Flip Out or Start Flipping: Why I Started Flipping Math Lessons


As the new school year approached, changing from second grade to fourth grade started to set a little bit of anxiety into my normally easy going attitude about the back-to-school season. It wasn’t the kids I was worried about. I had had most of them in second grade already. It wasn’t joining a new team of teachers, either. I already deeply respected this group of teachers. It was fourth grade math that had me biting my nails. I started studying the math curriculum during the summer, piecing out the big ideas and creating student “I can” statements. As I delved further and further into the curriculum, I noticed a common theme. The standards are challenging! Especially coming from the perspective of a career primary teacher. I knew immediately that math would prove to be an area of focus for this upcoming school year.

As my fourth grade students and I ventured through the first three chapters of the math curriculum I had two groups of students form in my classroom. The ones who got it the first time and the ones who needed more TIME. But, as you all know, TIME is a teacher’s biggest enemy! We have the inevitable forces pressuring us to rush through lessons and move onto the next chapter before all of our students have mastered the skill. This approach “leaves students behind,” but it sure does ensure every single standard was “taught” before that state test comes around. I am sure most of you reading this do not feel comfortable with this type of approach. Neither do I.

It was after Back to School Night, where several parents came to me to discuss math homework. Even after reassuring parents, “I have your child in my intervention small group” I walked away from the evening knowing in my heart something in my math program had to change. It had been sitting in the back of my head for the past year. I had known the answer all along. Just the thing that would help all of my students access the math content in the pace that was right for them. I had read about it. Followed chats on Twitter about it. I had even talked to the gurus themselves, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman at ISTE12. The answer was to either to continue “flip out” and continue this pedagogy paradox, or flip my math lessons!

The weekend following Back to School Night, I recorded Chapter 4‘s math lessons on my iPad using Explain Everything, posted them on YouTube, and made links to the videos on my class website. I sent the email out to parents explaining the new change and held my breath. I was nervous about what parents would think. Most of them had never heard about flipped learning and I didn’t discuss this at back to school night.

The kids came to school Monday morning and I had a serious conversation with them. I asked them what they thought about the math homework so far. I got a variety of answers. “Its great,” exclaimed my highest math students. “It’s hard,” from some of my brave students. But many students said, “It takes me so long.” Many of them were going home and practicing their problems incorrectly and it would take me several days to undo that behavior. In addition, they were spending way too long to complete it! I asked them if it would be okay if I came home with them to help them with their homework. They loved this idea! They said I could have dinner with their family and everything. Then one intuitive student said, “How are you going to be at all of our houses in one night?” Ha! That was the question I was hoping for and that is when I explained to them how we are going to be learning math from now on.

Flipping in education can mean a variety of things. But the simplest definition is the idea that students watch instructional videos (made by their teacher) at night for homework so that students arrive to school ready to apply the skills they learned. In my flipped classroom environment, the emphasis is not only the videos, but more importantly, how I now utilize my time in the classroom with my students. And remember when I said, TIME is a teacher’s biggest enemy? The twenty to thirty minutes I would have traditionally spent teaching a whole group lesson now becomes time for me to work with students. We spend less time using worksheets to practice skills and more time working in small groups to apply the math skills to real world applications. My students are learning math by playing with math. They are writing about math. They are creating their own equations for friends to solve. They are applying all of those 21st Century skills we keep talking about in education: creating, collaborating, communicating, and using critical thinking skills.

But the question you should all be asking me at this point is, well, does it work? Here is my response to that question… Let’s look at the data. My formative assessment with chapter 3 (which was addition and subtraction) showed that 50% of my students had demonstrated mastery. Chapter 3 was a review chapter from third grade math, yet my students were not effectively mastering the skills. They were doing homework each night, I was teaching a whole group lesson, and allowing time for independent practice as I pulled small groups. However, when I started flipping my math lessons with chapter 4 I got different results. 90% of my students passed the formative assessment! I should also add the skills in chapter 4 are far more challenging as this is the first time students learn to use variables, parentheses, and this chapter has a heavy emphasis on problem solving skills. Additionaly, since beginning my flipped math class, I have had an almost 100% success rate with math homework!

