What To Do With Faster Students

I was recently asked what I do for faster students while I spend time helping students who need more of my help.  This was an easy question to answer as my flipped class addresses this situation beautifully.

Since I no longer lecture in class, this means that the full 90 minutes of class can be used for Algebra activities.  I write a listing of the day’s activities on the board and briefly talk about where students can find each activity and give special instructions as needed.

The order of the list is carefully selected and students know that they are to move to the next activity as they complete the one before.  I plan this list of activities expecting the faster students to accomplish most or all.  I realize that students who work more slowly will probably not get through each activity, so I put the two or three most critical activities early in the list.

We usually begin with a large group activity such as Quiz/Quiz/Trade or a Relay so everyone works together with a group.  Then we might move to a partner activity such as Placemats or Matching followed by a worksheet that is to be completed individually.  I place a red check mark on each correct problem on each student’s individual worksheet.  Because the partners work at different paces, some students will move to the individual worksheet earlier than others.  This staggered pace allows me to spend time with each student as they work on the individual worksheet.  I collect the individual worksheets at the end of each class and give classwork credit in the online grade book.  I do not keep track of or give credit for the group activities.

After the individual worksheet, we often have one or two additional activities such as a Scavenger Hunt or Sum It Up.  This allows individuals or small groups of students additional practice with the new material.  With this plan, the faster students are actively engaged with learning activities for the entire class and the students who work more slowly have time to work through the two or three most important activities of the day with my help.

Giving Points for Watching Homework Videos

Several years ago, before I started flipping my Algebra class, my school district revamped the entire Algebra program for all teachers throughout the district.  We were all required to follow the new program completely.

One part of the new program was a change in how students’ grades were assigned.  The district decided that each student’s grade should reflect their performance on the summative assessments, or chapter tests, only.  While homework, classwork and other formative assessments were to be assigned, no points for these assignments were allowed to be used in calculating students’ final grades for the course.

Obediently, I began that school year by explaining the program changes to my students, including the changes to the grading policy.  What I experienced was a classic example of a breakdown in communication.  The message I sent was not the message my students received.

My message was that homework would be assigned each day and the homework would not count for points.  The students apparently took this to mean that they did not need to do any homework, which is exactly what they did!

The important information I took away from this experience is that fourteen-year-old students will more likely do their homework if value (in this case, points) is given to their efforts and they will likely NOT do their homework if no value is given.

When I first flipped my Algebra class, I knew that I must assign points for watching the homework videos if I wanted the students to actually do the homework.  This has worked very well for me and my students.

We begin class each day with the students working a few warm up problems from the previous day’s topic while I check everyone’s notes from their homework videos.  I give 4 points if their notes are complete.  I do not accept incomplete notes at all, so no partial credit.  I direct students with no notes or incomplete notes to classroom computers to finish their assignment while the rest of us begin the activities for the day.

In the online grade book, I weight the homework category as only 5% of the overall grade.  This still validates homework for students and has little impact on their overall grade.

Where To Begin?

Wow!  So much to think about!  Where to begin?   Can I even make a video?  Can I start flipping in the middle of the semester or should I start at the beginning of a semester?  How will students react to the videos?  Can I make videos fast enough to keep pace with the curriculum?

I learned about flipping in the middle of second semester and had to decide if I could flip my class the following year.  I knew that I needed to be consistent in having videos ready to assign as homework if I wanted my students to become accustomed to watching the assigned videos.  I started by making videos for lessons I was currently teaching since the topics were fresh in my mind.  At the same time, I continued lecturing as usual in my classes that semester.

I made most of the videos for second semester before the end of that year. The week before final exams, my students watched these videos during class in the school’s computer lab as part of their review.  It worked well for students to pause the videos and rewind as necessary.  Students had favorable responses to the videos.   Some even continued watching videos at home as they reviewed for the final exam.

The favorable reactions I received gave me confidence and over summer break I recorded most of the lessons for first semester.  I still had a few lessons later in first semester to record after the new school year began.  I admit that I much preferred having videos ready to go well in advance.  While it might work for some teachers, I do not like the stress involved with “just in time flipping”.

By having my videos prepared ahead of time, each week I could focus on planning the classroom activities for that week’s upcoming lessons.   I’ll talk more about planning the classroom activities in another post.


Flipping Algebra Is NOT The Same As Flipping Social Studies

My first introduction to the flipped classroom was at a workshop that was led by a middle school Social Studies teacher.  I understood the concept and saw the benefits of flipping.  However, I could not relate the Social Studies teacher’s method to my Algebra class.
He would search the History Channel for a video about a topic such as the Roman Empire and provide a link for his students to watch the video at home as homework.  Then the students would have a discussion about the video the next day in class.

There are probably many appropriate videos on the History Channel relevant to the curriculum in a Social Studies class, but where do we go to find videos for Algebra?  Especially day after day, lesson after lesson?  I had to learn how to create my own videos, but did not know how to get started.  I then attended a conference and was introduced to tools that would allow me to do just that!

Discussions seem to be a natural part of a Social Studies class, and discussions in Algebra class can be valuable sometimes, but we cannot spend the entire Algebra class period discussing the content of the lesson in my video.  Students need time to actually practice working the types of problems in the lesson while they are in class.

I think flipping Algebra works well . . .  I did it and you can too!  I hope to share some of the insights I’ve gained and use this blog as a forum for discussion and to answer your questions about flipping Algebra.

Click here if you would like to see my videos outlining how I flipped my Algebra class

How I Flipped My Algebra Class (And You Can, Too!) Video Series

Why Flip Your Algebra Classis the first video in a series I created for teachers called “How I Flipped My Algebra Class (And You Can, Too!)”. 

In this first video, I discuss:

  • Why I flipped my class
  • Common concerns I addressed with administrators and parents
  • Benefits from flipping
    FREE Video #1 of 4


“How To Record & Upload Videos” is the second video in a series I created for teachers called “How I Flipped My Algebra Class (And You Can, Too!)”.

In this second video, I discuss:

  • The recording software I use to create Algebra lesson videos for my students
  • The ad-free platform I use to host my videos that is free for me and my students                                                                                                 FREE Video #2 of 4
  • How I record videos for my students to watch


“How To Make Meaningful 7-Minute Algebra Videos” is the third video in a series I created for teachers called “How I Flipped My Algebra Class (And You Can, Too!)”.

In this third video, I discuss:

  • Tips on ways to make lesson videos student-friendly
  • Time-saving techniques to keep videos short
  • Clips from some of my lesson videos
  • Suggestions on how to make videos reusable in future years                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     FREE Video #3 of 4

“How To Use Class Time When No Longer Lecturing” is the fourth and final video in a series I created for teachers called “How I Flipped My Algebra Class (And You Can, Too!)”.

In this last video, I discuss:

  • A typical day in my Algebra class
  • A variety of activities I use in my class
  • How to use students’ notes in class
  • Pointers on how to hold students accountable
  • Positive outcomes I’ve experienced                                                                                                                                                                                                      FREE Video #4 of 4