I still feel like a newbie here, but I’m liking the sound of the flipped classroom (great infographic here that illustrates the concept well), especially now that I’m teaching 45 minute classes. Forty-five minutes goes by so fast, and it seems that all I am able to do so far is present and review the basic material. But what if my students could pick up the basic facts themselves? Would I need all 45 minutes to present them? I could do much more with that 45 minutes.
There are some challenges in this model, for sure. Most seventh grade students do not possess strong study skills, so they do have difficulty accessing the material on their own. Last week, when I assigned some questions from the textbook, a number of my students struggled to answer the more complicated questions, even when the answers were in the textbook.
If flipped classroom is going to work, the material needs to be quite accessible to the majority of the students without much intervention from the teacher. Technology can certainly help here. Brainpop videos, which I have used quite a bit this year, work very well. Unlike the vast majority of online resources, they are designed for middle school students, and presented in a way that is very accessible, even to students with limited language skills.
But even in a flipped classroom, some sort of preview is necessary before sending students home to access the material. They need a frame of reference, a box in which to put the new information. This daily preview should give them enough of a starting point to get them through the material alone, without my help.
Here’s one way to work around this challenge: Scaffolding. If I set up several different levels of information, I can offer basic learners material that fits their needs, but challenge the stronger students with more in-depth info. This could prove meaningful in the classroom portion as well, as students who prefer the challenging material can take off with the topic and develop their interests. I have one student who watched all the Brainpop videos on American history over the summer, and now he can answer nearly all the questions in class. This is a perfect candidate for the flipped classroom – instead of using class time going over the same basic concepts, he can now use class time to run with the big ideas, putting them into play with some type of project that truly engages him. I could even set him up with a few peers who share his passion, and watch them roll!