Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blended Learning & Math Workshop

We are wrapping up quarter one and I could not be more pleased with our math workshop.One of my personal goals for this year was to begin math workshop with my students and eventually incorporate blended learning. We are well on our way, and I’m pretty convinced that I never want to teach whole group math again!


The original plan for math workshop was to have students work with a teacher each day (either myself or my co-teacher) and rotate through three other stations. With 33 students, we felt like we were losing too much time in transitions. To solve that problem, we decided to simply list independent tasks to complete for the day and allow students work through the daily list from their seats.

An added benefit to this update is that our groups are much more fluid. We are not confined to a timed schedule so that all students have equal time for each task.  If one group of students only needs a few minutes of review, then we can spend more time with students who need more time with us. When a student missed days instruction due to illness, we were able to keep him with a teacher for two rotations and skip independent work for that day.

We typically group in one of three ways. First, we have our general math groups based on how quickly students typically master math content. We also group students according to specific skill data from pretests and quick checks. Finally, we sometimes group students so that they have a partner to work with independently. Partners are chosen so that students who need coaching are paired with a peer who can provide support while working away from the teacher.

Heading Toward Blended Learning

We have been using our Chromebooks to practice math skills during independent time through xtramath and iXL all along, but last week we took a major step toward blended learning in our math workshop. The difference between blended learning and tech integration is the connection between online learning and face-to-face learning. Initially, we integrated technology to allow students to practice math facts and review previously taught content. Now, however, we are able to connect our online learning content directly to our small group lessons.

With the use of my new document camera provided by a grant through Donor’s Choose, I started creating simple teaching videos for my students who are working independently. So far the videos I have created provide additional guided practice for my students. I work through a series of problems while my students follow along by solving problems with me. The connection between online learning and face-to-face learning is strengthened when we use data to determine student needs and respond accordingly.
This student is practicing mixed number and improper fraction conversions.

I saw a handful of benefits last week including students working at their own pace- pausing and replaying the video as often as they needed. Students could also choose to work with me on the video, or pause and solve the problem, then watch it to check their work. Looking forward, I’m really excited about a few added benefits like students being able to access these teaching videos from home. Parents will be able to see how we are practicing in class and better support their learners. Also, students who are absent can review material from home, or after they return during independent time, meaning they miss less instruction.

Every student said that they enjoyed practicing through video. They commented that it was like working one-on-one with the teacher because other students did not distract them. They also commented that they liked working at their own pace. Some students said that they liked not feeling rushed, while others said they appreciated that they could practice independently when they no longer needed help. Many of my students challenged themselves to solve problems on their own, and they felt so accomplished because they could see their progress.

A Moment of Perfection

My co-teacher and I were amazed at the efficiency of our math block after just one day of incorporating teaching videos with our students.

We used a quick check to determine which students needed more support with certain skills. Some students didn’t meet with a teacher at all that day because they didn’t need to. All the other students had the opportunity to work on the same skill in three different ways: face-to-face with a teacher, blended learning through videos, and digital visual models through iXL.
These learners are using visual models online through iXL.

She has paused the teaching video to take a moment to
think about how to solve the next problem. 

Here's the most amazing thing. The group that I met with second had already worked through the teaching videos before I was ready to work with them. I asked them to solve two quick problems when they came to me, and only two of the seven students in that group still needed my face-to-face help. Five students met proficiency from the digital practice and self-reflection they participated in online. Automatically, my group of seven was reduced to two, and those kiddos were able to have all my attention for intense intervention.

Seriously, I’m never going back to whole-group teaching during my math block. While we have a lot of room to grow in the variety of online content we provide for our students, we are certainly heading in the right direction!

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