What’s the Point?

When I first heard about the concept of “flipping” your classroom, the extent of my understanding was that its main purpose was to free the teacher to give more support to students during class time, rather than spending it feeding them content. In other words, use the time to more effectively differentiate. I heard about it being used more with older students, so I didn’t look into it further and didn’t think it applied to the age group that I worked with, early childhood. I mean, I didn’t really give ‘lectures’ to my students anyway.

Looking at things from another angle, if the point really was the provide the right support to students and get deeper individual assessments into understanding, then perhaps it did have a place in early childhood. I think that, these aspects are a huge part of any early childhood classroom. So, if we flipped learning for a group of 5 year-olds, what exactly would that look like?

Imagining Possibilities

Photo Credit: Kathy Cassidy via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Kathy Cassidy via Compfight cc

Over the summer I attended the Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston, MA. At this conference I had the chance to attend a workshop run by Erin Klein a second grade teacher from Michigan. She shared how she used Educreations to create a video of herself running a lesson as she normally would to free herself up for more individualized support. According to Erin, the first time she tried this her students were a little confused but still followed along with all the instructions that their ‘virtual’ teacher was asking them to do. The ‘analog’ Erin then went on to sit beside those few students who would benefit from having her right there to give extra support as the lesson went on. This was one of the first things I thought of as I read further into what flpped classroom was all about. Could this be one way to flip your classroom in an elementary setting? I definitely saw similarities!

Applying Concepts and Ideas

Taking into consideration what flipped classroom started out as and what its intentions were, while also looking at Erin Klein’s version of flipping her classroom in the elementary setting, how would these ideas apply to my current setting? Could I take some of these ideas and adapt them to my role as a technology integrator working with the youngest students in the school? I suppose it has a lot to do with perspective. I personally think the goal of a flipped classroom is to:

If these things are some of the main proponents behind flipping your classroom, then perhaps I am already flipping my instruction in some ways. I do not create instructional videos, however, I do plan more lessons where the students take the lead rather than the teachers.

Allow me to explain my teaching situation first. I meet with every class from Pre-K to second grade (22 classes) twice in a ten day cycle. These sessions are planned out with each grade level team to ensure that tech integration is as connected and supportive of curriculum as possible. During these sessions I along with my assitant work with the class teacher and classroom assistant (yes that’s 4 adults!) to use technology in meaningful ways.

Not too long ago, I started introducing Scratch Jr. to the second grade classes as a part of our robotics and engineering curriculum, and first grade is going to have their first taste very soon too! It is a wonderful, open-ended tool that allows students to learn some basic coding skills while getting creative! Now, there’s a lot of features to Scratch Jr. and honestly, I didn’t want to teach the students what every single block and button did, it would take away the problem solving skills that comes with coding. So, I stood in front of the class, I showed them a short sequence I had created and had them notice that all I did was hit green flag and the animation started. I pointed out general areas of the screen that they could possibly play around with and then I told them to “Make a story.” The rest of that session was four teachers walking around asking questions, challenging students further and encouraging them to ask each other questions or teach each other things. If I saw a student was stuck on just putting in as many characers as possible, I’d try to nudge them along by saying, “Now let’s make a story out of these characters, what could they be doing at the start of your story?” I usually then would continue with “So, how could we make them do that?” then walked away. By the end of the lesson, the students had taught me a couple things I had no idea that Scratch Jr. could do!

Here is a short clip of some of the second graders at the beginning of the class just starting their discovery of the app:

Perhaps this isn’t the original format that a flipped classroom started as, but I still think that what I did met the same goals that was intended behind the idea of a flipped classroom. So then can this still be considered a form of flipping instruction? What do you think?

5 Responses

  1. Pana,

    Great post, and the blog is looking slick these days – very nice.

    I love the example you note about the use of the virtual teacher and real life version in the same room, at the same time – fantastic. It has me thinking when I might try using this. I have tried using this method in a way – where I have students pull together and store on a shared google doc a list of youtube videos they find that are useful/helpful on a topic. This gets shared via a link on our lms and students have this up in class while they are working through an art project. They refer to these videos quite often and there is a bit of a game to see who can find an original video that others don’t find – usually means looking a few pages deep. I always wonder what is the shelf life of these videos teachers create? Does the virtual teacher use the video once and then is done with it?

  2. Thanks for your honest feedback about your understanding of flipped classrooms, my thoughts were the same when I initially thought about it. Giving students the opportunity to learn at their own pace, but also to encourage independence. A great skill with the little ones right. To take flipped a little further, what about filming yourself, with the intro lesson to scratch or a few other features, so the classroom teacher could have it at any time, or the students could play it back when they were unsure. Just a thought. Love your blog.

  3. Hi Pana,
    I often wonder how some of these wonderful uses of technology apply with such young kids yet each time I am amazed at how versatile and knowledgeable Early years teachers like you are to redesign and remaster to best fit. I understand that kids as young as yours would not be able to sit at home and watch a video or research to bring their questions to class and do they even have homework? The way you let them play with the software as you and the teacher dip in and out to assist and advise seems most appropriate and allows them to work at their own pace in a supportive atmosphere. Why don’t you set this as one of the themes of your Twitter chats as I am sure there would be a lot to learn and share?
    Always happy to part of the discussions!

    1. Hi Nicki! That is a fabulous idea, I will definitely put that on the list of upcoming topics for 2015! Thank you! 🙂

  4. Awesome post, Pana! I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to meet during the BLC conference. I also attended and absolutely loved it.

    I was totally inspired by Club Academia, one high school student’s brain child who initiated her own flipped approach. I’d like my students to participate as well. Hopefully, I can make it happen second trimester…

    (…Took some notes during her presentation…


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