WHY I Flip My Classes: A Reflection to Start a New Year

--Originally published at Flipping With Joy

This is my first entry as I try to rise to the #flipblogs challenge put out by Andrew Swan:


In order to meet this challenge, I will have to blog every day from now through the end of September (including weekends). I will definitely take advantage of the "any length is OK!" provision in the challenge! If there is something you would like to see me reflect on during this blogging run, leave a suggestion in the comments; if I don't address it in September, it may still appear in a future post.

Since this is my first blog for a new school year, allow me to set the stage with some context:

  • I am a high school science and math teacher in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have a major in chemistry and a minor in physics; other than the units in our grade 9 and 10 courses, I leave biology to those who actually studied it beyond high school.
  • Our school year here always starts the day after Labour Day, so our first day of classes here was last Tuesday (Sept. 4, a week ago today) and I've just finished teaching my 6th day of the year.
  • This semester, I teach two courses: two sections of grade 9 academic mathematics and one section of grade 11 chemistry.
  • My classes this semester are in three different classrooms on two different floors.
  • I started flipping classes in 2013, but it has been an ongoing journey; while I have not yet flipped an entire course, I have been adding to my flipping repertoire over time and am hoping for this to be my most-flipped year yet.
I'm trying to make this year in my flipped classroom reflect a few things teachers should keep in mind in order to flip their classes well. Today, I'll address one of those:
Know why you want to flip your classes.
This is important for at least two reasons:
  1. It will guide your selection of activities as you try to meet those goals.
  2. The more you are committed to your "why," the more that conviction will help you to get through the obstacles that inevitably come up as you try to get there.
In my case, my convictions about the usefulness of flipping classes are:
  • The quality of the relationships built between the teacher and her students, and between the students themselves, can have a huge impact on the ability of the students to learn in that class. Flipping my class gives me the time I need to do that relationship-building better.
  • Getting 20-35 student bodies into a class and then asking them to sit as silent individuals listening to me talk is not the best use of the potential that exists for us to act as a community of learners. (Besides, "real talk" here: I really hate having to fight students who want to talk through my entire lesson. While I know this is partly a matter of setting the expectations, etc., it is my least-favourite part of classroom management because I find that rudeness personally offensive.)
  • While there is plenty of value to direct instruction, I think students learn something best when it is reinforced by hands-on active learning and/or motivated by curiosity about why a particular experiment went the way it did. Similarly, addressing only the lowest levels of learning (whether that means the beginning of Bloom's taxonomy, the SOLO taxonomy, Depth of Knowledge levels, etc.) as direct instruction tends to do does not help students to build the most helpful possible framework of understanding for a given topic (let alone the discipline as a whole). Moving some of that direct-instruction-about-simple-things out of the classroom time gives my classes more time to focus both on active learning and on moving to a deeper and/or more complex treatment of the subject at hand.
Tomorrow I plan to talk about some structures I'm putting in place this semester in an attempt to flip my classes well. Stay tuned...

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