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How to Flip Your Classroom: 5 Easy Ways to Start

Apr 22, 2019

I am so excited to officially join the conversation around many great topics involving improving your classroom environment.  The one I want to contribute to here is the flipped classroom.  As I've helped teachers flip their classrooms over the years, one of the most asked questions is how do I start???

What I hear when someone asks this is... I know the benefits of the flipped classroom, I know why it makes sense for me and my students (by the way, that is so amazing!  I know that more teachers could benefit from flipping techniques, so the fact that you are already in the know is an awesome step one), but I just need some guidance on how to make that happen, particularly at the start.

And you know what - I hear you.  When I first started my journey flipping my classroom back in 2012 it was a mostly lonesome road, as most journeys are for teachers who decide to make a big change in their classroom from one year to the next.  And that's ok, but something told me that it would've been better, or at least more effective, sooner had someone shared a bit more of the nitty gritty details of how they did it, especially how they started it all.

So that's why we're here today - I want to help you start.  What you'll find below are five ways that, as I reflect back on my journey and the journey of teachers that I've helped flip, I would recommend you go about starting your flipped classroom journey.  I want to give tangible, tactile advice.  What I do not want to do is be overly philosophical - I can save that for a multitude of other posts. Here, in this post, I want you to walk away with actionable steps to take in starting to flip your classroom.  Here goes.

1. Start Fresh.

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When you launch your flipped classroom for the first time, it does not have to be your entire classroom for the entire school year that you've flipped.  However, it should be after a clean ending point that you begin to flip.  At minimum, start with a new unit, quarter, or semester.  Here's why. 

Follow me here for a second.  Flipping is received differently by man students, and all students have expectations and perceptions around what school looks like and how they learn best. Often times what that looks like does not involve video.  And so, some students will be resistant to flipping - check that, some students will be very resistant to a flipped lesson.  However, I implore you to challenge those expectations and that resistance. I feel pretty good about you challenging that with most students today because although many folks don’t agree teachers changing their instruction to be via video, in the next breadth they will look up a video of how someone does something they are interested in, which could be anything from the latest and greatest contouring techniques or how to conquer the next level on Minecraft (I don’t even know if Minecraft has levels, but there’s some video game out there that was created after 1995 around the last time I played a video game that I’m sure would help me in this point I’m trying to prove). 

What was that point again? O yeah, when they whine about learning from a video, push back. I’m going to have a whole other post about this, but for now, try asking them to learn ANYTHING by just looking up a video and then proving they’ve learned it. Then translate that for them into how they can use the EXACT same technique with the math formula or historical fact you’re trying to teach them.

I mention all this whining here (not that all of you will have whiners) because the amount is reduced slightly with the amount of a fresh start you have. If a student sees that this is the way it will be from now on, they are less likely to whine, or, more importantly, resist the impact you are trying to make in their education.  So, pick your first unit to flip, one that you believe to be more conducive to students receiving instruction via video, and make the plan to start there.

2.  Be Consistent.

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Throughout the unit, quarter, semester, wherever you decided to start, make the decision that flipping is what you are doing and stick with it.  Don't flip some here and not some there.  

This doesn’t mean you have to go all in with flipping.  Although if that’s what you’re ready for, that is what I recommend because I see the long term benefits and am all about it. So if you are too, you should definitely go for it. But not everyone is there yet, and that’s ok. You might be in the middle of the year, you might be just learning about the flipped classroom, or your school might just now have the WiFi and/or school-provided student devices that would be conducive to flipping. In short, do what you can, and make it consistent.

In an elementary classroom, this could be that every Monday in one center, students are watching you reinforce or introduce a new skill students are working on that week.  Do that EVERY Monday.  In the middle to high school classroom, this could mean that students watch every "lecture" or direct instruction as homework, which could be 2-3 times per week, or they begin every new topic or standard with direct instruction via a video on a specific site.  Whatever you decide, do it every time.

