orry… the Napolean Dynamite reference just HAD to happen.
One of the biggest, most revolutionary, and most exciting ideas I came away from ETC ’11 with was the reverse instruction/flipped classroom concept. There is not enough time in the day to do everything we want to accomplish, and, added on to that, fifth grade seems to be a year where “extras” abound. Between band practices, concerts, Scottish dancing, retreats, and other valuable extra-curricular events, I have had very few weeks this year where I was able to stick to the planned schedule. Flipping the classroom, at least in part, seemed like an ideal solution! Mingled with the enthusiasm, however, were a few questions and concerns.
First of all, I could completely conceive of the flip working well with a lecture-based class, but I teach elementary school. I was having a hard time figuring out exactly where it might fit in my curriculum. Math seemed like an obvious choice… there is a wide disparity between students’ mastery of the various skills and concepts in math, and it would be fairly simple to create (or find!) digital lectures/tutorials on various topics.
Secondly, I had concerns about the reaction of the parent community to the idea. Balancing the homework load in my classroom is a difficult thing. Our school policy sets homework as 30 minutes of reading each night and not more than 30 minutes of other work. Of course, I have parents who are constantly wanting more, as well parents who are frustrated by the amount I do give. All of them, it seems, are anxious for their child to do plenty of drill-and-practice. There is no winning! I also have parents who are concerned about the amount of time their children’s homework requires them to be on the computer. I feared the reaction I would get if math homework moved from pencil and paper work to online, and in a form drastically different from what they were familiar with.
Having found a solution to my first concern, I looked forward to flipping my math classroom. This year, unfortunately, I haven’t made as much progress in reversing instruction as I had hoped to. We’re in the process of adopting new math materials and that has kind of taken precedence. I have incorporated use of several math websites (including Khan Academy and MangaHigh) into my math classroom, and encourage students to work independently while also focusing on whatever whole-group concept we are studying. As we move into using fractions in the second part of the year, I think I’m going to try implementing a model similar to this one. We’ll see how it goes!
The solution to the second problem? Parent education, careful balancing, and experimentation. There is a shift happening. While the idea of reverse instruction is very strange to the parents of my students, I think they will recognize the value as student engagement and conceptual development (hopefully) increase.