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With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Response: ‘Flipped Learning’ Does Not Just Mean ‘Posting Videos’

By Larry Ferlazzo — July 02, 2017 14 min read
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(This is the first post in a two-part series)

The new “question-of-the-week” is:

What are the best ways to make a flipped classroom work?

There is a lot of talk about the “flipped classroom” where, simply put, students watch class videos at home so they have more time for active learning in school. But how does it actually work and, in fact, does it work at all?

Today, Kristina J. Doubet, Eric M. Carbaugh, Rita Platt, Sarah Thomas, Troy Cockrum, Sonja Cherry-Paul, and Dana Johansen respond to that question. You can listen to a 10-minute conversation I had with Rita and Kristina on my BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

You might also be interested in two previous posts from this blog about flipped learning:

* To Flip, Or Not To Flip, A Classroom - That Is The Question

* ‘Flipped Learning Makes Teachers More Valuable’

In addition, I’ve collected additional resources at The Best Posts On The “Flipped Classroom” Idea.

Response From Kristina J. Doubet & Eric M. Carbaugh

Kristina J. Doubet, Ph.D. (@kjdoubet) and Eric M. Carbaugh, Ph.D. (@emc7x) teach in the College of Education’s Middle, Secondary, and Math Department at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. They are faculty members for ASCD Professional Learning Services, co-authors of the Corwin book The Differentiated Flipped Classroom: Practical Strategies for Digital Learning, and they work with teachers across the nation and abroad on the topics of curriculum, assessment, differentiation, and digital learning:

When teachers decide to flip their classrooms, they typically begin by considering what technology they might use to deliver content. There are plenty of links to ready-made videos that explain a particular topic (Khan Academy), as well as resources available to record screencasts (Screencast-o-matic), or modify existing videos by adding annotations, questions, or quizzes (Educreations). Obviously these tools are necessary, since viewing content at home is a fundamental aspect of classroom flipping.

However, simply posting videos does not, by itself, constitute flipping. Teaching - either in a regular or a flipped environment - means facilitating students’ interaction with content rather than just presenting content. We often hear from teachers that flipping fails to live up to their expectations because students don’t appear to be processing the desired content, or even watching it at all. The best way to make a flipped classroom work is to concentrate your energy on techniques to 1) help students actively process material, both at home and at school and 2) foster accountability for tasks completed in both settings. Said differently, teachers should seek to create favorable conditions for learning at home, just as they would at school. Here are some key questions to guide that process:

1) Have you built processing points into videos that ask students to do more than simply “pause and rewind”? In other words, have you included problems to solve? Questions to answer? A graphic organizer to complete? A discussion board response to post?

2) Have you planned to use the content viewed at home in an interactive way the next day? Strategies such as Padlet.com posts, blog comments, carousel activities, team-reviews using white boards, Kahoot, etc. provide active and collaborative ways for students to follow up on what they viewed the previous evening.

3) Have you considered ways to meet the needs of diverse learners? Using data gathered from at-home processing activities (see #1 above) or in-class entrance prompts will clarify who needs what the next day. You may need to pull a small group for review while the rest of the class tries some next-level questions. Conversely, you might need to pull a small group to work on an enrichment activity while you trouble shoot with the rest of the class.

4) Have you established anchor activities for students to complete if they finish assigned work early? The increased flexibility of a flipped class often leads to more ragged time since students may progress at different paces. Assigning an interest-based Learning Menu or RAFT for students to move to when finished with in-class work is a motivating way to deal with this issue.

Teachers of flipped classrooms must be proactive in identifying and responding to the needs of their students, both at home and at school. Strategies such as those described above enable classroom flipping to actually facilitate learning.

Response From Rita Platt

Rita Platt (@ritaplatt) is a Nationally Board Certified teacher and a proud #EduDork!. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls SD in Wisconsin, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, consults with local school districts, and writes for We Teach We Learn:

As an elementary teacher-librarian who is very aware of the power of video, I became interested in the concept of “flipping.” I applied the idea using practices more appropriate for younger students and came up with what I call the “Slanted Classroom.” In this model, homemade videos supplement and support teaching within the classroom, during class time. In general, half the class watches while I work on a similar concept with the rest of the students. Then the groups switch. This allows me to provide direct instruction and small group guided instruction at the same time. In essence, I am able to co-teach with myself! I also post the videos online so students also have the option of watching them again at home.