If we were talking in person, I feel like this is where you would say, "Well, that's great Mandy, but how do I know which way would be best?  How do I know when?  How do I know what website to use for students to watch from?"  I'm so glad you asked.  I will be talking about tools for the flipped classroom in upcoming posts (and one specific tool I like in my fourth recommendation below), but for now I want to make a sidebar recommendation - find someone who has done it before, and learn from them.  Learn from their mistakes, learn from their victories and techniques that are working for their students.  I had that a book, Flip Your Classroom, by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams.  It wasn't a person, in-person, but it mostly worked at the time.  Since then, more teachers have flipped.  There are more teachers to learn from - find a mentor and use them.  If I can be that person for you, that's fantastic.  If not, that's fine too, but find someone to brainstorm with, learn from, and to be your springboard for ideas who can speak some experience into your journey in the beginning.

3.  Set Expectations.

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Seriously, I'm looking at these recommendations and wondering how in the world each of their titles are any different from the traditional classroom.  I guess that's the beauty in the flipped classroom - at its core, it's not that flipped.  It's NOT the entire classroom flipped on its head as if it's from another planet and makes learning so different and totally unrecognizable.  It's just the instruction that's flipped- all other pedagogical core values remain the same.  I hope that we can all find comfort and reassurance in that fact.

This recommendation is no different, and is similar in kind to the last recommendation.  But, what do I mean by set expectations??  I mean that students need to have very clear understandings around 3 main procedures in your flipped classroom.  You should very much treat these three expectations as ride-or-die procedures that will make the world go round in your flipped classroom.  Here they are...

1. Set expectations around where they go.  Meaning, decide on one place for students to go to watch your videos.  This is likely the learning management system your school uses, but could be your own website, Google Site, etc.

2.  Set expectations around what they do when they are watching videos.  Whether you provide scaffolded paper notes, or teach them cornell notes, or simply give them questions to answer as they watch, make it clear and consistent for every video.  And, more importantly, take time to TEACH them how to take notes from a video (see recommendation number one above for more tips on that).  Another layer of what they do that you'll want to establish is how you hold them accountable for those notes.  I am a huge advocate and lover of the binder system.  I'll be expounding on that process I used for years later, but it's a simple one you can totally use in a way that works best for your classroom - the ultimate goal being that it's one organized place students keep their notes and they show you their work.  If you can make it to the end of this post, I am super stoked to share with you some binder covers and posters for your classroom all about flipping :) :) . Keep reading and you'll find it.

3.  Set expectations around what they DON'T do when they are taking flipped notes.  The don'ts are probably just as important, if not more important than the dos.  The don'ts revolve mostly around distractions, and I doubt I need to spell out what distracts our students.  However, my number ONE don't in flipped video is this, and I preach it until I'm blue in the face... Don't ever write while the video is still playing.  Meaning, when you have something you need to write down, the video had better be paused first.  I call this the Power of Pause.  This won't be the last time I talk about this tip.

4.  Choose a Tool.

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Choose YOUR tool - the one you will be using to create your videos.  And don't take this recommendation lightly.  I believe that learning all about and loving the tool you will use is so important.  It's a whole new skill you'll be acquiring to make videos of yourself, or at least of your instruction - whether you choose to involve your face in that instruction is totally up to you.  

Another reason you don't want to take this recommendation lightly is because you want to invest in a tool that gives your more features than a free version allows.  Namely, editing.  Especially when you start, you absolutely need software that allows you to cut out any long pauses you take or all the nervous Ums you'll say... or at least I sure did.

I can't give you this recommendation without telling you the tool I use.  It would be like a baseball player talking all about his swing and ways at becoming successful a successful hitter without talking about his favorite and lucky bat.  TechSmith makes an awesome software that I have used since I started flipping almost ten years ago called Camtasia.  It has all the bells and whistles if you are in to stuff like that, but it also has very simple basics that make it easy to use.  When I started, all I wanted to do was to be able to edit out my dog barking in the background or any time I stumbled over my words, and that's exactly how I used it.  A little while later, as I got more comfortable with the program, I added simple intros, callouts (which are thought bubbles and captions), and other features like arrows to point out or add important information.

