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Flip Your Classroom in 6 Simple Steps

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 -- Regina Waddell

By now, you've probably heard of the flipped classroom model, and you may have thought to yourself, "That looks really cool. I should do that!" But, you haven't yet because, well, new things are hard. And you're busy. And you're a teacher, which makes you super busy. I get it. I know exactly how it feels. When I was a classroom teacher, I felt constantly trapped between thoughts of "How can I do this better?" and "I barely have time to do what I'm already doing." Simply keeping up with the daily tasks of teaching makes it incredibly difficult to implement a new instructional method. It doesn't help that when many teachers think about implementing any kind of blended learning approach, they imagine a long, complicated process involving schoolboard meetings, fancy words like "procurement," and hours of training.

Well, great news—flipping your classroom doesn’t have to be complicated! Follow these six easy steps, and you’ll be up and running.

1. Pick a standard. I did say "six easy steps," and this one is the easiest. Review your scope and sequence or state standards, and select the standard that you would like to start with for your first flipped classroom lesson.

2. Develop an assessment. Now that you know what you want your students to learn, the next step is determining what mastery of this standard looks like and how to assess to what extent students have achieved it. In a flipped classroom, this assessment should be done in two parts. The first should be a super-short and easy-to-grade assessment for students to take immediately after they have consumed the online content. The second should be a somewhat longer assessment that allows students to demonstrate their understanding of the concept at a deeper level. Both assessments need to provide you with data that you can use to deliver individualized support to students in the classroom. I recommend using an online quizzing tool—there are quite a few free ones that you can use for easy data collection (Google Forms and Socrative are a couple great options!). If you don't want to write your own questions, consider using a program like Edmentum's Study Island for high-quality, standards-based classroom assessments.

3. Locate instructional content. Think about how you would teach this concept to your students face-to-face, and then find instructional content on the Web to replace your direct instruction. Start with sites like TeacherTube, Khan Academy, TED-Ed, Quizlet, and Slideshare to find free video or interactive lessons, or try your hand at creating content yourself. The great thing is that since more and more educators are implementing flipped and other blended learning models, there is more good content out there. Just be sure to thoroughly review any lesson you find to make sure that it is appropriate for your students and that it sufficiently and effectively addresses the standard that you want your students to learn. As you review the content, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will my students be able to master the assessment after consuming this content?
  • Is this content at an appropriate instructional level for most of my students?
  • Is this content engaging enough to hold my students' attention?
  • Does this content cater to my students’ different learning styles?
  • Is this content seven minutes in length or less? (This isn't a hard and fast rule, but content that is longer than that can cause students to lose interest.)

If you can answer all five of these questions with a “yes,” then you likely have a great piece of instructional content that your students can really learn from.

Tip: If some of your students don't have access to the Internet at home, locate content resources that can be downloaded and have students download them to their devices before they leave school.

4. Plan your in-class activities. Now that your students will be receiving the initial direct instruction at home, what is the best way to use your class time? Well, the flipped classroom offers two major benefits. First, students receive direct instruction on their own terms and at their own pace so that they can reread, go back and review, or fast-forward as they want in order to build understanding. The second major benefit of flipping your classroom is that it allows more class time for working on activities that require higher-order thinking. These are activities in which students practice and apply concepts, and doing these in class instead of at home allows you to be there to provide assistance when students need it, which leads to deeper learning. Choose a few different short practice/application activities for students to complete—some individual and some with a partner or a group—just be sure that each activity you choose guides your students toward mastery of the standard. Additionally, be sure to select a mix of activities designed to develop deeper understanding (for students who demonstrate mastery on the first assessment) along with activities designed to build up to mastery (for students who don't demonstrate mastery on the first assessment). Finally, think about the role you will play. Will you circulate, helping students as they need it; pull small groups of students to work with; or some combination of both?

5. Roll it out. Some teachers think that they need to have a virtual class set up with Google Classroom or a similar site before their students can participate in a flipped classroom. Not true! You can simply create a short document that contains the following:

  • The standard/goal written in student-friendly language
  • Clear instructions on what the students need to do
  • Links to the content that students are to consume
  • A summary of the follow-up activities that will happen in-class (This will help motivate all students to get the work done.)

Once you have this document created, give your students a short explanation of what the flipped classroom model is and why you are trying it. Then, you can send them the document through email or post it on a server they can access. Just be sure that every student has the document downloaded to his or her device before leaving school.

6. Evaluate. If you are completing this step, then you already deserve a high five for trying something new. Now, it’s time to debrief. How did your flipped classroom experiment go? To reflect, jot down the answers to these questions:

  • Did most of the students consume the assigned content? If not, why? How can you fix this issue?
  • How did students perform on the first assessment? Were the questions at the right level? Did the content adequately cover the standard?
  • How did the in-class activities work? Did all of the students have an activity or assignment that allowed them to develop their mastery of the concept?
  • Did you gain more time to spend with your students individually or in small groups?

Remember, this is your first flipped lesson, so don’t expect perfection. Continue doing the things that worked well, and change the things that didn't. Just keep at it, making adjustments along the way until you find a method that works for you. Looking for more tips, strategies, and ideas to make the flipped classroom model work for you? Check out these blog posts!

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