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5 Things Everyone Should Know About the Flipped Classroom

Mar 18, 2021

There are only a few reasons why you may be reading this blog (or listening to this week's episode on the podcast) right now.  You’ve heard of the flipped classroom and want to know a bit more.  Or you feel like you’ve been flipping your classroom since the pandemic started and now you’re wondering how that translates as we enter our new normal.  Or you know the new normal we’re heading toward can’t be the normal that was, and yet you’re not sure what it will look like, or more importantly what you want it to look like.  All you know is, there has to be a better way to go about being accessible, flexible, and effective without you being the martyr that sacrifices your personal life and well being to do so.

I’m going out on a limb here to say that although there is no silver bullet in education to solve all our daily teaching life problems, flipping the classroom is absolutely the answer for most teachers to be accessible, flexible, and even more effective without sacrificing their sustainability to do so.  Will it solve all your problems?  Absolutely not.

Will it help you be prepared for the new normal that we’re approaching in education where students are accessing your classroom from anywhere, and more than ever our students’ choice to show up and engage is more powerful than ever?  Absolutely, yes.

So today I’m going to talk about 5 things everyone should know about flipping, including your students and parents.  When you’re finished reading, you’ll fully understand the possibilities and opportunities within flipping your classroom as you think about what you want your teaching life and classroom to look like as we approach the new normal in education.  Here we go…

The Power of One Video

The first thing that everyone should know about the flipped classroom is the power in one video.  You may have a better understanding of this point I’m making since you’ve probably  seen it in action due to distance learning.  Either way though, let me elaborate.

Of course you will be making more than one video in a flipped classroom.  But each and every one of them will carry the same power.  One video, that is one time you sit down to deliver a set amount of content to your students will differentiate that content for all of your students.

So think of your student who when sitting in your classroom as you lecture or conduct some awesome form of content delivery needs to ask you to slow down a bit or to clarify things he/she missed.  Worse still, though is if this students’ introversion doesn’t allow them the gumption to raise their hand and ask for these needs - so they just sit there and miss what they would be able to get if they could just pause or rewind you.

On the other side of that spectrum is your student who sits impatiently as he/she quickly absorbs the information, no questions asked, may even get annoyed at the students who ask all 21 questions, and would much rather move on to some form of enrichment or another subject all together that they don’t absorb so effortlessly.  Now they too get to learn the content at their own pace, and can move above and beyond basic mastery of a standard because of the way the content is delivered (through a video) and because they now have the time in class to do so.

Again, all of this is possible simply because you put a bit more thought and planning into the one video you made.

A sidebar here is that if you teach the same course multiple periods a day (for my high school teacher-friends), you are now using your time much more efficiently simply  by not delivering the same song and dance multiple times a day.  So you’re now freed up to chat with your students during class, provide more valuable feedback or heaven forbid just sit down and maybe check an email or two.

Learning is Not Optional

This next thing that everyone should know is geared towards the students of our  classrooms, and here it is.  Because of the structure of the flipped classroom, particularly the structure I teach in my online course for teachers, Flipped Classroom Formula, the game of simply doing the work and  passing with flying colors is no longer the game being played in the  classroom.

You’ve seen this before, even if it was way back when you were in school.  You were able to do the work, particularly the homework, and whether you understood the content  or not, you still passed because the work you did was weighted more than what you proved your brain knew.

Although this “game of school,” as I call it, is still very possible in any flipped classroom, I believe it is even more imperative to make sure it is NOT the narrative of your classroom when you decide to flip it.

Here’s why… when you flip, to a smaller degree than with other strategies, you are giving up a bit of control of the content.  Not much, but just enough to matter, simply due to not being physically over your students’ shoulders when you tell them about the Revolutionary War or the pythagorean theorem.  Because of this it is wise to make sure that students are not only valuing the work they do in your course, but whether or not learning is occurring - meaning whether or not their brain knows it.

I often will tell my students that I really don’t care what is on their notes from their flipped videos.  I care if it’s in their brain.  And although the flipped notes are what allow them to get the info in their brain, and therefore I monitor their notes, them proving they actually learned is more important.

And so, students of the flipped classroom are not just taught how to take notes effectively from a video.  They are taught how to properly engage with the information and therefore become better learners. Just doing the work and getting the grade is not the purpose or the goal.  In the flipped classroom learning is not optional. 