I have had parents come to me thanking me for making the videos. Even parents of other fourth grade students (not in my class), who had heard through the grapevine about my videos, approached me explaining how the videos are really helping with homework. The students claim they love having the ability to “pause” me. Wouldn’t we all want to pause our teachers every now and then? But seriously, what they mean is that while they try to catch up in their note taking they can actually pause me and then press play when they get caught up! They love the power of being able to rewind me if they missed something, too. The flipped lessons allow them to work a pace that is appropriate for them and my students are becoming far more responsible with asking me questions about their learning.

I plan to continue this journey of flipped learning and the word is spreading! My fourth grade team wants to join in on the effort and help me create videos. So if you have been thinking, researching, or pondering the idea of flipped learning, I hope my blog post helps push you to the point where you realize you can either continue to flip out or start flipping!

Here is an example of one of my videos. I used the iPad app called Explain Everything to create this. There isn’t anything fancy about it; it is just teaching in the simplest form:

In the News: 

Here is my class on the Fox 5 News.

Here is an article in the North County Times.

To learn more about Flipped Learning

Read: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student In Every Class Every Day by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergman

Follow #flipclass on Twitter!

By Jo-Ann Fox


10 Best Summertime Apps!


I am not just speaking here as a teacher in this post, but also as a parent. Summer is a time for running around the backyard in sprinklers and long lazy days at the beach. However, there are aggravating times when the kids say, “I’m bored” or “I have nothing to do.”

Then there are the long road trips. We have a 12 hour drive to Mt. Shasta ahead of us. I know my kids are great with entertaining themselves in the car (and no… we don’t have a DVD player in our van). But I am also not unprepared. I know the inevitable moments will arise when they will begin arguing about whose arm crossed the invisible line and who looked at who in a funny way. I know these are the moments when I need to bust out the good ol’ iPad and iPod.

Please note, I am not a huge advocate of constantly reaching for a screen to solve the summer boredom problems. In fact, I happen to believe kids are never bored, that more often than not, they have run out of creative play options and need guidance or redirection into a new game. Also, I believe in using iPods and iPads as a learning tool rather than a gaming device. I do limit my own kids’ time with apps such as Angry Birds and encourage, more educationally based games.With that said, here are some great apps that will not only help ease those irritable summer boredom moments but also provide a fun learning experience for your child:
1. Splash Math
This is a math skills based app, but what I really like about this app is in the settings you can have the app email you a progress report letting you know what math skills your child has practiced and how well they progressed. This is for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. This app is pretty pricey for the iPad but today I noticed the iPhone apps were free! My second graders loved this app as they were able to review skills they learned in class and there is a gaming function to the app that allows you to earn items for your aquarium. There is an app for each grade level from 1st through 5th. Each app has activities for each of the math strands. Link to Splash Math in the AppStore: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth

2. K12 Money and Counting Coins:
Most children need to review money concepts and both of these apps are FREE! The great thing about these apps are they have a variety of review options. Your child can choose: counting money (you count the coins and tell the amount), show me the money (they give you an amount and you place the coins needed), making change (you show how much change is needed), matching amounts (showing a different combination of coins showing the same amount), and show values (you place money on the table and it shows you how much there is). This app also allows you to personalize by selecting easy, medium, and hard levels. Both are iPod/iPhone apps.

3. Mad Libs:
There is no better to way to practice parts of speech than by creating hilariously silly stories with Mad Libs. The Mad Lib app is free and with the free version you get one free book called “Vacation Fun Mad Libs.” You can also purchase more Mad Libs books and each book is $3.99 (but that is the price of a real Mad Lib book so this just may be worth it for those long drives). This is fun for the ENTIRE family. iPhone/iPod only.


4. Hangman:
This is a fun interactive game that my daughters and I love to play while waiting in doctor’s office waiting rooms or on long drives. There are many hangman apps out there, but this particular one is free. It does have ads, but what I love about it is that it allows you to create your own hangman games. My daughter constantly tries to stump me, but I am unstoppable! 🙂 You can use this app to help your child (in a fun way) to review words you know they have a difficult time spelling. I plan on using this one on our road trip with a destination theme to our words! iPhone/iPod only.

