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A Week in the Life of My Flipping Classroom

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      As fellow teachers know, there's no such thing as a "normal" week. However, this one has been free of assemblies, testing, snow days(!), and other craziness. Therefore it seems useful to describe my current week to illustrate one type of flipped-classroom model.

      First the basics: I teach Social Studies to four daily sections of 8th-graders, always in the same classroom for 48 minutes a period (38 mins on Tuesdays). About 30% of my students have an IEP or 504 plan for learning disabilities, but I only have in-class support for two of the four sections. Therefore I have to design class activities that keep everybody engaged for every minute. You can witness my amazing(ly pathetic) classroom decoration skills here.


  • Students received their results from last Thursday's quiz about nationalism, because I was absent on Friday. There are details about that quiz and its related video on my other blog. Then I told them that a new video was posted about the opposite of nationalism: sectionalism in the same time period. Quiz on Friday!
  • Next, I announced this week we will use primary sources to explore the Indian Removal period (which we started last week). Students received a packet with 8 different documents. The first was Andrew Jackson's 1830 message to Congress, in which he explains and defends the Indian Removal Act.  That's a challenging document, so I wanted students to focus on certain elements in Jackson's message and in the other documents.
  • Then I gave students 3 colored pencils: a red, a yellow, and a blue. For the next 15 minutes they watched the video below and followed along. A few days earlier, I filmed it with an iPad Mini and a shotgun microphone in two takes. I combined the clips with iMovie, but the simple Youtube editor would have worked too.

  • While they watched on the big screen, I could walk around and make sure they were coloring properly. I paused a couple times to keep them on-track and briefly answer questions. That was a whole lot easier than repeating the same coloring routine 4 times today. 


  • Six students were absent yesterday, so they had missed the coloring session. I seated them at the classroom computer with a document packet and three colored pencils. They caught up on their own..isn't that the dream?
  • Everybody else spent today's 40-minute class close-reading more documents in the packet. Why not just assign them as homework?
    • Well, some probably wouldn't do it. Then things just get awkward....
    • Now I can be sure that everyone had access to colored pencils!
    • In class they can support each other with vocabulary, remembering what the colors are for, etc.
    • They have a clearly-defined task while I...
  • ... am conferencing with individual students! I spent 3 or 4 minutes with several students about their recent in-class discussion performance. It was terrific to meet one-to-one even just a little while.


  • Nobody had finished reading & coloring their assigned documents yesterday, but I knew that some would need just 10 more minutes or so. Student-centered classrooms need open-ended tasks and clear directions, or else it all goes to hell pretty quickly!  On the whiteboard I wrote a flow chart to guide students through the next steps. Basically it looked like this: finish reading your documents --> submit the packet --> take a laptop --> login to see the new assignment details on the webpage --> get started
  • The next task is designing an original monument to commemorate an aspect of Indian Removal. They don't need to create a polished final draft of their design; next Monday they will present their idea to the class for no more than 2 minutes. A double-sided worksheet will guide their planning and short presentation.
  • I continue conferencing with students while they finish reading the documents or brainstorm and prepare their monument design. Nobody can claim to be "done" before the end of class. I managed to meet everybody before the end of class. Huzzah!


  • The first half of today's class, we had a student-led discussion for 20 minutes. I posted three probing questions to provoke controversy and historical thinking -- all were based on the Indian Removal documents they had been reading and studying the past two days.  I sit near the wall, monitoring their conversation. Our goal is for each student to speak twice per discussion, to support their claims with specific evidence/reasoning, and be respectful. The discussions were amazing, with appropriate references to Alexander the Great, Nazi guards, To Kill a Mockingbird (their current book in ELA class), Thomas Jefferson, and more.
  • For the rest of class, I gave students more time to design their monuments. Some students needed all of yesterday's period for the document packet, so this was their first time seeing the new assignment. I circulated the classroom to help students that needed clarification, explanation, verification, or other help.
  • Before students left, I reminded them about tomorrow's quiz on this video.


  • The quiz is today's first order of business. I give students a couple minutes to review notes if they have any (almost everybody does). These are short-response quizzes which take about 15 minutes for most students. I need about 1 hour to grade them all, so I can return these quizzes on the next school day
  • Whenever students finish the quiz, they can transition to the monument design task. That means they will have a total of 60 minutes (about 30 yesterday and about 30 more today) to work on their idea. Again, it's an open-ended assignment so nobody is really finished: they can re-draw their design or rehearse their mini-presentation. If students need more time they could spend it this weekend, but for many of them this will not be a homework assignment over the weekend.
  • I'm busy checking-in with students about yesterday's class discussion performance and/or helping with their monument design. I have a short list of students who struggle on tasks like this, so I make sure they're on the right track before they crash and burn "on stage" next Monday with their design presentations.

 There's probably no video next week because of PARCC testing, and the 8th graders have a New York City trip coming up too.

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Andrew Swan teaches 8th-grade US History in Newton Massachusetts for the past 11 years, and has been "flipping" the classroom for two years. He and his colleague have presented about flipped instruction at a regional education conference and within their own district. They also have several more PD workshops scheduled for later this year. He earned a B.A. in History at Yale University (2000), and received a Master's degree in teaching from Simmons College (2004). In his career, Andrew has taught English, Journalism, Geography, Ancient History, and US History at four different middle schools since graduating from college. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @flipping_A_tchr, steal clips from his Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/aswan802/videos), and read his other blog linked above.

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Guest Saturday, 22 October 2016