Sunday, August 31, 2014

Flipping the Classroom: Grading with Technology

I had an epiphany yesterday...

Progress reports are due next week and I need to get some grades in the grade book. Here comes the predicament. The students are only doing work through three grade-able mediums.

  1. WQAs (Watch, Question, Answers- off their video lectures)
  2. Interactive Notebooks
  3. Weekly "Do Now" warm up sheets- they are practicing test taking strategies
WQAs are easy. It is online on Schoology and I am able to grade directly on the discussion board with a rubric that appears when I click on the student.

The next challenge is Interactive Notebooks. The students are expected to take some sort of notes over the videos they watch- Cornell Notes usually- then do some sort of activity. The activity to go with the notes can be things like a foldable, menu assignment, lab write up, diagram, pretty much anything student created.

The Problem

I do NOT want to carry back and forth 90+ composition notebooks NOR do I want to spend my precious weekend going into school to go through all of them. Because, let's face it, good grading only happens on the weekends.

Enter my epiphany

I figured out a feature on Schoology that makes it so the students can use an IPad/IPhone/Android to take a picture or pictures of their finished product and then make a submission in an activity that is labeled the same as their Interactive Notebook activity. Once they upload the picture I am able to view it, comment on it, grade it with a rubric and return it to them via their grade book. I was STOKED!

Assignments as the students see them in Schoology. They now have to make a submission in order to move on to the next activity. Notice how the Layers of the Earth Foldable is checked green. It is so awesome for the kids so they know exactly what they need to do.

They click on an assignment and on the right side is where it says to "submit assignment". I haven't tried to submit through the web based program, only the IPad and phone apps. The apps were super easy and I'm sure the computer is just as easy to operate. (Note: I have been doing the good teacher thing and blocking out the kids names- this particular site is my test one. Rosco is my dog-hence I didn't block it out. Every once in a while I'll have him comment on discussion boards and the kids think its hilarious!) 

On the teacher website it will show like this when I have assignments that are ready to grade.

I click on a students and scroll through their pictures they submitted. I am able to highlight, leave comments, draw and through each one of the rubric categories I am able to leave a comment.

It is awesome! I cannot wait to see how it works out grading tomorrow...

Mrs. C

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flipping the Classroom Series: Benchmark Assessment Map (BAM)

The biggest struggle in setting up a Flipped Classroom, for me anyways, was the organization. How am I going to get my students to receive the information they need, in a way that is easy to follow, so that they become self sufficient learners?

Enter the BAM- Benchmark Assessment Map. This organizer does a couple different things in a unit.

  1. Shows the student WHAT they will be learning- the exact benchmark as well as the supporting learning targets for that benchmark
  2. Shows the student HOW they will be learning it- I wanted the BAM to go in order. For example, this first unit, the student needs to know the Earth has layers and that one of those layers is the mantle before they can know that convection currents occur in the mantle. 
  3. Shows the student WHY they are learning it- this is always a big point with administration. They always like to not only ask the students what they are learning, but why are they learning it.
I did however run into a problem. Below is my first attempt at the BAM. Where it has the three components I wanted, it was not very clear to the students, which means they were not using it as a learning tool.

I was super proud of this creation until I noticed students were not completing assignments in order- like skipping watching videos and going straight into activities. So, I asked a couple classes on what they wanted to see on their BAM that would be most helpful for them. Below is the new BAM for the same unit.

The biggest complaint from the students with the original was that the order wasn't obvious, it was hard to figure out what needed to go in their Interactive Notebooks (even though it is posted on a LARGE Table of Contents in the back of the classroom) and it wasn't a "checklist". I did have another request to have how much each thing is worth, but I one girl put it best; "What does it matter how many points something is worth? You should do your best at everything." Well said, well said! 

I am going to give the kids the new BAM today and see if that improves the self-sufficiency/productivity of the classroom. Until then...

Mrs. C  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sub Binder...Finally

Sub days... in my opinion, I would rather come to school near death than have to plan for a sub. Unfortunately, stuff always comes up- planned and unplanned. Like today for example... good 'ole conferences. I thought, there would be no better time than now to share my sub binder. 

