Thursday, February 4, 2016

Flipped Out Math

Today's blogger is Michelle Zentz. She is a fourth grade teacher at Central Elementary School in Clinton, Indiana. You can connect with her at or on Twitter @mpzentz.

Flipping an Elementary Class

It all started with the whispers that begin toward the close of a school year. The time when a building hums with the sound of excited staff members talking about what the next year will bring. In our building, we had heard that the 1:1 initiative might be coming to our fourth and fifth grade classrooms. Instantly, the mind races…what can I do with this technology?

Like most educators, I researched blogs, social media, and attended professional development geared toward educational technology. I discovered numerous formative assessment tools, websites, and apps that I could easily add to my current curriculum and lesson formats. As the new school year started, we began a roll out of 1:1 iPads for our classrooms. I still did not have a grasp on how this new device could transform my teaching.

Student working through video lesson.  Dry
erase marker easily wipes off of the desk top. 
I can quickly assess the student as I circulate
the room.
My eldest daughter’s AP Statistics course and AP Calculus course teacher (the amazing Mrs. Clark) sent out an e-mail about flipping the classroom at the high school level. I was curious at this point. I asked my daughter to show me her side (student-side) of a flipped class. From there, I reached out to my administrator. I pitched the idea of attempting to flip an elementary math class. He was completely supportive and helped establish a time when I could meet with our technology curriculum guru. In all of two hours, I had planned, uploaded, and edited my first unit of math lessons. Now, I had to let go.

Here’s the thing about a flipped classroom. The students drive the instruction. I was facilitating the room. My lessons, my instruction, and all of my assignments were recorded. Students could pause, rewind, stop and question the video at their own pace. My formative assessments were built into the video content. Parents could view the lesson with students, absent students were never behind, and my time was spent remediating or challenging my students. How could this be teaching? Was I outsourcing myself? Trust me, I questioned the process. I wasn’t presenting in front of the class on a dry erase board. I needed data.

The Data

Student tracking chart.  Completed work
gets a sticker.  This doesn’t reflect grades
and students understand flipped math
self-paced.  Deadlines are given and I
conference with students who fall too far behind.
My students work at their pace. Currently, I have students on three separate chapters. Test scores are on average six to ten percent higher than pre-flip results. From the data and student feedback, I would say yes a flipped classroom is working. There are challenges. Being on three separate chapters, I have to monitor what lessons are the beginning and end of a grading period. For the students who are ahead of the class, I have project based learning math assignments when I need to bring the entire class back together. I have also had to incorporate a sticker chart so students can find where they are without needing to frequently check the grade-book or ask. I also do not assign the videos for homework. Not all of my students have regular use of the internet at home. So where do I begin…

How to Flip

A quiet corner to learn. Students are
encouraged to find their own spot to learn.
Video instruction can be viewed where
the student is comfortable.
To begin the process of flipping a math classroom, I used some of my existing resources. In prior years, I completed PowerPoint presentations with vocabulary and sample questions. This serves as the framework for my videos. I have added to my existing presentations by including a formative assessment and an assignment. Once you have your lesson planned out, you can use any digital whiteboard app or you can simply record yourself in your classroom. I use the ShowMe app with my iPad (Educreations and Explain Everything work well also). I import the PowerPoint presentation directly. The presentations are usually 5-7 slides in length. I then record myself teaching the lesson. I limit my videos to less than ten minutes. Once you have completed your video, you will need to save or download the video to an MP4 format.

The next step is why my flipped math works in the elementary setting. I upload my video to EDpuzzle for edit, storage, and tracking. In EDpuzzle, I can set the video due date, track the students who have viewed the video, view how many times they have watched or paused the video, embed questions, and prevent students from skipping ahead. Once the video is uploaded, students log in and the learning begins.

There are numerous videos and resources on a flipped classroom model. I found inspiration in a fellow educator. If you would like more information, you can contact me at or on Twitter @mpzentz.

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