One common question that many teachers who are new to student-centered learning often ask is, “How are the students going to learn the initial information if I don’t tell them about it?” As a history teacher by trade, I often get blank stares when I explain that I don’t lecture in my class. With so much content in that subject area, the same question always comes up, “How is that possible?!” I always tell them, “It’s easy. I run a flipped classroom.”
Many times people assume that a student-centered classroom is a free for all…that students haphazardly learn about the subject matter with no sense of direction. As much merit as there is in Montessori learning, that isn’t how it happens in a student-centered classroom. There are standards and curriculum and objectives to meet. If you don’t make sure that each member of your course is meeting these to the best of his or her abilities, you are failing your students as their teacher. There needs to be some consistency, no matter how differentiated it is. At the end of the day, all the students should have an understanding of the same concepts.
So how does it happen?
How to Effectively Run a Flipped Classroom
Having a flipped classroom is turning learning on its head. Instead of learning the content in class and then practicing it for homework as is what happens in a traditional teacher-led classroom, the students learn the content at home and then utilize that content with hands-on activities in the classroom.
How can this be done? There certainly is no “one size fits all” model. After trial and error, you will figure out what will work with your particular students. It can be a journal article or a comprehensive reading of sorts, for instance. My personal go to is using a program called EdPuzzle, which is video based. Our students are currently part of Generation Z who learns on their own accord on platforms like YouTube, so this method has pretty quick buy-in with them. With EdPuzzle, you can assign the students a video to watch. This can be something pulled right from YouTube, for instance, or can be something you have made and uploaded yourself. You can edit, crop, add in your own voice overs, AND, the best part, you embed questions right into the video. When it is time for a question, the video stops and if the student is unsure of the answer, they can re-watch that particular section to be sure they have the information right. By default, it is set so it cannot be fast-forwarded (though you can change that if you wish), and the student does not have to do it all in one sitting…they can come back to it later and it will pick up right where they left off.
I usually give my students at least a week lead-in time before the information is needed in class, just so they have this option. One thing that I always emphasize to my students is that I understand they have a life outside for four walls of my classroom and that things happen. If I truly believe that, I need to make sure they have adequate time to do what I am asking of them in a flipped classroom. The EdPuzzle can be done on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. It has, to put it in the most simple way possible, changed everything about what I do in the classroom.
To learn a little more about having a flipped classroom with EdPuzzle, you can take their online training module to see how it works.
I’ll be honest with you….I can see your eye rolls through the screen.
Most of you probably went right to those students who don’t complete their homework in your mind. How can our entire lesson be based on something the student may not even complete and be prepared for? The flipped classroom definitely wouldn’t work for me.
I had the same concerns when I first heard about the idea of a flipped classroom. It just didn’t seem realistic. I attended a conference called Techstock at Stockton University in 2016 and I chose a workshop about the flipped classroom. That was the FIRST question that came up. Our presenter was fabulous. He explained that there was no better way to differentiate than with a flipped classroom. That line in and of itself had everyone leaning in a bit further to hear what he had to say.
When you utilize a program like EdPuzzle, you can see the students’ achievement in real time. You can group your hands-on lessons based on what you are seeing in the data. For instance, you can put all the students who did not complete the prep work in one group. Before they do anything, they need to complete the assignment to start (There is something called an “in class flip” if they participate in the flipped classroom component while in school. This might be beneficial overall if your students do not readily have internet access at home). Then, you can create another group for students who may not have performed well on the flipped assignment (with EdPuzzle, you know before they even get to class). They cannot move forward with the “deeper understanding” activities if they didn’t understand the basics. Then you can get to the meat of the hands-on environment with the students who completed the assignment and did it well. They can be the ones working on the higher level activities (the “fun stuff”, if you will). Too often we spend our time focusing on bringing up the lower tiered students; this method gives those students the extra assistance they need to understand the basic concepts but also reaches the higher level students that often don’t receive the attention they also deserve.
Literally everybody wins….and it works, ya’ll!
With the great homework debate, people on both ends of the spectrum have strong opinions on the purpose and worth of homework. Some feel it is useless and others feel like it is absolutely necessary. The flipped classroom appeases both sides. It makes the work relevant, prepares the students for class, and creates questions for them to walk into the room with right off the bat. I have heard regular college-prep students get into HEATED arguments over content by their interpretations of what they watched on their EdPuzzle. It. Is. Awesome.
If you’re still skeptical, give it a try once or twice. See how it goes.
Chances are, you won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading.