Back in January, I decided to try “flipping” my math lessons: having students preview a topic at home using online videos and tutorials, and then doing the homework assignment in class. At the end of the unit, I asked my students whether they liked the new routine or whether they wanted to go back to the previous routine. The response was pretty much an even split. The students who liked the new approach liked being able to stop, rewind, and review the videos and activities at their own pace. They also like being able to ask questions about the practice assignment and work with their friends. The students who didn’t like it missed the opportunity to ask questions during the lesson and felt pressured to understand the topic fully before coming to class.
As a class, we decided a revised version of the “flipped” approach suit us better. Here’s what we’re trying for the current unit:
- Students can post their questions about the preview material on an on-line forum. They can also use the forum to view and answer each other’s questions. The forum is set up so that I get e-mail notification of the posts, and I can monitor what students are asking and how they answer each other’s questions.
- At the end of the preview that students do at home, they reflect using one of three prompts: (1) I totally get it! I’m ready to try the practice assignment. (2) I think I get it, but I still have some questions. (3) I would like a mini lesson with the teacher at the beginning of class. This has helped to clarfiy that they don’t have to know everything when the come to class, they just have to know what their questions are.
- I have students do quick on-line quizzes on That Quiz when they are ready. Some do the quiz at home, immediately after having done the preview, some do the quiz in class, after having asked some questions and/or tried some sample problems. I can see the quiz results immediately and can then follow-up with students who appear to be struggling with the material.
I like this format a lot. In addition to giving me more time to work with students individually and in small groups, it helps students become more reflective about their learning. Students identify the questions they have about the topic before coming to class, they choose when to take the quiz, they ask for help when they need it. The students who have a solid grasp of the topic can spend class time trying more challenging problems and/or extend their learning by explaining concepts to their classmates.
My students and I also benefit from the undeniable draw of the computer. They seem much more willing to talk to each other about math from home via the online forum than in class. It makes math more social and, consequently, more approachable. Insofar as this experiment has helped to place mathematics in their lives outside of school, I will consider it a success!