At the beginning of each unit in the flipped classroom, I give the students one day to explore about the topic. I have them write down things that they didn’t know before. I have a whole list of pre-selected websites they can visit or they may google the information and find websites of their own. It always amazes me what they come up with. They often find very intriguing websites and bits of information that I surely would not have included in a traditional unit. Often, they want to explore these things more. Also, quite often, I learn something new about the topic. Their additions to the conversation we have at the end of the exploration make it more exciting as we venture out into the prescribed content. We often are able to challenge ourselves a bit more with some of the new knowledge they bring to the table.
On-line quizzes are one of the most effective teaching tools I’ve ever used. These skill building assignments take the old bookwork to a new level. Assigning several practice quizzes at once is a key element to my classroom. Although at first it seems a bit overwhelming to students, they begin to make progress and end up getting most of them done. They love having the choice of what to work on. One of the sites I use has a little one line chat button that they can give each other advice with.
Collaborative efforts have always been a part of my class. With the flipped classroom, it is no different. I encourage students to seek explanations from their peers. Often times the students are better at explaining it than I am and the students are more willing to ask one another for help. Sometimes the help goes a little too far and I will catch them trying to just give each other answers. If that happens, I’m quick to point out that the practice really isn’t worth many points, but that knowing the concepts for the test are. It usually is enough to get them back to focusing on the learning. I believe in the idea that if you have to teach it to someone else, you will learn it better.
Celebrating the learner is one of my favorite aspects of my flipped classroom. Upon successful completion of one of those quizzes, I like to give shout outs to the students. “Way to go, Jill got a 100% on adding fractions.” I especially like to do that if the quiz is a little bit harder and the kids have to work a little more for the mastery of it. Somehow just hearing their name seems to make them beam and want to work harder.
Another technique I use is the “spit it out” method. On some of the quizzes, I can set the minimum standard that has to be achieved, for instance a 60%. Then the kids will regularly ask me to “spit out” a test score, meaning that they want another chance at a higher grade. After recording their first attempt in the grade book, I can clear the assignment and let them do it again. I try not to reset it if they get a 90%, but some of my little perfectionists want to do the quizzes until they are perfect on them. Most of the time, I let them.
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