5. Bee Spelled:
This app has a free and a paid version. I allowed my second graders to use this app for a short time and they loved the free version. However, they did need a little coaching about how to best play this game. With a few word making strategies such as applying word family concepts, they were able to master this game and defeat the evil cat! Yes, this is a spelling/word work app with a gaming (and timed) element that quickly becomes an app favorite with kids. If you are super strict about non-violence, you may not like this app. There is an element of good versus evil battling. The bigger the word you create, the more “bee power” you have. Free or $1.99 for full version. Link to lite version. Link to paid version. iPhone/iPod version only.

6. Word Warrior:
I was able to download this app a long time ago for free and my second graders quickly fell in love with this app. Again, this app has an element of good versus evil battling (so check out the free version if you are worried). This is another word working app that has a highly engaging gaming element that allows you to conquer levels and earn powers as you head along your path to the castle. Much like the Bee Spelled app, help your child be more successful by showing them word family concepts. This app is only $0.99 (link)! Lite version link here.

7. BrainPop:
BrainPop is an app that stemmed from their educational website (account required for the website). This app has a featured movie of the day. Kids love the adorable robot Moby who learns about the world with his human sidekick Tim. Each movie is an educational journey about a variety of topics followed by a quiz to ensure comprehension. Along with the daily featured movies, there are a variety of other free movies to watch as well. This is a free app! There is a Spanish version, too! Link to English version. For iPhone/iPod/iPad.

8. Draw People:
This app teaches you step by step how to draw people. You get a variety of lessons from just one person, to drawing a group of people, to drawing people performing a variety of actions like jump rope. This app is designed for children and is a fantastic way to practice fine motor skills. This app will download on your iPod or iPhone but I believe works best on an iPad. This app is $1.99. iPhone/iPod version and iPad version (links).


9. Lifecards:
If you are on a road trip this is a great app to keep Grandma and Grandpa updated on your road trip adventures! In a nutshell, this app is a postcard creator that allows you to take your own picture, write a letter, and email it to anyone! This app costs $1.99. For the iPhone/iPod/iPad.

10. eBooks from Oceanhouse Media: I happen to love the Oceanhouse Media ebooks. Oceanhouse Media was able to get the license for children’s book favorites such as Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, Tacky the Penguin, and Little Critter. These books are interactive and allow the book to be read three different ways: read it myself, read to me, or auto play.  These apps can be pricey (ranging from $0.99-$11.99) but they are a great option when you are traveling as it will save a lot of space when packing (keeping you free from packing a bag of books)! Here are just a few of the Oceanhouse Media links:

Cat in the HatBerenstain Bears Big Bedtime Book, All By Myself- Little Critter, Tacky the Penguin

I hope everyone enjoys their summer and don’t forget… the most important thing about summer is getting outside and enjoying the sun with the family!

Jo-Ann Fox


Use Google Forms and Go Paperless!


If you are looking to spend less time waiting in the copy machine line and more time planning engaging and innovative lessons, keep reading! You won’t have to visit the Apple Store in order to use one of the best strategies with your classroom set of iPods and iPads. All you need is a Google account and your teacher creativity. So have I kept you in suspense long enough? No? Well, perhaps I should mention that you will also be helping the environment by going paperless.

One of my very talented and tech savvy colleagues, Chia Grossmann, has become an expert with using Google forms in her classroom.  I have utilized her idea of creating a simple Google “Response Form” that can be used over and over in all curricular areas. Chia’s “Response Form” is a simple form to create, since it only has a place for the student number, name, and a written response area.

Here is what the “Response Form” looks like:

Keep reading if you would like step-by-step directions to create this form:

If you have never created a Google form, the process is rather simple. First and foremost, you must have a Google account. If you don’t have one already… get one. You won’t be sorry.

Then once you have logged into your Google account, click on “Documents” at the top of the page. Then click “Create.”


Once you click on Create you will see a pull down menu. Select “Forms.” An untitled form will pop up, along with the first question ready for you to edit.

Title your form “Response Form.” You can add directions about the form below the title if you like. I typed, “Please remember to write complete sentences.” My advice is leave the directions very vague because you will want to use this form for many different activities.

Now we will begin to edit question 1. This will be for student numbers (if you use nick-numbers). Title it “Student Number.” I am not including any “Help Text.” We are going to change the question type to “Choose from a list.” Now begin typing. Chia recommends typing the first name on the list as Anonymous. Then add student numbers. When you have finished, click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”


 Now we will make question 2. Select “Add item” at the top of the screen (it is next to the green plus sign). You will get another pull down menu. This time select “text.” Title it “Name.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question” and click on “done.”

