Category Archives: #flipclass

Flipping Your Classroom: The First Steps

[Note: This article was originally written for Carolina Biological’s Articles & News section.]

One of my Physics colleagues took an online Flipped Classroom course over the summer which required her to create a short (3-5 minute) video explaining a topic of her choosing. She hated the assignment. She hates the sound of her own voice, but, more importantly, she is not tech-savvy, so the assignment really scared her as to whether she could pull off a full-year Flipped Classroom. When we sat down together during the first days of the school year, she expressed to me all of her concerns:

  1. What program do I use to make my videos and where do I find all of the equipment?
  2. Videos take so long to make. How am I am going to get them all done in time?
  3. Am I going to be spending all my time making videos and not preparing any other activities for my class?

Many people have similar concerns when they first flip. Like any method of instruction you need to focus on what you are trying to accomplish by trying something non-traditional. For me, I wanted to increase time with my students assisting them with problem sets in class to tackle any problems they might encounter and complete more laboratory activities. The video is not the focus of my Flipped Classroom, but rather the method I use to achieve greater inquiry in science.

To get my students ready for instructional videos later in the year, I start them with watching certain TED Ed Videos found on ed.ted.com. We start the year with the Periodic Table and Atomic Theory. Instead of me standing in front of the room talking about Mendeleev and his ideas, we watch The Genius of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table (https://goo.gl/tJneiL) in class and then discuss why his ideas were insightful or why they may have been misguided. When we move to Atomic Theory, my students watch How Small Is An Atom? (https://goo.gl/ZWDLuz) for homework and complete the 5 multiple choice questions that are in the THINK section. When they come to class the next day, we discuss their answers and some of the interesting things said in the video.

The benefit of starting the year with TED Ed videos is they are concise and animated so they keep the students’ attention very well. During these early videos, I don’t ask students to write anything down for two reasons. First, I generate the notes about the topic based on their comments from the in-class discussion. Students don’t always know what is important so they need a little guidance filtering the information. But also, some students have really insightful ideas generated from the video and I want to make sure to include them in the class notes. Second, I want their first impression of instructional videos to be a positive one, not one where they listen to me drone on (i.e. read a PowerPoint slide to them) about a topic that is difficult to visualize.

After these introductory units, I begin to use short videos for daily instruction that I have made. But if you are like my colleague, making videos can be overwhelming so don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel. Start by finding videos on YouTube created by teachers who are teaching the same subject as you are. This may require some hunting and watching videos with various styles and qualities. Here are some suggestions my students have given me when they have watched other teachers’ videos for my class:

  1. Find someone who matches your energy level when you speak. If you are high energy, don’t pick someone who speaks calmly and with a monotone voice.
  2. Videos need visuals. This may mean someone standing in front of the camera or text bubbles or simply writing/picture appearing. Don’t choose someone who is simply reading text.
  3. Watch the entire video and make sure it covers the exact topic(s) you want. I talked with a Calculus teacher who used a college professor’s videos. They were over an hour long and often went into topics that didn’t apply to what the students were learning at that time. There is no better way to create disconnected students than giving them irrelevant videos to watch.

Keep all the videos you find that you like in a YouTube playlist, even the ones you aren’t going to show to your students. This will give you quality examples to refer back to when you decide to make the leap into creating your own. Like your first year teaching, the first year flipping your classroom is the hardest so find ways that allow you to be innovative in all aspects of the learning process.

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Experimenting With Hyperdocs in the Flipped Classroom

One of the reasons I love the Flipped Classroom is it allows me to constantly make modifications for the needs of my students. I have been doing some work with Hyperdocs and really wanted to jump into for the Gas Laws unit we are starting at the beginning the 4th MP. The benefit of a good Hyperdoc is it gives the students all of the links to files up front, but only gives them 1 link at the beginning. I have been using Assignment Charts to show the students everything they need for an entire unit. I insert links to all of my instructional videos on YouTube into the Assignment Chart, but still students have a hard time going back and forth between Google Classroom, Google Forms, and YouTube.

