Changes on the Way to My “Flipped” Classroom

My original post can be found here.


If you are an educator you are probably already familiar with the concept of a flipped classroom. For the benefit of anyone who doesn’t know you can check out this blog, it explains it quite well.

After reading this article (and then watching the 60 minutes clip with the Khan Academy founder) I promised that I would blog about the attempts that I have been making to change the way that I teach.

When I started teaching Grade 9 Science the course was already designed with a lot of student-centred ideas. I still teach lessons from time to time, but for the most part they explore, investigate and complete practice work that gets taken up and assessed. I manage to do most of this in class time (there are phases where they have homework, mostly related to major assignments) and the course is designed with a large emphasis on the lab process, lab writing, and the research process (we also use mind maps to support curriculum content). I also started using an online course module as part of my classroom this year which has allowed me to post online homework quizzes so students can monitor some of their progress.

What I would change going forward: the homework that is assigned that is content related in the future would be to learn the content. This would allow me to continue to spend as much time focusing on what we have agreed is important at my school and would hopefully allow me to even out the time spent on each unit (as it stands Space and Biology are on the neglected side). In the long run I think this would support the projects done in each unit.

My grade 11 class is the one that I made a conscious effort to make some changes to my teaching method. My first year I taught math and got into the “teach for the majority of class and give a few minutes of homework time” rut. When I got the chance a year later to teach 3U Physics I decided that I wanted to try to set my class up a little differently. I had two goals – provide students the opportunity to make use of lessons as it suits their learning styles; give as much in-class work time as possible.

These goals led me to:
– Assign readings the day before a lesson (this one is hard to motivate them to do)
– Try to shorten my “lessons”/notes as much as possible and make them example focused instead of content focused
– Post outlines of my lessons the night before (students can choose to print and follow along if desired)
– Post complete versions of each days lessons afterwards (students can listen to the lesson and print it out later)
– (Some choose note to print note and hand write the days lesson themselves)
– Provide as much class time for concept and practice exercises as possible
– Arrange the classroom to allow students to sit in groups

I find that this forces my students to think about what type of learner they are and choose which note method works best for them. As the semester progresses I also find that students use their class time more and more wisely (as they have now discovered that the course is not easy and that they are in Grade 11 and HW is actually a good idea). Having the students in groups (that they usually choose) promotes group work and encourages them to ask each other questions before they ask the teacher. Usually when I am asked questions now it is to clarify their understanding or find a math mistake in one of their solutions.

(I also use class TweetUps for this course, which I blogged about here if you are interested – this is used to encourage concept based discussion since class time is primarily used for problem solving.)

If I get the chance to teach the course again I will probably use videos (and reading so they can have a choice) as assigned homework to encourage them to do this part – which means I have have even short “lessons” (aka try an example or 2 as a class). I already post a link to videos done by the physics department at Earl Haig Secondary in Toronto (I did my placements with them) on my course website as a resource for extra help and I would like to explore the physics videos offered by Khan Academy.

Let the changes continue.

Hopefully I do end up back teaching some math in the near future of my career. And hopefully I can continue to make my classroom as student-centred as our current system allows.

And in case I don’t post again in the next couple of weeks,

Merry Christmas!

About Heather Lye

Physics and Science teacher. Passionate about our education system, learning technology and inquiry-based, student-centred teaching that misses teaching math.

1 Comment

  1. As a veteran parent, I have no issues with the flipped classroom concept. That said, Hlye’s blog posting, reminded me of what could be called the flipped home after-school classroom, that I had on the go at home, to to help my youngest child (the dyslexic one) to succeed in school.

    I really had no choice, given the parameters and denials of accommodations for my child, I was determined to help my child to succeed academically starting in 2004. I put the 21st century technology to good use, the ink-jet printer (to which I am on my fourth printer), and the devices of the day – the MP3 player. Without an outline, except for what was in my head whirling around, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work.

    My child, like most children with reading and writing struggles are unlikely to participate in classroom learning. They are too busy, trying to keep up, rereading for the fifth time the first paragraph and trying to remember what the teacher had instructed because what is on the board looks like gobbledygook. The children will come home, and the nightly homework struggles will commence. Nightmare nights, as I remembered them, and I would swear on a stack of bibles that the school had become a fancy daycare, and not a place where my child would learn.

