Flippin’ Sweet!

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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.

Flipping (hopefully NOT flopping)

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.

2 Comments

  • Megan, sounds like you have some great ideas and I’m anxious to hear how things go as you move forward. I absolutely agree with the importance of parent education. If parents are informed about and shown the benefits of a new program chances are very good that they will be supportive. Keeping an open dialogue going throughout the implementation process can help things progress smoothly as well.

    With regard to homework… it’s impossible to satisfy all parties. As you said, some want more, some want less. I think you know what your students need to be successful so I’d say trust your gut! Good luck.

  • Thanks for commenting! I’m looking forward to giving some flipping a try in the new year… we’ll see how it goes!

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