* DEPPILF-FLIPPED learning

FLIPPED Learning is the topic of a well-written article in the May, 2018, issue of Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.   The authors, Lim and Wilson, share their experience and expertise in embedding questions in videos as a part of the flipped classroom.  I have blogged before about the flipped classroom, a model in which students acquire knowledge outside of the classroom, usually through videos.  This knowledge is then applied in class through discussions or projects.  Research supports the benefits of hands-on activities for learning math, but does a flipped classroom automatically include such active learning?  Not necessarily.

My biggest concern is that homework is especially fatiguing for students who struggle at school, extending the hours they must concentrate and process information.  There is no shortcut for learning new material, although Lim and Wilson share terrific examples of how to maximize the use of those videos.  Still, videos or not, kids must focus on new content, practice math skills, and then apply that information the next day.  All after a long day of effort.  Ouch!

Many special needs students are simply too worn out for homework.  They need the opportunity to recharge their batteries, engage in physical activity, and focus on their strengths (which may not be tapped at school).  And what about all those kids with social weaknesses for whom group discussions are a blur of white noise?  What about students who have no access to computers?  Videos are also changing; it’s become popular to speed up the presentation, add visual clutter, and increase noise levels to make videos “cool” or catchy (although not as often with math content).  These features actually decrease some students’ ability to focus and make sense of concepts.

If you are looking for good strategies to improve math videos for students, this Flipped Learning article is for you.  But please consider using videos during the school day,  Special needs kids may require a different or second explanation of a concept taught in class.  The pause and replay features are quite useful, as are headphones to eliminate background noise.  The embedded questions can provide opportunities for teachers to determine how much students are learning without the distractions of a group setting.  Use them to provide feedback for your students, too.

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Videos are potentially powerful tools in a classroom.  Let’s not make them a burden.

* My dear Isaac

Dear Isaac is my nephew with an unidentified auditory processing disorder and dyscalculia, all mixed with a heavy dose of emotional distress.  He’s a bright, creative youngster with strengths in science and art.  But as a third grader, he still can’t add or subtract single digit numbers without his fingers.  If we hadn’t used Alan Walker’s multiplication methodology, Isaac wouldn’t have learned any multiplication facts.  After his initial refusal to engage with the Walker approach to memorization, Isaac cut his losses and became proud of his new knowledge.

After my initial assessment, I estimated that it would take six months to correct fundamental math reasoning errors.  That was an accurate estimate.  Isaac has made solid progress in solving problems.  You would be so proud if you could see him working on multiple-step word problems!

Sadly, dear Isaac is now burned to a crisp at school and when it’s time for homework.  He doesn’t act out at school but his teacher reports that he is frequently inattentive and withdrawn.  The school year has been too long and taxing.  Isaac feels stupid, is depressed, and his teacher flat out refuses to lessen the homework load.  Oh dear!

A predictable conundrum for him (and me!) is dealing with his errors.  He has made too many and now wants to be error-free for life.  If only!  He is reluctant to accept alternative methods of calculation when he feels especially low.  We had a difficult session this past week when he refused to write multiple digit addition problems vertically instead of horizontally.

After staring at his horizontally-written problem, Isaac screamed, “I can’t do this!   I thought you were going to help!”

“Write it vertically, Isaac.”

“I’m going to do it MY way!”  

“Go ahead.”  [I walk across the room because I know he’s going to implode if I stay close.  Or I might just bite my hand off.]

Repeat above scenario 3 times.

Finally, amidst tears and growls, Isaac rewrites the problem vertically and gets so much praise from me that we are back on track.  I remain at his side as his sense of humor returns and he completes all the dreaded homework in record time.

Here’s the adorable Isaac, taking aim at homework with a tripod?

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* Checking Out in the Middle Grades

Here’s a parent’s perspective on homework (his kids are “typical” learners, not special education).

Taste of Tech

It was fifth grade when my daughter decided that she didn’t like school. It was her first year in an intermediate school. In our community, learners go to the same primary school for grades K-4, and then switch to an intermediate school for 5-6 before moving on to middle school (7-8) and high school (9-12). It’s the intermediate school where things tend to change. We have similar challenges in the school district in which I work, where students attend intermediate school in grades 4-5. Both students and parents tend to experience a sense of disillusionment at this level. 9557767183_fd5cc9fb1b_zIt’s an age where students are becoming increasingly independent. In many schools, they switch classes for the first time. They’re expected to keep track of assignments and due dates more than they did in the past. They have lockers and study hall and more freedom and more accountability. But at the same time…

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