Former Teacher of the Year flips classroom procedures
Jeff Baugus, math teacher at Woodlawn Beach Middle school and last year’s county Teacher of the Year, has “flipped” his classroom procedures to give kids more time in class to ask questions on what should be labeled “homework.” He has been perfecting his Flipped Classroom system since 2009 and has a website to support it that has already been visited by students from 39 states and 10 countries.
Baugus said he was asked to begin teaching Algebra I Honors classes in 2009. “I had two classes that included the 40 top math students in the entire school,” he recalls. “The first quarter went great, but I noticed in the second quarter all the grades started plummeting from A’s and B’s to C’s and D’s, so I knew something was drastically wrong. We had a sit down conversation, the students and me, and I asked them what was happening – was it my teaching methods, was it the work, what?”
He said students told him they liked his teaching fine, but when he would present a new procedure in class, they would go home to do the homework and either forget some of what he had presented, or had questions with no one there to answer. They said the next day in class they would either forget their questions, or there would simply not be enough time to ask. Students all said they wished there was more time in class to go over homework. “I told them that would be fine, but I still have to have time to present the next step in Algebra, or we would get way behind,” Baugus said. He said some students asked if there would be a way for him to record the information about the new topics, to give more time in class for questions on homework.
“My wife first had the idea of me recording teaching sessions with a video camera and putting them on a blog. She told me blogs can indeed take both audio and video,” he said.
So for the last semester of 2009 Baugus would come up to the school each Sun day evening and set up his video camera and teach a lesson that the kids could access at home on a blog site. That way he could “flip” his classroom, and answer questions all during class time. “It isn’t students doing homework, with their heads in the book, and me walking around,” he explained. “It is very interactive learning, with the entire class involved. But the students first read and take notes on the new material at home the night before, then we all talk about it and work through the problems together in class.
But by the end of the second semester in 2009 Baugus was getting tired of going to the school every Sunday night. “And those first videos were pretty grainy and the audio was sometimes hard to hear,” he said.
Next Baugus found a smart board that could help him make desk top videos right at his computer, during his planning period at school. “But in those videos I would talk but you could only see the material or my hand working the problems. So in 2010 I was able to do 72 videos for Algebra I for 8th graders – which is actually a high school course for advanced 8th graders – and put all of them online.
“Then the students said they were getting bored and some were falling asleep during the videos. They wanted to see me and get the feel of being in class more,” he said.
That led to him discovering high definition videos. “But that needed a green screen, certain lights, an HD video camera and some equipment,” he said. “So I went to the district and asked if anyone knew about any grants I might try to get to purchase the equipment. The administrators said they were aware of my program and how many people were benefiting, so they purchased $2,500 worth of equipment for me to use to convert the 72 videos I had done on smart board into high definition videos.”
Baugus started that process last summer, with some students and parents helping. “Some students received community service hours by coming into school during the summer and we would work many days from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. transferring those smart board videos. We got about as third of them converted, and my goal is to finish the process of all 72 by end of this summer,” he said.
He also had a parent help him put the 72 videos covering the entire Algebra I curriculum onto a six disc set for students who might not have internet access.
Algebra I is now a required course for all high school student in the state to pass, including passing an End of Course exam before the student can graduate high school. Even if the student in 8th or 9th grade passes the course, if they do not pass the End of Course exam, they will not graduate high school until they do pass it. “These online videos can help high school students taking the course, too, since you can stop and start them, and go back to a section to listen again,” Baugus said. “I have had some students from other parts of the country let me know this has been a big help to them, too.”
“This year we have 120 students at Woodlawn using the online videos as their ‘homework’ each night,” he said. “I assign a video as homework, then we work it with a question and answer period the next day. But I have to change it up, how we run the classroom, or the kids will get bored.” So Baugus does things like dividing his 8th graders into smaller groups within their classroom and having them work together on projects and problems. “They get points for things they do within the group and during the classroom period, and each group is very competitive against the other groups for points,” he laughs. “They not only learn Algebra, but team work.”
This week when kids enter his classroom they will find a black light presentation. Baugus said he will come in the weekend before and cover the windows and place equations on cards that will show up under black light, and have students move the cards around the front of the room to make the equations work – with points given for most equations correct. “You just have to change it up,” he said. “That helps them learn and remember.”
His website videos are free for anyone to access. Find his videos at: http://mathlete-corner.edublogs.org.