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Flipped classroom – Focus your teaching on the important stuff

If you find yourself running out of time in class and battling to keep your more able pupils engaged, the answer may be to flip your classroom, suggests Neil Jarrett…

Neil Jarrett
by Neil Jarrett
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In a ‘flipped classroom‘, students learn something outside of school and in the following lesson, complete tasks based on the prior knowledge they have gained. The teacher becomes more of a support and facilitator.

It might sound tricky, but it doesn’t have to be complex. Here are 5 simple ways in which you can flip your classroom – and what you and your pupils can stand to gain as a result…

1. Record yourself teaching

In my class I have some very able maths students. Sometimes, if they already know a strategy, they will need to be taught an entirely different lesson. This can often be difficult to do, but flipping the classroom makes it much more manageable.

First, I pre-recorded myself teaching how to construct graphs from equations:

The able children watched the video on iPads at home. The following day, whilst I was teaching the start of the lesson to the rest of the class, the more able group went to the back of the room and set down to work independently. They were able to re-watch the video during the lesson to recap the learning if they needed to, and I went over to support them later on in the lesson – not that they actually required much help, though!

2. Watch an educational video

Send the children a link to an educational video – you’ll find countless brilliant ones on YouTube – and ask them to watch it in their free time before a certain lesson. By the time that lesson rolls around they will already have learnt a significant amount of knowledge, allowing you to get straight on to questioning them and completing activities.

I recently asked my class to watch this excellent TED-Ed video about levers. The lesson itself then consisted of further investigation into how and why levers worked.

3. Set research homework

Sometimes there’s just not enough time to accomplish everything you want in a lesson. Flipped learning is a great way to get around this. In an art lesson, for example, I asked my students to research ways to tessellate. They were brilliant, and all came back the next day with the correct knowledge.

This meant that there was time for a quick input on colour and line-work, and they could then get straight on with the art. The results were fantastic:

4. Set a real life challenge

Flipped learning can be as simple as asking your students to bring in something from home. For a maths lesson about measures, a colleague of mine asked his students to look at the food products in their kitchens. They had to study the labels and then either take photos of them, copy them down, or bring the product itself in to school. Doing this meant they that were well-prepared for the lesson ahead.

5. Record an ‘expert’ colleague

As teachers, we have to admit that we’re not as strong in certain areas as we are in others.

I recently had to deliver a lesson about the heart for our healthy bodies science topic. I decided to ask a colleague at a local secondary school to do a heart dissection for my class. He did so, and I recorded the lesson live on Facebook. The students could watch the heart being cut there and then in front of them, but could also see real-time close-ups via the live video playing on their iPads.

Next year I’ll be able to ask the students to watch a heart dissection video for homework first, and use that to really focus their subject knowledge about the heart in class.

In conclusion, I would recommend flipping your classroom for the following reasons:

  • It saves time and allows for more questioning, support and activities
  • The students can come to lessons with valuable prior knowledge
  • The children often don’t see flipped classroom activities as ‘homework’ – I’ve heard many comment that they liked them
  • Misconceptions can be tackled quickly – if your pupils find the subject area difficult, they can tell you straight away

A final point to note, however is that flipped learning is not always suitable in every case. It’s important to plan carefully where and when it can be used most effectively.

Neil Jarrett is a Year 6 teacher at an international school in Bangkok and a Google Certified educator; he blogs at #Edtech4Beginners and tweets as @EdtechNeil

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