So, I decided to package everything for the unit a little differently this time. In the Gas Laws unit, there are a lot of little bits to remember which requires a lot of podcasts. I rerecorded all of the podcasts into 4-6 minute videos and inserted them into an organized Google Slide file. Here is a screenshot of one slide:Gas Laws Slide screenshot

Each part of the unit is grouped into slides like this. I used the PHeT simulation for Gas Properties to explain the concept in that section, then recorded examples of how to solve the problems in a series of additional videos. All of the videos now play directly inside the Google Slide, instead of opening a new window and shifting to YouTube, and the students can still see everything else in the file while watching the video. For students that are pretty Math-savvy, they may only watch the concept video and figure out what they need to do on the Self-Check Quiz on their own. Others may watch every video on the slide before they attempt the Self-Check.

I have not abandoned the Assignment Chart, however. Since my Flipped Classroom runs asynchronously, it is important to give students all due dates up front.Gas Laws Slide screenshot 2The important factor is everything is now fully organized. Previously, if a student couldn’t remember where he/she was in the Gas Laws playlist (that has 14 videos), he/she might watch several incorrect videos before finding the one he/she needed. Now, he/she can click the link to the assignment he/she wants to work on and it sends him/her directly to the slide with all of the podcasts. If he/she has watched a video, a small “WATCHED” appears in the corner from YouTube. The Self-Check Quiz, if completed, not only changes color when clicked, but is auto-graded using Flubaroo, and the student’s score along with the answer key is emailed immediately. Even the labs, which are posted as assignments in Google Classroom, are linked so the students can see in advance what they are going to be doing.

As always, I have no idea if this is going to work. The Flipped Classroom (and my very supportive administration) gives me the flexibility in my classroom to try out new techniques. At the end of the unit, I will survey my students to get their feedback on the new method and report back here how it went.

What does a typical #flipclass lesson look like?

“What does a typical flipped lesson look like?”

This is one of the most common questions I get asked when I talk to educators about the Flipped Classroom. The truth is there isn’t a “typical” lesson in my class. Every class has a general plan, but since each student is working toward an individual goal, each day is different. But, my classes on Monday went really well so I wanted to share what was happening along with some pictures to illustrate.

On Monday, we were finishing the work we were doing on Electron Configurations and starting the unit on Naming and Forming Compounds. I had a DO NOW on the screen asking students to write the electron configurations for Zn, Ba, and Rn. Since the lesson on EC was 4 days prior (one of the negatives of block schedule) most of the class was confused. I asked a student who felt he knew EC’s well to come up to explain it to the class and answer their questions.

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Now came the divide. The students who were still struggling and wanted more practice were given a few more elements to complete on the side whiteboards. Those who were ready to move on worked on the “Homework.” Homework is in quotes because I don’t assign outside of class HW other than to find Chemistry in the world around you. All homework is actually classwork, but it is called homework for the traditionally minded. As the students finished the HW, they gave it to me or my co-teacher to grade and provide feedback on the spot. If they did well, they moved onto the assignment posted in Google Classroom; if they didn’t they were given the opportunity to complete another. [Note: we use a modified mastery learning system in which students can complete up to 4 versions of any of our Quizzes, HW, Tests, or Projects. Some students do it just to add extra grades; some do it to offset low grades. No matter what all are more knowledgeable at the end.]

Now, the assignment posted in Google Classroom kicked off the next unit we were studying. There were 2 instructional videos to watch (both less than 5 min), a Self-Check Quiz in a Google Form (which was auto-graded by Flubaroo with the score and answer key emailed in return immediately), and practice problems to complete (yes, you can read that as a worksheet). The practice problems are necessary because we are at a point where drill and kill is a necessary technique to get students to truly understand what is happening.

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Now, this is why I can’t give you a traditional lesson. At this point in the block, I have 3 levels of students: those still working on the Electron Configuration HW because they needed that extra practice, those taking notes, and those working on the practice problems. That is 25 students spanning 2 different units. But, if a class didn’t have the faster learners, they might all have stayed together on the same topic for longer. I can’t predict that until we are actually in the middle of the lesson somewhere.

