Saturday, March 24, 2012

Initial Impressions (Part 1 of 3)

On Friday, I had the privilege to host three visitors from a neighboring school.  I asked them to give me their initial impressions of the "flipped classroom" after seeing my class in action, as well as to ask what questions they had about implementing the flipped model in their classroom.

Here are the thoughts and questions from Visitor #1, as well as my attempt to answer this teacher's questions to the best of my ability. (when I get responses from Visitor #2 and #3, I will link those posts here)
Part 1 ...  Part 2 ... Part 3

Visitor #1:
OK here goes - my first thought when I walked in was that the students were all engaged and on task, which was great.  It was pretty overwhelming at first in that there are so many moving parts - students on the computers, one student making up a test, students walking around getting what they need, and you moving around the classroom signing off on the sheets of paper that each student had, as well as helping those that needed help.  But, the more I walked around and talked with some students, I realized that it was more like organized chaos, but in a very productive way - the conversations going on were inspiring, because the students were communicating mathematically and not just talking about unrelated things.  I liked the packets of work that kept the students organized and allowed them to see what they were expected to learn as well as when they needed to learn it by.  You and the students got the most out of the 54 minutes that you had available to you - super productive!

Visitor #1 questions and concerns for own implementation with my answers.  If you have any follow up questions that I didn't answer clearly, please feel free to ask in the comments.

1. If every student gets multiple packets throughout the year, the duplicating costs would be high.

Yes, students get packets for each chapter so it is a lot of paper.  I am able to utilize our district's Print Shop services.  However, depending on your student population, their access, and your school's tools, you could have them responsible for printing it.  I like giving them the packet because it guides their learning with the videos and gives them structure for in class time.  From the other teachers I have talked to, students do better with the videos when they have guided notes to follow along with rather than just copying down what they think is important.  It helps to keep them organized and gives them a great resource to go back to when they are reviewing previous concepts.

2. Managing the paperwork that comes in seems like it would almost be never ending.  I for one do not like to collect much - I usually sign off on the homework while the students are in class, and the only thing I ever take home is a test or a quiz - which is more manageable for me.

Paperwork is generally only collected on Fridays at the end of the week (which is when you visited). There is not one "right" or "best" way to organize the paperwork you choose to collect; you really just have to find what works best for you in your classroom and with your style.  With my concept quizzes, I really try to do most of the grading automatically so none of it has to be done after class and students get automatic feedback.  I have also heard a lot of teachers do online quizzes through different Learning Management Systems (Moodle, Edmodo, etc) so they don't even have to grade them by hand.

3. How do the students gain access to the videos?  Are they on your Google site and they each have their own log in?

My videos are hosted in a variety of places.  They are uploaded to YouTube and SchoolTube (since YouTube is blocked on campus) and can be found by searching or going to my channel  The links are embedded on our class Edmodo site for students to access.  I am playing around with a couple of other options for next year, including a blog interface and utilizing playlists through and  I am also hoping to find a way to do an iTunes podcast feed so videos can be synced and downloaded automatically with students' iPods.

4. How do I keep the students motivated to complete the packets and not waste time?I don't have an easy answer to this.  There will always be a few students here and there who choose to not be productive during class, and they feel it that night when they have more homework than they should.  I try to keep my classroom busy with activities so the students always have more to do and several options of how to spend their time - from working on problems, watching videos, taking quizzes, making videos, etc.  When the class environment is productive, it helps persuade students to stay productive. 

Also, since my Math Analysis classes have been flipped for a little over 3 months now, there has been a development in what class time looks like.  At the beginning the students need a lot more guidance and structure of expectations and good work habits.  Over time, I have found out ways to give them more freedom but still have them be on task.  I have definitely tried some things that haven't worked, so I am just continually trying to find more "keepers" to add to my list of what is working.

One thing I have found that has worked well is giving students the opportunity to have a "waiver" for an assignment once they show mastery by receiving a perfect score on that specific concept quiz.  This motivates them to learn the material well the first time so basically they can "get out of" extra work.  I don't want my work to be busy work, and I think most students in my class have realized that with my system.  The practice is for their benefit, not mine.

5. How often do you switch it up and so they are not always just coming in, completing their packets, etc.?

It really depends on the students and the content.  I want class time to be most beneficial to them and their learning, so there isn't a set pattern or anything.  Every day, there are so many different things a student could choose to focus on to help their learning.  Some students love to just work in their groups all period.  Some students would rather focus on taking quizzes or making videos during class, and bring some of the "classwork" home.  Sometimes I see the need to do small group instruction or even whole group instruction (like I did with that one proof on Friday).  

I am always on the lookout for different activities and ways to engage the students in learning, but I have started to stray away from "whole-class" activities and games and focus on the individual student or groups of students.  

6. What happens when a student doesn't watch the video? How do you know when they don't?

If a student doesn't watch the video, they need to (hopefully) get it watched at the beginning of class.  I rarely have more than 1 or 2 Math Analysis students who need to watch the video each day; I have about 5-8 in my Algebra 1 classes each day.  Because the students have to answer summary questions based on the video and be ready to discuss in them in class (with the 5:00 timer), I can easily tell when I am listening in the discussions who doesn't have their WSQ (see link to page with more info above) completed because (1) They have it written down in front of them for me to see and (2) they are able to talk about it with their classmates and answer any questions posed by me.  By this point, students have realized that the videos do help them and it is worth it to watch them or they will be lost in class.

7. If you have a couple of computers to catch students up, what if you get more students who need catching up than you have computers available?

They have to wait their turn.  However, there are plenty of other things for them to work on if they are a day behind - reviewing old concepts, taking quizzes on those concepts, etc.  Also, their classmates can help them with the concept by explaining it to them in their own words until they can get the full lesson.