Now for the last step for question 3. Select “Add item” again and this time on the pull down menu, select “Paragraph text.” Title it “Response.” Click the box next to “Make this a required question.” Last, click “done.”

Now you have a completed form! If you like to make things fancy then select a new theme at the top of the window. I selected the “blue bird” theme and this is what my live form will look like. When you select apply, it will take you back to your “edit form” page. You won’t see the your cutesy theme, but don’t worry it is still there.

Now that your form is compete you have several options. You can email this form to yourself so you have a link to it. But this is what I do… I copy the link at the very bottom of the page. Then I visit a QR code maker website and create a QR code for my students to get to the form quickly. I have also put a link to the form on my school webpage. Either way, you need some way for your students to link to this form on their iPods.

Once your students have accessed the “live form” on their iPods, have them make a web clip of this link (hold home key and sleep button at the same time). This way you can have your students access this same form over and over for a variety of different activities. I bet your next questions is how do you use this form with students?

This is the part where teacher creativity and innovation takes over. Here are some quick ideas for you to mull over:

  • Have students respond to a question about a book you are reading.
  • Have students write an opinion about a topic or story you are reading.
  • Have students share facts they learned from their social studies or science lesson.
  • Have students share with you their topic sentence for their new piece of writing.
  • Have students write a “7 up” sentence.
  • Have students explain how they solved a problem in math.
  • Use this as your way for students to “TATTLE.”
  • Use this form as an exit ticket.

After your students have completed their “Response Form” from an assignment you have given them, their responses will appear in the form of a spreadsheet. To access this spreadsheet, go back to your original “edit form.” Up at the top right hand corner is a tab that says “See responses.” Select “spreadsheet.” You will then see the responses from your students. In the following picture you can see the answers that I filled in on the form.

When my students are completing a “response form” assignment, I will quite often display the spreadsheet on the docucam so everyone can review others’ responses. However, I do slide the form over so the names and numbers cannot be seen so that the responses are still private. If you do this, keep hitting the refresh button to update the form as students submit their work.

If you want to save this work on the spreadsheet, select “file” from the menu bar and download it to your desktop or make a copy. When the assignment is completed and you have saved your spreadsheet, then delete the information on the spreadsheet so you can reuse this same form for another assignment.

I bet you can think of at least a thousand ways to use this simple Google form in your classroom. Not only will you be able to receive valuable written responses from your students, you will be helping to save thousands of trees by  going paperless! I would love if you would share your ideas with everyone. Don’t be shy to reply!

Jo-Ann Fox

Thank you for inspiring me, Chia Grossmann!


SimpleMind+: Digital Mind Maps for the Classroom


App Type: Creative App

Grade Level: all

Skill Level: Easy/Beginners level

Common Core Standards: This app can be used to cover just about any standard.

iOS Device: iPod, iPhone, iPad

Cost:  SimpleMind+ is free (for the version on the iPhone, iPod, and iPad). SimpleMind (full version) is $6.99. Also, there is a desktop version of the software that can be purchased for your computer. You do not need to purchase the desktop version to use this app effectively in the classroom (I have not purchased this).

SimpleMind+ is a mind mapping app. If your school site is using the Thinking Maps program, SimpleMind+ creates a “bubble map.” This creative app can be integrated in every academic area from language arts, to math, to social studies and science.

Students are able to easily save their map creations within the app so they can refer back to their maps later. However, they are disappointed when they can’t print their maps. While I am not a huge advocate for printing all student creations (we are trying to save some trees by using iPods), students can take a screen shot (to make a screen shot simply hold down the home key and the sleep button at the same time) of their map, save it to their camera roll, then email it to you.

I have used this map in my classroom mostly in the area of writing. As a prewriting activity, my second graders can create a mind map about their writing topic. However, this app is easily adaptable for any academic area. Here are some examples of what you can do with this app:

Language Arts:

  • Describe a character from a story.
  • Describe the setting of a story.
  • Describe the events of a story.
  • Create a map of facts gathered from reading an expository text.
  • Vocabulary development: write the vocabulary word in the middle and branch out with the meaning, parts of speech, synonym, antonym, and use it in a sentence.
  • Create a map of a phonics skill (such as words that have ow or ou, etc.).


