What is the Best Use of Our Class Time? — A&P Version

This afternoon I was able to watch and enjoy a recorded version of Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams’ recent “The Flipped Classroom” webinar hosted by Classroom 2.0 LIVE. One of the things that hit me early in this webinar was this question: What is the best use of your class time? Phrased differently, where in the learning cycle do my students most need me face-to-face? What a powerful (and important!) question!

I have been operating a “flipped” Anatomy & Physiology class since the beginning of the school year. Just two weeks ago, I flipped my Algebra II class, as well. I believe that I would answer this question differently for each class. Here are some thoughts about Anatomy & Physiology. (See here for my answers re: Algebra II.)

Before answering this question, consider some of the choices Jonathan & Aaron mentioned as shown on the slide above.

Anatomy & Physiology

I think our Anatomy & Physiology class time is best spent in rich discussion and application settings. These are probably the situations in which face-to-face time with me is most valuable — mostly because of the scenarios I can create at the school with everyone together (i.e. discussions, hands-on labs with school materials, etc.).

Discussions involve: why anatomical parts are named the way they are; different “tricks” students come up with for why something is named the way it is or operates the way it does; connections made between different units of studies; etc..

Applications involve: explorations and lab activities (i.e. building joints with bone models — seeing how specific bone markings interact); debates and analysis of current events related to A&P (i.e. discussion of factors contributing to obesity epidemic and analysis of a case study where the courts removed an obese child from his parents’ care); creation of products that explain complex processes (i.e. nerve impulse transmission, bone healing, etc.); and, analysis of case studies where students apply their growing knowledge of both anatomy and physiology.

To answer the “opposite” question (Where in the lesson cycle do my students need face-to-face time with me the least?), I would answer with direct content-delivery (lectures) and practice. In A&P, much of the content delivery can be delivered very effectively via short instructional videos (see some of my examples here). The content is not necessarily difficult (naming parts and explaining their functions) — it is just massive. I don’t think that my students need face-to-face time with me for a lot of the initial content delivery. Also, A&P involves a lot of memorization or practice of “facts”/names. I do not think my students need face-to-face time with me for this either. (We do, however, spend face-to-face time discussing and modeling how to practice, which I think is valuable.)

In summary, for A&P I think our precious class time is best spent discussing, exploring and applying the science, with initial content delivery and practice occurring outside of the classroom (through instructional videos and iPads in our case).

Later in the webinar, Jon and Aaron pose this equally-important question: What do we do with all the extra class time?

To my chagrin, I thought about this question in a fairly superficial manner before implementing my flipped classroom. “Why, I’ll use the extra class time for labs and activities and discussions!” Yes, great idea!! BUT…which ones?! How will I structure them? Do I have all of the materials I need? I definitely could have done a better job of planning out these details in advance! I am still very glad that I have flipped the classroom — I feel like the instructional video library I am building is solid and that we have had more time to really discuss and explore the science in class. One thing that I am working to improve, however, is my class time activities. I am building a more complete repertoire of A&P labs (and acquiring materials!) while also investigating ways to better structure (and formalize?) class discussions and case studies. I am excited by the possibilities!

My advice to a first-time flipper would be…build your class time activities in advance — as far in advance as possible! You will be gaining back so much precious class time — dream big about what you would like to do with it and prepare for these awesome activities!


What do you think? What is the best use of your class time?

How We Warm-Up

In July 2008 I attended an AP Summer Institute with Stacey McMullen, an AP Calculus teacher from Dallas ISD. The institute was FABULOUS!! I learned so much from Stacey–and this learning was definitely transferred on to my students. One of the (many) things I learned from her was a new Warm-Up procedure. Here’s how I’ve adapted it to my class.

Class starts every period with 5 minutes on the board thanks to the free Online Stopwatch site. Students have 5 minutes to work on their Warm-Ups, while I check HW and take attendance.

Each Monday, students are given a new Warm-Ups questions page (see the examples below) and a blank Warm-Ups template (see the example at left). The template  stays the same every week — students just fill in a different week number at the top. It is setup for 10 different questions — two graphs, two tables, and six short answer questions. One of the big emphases of AP Calculus is understanding math using multiple representations (physical, verbal, analytic, numerical, and graphical). Setting up my Warm-Ups with graphs, tables, and short answer sections makes my students practice these multiple representations on a weekly basis.

Students store these Warm-Up pages in a folder with a self-adhesive fastener across the top of it. These folders are stored in a “folder holder” in a corner of my classroom. At the beginning of each period, students come in, grab their folder, and get to work on their warm-ups. Once the 5 minutes are up, they place their warm-up folders back in the holding area until the next day.

The Warm-Up question documents, shown below, are written to include two graphing questions, two table questions, and six short answer questions. I usually include a mix of problems on these — some problems over recent studies, some over previous studies (review), and some foreshadowing what is  coming soon.

What I Like About This Process

Students know what to expect on a weekly basis. They come in and get right to work, with very little time wasted while I do administrative things.

Students are reviewing a variety of concepts on a daily/weekly basis. When we get closer to state-assessments, I cycle a few state-assessment questions into the Warm-Ups each week.

Students are practicing mathematics using multiple representations, which helps to cement big ideas, while also preparing them for Calculus studies.


What Do You Think?

How do you “warm-up” your students at the beginning of class?


Why Blog?