A little background- I did not even make a sub binder until year 4 of teaching, and the end of year 4 at that. It was just never a huge priority. I always thought that I HAD to be out I would know ahead of time or as punishment to myself I would drag myself in, dying, and fix up my room. 

No need!

This thing has anything a sub could ever want. Rosters, seating, phone list, behavior and so much more! The only thing I have to do really is write up a small one pager over the days lessons and done. And even that is taken care of now since doing the self-paced, flipped classroom. 

The cover- I may have a slight obsession with pink...and chevron. Why not make the substitute teacher suffer through it as well! :-)

What's Inside- I actually did a lot of research on what I wanted to put inside my binder since I really didn't want to touch it again once it was finished. I found this blog (My Organized Chaotic Classroom) and I really liked the stuff she had in hers. Obviously, being middle school, I have a slightly different set up so I had to modify but overall I really liked the content.

Daily Schedules- My school probably has the most confusing bell schedule on the planet. Everyday we see a different rotation of 6 out of our 7 classes and Wednesday we see our Advisory twice. I have had many a confused sub with the teacher version of the bell schedule which has the whole week made into a one pager. Where I killed more trees I feel like this was the easiest way to explain what classes would be coming in which days.

Procedures and Management- Whether the sub ever actually reads all this is beyond my control, but I feel better knowing that it is all there. The school does have a school wide system in place for discipline- refocus area in the classroom, buddy room, office referral. There is a sheet for each which I placed behind in a pocket divider for easy access.

Emergencies- Always good to know and I feel like I always miss something, hence the sticky.

To be honest, I am still working through the emergency sub plans. I do think, however, I might just put something on the flipped classroom website and call it good. I probably need to figure out something soon though because I am starting to feel a tickle in my throat... or the beach calling my mental health. ;-) Just kidding, but it is always good to be prepared.

Mrs. C

Monday, August 25, 2014

The 2014-2015 Classroom

Happy First Day to some and Happy Monday to others!

I know he probably doesn't read this blog but I do want to give special shout out to one of my very favorite people and THE best assistant principal I have ever had as he heads to his first high school gig! GOOD LUCK TODAY!! <3

Alright, to celebrate the school year officially on its way for everyone (and not just us crazy year-rounders) I am finally ready to share my classroom for this year. 

Room as you enter. I'm trying for a free seating like environment so I have a pod for tutoring, some groups for collaboration and some straightforward seating for those just wanting to watch videos or anything else individual like. 

As the students walk in. The black box is any paper assignments they have through Schoology. The baskets are anything the would need randomly (Cornell Notes, BAMs) The bin is for my AVID kids.

The front of the classroom.

RUBIES and "Ask 3 Before Me"

Capturing Kids Hearts- I did this training a couple years back and finally implemented it this year. I have these to remind myself and the students the hand signals.

Questioning Stems- We, as a whole school, are working on inquiry. This is my questioning stem wall. The students all have the question starters in their Interactive Notebooks.

My desk- I am really, really, really trying this year to stay organized. I have all my interactive notebooks, writing utensils and papers organized... for now. 

Table of Contents/Word Wall- I am having the students keep up with their own Table of Contents in their Interactive Notebook. I am going to try to include examples as well for them. I am also working on an interactive word wall. Right now we are working on layers of the Earth which is why that is the only one filled out.

Student Cubbies- Throwback to Lower Elementary! I have enough of these things for all of my Science students. I tell them if they don't want to take their notebook home I will house it for them so it does not get lost since it is SUPER important they keep up with it.

Binders- Again, REAAAAALLLY trying to stay organized. I have binders for pretty much everything- Student information, parent contracts that have been signed, any evidence for my professional portfolio, science standards and data from their pre-assessment. This year's motto: "If it doesn't go to a student it goes in a binder. If it doesn't go in a binder, it goes in the trash." We will see.

Happy Monday!
Mrs. C

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Year, New Classroom Set Up

Its a new school year!