8. Where did you get the big timer that gets displayed at the beginning of class? It's awesome :)

9. Is there any research that supports the flipped classroom model actually helps the students?

There is not a ton published out there right now, but it is starting to come out. I know three teachers around the country who are currently completing Action Research projects on the Flipped model.  You can check out  to see some research that has been done, as well as my "Flip Data" tab up top to see the data that I have collected this year.  I have seen improvement in test scores in terms of class average, as well as an increase in the percentage of A's/B's and a decrease in the percentage of D's/F's for four straight Math Analysis tests.  For Algebra 1, I have seen a group of kids who scored on average 8-10% lower than my 2010-2011 students consistently in the non-flipped class to only scoring 2-3% (or even the same) lower in the flipped class.

10. What type of student does it not work better for?

The students that struggle are those who 

(1) don't do traditional homework anyways, so they don't watch the videos either.  I have seen improvement in homework completion from the "middle to low" kids, but the low low kids who never did homework to begin with still don't do it.
(2) want to "play the game" of school.  They are used to being spoon-fed information and then spitting it back out on a test and not really having to make sense of it themselves and think critically or discuss the content.  They now have to take responsibility for their learning, manage their time wisely, and be able to talk about math and not just mindlessly do the problems.  Many of these students are "coming around" but there are still a few who really don't like the flipped classroom model because they want me to be up front teaching the whole period and them sitting in their chairs copying notes.  I have had to have a few individual student "mini-conferences" throughout this semester with some of these types of students, and they have responded well and have started to figure things out.  It's hard to break 10+ years of indoctrination, but it's possible!

11. Do students who finish packets early have something to do when they finish?Students are given their "WSQ charts" for the whole week, so if they finish one day's assignment they can move on to the next and even watch videos ahead of time at school so they don't have to watch them at home.  It is all about how the student manages their time.

I do have one student who, up until this chapter, was about 2 weeks ahead of the class at any given point.  He was completely self-paced and took the tests when he was ready.  If he finished before I had the next unit ready to go, he would work through a list of "challenge" problems I had taken from the textbook or even started learning the basics of AP Calc with a few resource books that I had.  Next year when I actually have the whole year planned out, videos recorded, etc, I am hoping to have more options and activities for students who do want to move faster than the class's pace.  Most of my students are fairly happy with just keeping up with the pace I have set for them.

12. When students watch the videos at home for homework, do you also give them practice problems to do at home?If the student has a video at home, all they have to complete is the WSQ.  They Watch the video, which includes me explaining the concept, working out a few problems, and usually giving them one or two to try on their own throughout the course of the video (but the problems they try on their own are always worked out for them in a "part 2" video).  They write a summary/answer the questions I pose for them, which are either asked at the end of the video or written down on their WSQ charts.  Then, they have to write their own question to ask in class the next day - either something they really don't understand or, if they understood everything, a question they think a classmate my be confused about.  The S and Q are what guide the discussion time in class.

The videos are between 5-15 minutes long, depending on the content.  I try to break up the longer videos into multiple parts. Watching the video (and pausing, rewinding, etc) and writing the WSQ for a 15 minute video will take the students about 30 minutes.  That is about how long they should be spending on homework time for my class anyways.

There are some nights (in Math Analysis only) that students will have a short video and a short set of review problems to complete for a test, but that is only in the night or two before a unit test.

On nights there is no video, students do complete traditional homework. This usually only happens in Algebra 1.  Those are the nights I see the LEAST amount of homework completion.  My lower Algebra 1 students are coming around to watching the videos and doing the WSQ, but when it comes to actually completing regular practice problems at home, the old issues of "I forgot how to do it" arise with those lower, unmotivated kids.

13. When students get to the end of a unit and have not learned concepts, what do you do? 

I haven't figured this out fully yet.  Because I keep most of my students on the same pace (unit tests are all on the same day still), if they don't pass the test, they have the chance to re-assess and retake that test after going through a few different remediation options.  However, this is in addition to what is going on in class currently.

There are several different "versions" of the flipped classroom (as you explore it more, you will realize there really isn't "one" flipped classroom - every teacher does it differently and it evolves over time and with different classes).  One version I like is the "flipped-mastery" version where students are fully self-paced and CAN'T move on until they have shown proficiency.  This means every student in your class may be on a different page every day, and you have to have the whole year pretty much mapped out.  I'm not ready for that change yet, but I hope to head more towards that in the future once I have this whole thing figured out a little more.

Please let me know if you have any follow up questions! I am far from an expert, but I feel like I have already learned a lot in my journey with the flipped classroom!

Another note I added to this response:

One thing to remember is that there is not one "flipped classroom" that is perfect and works everywhere.  The main point of using this ideology is to time-shift the instruction (content delivery, direct instruction, etc) out of the classroom so class time can be more meaningful, engaging, and interactive for the students.  It's not all about the videos, but the videos are used as a tool to help make this work. There are so many different ways I have seen it done, and I am constantly tweaking my model to find better ways to support my students.  It is a hard change at first for both us as teachers and for the students, because it goes against almost everything we have been taught and that we have experienced.  However, I really think the change is worth it, and I hope to continue to see the growth in my students and the data in achievement scores to prove it. 


  1. Crystal, I am ever impressed by your thoroughness and willingness to improve your Flip Class. You are a rock star of reflection! You inspire me to continue to fine tune my Flip Class,
    thanks for sharing,

    1. Carolyn,
      Thanks for your comment and continual encouragement and thoughts via the blog and twitter! So glad you are a part of my PLN :)


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