Below are examples of how I’ve used the “Slanted Classroom” in my daily teaching:

Second Grade Reading Intervention Group: Three times per week I meet with 27 eager upper-level readers. These children have been working on identifying theme in novels and using textual evidence to support their thinking. I made two videos to explain theme and demonstrate how to find it. One featured me and the other featured my husband. After the main lesson, I advised students who needed more to watch the at home (with their parents if possible.) Many did and the next day my inbox was flooded with thank-you emails from parents who spent some time discussing deep interesting questions about reading with their children.

Third Grade Library Skills: I teach all students to find books on the library shelves using the Dewey Decimal System. Because the space in the shelves is too tight to accommodate an entire class, I created a series of videos to teach and model finding books. One group watches the “virtual” me as I take them on a tour of the library shelves and show them how to find books. The other goes into the selves with me to learn in a more hands-on manner. Then, the groups switch, allowing for a double dose of learning and practice.

Fourth Grade Note-Taking: The Common Core State Standards direct teachers of 4th graders to work extensively with informational texts and to teach students to gather information from them through note-taking. This is a complex multifaceted skill. To facilitate learning, I made a video of me modeling and explaining the note-taking process from start to finish. I shared the video with all students before we began taking notes. Later, after practicing the skill, students who felt they needed to review the lecture/demonstration were able to watch the video again at home or at school. Equally as important, I was able to share the method with other 4th grade teachers at my school so that we all were on the same page. For more information, read my post, Two-Column Notes: The Twin Pillars of Supporting Reading and Writing of Non-Fiction Texts.

I am always amazed at how attentive students are to my videos (oddly they seem to be more inclined to actively listen to me on video than they are to me in person!) My methods might not be a true “flip” but, all the same, they harness the power of homemade videos as engaging learning tools.

Find my videos on my school website and for more information, read my post, Slant It! An Alternative to the Flipped Classroom.

Response From Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is a Regional Technology Coordinator in Prince George’s County Public Schools. She is also a Google Certified Innovator and the founder of the #EduMatch movement, a project that empowers educators to make global connections across common areas of interest. Sarah is a doctoral candidate in Education at George Mason University:

Many teachers have embraced the flipped classroom model, but there are some valid concerns that may arise. Having conducted approximately 50 presentations to teachers on the flipped model, I usually ask what questions educators have about implementation. The first one is usually access. At this point, I turn the question back to the group to ask for solutions. The following is a crowdsourced list of potential ideas, that have come up since 2013:

  • Ask students to watch flipped videos on their cell phones, as they often can access WiFi in that way, but rarely think of their personal electronic device as a learning tool.
  • See what resources are available at the school, such as mobile carts and computer labs, and allow students to watch in class (perhaps adopting a blended model).
  • Have “viewing parties” during lunch, allowing students to come back to the room and watch the video with their food.
  • Burn DVDs of the videos that students can watch at home without an internet connection.
  • Have students download the videos to their personal devices using school WiFi prior to going home.
  • Buy several Mifi devices (or other mobile hotspots) and check them out through the school library.
  • Ask local businesses to donate gently used devices whenever they get a technology refresh, in exchange for a tax writeoff.
  • Allow students to come early or stay late at school.
  • Help connect families with lower income to Internet Service Providers, who often have free or low-cost plans.

There were other suggestions, but these were some of my favorite, and at least one item from the list has helped in every case I have witnessed.

Response From Troy Cockrum

Troy Cockrum is the Director of Innovative Teaching for Little Flower School in Indianapolis and author of Flipping Your Class to Reach All Learners: Strategies and Lesson Plans:

There is a misconception that all Flipped Classrooms are alike, but there are several iterations of a flipped classroom. Teachers need to bring their own style and expectations to the class. It is more mindset than model. However, I’ve identified some elements that are present in most successful flipped classrooms.


