Science in the City

May 30, 2013

What Are Your Thoughts on The Flipped Classroom?

If you follow my facebook page, you may have seen the discussion a week or so ago about the Flipped Classroom idea.  If not, I'll summarize here:

These comments really got me thinking...on three tangents....(1)what is necessary for a flipped classroom to be successful.  (2) How different is it? (3) Why is it better? (Or why all the buzz?)

(1) I see the following necessary ingredients: available technology to students, motivated students who do homework and come prepared to class, available technology for teachers to be able to provide the instructional videos.  I think the last one is not such a problem.  I do see the first two as a barrier, particularly where I teach.  HOWEVER, maybe this is a place to use time periods like extra help, afterschool, study halls, AIS, or however your class is structured and make it more individualized by providing video instruction?  Particularly if a teacher can't help 20 kids individually.

(2) I don't think its fundamentally different for science.  It seems to be catching on more in math, and I think it is fundamentally different there.  In math, we are all familiar with the model where the teacher does examples, you go home and practice (and get stuck).  It makes sense to 'flip' this.  In science, however, I think there are already a lot of cases where students are supposed to read outside of class, or practice vocabulary, etc, and come to class prepared to do the hands-on part. This could be extended and altered so that it happens even more often, and so that more of the analysis and writing/processing happens in class.

(3) The idea of 'flipping' is very in line with current technology, student interests, and even common core.  Common core asks students to read, but also to analyze information from different sources, and to do more with the information . It allows more individualization, to a point.

Here is a really interesting analysis and discussion, in addition to the two websites offered above.

However, I don't see my classes, in my current setting, getting to the point she talks about.  I think the 'flip' might have to be an intermediate step.....

Have you tried it? Have thoughts or feedback to share?  I'd love to hear it as I begin to reflect and think theoretically about next year.  (Cause we have the summers off, right?)

Thanks for reading! 

May 27, 2013

Learning About Teaching With Case Studies

This is a short post to share a resource with you. If you aren't familiar with the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science you should check it out.

 This is primarily a high school and college resource, although it could perhaps be modified to lower age levels. When I taught AP Environmental Science, I used these case studies quite a bit.

I have had mixed results with middle school doing anything similar.  They need a lot of modification.  However, as I transition back to high school, I plan to try to use these more.  I think the roll-out of Common Core, and increased non-fiction reading is a perfect place and reason to use case studies.  It forces students to read and comprehend non-fiction, and could be a great jumping off point to build in more current events and news articles from around the world (which is one of my goals for next year).

There are a couple of cases designed for middle school, others for general/information education, and the cases are searchable in many ways.

Each year they have a fall conference to learn about teaching with case studies.  I have wanted to attend, but never have.  This year, there is a special piece of that conference for high school teachers, and a scholarship for high school teachers.

Wish me luck, and definitely check out the website for your own classroom use, or just for ideas.

A modification of a case, along with the supporting lesson plan materials that I created when I was student teaching are still posted here

I used this case as a jumping off point for sock mitosis (picture is students doing the same activity, but not my students, from

I have used this lesson since then with high school kids (good results) and middle school kids (pretty good results)...they didn't get all about mitosis, but they definitely got the larger picture and remember, still, that errors during the egg formation can cause Down's Syndrome.  Guess they learned something!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

May 26, 2013

This is What Happens When You Make Student Progress Public

There has been a big push at our school, and at many places, to use data, and to share that data with students. The idea is that we are all "speaking a common language" of data. I understand the sentiment, but am not sure which data is meaningful to students, and how to present it in a way that is valuable, and confidential.

Personally, while I want them to know that they need to catch up, and develop some sense of urgency, I'm not sure Lexile levels and Aimsweb or NWEA scores will do that for them. Also, those scores don't tie directly to their grades, or anything else tangible and valuable to them.  In my classroom, I do two things to make some of their data visible to them.

1.  I post students current grade score sheets, by their ID number, every Monday. Kids get very quickly used to coming in on Monday morning, looking at their grade, and then trying to look across and see why their grade changed from last week (you know it's very mysterious!). 

That looks like this.

If they have been absent, they can match up the titles of the assignments to figure out what they are missing.  They can then go to a file crate with all the past work filed to find the assignments that they are missing.  I just keep the assignments in sequential order, and try to match up the titles.  I have seen another teacher who numbers them, which might be an idea to try for next year, particularly if you have a lot of attendance problems, and need students to be able to make up work easily.  

2. The second way, also updated weekly, is to post a graph in the hallway for a competition between classes. The two lines shown are class average and amount of homework turned in.  There is going to be a prize for the winning class. I also update this every week.  This allows them to see their part in the grades and progress of the whole class.

What do you do to share data with students?  Or do you?  How important do you think that is?  

Please share in the comments! 

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