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Teachers: Flip Your Lessons and Reclaim Your Classroom Time

iStock_000009370032SmallTeachers: Flip Your Lessons and Reclaim Your Classroom Time

It seems like I can’t look at my email or read education news without coming across a dozen new stories about technology in education. And the message is, overwhelmingly, if we just have MORE technology then student educational performance will improve. Especially in math and science. Immediately we conjure up visions of smiling youngsters in front of a screen or tablet, engaged and happy. The assumption is that these experiences will help students learn more, faster, and that they’re available to everyone. Oh, and the lessons will naturally meet national and state education standards. And they’re self-administering and so much fun that it won’t even feel like learning.


Taking this assumption out of the clouds and down to the classroom level, what does that look like for normal teachers and students?

Most of the time this first translates to getting more computer labs into schools. Got it. We need computers to use the different programs and applications that will help the students learn. Then school districts choose the programs. For math, things like I CAN Learn and FASTT Math are popular. IXL, dreambox, and many other services provide an adaptive learning environment based on mastery. That means that if Johnny already knows how to do two-step equations in his pre-algebra or algebra course then he gets to move through that lesson quickly (or skip it all together). This gives Johnny more time to focus on areas in which he’s weak.

All of this sounds awesome, and it can be really great. But there’s often a disconnect between what a technology can do and its implementation. Also, many classroom teachers are expected to teach their normal textbook based curriculum and also avail themselves of the district provided technology. This dramatically cuts into class time and can result in the teacher trying to do a little of everything.

So how can a classroom elementary, middle, or high school math teacher keep one foot in their regular curriculum and the other in the swirling vortex of information overload?

First, they can consider flipping their classroom.

At the most basic level, students in a flipped classroom do their “homework” the night before. They’re given access to a video or other resource (either created by the teacher or publicly available) and instructed to view it and take notes. Classroom time the next day is dedicated to practice and problem solving rather than lecture and practice. Here’s the short version:

Traditional Lesson
In Class: Lecture
In Class: Guided Practice
In Class: Classwork
At Home: Homework

Flipped Lesson
At Home: Video Lecture w/ guided questions (night before)
In Class: Guided Practice
In Class: Enrichment Activity or Practice
In Class: Classwork

It’s easy to see the benefit of having more time to actually practice with the students. Especially on pre-algebra or algebra topics with lengthy solutions. Additionally, this approach allows time to include many of the enrichment activities that frequently fall off due to a lack of classroom time. These in-class higher order problem solving lessons are where you’ll really make the gains with your students.

Here’s the beauty of flipping. You can start with just one lesson. Choose one lesson such as combining unlike fractions, or solving equations with variables on both sides. Spend an hour trolling YouTube for a video that teaches your topic the way you like. Create an assignment sheet that asks students to capture points from the video, such as solving equations along with the presenter. You can put the link to the video on the assignment sheet, use a tiny url from www.tinyurl.com, or post the link on your classroom homework website.Then you begin class with a short warm-up and get right to the day’s activities. This assignment sheet allows you to monitor completion of the “prework” just like you do homework.

Go ahead, give it a try. Or give it three tries all in a row during the same week to build some momentum. Then, when you see how incredible it is to actually have 50-60 whole minutes to practice with your class, go check out these articles for some advanced techniques!

Byron High School’s Math Departmemt


The Flipped Classroom

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