The Flipped Classroom isn’t a magic bullet and I don’t think that I am a good teacher just because I use it. What I do know is my students get a greater level of support from their teachers because of it. My faster learners no longer feel like they are being held back, the students who need more support get more attention from me and get more of their questions answered, and I get to talk to every student every day.

The beauty of the Flipped Classroom is that no 2 classes look exactly the same. My Flipped Classroom will and SHOULD look different from yours. You have different kids, a different school, and you are a different teacher. No matter what you do or how you do it, just remember to make the time that you spend with your students meaningful!

[Author’s Note]: this post was originally written at the beginning of October, but was never posted.

My first #flipclass #flashblog

There is a Flipped Classroom chat going on every Monday from 8-9pm EST using the hashtag #flipclass. Like most chats, there is a topic and moderators and I am usually so busy doing other things I forget about it and miss the entire conversation. But, anyway.

Something unique that they do is ask all participants to stop what they are doing at that moment in the chat and write a blog post on the spot discussing their ideas. Then you need to post it back to the chat so everyone can read. As usual, I missed the entire chat, but I tuned it for the topic of the #flashblog: How do you experience community outside of your classroom or school?

Now I get to do what I love the most: talk about my amazing students.

I am the building advisor for the town’s Relay for Life event. This is event is community, not school, based. We have hundreds of attendees, all from the surrounding areas, and only about half of those present are students. This year, my school’s teams raised over $20,000!! That brings our 3 year total to just a hair over $60,000! I am so proud of my students. Most of them stay up with me all night long. We walk the track for hours, participate in all sorts of events throughout the night, gossip, each ridiculous amounts of junk food, and have a great time. Here are some pictures from this year’s event.

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I love participating in this event. Not only does it raise money for an extremely worthy cause, it helps me build stronger relationships with my students.

PS: I have no idea why the photos formatted the way they did. I just inserted them and that’s how they came out.

School Leader Magazine Article

I was asked to write an article for School Leader Magazine–a magazine published by the NJ School Board Association. For those of you not a Superintendent or BOE member in NJ, I wanted to share my ideas with you.

Let’s Stop Talking About Flipped Classrooms and Start Talking About Flipped Learning

A chemistry teacher describes how he refined his approach to a flipped classroom
By Marc Seigel

I will never forget the exact moment that I became complacent.


It was October of 2010, my tenth year in education. I walked in on a Monday, sat down at my desk, opened the folder of my laptop that contained all of my PowerPoints, opened the one pertaining to the unit I was starting that day, and suddenly felt like I was punched in the gut. You see, I hadn’t spent a single minute over the weekend preparing lesson plans or even thinking about what I was going to be teaching that day. My instructional routines had become so automatic and my grasp of the content so precise that I didn’t even have to engage my brain to produce a lesson for the day. My classroom was generally running on autopilot. I knew at that moment that something needed to change and it needed to happen fast.


It just so happened that about two weeks later, I was skimming a publication from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and stumbled across an article about two chemistry teachers (Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams) in Colorado who were using videos they had posted online to teach content to their students. About two years prior, I had begun recording example problems on an interactive whiteboard using a video camera and posting them to my website, but they were only there to supplement what I was already doing. I never considered recording my entire lesson for my students to watch. My students commented how helpful it was to see those problems a second time when they were at home so why wouldn’t seeing an entire lesson help them? So began my flipped classroom story.


Flipped Classrooms: 101 A “traditional” flipped classroom centers on the idea that lectures normally given in class are recorded and posted in some form for the students to watch for homework. The videos might be posted to YouTube, a teacher website, copied to a flashdrive, or burned to a DVD. A typical 45-minute lecture could be boiled down to about 10 or 15 minutes. Students would take notes, just like they would normally do in class, then come to class ready to engage in something to reinforce the material they learned the night before.