It is time to jump right in…! I am ready to take my professional development to the next level and I believe blogging will help me get there. Why? What value does blogging as an educator bring to me, my classroom, and my students? Here are my thoughts…

To Reflect

During my teacher training at Queen’s University, I was “turned on” to the power of reflective practice, mostly under the direction of an excellent Physics Education professor, Mr. Tom Russell. Then, I hit the ground running in my first year of teaching and (what do you know?) “time” for reflection went out the window. I still read a lot in the field of education, but I rarely purposefully and deliberately reflect on it — especially in writing. I think this is a vital missing piece. Through this blog I can reflect on my learning from various books, blogs, etc., as well as my hands-on learning in my own classes, which will help me better understand and implement the concepts I am learning and thinking about.

To Prioritize

Teaching five different classes, working to stay on top of current technology, research, and ideas, reevaluating how I do things in my classes and how to do them better — it is easy to get overwhelmed by ideas alone in this profession! Crafting blog posts will help me prioritize my classroom goals and projects — to lend extra time and energy to those tasks that are particularly worth it.

To Collaborate

Sharing ideas, best practices, resources, successes and failures — what’s not to love? Blogging (both writing my own blog and commenting on those of colleagues) will open the door for me to interact with many great educators from across the nation. How perfect! I LOVE attending professional development sessions with top-notch educators — blogging and online PLC’s will afford me this interaction on a daily basis…!

To Celebrate

One of the best parts of teaching are those wonderful “epiphany” moments when learning happens on a deep level — a student makes a connection, masters a difficult concept, comes up with a great way to represent an idea. I would love to share these moments with people beyond my classroom — and learn from other teachers and students who are celebrating their successes, as well.

Also, being a teacher is just plain FUN and can produce moments that are just plain funny! (Like the time I was modeling how a knee joint works and the femur slipped out of my hand, ricocheted onto my face and busted my lip open…Oops!) You just can’t take yourself too seriously — there is power in “celebrating” these funny moments, too!

To Refine

My goal is improvement. Period. I want to always be a better teacher so that I can always provide better and better learning for my students. By “putting myself out there” by sharing my classroom practice, I open myself up to suggestions, ridicule (maybe?), and…growth! Well, that is my goal! Many great educators are willing to share their ideas, suggestions, and comments with other educators — I would love to tap into this to improve my practice and my students’ learning experiences.

To Model

As a teacher of upper grades students, I am constantly pushing my students to metacognition and “thinking about their thinking”. Well, hello, conviction — I know that I should be doing the same! This blog will formalize that metacognition, by providing a physical place to think about my thinking and hear from others, as well.

Which brings us to my goal. My goal is to post two blog posts a week, while also commenting on at least two blogs a week. I have had this goal floating around in my mind for a while, but I felt like I really needed to put some purpose behind it first. So, here is that purpose.

What are your thoughts? Why do you blog as an educator?


Tonight I joined my first ever Twitter “chat” — the #LeadershipChat with special guest Guy Kawasaki. The ideas shared in this chat have me very interested in his book Enchantment. Over the past few weeks I have become increasingly interested in infographics, as well. Tonight, these two idea came together as links to the following infographics were shared in the Twitter chat.

Enchantment Infographic

Enchantment - Increase Likability


Talk about food for thought…!

Sequencing A&P

Following is a post I made on a social networking site for Anatomy & Physiology teachers interested in the flipped classroom. I am posting it here as a reflection of my current thoughts re: sequencing my A&P course. Any feedback is greatly appreciated!


Okay, y’all — I would love some feedback on a sequencing discussion I’m having with myself. 🙂

What’s the best way to bundle/sequence your units??

In the past, I have setup my course to go “system by system” (i.e. Unit 2: Skeletal System; Unit 3: Muscular System; etc.). I did it this way because: 1) the text is setup this way; and, 2) that’s the way it was taught in my A&P classes…?

However, in looking at my curriculum standards (TX) in more detail, I see the following major themes:

– energy needs and processes

– responses to internal/external forces/stimuli

– homeostasis

– electrical conduction processes/interactions

– transport systems

– environmental factors and their effects

– structure & function of human body

– reproduction

– emerging technological advances


This really got me thinking…! Do we talk about these topics throughout the year? Yes, but indirectly. We spend so much time learning all the parts of each system and then how they work, that we don’t really explicitly focus on these major themes and overarching issues. (The big exception: I spend a lot of direct time on the “structure and function of the human body” theme…more than its “fair share” when looking at in comparison to the other standards.)


So…here’s what I’m thinking. I’m contemplating structuring my A&P course this year around these themes (not necessarily in the order above). For example, doing a unit on “Energy Needs and Processes” — discovering these needs and then learning the anatomy and physiology of the different parts of the body that play a role in this (i.e. what are our energy needs? How is the digestive system (/other systems) related to energy needs? What parts? How do they work? What problems could occur in regards to energy needs?).


I think this might be a better approach to the course — giving students more context in which to learn the A&P rather than just “Here — next we’re going to learn all about the ________ system.”. I know it would take more work to change over and structure my course this way, but I think it would be a richer experience…


What do y’all think…?? I’d love to hear…! Thanks!!

Prezi as a Powerful Creation Tool

Here is a Prezi I made last year to synthesize and demonstrate my learning re: what it means to be gifted.

I am learning more and more about the importance of teaching students to be producers and creators of knowledge, rather than just consumers of knowledge. Prezi is a great tool that allows students to display their understanding in a storytelling format that is limited only by their creativity.

Another great story-telling tool is Google Search Stories, which I have blogged about previously.