Flipping the Elementary Classroom

Post Update on February 25 2016: This post was written several years ago and continues to get many hits.  I encourage you to either pick up a copy of my entire book on Flipping the Elementary Classroom or read a post entitled 5 Reasons Why Elementary Teachers Should Flip Math First.

A question I have been frequently asked is how do you flip an elementary classroom?  Does the flipped methodology work for the younger grades?  The answer is yes–sorta.  

My current role is that of a K-8 technology facilitator.  I work directly with an amazing staff who has taught me much about students in the younger grades.  

Here is my advice for elementary teachers

Don’t flip a class:  Flip a lesson.  

  • Think of the flipped class as another technique in your arsenal.  
  • Start with a lesson that students struggle with and make a short video.  An easy way to determine what to make a video of is to ask yourself:  What do I constantly have to repeat or what do kids really need extra help on?
  • Keep the video to no more than 10 min and shorter if you have younger kids.  I think the rule of thumb might be 1-2 min per grade level.  
  • Make sure you figure out how the students are going to access the video.  Are you going to post it to your website, to YouTube (this might be tricky with younger kids since some parents might not want their kids on YouTube).  Also make sure that all kids have a way to access the videos.  If you teach in a school with access issues, then make sure you solve this problem before class.  
  • You might also not assign the video as homework, but make it a center in your classroom for students who struggle and/or need extra help.
  • Figure out how you will check to see if they have watched the video.  You could have them take notes on paper or you might have them give feedback via a google form.  There are lots of ways to check student work.  

And one thing more:  Ask yourself–Where should the video go in the instructional cycle?  This came from one of my great teachers, Caryn Friedman, who is an expert in reading literacy.  When we chatted about the flipped class she feels that the place for the video is not at the beginning of learning cycle but rather in the middle.  She tells me that if a student watches a video and learns something incorrectly, then she will have to help the student un-learn the content before they re-learn it correctly.  She sees the flipped videos as being better suited (for her purposes) as remediation and practice.  So make sure you think through where the video (or if a video) is best suited for a particular lesson.  

34 Responses

  1. Pingback : Teaching and Learning or Learning and Teaching? Turning Learning and Teaching Around – Resources to Support using Flipped Classroom Ideas « ICT for Teaching & Learning in Falkirk Primary Schools

  2. Also, with the Flipped model, the self-pacing component in the elementary grades can be challenging. You will need to teach time management.  Being a fifth grade teacher who flipped her math class last year, i realized time is an abstract concept for my 10 year olds. I discovered that if I let them self pace within a week time frame and taught them how to make a plan for that week, they were better equipped for the self-paced environment.  I'm starting off this coming school year with activities that have them estimate time to complete tasks and then they test it out. My goal is for my students to create benchmarks for time to help them pace out their assignments for the week.  It will probably take the first three weeks of the school year for these activities  before they are ready to flip.   

    1. Jennifer McCCafferty

      I love how flipped learning is becoming more prevalent in elementary schools. I am an elementary school teacher who is working on an Ed.D in educational leadership. My focus is on expanding the body of knowledge about flipped learning in elementary. If you are an elementary teacher who flips, I would love to hear about your experiences with flipping!

      1. Jon Bergmann

        Jill: I agree, Flipped Learning at the Elementary level is exploding right now. I am excited to see the next couple of years of growth. In fact I speak at a Kindergarten conference next week.

  3. That plan of helping yoru 5th graders set self-pacing plans for themselves I think is the key to what some of my sophomores will need this coming fall.  They need the self-control and focus to make progress.  One week at a time seems manageable.  Helping students do that first will help them more in the long run.

  4. Quinn Barreth

    I think these are great ideas, and I especially like the suggestion of teaching pacing for lower grades. One week is about what their minds are capable of handling, so I am going to design my units/classroom around the one week premise (students will complete progress reports weekly to identify what they have done and what they will be doing next week, including an assessment of how they felt they met their goals).

  5. Laura

    I'm very interested in doing a version of the flipped classroom in my second grade this year. We will be starting this year with one to one iPads for all students do you have any suggestions or know of anyone that is doing this? 

