Flipped Classrooms: Make your time with students valuable

I was fortunate to attend the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference and learned from so many amazing educators.  One of the most inspirational moments was listening to George Couros on developing the innovators mindset.  His passion and genuine desire to help children find a love for learning is incredibly motivational.  I attended many sessions of teachers using great formative assessment tools, independent learning centers, and utilizing the last five minutes of class effectively.  STEM or STEAM was a major theme of many conversations and is so valuable.  I left the event motivated and my brain spinning with ideas.

I started to reflect on my own session that I facilitated, “Flipping your Classroom” introduction.  How does this fit, is it as valuable as other ideas?  Is the flipped class truly beneficial, or is it going to be a short lived trend in education?  Flipping your classroom is the key to unlocking the time to do valuable activities with your students.

An easy way to start flipping your classroom is to choose basic lessons to deliver the content at home.  The students come to your classroom prepared with adequate background knowledge to be more successful engaging in the content.  As educators, one of our top priorities should be to create an engaging, exciting, enjoyable class for students.  I truly believe that flipped lessons gives us a head start, it gives us an opportunity to build in those great activities on a daily basis.  I am leaving this motivating conference with so many ideas of amazing activities to try with my students.

So this week’s post is short, but hopefully intriguing.  As we move forward on this journey of flipping lessons and classrooms, keep this idea in mind.  We can now make more time more valuable for our students.

Beating the Homework Battle

Think for a minute or two, the homework you give now, what is its’ purpose? I would guess to practice, review, extend the days learning, or inform parents at home. At the center of it, our homework is to help students continue growth and learning. However, somewhere along the line in the last twenty years that message was lost and homework has become a battle. This battle is fought on two fronts.

We have our students who try and always want to do well. They want to please their teachers, their parents, and ultimately themselves. When they are doing traditional homework they may forget the lesson, not fully understand it, or genuinely are not prepared to be successful. They get frustrated, parents try to help and get frustrated, and maybe they even become frustrated with one another. If you are a parent, I’m sure you can relate. This homework, with good intentions at heart, has become a battle.

We also have our students who may lack the work ethic, responsibility, or desire to complete homework. They come to school and are now pushed through the process of missed homework assignment discipline the teacher has in place. This causes a negative interaction between the student and teacher. Even if it is for one minute, when occurring over and over again, think of all the negative energy created. Again, homework that had good intentions creates another battle.

So what is causing this problem? How can we fix it? The problem is these occurrences happen every year from 1st grade through graduation. After a few years, homework, regardless of intention or quality, has a negative rapport with students. The solution? Flip it.

Flipped homework is to provide students a more comfortable experienced learning new material. The message isn’t lost because it is a lesson. There is no pressure on students. Interact with the homework, learn as best you can, get ready to practice tomorrow. Parents are more apt and able to help because they see the lessons too. Our first battle is gone.

The next day in class students see a different classroom where they are applying and learning in exciting ways. If they didn’t do their homework, my solution is simple. Grab a device, grab headphones, go into the hallway/back of the room/wherever , and do it. There are no consequences, no lectures, just valuing the ultimate goal: learning. Now, I do encourage my students to see me before class to tell me they didn’t do the homework so they can make it up before class. What’s the catch? The catch is your classroom is dynamic, fun, and challenging. Students see that you are assigning homework for a reason, it has value to you and them. They don’t want to miss it, because then they miss out on all the fun class activities and have to make that up later. Flipped homework dramatically reduced the amount of missed homework assignments and completely eliminated all my frequent flyers. I don’t have any students that consistently miss. Now, I’m not saying this works for everyone. You may have to use your own discipline approach for your demographic and age level. Half way through my first year of a flipped classroom, I asked my students “why do you think I’m not strict on homework and checking you did it?” Many students raised their hands, the first one I called on: “cause you trust us.” Almost every hand went down, obviously sharing the same thought. I never imagined I could deliver that powerful of a message to an entire class with homework.

When considering the flipped classroom, it will eliminate our two major homework battles. It eliminates it by putting the value back in homework, and more importantly, students seeing the value