asking him/her to record what you write on the board. It will take 5 minutes to record and seconds to upload to YouTube or your website. Or, if you have an IWB, use a program like Snagit by TechSmith to capture all of your writing to share later.
  3. Instructional videos as notes only, no examples–One comment my students make is that either my videos are too long (keep them to under 10 minutes!) or that I provide too many examples. What I have started to do is create two sets of videos: one that is strictly notes that contain things like definitions or diagrams, and a second that contains only examples of how to solve problems. Some of my students watch the videos on their bus rides to athletic events and say they can’t concentrate well enough on a bus to truly understand the problems I show, but the definitions are easy to get down in their notebook without much thinking.
  4. Hold Student Accountable.  What you will need to remember, regardless of the purpose of your video, is you must hold the students accountable for watching the videos. You can use a Cornell notes system, have students generate original questions based on what they learned, tie all assessments directly to the learning in the videos, or have them complete reflection logs after each video. Kids are used to watching videos for entertainment only. You need to help them see them as learning tools as well and help them develop ways that aides in retention of that learning.


I hope these tips are helpful as you transition from a classroom utilizing a lot a direct instruction to a flipped classroom. Video is a powerful way to excite students about a topic and to deliver content that will help you better utilize class time.

Grit

I have been running into problems this year with how I structure my Flipped Classroom.  I am facing all of the usual issues:  students not watching the videos, not using their time effectively in class, goofing around, and copying of papers.  I have a variety of policies in place to help limit the impact of these on the flow of the class.  But there was something else going on this year and I couldn’t figure out what it was exactly other than it seemed like students just gave up.  At least that’s how it felt.  As soon as something challenging was placed in their path, instead of working harder to overcome it, they just simply stopped trying.  Or, at least, they found the path around it with the least amount of work necessary.

I was an overachiever (actually still very much am) so I thrived when given the opportunity to use my creativity and imagination into developing a novel solution to a problem (probably would have made a great engineer if there wasn’t so much Calculus involved).  In every unit, students were given a list of optional assignments they could complete instead of the required ones, all non-traditional and creative, and nearly none of them were tried.  Actually, over 5 months, exactly 3 students (out of 105) tried the alternate assignments.

I was stumped.  My students were saying they wanted to do more creative work, I provided ideas for them, and they stuck with the traditional.  There had to be a rationale for this.  Then I saw the TED Ed Talks on PBS and saw the following segment:

LIGHTBULB!!  My students lack grit.  Actually, not all of them, just the majority.  The students who were excelling and getting the most from my class, truly demonstrating learning not just getting A’s, were the ones with the most grit.  Teenagers today have learned to play school.  They have learned to take the easiest route to getting the highest GPA.  Sure many of them load up on AP classes (another blog post coming soon about a conversation I had today with a student who is taking AP Music Theory even though he doesn’t play an instrument), but they do so to pad their GPAs not because they are interested in the content.

Did school beat the grit out of kids?  If so, how do we teach it to them so they can be successful?

Teenagers say they “survived high school.”  Why?  Are the ones who survived the only ones gritty enough to do so?  What do schools need to revived in order to bring some of the joy back to learning?

Ok, PLN, need your help with these questions.  Please leave your comments below so we can start a meaningful conversation.  I know some of my students are reading this and I want to hear your comments, too.