Flipped Classroom 101: Challenges, Benefits & Design Tips

The flipped classroom model shifts the transfer of information online and moves practice and application into the classroom. Classically, the transfer of information has occurred in class via lecture and practice has been assigned for homework. The value of this inversion is that students can pace their progress through a video (pausing, rewinding, rewatching). They also have the benefit of a supportive peer group and the subject-area expert as they attempt to apply new information.

The flipped classroom was one of the first blended learning models to become popular. Over the last ten years, I’ve seen excitement about this model turn to skepticism. Teachers are concerned about:

  • Sending video content home with students who may not have access to the internet or a device.
  • Adding to the time students already spend staring at a screen.
  • Dealing with students who do not watch videos and come to class unprepared.
  • Overloading students with homework after a long day of school.

The Benefits of Using Video

Despite these valid concerns, I am a big fan of introducing content with video because 1) students can control the pace, 2) I don’t have to repeat the same basic information multiple times, 3) students who are absent, transfer in late, or just need to hear information repeatedly can access the videos any time online, and 4) it creates a foundation on which I can build with small group instruction.

Flipping in Class

A few years ago I started experimenting with the in-class flip. Instead of sending videos home to be viewed as homework, I would blend video content into a station rotation lesson, use flipped content to design a whole group rotation, or weave videos into my playlists. This helped me to address my concerns around access, coming to class prepared, and burdening students with homework.

Design a Three Part Flipped Lesson to Weave Together Offline & Online Work

I address the issue of students staring at a screen by designing a three-part lesson that weaves together offline and online elements. I suggest that regardless of the strategy teachers use to present online content (in a station, whole group, or as homework) that they think about the flipped classroom in three separate steps.

First, teachers need to create context. Begin with a collaborative offline activity designed to pique student interest or get them generating questions about a topic. Alternatively, teachers can assess students’ prior knowledge with an individual task and collect useful data to inform their follow-up instruction.

Second, flip and engage. Don’t just ask students to watch a video. Pair the video content with an activity that encourages students to think about, analyze, or evaluate the information. Teachers can:

  • Use a tool like Edpuzzle to create a lesson around the video with short answer and multiple choice questions.
  • Pair the video in an online discussion using Google Classroom or Schoology.
  • Ask students to take structured notes as they watch the video (e.g., Cornell notes with a summary).

Third, follow the video content with an offline student-centered activity that invites groups to work collaboratively to apply the information presented in the video. This encourages students to lean on their peers for support as they attempt to practice new skills and apply new information.

2 Step Process for Creating Videos

Teachers often ask, “How do you create your videos?” I follow a simple two-step process.

  1. Create a Google Slide Presentation

I prefer to have my content ready to go when I am recording a video. If I create a presentation, I can take my time articulating the information in a clear and concise way, inserting relevant media, and adding animation. Animation makes it possible to show information in chunks on cue and underline or box keywords or phrases as I present.

2. Record a Screencast

I use QuickTime on my Mac or Screencastify (a Chrome Extension) to record my screencasts. A screencast is a recording of what is on my screen so students see my Google Slide presentation (not me). It also captures the audio recording of my explanation.

The benefit of using Screencastify is that it allows teachers to save video recordings directly to Google Drive. For teachers working with younger students or at schools that block YouTube, saving videos to Google Drive makes it possible to bypass a video hosting site like YouTube. Instead, they can share the video from Google Drive with a link just like they would share a document.

I want to share my videos with anyone who wants to watch them, so I upload my videos to YouTube, create playlists of videos on similar topics, and share the YouTube link with my students. The benefit of publishing to YouTube is that I can delete the video file from my computer saving space on my device and in my Google Drive.

The beauty of the flipped classroom has very little to do with the videos. The magic of this model lies in the ability to shift the control and the focus from the teacher to the students. When done well, the flipped classroom model should create time and space for students to work collaboratively in class while freeing the teacher to provide more personalized support as student work.

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5 Tips for Defining Unknown Words Using Context Clues

Students encounter unfamiliar words all of the time, but few slow down to think about what they can learn about those unfamiliar words based on how they are used. The ability to define unfamiliar vocabulary is a life skill that teachers need to teach explicitly. We cannot assume that students will know how to do this without instruction and practice. Below are five strategies I encourage students to use when they encounter new words in a text.

  1. Look at the parts of the word. Are there any roots in the word? Does the word sound like another word you know?
  2. Break down the sentence. What can you learn about the word based on the information in the sentence?
  3. Hunt for clues. Are there definitions, synonyms, antonyms, or punctuation that provide clues about the word’s meaning?
  4. Think about connotative meaning (ideas, feelings, or associations beyond the dictionary definition). Does the word have positive or negative connotations?
  5. Once you have a guess, substitute your word or phrase for the unfamiliar word to see if it works.

These tips may not work every time, but they give students a place to start. Below is a video tutorial I created to provide students with a concrete example of what it looks like to use these tips while reading an excerpt from The Giver in StudySync.

Not only will students who use these strategies to define unfamiliar words develop vocabularies more quickly, but it will help them be more successful on high stakes exams, like the SAT. All of the vocabulary on the new SAT is used in context, so students will need to be comfortable navigating a challenging text with unfamiliar vocabulary.

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Use Digital Notebooks to Facilitate Book Clubs and Literature Circles at the Secondary Level

Different books appeal to different readers. Many students do not become readers until they encounter “the book.” It’s the book that grabs them and pulls them into the story. Once a person has had an immersive experience with a book, they usually become readers. Unfortunately, most secondary curriculum relies on a one-size-fits-all approach to reading. Instead of creating readers, this approach can alienate students who struggle to access books at a particular reading level or do not care for the genre of the books on their class reading list.

Embracing a book club and literature circle format can allow teachers the opportunity to shift from a whole class experience to a more personalized reading experience. Instead of being assigned a book they must read, students are given a menu of books to choose from and the teacher groups them according to their book selection. Allowing students a degree of agency in terms of the books they select can be a powerful motivator for even the most reluctant readers.

One challenge teachers face when students are reading different texts simultaneously is how to cover the standards if every student is reading a different book. While coaching a teacher in Palm Springs, I developed a digital notebook using Google Slides that teachers can use to facilitate a book club or literature circle unit. Since the books will be different lengths, I separated the digital notebook into four sections instead of by chapter. Each section prompts students to examine the characters, themes, and language of their texts. Even though the books are different, the skills they are developing are the same. So, teachers can provide whole group mini-lessons or small group instruction on the various skills and students can use their individual books to practice and apply those skills.

Here is the template you can copy: bit.ly/HSbookclub

I hope this secondary book club template provides teachers with a path for thinking about how they can develop grade-level skills while allowing students a degree of choice about what they read.

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