I have way too much time with my students

Uncategorized / April 16, 2019

-Dan Jones-

“I have way too much time with my students,” said no teacher ever. Time is an aspect of education that seems to stress most of us out. Before I flipped my class, time was the enemy. There was never enough time to get through all of the content and never enough time to allow students to use the content in a meaningful way. So when I flipped my class, time should have been on my side, right? Well… it kind of was. The issue was still time, but now I had different time issues. You will never hear a traditional teacher complain they have too much time, but you may hear a flipped educator complain that they still have a different set of time issues. Flipping your class takes time. There is real work in flipping your class, but it doesn’t have to be stressful.

Let’s take a look at some of the common time issues in flipped classrooms:

1. I don’t have time to make instructional videos.

The idea that we have to completely redo all our instructional materials because we have flipped our class is untrue, not to mention unrealistic. Teachers have spent a great deal of time developing their instructional materials, and there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water. If you have a fantastic slide deck that you used with direct instruction, use that same slide deck with a program such as Screencastify. You can still use the materials you have worked hard to create. If you usually read your slides to your students, now is the time for you to give your students a copy of the slide deck, let them take notes from the slide deck on their own, and use your time with your students for deeper discussion.

It is so important to understand the length of videos when trying to determine whether you have time to create them or not. Traditional lectures can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. The thought of creating a 20-minute to one-hour video would be enough to steer me away from flipping my class, but the truth is your videos should be less than 10 minutes long. Ideally, if you can keep them under eight minutes, your students will get more from the lesson. It is better to create more short videos than one long video.

As you build your library of instructional videos, your workload will decrease because you don’t have to recreate new videos every year. Kathy Swanger shared with me that she will add version numbers to her videos. This action lets her students know how many times she has had to recreate the video over the years. If her students don’t see a version number, they know that it is a Swanger Original. It is vital to get feedback on the videos you do create. Your students will be quick to share with you what went well and what did not.

Trying to create the perfect video can take hours. When delivering a lesson, rarely, if ever, did my lessons go perfectly. I had no problem giving myself grace when I stood in front of my students, but for some reason when I make a video, I tend to get hung up on the smallest of errors. This phenomenon is something I am still working on: Making an 8-minute video in 8 minutes. I have heard Jon Bergmann say, does it need to be perfect or do you need it by Tuesday? Your students aren’t looking for perfect; they are looking for you and all of your imperfections.

2. I don’t have time to meet with every student.

Finding time to meet with all of your students in one class period can be a challenge, but there are some things you can do to become more efficient in the process. One of the issues I was running into was that my conversations with my students were more like mini-conferences. I had a hard time meeting with a student in under two minutes. Think about that…if you have 30 students in a class, and you meet with each student for only two minutes, it will take you an hour to get through the entire class! Let’s take a look at how to address this issue.

Turn ‘n’ Talk Cards: I use Turn ‘n’ Talk cards at the beginning of each class. This tool enables me to clear up any confusion or misconceptions for the entire class within the first five to seven minutes of class time. The students pair up and go over a set of questions to address the learning that occurred in the individual space. As the two students discuss, any confusion can be addressed by their peer, and if both students are confused, then we need to address the confusion as a class. This five-to-seven minute dialogue also gives me time to walk around the room and listen in on the conversations. I can make notes of whom I need to give some additional attention to based on the information that is being shared between students. I no longer have to have a mini-conference with each student to see if they understand the lesson from the individual space.

Google Forms: Google Forms are a great way of gathering information from each student in a short period. You can input a set of questions and answers, and the students take the quiz online. All of their responses are sent to you, and from there, you can determine which students need to spend more time going over the lesson with you.

Plickers: I use Plickers daily with my students. This application is a way for you to capture student responses directly on your phone in a matter of a few seconds. The way Plickers works is you print out what looks like an individualized QR code for each student. Depending on how the student holds their QR code, your phone will recognize the individual student’s response to your question, and record that response within the app. You could use Plickers to allow students to use their QR code as a way to say, “I would like to address a concern from the lesson.”

Each of these methods allows you to have micro-interactions with the students in your class. Some students need monitoring, where other students need some direct intervention in their mastery of the content. Being equipped with accurate information regarding your students’ mastery of, and progress through, the content enables you to be more efficient in your interactions with your students.

3. I don’t have time to create group space activities.

Creating group space activities can seem like an overwhelming task. I can remember thinking, I have to create an activity for my students to do every day? YIKES! My anxiety was put in check when I had a conversation with Steve Griffiths regarding the group space. He shared with me that active learning does not always mean that the students are moving about in an activity. He went on to explain that active learning is more about an active mind than an active body. LIGHTBULB! I had never thought about it in that way. I love that active learning is not limited to one style, but it still seems a little daunting to plan for active learning to occur every day. Here are some ways to lighten the burden and involve your students in the process.

Ask them. Your classroom is student-centered, so you need to involve the students in the planning of the group space. I asked my students for ideas regarding the group space. I felt like it had become too routine and boring. My students shared with me some great ideas regarding activities. They told me what active learning strategies we had done in the past that they really liked and asked for similar activities in the future, but they also shared with me things that they thought would be fun for us to try. Many of their suggestions were based on “Minute to Win It” style games. And this leads me into my next point…

Make things generic: Students want variety, but they also don’t want to learn a new game every day. There are some things that we do in class that can be used no matter what the content is. My students LOVE the activity “Face It.” In this particular activity, I pass out sticky notes to each student. The students write down facts from the lesson on the sticky notes and try to cover the entire face of a peer at their table. Once the peer’s face has been covered, we place the sticky notes on the board. We go through the notes and evaluate them for accuracy as well as originality. If other teams wrote down the same fact, then we remove the sticky note from the board. The team with the most sticky notes at the end wins the activity. The activity is generic so that it can be used with any content on any given day. It is helpful to have a number of these types of activities in your back pocket that you can use them at a moment’s notice.

Yes, you have more time in a flipped classroom, but it is important to manage that time well. Applying a few of these strategies in your classroom will help you to maximize your time as well as your engagement with students. Please share how you are using time in your classroom to improve student engagement, or if you are struggling, do not hesitate to ask for help. Teaching was never meant to be done alone, so let’s do this together.

Dan Jones
Dan Jones Jones
Dan Jones is a middle school social studies teacher at the Richland School of Academic Arts. He earned a BS in Middle Grades Education from Ashland University and a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from American College of Education. Dan is the author of Flipped 3.0 Project Based Learning: An Insanely Simple Guide. He is a founding member of the FLGI International Faculty and has earned numerous FLGI certifications including the certification Flipped Learning 3.0 Master Class Facilitator Certification Level - I.

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