Setting up the Flipped Classroom

So you have read about flipping your classroom and the idea sounds appealing to you. You are thorough and do your research and feel confident that the approach can work for you and your students. Now what?

Recently I was contacted by a teacher peer in Florida with this situation. Below is a copy of the email reply that I sent back to him. Keep in mind that every teacher needs to do what is going to be best for their own class and set of students. What follows is just the approach that I took, in a nutshell.

Original Email

Hi Chris,

I teach chemistry in Tampa, FL and have found your name and videos on ShowMe and Educreations. I am trying to implement a flipped classroom this new year but I am still unsure how to start and how to create a lesson plan for a unit. I was hoping you could guide me, show me how you set up a unit and what assignments you give along with your video lectures. Do you ever feel like you have too much down time while in class with the students or is there enough material that they stay engaged throughout the entire unit?

I was thinking about assigning 3 videos and maybe 2 readings a week for homework. In class we work on practice problems or group work activities, labs, etc. My only issue is I’m not sure on the set up of it all. I am the first and only one in my school who will be attempting this. I’ve done plenty of research on where to find videos but not example assignments to go along with it.

I would greatly appreciate it if you were to give me some advice on beginning my flipped classroom.
Hope your summer is going well!

The Reply

I am happy to see that you are interested in setting up a flipped classroom and completely understand your position at this point. I was in a very similar position and it took me a little while to become completely comfortable with my set up. You mentioned that you found me through educreations and showme, have you stumbled across my flipped website yet? I set the site up for a presentation that I gave in Macon; it is simple but it may answer some of the questions that you are coming across right now. The second site listed is my class website for the class that I flipped. Feel free take a look through and let me know if you have any questions about it.

The process that I used may not be the best, but it worked well for me with a few tweeks over the semester (block scheduling). The first step in the process is to determine how much technology your students have access to. All of the students in my class had access to a computer and the internet at home, which made completely flipping the class more feasible. Another option here if you not all of your students have access is to blend your classroom instead of flipping it. This would involve a hybrid of completely flipping (all instruction at home) and traditional instruction (all in the classroom). You could also make arrangements for students to come in before or after school to use school computers to view lessons. All that is needed for this option is to make sure that your lessons are posted enough in advance that the student can make arrangements to view them.

In terms of the unit planning and how I go about it…I like to start with a concept map. On the map I include the curriculum standards being covered, the topics that instruction needs to be given on, the activities that reinforce the concepts (assignments and labs), and assessments/projects. From there I like to focus on the topics that I have listed and separate them into what I feel are 5-10 minute lesson segments (keep in mind that this is not the same time it takes you to explain a concept in the classroom since you can pause the video and perfect the order of your thoughts and the students aren’t there to ask you questions). I then go about preparing my notes and collecting images (usually from Google) and laying out the storyboard. The final step for me in terms of the videos is recording them with my voice and posting them. Educreations has a web-based set up where you can establish a “class” and the students log in and pick the videos to view. It also has a certain element of accountability to it when they view it through the educreations site.

I tried to have my lessons posted at least 48 hours before I required my students to view them. I was usually above the curve on this, but not always. Something that I used to help in the process was Remind101.com. It is a great texting service that allows you to remind all of your students without them knowing your cell number or you knowing theirs. I would schedule texts to go out on the nights that I had videos for their viewing.

In the classroom, I liked to take 5-10 minutes to discuss the videos and dive a little deeper into how much they understood and make some connections to the real world. We did a lot of practice in class; some structured and some student-centered and a lot of hands-on activities. To answer your question about the down time, no we didn’t have down time, but that was by design. Knowing that students work at different paces I put in place several “always there” assignments that they could do when they were done. For example, my students built online website portfolios and we read the nonfiction chemistry book Uncle Tungsten.

The kinds of assignments that we did in class were practice worksheets (both paper-based and electronic, more on this in a bit), labs, and small group projects. Because we had more time with the flipped approach we were also able to dive deeper into the material. A lot of times I had students work in small groups or in stations to teach me about the material or to construct concept maps. In terms of electronic practice, I have two tools that I love to use in my room; WebAssign and Excel. WebAssign is a server-based hw set of problems that you select from your book that randomizes numbers and provides instant feedback. There is a small fee for this, but in my mind it is well worth it. Excels are practice sheets that I have formatted and also provide instant feedback. I have attached a couple of these for you as well and I have a handout on how to set them up if you are interested.

I know that there is a lot to digest here, and I hope that I haven’t overwhelmed you. Have you found my blog on the flipping experience? Below is the link if you haven’t. I understand that flying solo on this can be a challenge. I went through the trials and tribulations of the approach on my own as well. With that being said, I would highly suggest finding an adventurous peer that would be interested in trying to flip their classroom as well. They don’t have to teach the same subject as you, in fact it might be better if they don’t. It would be great to compare notes not on the material that you are covering but the processes that you are using.

Sorry this got so lengthy, but I am passionate about this approach. Take it a little bit at a time and figure out what works best for you and you will do great. If you have any other questions or thoughts, please feel free to email me back at this address (mingchri@gmail.com).

Good Luck!

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