– Peter Santoro –
The first thing most people think about when they hear Flipped Classroom/Flipped Learning is the video lessons. The most common misconception is that it’s all about the videos. They couldn’t be more wrong. The video lessons allow teachers to “create” more time with their students in class. I like to think of this additional time as a blank canvas that I can “paint” with active learning strategies and strategic activities that will build on the knowledge my students have accumulated from prior video lessons as well as prior knowledge.
I have a colleague who is a special education teacher and co-teaches 10th-grade English. Her video lessons are geared toward special education students, but she makes them available to the general education students as well. In some of her video lessons, she reads short passages and instructs her students to read along with her. After she reads the short passage, she demonstrates how to find the main idea(s), and she helps them work on strategies to improve comprehension. This allows her to use the additional class time to provide one-on-one or small group instruction to struggling students with reading deficiencies. Also, her students always have the video lessons at their disposal should they need extra reinforcement of concepts when working on their own.
This same colleague also co-taught Earth Science five years ago. The majority of the video lessons were created for course content. Additionally, students received video lessons on lab procedures, which saved time when students were fulfilling the lab requirements for the course. This enabled the students to be able to do more hands-on lab work which reinforced, in a more tangible way, the course content. When they analyzed the state exam results for all students in the school, the students in these flipped Earth Science classes outperformed the students in the traditional classes.
In my math classes, I use the extra class time in several ways. I have always been a big advocate of using the “visual” to show the concepts more concretely. I use the free website www.desmos.com to help my students “see” equations and functions in a clear manner. I have Chromebooks in my class, and I have my students work in small groups. One math topic that is particularly suited to this app is the graphs of trigonometric equations. Before I introduce trig equations, I have my students go through a series of “self-discovery” exercises where they graph a variety of trig equations. They sketch the graphs and then answer questions about the behavior of the graphs when different parts of the equations change each time they graph a new equation. When my students connect the various parts of the equation with how the graph changes, it makes a once-daunting concept much easier for students to understand. I use this app when I have students explore quadratic equations, as well as equations of circles, ellipses and hyperbolas. Connecting the visual to the math is a game-changer for most students. Students can use this app at home as well, so being able also to use it when studying benefits my students in a big way.
Another activity I use in my math classes is something I call a “silent debate.” I use this when there is a multi-step process that my students need to master so that we can explore more complex concepts. The way this works is that I pair my students facing each other. It is called a silent debate because the students cannot speak…the entire process is without verbal communication. I give one student in each pair a problem. That student has to do the first step in the process, then they pass it to their partner who must do the second step, then passes it back. This continues until that pair finishes; then I give them another problem. If one person makes a mistake and their partner finds it, it must be corrected, then passed back to the have the other student do the next step. They cannot communicate what the mistake was; they must correct it, and then move on. This forces each student to be attentive to their partner’s work and know the process involved. I have found that many students do not do a very good job of paying attention to each other enough to be able to learn from each other substantially. This process teaches them how to be more engaged with each other.
Another app that could be useful for struggling students is www.deltamath.com This app gives struggling students problems to practice and gives them immediate feedback. They get similar problems in succession to reinforce the process for solving similar types of problems. This is similar to my “silent debate,” but students can use it on their own if they feel they need more practice. Teachers can assign Delta Math homework or use it in class. Since my classes are Flipped Mastery Classes, an app such as Delta Math can help students master individual skills and allow them to proceed to the next lesson.
Another great activity that I have implemented with the extra class time that Flipped Learning allows is Project Based Learning. My colleague, Dan Jones, wrote a book on Project Based Learning in a Flipped Learning class, which is a great resource for anyone interested in PBL. The how-to that Dan provides took away any hesitation I had about implementing PBL in my classes. Many resources are available for project ideas across all disciplines, grade levels, and student abilities. One site I have used is the Buck Institute for Education/PBL Works site. It is free and searchable by grade, subject, etc.
I have found that my creativity has grown in the years since I implemented Flipped Learning. My students have thrived and done well. I can cover more content in-depth as never before. I am happier as a teacher and my students are learning, applying their knowledge, and are more intellectually curious than my students were before I flipped my classes.
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