Making Flipped Lessons Meaningful

"Flipping your classroom" seems to be the buzzword in the blogosphere and professional learning networks. I wrote an article a while back on the structure of what lessons look like after flipping your lessons as teachers have more time in class for students to work on problems because they come to class having reviewed videos, texts, and have some background knowledge of what is to be practiced in class rather than using time at home to finish an assignment that was started in class with no teacher to access for help.

I have been "flipping" my classes this year in math and hope to do the same next year, however I am trying to design ways to make flipped lessons meaningful. Unless the task is rich with a specific purpose, the notes that students walk in with are shallow and superficial. I want my students to have a greater understanding of the underlying mathematics and gain a better grasp on connections, laws and applications of the topic.

That being said, some things that I try to avoid:
  1. Giving assignments that state: "Take notes on pages 230-232". Although some students may see the relevance and applications of these problems, this is often implicit after having started it. Also, does merely taking notes show evidence of understanding? Just because you can copy a stanza of Shakespeare does not mean that you can understand, or, write like him. 
  2. Not debriefing the assignment. After a warm up, it's important to discuss what the assignment entailed and offer students to share their "notes", discuss ideas, clear up any misconceptions that they might have and give them the opportunities to ask questions. 
 What I think some meaningful tasks look like in a good "flipped lesson":
  1. Summary: Ask the students to write a summary of what this math topic is "about". Experiment with a variety of summarization strategies and formats (graphic organizers) to allow students to practice their summarizing skills which will also make the language arts teachers at your school happy and better integrate your curriculum with cyclical practice. 
  2. Target Vocabulary: What vocabulary words do you want your students to know? Perhaps you have a text with words in bold. You might ask student to write a definition of the word and trying writing a sentence on their own with the word. Some other great language arts integrations you might use are: breaking the word down by parts and figuring out what those word parts mean. Making connections between other words that mean the same thing or the opposite. Vary this up, and your student's decoding strategies will soar. 
  3. Relevance: Have students explain in their own words why this math skill is useful. What connections can they draw between the text and the world? Between the text and their lives? This a great question to debrief the next day and it will usually give a kalediscope of connections that many students failed to see. 
  4. Examples:Of course you may want to have student copy, write or take notes on something word for word. Yes, writing it down once is a small step on the ladder up towards mastery. However, there are little things you can "tinker" with to ensure there is more student choice, creativity or innovation. For instance rather than taking notes on problem examples 1, 2 and 3, you might:
    1. Ask students to read the examples and write down problems of their own that are similar but not the same as the problems you'd like them to study. When you debrief the assignment in class, ask student to share some of their problems and what they changed compared to the original examples. Even though they may have changed some parts, encourage them to explain why the underlying math still "works". 
    2. Encourage them to figure out another way of solving the problem that is not in the text or video. For example, if you're trying to get them to use the inverse operation to solve   5 + y = 13 algebraically, see if they can explain multiple ways of problem solving strategies such as diagramming, writing, drawing, or using mathematical notation or symbolism
  5. Common Problems: Can they explain how students might make mistakes with these sorts of problems? 
I believe all these tasks enrich the learning of a mathematical standard and unfold the deeper, meaningful understandings that we hope to engender in our students. My advice in using these tasks is to be creative in your approaches to applying them. Change them up. Experiment. Ask what students like and what they don't. This year was spent designing high quality differentiated assessments, so now that I have these to utilize, next year's task is to create and document more of these formative rich tasks with connections to a flipped question prompts. I'll post them to my blog and would appreciate any and all feedback!

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