Well, for a lot of people. Here in Hawaii we have year-round schooling which means I have been hanging out with a new crop of kiddos since August 1st. I do know, however, that some schools are just now getting back into session so I wanted to share some classroom ideas while I am still working on the Flipped Classroom Series.

This is my classroom from last school year when I taught a S.T.E.M. elective.

I am always a huge fan of ALL of my students facing the front during the firs couple weeks of school. I always do random assigned seating. Usually either matching numbers or cards. The last couple years I have gotten poor so I just placed numbers on the tables and gave the students index cards with numbers on them when they walk in. This system was much more effective when I had 6th graders. I had one 8th grade class this last year that thought they were funny and would switch cards when they walked in. It did not make for a very fun first couple of days. You live, you learn.

 I do however really love the tables I have. I ended up switching classrooms for this current year and made sure the tables came with. They are so versatile. I can have them be seating for one, two or push them together and make group tables. I am not a HUGE fan of allowing students to partner up the first couple days of school but you have to work with what you have.

 Bulletin boards... I tried doing a classroom economic system last year which quickly pattered out due to time and effort BUT it is a great idea. You give "cash" bonuses for students being extra awesome and fines for things like being tardy, rude or not doing their work. Again, it is a great idea in theory.

Mrs. C

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Flipping the Classroom Series: Videos & Accountability

Today marked the first day of actual flipped classroom time and it...was...AMAZING! It was like all the planning and straining and crying (well only a few tears) and it worked! IT WORKED! I know a lot of the questions I had when trying to flip the classroom came from two different things

1) Am I going to make my own videos or am I going to use previously made videos?
2) How am I going to hold the students accountable for actually watching said videos- regardless of what they are?

After weeks of trying to wrap my brain around this I finally called my very dear friend who is probably one of the best teachers I know (like Teacher of the Year in TWO different schools). My original thought was to have the students take notes and I give them a grade on the notes they take. My friend disliked the idea. She talked me about how even though this was going to be new and sparkly to my students it was going to lose its appeal very quickly if they were stuck taking Cornell Notes every night.

Good Point.

She also brought forth the idea and having the students create questions on an online discussion board- much like Facebook- instead. The kids like Facebook and they like commenting on each others stuff.


So, with all this planning and chatting the system I have come up with is as follows.

1) Students are assigned a video lecture to watch for "homework". I have been hunting for high quality lecture like videos that were already made. I chose the pre-made videos due to time and effort. I did not want to spend all my extra time (right now) making video lectures when I could find something with way more animation somewhere else. I will be keeping all videos under 10 minutes. Below is a sample video of one the kids just watched yesterday. Obviously I'm not wanting you to watch the video, even though these guys do an awesome job making it entertaining. Just wanted to give an idea of what I was looking for.

2) Students are highly encouraged to take notes. I tell them there notes can only be one more! They place their notes in an interactive notebook either directly or by taking them on a Cornell Note sheet and gluing them in later. The one page of notes does, in my mind, a couple different things. First, it forces the students to watch the video and determine the really important information, instead of writing down everything. Secondly, it keeps all interactive notebooks on the same page. I am not a fan of random interactive notebooks since it makes it really hard to help the students study if they can't find anything. And when I tell the kids that it is highly encouraged I explain to them that since I am not the one giving them the information I need to be able to see what they thought was important coming out of the video. I also tell them if they do poorly on their unit test and get a chance to retake, how am I suppose to help them if I cannot pinpoint where they went wrong. So far they seem to accept both of these.

3) Once they have watched the video (which I don't grade) and they take notes (which I am also not going to grade) they are then responsible for their WQA on the video. I did some tweaking of Flipping with Kirch's WSQ or "wisk" as she so lovingly refers to it. Where Kirch is using hers as a summary (S) and then a question (Q) that the students still may have about the material (which she goes over the next class), I was wanting more of an online discussion over the video. So, after the students watch the video the log in to their Schoology account and complete their WQA- watch, question, answer. They are to ask a question about the video, either a question they really have or if they think they got it a question that could be on a test. As a school we are working on levels of questioning and inquiry and I have provided anchors of question stems for the DOK levels of questions. Once the students ask a question they then have to respond to someone else's question in the class. I provided the students with a rubric on how I grade these. I am grading 1) their question- is it higher level and does it relate to the video 2) their mechanics- do they capitalize, punctuate and spell correctly 3) their response- does it relate, is it correct and 4) their online behavior- are they polite. Below is a look at one of the classes WQAs online. Obviously, we are still working on the mechanics piece but you can get the idea.

