Flipping Out

There are only a few days left until the holidays, fatigue is setting in and patience is running low. There’s not a lot of energy left for planning for the New Year at this point, but there is a certain urgency for change.

In the three and a half years since I started teaching grade six math, one of the most significant lessons I have learned is that 11 year-olds don’t want to check their work. Perhaps it is because their teachers and/or parents have always been the ones checking their work and telling them whether or not they’re on track. Perhaps it’s because they would rather assume that they’re doing well than risk finding out that they’re not. Whatever the reason, the habit of checking work and doing corrections is one that I’m am constantly working to instill in my students.

I have tried a lot of different strategies. I have posted answer keys online. I have had kids applaud for themselves if they checked their answers. I have given check marks and happy face stamps. I have  involved parents in the routine. All the strategies have helped, but I still have students who do their homework and never know if they’re doing it right or, worse yet, students doing their homework wrong without ever being corrected. My frustration is compounded by the fact that there seems to be so little class time in which to support students on a one-to-one basis. If they’re not checking their own work, doing corrections and asking for help when they need it, they’re only get a fraction of the support from me that they need.

That is why I am flipping out. Strating in January, I will have my students do their homework in class. And, instead of spending most of the class on a lesson, I will have them do their lessons at home. My hope is that I can find enough suitable on-line videos, tutorials and interactive games that students can preview the material and come to class ready to at least attempt some related examples. I will be there to help the students who struggle and I will be there to re-inforce the use of answer keys and the habit of correcting work. I will be there to keep students on task when the work is hard. The students who finish quickly can move on to the more challenging problems without having to wait for those who still have questions. And, the students who still have questions will have time to ask for clarification before starting on their work.

I will admit to being a bit apprehensive, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Even if I end up flipping back to a more traditional approach after a while, I hope that the experience will have at least helped students develop some habits that will serve them well in the future.

Stay tuned for results and reflections…


7 thoughts on “Flipping Out

  1. Looking great Sarah. I’m planning on the same thing for my IB Math Studies courses, and I think Rick is considering it too. There are a lot of teachers who are considering for exactly the reasons you suggest.

    Make sure the students are “actively” watching those online videos and simulations. I’d recommend that they take notes, write down questions they have, etc…

  2. Good for you for having the courage to do the flip. It’s something that I have been thinking a lot about but I haven’t found the time or the courage to do it yet. Good luck and keep us posted.

  3. Trina says:

    I’m not a math teacher, just a parent interested in education, but this doesn’t make sense to me. When teachers are under fire from every level of government, why would you give them more ammunition by saying that “on-line videos, tutorials and interactive games” will be able to teach them the lessons just fine, leaving you free to only help the students who are struggling? So, good students never need a teacher? What I see happening is that the good students will watch their tutorials, do their work alone in class, never speak with you, and become even more disillusioned with school. Just another hoop to jump through. The bad students will not watch the tutorials and will come to depend on you to do their work for them every day. The majority will watch the videos because their parents are checking up on them (and as a parent I would be pretty annoyed if a teacher asked me to do this), but will not pay attention and will only be able to do the simplest problems before needing help. You’ll just end up giving the same lesson again and again to smaller groups of students. I hope I’m wrong and I wish you the best of luck. It sounds like you’re getting pretty frustrated.

    • I am hoping that the routine that we have established in class so far this year will support students in active, rather than passive, viewing of on-line tutorials. They are used to writing a question about the topic at the beginning of each lesson and then summarizing what they learned about the topic at the end of the lesson. My intention is that they will continue that habit at home and come to class with, at the very least, a hint about the day’s topic and a question about it. From there I will be able to group them according to their needs and help them with the practice assignment.

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