I’ve been putting off writing this COETAIL post for a while. It’s bittersweet. I mean, this is it, the final COETAIL project in the final COETAIL course. It went by too quickly. I’ve really loved becoming a part of this community and learning with everyone. I’m happy for my accomplishments and what I’ve learned. I’m also sad that the course has come to an end, that there will be no more meetings, no more required posts, no more projects that will force me to push forward. I have to keep it up by myself, but I’m excited for that as well.
Choosing a Project
I was stumped when I started brainstorming units to transform for my Course 5 final project. Since beginning COETAIL last spring, I already transformed many different aspects of my classroom using technology especially during this part of the year. In Science the students are busy researching and creating their Animals and Habitats Collaborative Map. In Writing workshop students finished publishing their reviews on our class website and are now in the middle of drafting, revising, and publishing their imaginative stories on Google Docs. In Reading, students are required to do a weekly Online Article Responses in Reading to prepare them for online reading. These were all the things that I had implemented last year when I started COETAIL.
Besides just tweaking how I lessons and the projects unfold during the unit, I didn’t see another area that could be transformed and redefined. Except… in Math.
See, by this point the multiplication unit I transformed in Course 4 was already finished with great results. However, as I taught our measurement unit, I went back to my old ways of teaching and so came back the old pitfalls: not knowing how much my students really understood, teacher directed time in the classroom was maximized as student interaction was minimized, etc.
Both the kids and I could see that math wasn’t as effective as our multiplication unit. A “mini-lesson” about the day’s topic followed by independent practice didn’t lead to productive or effective math learning. I had students ask me every day if we were going to do “circle math” that day. They were honestly bummed when I said no. I knew I needed to get back to “Math Workshop” and continue transforming math.
Planning for a Long Term Sub
Near the same time that I decided to continue my Course 4 project, I found out some unfortunate news. I needed to have a surgery which couldn’t wait for summer break. This meant that in the midst of all the busy spring term I would need to take a leave of absence for an extended period of time and a substitute would need to carry on with the rigorous curriculum and implement my COETAIL project.
Many teachers have the problem of creating sub plans when we are sick. We are pretty much known for wanting suck it up and go into work rather than create lesson plans for a substitute teacher. Creating plans for a teacher who doesn’t know your class like you do can be an excruciatingly painful thing to do especially when you are ill. Subs don’t fully understand expectations across the board, outcomes for each and every step along the way, accountability to previous knowledge, etc, etc, etc. Heck, I don’t know how many times I’ve even come back from being sick expecting my class to be at Point B but they haven’t even left Point A yet. The substitute decided they didn’t need to follow the plans I prepared because they felt “kids need more science.”
Add my tech heavy curriculum in the mix of that… What would happen with I had a sub who doesn’t know how to use Google Docs? Who doesn’t know precious balance between collaborating via comments and producing work? What if I had a sub who is not savvy on moving from tab to tab application to application in a web browser. It could be total chaos—for two weeks in my classroom, with me coming back to pick up the pieces…
You can see how much I was tore over having to leave for two weeks. I knew we just couldn’t afford two weeks of classroom time wasted to your typical “filler” substitute lessons. No, my sub was going to have to continue the curriculum without missing a beat. I didn’t want the students learning to be interrupted or halted just because I couldn’t be there to teach them. I needed to come up with a way to continue the pace of learning without losing quality and rigor.
Technology Transforms Sub Planning
So, I planned and I over planned. I practically made a flow chart of if-then-what scenarios, then I realized I was going overboard. In the end, I shared all unit and lesson plans via Google Drive which included pictures of anchor charts, unit folders with lessons and activities, brief plans for a break down of every day with suggested pace for projects, lessons, and activities. Students use computers for science, writing, and reading, my substitute needed to have full access to the shared student folder where my whole class puts all of their work. She was able to access their work just as I do.
I know I was supposed to be resting completely and not thinking about work at all during this time, but resting is so boring!! My substitute and I communicated via the planning docs. We used the commenting features to highlight a specific area we had a question or suggestion and kept the conversation much like my class does when working on their projects. She would also leave me notes after every day. I cannot tell you how helpful it was to get the notes for the day immediately rather than finding the post-it on your desk the next day. I can go into class on Monday knowing exactly where the kids are, knowing that they got to Point B and are ready to move forward.
The two weeks I had to miss could have been a huge nightmare for the class in the middle of everything we had going on. It could have been total chaos. Thanks to detailed planning, to a highly capable and open minded substitute teacher (aka rockstar), to a pretty responsible class, and to technology (how I love technology), I’m going to return to my class on Monday and know exactly where they left off and how to pick up and continue moving forward without losing precious time in the classroom.
Flipped Math with a Sub
So, my sub had to fill in my shoes for my COETAIL project. I guess that’s the true test of the unit. Was the sub able to understand, follow and teach the lessons, and were the kids learn what they needed to learn?
To prepare, I made all the copies of the practice work and put them in a file folder one for each day. Inside the file folder were six copies to the practice work. I have always been slow at marking and getting feedback to the students quickly, so I had the students switch to using pens and correcting their own with a different color. This was actually my sub’s idea. 🙂 I also created a binder of various games and organized all the math manipulatives in stackable bins that are in easy reach for the students. Then, I prepared a project for the students to complete during “problem solving” time that would ask them to review skills previously taught in our measurement unit.
Finally, I created a series of math videos for the unit, so throughout their learning they were exposed to the same language we have been using in math this year, they were listening still to my voice, and most importantly they were able to focus on the planned main idea of each lesson. These videos were then posted on our class site with their daily homework and reminders notice. They are also on our division page for easy review at a later time.
Everything was ready!
Since my substitute and I were chatting through these past two weeks, I already have a good idea of some ways to improve my Flipped Math system, but I’ll save these until I’m ready to share my reflections and project presentation in my next post.
One thing I can share right now are a few snippets from my students of what they had to say about our Flipped Math. Here’s what they wrote on the survey I sent to them via Google Forms last week.
- The pictures (in the videos) help me learn. They help me like when I don’t know what it mean I could look at the picture.
- It helped me learn better because we know what we are doing the next day and we can set our mind to it. It also helps me review what I did that day and I can think about the main idea of the video and I can think about what I had never thought before I learned about the topic.
- The math videos help because I can replay and go back when I need to and understand more.Also I can see what Mrs. Tanigawa means because she shows on the screen by writing and using pictures so I can understand.
- The practice and problem solving tables give you a couple of example work and gives you a good idea of what problems will look like. The games help you learn by a fun way. At the teachers choice area we can clear things out and get a better idea of what you learned in the other stations.
- In the video you first tell us what you are going to talk about.Then you teach us about that thing. Last you give us a challenge to do and then the video is finish. This is like my juku textbook and there is a new topic we will learn and they guide us through a question and then we do a normal question about what we learned.
- I think I am learning and not forgeting anything in this new good system.
I still have one more week left in this unit to find out if it was as effective as our flipped multiplication unit. Then the final test is to see if they can apply these concepts in multi-digit multiplication and division starting in May.
Please look for my reflection and project presentation video soon!