What is Flipping the English Class?

What is Flipping?

When most people think of flipping, they think of videos.  While videos may play a large part of some classroom flips, they are not required to successfully flip your classroom.  Flipping means flipping the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student.  I have taught my students how to find information and they spend our class time looking up and articulating what a concept such as satire is instead of me telling them what it is in a PowerPoint.  The concept of a lecture is only useful for disseminating information in the lower levels of Blooms: Knowledge and Understanding.  We can tell students what the Salem Witch Trials are.  Why shouldn't we be showing students how to find that information and then asking them to demonstrate their understanding of the knowledge in a collaborative and creative way?  If we don't change the way we teach and what we teach, we, as teachers, will be no more useful than our students' smart phones.  

Most flipping teachers will agree on three things:
  1. Flipped teachers don't spend precious class time lecturing what students can find in a few seconds on their devices.
  2. Flipped teachers flip the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the student.
  3. Flipped teachers never sit behind a desk during class.
For instance, two years ago during my unit on satire, I used to spend one class day showing my students a PowerPoint and then as homework they had to do a worksheet using the notes they took in class.  Today, that PowerPoint is online and students fill out the worksheet as they watch the PowerPoint on their own.  I have just given my class one extra day to work on Bloom's analyze and create levels.  They will demonstrate their satire knowledge by clarifying their own idea of what satire is and creating a PSA in iMovie that puts forth a position using satire.  I will be in class to guide them as they create and analyze what they write- they will be able to bounce ideas off me and I can give them suggestions.  I am constantly moving from one group to another answering questions, clarifying, and giving suggestions; I am never sitting down.  My students don't know how to be autonomous learners, I am teaching them that.  I am constantly around them to bring them back on task, guide their conversations, participate in great discussions, and to show them that I am interested in what they are doing.  They don't get any of that with me behind my desk grading papers during class.

Methods of Flipping

There are many methods teachers use to "teach" Bloom's Knowledge and Understanding levels.  The following are strategies that can be applied to a Language Arts classroom.  Please note that a teacher doesn't have to choose one.  I find, depending on the task, that one strategy works better than another.  I treat the strategies as a candy shelf- choose what works.

  1. Video: This is a popular method right now.  Teachers can create a quick screencast that teaches a basic concept, post the video to YouTube, and assign the video as homework for students.  Many teachers have students take notes during the video for retention and to ensure the student has watched it.  Students, having watched the "lecture" come to class and do the "homework" while the teacher is in the classroom to answer questions and guide them to the right answers.  For instance, if a teacher is about to teach how to write a thesis statement, he/she will explain it on a video for students to watch at night and then students will come to class and have the entire period to practice thesis statements while the teacher is there to provide feedback.  Teachers also use record a concept when they hear themselves saying the same thing over and over such as instructions for a multi-faceted project.  My classroom is full of QR codes to my YouTube "how-to" videos.  Video to replace lecture is the most basic form of flipping and is generally the suggested method to try out first.
  2. Inquiry: This method asks the student to "find" the answer on his/her own.  Inquiry is a popular strategy in classrooms that have access to 1:1 with computers, devices, iPads but inquiry doesn't always need technology.  A teacher will post a concept or question and ask the students to find the answer.  I ask my students to research ethics and then ask them to explain the various types of ethics in an activity.  A device-free idea is to give students three copies of a Shakespearean sonnet and, after they have analyzed them, ask them to provide at least three rules they discover that are required for a sonnet to be "Shakespearean Sonnet."  Essentially, inquiry, or asking students to find the answers themselves, replaces lecture.
  3. Explore/Flip/Apply (EFA):  Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher in Northern California, is credited for introducing this method as a flipping method.  EFA combines the video and inquiry models into a neat package that fits nicely in an English classroom.  Essentially, a teacher will watch and listen carefully throughout the inquiry process and then create a quick video for his/her students to watch that night.  The video generally covers what the instructor notices was weak or missing or just wants to emphasize more before the next class meeting.  Most English flippers migrate to EFA by the middle to end of their second "flipping" year.  Using the example from #2, after students come up with three Shakespearean Sonnet rules, a teacher may make a quick video using an additional sonnet and then go over those rules and a couple others with notes that he/she noticed his/her students may need.