    To solve the problems starting in 2004, I flipped it, where home became the school, and the school classroom became the reinforcement of material and re-taught lessons at home. For my dyslexic child, and is a common characteristic of the younger dyslexics, she would become lost within the first 5 minutes of a lesson in a school classroom. More so, when it was new knowledge being learned, and as a consequence she was no longer learning nor was she participating in the classroom. Some, not all progressive teaching practices are very unkind to the children who have weaker foundations in the 3 Rs, and weaker cognitive processes in areas of memory and sequencing processes. It is why direct, explicit instruction is the best instruction method, because it is kind to the cognitive processes of children. Coupled with practice, mastery comes swiftly concerning the content, and it results in the likelihood of children retaining the knowledge learned in years to come, or at the very least, until the students write the unit test or exam.

    My child had great difficulty in the classroom, because of her poor reading and writing skills. The dyslexia only further aggravating and impeded her reading and writing skills, and this in turn frustrated her learning, resulting in no learning had taken place in the classroom. As I mentioned previously, the school and school board was of no help, because my dyslexic child did not fit the criteria for accommodations in their eyes. But that is the other story for another day, where the labeled children often get the short end of the stick when it comes to their learning and achievement. It is what was written by Hlye today, that I saw my actions starting in 2004 in a different light – the flipped home after-school classroom.

    1. Reconstruction of the textbooks, and its contents, reducing 25 to 30 pages to 2 to 5 pages of essential content that must be learned.

    2. Composing all notes to point-form style in advance of the school classroom lessons, to learned ahead of time and to follow along in the school classroom.

    3. A low-cost subscription school web site, for math, science, language arts and other subjects to learned additional knowledge and to reinforced previous knowledge learned.

    4.The use of digital MP3 players, to function as readers in both audio and text environments.

    By 2006, my youngest child was participating in class, beginning to write her own notes, steadily progressing and achieving across the core curriculum, her cognitive memory and sequencing weaknesses were steadily improving, mechanics of writing were steadily improving, and she was no longer stuck in the bog of low achievement. It was in 2006, I really went to work being motivated by the achievement grades of her tests, and grades on report cards. Breaking it down, to see what needed work, more practice, more explicit instruction, and set the goal for 2010, where my child would become an independent learner despite her reading, writing and numeracy difficulties, and the school and school board steady denials of needing help in reading and writing issues. The job landed in my lap, and I was not too pleased, when the school officials started to criticized my little home after-school classroom, and how bad it would be for my child.

    I maintained the home school, because I saw the transformation of my child, and the classroom teachers did to. So they left me alone to my own devices, the teachers started to helped out in helpful ways, such as study guides, and turning a blind eye to the hand-held digital devices such as the smart pen and printed notes for the curriculum unit in advance. The how-to notes in math, science and where ever there was steps such as the 1-2-3 essay and story writing, and soon the other students in her class were taking advantage of the notes and the how-to notes, and my home printer became a busy machine, Why I am on my fourth printer, and I could own shares for the ink expenditures since 2004.

    The transformation of a dyslexic child to a high achiever, is a rarity in today’s public schools. Their academic futures are bleak, when they do not get the effective interventions in the 3 Rs, nor are the progressive instruction practices that have a tendency to impede and erode the cognitive weaknesses of the dyslexic child. It also includes all other children, who have weaker levels of the basic foundations in reading, writing and numeracy skills, and their academic futures are at high-risked remaining low achievers for the rest of their stay in the K to 12 public education system.

    The 21st century technology and the new practices being developed inside the school walls can be the impetus for each child to reach their full academic potential. It matters more how the technology is used, and in my opinion, technology is being used poorly in today’s public education system. For Hlye, and the other educators turning to 21st century technology to improved learning in the classroom, there is a ray of light beaming into the classroom. This new breed of educator are less inclined to dismissed the advances in the science of learning and cognitive fields, and therefore more inclined to learn more deeply how their students learned, their learning quirks, and identified learning problems of their students much earlier on, remediation of the learning problem and moved on.

    For the lower achievers, or children with weaker skills in the 3 Rs, the 21st technology can transformed the students into reaching their full academic potential. When I started out, I had no idea that my child would be sitting in senior high school advance classes, maintaining a 80 something average and her future is promising and no longer bleak, as it was in 2004.

    It matters more how technology is used and how best it could be manipulated to the individual child for learning to occurred. That is steady progression and achievement………..

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