Sunday, July 30, 2017

My Take on Flipped Classroom

"The flipped classroom is not about the videos! It is about how you re-envision class time." 
-Jon Bergmann

I've done a flipped math classroom for the past two school years and absolutely love it. I also train other teachers on how to do it in their classrooms, and the above quote basically summarizes how I open sessions. 

The technology with a flipped classroom is easy and can be learned in literally five minutes or less. I personally use Explain Everything on my iPad to create the videos, upload them to YouTube, and have a playlist of all videos embedded on a Google Site with a Sheet detailing which videos my students are to watch. That's the extent of the technology involved, and you can easily replicate that in your classroom.

However, there's much more to it than just making videos and assigning them for students to watch at home. (You can do an in-class flip, but I've done an out of class flip and it's worked beautifully for my students. Do what you feel is best for yours.)

The Buy In

Practicing a flip in class
When talking with administrators, have a plan. Mentioning the technology is important, so they know you have given thought to the logistics, but I lead with the why. Math standards get more rigorous every year, with content added constantly. It's hard to properly introduce new material, provide time for guided and independent practice, and assess all in the timeframe of a school day. Illustrating the benefits will help the admin to accept this idea, and it's great to back it up with data.

After getting the go ahead from my administrator, I next discuss it with the parents. Ideally, I do this at a formal Back-to-School night, but the information is always available on my classroom website, too. When introducing it, I explain what's expected of students at home (explained more in "The  'Homework'" section) and the benefits to both the student and the parents. Benefits to parents include that they can be consistent with what methods are being taught in school, there's less frustration involved (saying, "Go watch your flip video" is less likely to cause a fight than "Go do your worksheet"), and it empowers the parents to have a modeled practice of how to do math. Nine times out of ten, when I have a parent who says they were "hate math," it's because they are fearful that they can't do the math their child can do. A flipped classroom also helps tremendously with communication between the teacher and the parent. The parent can tell you specifically where the student is getting stuck rather than "He doesn't understand decimals."

Be prepared for some pushback from parents and/or admin. It's something new and they may not fully grasp it. Be open and flexible. I generally ask for ongoing feedback about flipped classroom to the parents in my classroom and they seem to appreciate that. Prepare to overcome some challenges, and you may be pleasantly surprised if none occur. 

Finally, after talking with the adults involved, I lay it out to my students. This is usually the easiest step. I tell them their math homework for the year is going to be to watch YouTube. Once the cheering dies down, I add that it's math-related, which is slightly less exciting for them. However, I then shift into why it's going to be helpful for them. I play up the fact that they can learn at their own pace by rewinding certain parts, pausing, and even rewatching the whole video multiple times over. I share how I nor anyone else in the class will know if they understood it after one watch or sixteen views, which saves them some dignity if they are a student who has traditionally struggled in front of their peers for years on end. The flipside is also true - if they get it after one viewing, they don't need to rewatch it and be bored to tears. Buy-in from the students is usually the easiest to gain, especially if they know you're doing it in their best interests. 

The "Homework"

Like I said, I do an out-of-class flip. I check with parents for access to Internet and devices and I've found that they always have some access. Just in case, I do have backup plans ready (they do it in class during a math rotation or direct them to a public library).

At home, the students watch the videos. I produce all the videos myself, because I can tie it into my students' interests and the methods I'm teaching in class. My videos aren't super awesome, but they reflect my personality and teaching style that my students get in class. I keep them under 10 minutes so if a student needs to view it numerous times, I'm respecting their time. Rewatching a 20 minute video quickly turns into over an hour of work.

Sometimes, students create videos during class and then I assign them to the class for homework. I'll expand on this in a later post.  

The videos all follow a "I do, we do, you do" structure. I introduce and model the concept, and then give them another problem and ask them to pause the video. Once they've solved it, they unpause and I magically finish it out. The videos conclude with a "Bring Back to School" problem, which has no provided answer. This is what I'll be checking in the morning and help me create my groups. 

Practicing taking notes
While the students watch the video, they take notes. I don't provide outlines or fill-in-the-blanks because I want them to write down what they feel is important. The rule of thumb I tell them is if I write it on my screen, it should be on their paper. They know not to try to write down everything I say, because Mr. B talks a lot and goes off on tangents. 

We practice taking notes as a class for at least three weeks before they're doing it completely independently at home. Each week, we shift from in class practice to more at home, and I find this scaffolding really helps. 

What if a kid doesn't do his video? This is the most common question I get when doing a training session. If this happens, I ask them if they didn't do it at all or forgot to bring in their notes. If it's the latter, I ask them to bring the notes the following day. If it's the former, I give them a choice: do it during math rotations or do double tonight. Generally, most students choose to double up and it's a rare occurrence for repeat offenders.

The Instructional Shifts

When my students come into our classroom, I check their notes for the "Bring Back to School" problem. This is my first indication of their grasp of the prior night's video. However, it could be their siblings' or parents' work. I also usually have them solve a problem about the prior night's objective, either on paper, a whiteboard, or Google Form.

This helps me group the students. If a few students misunderstanding a specific element of long division, I can work with them on that rather than the spray and pray mentality of giving everyone the same instruction. I can really focus on what the students need to best address their learning.

That's the power of the flipped classroom. I rarely introduce a new concept in a whole group lesson, since the video is the whole group lesson. Instead, we're using our math time for number talks and math stations. In our 90-minute math block, we're able to do a fifteen minute number talk, and three 25-minute rounds for math stations. These stations include meeting with me, hands on work, collaboration with peers, and technology based stations. Some stations are standardized, with the ability for the student to self-adjust based on their perceived level of difficulty, while others are individualized specifically for that student.

The bottom line is that with a flipped classroom, class time is no longer used for passive learning - it's all active while they're in the classroom.

The Results

We always need to look at the validity of using new instructional methods beyond "it's cool and shiny and the kids will love it." Not much research exists on flipped classroom yet, but I have two years worth of data to support it. In both years, my students experienced large gains in their end-of-year state exams (comparing third to fourth grade), both in average score and class pass rate. My first year of flipping saw about a 20% increase in passing, while both years have seen a 30 point gain. 

While data is great for admin, it's just as important to check in with parents and students to see what they felt. I'll close with a sampling of their responses.

Parent responses:
  • Flipped videos have made a huge different to my child, he struggles with reading but is much better at math. The flipped videos allows him to do math without the struggle of reading, he can view a video for as many times as he would like. 
  • An added benefit is that I can watch the video and help him, I have realized that I actually remember more then I thought from my days in math class.
  • Taking notes is a skill that he is developing as he is watching and he is not surprised by what will asked of him the next day. The videos are short and not overwhelming and it makes it way more fun to do it on the computer.
Student responses:
  • I think it is a lot more fun instead of taking home a worksheet you get to watch and video and it makes learning easier.
  • It is fun because he includes things we like.
  • I like flip notes because you cannot use the excuse of you lost your worksheet.

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