Observing Students #flipclass #edchat

I have talked to a couple of people about how I used videos in my Algebra 1 class to OBSERVE students, particularly to see how they take notes and process material. In my 9th grade Algebra 1 class, I had a wide range of learning needs in the classroom. Students had a variety of learning accommodations and it was important that I customize the classroom experience to be able to reach each of them. I teach at a private school and my class sizes are small (this class was 15 students). I really strive to get to know my students as individuals. I make it a priority to work with each student individually as regularly as possible.

I didn’t flip my Algebra 1 class the way I did my AP Calculus class. But I did restructure things. And one of the most valuable things that I did was make videos, to be watched in class, that reviewed a topic that we had discussed. Students watched the video on their own computer (or in the computer lab), with headphones, while I walked around the room and observed. Some days, I just sat down with a student and watched it with him/her, trying to explain the note-taking skills that I thought most important to that student. I think that learning how to study is one of the most important skills that students can learn in high school. But often times, this is never directly taught. So I took this as an opportunity to do just that. And what was great is that I could individualize this instruction — because students must find what study strategies work best for them — and I was able to take the time to help them develop these skills.

Other days, I would use the video watching in class an opportunity to meet with students one-on-one to review an assignment or quiz. By that, I mean that students would be watching a video, and when I got around to them, they would pause and we would have an opportunity to work one-on-one. The reason this worked so well was that students didn’t need much help in watching the video… and I tried my best to make them engaging because this was quite an excited bunch of students :-) It amazed me how some of the same students who found focus such a huge challenge were so engaged when watching the videos with headphones.

Another thing I really focused on was using online tools to assign problems, whether the activity was in-class or at-home. I found that assigning problems which gave instant feedback was a huge aid for these students. I’m very interested in the gamification of lessons, but that is for another day… But this was another tool that proved most beneficial with this set of students.

I can’t say enough times that teaching is all about finding what fits your individual set of students! There is not one definition of what the flipped class is. Even for me, my definition clearly changes based on what class you are asking me about. It’s all about looking closely at your classroom, thinking about what you wish you could change, and then possibly looking to technology to provide that tool to solve something. Never look to the technology first. And teach with your heart :-)

*Edit: I forgot to mention that I always give my students ‘guided notes’, which consist of the question written and any necessary graphs (or with grid lines for them to practice sketching on). I find that this helps them with organization, focus, and writing with proper spacing and headings. I put guided notes in quotes because it’s not the fill-in-the-blank people often think. But I find that providing them with this packet to take notes in ensures that the finished product will be a lasting reference (particularly because the question and worked out solution are all in one place).

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