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My Mistake Thinking in 

Flipped Classroom 




April Burton 

April Burton learned from her
missteps during her first year
of flipped instruction
in her high
school French classes.

After years of discontent over the number of D’s and F’s in my high school French 1 and 2 classes, I decided I needed to make a big change. I was going to “flip.”

I announced to my students one day they were going to learn our newest concept at home — with a video. I armed them with some questions to answer, posted a link on my website to the video lesson I had created and sent them on their way. The next day, I was sure I would be impressed with their newfound knowledge. I have learned so much since then.

My mistaken thinking and actions fall in four areas. Here’s what I did as a rookie in a flipped classroom and how I have corrected my ways.

•  NO. 1: NO SETUP. Students, especially high school students, know how to “play” the game of school. They see the routine, and they know what to do to get by. They did not welcome change. I needed to explain the benefits of learning that takes place at home. They needed to know that by flipping the instruction, I was making our time together more beneficial.

This year, my second teaching a flipped course, I started the year explaining to students and parents that my class is different. From the beginning, I told students they will be responsible for their learning by watching my explanations of the concepts at home where they are comfortable and when they are without distractions. No longer will they be forced to sit passively in class, to listen as I talk. Now they will get to be actively engaged in their learning because class time will be used more efficiently. I am present when they are practicing. They no longer need to decipher their notes or try to remember what was said in class to complete assignments. Now I am there for immediate remediation.

When students understood the thinking behind this teaching approach and recognized the benefits, I experienced increased buy-in and less resistance.

•  NO. 2: NO “WATCHING” LESSON. I soon realized that watching a flipped lesson on video was something students didn’t automatically know how to do. Because I was the only teacher in the building who was teaching with this style, students needed an explanation of how they could pause, rewind or repeat the videos as they might need to stop and reflect.

When I introduced the idea to my students last fall, we watched our first video together. I took notes along with them and let them be in charge of when to stop or rewind. I showed them what it was to be an “active” listener. We compared our notes and discussed what we wrote down. I suggested that after watching each video, each of them should be able to explain the concept to someone else. They now come to class confident and prepared.

•  NO. 3: NO “ME.” When I started flipping lessons, the idea I could use the cute animated videos that accompanied my textbook seemed like a brilliant idea. However, to my students, it seemed like a cheap way out. They needed me. After a few textbook video assignments, my students complained, “You never teach us anymore.” I realized I was not being fair.

My video homework assignments evolved from using the textbook videos to introduce the topics to my explanations in front of my whiteboard with the use of examples and sample problems. There is no substitute for the classroom teacher. My students wanted to hear my voice and see my face.

I recorded my lessons during my conference period with either screen-capture software or a video camera and posted them on my website. Because my students knew I was working hard to create these videos, they were more willing to put forth the effort to watch the videos at home.

•  NO. 4: NO ATTENTION TO THE “HAVE-NOTS.” At the outset, I had polled my students and found only a few didn’t have Internet at home. I assumed those students would come to me if they had problems. High school students don’t want to admit, not even to their teachers, that they don’t have what it seems everyone else has. When beginning the flipped process, I addressed the class as a whole about the alternatives to watching the videos online.

Now I offer students several options. I have USB drives available on which I download the videos. Students also know the school library has computers available before and after school or during lunch. I also offer page numbers from the textbook where students can read an explanation of the concept. I limit my videos to six to seven minutes each, which allows students time to come to my classroom before school to watch a video should problems arise.

A Favorable Discovery
When it came time to analyze my D’s and F’s at the end of the semester, I was happy to discover my numbers had decreased, and scores on the final exam had increased. It is hard to ignore the raw data. It is even more difficult to ignore the atmosphere in my classroom.

I see no behavior issues. There is no boredom. Instead, students participate in meaningful activity. When administrators visit my classroom, they see students who are holding each other accountable for learning. It isn’t a quiet classroom, but it is a class where students are sharing opinions, learning to work with peers and participating in higher-level activities.

April Burton is in her 14th year as a high school French teacher at Francis Howell Central High School in St. Charles, Mo. E-mail: April.Burton@fhsdschools.org

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