This year, I have had the opportunity to re-enter the classroom, being asked to teach our eighth grade pre-algebra course, Foundations of Algebra. When first given the assignment, I was excited to be able to put into practice all that I preach, to shift to a student centered classroom, to provide opportunities for discovery, to allow for differentiation and self-pacing, having students strive for mastery rather than a grade, and to begin to shift to a more blended or flipped classroom experience, with a shift towards more real-world, project based curriculum which would allow these students to experience math in addition to learning the formulas in the book.

To get ready for the class, I turned to my learning network for ideas. I began to lurk in both the #mathchat and #anyqs twitter chats to get ideas and material to support my desire to tweak the course.  Thanks to all, including Karl Fisch and Dan Meyer, whose work I had known previously for modeling the direction that I wanted to pursue.

The class is on their trip to Washington D. C., so it provides me a chance to reflect on the first six weeks of class. So far, so good. I have begun to flip the classroom. I am still doing too much teacher led instruction for my taste, but changing their perceptions of what is learning is taking a long time. I have been building my Moodle course for them to support this learning, with daily assignments published ahead two weeks ahead of time. enrichment problems available for those who want to go further, and instructional videos, both from Kahn Academy and ones I have created in Jing to support the instruction.

Additionally, I am using a LiveScribe pen which I received upon attending TEDxPhiladelphiaEd. Borrowing from mentor Darren Kuropatawa, I have a daily scribe who uses the LiveScribe to create the class set of notes for the day. I am also posting my board notes from my tablet pc. I also create “pencasts” – PDFs with embedded audio of daily homework quiz and homework problem solutions, so that the students can review the strategies and parents can see the process and hear the vocabulary to be able to help their students at home. I will also be using the pens for assessment when the students return next week. I will have them create solutions to problems where they talk through their process of solving their assigned problem. This will allow me to check not only on the solution, but the process that they employ.

Throughout the rest of the year, I will be sharing other successes and failures. It has been fun to get back into the daily grind.

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