Teachers that stick to a rigid structure and don’t adapt to the needs of the students will struggle to differentiate instruction and activities for students. With the freedom offered in a flipped classroom, I can be extremely flexible. Students no longer have to learn in one way using one method. I can individualize instruction to each student because I now have the time to connect with every student. I can offer students choice in activities and choice in assessment.

Interactive Engagement

Students learn best when they are engaged in and interacting with content in meaningful ways. If you expect students to passively watch videos, they won’t engage or learn nearly as much. If, however, you add interactivity to your videos and content, student learning will increase. I initially added reflection pieces (like a Google Form or Crystal Kirch’s WSQ form) to help students process the information better. Later, I found tools like EdPuzzle that can also add interactivity.

Exploration Activities

A few months into my first year of flipping, I realized if I place my videos before any activities (known as front loading), my students became too reliant on my direction. I found providing exploration activities before providing any video content helped my students direct their own learning better.


I highly recommending finding friends who flip to collaborate. If there is someone in your school building that can share the load of making videos or help brainstorming ideas, that is great. If you don’t have that support in your school, reach out to flipped educators around the world in social media or through blogs. Also, share your own struggles and triumphs publicly. Knowing that others have the same experiences is very empowering as you find your way in your own flipped journey.

Making it a goal to be truly student-centered by utilizing these 4 elements; Flexibility, Interactive Engagement, Exploration Activities, and Collaboration will help the flipped classroom work for you.

Response From Sonja Cherry-Paul & Dana Johansen

Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen are classroom teachers and the authors of Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach and Teaching Interpretation: Using Text-Based Evidence to Construct Meaning both published by Heinemann. They are educational consultants, presenters, and doctoral students at Teachers College, Columbia University. They can be reached on twitter @LitLearnAct or their blog:

Haven’t you ever dreamed of having a double of yourself in the classroom? A triple? A quadruple? Surely then you could accomplish all of the goals you’ve set for the day. We’ve felt this way many times, and we’ve found that flipped learning can help make this possible. But what are the best ways to use flipped learning in the classroom—without flipping out?

First, we want teachers to know that flipped learning can be used with students of all ages—in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. We’ve found it can help individualize and differentiate student learning, as well as increase student engagement and motivation.

Second, making a flipped classroom work doesn’t have to be the kind of time consuming work that teachers may perceive it to be. Once you’ve made a lesson (or more!) you can begin finding ways to use them in your classroom. Remember, it’s important to start small and find ways that work for you and your students. Along our own journey using flipped learning in our classrooms, we’ve come up with a list of five tips for ways NOT to flip out when implementing flipped learning.

You won’t flip out if you keep these elements in mind:

1. Establish routines - Model for students how to use a flipped lesson. A good idea is to practice learning from a flipped lesson as a whole class first. How does a flipped lesson work? Where can students find the lessons? What materials will they need? What will their participation look like? How will they ask questions and reflect on the material that they learn?

2. Access - Access to technology looks different in every school and for every student. Don’t flip out though! Prior to using flipped lessons, take a survey. Find out about your students’ access to tech. Will they use the lessons on a cellphone? A computer? At home? In the computer lab? During study hall? In your classroom? On a flash drive? There are ways to navigate this challenge.

3. Do You!- When creating a lesson, choose tech that’s comfortable for you - Are you a cell phone teacher? A tablet teacher? Or are you comfortable making a screencast on a computer? You’re more likely to continue flipping lessons when you’re comfortable. Find what works and flip away!

4. Engagement! - Create lessons that speak to your students. Use examples that you know they’ll relate to. These lessons don’t have to be Oscar worthy and mistakes are OK!

5. Assessment and reflection - To organize your flipped learning classroom, you need to know what’s working and what isn’t. Make sure you take the time, in your flipped lessons and in the classroom, to assess your students’ progress and provide time for questions and reflection.

Lastly, move with the ebbs and flows of your classroom. Adjust as you need to and do what works for you and your students. Flipped learning is here to help you increase efficiency and engagement in your classroom.

Thanks to Rita, Kristina, Eric, Sarah, Troy, Sonja and Dana for their contributions!

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