    1. A 1-1 is a great place for flipping. My school is starting a 1-1 for grades 2-4 with iPads. Some of my teachers will start making videos for partial implemnation of a flipped class. I would also encourage you to post your question to http://flippedclass.com where we have over 7000 teachers talking about the flip. Many of them are also in 1-1 schools.

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  12. Ammee Dee

    Flipped lessons sound like a great idea. I am a primary school teacher always looking for new ways to get through to my students. The problem I forsee with the idea though is what do you do for the students who do not have time to watch the video – either they have lots of out of school activities, or maybe their parents work and therefore they are home late from school. I always get children who do not even do the basic homework because of time restraints at home.. Do those kids then get left behind because they did not watch the video?

    1. Ammee: What I have seen some elementary teachers do is as the students walk in the room they give their teacher a thumbs up or down. If they have not watched the video they make sure that during some time of the day they will watch the video. No stigma, just get it done. Others have not assigned the videos as HW but have had them in stations for students to go to when they are stuck. Thanks for commenting.

  13. Hi,
    We have just started trialing flipped teaching in our primary school. Our Year 2 (aged 6-7) teachers have been having a go as well as our Phys Ed Infant teacher. You can read how it went at our blog here http://flippedexperience.blogspot.co.uk/ but, if you don”t have time or the inclination for that, please take time to see our Phys Ed teacher’s volleyball video using Lego figures at http://youtu.be/CLRULj1lZV4 We loved it!
    We are in early stages but it’s very exciting and we are growing in confidence. We actually brought the parents in to explain the concept so that they would help ensure the children watched the videos. Seemed to do the trick as we had a very high success rate.

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  15. Olliejp

    I have been reading a lot about flipped learning over the past few months and I had the pleasure of attending a lecture with Aaron in Tokyo last week. It sounds very exciting and I think I will start flipping my Grade 3 math class from next year.
    I do a lot of activities from Kagan Cooperative learning and find that, with the traditional teaching format, the children do not have enough time in class for meaningful group work. The flipped model really looks like it will solve some of these problems.
    Thank you and thanks to Aaron for sharing you ideas.

  16. I have been flipping my Year 5 class (10 year olds) this year. I took a break for the past 2 months for various reasons – one being that I felt that the class had lost the initial enthusiasm for watching the videos.
    Having done more reading around the subject, I think this is because I wasn’t the most of the actual lesson in class – I was just using the extra time to do more ‘ traditional’ work.
    I’m back to flipping now but I am choosing the lessons much more carefully and making sure the actual lesson is truly engaging and stimulating.
    Feel free to read about it here http://flippedexperience.blogspot.com and see some of the Water Cycle dioramas we have made today!I think that lesson was probably one of the most pleasurable afternoons I have ever spent in a classroom.
    So, can the flipped classroom work with younger students? Yes, absolutely.

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  19. Francine

    I have flipped in a grade 1 classroom. The lessons were flipped specifically to help support our ESL and Special Ed learners. Children watched the footage at home with their parents in order to support the learning they had done that day, or to introduce them to new concepts or vocabulary. It was a great way to involve parents in the learning happening in the classroom. Each video prompted parents and students to extend their learning at home and gave examples of how that could happen. This year will be my first year integrating flips into the grade 1 classroom. I can’t wait to start!

    1. Kimberly: that might be the case, but most teachers use the extra time to help students and to take students deeper into the content. Lots of extra time for project based learning, mastery learning and many other deeper learning pedagogies.

  20. Raymond Smith

    Flipping a class at Elementary or even a Middle school classroom is a TERRIBLE idea. The students need to reach out to the teachers themselves when quite honestly, the teacher should giving out lectures in front of the class. This method is so based on the students willingness to work and that’s just not going to happen with elementary students. This method was first introduced for only COLLEGE students. Excuse me, but I am a student and I don’t want your student going through the same things as me.

    1. Raymond: Thank you for your thoughtful response. I am sorry you have had a bad experience in a flipped class. I hope you keep an open mind in that there are countless success stories from around the world where the flipped model is working at younger grades. I have been in many elementary and middle school classrooms that have flipped. Just two weeks ago I was in a 3rd grade class that was amazing. I chatted with the kids and they loved the flipped model.

      Thanks again for responding. Have a great day.

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