Flipping the classroom is no small adventure. In fact, many teachers don't take the first steps to flip their classroom out fear of putting in some of the work just to realize they've bitten off more than they can chew. And then they've done all that work for nothing.
I wish I had known a few key pieces of information before I made any attempt to flip my classroom. My first attempt in my second year of teaching was a minimal one for the same reason most teachers can't or don't want to take on the full flip. I was in the middle of the school year, I wanted to flip as a retroactive solution to issues I had in the classroom that year, and I chose a quick, small flip out of necessity - I didn't have time to do any more than take small steps. In doing so, I fell into a few pitfalls that could have easily been avoided.
The few tips I give here are ones that I think any teacher considering to flip their classroom should keep in mind. Again, this journey is not for the faint at heart. You are going to put in some work - not necessarily more work than you would normally do, but probably rather different kinds of work. So you want to be sure you're starting out on the right foot. To do so, try to avoid these mistakes that I may or may not have made in my early years of flipping ;).
Here's the thing - learning is learning is learning is learning. I'm going to make a few people angry here but I'm going to say it anyway - "learning styles" are a total myth. Google it. That's not to say that people don't have preferences in how they learn, but the human brain takes in new information the same way no matter how the information is presented. And, if you can add some meaning to the new info, like linking it to something that brain already has in it (experiences, memories, etc.), the new information will stick better. These are the facts people, don't shoot the messenger.
The fact that learning is learning applies to the flipped classroom, but it also doesn't. Ok, I'm not making much sense here. Let me explain. Yes, learning is the same process in the traditional classroom as it is in the flipped one. But, like I said, it also isn't. Learning is a skill - one that NO ONE is born with. Most children are taught how to learn just by being in the school system their entire childhood - or at least that system is more influential than the few explicit attempts of teachers here and there throughout their school career that work in learning and study skills along the way. You probably remember very few times being explicitly taught the skill of learning - that's because in most cases, it just happens without instruction.
In the flipped classroom, we can not assume that our students know how to take notes and learn from us, especially if we are taking all this time to make great videos that they all can access anytime anywhere no matter the struggles or limits students may be facing in any given school year. If we're going to take all this time to make these fantastic videos, we don't want them to land on deaf ears - even if those deaf ears appear to be listening.
The very top reason why flipped classrooms fail is because students are not prepared for it, or should I say, because teachers have not prepared their students for it. Now this is a bit of a double edged sword because, like we've covered already, flipped learning at its core is really no different than learning in the traditional classroom. However, it puts more onus on the student and because of that, the formerly disguised holes in learning that have always been there, are now more obvious.
So what do I do?
We must take class time before we implement the flipped lesson/unit/classroom to teach our students the basic skills of taking notes from a video. The skill is a rather basic one, but it's so important that you must take class time and explicitly teach it. Here are some specific skills you'll want to teach (and make sure to stay with me until the end to get a great freebie that applies to this mistake)...
The number 2 reason that teachers decide not to flip their classrooms is because of the fear around not having enough to do in the classroom now that it isn't mostly filled by lecture or direct instruction. I have to admit that was a big sticking point for me - what in the world was I going to fill class time with?
First, you should totally check out my last post where I explained the necessary mindset shift around this sticking point. It's absolutely necessary!
Second, you probably already know what you could do. Think back to times in recent school years when you've randomly found a great article to read, activity to do, or project to try out, but when you went to the calendar to see if you could make it work you were limited by the fact that you had to deliver the content (lecture), and that would take up so much time that there really wasn't enough to do this new thing you've found. Well, guess what!!! Now you can.
So what do I do?
This is a mistake you can start preemptively fixing NOW. Here are the three basic steps I recommend...
Speaking of class time and how you'll fill it. You don't want to only think about what you'll do, you'll want to think about the how... specifically the procedures of your classroom. Which leads us to mistake #3.
Do not underestimate the power of procedures, and spend some quality time brainstorming and reflecting on what most important procedures you will implement in your flipped classroom. Even the big kids will benefit from routine procedures. Your creative brain can probably come up with way more effective procedures than mine, but I'll share with you some that you should consider. This list is not an exhaustive one, nor is it all that novel (most of them have been around ten times longer than I have been in the field of education, but I hope to add some considerations within each idea with an added flipped classroom twist) but hopefully serves as one that will launch your creative and brainstorming juices.
Speaking of reflection, it's important for teachers who are flipping to do that as well. And your reflection is much more effective if you include someone else in the process. So that leads us to our next mistake to avoid...
Almost ten years ago when I flipped my classroom over one summer I had an expert in flipping available via a book, but that was about it. Flipping was not common in my area, nor in my building. So I essentially was going it alone. I was thankful for a few other teachers in the building who also were in the process of flipping for the first time, but there wasn't anyone who had done it before. It worked out fine, but in education every move you make is a little more high stakes because it's not profit on the line like with a business move you make, it's students' growth and scores. You want to be building, renewing, growing as the year progresses - not just when scores are back and you can learn from your mistakes retroactively.
Because of this, I recommend you find a community of flippers. That sounds so funny. But I mean it. Social media opens up a whole new world for teacher communities like never before, and when you're making such a huge decision for your classroom such as to flip it, you want support. You want a group of people you can bounce ideas off of, question yourself and others comfortably within, and, best of all, learn from in the process of flipping.
If that group can be in person, all the better. But there is probably a small possibility that is available for you. So here's what I recommend...
My last recommendation seems a bit backwards, but stick with me on this one until the end.
This one is a bit of a catch 22, and I'll explain why in a bit. Let me start with this - flipping is NOT mutually exclusive to direct instruction in the classroom. What I mean is that just because you give instruction in a video for most standards or concepts does not mean that all standards and concepts are best suited to be delivered that way. Some are better for direct, face-to-face instruction. And that is totally fine. Don't make the mistake of thinking that once you flip, you can NEVER flip - false. Use your best judgement and knowledge of your students.
Now, the catch is this. You will have spent a ton of time building fantastic videos for your students. You do not want to get into the habit of reteaching what is in your videos simply because your students didn't understand the material from the videos. I'm not saying don't teach them. I'm saying don't delegitimize your videos by reteaching in the classroom for most or all topics when the real solution is focusing on their note-taking skills. Of course, meet the needs of your students, but do so in a way that guides them to what is there... the videos. In most cases, students CAN learn from the videos, they just need to be reminded of the note-taking skills and strategies that allow them to do that best. Focus there first with individual or small groups of students, rather than immediately throwing out the idea that they can't get it from the notes.
A great way you can help students along in this flipped-note-taking process is with something I've made just for you and your new flipped classroom. It's something that I hope brings some focus for your students around the note-taking skills in a flipped classroom. Go ahead and grab that freebie by clicking the image below.
The flipping journey is not an easy one, but it is SO doable, with such great benefits for both you and your students. It's even more doable if we can learn from each other, and I hope that this post has been a resource you can add to your list of experiences to learn from.
Until next time...
P.S. If you really want to up your game in starting your flipped classroom, making sure you are starting on the right foot, don't miss the workbook I made to take you through starting your flipping journey. Get that workbook here.