Giving up control
Near the end of the first semester of 2013, I changed my flipped classroom once again. Prior to this, I didn’t have the freedom that I wanted. The freedom to walk around my class. So I made a change.
Rather than teaching students who didn’t watch the video the traditional way, I had them use my classroom iPads to watch the video on their own. I was able to obtain headphones and students would quietly watch the videos in class while taking notes. Not only did this free up time for me to walk around the class, it also helped manage student behavior.
Students would come into class and they would independently work. I started to give over control to the students. Rather than me being the focus of instruction, students started to do what they needed to do without me giving them direction. You see, I realized that I focused too much on students doing what I wanted them to do rather than what they wanted to do. Previously, I was putting too much effort and time trying to make them watch the video at home but the more I thought about the more I realized why? Why would it matter if they watched it at home or at school? As long as they watched it I should be happy. I started to give my students choice.
It was their choice to get started on the work or to watch the video. Either way, it is their class and their learning. Why should I get in the way of that? I now had the freedom to dedicate most of my class time walking around helping students. I can walk around to those students who completed the video and ask questions to check for the understanding of concepts. I can also walk around and answer questions of the students watching the videos. I then started noticing that if students were finished with their in-class work they would start watching the video assigned for the next day, ultimately using their time to customize their own learning. I was starting to become the, “guide on the side” that I so desired.
For the rest of the year, I exercised this routine which became highly effective. Rather than giving all of my energy trying to “catch” students not watching the videos at home I focused more on how students are understanding the concepts.
I started 2014 in a new school district that I was honored to be asked to join. I knew I wanted to continue the flipped model but I wanted to make my class even more engaging and give students even more control. After implementing the flipped model, I noticed that I had little to no students who didn’t watch the video. They routinely come to class prepared by watching the video and taking necessary notes. I would give students a few minutes to clarify parts of the video and I would call on students to check for understanding. I would still spend 5-10 minutes going over and grading homework and then the rest of the period students would work on whatever activity I had prepared for them. I would still exercise my time by walking around class asking students questions as they worked on higher-level problems. It is amazing to watch and I could have stopped there with the product I have achieved within my class.
But as any teacher should, I wanted to improve. I wanted to engage. I wanted to eliminate that 5-10 minute window of grading homework. I wanted to eliminate the need of me getting up in front of class. You see, I wanted to give control of my class completely to my students. While this seems like I am becoming lazy and not wanting to teach, it truthfully is much more thought-provoking and time-consuming to figure out a way where students come up with the concepts to learn and teach. In the back of my mind, a thought always is there and it runs like a ticker tape everyday, “how can I make sure my students are able to teach this material to other students?” If a student can teach the material, then they are at that mastery level I strive for them to be at.
This leads to my next discovery into my classroom. How can I go from having my students take control of my class to actually teaching my class and by doing that, teaching themselves? Stay tuned…