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Andrew Swan

Andrew Swan

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.

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


    This is my first blog post from a parent's perspective, but I can't help sometimes wearing my  teacher hat. 

    My daughter just graduated survived 4th grade this week. It was a dreadful year for her academically and socially, thanks almost entirely to her classroom teacher. If you would like to achieve similar powerful results with your students next year, then please follow this short manual:

1)  Make no effort to include and assimilate a new student.  Just plop them in a chair and let the learning begin! -- The teacher (and administration/guidance) did nothing to facilitate new friendships or acquaintances. The only lasting peer relationships my daughter made were with 1st-graders and kindergarteners during shared recess time. Our family moved to a new district over the summer, so she missed Step-Up Day and other transition events. We managed to get a school tour and brief teacher introduction a couple days before the school year began, but that's it. He also did not know until late-October that my daughter had a 504 plan of accommodations relating to a seizure disorder. Oops.

2)  Assign the most boring and useless homework imaginable...and do NOT give any meaningful feedback.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

      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. 


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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

jigsaws I always liked the concept of jigsaw activtities: to give students more ownership of their learning, to use class time differently, to invite some creativity, etc. The Expert Groups meet for 1 or more class periods to learn about a sub-topic and to prepare a short presentation about it. Then students break into the Home Groups to spend another class period or two teaching each other. However, in real life these activities can quickly get messy and unproductive: 

  • Some students read their material more slowly than others; other students rush through the individual work in their Expert Group. 
  • The volume level in the classroom distracts some students as they try to learn their topic for the first time.
  • What about students that were absent on the learning day? Jigsaws typically take 2 or 3 days to complete, so you get the problem of a student who missed the time in their Expert Group... what's he/she supposed to do now?

 If you flip your jigsaws, then the Expert Groups can learn the material outside the classroom, at their own pace and with as much multimedia as you provide. Give them a couple nights to watch / listen to / read whatever you provide. Each student takes the time he/she needs, in a more appropriate location, regardless of their attendance at school. The small group peer pressure should help ensure that most or all come to class prepared. Let the Expert Groups meet briefly (less than a class period) to prepare and align their mini-presentations -- this is an important quality assurance step.  Then break student into the Home Groups and let the teaching begin!   


organizationThe Civil War Trust has a fantastic set of informational videos about various aspects of the war.  Last June, I used these topics for the Expert Groups in a flipped jigsaw. I'm very glad that I assigned such short videos, because students re-watched them to improve their understanding. We use Schoology, which allowed me to individually assign videos. On a regular website you could list all the video links on the same page, and then list the names of individuals or groups next to their assigned video.

 I believe this strategy will work for veteran flippers AND any first-timers.  You don't need to establish a special grading policy, quiz format, or website.  It can be a good way to try different video formats and providers (some watch a Youtube clip, others view a TEDTalk, etc.), and introduce your students to this kind of homework. If the flipping flops, then you can walk away without having wasted much time and effort. If it flipping rocks, then build on the strengths and lessons of this experience to try again with your next unit!

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