My Flipped Lesson Introducing Fractions

We all know a lot of four letter explicatives.  In fact, one of my students not-so comically used one today when expressing his frustration.  Teachers have some of these four letter words, too, except in other contexts, they do not quite take on the negative connotation that this word, specifically, does when talking instruction and the school day.  This word, my friends, is time.

The dirty four-letter word can strike fear into the souls of teachers and administrators alike.  It can be one of our best friends when we are able to buy some more, but it can be one of our worst enemies when we are running out of it.  In fact, it seems that there will never, truly, be enough hours in the day to cover the breadth of our curriculum.

In an effort to cover all of the ground necessary, teachers come up with ways to save time.  Some cut out unimportant lessons; others might rearrange their schedules or try integrating more of the curricula to kill as many birds with the least amount of stones necessary.  While these are all great tactics for time-saving, I’ve recently tried “flipping” my lessons, not only in an effort to save instructional time during the day, but also to help me differentiate my instruction and maximize each of my student’s time.

Flipping is definitely a difficult concept to comprehend at first.  Some might think that kids already have enough homework, but when you think about homework, is it really beneficial?  While some practice worksheets and written responses can provide extra practice, this practice only provides reinforcement of the skill if it is proficient practice.   For this, we can offer flipped homework, which refers to students watching videos that teach them the content that is expected to be mastered in class.  This sometimes, as well, can be accompanied by a worksheet or activity that mirrors the video lesson.  What are the benefits of this, you ask?  Here are a few:

Number One – Time Saving 
Oftentimes, many of our students already have a base in the concepts we are teaching.  After all, if we are teaching well, we are building on our students’ background knowledge and making connections to previously learned concepts.  By offering flipped lessons, students are able to review these prerequisite skills at home and channel their background knowledge in order to comprehend the next step in the progression of learning.  In class, this helps us save time because we are spending more time giving guided practice, and less time providing them with knowledge they could have received from watching a video of us saying and modeling the same exact thing!  No one will debate that modeling the skill is important, but it can be done in ways more conducive to saving time, like flipping.

Number Two – Differentiation Opportunities
Guilt eats away at me during many of my math classes.  The fact is, I have a wide variety of skill sets in my classroom, and these skill sets are not consistent when we change the domains in which we are learning.  For instance, Johnny might be skilled with fractions and Theresa might be low in fractions, but when it comes time to compute multi-digit multiplication problems, their proficiencies are completely reversed.  This makes it very difficult to do any sort of “guided math,” as abilities may change, not only depending on the unit, but sometimes even depending on the lesson.   By flipping the lessons, I am able to provide a short entry slip upon arrival in the classroom.  From here, I am able to split my students into two groups instantly after seeing their entry assessment: One group will spend time with me receiving more guided practice and maybe even reteaching, and the other will spend time on their own or with a small group working through the activity for the day.  Additionally, students who finish the activity early can work through enrichment activities (coupled with instructional videos) so that they may either work through the unit at their own pace or receive enrichment (i.e., higher-level skills or problems).  By flipping my lessons, I’ve been able to provide an appropriately challenging experience to all my students in a rather efficient manner.

Number Three – Review
Sometimes we need to reteach or review concepts, and we struggle to find the time (pardon my French) to do so.  In some cases, reteaching can be as simple as saying the exact same thing we said the week before in order to review the concept.  By flipping lessons, we automatically have a record of our lessons, and they can be posted on the world wide web for 24/7 access.  Using these videos for review or reinforcement provides opportunities for differentiated review and reteaching at the click of a button.

Flipping instruction is the catalyst for change in education.  It helps teachers work smarter, and not necessarily harder.  It’s engaging for our kids and even helps our kids’ parents see what and how they are currently learning.  But most of all, it turns that evil four letter word, time, into a friendly ally that we are able to maximize and use in our favor.

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