I recommend this tool to EVERY teacher who is looking into making videos for their classroom, namely flipped videos.  It easily allows you to capture your screen as well as you from your webcam if you want to include that personal touch.

Now, it's not cheap on a teacher's budget, but they do offer multiple licenses.  It's worth asking administration or your technology or media literacy specialist if it's in a budget to purchase tools like this for teachers.  And, you never know, they may already have licenses sitting around waiting for you to use them.  Either way, give Camtasia a look-see at this link.  (Just so you know, because I've used Camtasia for years in my flipped classroom, I highly recommend it and I get a small commission when anyone purchases the software from this link.  If this tool is something you are considering adding to your toolbox, I would appreciate you using the link above.)

5.  Just Start.

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Last but not least, my final tidbit of advice is to just start.  When it comes to being on camera, many of us feel uneasy and nervous.  The thought of hearing your voice, let alone seeing your face on camera is deplorable.  My tip is to just start - get over it (jeez, nice tip Mandy) - and know how impactful it will be. 

Look at it as another chance for your students to connect with you and see your personality - this time it's just in the comfort of their home or library or nearest Starbucks.  You don't fear standing in front of the class, so don't fear talking to your students about the content.  That's all it is... delivering content, just via video, which makes your very personal, content-focused connection with kids more accessible to all, especially those kids who are having medical issues or issues at home and are absent a lot.  Or those students who just take a bit longer to learn key concepts - they are going to have this in the bag now that they can hear and see you in an accessible video.

And there you have it... 5 easy ways to start flipping your classroom.  This is just the start, my friends.  The start of the journey, but also the start of the possibilities.  I touched on the start of the possibilities in my last recommendation, but I really could spend so much time talking about those.  For now though, I will leave you with a story.  A story from a teacher about one of his students who watched my flipped videos in AP Psychology, which you can find on my YouTube channel by the way, but wasn't even one of my students in my classroom.  Here goes...

"I have a student in AP Psych who has a multitude of academic challenges and I honestly advocated strongly for her not to be allowed to take an AP class (I had her in on level history junior year and her reading abilities are so low) Fast forward to the first test, which most kids bombed and she got in the 80s! After that success, she started being more vocal and verbal in class, answering questions, coming up with connections and deeper questions than I ever expected from her, or even she from herself. She even started creating quizlet live names for herself that were puns on her first name and various psych terms, it's hilarious and awesome! She has been completely embracing her 'try-hard' status and really showing her pride in so many ways. Turns out she discovered [Mandy] on her own and has been using [Mandy's] videos to pre-teach herself and to review! [Mandy's] videos literally changed this student's senior year. I was able to write her a glowing, truthful college rec letter, and the success she's feeling from succeeding in a challenging class is amazing to witness. She raves about your videos all the time and talks about how you're in the corner talking. Good job and THANK YOU!

From Edie Dickman on Facebook in the AP Psychology Teachers group

To be honest, I'm a bit hesitant to share that story because I'm afraid it shines the limelight on me rather than the student and that is so not my purpose in sharing it.  This student worked her butt off and deserves all the rewards she will gain from that great work ethic.  However, the method that allowed her to really thrive, given her history with struggling to learn the way students who are good a school normally do, was having recorded video of instruction that she could take her time with, learn from, and use in the classroom to build upon.


As you start your adventure with the flipped classroom, I would love to give you some classroom decor and bulletin board additions that will help drive home some of the important aspects of the flipped classroom.  Click the image below to get ahold of that - in it you'll even find printable binder covers for your students!  I hope you, and your students enjoy, both these goodies and your new journey in flipping your classroom.

P.s. If you are intrigued by this idea of the flipped classroom and want more tips, tricks, and best practices to make it work, you should totally check out my Ultimate Flipped Classroom Workbook -- Get it here!

Until next time...

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