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5 Important Decisions to Make to Flip Your Classroom

Sep 09, 2019

When you are starting your journey in flipping and doing your flipped classroom research, you are searching for things like flipped classroom how to, flipped classroom ideas, flipped classroom approaches, and flipped classroom pros and cons.

You are looking for any and all ideas to inspire you and get you started on your journey.  And that flipped classroom research can quickly become a black hole that sucks you in, and two hours later you come out and wonder, "Holy cow, what did I just learn from that?"

Hopefully you gleaned something from your searches, because there really is plenty out there, so I'm sure you did.  But wasn't it quite overwhelming?  Wasn't there so much to take in, and then you're left deciding, "What's going to work for MY classroom?" And, "Yea, but how do I get started flipping my classroom?"

I can't tell you how many times I have been sucked into the rabbit hole that is Google image, Pinterest, or searching tags on Instagram for inspiration to make a change in my classroom.  And not just for the flipped classroom, but for ANYTHING in the classroom.  Standards-based grading, flexible seating, fixed mindset, and the list goes on and on.

We spend so much time searching for the idea, then searching for how to make the idea go off without a hitch, then spend even more time sifting it all down into what will work and are the best strategies.

That's the thorough process that has needed to exist, but, seriously, as teachers, we have WAY more pressing things that need our attention.

I know, I know... you're thinking, "Mandy, I love to spending time researching those things and finding great ideas."  I hear you, I really do.  You should see my ridiculous Pinterest boards.  I mean it, I LOVE researching ideas, finding inspiration from others.  

But when it comes to making big impact in our classrooms, you know what big changes need to happen, but you shouldn't have to spend tons of time on HOW it should happen.

That's where we need to lift up other teachers that have done it before.  Teachers that have become experts in a particular area and can share their expertise with others, but doing so in ways that doesn't compromise their effectiveness either.

So what's all this jibber jabber about, Mandy?

Yes, Yes.  Let's get to the point.

I want to help you start flipping your classroom without having to research the ENTIRE world wide web to find out how to do it well.  Haven't you ever wanted the steps, or the path, laid out in front of you by someone who's done it before just to say "Here's HOW you make it happen"?

That's exactly what I want to do for you.

Flipping Isn't Easy

Nothing worth doing in the classroom really ever is - at least not anything that will have as big of an impact as flipping.

And you can't just, BAM, have a flipped classroom after reading a blog post like this one.  My goal though, is to help you get stared with actionable steps.  So, in this post, I want to give you 5 steps you can take, or 5 decisions you should make when you go to flip your classroom.

First, I would like to give you a glimpse into my flipped classroom, a flipped classroom example if you will, so that you can "see" it as much as possible.  Now, keep in mind what I link here are just pieces of digital evidence of the flipped classroom, but not necessarily the whole picture.

Some ways you can see my flipped classroom model include the following:

My student Google Site - please note this is under construction.  I am in the process of remaking my videos, so some of them are a little dated (but only by a few years), and not all the tabs look the same.  This at least gives you a glimpse of how I provide the flipped classroom videos to my students and other resources they need access to.

Flipped Classroom Videos - this link is to my Youtube channel.  I am in the process of building up my new channel, so not all of my flipped classroom videos are on this new channel, but I think you'll get a good sample of them.

Flipped Classroom Tools - in this post, I talk about the flipped classroom technology that I use, in hopes to give you some options, but more importantly specific recommendations (because you want to know what works now, not find out through trial-and-error).

Flipped Classroom Resources - this takes you to my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and I'm NOT linking you there so that you buy items.  Most of you reading this probably couldn't use my very specific, AP Psychology resources anyway, but instead I want to show you both the notes I provide to my students, as well as the "station" activities I use.  Stations are MY JAM in the flipped classroom.

Alright, without further ado, let's get going on the 5 Decisions to Make to Flip Your Classroom.

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These decisions I give you include but also expand upon the ones I lay out in way more detail in the Ultimate Flipped Classroom Starter Kit.  So before you get started here, hop on over and grab that workbook, then come back here to get even more tips.  I'll also expand upon a post I've done in the past on How To Flip Your Classroom - it's a good one, but these suggestions below definitely give even more practical steps.

You'll want to decide on...

1. Type of Flip

I go deep into this topic in the Ultimate Flipped Classroom Starter Kit, and encourage you to check it out.  It even includes a self-grading quiz to help you decide, based on my recommendations, which flip would work best for you and your classroom.  It will definitely help you decide which flipped classroom approach works best for your unique situation.

Here's the gist you need to understand before deciding what type of flip you'll want to implement.

No two flipped classrooms will (or should) look the same.

Got that?  So don't go comparing your flipped classroom to someone else's.  Sure it's helpful to hear from other teachers in your area or who teach the same subject or who have similar students, but that doesn't mean that it's what will work best for YOU!

And, guess what, considering yourself as a factor in your decision making... you know, the teacher... the number one influence on student learning is IMPORTANT.  Some call that selfish, or indulgent, but I'm here to say pish posh.  No, it's not.  It's part of the important decision making process of what's best for students.

The way I see it is that you've got three options, and I'll lay it out for you in the three flipped classroom definitions below.

1. The Mini Flip - This is a great place to start where you flip an activity or one small lesson.  The idea being that they take home something to explore, which could be a video of you giving a lecture or notes, but may be something else entirely.  Then students bring the assignment back in to class to use their knowledge in an activity for the day.

2. The In-Class Flip - many call this a blended classroom.  I believe it works really well with on or below level classes, what some call college prep classes.  This is where students take 10 minutes or so, about once or twice a week to watch a video of their notes, delivered by you, and then use that knowledge the rest of the week to dive deeper into the content and practice what they've learned.

