Flip It: How Can a flipped classroom improve student engagement?

Listen to the podcast.

Are you looking to improve student engagement during your differentiated lessons? Would you like to prioritize higher-order thinking skills while meeting the needs of every learner in your class?

Then, I suggest you flip your classroom!

Flipped learning has been around for almost two decades, though it has gained popularity over the last several years. In my opinion, this is primarily due to the pandemic. Hybrid teachers, you know exactly what I’m talking about…as a hybrid teacher, I had to figure out a way to maximize learning during the short amount of time I had with my students. Therefore, I decided to incorporate a flipped classroom model.

I assigned online video lessons for students to complete at home. That way, by the time they came to me, they already had some background knowledge on the subject. Now, I had been using a version of a flipped classroom for years, so I was already in that mindset. If you have never used this type of model, have no fear! I will walk you through what it looks like and how it can benefit you and your students.

Let’s start by examining what a flipped classroom looks like…

What is a flipped classroom?

Traditionally, a flipped classroom is a unique pedagogical approach where students learn a new skill at home and then participate in more hands-on activities in class. I feel this approach is ideal for certain subjects, such as language arts and social sciences. However, as elementary school teachers, we know that some of our students would struggle with completing the homework every night. This would put those students at a significant disadvantage.

Therefore, I incorporate flipped learning within the four walls of my classroom. When students are not in a small group lesson with me, they are engaging in an online lesson where they are introduced to a new skill. That way, by the time they join me for a lesson, they have already previewed the new material.

The potential benefits of the flipped classroom model are numerous, but I think the most significant advantages are the following:

Flipped learning…

  • increases student engagement
  • helps implement differentiated instruction
  • allows for more time spent on higher-order thinking skills
  • results in more “bang for your buck” during mini-lessons

Over the years, I have played around with different ways of incorporating flipped learning into my instruction. In this blog post, I would like to review the three most helpful ways of flipping your classroom.

Differentiate Your Pacing

One of the easiest ways of differentiating your instruction is to adjust your pacing. Advanced learners benefit from moving quickly through the curriculum while struggling learners need to move at a slower pace, as they often need to see new material more than once. By flipping your instruction, students can move through the material at their own pace.

For example, I have my advanced learners preview two or three lessons at a time. By the time they come to me for a mini-lesson, they have often mastered the next two or three skills. I spend the mini-lesson addressing student misconceptions and posing challenging questions that encourage critical thinking. The beauty behind this routine is that my advanced learners are constantly challenged, which results in higher engagement.

For my struggling learners, I do the opposite. I often meet with them first and then have them watch a “re-teach video” of the same skill. This allows them to receive the same instruction but in a different way. This routine helps to reinforce new skills.

I use this type of flipped classroom during my daily math block. Check out this post or podcast episode to learn more!

“Pre-Assess” New Skills

Another way you can use flipped learning within your classroom is by using it as a pre-assessment. Simply assign your entire class a video and/or exit ticket. Use the results of that exit ticket to determine who needs the full lesson and who is ready for enrichment.

For the students who have already mastered the standard, you can assign enrichment activities in the form of playlists*, project-based learning activities, or math games. While they are working independently or with partners, you are free to provide targeted instruction to the students who need it. This allows you to focus on a smaller number of students during your lesson, thus resulting in more one-on-one teaching opportunities.

*If you are unfamiliar with playlists, they are a list of tasks that students complete at their own pace. The tasks usually progress from easy to difficult, thus providing students the opportunity to gradually deepen their understanding of a skill.

Focus on Collaboration and Projects

This last way of flipping your classroom is more of a traditional model. I especially like to use this model for language arts and social sciences. Students are asked to complete the assigned reading for homework; that way, they can participate in more collaborative activities while at school.

Language Arts

In language arts, there are so many opportunities to incorporate the flipped classroom model. For example, rather than read a novel as a class, students read at home and participate in a debate or discussion during instruction. This lends itself to a more thorough investigation of the literature. The teacher can move away from low-level thinking questions and pose more complex analysis questions.

