Monday, April 27, 2015

The homework monster

This week for the #flipclass chat we were asked to blog about homework and how homework has changed over time.  Being a high school science teacher I did what I was taught and trained to do, which was "go home and do these problems and read the book and come back with the problems done."  I did this method, and did lectures in class, for the first 12 years of my career.
     I started to notice more and more students becoming more and more bored in my class, no matter what I did.  So, I decided it's not them it's me that needs to be changed and I started flipping my classroom.  I know from professional development I teach, that we need to make homework meaningful and not just busywork that cannot be done in class.  So, I started by having my regular physics students read a section at home and participate in a chat room on our districts moodle site.  The "lecture" session of class would simply be answering the questions the students had.  This morphed into the students asking if they could answer each others questions.  I loved this idea because it fostered the communications between the students that I wanted.  Then I attended an ISTE presentation about the video idea and I loved it!  I initially gave the students a note packet to fill out with four basic questions:  1.  Write a 3 sentence summary about what you watched  2.  What were the main terms of the presentation and the definitions?  3.  What were the mathematical formulas in the section?  4.  What questions do you have from watching the video?
     What I learned from this was the students are really bad at asking questions because they don't like to think about what they don't know, and these notes were too vague.  So, I tweaked the video sheet to be more topic specific.  As I analyzed this I realized this was mainly a note sheet, so I gave the students Cornell notes packets and encouraged them to use them.
     This system worked well, but what I really wanted was a quick assessment of the students to see what the students picked up from the videos, so I started using forms like this:
I have learned things from this:
1.  Students who did not work hard on traditional homework do not work hard on this.  They, like me when I was a student, will fly through an assessment if given the opportunity.
2.  I need to keep asking questions that pertain to the students and catch them.
3.  I need to teach the students how to ask questions for discussions.  My upper level physics students are good at this, but my conceptual physics students not so much.
     Now my students do the traditional homework in class.  I like it because now I can see what problems the students have and we talk about that.  I like the flipped model so much more because I get to work with the students and what they are working on at home and the students can work on advanced work at home, other than when they are spending the 20-25 minutes to fill out the video assessment.
     So, I went from a traditional homework method to the flipped model, and I really like it.  My students seem to like it.  The grades have improved from when I did this before, although I don't know if it is simply the kids.  The students now know that I know what they are constantly doing and are more open to ask questions.
    I would love to hear others thoughts, comments, questions on this topic.


  1. I spent so much class time in traditional physics (11th/12 adv phys) going over questions about the previous night's homework that flipping makes sense! I was tired of being the one doing all the thinking and having Ss watch me solve problems - time to equip THEM to do the work!
    1. I definitely agree that Ss who put forth little effort for trad. hw also tend to neglect hw on vids, no matter how short we make them. Hopefully the in-class activities are so meaningful (now that I'm not lecturing) that there is less need for direct instruction, live or on a vid.
    2. I love how you get your Ss talking to one another about problem solving! Has this continued? been modified? since flipping your class? Maybe these convos take place f2f now during class? I want them to continue the convo online even after class has been dismissed. Curious to know how that's working for you.
    Thanks for your insights!

  2. The conversations happen now in class, and the students are constantly helping each other with problems which, as you know, is a great thing. Another thing I have done is give the students the answers to the problems and they have to figure out how to solve them. Then they know if they are making mistakes and can work the problem, not just hope they did it right.
    I haven't figured out a good way to continue the conversations online.
    One of the fun parts of this process is watching the kids get excited when I answer their question they post. I had a student recently ask me if I did not like them because I did not answer their question. I asked them when they watched the video and they said they typically do it right before class starts. I told them I pull questions a little bit earlier than that so, if they want their questions answered, they can either do the work earlier or bring the question to class. They have been watching the videos earlier.
    JMaze, how does your flipped classroom work?

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