Preparing to Flip your Classroom

If you’ve been thinking about flipping your classroom I can’t urge you enough to DO IT!!!!! I flipped my class 8 years ago and I will never go back. It was the greatest move I have ever made for my students’ success and my sanity. I am now a facilitator in my room, and the kids have so much more support and differentiation in their work.

Flipping your class is definitely a big shift from the way you’ve been teaching. But the spring and summer are perfect times to contemplate the change and prepare for it. Here are some things to think about if you’re planning to flip.

Technology:

You don’t need a ton of fancy, expensive technology to flip your class.

Do you have a few computers or ipads in your classroom? Good. You’ll need a few. Of course a class set is ideal, but not necessary to flip. You really need about 4 – 8 for students who didn’t watch the video at home, or for early finishers you want to move ahead with a new video. If your school allows students to have their phones they can watch videos on their phones as an alternative.

I keep my tech and a few pairs of cheap headphones at a table off to the side of my classroom. (Of course most students have their own headphones these days and they can use those too). Students who don’t watch the video for homework (there are usually about 2 – 3) just enter class and go straight to that table to watch the video while the rest of the class does the do now. Once they finish watching and taking notes they can join a group and enter into the classwork.

Any early finishers or advanced students will move to that same table later in the period to watch the next video ahead of schedule, or to watch a special extension video that I created for them.

The other technology you’ll need is a video platform to record your videos. You don’t need a ton of expensive technology to make videos, and you don’t have to appear in your videos if you aren’t comfortable with that. (I’m not, but plenty of others are!) I use a virtual white board app on my ipad (ShowMe) which records my voice while I draw on the screen.

Some teachers use ScreenCastify, Screencast-O-Matic, Vimeo or just the camera on their phone and a white board. Some of these products allow you to add your voice to a powerpoint presentation, others require a white board or visuals. There are myriad ways to create your videos, and don’t worry, you will get comfortable with any technology you decide to use. Just play around with it, watch you tube videos and you’ll be on your way.

I recommend practicing by creating a few lessons that you’ll just throw away. That way you can learn the features of the technology in a low stakes setting.

Consider using a platform like Edpuzzle for analytics. This is much easier than it sounds. I create my videos on my ipad, then upload them to Edpuzzle. Edpuzzle allows you to put certain things in place that enhance the Flipped classroom process. First, it tells me who logs in in and watches the video, and for how long. I can tell if a student only watched the first minute or if they watched it twice. That’s very valuable information. Additionally, Edpuzzle allows you to embed checks for understanding throughout the video. Edpuzzle then gives you a report on how many students understood the checks for understanding and gives specific feedback on each student’s performance. I can use that information for my flexible grouping the next day. Edpuzzle is very easy to use and students can use it on their phones, ipads or computers easily.

Identity & Branding

Think about the brand of your videos. Will you use a certain color scheme or font? Certain graphics? Will you tell jokes? Play music? Whatever you decide, just pick a theme and identity for your videos that will make you happy. Your personality can definitely come through in your videos if you plan for it. You don’t have to be a Canva or Powerpoint expert to do this, just make it something you’re comfortable with.

My videos always start with a snippet of music. I greet students the same way I would in the classroom. I remind them to take notes in their interactive notebooks and to update their table of contents with the title for today’s lesson. My first slide contains the title of the lesson and vocabulary definitions, then I get into practice problems. All videos are 7 minutes or less and end with a “you try” problem.

Other Details

If you use interactive notebooks or Cornell notes you can embed that into your videos as well. I always remind my students the page number they should be taking notes on and then do a notebook check the next day in class during the Do Now to make sure they took them.

You can include vocabulary definitions, or include links to readings. I include announcements about upcoming tests or assessments. Sometimes I’ll say in a video, “be sure to copy this example because there will be a very similar problem on your next quiz” or something similar. You can also remind students during the video to make notes of anything they have questions about and highlight those so they remember to ask in class tomorrow.

I treat my videos exactly same way as my mini-lessons in class. The only difference is I have to anticipate student questions or misconceptions – because they can’t ask in the moment. Of course we begin class the next day addressing any misconceptions I didn’t think of and clearing those up before we jump into the class activity.

Systems and Structures

Every classroom has systems and structures in place so that students know how to operate in that classroom. For example, you have systems around how students enter the room and start their work, what to do when they don’t have a writing implement, and how to hand in homework.

Some systems will need to be re-thought in the Flipped classroom. The first and most obvious is the system you’ll have in place for when students don’t watch the video. This is the number one concern I am asked when I lead professional development on Flipped classes.

There are different ways to handle this but I’ll share mine. It is 100% my expectation that every child watch every video I assign, without exception. Videos are assigned 2 – 3 times a week. However, life happens, (and so does obstinance) and invariably there are between 0 – 4 students daily who don’t watch. (That’s a much better compliance rate than I ever got with written homework BTW). Those students know that they should enter the room and head straight to the tech table and start watching the video immediately, taking notes so they can move on to join the classwork. (This takes a little training in the fall to get students into this routine).

When students don’t watch the video at home, they have, essentially, “un-flipped” the class. Now they won’t have time to finish the classwork so they will have to take it home to finish. I make sure they do this and don’t accept the work until they finish it.

Now this next structure is going to sound harsh – but it surrounds the grading of videos. Students get a grade for watching each video. It’s either 100% or 0%. There is no in between. If a child watches the video (even if they fail the checks for understanding) they receive 100%. If they don’t watch or finish the video (even if they watched half of it) they receive a 0%. And they can’t make it up. I will make them watch it in class, because they have to in order to understand what we are doing… but I will not reverse the grade.

This strict grading structure is crucial because it sends the message that this is important and students need to do it – and that’s very effective. If you allow students to make up videos they will not watch them at home and you’ll have half the class coming in unprepared and the whole thing will not work properly. I allow students to make up other work, just not videos. And the video grade is not a large enough percent of the grade to cause them to fail the class… it’s just enough for students to understand it’s important.

I rewrote my syllabus to reflect these system changes, and communicated the nature of the class to parents at the start of the school year. I also started creating videos just for parents so they could understand what we were doing in class and how they could use the videos with their kids to help them in class. I’ve had so many parents over the years tell me that they watch my videos with their kids at home and help them to take notes and understand the work. They LOVED it! Parents really enjoyed being able to help engage in their child’s school work.

While these considerations may sound like a lot, I promise they are all so worth it. Flipping your class will enable you to better differentiate work for your students, support them when they need it and facilitate fun learning activities. Just imagine having your entire period to have children working collaboratively on different investigations and activities. They will learn so much more and you’ll have the time to support them!

This is the second blog post in my weekly series on Flipped classrooms. Future posts will launch weekly through the spring and summer. Sign up for my email list so you never miss a post!

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