My flipping class!

upside down
The Upside Down Classroom

Yeah yeah, yet another teacher jumping on the bandwagon. Well, not quite. Perhaps I should explain myself better:

The Flipped Classroom is a bit of a buzzword at the moment (though Bergmann and Sams seem to prefer the term “Mastery Learning” – and I have to agree with them on that!). I’m not going to explain it as you are no doubt already aware of the origins (if you want more info see here….http://flipped-learning.com) but suffice to say that I have been using bits and pieces of the idea in my classrooms and workshops I have been giving.

I’ve been using videos from http://www.engvid.com and some of my own for my first year English classes (average age = 12, who started the year with anything between 8 years and 2 lessons of English). The diverse, heterogeneous class was my main reason for trying out some aspects of the flipped class ideas as well as the sheer size of the groups (32 is a fairly normal class size over here).home

To keep it short: every so often, especially when there is a grammatical topic involved which can be explained deductively in a relatively simple way (obviously not all lessons are about grammar and many of the grammar topics are perfectly suited to inductive learning), I make a short video, post it to our school’s intranet and tell the kids to watch it and take notes as preparation for our next class. In class we then do the standard exercises (gap fills, home-made handouts etc) to practise what has been learnt via the video.

After having done this for a while I conducted an anonymous questionnaire with my classes and came across some curious results.

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  • the dyslexic kids are the most positive about the videos.  They also indicate watching and re-watching the videos.
  • the majority of the kids prefer ‘chalk and talk’ in the class (and this is their first year at secondary so they have not already had the chance to become really accustomed to the traditional style – at least as far as English class is concerned).
  • the majority of the kids prefer the videos where I am also on the screen (the ones I most dislike!).
  • when learning for tests only the dyslexic kids and the weaker learners indicate re-watching the videos.
  • a structured gap-fill assignment proved popular with the kids (see in the box file the document “countable nouns stencil”) as ‘watching’ a video was too open an assignment as was ‘take notes’

What does this mean for me? Well, I’m not totally fully-flipped but am not stopping here. The simple fact that my weaker and dyslexic pupils indicate appreciating the videos is enough for me to continue. It helps them and doesn’t harm the others.

I flip occasional classes so that I don’t have to spend hours writing on the board (I have  an old-fashioned blackboard in my classrooms!) but also to save time so that the faster pupils (who need little explanation) can get straight down to work in class time and I can spend more time walking around helping those who need/want more help. First year English as a foreign language classes are not the place to be flipping everything in my opinion. I think it could be done, if the department (i.e. not just me as an individual teacher) were truly motivated to full differentiation based on (achievement) levels but the fact is: all the pupils in one class do the same test at the same time as all the pupils in other parallel classes (as is the case in most secondary schools). The major input and learning at this stage is heavily vocab and grammar based. Only further up the school do the kids move onto the more in-depth learning of culture and literature.

socraUpper school literature classes are, in my opinion, ideal for flipping, however, as the basic input can certainly occur at home so that the nitty gritty of the true socratic discussions can happen at school with the teacher’s guidance. The ideal move from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side to coin a King term.

So what do you think? Do you have a flipping class? Is it just another ‘bandwagon’ for us all to jump on? Can you see any positive points to this escapade? And what about the negative aspects?

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7 thoughts on “My flipping class!

  1. My only question regarding this ‘flipping’ is what happens when students don’t watch the videos at home before the collaborative in-class stuff is to occur? In ‘traditional classroom’ (I hate to use such a negatively connotated educational phrase), students have no choice but to be present for the explanations and practice, with homework being their choice to improve or not. In ‘flipped classrooms’, the class itself could devolve into either needing to explain everything that was in the video to bring everyone onto the same page, so to speak, or an utter waste of time for both those that did the preparation and those that didn’t.

    1. In reply to your question: I do this flipping business at a secondary school and find it essential to get the parents on board right from the start. Then it’s a simple matter of copy pasting a standard email with the message “little Johnny didn’t do his homework, this means he has some catching up to do, so more homework. Please let me know if there’s an issue at home which is preventing him from doing h’work then I’ll do best to plan things differently for him”. Normally works brilliantly – parents understand the meaning. Then in class little Johnny is sent into a corner to do the prep and will then also have the extra ‘classwork’ to do as homework and will miss out on any extra help – therefore simply punishing himself and not bothering me. In my very traditional blackboard-based school it means I always have to have my own laptop, usb stick and headphones with me (I also have a splitter so that up to 5 kids can listen at once – incidentally brilliant for dyslexic kids listening to a reading text whilst the rest read in silence!).
      The difference for me is that in the class you can’t actually ‘see’ if someone is taking in the information. Some kids are bored, others don’t understand (my class size is 32 with huge variety in level). This way they listen as often or little as they want and in class can get down to the real nitty gritty of the exercise books or stencils at their own level.
      Give it a try – there’s so much available out there which can provide brilliant input and leave space for some really good in-class discussions and group work!

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