3.  The Full Flip - this is the traditional flipped classroom definition, where students do their classwork at home and their homework in class.  They watch a video of you delivering the notes at home, then bring in their notes to dive deeper into and practice what they learned in class. 

To find out which type of flip works best for you, be sure to grab the Ultimate Flipped Classroom Starter Kit.

2.  Tools to flip

And by tools in the flipped classroom, I mean tools YOU, the teacher, will use.  These are basic tools that you will use to actually flip your classroom and make your videos.  

I recommend having two tools: one to get a screencast and capture your web camera (yes, I recommend including yourself in the corner of your videos), the second one is to capture any demonstrations you might want to do "on paper" that you can't just talk about, you've got to show them.  

Find my breakdown of tools in this flipped classroom pdf, let's call it, from a post where I give all kinds of details about those tools and a way you can get discounts on my favorites!  

3. Student Tech

This is one of those elephants in the room with flipped learning, but I'm a big fan of talking about the elephants in the room.

Flipping won't work unless you first consider and make some decisions around the technology that's in the hands of your students.

If your students don't have technology readily available to them, flipping won't work.  Many may see that statement and run for the hills.  But you don't have to.

I've been blessed in my teaching career to always have technology readily available for my students, but I've recently been even more blessed to see other teachers going and GETTING the technology for their classrooms.  One of my Flipped Classroom Formula students made a DonorsChoose.org project where she got sets of headphones and tablets purchased for all of her students!!!!

Seriously, how stinkin' cool is that?

Sure it takes a little extra work to whip up that project, but the impact it can have on your classroom, meaning it allows you to flip, is immeasurable, both professional and personally.

4.  Student Accountability

In the flipped classroom, student accountability increases at least twofold.  In fact, it's one of the top reasons WHY teachers want to flip their classrooms in the first place (be sure to check out that post for some flipped classroom insight as well).

But here's the thing... as I discussed in my most recent post, student accountability only increases if you are willing to increase it.  Meaning, if you are willing to, first, make the safe and comfortable yet challenging atmosphere of your classroom that allows you to safely have tough conversations with students on their effort and work ethic, and second, have those touch conversations at all... that's the ONLY way student accountability will increase in meaningful ways.

What I DON'T mean here is that you increase student accountability and if they do live up to that expectation, then so be it.  No, no, no.  That's not how we roll.  We set the expectation, we make the accountability visible and obtainable, then we push kids to get there.

One of the many ways to increase student accountability in the classroom is to hold them to their commitment of learning - and that is by holding them accountable for taking their at-home notes.

There's no, "Well, it's on the test, so they better take the notes."  NOPE!  That doesn't fly.  Not because they are students (kids), it's because they're human.  Give them an inch, they take a mile, right?  That's true of everyone, not just kids.  And they are less likely to take a mile if they have skin in the game.

Lastly,

5.  In class activities

What in the world will you do in class now that you aren't lecturing all the time?????

Wow, that's a big question.  It's one that I talk about pretty extensively in my webinar that's coming up toward the end of this month, so stay tuned for that.

For many of us this could be the easiest decision we make because it's our biggest WHY in flipping our classroom.  It's the biggest reason and what we are most looking forward to in flipping because we can do the more engaging projects, we have time for project-based learning, or to implement flexible seating.  We have more time for standards-based grading or mastery learning, where each of your students work at their own pace.  

Now, these are not things you HAVE to do when you flip, but I mention them because many teachers are excited about these ideas and strategies that are only possible because of the open class time that flipping allows them.

With that being said, some of us are not in that boat.  Some of us are like, "Woah, what do I do with class time now??????"  And that sets in some anxiety and even makes some of us quit flipping because it's another layer of planning.

Here's where we need the biggest change with what we do with class time. If you feel anxiety over what in the world to do in class now that you've flipped, the biggest thing you need is a mindset shift.

Shift your mindset from thinking of ALL the things that you have to come up with in order to FILL class time, to one that sees the possibility in the open class time.

See the possibilities in class time not that you have to fill it with all the things, but that you probably already have things to fill it with, and ask yourself, what do my students need?  What content or explanation will they need in order to fully understand these concepts we're focusing on this unit, this topic, or just this lesson?

In my online course where I walk teachers through, step-by-step how to flip their classroom (no more philosophical babbling, we get down to the practical, actionable steps), I show my teachers how to rely on systems in their classroom.  When they build up those systems, the rest falls in to place.  And if there is extra class time after you've made it through your systems, who says open class time is a bad thing?  You've got flipped videos ready to go that students could be reviewing, you've got other systems you can rely on to fill that class time that don't take a ridiculous amount of prep to implement.

My biggest piece of advice here is to take a deep breath, know that you are awesome, and it will go just fine.  You know how to teach your students.  You know the content and can guide students toward better understanding.  You've got this.

I hope these 5 important decisions for your flipped classroom have been helpful.  Again, my goal was to expand on the flipped classroom starter kit and bring you even more tips on just getting started.

I'm also hoping that this peeks your interest and you want to find out more.  If that's you or if you have questions you want answered, I WANT TO ANSWER THEM :) . Please come on over to our Flipped Teacher community on Facebook (you can also reach out through dm on Instagram) where we have other teachers starting their flipping journey AND where I will be going Live once a week to discuss flipped classroom strategies, various flipped classroom approaches, and many more tips and tricks I've gathered over 10 years of flipping my classroom.  Those live sessions are also a chance for you to ask your questions so I can answer them live, and others can benefit from you having asked your important and impactful questions.

That's what I've got for you guys this week.  Head on over and join us for this week's live session in The Flipped Teacher, and I'll see you for next week's post on 5 Myths You Can Stop Believing About the Flipped Classroom.

Until next time,

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