Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Admitting that videos don't work for all...

We just started a new term yesterday (our school works on quarterly terms rather than semesters) and a new nit (Ancient Rome). Since we were starting "fresh" so to speak it was a good opportunity for me to attack some of the problems and concerns that had come up in the flipped class. There are always going to be a few problems that occur but a major concern for me was those students who were not watching the lectures at home. There weren't many, but a small handful that I felt needed to be addressed.

I'll admit, I was angry with those student's. I felt like I was offering them such a "better" alternative to traditional homework. "How could they not want to watch a video?" I thought, "Don't they know I could be giving worksheets and busy work? I'm trying to do something for them!" Then I took a step back...wasn't the whole point of this to do what is best for the students? If they aren't watching the videos, they aren't getting the main content. There must be a way to fix this. 

As much as I dislike the textbook that has been assigned to my class (I don't even use it with the kids, I have 100 of them sitting on a shelf) and as much as I dislike assigning worksheets and bookwork (I feel students don't really read they just look up answers) I knew this could be a short-term solution. I found chapters in the book that corresponded for the most part to the video lectures and set up a reading schedule. I also found guided reading worksheets that go along with these chapters. In lieu of the notes that most students take while watching the videos, my "book" students would take these guided notes while reading, and take paper-based quizzes in class each week.

I had trouble squelching the voice, "But I want them to watch the videos, I don't want to use the book, this is a "flip" the whole point is to watch the videos." Its not, "flipping" really has nothing to do with videos, the concept of flipping is a shift in how we conceptualize the use of class time as application rather than delivery of content- and it looks different for every class. As much as I wish these students would watch the video lectures (there's so much I can do with showing images of the places were studying and telling human interest stories that the textbook doesn't cover) they aren't, and that is the fact of the matter at the moment. Getting content from the book is better than no content at all. Additionally I have to remind myself to do what's best for them, and maybe the videos just don't work for everyone. Do I think the videos are more informative and far more interesting than the textbook? Absolutely. However I'm willing to admit that for some students the flip is just to radical, and some old fashioned reading and worksheets might rectify the problem.

They will still be learning the main content outside the classroom and collaborating on projects in class, I am hoping that of the eight students I am assigning the book too, a few will decide that they would rather watch the lectures online. I told them that if they decide to go back to the lectures, if they complete two weeks in a row and on time, that they may return to the computer based rather than the book. 

At first I felt like going back to the book was admitting defeat, but I now realize its the opposite, its continuing to differentiate and adjust the delivery of content so that every student has the same access to the curriculum. It has even got me thinking about creating different "levels" of videos next year. Essentially different students taking different "course levels" so to speak right in the same room. Oh the ever lengthening things I want to do this summer!

I said this was a short-term solution because I used the book and the worksheets that came with it. Next year if I were to create an alternative reading plan for some students, I would probably create my own guided notes, and perhaps look into different texts (or maybe have them read an historical novel!?! :) ) and create something a little more inline with the videos.

Has anyone else come up with solutions for students not watching the videos? What has worked for you? What hasn't? I'd love to hear what some others have done!


  1. I have been following your blog for about a month now, and I can't tell you how much it has encouraged me. I am planning to flip my class in the fall, and until I came across your blog I was still hesitant as to how successful it could be in a middle school social studies classroom. I teach 7th graders in Missouri, and although I don't teach about the same time period as you (our 7th grade curriculum covers the fall of Rome to the Enlightenment), I feel that you could be a wealth of information for me. If you would be willing to guide me in a "mentor" role this summer as I prepare I would be extremely grateful. My email address is klwilson@spsmail.org. Thanks so much!

  2. Hi Kristen,

    Thanks for the kind words, I would be happy to help you in any way I can! I will shoot you an email. If you do end up flipping I think you will find it to be a lot of work- but definitely worth it in the end!

  3. I have just found your blog and have found it useful. I am a Grade 7 teacher and I will be trying to flip my math class next year. Your blog as shown me that it could be done in history and/or geography, too! Thanks!

    1. It can definitely be done in history and geography! I do think however that math may be easier for a first time flipper. If you do not already follow her, check out Flipping With Kirk, she is a math teacher just finishing her first flipped year and has some fantastic insights: http://flippingwithkirch.blogspot.com/ Good luck! I'd love to hear how it works out for you!

  4. So here I am, the first morning after the last day and I'm thinking about next year. I just finished my first year teaching governent and world history at the high school level. Now I've been reassigned (at no fault of my own) to middle school 8th grade civics and 6th grade US history.

    If I want to try to flip next year for Civics, where should I begin? Any recommended sources? Ideas?

    1. I think the key to flipping is synthesizing information. You first want to decide how many videos the students will watch each week. Many teachers assign a video each night, I'll be honest in my experience at the middle school level they can watch around 3 per week successfully, its up to you thought. I would then take my content and divide it into a few big units. Within those units you can decide how many videos are needed to cover the content fully. Keeping the videos short and concise, with some kind of tool to help them follow along (notes or questions) is key to getting the students to complete them on time and understand.

      Then its up to you what you use that extra class time for. I have my students work on in class projects, but you may chose to have class discussions, read primary source documents or something entirely different.

      I put up a sample chart about how I divided up my Ancient Greece Unit in a previous post. In addition to watching three videos each week, I have students take an online quiz after each video. Additionally there is a discussion thread each week, and stating this year reading assignments.

      I use Schoology to house all of my online content, I have found it a fantastic tool.

      These are some pretty general ideas, but I'd be happy to give you some more specifics or bounce ideas around with you. This is a link to a blog list of teachers around the country flipping all different subjects, so you might find some of this helpful, just scroll to the bottom of the page where she has the link to the document in blue (Krystal's blog is very helpful as well, definitely check it out):


      I hope this was somewhat helpful, that's the thing about flipping, were all sort of making it up as we go, seeing what works for our classes and what doesn't, its trial by error but I've loved the results so far!