One Teacher's Journey to Effective Time with Students
What do you do when you’re presenting a lesson to 40 students and feel like you’re just not reaching
them? Crystal Kirch was faced with this dilemma. A high school math teacher at Segerstrom High School
in California, Crystal could tell she wasn’t meeting the needs of her students.
“I could tell traditional teaching methods weren’t necessarily effective but it was all that I knew,” said
Crystal. So she asked herself, “What is the best use of face-to-face time with my students?”
With this in mind, Crystal sought advice from her colleagues and
began testing different teaching methods. Some things worked well
and others not as much. But Crystal kept trying different approaches
until one lesson fell flat. Really, really flat.
“Students went home completely unsure of what they had learned
in class,” said Crystal. “So I made a quick video to review the
materials we tried to cover.”
The next day, students came prepared for class. Not only did they gain better understanding of the
learning activity from the day before, they were able to pause and rewind Crystal’s video to better
understand the concepts they were learning. Crystal decided to make more videos to send home with
students and began looking for resources online.
Within a few weeks, Crystal was well on her way to flipping
her classroom. The idea that she could send short lecture
videos home with her students and use the regular class
period to work with students one-on-one or in small groups
made her decision obvious.
“Some students jumped on board and really liked it right
away,” said Crystal, “but others struggled with the transition,
simply because I had spent the first two months of school
training them in the structure of a traditional class. Just as the traditional teaching model was all I knew,
it was all they knew.” Crystal continued to flip her class, spending her planning hours converting old
lesson plans into 5 – 10 minute videos for students. Though the videos are short, students do not get to
watch Crystal’s lessons and walk away. “While I send short videos home with students, I still expect
them to think critically about what they’re watching,” said Crystal. “I tell students to double the length
of the video and add five minutes to estimate how much time they should spend on the lesson.”
As students watch the screencast, Crystal requires them to participate in the WSQ (read as: whisk)
model. This means students are:
• Watching the video, pausing and rewinding when they need to go over an idea again.
• Summarizing what they watched using a Google form embedded under the screencast (Crystal
gives them guided questions to promote critical thinking).
• Questioning what they learned and coming to class the next day with a question or two for
Crystal to directly address.
The next day, students spend the first 10 – 15 minutes discussing what they watched the night before.
After the discussion is over, students are able to branch off into small groups to work on practice
questions and equations together. Crystal guides these groups as they discover answers and addresses
questions one on one or with a few students at a time. Crystal’s overarching goal is to get students
thinking, writing, interacting, reading, listening, and speaking (TWiRLS) in math terms.
“I didn’t want to be the only one in class thinking and speaking in math terms,” said Crystal. “I wanted to
get students working within the TWiRLS model as well. By flipping my classroom and opening up the
floor for collaboration between students, I am seeing this nearly every day.”
Crystal notes that many students don’t even realize they are working within the TWiRLS model because
the flipped model allowed it to happen organically.
Each video takes roughly 30 minutes to record and edit. But by creating screencasts of lesson plans she
was already using, Crystal is able to reuse materials each year. She now records only those lessons she
wants to improve or update. Most of Crystal’s early videos were shot with a document camera, so she
was not able to annotate or edit videos easily. She now uses TechSmith’s Camtasia for Mac to make new
screencasts while importing old ones to edit and improve. “The flipped classroom is a continuous
process,” said Crystal. “The value of video as an instructional tool is huge. My flipped classroom will
continue to evolve and grow and change to fit the needs of my students, which will be different every
year.” She is now helping other teachers at Segerstrom High School flip their classes as well as a few
teachers across the school district. She is also part of the onboarding team for new teachers and shares
her flipped classroom experience during their training.