  • Brainstorm details for your writing topic.
  • Create a mind map of alternative words for words that are used too often (like good, fun, etc.).

Science/Social Studies:

  • Create maps of the topics of study.
  • Create maps using science and social studies vocabulary.


  • Create a mind map of math vocabulary.
  • Use to describe shapes.
  • Create a map that shows the key words for problem solving.

For the purpose of the classroom you can easily use the free version, SimpleMind+. If you want to be able to have more control with the editing features such as color choice and linking maps together, then the paid version would be better for you. I would love for the app developers of this software to add a feature that allows you to insert pictures into the mind maps.

I hope you enjoy using this app creatively in your classroom! Please share with me any other ways you can use this app with your class. Thank you!

Jo-Ann Fox




Storyrobe is considered a CREATIVE app. A creative app is an app that can be used in a variety of ways. (Versus some apps that only allow you to practice one skill like grammar or math facts.) This app is open ended and is only limited to your own teacher creativity.

 Appstore: Storyrobe
How this app works:
With this app you can take pictures (or retrieve pictures from your photo album) and create a slideshow. With each picture in the slide show your student can record their voice. There is a 3 minute limit to the slideshow.
How have I used this app?
I have used this app across the curriculum from reading, to social studies, to math. In language arts I have had my students take pictures from the story they are reading. First, they take pictures of the main events of the story. Then they record their retelling of the story. In social studies I have used Storyrobe for my students to monitor their understanding of the content area. They take pictures of what they have learned (right out of their social studies book) and then they record their understanding of the content. In math, I have had my students take pictures of each step of a math problem on a small whiteboard (we were working on adding two digit numbers with regrouping). Then they record how to solve the problem step by step.
This app really allows you to have a quick assessment of your students’ understanding. It also provides a safe and secure way for your introverted students to have a voice.

Creative Apps vs. Skill Review Apps


I have mentioned “Creative Apps” in several posts but I never really clarified what I meant by this. So here is my attempt to define the difference between Creative Apps and Skill Review Apps and inspire a bit of healthy competition between these two types of apps.

Creative Apps are apps that can be used in more than one way and in multiple curricular areas. These types of apps usually foster innovative learning and support students to expand upon what they have learned. Creative apps are excellent ways to integrate project based learning and always have a variety of outcomes. They are easily adaptable to learning styles and can be differentiated to meet the needs of all learning levels.

Skill review apps are quite different. This is the most common type of educational app out there and quite honestly, I have quite a large collection of these apps in my iTunes library (more than I could ever really need). Skill review apps provide a child a way to review a particular skill such as adding, subtracting, letter sounds, rhyming, etc. They often mimic a worksheet, in such a way that once the skill has been mastered, there isn’t much more that can be done with the app. The student outcomes are always the same and there is little to no innovation required. I have found students bore easily if this type of app is used too often. While it does sound like my opinion of these types of apps is a bit negative, I still think there is a place for these types of apps in our classroom. But please hear me out first.

I strongly believe educators need to be providing a platform for our students to access skills they will need to be successful in the 21st Century. We need to begin teaching our students to THINK rather than repeat back they have learned. We want our students to apply what they have learned, use inquiry, be effective communicators, collaborate with others, and be able to reflect about their own learning. If you, too, believe this to be true, then I ask you… what is the best, most effective way to utilize iPods or iPads into our classrooms? Using creative apps or skill review apps?

If you took a peek into my iPod cart (I have 30 iPods) you would not find iPods stuffed to capacity with apps. You will find the following creative apps:

  1. Sonic Pics
  2. Storyrobe
  3. Puppet Pals
  4. Splice
  5. PS Express – Photoshop
  6. Comic Touch Lite
  7. Voice Memos

I do in fact have some skill review apps on my student iPods as well (I know… gasp). However, the skill review apps that I sync to my iPods are based on the standards we will be learning for that particular week and ones that I want my students to review. I try to limit the number of skill review apps to be no more than 10. I never leave these kinds of apps on my iPods for very long. It is always good to keep these types of apps fresh!

So the next time you sync your iPods, think about how many creative apps you have for your students to access that will support their needs as 21st Century learners vs. those apps that just reviewing skills. While there is a place for both in our iPod world, it is always important to reflect about what is most important for your students.