This is exactly how I began my first flipped unit. I chose a fairly easy unit (since I teach chemistry, I chose writing and balancing reactions), something with which my students had always found success. They would go home, watch the videos I recorded using Camtasia Studio from TechSmith and posted on my YouTube Channel (http://bit.ly/seigelchemistry), come to class, and do the homework they normally would have done at home. It was fantastic! Every time a student began to struggle, I was right there to answer his or her questions. The students wouldn’t go more than a few minutes being confused and would immediately get right back to getting their work done. I still gave the same checking-for-understanding quizzes I had always given, the same labs, the same tests. The only thing that changed was where the homework assignment and the lecture happened.


The best part about this method, for me, was students could move at their own pace. Some students would watch all of the videos in one weekend, show up on Monday and just plow through all of the graded assignments. Some students would have the laptops open on their desk (at the time we had Dell mini-laptops, but I now have a cart of Chromebooks) and watch the video as they completed the homework. Some failed the homework assignment even though they took good notes, went back to the videos in class, and had the opportunity to fix the mistakes they made. None of this would have been possible in a traditional model with me controlling every aspect of the daily routine.


This system worked really well. But then I soon realized things were starting to unravel. Since everyone was completing the same homework assignment, and different students were moving at different speeds, slower students figured out that if they just wait for the faster students to complete the assignments, they could just copy their work when it was returned. Also, students who were not good at managing their time in class properly, fell far behind (sometimes weeks behind) and were turning in an entire marking period’s worth of assignments on the last day before grades were due. This last situation caused a tremendous amount of work for me and meant that the students were not getting the timely feedback they needed to be successful.


Once again, things needed to change, and fast.


Stop Focusing On Classrooms and Start Focusing on Learning Those educators who have been successful with a flipped classroom have begun to move to a flipped learning approach. Both are centered on the essential question: What is the best use of my face-to-face time with my students? However, it is the mindset that is different.
  • Flipped Classrooms allow students watch lectures at home and engage in homework in school. Teachers guide students through a series of worksheets or more traditional activities that help them reach objectives and gain the knowledge necessary to pass assessments.
  • Flipped Learning allows educators to use a variety of teaching methodologies to help students reach a learning objective. (www.flippedlearning.org) Rather than focusing on the content they need to learn, students are engaged in activities that teach both content and skills that are necessary for success. The classroom is a dynamic and collaborative environment where all levels of learners are supported.


So, what does this dynamic, collaborative learning environment look like? Well, that’s the beauty of flipped learning–every educator customizes it to fit his or her school, students, and personal abilities. Some teachers use pre-made videos on the Internet; some make their own. Some are the only teachers in their building/district flipping; some are part of an entire flipped school. Some teachers use only their traditional assignments; some allow the students to design their own work. This is not a pre-packaged curriculum–something you just order from a company and everything you need is already inside. Let me tell you what a typical unit looks like in my flipped environment.


One unit my students learn about is solutions. On the first day, the students will participate in a guided-inquiry activity called Introduction to Solution Making (http://bit.ly/seigelsolutionmaking) in which they will learn about calculating concentration of solutions by making two cups of fruit punch. There are no procedures other than for them to make two cups of fruit punch the way they like to drink it. After they make the drinks, they read farther down and it tells them to use the mass of powdered drink they measured and the volume of water they used to calculate the concentration. This is when they realized they didn’t measure anything and have to start again.  Note: While learning how to calculate concentration is the main learning objective, students learn more through their mistakes of solution making. At the end of the activity, the students are free to drink their solutions while they watch the instructional video about calculating concentration (which is linked in the Google Doc of the lab).


The video on concentration is embedded in a Google Form. Below the video are three self-check questions for the students to complete at the conclusion of the video. These questions are modified questions from the unit test and align to the district quarterly assessment. When they answer the questions and hit “submit,” a tool called Flubaroo provides both the student and the teacher feedback on the student’s understanding of the material, and he or she can ask the teacher questions about any errors or misconceptions and get the immediate assistance they need.