An Open Book

The third thing that everyone should know about the flipped classroom is specifically for parents. Often times the difficulty in communicating with parents and really, parents communicating with their children is the age-old question of “what did you do at school today?”  

The answer to which is oftentimes an eye roll or “I don't know” or “nothing, it was boring.”

Because of the flipped classroom now parents can literally see and hear the information that their child is supposed to be learning in your class. What's really great is that even when a student is not actually watching the videos, the teacher can take their videos and send them directly to their parents saying “Here is what we are learning in our class.  It would be a great strategy if you could ask your child some questions about the information we learned in this video.”

This very much relates back to the power of one video.  Because of that one video you  are now communicating to parents what’s going on in the classroom, to an extent, and are empowering parents to communicate more effectively with their children on what’s being learned and tested.

Shifting the Critical Eye

In the flipped classroom we absolutely must rely more heavily on the systems of our classroom to produce results than that of our own brute strength.  Which in teacher-language is how hard or how long we work.

The flipped classroom is work. No one is hiding or sugar coating that fact. The flipped classroom does take a bit more work up front. And in order for that work to truly pay off in the long run, because man the payoff is huge, you must be intentional about the systems you develop in order to ensure its effectiveness.

When we spend some time being intentional about and building out those systems of our flipped classroom, the really awesome result is that when we or others, let's say our evaluator, go to look at our classroom and how effective any one aspect of it is, we're no longer looking only at ourselves. We are no longer considering what more we can do.   It’s always more, is it not?

Instead we are shifting the critical eye toward the systems of our classroom which shifts the conversations around what we can be doing to be more effective. No longer is the brunt of the blame on the teacher, instead it's on the systems which we in turn have control over.

This is incredibly empowering.  I’ve experienced it firsthand, and am very passionate about helping other teachers reach that same feeling.

Have Conversations that Matter

The last  thing that everyone should know about the flipped classroom is that you are able to have conversations that matter.

Let's consider for a moment the traditional classroom. In a traditional classroom, if a student is absent for whatever reason, whether they are sick, on a college visit, or being pulled for testing or counseling, and they missed your lecture and notes, think about the conversation you  have with that student when they return. 

Likewise, recall a time that you’re having a conversation with a student who isn’t doing well in your class.  In both of these instances, the conversation is centered around what days they missed, and what notes or activities they missed.  The conversation is centered around what work students have to do in order to rebound.

In the flipped classroom, the advantages here are twofold. First, and more simply put, you now have the time in your classroom to have meaningful conversations one-on-one with your students simply because all of class time is not being taken up by lecture. Secondly when you have a conversation with a student about them not doing well, more often than not that conversation will not be centered on the learning they did or did not accomplish.

No more filling in holes of student understanding due to absences, being pulled for testing, counseling, etc.  If a student isn’t getting the content, the conversation is no longer about having to makeup the notes that requires more time and effort from you, instead it’s about when the student will access the content, then you’ll be ready and waiting to remediate with them as they need it, addressing the actual holes in their knowledge, not the holes due to absences.

Your conversations are about working smarter not harder.  About helping that particular, individual child  to understand their strengths and weaknesses in order to optimize and overcome them on their journey as a student.  That is empowering your students, teacher friend.

And there you have it, teacher friend.  Now that you’ve listened to this episode on the five things everyone should know about the flipped classroom, you fully understand the possibilities and opportunities within flipping your classroom as you think about what you want your teaching life and classroom to look like as we approach the new normal in education.

Now if any of these five takeaways are really resonating with you, and you’re nodding your head as you drive thinking “yes, I want to make that happen in my classroom,” then scroll down to the show notes and click to grab the Flipped Classroom Starter Kit.   I’ve recently reworked and updated this bad boy as a helpful resource for teachers who are looking to make the most of this opportunity to make the new normal what they want it to be.  And if I’m a betting woman, I’m betting that your new normal has your students engaging with the content more and empowering them to own their learning, while you are working less evenings and weekends.

So click here to grab that Starter Kit.

I’ll see you back here next week for our new blog.  Before you go, I would love  it if  you could  subscribe, rate  and review The Sustainable Teacher Podcast so that I know what you’re loving about it and so that more teachers can hear our message of teacher-sustainability.   See you soon.

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