Flipped classrooms have been the topic of conversation for the last few years. I remember being in Italy in a small town on the Amalfi Coast and seeing a plaque for a flipped classroom. I’m not sure why it struck me to see this type of classroom on another continent, but it did. I had just heard about the practice and was excited that the technology in classrooms was catching up to the idea of personalized learning so that it could become a reality in the schools in which I was coaching. Since then, I have helped many teachers start the journey of flipping their classrooms and have modeled what it can look like in multiple grade levels. Last year, I was able to implement flipped lessons in the first grade classroom with my students in mathematics. That experience has taught me a lot about what I find important in flipped lesson design and independent practice and allowed me to refine those components.
There is a lot of anxiety when first introducing this concept to elementary school teachers. It’s similar to talking to high school teachers about math stations. There is a misconception that math stations are only for elementary kids and that flipped lessons can only be implemented in high school. Although this is a common misconception, I would like to note that there are many components that must be in place in order for either to be successful. A really great flipped lesson will incorporate opportunities for students to interact with mathematics with concrete materials or with models. It is equally imperative that the math block consist of opportunities for students to engage in discourse and discussion. Collaboration is key in all content areas, but in my opinion, especially in mathematics. One of the key components to an effective flipped is bridging the link between conceptual -> pictoral -> abstract. When introducing a concept using materials, a written model should also be provided as well as a bare number task. This has been the missing component in building student proficiency in younger grades.
Students need to be able to connect the tasks they are completing to numerical representations. A great way to make sure this happens is create inquiry tasks that allow students to make sense of the mathematics begin taught instead of simply following procedures. For instance, I could pose the scenario: The answer is 12, what is the question? Or consider the number model 3 + 4 = 7, make a Stop Motion video to tell the story of the equation. Math isn’t about pages of problems, it is about meaningful connections and opportunities for discourse. Once students start to see math as creative, it will change the way they approach the subject.
It can be really intimidating to record yourself on camera. I have flipped many lessons, and it is definitely a different feeling to know that your instruction is being recorded and archived. You are more aware of your every word, more intentional about your language, and more precise with instructional strategies. In my opinion, that is a great thing!
Why Flip Your Classroom?
We’ve all been there; we’ve planned the perfect lesson and know exactly how we are going to present the math, but we start the delivery and it all goes South. When you record a lesson for students, you have the opportunity to capture your best teaching. It’s like the difference between live television and pre-recorded TV shows. You have the opportunity to edit and make them more refined because you are choosing and editing the best take.
Many schools require all students in each grade-level to teach content areas at the same time with the same objective. We could debate all day about this practice, but the key concept to take away is that we want to make sure we provide all students with a rigorous curriculum while still allowing for personalized instruction within their ZOPD. Flipped lessons are a great way to allow students to have access to the same grade-level content, but also get the interventions they need either forward or backward. This is done by allowing students who have the concept to complete their work and move on to newer concepts. Students struggling with the concept can receive additional guided practice with the teachers because she/he has time to meet with them individually or in small groups. A common misconception is that “struggling learner” means that a student has a low IQ or doesn’t have a particular subject ability. The truth is that we all have different strengths and experiences and a student who struggles with number sense may very likely soar through geometry. So instead of keeping that student in number sense during independent work time, let them pick their area of strength and complete it and then allow more time for assistance with areas of struggle.
Rewind -> Replay
Struggling students aren’t the only ones who need access to past lessons. Many students who have “mastered” concepts need review at times. As adults, we sometimes fail to realize that things we take for granted such as looking up a conversion chart on our telephones when buying something sold in mL is a learned behavior on how to navigate mathematics. The same goes for when we need to install a new dryer and we have to look up a YouTube video on how to convert the outlet. Students need to know how to find information when they need it and one way to do that is to provide them with past lessons to review conceptual and procedural knowledge when they need it. I’m not embarrassed to say that I’ve had to look up how to do long division as an adult math teacher because I have accepted the fact that my brain doesn’t have to hold that information because I rarely use it. It is rare that I am faced with a division situation that needs to be so precise that I need to use long division, and if I do, I pull out my calculator.
I like to record my game directions for stations because it allows students to go back and revisit expectations if they haven’t played for a while or are having a disagreement about the rules. This solves a lot of behavioral problems without my intervention.
There are many ways to organize your lessons, but I have included a picture of the way I laid out our lessons for math each day. For young learners (and old) it is important to provide them a snapshot of the materials needed for the lesson so that once they begin the video, they have all the necessary materials to complete it.
We used many ways for students to share their work, but the most effective way for us was the use of SeeSaw Learning Journal. Students could upload a screenshot of their work from an app or a picture of their independent practice page or completed activity. This was a really easy way for me to confirm if the student had completed their practice yet. As mentioned in a previous post, I have designed a personalized learning path for students to track their own standard mastery but we did not get to implement it last year. I’ll be sharing more of that work in future posts.
Revisit your flipped lessons regularly. Don’t keep the same lesson if you have found better ways to teach it. Refine your work and stay on the cutting edge of research.