I still have some kinks to work out but overall I am pleased on how today went. I can't wait to keep going!

Mrs. C

Monday, August 18, 2014

Flipping the Classroom Series: Set Up

Good Afternoon!!

Coming into this new school year I found myself in quite a predicament. First, I am teaching 8th grade science which now comes with state testing. Second, that state testing is covering standards pretty much only taught 8th grade year. Lastly, the first round of that testing in done at the end of February. So, I need to get through a whole year of curriculum before the middle of February so I can prep and get these students ready for the ever popular state test.


Going into summer I knew this would be a challenge. I knew I wanted to give the kids as much of the curriculum as possible before the testing window and I knew that I needed to try something extreme. Here enters The Flipped Classroom. I did not want to spend my precious, valuable class time lecturing. I need class time to be work time- learning vocabulary, discovering solutions to real world problems, making connections, etc. This was going to be awesome!

I was going to try and explain how I am setting up my Flipped Classroom through a couple different posts so not to be on here forever typing. So, first thing is first, the online platform. I had to have a way to deliver lectures online and after looking around a trying a few different sites I have decided on Schoology. (I attached the link so you can check it out). I decided on this site for a couple of different reasons.

  1. Online discussions- I had decided after talking with a mentor teacher of mine that I didn't want to students to have to do anything too demanding when it came to holding them accountable for the videos, but there needed to be something in place. With Schoology the students are responsible for posting one questions and responding to another students question as their accountability piece. What I like the most about this is it lets the students reply directly to someone else's comment...a lot like Facebook which, of course, the kids love.
  2. An Order- I am not sure if other sites do this as well, but, I am in love with the "Student Completion" feature when creating folders. I was struggling with how to have the students go in a particular order (you need to know that the Earth has layers before you can understand that plates move) since I wanted to classroom to be sort of self-paced. This feature makes it so that a student has to complete a certain activity of action before they are allowed to move on to the next task. GENIUS! If you notice in the picture I have finished the first activity so it checks green, I'm on the second activity so the title is blue but it isn't checked off yet and the lab is still in all grey so I can't even click on it. 
  3. Update Board- Again, I am sure that other sites have this but I found it extremely useful today. I actually took a personal day today for a doctor's appointment and gave my students a folder they had to complete. I had some trouble with previous classes about grammar and used the Updates to remind the students what the expectations were. As you can see they thought they were funny. :-)
  4. Apps- This part has made my day off SO amazing! Schoology has a free app on Apple products and Android. I was in the doctors office and participating in Period 3 (and 4... I was there for a while)'s online discussions. I was getting alerts when anyone posted and was able to answer any questions immediately. All from across the island. AWESOME!
I am beginning my first official unit this week and will be posting more details about how the classroom is physically set up and how it all goes. 

Mrs. C

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Updated Site

I was surfing around random sites yesterday and I happen to come across a Blogger page. This Blogger page that I haven't been on in almost two full school years! A lot has changed in the past two school years and I thought I should update.

Changed teaching assignments- I am no longer teaching 6th grade in Austin, TX. My husband and I decided to take a leap of faith and crazy and moved 4000 miles across an ocean and have set up life as we know it in Honolulu, HI. I am still teaching. I taught a STEM elective, Health, AVID and Yearbook last year and got back to Science this year teaching 8th grade.

Instructional delivery- I have embarked on a new adventure this year and have decided to set up my first ever flipped classroom! I am so excited to see how it all works out.

I have decided to continue on this blog and will be posting about the flipped classroom, capturing kids hearts and any other piece of the classroom I feel would be helpful in the conquest of teaching those middle years!

Mrs. C