Students now move through a series of both required and optional assignments for the unit, which have been detailed on an assignment chart distributed on Google Classroom and on the first day of the unit. (bit.ly/seigelsolutions) While some assignments are labeled as required, I have given the students the freedom to either supplement or replace these with assignments they have designed. This gives all students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding in ways that better suit their needs.


The Future of Flipped Learning Is Now The flipped model does not only apply to teachers and students. Administrators can flip faculty meetings or professional development by giving teachers something to read or research in advance and then engaging them in discussion and activities when the group comes together. Advisors can flip club meetings. The culture of learning has changed for students and schools. When the accumulated knowledge of the human race is sitting in your pocket, teachers no longer need to be the sole source of content knowledge, but rather, need to direct students toward ways to find their own understandings of how to use that content appropriately.

Lucky Teacher

I have been very fortunate this year to have a fantastic group of students as well as a wonderful co-teacher. Every crazy idea I have had they have all supported 100%. I get up every day excited to go to work for the chance to work with these wonderful people.

My Honors students are exceptionally open-minded. I decided to do away with traditional notes for the Gas Laws unit and let them tell me what they know about the properties of gases. We spent about half of the block breaking through all the misconceptions they had about their world and it led to great discussions in both classes. Then we learned about the relationship between Pressure and Volume using pressure sensors and a syringe. They quickly understood the inverse relationship between the two properties and I was very satisfied with the lesson.
I planned on using the Gas Properties simulation from PHeT just to verify what they had discovered earlier using the pressure sensor. The sim was projected onto the board and I asked for a volunteer to go up and manipulate it. The student quickly figured out how to add gas and I asked the students to explain what they were seeing. The shouted out things like:
  • The molecules are constantly moving
  • They spread out to fill the container
  • They are all moving with the same speed
And while this is going on, the student at the board is playing with the simulation. She is moving the little man to change the volume and pumping in more gas. Well, that’s the point where I was no longer needed in the room. The class began to yell out things they wanted her to do: raise the heat, lower the heat, pump in heavier things, blow the lid off, add tons of gravity. I had planned to use the simulation as the next class’ lesson, but the students were so into what they were learning that I literally couldn’t stop them. I tried to do it. TWICE. But I was completely ignored.
I sat down at a desk and snapped these pictures. 

Naturally others wanted a turn so we needed to rotate. I made whomever went to the board make a statement for the class to add to their notes on the topic. No PowerPoint, no outlines, no formal notes. In one block we covered an entire unit’s worth of material. And the best part, every word is theirs. I told them nothing.
I am a really lucky teacher to work in a school that has amazing students that let me do the crazy things that I do.

Flux

I have been very bad about posting updates from my classroom. I even signed up to do the blog challenge from #YourEduStory in an effort to force myself to write more and I still failed.

The first assignment was to pick the word that is going to define you in 2015. The challenge was a lot harder than I thought as there were a lot of words that came to mind. I have used Awesome and Audacious before, and while I still love and strive for those words, I know that I will not expressly be striving for either of those things.

I realized that the word that will probably best define my classroom will be FLUX.

When I first started flipping my classroom, I realized that I needed to radically change my thinking about how learning and grading occurred. Over the last 5 years, change has just become a constant for me. In the 2014-2015 school year, I have changed at least 1 thing about every unit I have taught in every course. It may be something simple like changing the HW set for AP, modifying the unit Test, or completely revamping the entire way the Gas Laws unit is taught (which I will write about next week after I try it).
While it is absolutely exhausting and I feel like I am in my first year of teaching all over again, it has also been exhilarating! When I sit with my in-class support teacher to discuss the frustrations I am having with our current system, I get so excited in developing something I have never tried before. 
The best part about having a classroom that is in flux is I have created students who are willing to take risks with me. They know that I am constantly changing class, always looking for improvements. Because of this they remain flexible and open-minded for anything that I might throw their way.
Flux is tough. I often get to the end of the week and think I should just drop all of this and just do it the way I have always done it. Then I stare at my empty classroom and reflect on all of my successes. That’s when I realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.