Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A different approach to the flipped classroom

I've blogged several times this year about the brand new common core course I am teaching this year, which replaces the Algebra 1 class I've flipped the last 2 school years.  The content is completely different from before, so I am starting from scratch and haven't figured out how to integrate flipped learning strategies.

Well, this week I decided to finally delve in, since I had a little extra time over Thanksgiving Break to do more prep.

The "one question" that a lot of us flippers always refer to is "What's the best use of the face to face time you have with your students?"  I have known since day 1 of this year that it WASN'T being up front delivering instruction to all of my students at once, but with the brand new curriculum and content I'd never taught before for this year, I didn't know how to change that at first.  I wanted to find a better way to support my students, to help my students, and to differentiate for my students.  I was just stuck.  I knew this would be a challenge at the beginning of the year, but didn't know what a solution would be. I tried some stuff a few weeks ago with flipping the "quiz review" (pre/post), and it went well so I got to thinking of how this might just work for this new course.

Flipped Learning, according to the Flipped Learning Network webpage (www.flippedlearning.org), is defined as:
What is Flipped Learning? Flipped Learning occurs when direct instruction is moved from the group teaching space to the individual learning environment.

I love this definition, because it takes away the misconception of "class time" vs "home time" and distinguishes into group vs. individual learning space.

For the students I have this year, I don't want to send them home with a video.  I just don't think it would work that well with this group.  However, I have gotten sick, tired, frustrated, annoyed, and many other adjectives with trying to give direct instruction to the whole class at once (in the "group learning space"). I simply don't feel like I am meeting the needs of my students, I am struggling to differentiate and support the students who are all at different levels.  I have been trying to figure out a way to implement flipped learning principles in a different way than I do with my Honors Math Analysis students, because I don't think that method would work best with these students. 

So why not have the students watch the videos IN CLASS but still in their "individual" learning space??

For this new unit, I made short 2-5 minute videos for each portion of the lesson I would have done direct instruction for.  This doesn't cover everything, as there are some group activities, exploratory activities, or practice activities I want them doing collaboratively or individually.  But every day has at least some portion of instruction.

Luckily, I do have some devices in my classroom.  I have 13 iPod touches, 2 desktops, and 2 laptops available for student use.  I have 2-3 students in each class with their own 3G/4G phones.  So, students are either able to work individually or with just one other person with a device.  They are all assigned an iPod number so I can keep good track of them and the students have a sense of ownership during their class period of their device they are using.

To make it a little more fun, students get the video links by scanning in a QR code from our class blog.  That takes them to a ShowMe video (I started using ShowMe because the videos show up on mobile devices... Educreations videos don't show up on iPods!! :/ Major bummer...).

You can see the video links here.  (and yes, Grayson is playing in the background of several videos and my students called me out on that during class today :))

The whole class period students are working at their own pace and able to pause the video whenever they need.  In addition, I AM THERE to help these struggling students at the exact point they need help.  I am able to answer questions just in time and students don't get off task and distracted because of comments or questions other students are making to get attention on themselves (something that happens very often with these students)

For this week, I have grouped the students homogenously, so I have a few tables of "top" kids that don't need much help and a few tables of struggling students who now can't just depend on copying their neighbor and can actually get more focused help from me during class.  I've given the students the plan for the week here and I've told the students that they may not ever have to do math "homework" again depending on how they work in class.

So, what did I see on DAY ONE of this new method?
-Two students who have very low F's and have hardly done anything all year and are just major distractions actually working and asking questions.
-My top students working collaboratively and focused, and able to finish far ahead of the rest of the class and move on
-My students with special needs (3 in one class, 7 in the other) focusing more than I've seen them focus all year because there weren't the huge distractions of all the students in the class
-Me being able to interact with basically every student in the class (this year I'm lucky with class sizes of 35 and 27 for this course)
-Me being able to ask questions and probe for understanding from small groups of students

I am very hopeful to see how this goes.  I have what I call "iPod activities" (I haven't even mentioned the word 'flipped' to them) planned for all this week and will do them this weekend for next week if all goes well.  All I know is this is the first day in as long as I can remember this school year I have left 2nd and 6th period feeling good, feeling like my students learned something, feeling like my students were actively engaged in their learning 90% + of the period.  And that felt really good.


  1. This is fantastic. I've been following your blog for a while, and I tried to flip my English classes for the last couple of years...but as you say, there are some groups of kids who just absolutely are not flippable. This different approach might create buy-in so that I could ease into giving them more stuff that they'd want/need to access outside of the classroom to reach higher achievement levels. I don't have the technology available in the classroom that you do...but that's where grants come in, right? Time to start writing!

  2. Great blog entry! I have been doing the exact same thing as you for about 6 weeks now (I teach 8th grade science and have a wide range of learners). I have found similar results - unmotivated kids are now motivated, and students are embracing the voice and choice philosophy I have been trying to establish. My only issue is that I wish I had more time and so I would love to come up with ways that they can continue the learning at home. The challenge is that so many are working in groups and they are of the age where it is hard for them to set a mutual time to work outside of school. I would love to connect with you to find out more specifically what you are doing and using in your class and to share some ideas. My email is: amargolis@ksa-ne.org

    1. Hi Ariel,
      Thanks for your comment (and email). I literally have been doing this for one day so do not have much to share beyond what I posted today; I've already put it all out there. I will continue to share how it's going and what I'm doing and see what ideas I have to share as time goes on. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them here as well.


    2. Absolutely! One of the major gifts that has allowed me to teach like this is technology. I am using the following 3 tools: Google Docs, Mentormobedu (playlists), and StudySoup (software that allows students to annotate, and collaborate on texts and mulitmedia). What do you use? I am happy to share more about what each of these edtech tools can do. Feel free to email me at: amargolis@ksa-ne.org

  3. Thank you so much for the post. I needed it. I have trying to figure out a new way to get things done in my class and you have given me some great ideas and a place to start next semester.

  4. Thank you for sharing! This is only my second year flipping my class and I am already seeing that I have some students who do much better after watching the video in class. I was getting ready to work with a student individually when it dawned on me that I really wouldn't be saying or doing anything so radically different than what I had already done in the video so I had him watch it again. Magically, he understood the concept after watching it in class. Hummm . . . Thanks for sharing that it is OK to flip the flip!

  5. What do you do with your top learners who is quickly complete the activities? I tried flipping a unit in my chemistry class and found that while I encouraged a number of students to work ahead or complete the extra credit enrichment activities I had provided most of them just ended up chatting. My time was needed by several students who we struggling and I do not want to constantly have to redirect my higher students (they are good kids but very social).

    1. I haven't found the perfect answer (see the new post I just posted with my first week reflections). Mon-Thurs they could work ahead to the next day's activities. Friday was tough b/c I hadn't thought that far ahead, but we do have a Problem of the Month that they can work on throughout the unit, and that's where I will be directing them if they finish early.
      I don't have a problem with having them work on something from another class or read a book (individually, so go move to a quiet place) if they finish my work.
      In terms of off task/chatting, I just have to be vigilant about the expectations for behavior in the class and that they are expected to be working on something the whole period, and then move them away from their classmates if they choose to just socialize. It's not perfect, but it works.

    2. Great ideas, Crystal! I have found that the "top learners" like to push through quickly and don't always appreciate the depths one can go into a subject. For them (and for all my students), I give them application based projects and activities. Students have the options to choose what types of activities they can do. I also give each student a reflective piece on how the topic they learned. I am happy to share the methods (and methodology) if you (or anyone wishes). Feel free to email me at: amargolis@ksa-ne.org


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