Don’t you hate it when….?

Don’t you hate when a student misses your class? Or how about when a student misses one of your tests? These two items have been hot topics at our school recently. They USED to get my blood boiling, but not so much anymore…..

Ranting and raving about how students needed to change was getting me nowhere, so I changed. That change was a move to the flipped classroom. I used to spend an enormous amount of effort getting students caught up and planning additional opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning.  This was time consuming and stressful. I have no kids, a wife who also teaches, so I was able to put in the extra time but I knew this was not sustainable, too much time…… By flipping my classes I alleviated these problems….by accident to be honest! Here is what I did:

1. FLEXIBLE TEST DEADLINES – I used to tell my students when their unit test would be and that date was written in stone. It didn’t matter if students were ready or not, they took the test. I would put a test in front of a student when both the student and I knew they were going to fail! To add insult to injury I had the student sit in front of that blank test for an hour.  In retrospect, this was abuse! What was I thinking? But that was the way things had always been done….Now I do things differently. Students earn an opportunity to take their test. They earn their test by completing the various unit activities I have put in place. They watch unit videos, they take notes, they complete assignments, they do journal entries and they show mastery on their quizzes. Once all of this is complete they take the ‘hot seat’ to demonstrate they have a sound understanding to me, 1 on 1. I sometime get students to summarize their learning and other times I grill them with big idea questions. If they are ready –  they write, if they aren’t – they keep working. Usually the students make the decision. Students are set up for success, not hoping for it. In addition to earning a test opportunity I now give flexible test deadlines. The test deadline is a goal for students to self-pace themselves to finish a unit. If on the deadline the student is not ready we have a conversation to see what happened. Perhaps they were weak on the content and needed more time, perhaps they had some issues going on personally, or more often than not they admit they mismanaged their time. The students in the last case are usually honest with me and happy that they are getting extra time. In my experiencethey buckle down and start managing their time better. A big lesson learned!

2. A CLASS WORTH GOING TO – My classes used to revolve around me lecturing. I would lecture for anywhere from 60-90% of the class time. My students would get a couple minutes to do some practice and would be left with doing the vast majority at home (if they could!). What point was there to come to class when they could watch the lesson online, read the text, or copy their classmates notes and hope for the best….. Now students come to class to do math. I was using my classroom time for my students to watch me do math, now we do / think / create / talk mathematically together. In class students are doing, it is active not passive. Students want to come to class because they are active and they are learning. It is not perfect, not even close, but things are getting better….


3. PERSONAL – My one size fits all traditional approach fit 50% of my learners. My top 25% were bored listening to me lecturing all day, and my bottom 25% were lost. Now I can better meet the needs of more of my learners because I have classroom time on my side. I speak to everyone of my students everyday! In class students do what they need to do, they take responsibility for their learning…..and they seem to like this…..A LOT!

When I hear that we need to drop the hammer on students or create an air tight attendance policy I wonder if we need to change students or if we need to change as teachers? I decide to change and things improved. 20th century teaching practices for 21st century learners were not cutting it……


About flippingmath

Math Teacher, Flipper, Blue Jays Fan
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6 Responses to Don’t you hate it when….?

  1. Bravo! This is why every kid who experiences Flip asks if Math can be the next subject flipped. It makes so much sense, so much more sense, than the one-size-fits-all approach that leaves so many students hating math as adults.

  2. flippingmath says:

    Thanks Quinn! I totally agree, learning is messy and the flipped classroom gives students the chance to make their own mess.

  3. I like the idea of flexible test deadlines, and students need to convince you that they are ready. I’m curious how the mechanism for these two things work, and what kind of evaluation you end up giving. Is there a flipped version of testing? How do you keep tabs on the varying rate of accomplishment of the students? Sadly, the most organizational difficulty I have is when a student is self-motivated, learns faster, and wants to go ahead.
    It often makes me think of the derogatory comment I would here from teachers and my father “don’t be smart!”.

  4. Oops… Typo on “here”.

  5. Sascha Sciandra says:

    So are you giving online tests, verbal, essay, traditional paper based tests?

    • flippingmath says:

      I get my students online formative assessment quizzes. I experimented with doing online assessments for my summative assessments as well but have recently moved away from that. My tests are now traditional paper and pencil tests that students take after they have had a short interview with me known as the ‘hot seat.’

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