A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a teacher that I didn’t know asking me about when I flipped my classroom. This teacher wanted to flip her grade 9 science class, and she was contacting me to ask my advice. After typing out my lengthy email to her, I decided that this was probably something I should write about here.
First of all, I have learned a lot through internship, and I truly don’t believe I am the one who should be giving advice, but I can share my experience and hope that is enough.
I made the decision to flip my first unit, Thermodynamics in Chemistry, because it is a strategy I have heard of and I wanted to see what it was all about. There is no better situation to take a risk in internship, because you have someone there that will help you “absorb” the fall if it turns out that there is one.
I want to make it clear that I did not do a full flip. A full flip requires that you take all the lecture content at home and all of the homework at school. I did not feel like I was prepared for this, and I didn’t feel like I could prepare my students for this, so I experimented with some of the aspects of a flipped classroom.
First, flipping is a whole new mind set for students. You are having to change the way they learn, not just what they learn. You have to get them to buy into it somehow. This was by far the greatest challenge. Students who are used to sitting in desks and absorbing information by means of a pencil and paper will always want to do it this way, because that is what they find easy. I found that this was a strategy that you had to explain why you were doing it. It is an odd thing to do. Most of the time when we choose a strategy for teaching such as direct instruction or cooperative learning, but we don’t explain the theory of why we are implementing it. To implement a flipped classroom, you have to give students the “why”. One way that I got them to buy into this strategy is that I promised if this was going to be a true flip, that they would never have homework (besides the videos and notes) to do outside of class. That is the point of flipping right? It is hard to stick to this promise when you feel the need to move on through the curriculum, but I do believe that if you do not draw the line of when homework is to be done and not done, that they won’t engage in this method. It happened to me! I went back on my word about assigning other homework and the strategy kind of fell apart.
What I did was post videos to a class wiki that they had to watch and then they had to fill out their “notes” while they were watching the video. The most important thing about these notes, is that they have to be purely factual. If you make them do understanding or analyzing questions on their own time, it defeats the purpose of flipping, which is to do the “hard stuff” when the teacher is there. Writing down formulas and facts are easy, so that should be done at home. When they come to school, that is when you do activities, and homework to help internalize what they wrote down and what it actually means. The teacher should be the one who helps them analyze and learn, not write down facts for them to copy down.
I learned that the quickest way to destroy your flip class is to go over (in class) the content that they were supposed to write down on their own. If you go through their notes to make sure “everyone has the right stuff down” no one will watch the videos because you are traditionally giving them their notes anyways, Then you have just shot the whole strategy in the foot. Instead, if they come to class unprepared, and they have no idea what is going on, you just have to let them be out of luck (which is hard to do!).
When my students did what they needed to do, there was much deeper understanding of the content. I was able to spend more time doing labs, activities, explaining, and working with each of them individually. My lecture time went down to almost none, besides explaining labs and some other content that I couldn’t find videos on. We are told in this age of teaching that we must differentiate all the time, in everything. By taking away the lecture component in class, I could differentiate much better. I knew what each of my students knew and how to help them.
Be ready to take time to learn how to use technology. I used a wiki space and that is where I posted the videos, and all of their assignments. I chose not to make my own videos because as an intern, I didn’t think I would be able to handle the work load. But I would of if I thought I had time. I also wanted to pick videos that were more engaging. For science, I would used scishow
youtube channels for informational/ interesting videos. There are also good explanation videos from Kahn Academy
has really great videos and they have lesson plans for flips already done.
At the beginning of the year I also took in info about who had internet access at home, and on their smart phones, so that I would know who I needed to open the computer lab for in the mornings. I also have my personal tablet that some students with limited tech access would use to watch videos before class. Also, take advantage of Remind 101
, and maybe get versed in the twitter world. I never learned about flip class in ANY university class, I learned it all from social media!
One thing I was not prepared for is the very high achieving students not doing so well with this strategy. My high achievers who are used to learning from lecture thought they could go without watching the video and pick up everything in class. They were mad when they first saw their marks, but when they started watching their grades went up. The lower achieving students really liked this method because they could watch the videos multiple times if they were having a hard time grasping the content right away. As much as I liked the youtube videos that I chose, sometimes the people in the videos talked very fast, and my ESL students had a hard time keeping up.
Flip class is about making time for deeper understanding and analyzing, so the assessment must match that. The exams in my class contained a multiple choice section, but I wanted to make sure that I allowed for deeper thinking. So these are the instructions to the multiple choice questions, out of two marks each.
1) Circle the letter of the correct answer – 2 marks.
2) Circle the letter of an incorrect answer – 0 marks.
3) Circle the letter of an incorrect answer, but JUSTIFY it, could earn you part marks.
4) Make changes to the question and answer YOUR new question correctly – 2 marks.
5) Put in a different answer (answer ‘F’) and JUSTIFY it correctly – 2 marks.
Your mission is to show me what you know, use the provided space to justify what you learned to earn as many marks as possible.
I leave a lot of room around each question, so students write all sorts of things, refer to labs and real world examples and draw pictures. Be careful to explain that this is about showing what they know, not about fooling the system. I once had a question that said: Which of the following does not affect the rate of reaction, and a student answered with “hair color.” Correct, but did not tell me anything about science. So watch for that. This type of multiple choice has to be further up on Blooms than recalling.
I did not choose to keep flipping after my first unit. One of the reasons is that my second unit didn’t have very many good videos on the internet, so I would have to make my own, and as I have said, I didn’t think that I had the time to do this. Looking back, I wish I would have challenged myself and done it anyways.
I apologize for the choppy and sporadic post. There are so many aspects to what I did that it is hard to fit it all in to one post. I learned so much and this is a strategy that I want to try to use again when I am out and on my own.
I would love to hear about anyone else’s experiences with flipping! Leave a comment.