Ask any teacher what they need to improve student achievement, and you’ll likely hear, “MORE TIME!” Because this is precisely the answer I would have given, I decided to give the flipped classroom a try, and found that it enabled me to spend more time facilitating investigations and projects, and less time in direct teaching mode. This is my first year to flip my science classroom, so I am still reading articles and books and attending training to improve the technique, but I am very pleased with the extra time I have with my students since I started flipping. My students now come to class ready to apply what they listened to and watched at home, which allows me to interact with them during the school day. This was my ultimate goal in flipping- to be able to build relationships with my middle school students while they were creating products and conducting experiments based on the information from the flipped assignment. I’m also able to quickly clear up any misconceptions they have as they are applying the knowledge.
Here are the 6 steps that I took to flip my science classroom:
Step 1: To get started, I read Flip Your Classroom by the flipping gurus, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, and attended training offered by my district.
Step 2: Next I created a website devoted only to the flipped classroom, and linked it to my district teacher web page. At our open house I showed parents the website which includes a section of FAQs along with the rationale behind flipping, which garnered much support.
Step 3: It was important to find out how accessible technology was to my students so during the first week of school I gave a tech questionnaire as an exit slip, asking them to check what was available to them outside of school (Smart phone, Internet access, computer, iPad/tablet, and DVD player/gaming system with DVD player). I could burn a DVD for students if that was their only access, but that hasn’t been necessary.
Step 4: In the classroom, I created a laptop workstation for students who did not complete the assignment at home, which has been the biggest struggle in the whole process. Before they were able to engage in the hands-on activities, they had to complete the flipped assignment. I’m very conscious of the fact that many of my students will not complete lengthy assignments, so I have tried to limit each flipped assignment to 5 minutes or less, including a short fill in activity for accountability. The purpose of flipping a classroom is to gain more time, so avoid spending time going over what the students were required to do at home, even if they didn’t do it! Before long they will realize that the flipped assignments are mandatory, and will have them completed when they enter the classroom. The five minute video at home has given me an extra 15-20 minutes in class because I do not have time spent redirecting distractive behaviors or transitioning between activities.
Step 5: I have found that some very creative teachers have already made (and posted to YouTube and SchoolTube) some awesome videos that I posted to my site so I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. To do this, I downloaded Screen Cast-O-Matic. This software enables you to record what you are showing on your screen. For example, if I want to move the mouse and highlight something important on a website or presentation, it is recorded so that I can upload it to my webpage as a video.
Step 6: Be yourself! Your kids know you and your teaching style, so when creating your own video, don’t worry about it being perfect. Chances are the kids will pay more attention if there are a few “bloopers”!
I will continue to hone this technique because I have witnessed the benefits of flipping for me as a teacher, and for my students. Flipping has given me a huge advantage of spending time interacting and teaching kids as they are applying content, instead of teaching and hoping they “got it” so that they can complete assignments at home. Flipping is a win-win for my students and me.
Anne Joy has a Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education from Texas Tech University with a specialization in history and a Life/Earth science certification, grades 6-12. She has taught in Texas for over 10 years and has spent the last 8 years teaching 7th grade science. Anne has served as an APS Frontiers in Physiology Fellow and Mentor. To read more about Anne’s experience flipping a 7th grade science classroom, visit her website.