Now if you are like me, I do not teach using whole class novel studies. Instead, I use Reading Workshop. Flipped learning can easily be applied to Reading Workshop. Students read their chosen novels at home and while at school, the teacher teaches a new skill using a mentor text. Students then practice that skill during classwork or homework time. Read how to launch Reading Workshop here, or listen to the podcast episode.

Book Clubs also lend themselves to a flipped classroom model! For upper grades, I would actually teach my students how to create a reading schedule for their clubs. With some guidance, they would decide what chapters to read each night. During class, they would then participate in a mini-lesson based on the target reading skill and practice that new skill while discussing the book. Learn more about how to facilitate book club discussions in an elementary classroom!

Flipped learning is also ideal for writing instruction. Students can complete their brainstorming/pre-writing at home and focus on revision/peer review at school. Alternatively, perhaps you would like your students to complete their rough drafts at home so that while in class, you can meet with small groups and focus on targeted, differentiated instruction.

Take a look at the ideas below:

At HomeAt School
Read a chapterBook club discussion
Research a nonfiction topicPresent a student-run workshop
Pre-writingMini-lesson on how to structure a paragraph/essay
Write rough draftPeer review or targeted writing intervention/enrichment
Ideas for a Flipped Classroom in Language Arts

Social Sciences

Social sciences are ideal for a flipped classroom model. Textbooks are often very dry and focus mostly on historical facts. A successful history class does not only focus on such facts but on how that information shaped our society. Collaborative activities, such as Socratic Seminars, debates, and project-based learning assignments, should be the primary focus of this subject. The trouble is that teachers often do not have time to teach the content and facilitate collaborative activities. Therefore, a flipped classroom is ideal.

Let’s say, for instance, that you are a sixth-grade teacher who is teaching early human history. Rather than teach the various time periods of evolution, have students read that lesson at home. In class, you can hold a mini-lesson about the key takeaways and then have students create their own clan of early humans. They decide what time period they lived in, their diet, and their lifestyle. Of course, all of this is based on what they learned during their reading. They then create a cave art project where they draw symbols to represent their clan’s lifestyle. These art projects provide a quick, engaging way to assess your students’ understanding of early human history.

The ideas below provide some examples of how the traditional flipped classroom can be applied to your social sciences course:

At HomeAt School
Research art/literature in a given time periodArt project
Prepare for a debateClass debate
Analyze primary & secondary sourcesSocratic Seminar
Read the textbook to obtain background knowledgeProject-based learning assignment
Ideas for a Flipped Classroom in Social Sciences

Flipped classrooms do not need to be daunting or difficult to manage. They also do not necessarily need to require homework. There are so many ways to flip your learning, and I hope that you found one that resonates with you.

Once you are comfortable with one idea, try a second one in a different subject. Ideally, you can choose different ways to flip your classroom depending on the learning outcomes and subject areas.

As always, feel free to leave a comment or email me at melody@learning-n-progress.com. I would love to help you flip your classroom! Let’s brainstorm together!!!

Learn More About Differentiated Instruction

Th 5 Ws of Differentiated InstructionDive-into what differentiated instruction looks like in an elementary school classroom.
Differentiated Literacy Centers: A Primary Teacher’s GuideLearn how to incorporate phonics instruction, fluency passages, and technology into your literacy centers.
Upper-Grade Math Centers: To Rotate or Not to Rotate?Learn how to make small group learning manageable in your upper-grade math classroom.
5 Tips on How to Launch Reading Workshop SuccessfullyLearn how to level books, celebrate student successes, and recommend books to students.

Published by Learning N Progress

I am an elementary teacher who specializes in differentiated instruction and intervention. I have taught grades K-6, including intervention and gifted students. I am here to help other educators make differentiated instruction easy to manage and effective in reaching EVERY student in their classes.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: