I’m at a point in my teaching career where I feel that I need to change. I’ve taught the same classes for four years now and I want to challenge myself to do something new. The upcoming school year is presenting me with a few opportunities that should allow me to challenge myself and make a better learning experience for my students.
To begin with, for the past four years I have taught 5 classes covering three different grades. I’ve had one sixth-grade class, two seventh-grade classes, and two eighth-grade classes. Three preps can be a lot of work and even though I’ve run through each of the courses multiple times, the workload of three different class preps can be draining.
This year I will not have my sixth-grade class if the current plan holds true. I will have three seventh-grade classes and two eighth-grade classes. This will give me a bit more time in my schedule to plan and create things. With only two preps, I feel as though I can devote more time to each of them and really dive into what I want to do.
So what do I want to do exactly, I want to flip one of my classes. The goal here is to take the current layout of my class and digitize the lecture aspect of it as much as possible so that I can provide more support for students who need it. When I attended the Flip Tech East Coast conference in June I really got inspired. Since then, I’ve read, researched, watched, and listened to get as much information as I can about flipping and proper pedagogical practices to follow in a flipped setting.
The Benefits of Flipping
By flipping my classroom I hope to achieve the following things:
- More time to work individually with students
- To increase retention of classroom material
- Build better relationships with my students
- Learn better or different methods of teaching my content area
- Increase vocabulary skills of my students in my content area
All of those outcomes are a net positive for my students. If I can work more with each of my students and build better relationships, they will have more buy-in and increase their skills in my class. I’ve also found that retention of some fundamental concepts fade quickly as we move from unit to unit. I’m hoping that by flipping and having the content always accessible, students will be better able to refer back to it and refresh their understanding. I also hope to focus on vocabulary in my content area much more so that students and I can discuss things at a higher level.
Reasons I’m not Flipping
For some reason, flipping can have a negative connotation when discussed in education circles. Usually, it comes down to people believing that teachers are using video to teach so that they don’t have to do as much work. When I was doing research on flipping, I ran across this Reddit thread posted by a student. I don’t want my students to have this experience. Here’s my quick breakdown of things I’m not flipping for:
- To save time
- To offload teaching work
- So I don’t have to grade homework
What I Need to Figure Out
I’m not worried about the technical end of creating videos for my students. I have a YouTube channel and several online video-based courses that I’ve made. So I know how to make basic instructional video.
What I need to make sure I do is find a way to deliver my content in a way that is personable, interesting, relatable, and concise. Basically, I need to learn how to be entertaining and informative in a way that I haven’t done before.
One of the biggest things that I’ve learned that helps a flipped classroom be successful is having students take notes on the video. When I teach I usually see a few students take notes, but for the most part, my students don’t participate in note-taking. I also don’t require notes, I don’t teach how to take notes, and I don’t ask to see notes. I need to change this. Fast.
What it Looks Like
My district opened up Canvas as an LMS for us last year. While I didn’t make the jump (I’m still using Google Classroom), I’m excited by the power and flexibility it brings to my classroom. I’m trying to decide if I want to make the move into Canvas this year and if I do, how do I structure my course.
With Google Classroom there isn’t a ton of flexibility in how you organize and present your info. Canvas gives you lots of options. If I make the move I need to figure out how I’m going to make it all work.
My 2018-2019 Plan
So my plan for the upcoming school year is pretty simple. I want to flip my seventh-grade class. This means that three sections of students (about 90 kids in total) will be impacted by my ability to pull this off. I’m going to start my class differently this year and spend the first week or so focusing on the importance of note-taking, how to take notes, digital responsibility, and teaching the students about the benefits of flipping the class. It might take more than a week, but I think it will be a valuable use of class time.
From there I will flip my entire first unit and survey students to get feedback along with monitoring formative and summative assessments to see how this version of instruction is working. I will continue to build flipped units as the year goes on and monitor to make sure the learning that should be happening, actually happens.
Beyond the School Year
After a year of flipping, I will have a nice library of content built for my students so that I can enhance the class the next year with additional videos or more/better support materials. I want to eventually get to a point where students are able to move at their own pace and demonstrate mastery of topics before being allowed to move on. I also want to build out my course in Canvas to better facilitate this future goal.
I’ll be updating the blog here specifically about flipped classrooms on a weekly (or so) basis once school starts to reflect on my flipped experience. I’m excited and nervous, it’s awesome. I always go into a new school year wanting to try some new things, but this is a totally different beast and it should be a win for my students.