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Class work is now homework and homework is now class work...flipped classrooms!

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Third graders entered my art room with their usual enthusiasm to see what we would be learning about in today’s class. Little did they know they were going to be students for a new teaching method that is spreading the nation…the flipped classroom.

I first heard of this new strategy January 2014 after presenting a lesson unknowingly in a similar fashion. I often use videos as previews and supplements to our art lessons providing students a variety of artists demonstrating their skills in real life situations outside the classroom. Finding a new painting technique called glue batik, I thought something new, I haven’t tried myself! How awesome would this be to learn a new technique together as side by side artists? The lesson was planned, presented to the students without any introduction or set objectives just as mentioned above. Students were excited that we would be learning something new together.

We watched as the artist explained and demonstrated her skill taking notes on her steps and results. After the video, we shared what we felt the artist’s objectives were, her end result using art vocabulary as well as the steps we would need to know to demonstrate our own examples. In the next couple of classes we began creating using the glue batik technique.

Surfing the internet a couple of weeks later, I found that my prior lesson sounded very familiar to a new movement in education called flipped teaching.
Step one: Students watch a teaching video at home or at the beginning of a class.
Step two: Teacher and class discuss what they watched, what students found interesting and applied their new knowledge in class work.
I was doing a form of flip teaching without really knowing this method had a name.

At a recent workshop on the flipped classroom presented by Jon Bergmann, he explained that so often we introduce a concept during class and then expect students to go home and apply it in the form of homework. Instead, let’s introduce it as homework and apply it in the classroom. Or in my case, at the beginning of class since I don’t give homework for art. He says any content can flip their whole classroom or just do lessons you choose. He explained how classrooms tend to have he teacher appear as the smartest person in the room and spill knowledge in lecture form. However in the 21st century learning, we are moving away from teacher directed to student directed. But will teachers become extinct? With the previewed concepts, teachers can now teach the meat of the lesson, the application. Teachers will teach, guide and facilitate creativity, encourage communication among students, collaboration, and critical problem solving skills.

Back to this third grade art class, students were learning to scaffold ideas from other’s questions, ideas, making predictions, and explaining reasoning to their peers. Together we compared, inquired and made discoveries as we demonstrated the technique. We shared guided and independent learning.

Benefits of the teaching method include differential teaching, reaching all students, while students watch and pause the video as often as they need to, unlike some live classrooms. Students work at their own pace. Smaller groups can happen in the classroom providing extra individualized attention with the teacher as others can move on to more challenging activities applying their new knowledge with prior knowledge. Getting a preview of the lesson helps build connections.

Two concerns noted often on a various websites and at the workshop attended were directed toward students without devices or internet in which to view homework and the student who just refused to do their homework. A suggestion was to make a CD since most people own DVD players, make podcasts for IPods, or find other means to view your video as well as provide a place in the classroom for students. For students who don’t do their homework, the same issues arise whether it be traditional homework or flipped homework. Some will always refuse to do work outside of the classroom. A suggestion was to set up a spot for them to catch up during class to at least provide a second chance away from others.

Even though there are hundreds of premade videos online made by other educators, Mr. Bergmann suggests that teachers create their own teaching videos for your students for the trust relationship that you have developed. Students know your sound, look, vocabulary and culture. It’s as if you are teaching to each individual within your classroom anywhere, anytime.

At Jon Bergmann’s website jonbergmann.com, one can follow his blog, upcoming workshops, and read information about the flipped classroom. Other interesting websites are flippedclassroom.org and knewton.com.

What do think about this teaching strategy? Do you use this method in all your lessons or in some classes? Do you feel it's something that works or do you prefer traditional is best?

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