Sunday, August 16, 2015

Flipping the Upper Elementary Classroom

Math in most upper elementary classrooms like this:
  •  The teacher stands up in front of the class and teaches a lesson.
  •  Students follow along in their notebooks or workbooks and volunteer to answer questions up on the board. 
  • Then, students complete an activity independently or with a partner/ small group. The teacher walks around the room helping. 
  • After, the class pulls back together to close out the lesson. 

So, what is the downside to this traditional method? Well, a lot of the time when teachers teach a lesson to the whole class, they are teaching to the "middle". Students who are lower get lost and left behind, and students who are more advanced get board. 

Now picture this classroom: 

Students rotate to centers where they work on higher-order thinking projects while the teacher pulls a small group of students  to review a concept, or perhaps push them with more difficult work. Twenty-four students in a classroom may, at any given time, be doing totally different things. This is the perfect picture of a differentiated classroom!

It sounds like a teacher dream-world, doesn't it? The idea of centers in an upper elementary classroom is wonderful, and most teachers WANT to incorporate it! But the reality is that sometimes there just isn't time! Because when you think about it, how can your teacher a lesson, AND have students work at centers, AND work with a small group, ALL IN ONE PERIOD!? (The madness!) 

There is a way, my friends! It is..... the Flipped Classroom! So, what is the flipped classroom? 
Instead of the traditional method, students come into class already having learned the lesson. 
  • For homework students watch a 5-7 minute video of the lesson. This could be a video that you created yourself, using a iPad app like Doceri, or a pre-made video from Khan Academy or Learn Zillow. 
  • When students come into class (or when your math period starts), you immediately start centers! (YAY!) 
  • During centers, you pull small groups of students. I usually start pulling groups of kids who had trouble with the lesson, first.
One of the biggest questions that teachers ask when it comes to the flipped classroom is "how do I keep kids accountable?" Because, although it sounds really great, how do you know that your students actually WATCHED the video? We would hope that they would be honest, but this isn't always the case. Luckily, there is an awesome solution to that as well! 

At the beginning of the year one of the first things that I do is sign up my students for Edmodo. Edmodo is amazing because it is a social-media platform for students. I love that they're able to ask and answer each others homework questions, have book discussions, etc. But I also LOVE the apps that Edmodo has. And, conveniently, one of those apps called Educanon, keeps kids accountable for watching flipped videos. 

Simply post the YouTube link in Educanon, and BAM! You can see who watched the FULL video and who did not. Educanon also allows you to insert questions (YESSSS!!) into the video. This allows to "check for understanding"-- you can see who got the questions right and who got them wrong! I insert vocabulary questions, word problems, algorithms, etc. The students can even right in comments if they have a question, or want to share something with you! This way, when the kids come in, I know who needs the lesson re-taught. 

Commonly Asked Questions:

  • Doesn't it take a lot of time to make the videos? If you are planning on making all of your own videos, it doesn't take some time (especially if you redo them a bunch of times like me!) However, you are set for the years to come once it's done! You can also team up with your co-workers and split up the work, or use some videos from Khan Academy and Learn Zillow.
  • What it a student does not have a computer or the internet? OK so I had this problem. I had a student whose internet was down for a while, and they went to the library and a friends house. I also had a student without a computer, and they just watched the videos at the end of the day (before it was due). I always found time in the day for them to watch it in class!
  • What do you do if students don't watch the videos? Let me tell you, there is nothing worse for the students than not getting to do centers right away! That means they have to play catch-up with their work, and they love the projects! If they don't watch the video for HW, they have to watch it in class before they start centers. 
  • What types of projects  and do you pull in? The possibilities are ENDLESS! We did a year-round stock market project (I will write about that in another post), I also use Khan Academy and students complete printed-out projects (I love the projects from Teaching With a Mountain View!!) 

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