Flipped Learning: It's a Mindset

Charles Willis | 12.2.2014

Charles Willis is a social studies teacher at Revere High School in Revere, MA. This is his second post on flipped learning for Learning from Teaching. Charles’ first post can be found here. 

It’s now been about a year and a half since I started integrating flipped learning strategies into my US History class for freshman. In the beginning everything I read and heard mentioned it would all take time. I figured after my second or third time through my semester-long class I might be “flipped.” However, I have come to realize becoming flipped learning is more about the mindset behind the planning process. The planning process is multi-layered when thinking about the intentional content, activity the next day in class, and assessments to determine student understanding. The mindset shift is this: during class time, students should be operating at high levels of engagement and rigor, with the teacher there with them to support and coach them through their thinking. This post uses one lesson—on individual rights in the US Constitution—to describe how this change in mindset has led to a change in how students learn in my classroom.

The lesson is part of the Constitution Unit when we explore the Bill of Rights. I sent home the Bill of Rights video for my students to watch, with the Individual Rights Flipped worksheet, which includes a graphic organizer that students are meant to complete when watching the video at home. For example, I’ve been using Education Portal videos for a majority of my flipped lessons. I cannot beat the production value or the well-written transcript that is below each video. Providing structure is vital for students to process the video: in this case, the students use a graphic organizer, but some teachers use two-column notes or even a simple prompt (ie: write down two questions about the video for class tomorrow) to help students engage with the content. My focus this year has not been on making videos, but rather how to best use the class time that has been freed up by sending home the “lecture” material.

The lesson continued the next day beginning with a Do Now: a basic matching quiz on Schoology. The quiz allowed me to quickly see who did the homework and whom I should check in on during the activity. It also let students see how well they could identify the ten amendments that make up the Bill of Rights. After the Do Now, the students opened the Individual Rights Activity worksheet before walking around the room to read scenarios that described an individual’s rights being violated. Students had to connect which amendment prevented that scenario from happening in real life. Because the background of individual rights was done through the video, within a few minutes of beginning class, students engaged in both recalling the details of specific amendments and applying that knowledge to the scenarios.

Flipped Learning EQs

To complete the lesson, students opened the Individual Rights Discussion document to participate in a group discussion centered on a Supreme Court Case.  Each group could choose to read either the Tinker v. Des Moines case about the suppression of a student protest, or Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier which is the case about a student led newspaper being censored by the principal. After reading about their case, the group had to create a newspaper or protest of their own first by brainstorming issues in their lives at Revere High School or the community they wanted to change. Students had to advocate for their ideas by writing a letter to the principal describing what rights they had that would allow them to protest or publish an uncensored newspaper. By now students were thinking critically, taking ownership over their issues and were engaged in defending their own rights. The discussion required students to interpret their rights and create arguments in support of those rights as citizens of Revere High School.

As the students were writing their newspapers and planning their protests they did not know how the Supreme Court case had been decided.  Would their protest be allowed?  Would the newspaper be censored?  I acted as the principal in the end allowing the student protest to occur, but censoring the student newspaper. The student’s had priceless reactions, outrage palpable! How could the school limit their student voice? The students then read an overview of the Supreme Court decision. The flipped learning at home, do now, activity, and discussion all culminated in students answering three short questions on their exit ticket to demonstrate their understanding of the topic.

  • How are you part of the school? What activities, clubs, sports or other ways you are part of the school?
  • What are the biggest issues facing students at RHS?  How could you try to change that issue?
  • What rights should students have in school?  Use examples from the Bill of Right to back up your answer.

By flipping the initial information I created enough time in class for student’s to lead their own discussion and become invested in the topic, at the same time my class became more student-centered and engaging for my students. In the past, I would have been lucky to get to a fraction of the content—and more importantly, the skills—that students experience now. In this case, it is far more likely that students will retain information about individual rights because they had the opportunity to apply, interpret, and create arguments about those rights in a meaningful context. The flipped mindset has helped me rethink my use of time in class to help coach and mentor students through difficult concepts, getting students to think critically in a student-centered learning environment.

Have you “flipped” your classroom? How has your class changed?

Individual Rights Resource Folder

Featured image was taken by Billy O’Neal and accessed at flickr creative commons.

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