Homework is almost always a struggle at my house, especially when it’s math.
I try to help my fifth-grade son but am thrown back into a time warp to my own elementary and middle school mathematics challenges. With both of us floundering, homework time is less than pleasant.
I recently learned that some sixth-grade teachers at my son’s school use flipped learning methods. In flipped learning, students review the lesson at home, typically through a video, and practice the method during class time, when they can ask for help from their teacher or peers.
During class time, students work on activities, either independently or in groups, which force them to apply what they have learned.
“Once I tried it, I absolutely fell in love with it,” said Joshua Buchman, who describes the flipped method he has used since 2012 in his Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District high school physics classroom as blended learning.
For each lesson, his students watch videos that he has created, with each ranging from two to 30 minutes.
“If you miss something, you can watch it over and over,” he said.
This is particularly helpful if a student is struggling with a particular concept. They can pause and rewind as often as needed. Then they can follow up in class with questions and seek clarification on concepts that are still giving them a hard time.
“Some instruction is clearly occurring in the classroom,” Buchman said.
But this model enables teachers to use class time for more than delivering traditional lectures, according to blendedlearning.org. Students are able to engage in activities that give them a deeper meaning and understanding of the concepts they reviewed at home.
Another benefit of having the lesson introduced outside of regular class time is that if a student is absent for a day, or several days, they don’t miss the instruction that would have taken place if traditional teaching methods were instead used, Buchman said.
“The onus for learning is much more on the student,” he said.
And that’s something that most of his students respond well to, he said. Many students who work or are involved in after-school activities like that they are able to watch the videos on their own time, when it is convenient for them, he said.
“They are able to fit it into their own schedules,” Buchman said.
Teachers who adopt a flipped learning model must also prepare for students who may not have access at home to technology, whether it be to devices or the internet. Because the videos are typically short, students could watch them at the very beginning of a class and then join the classroom activity. Or they could be given review sheets to be studied at home that convey the same information as the video lecture.
If they have access to devices, but not the internet, the videos can be burned on a CD or a thumb drive.
Tara Komatz, a fifth-grade teacher at George L. Cooke Elementary School in the Monticello Central School District, is in her third year of using mastery flipped learning to teach math.
“It’s the best thing I ever did,” Komatz said. “I never could go back to traditional teaching.”
Her students also watch videos outside of regular class time, allowing them to progress at their own pace until they achieve mastery of the concept. Like Buchman’s students, her students are able to seek clarification from Komatz and solidify their understanding of concepts during class time, when they can seek assistance from Komatz or a peer.
“The skills build so much on top of one another, for those students who need a bit of extra time to master a concept, they can take it without slowing down students who grasp the concept quickly,” Komatz said.
Komatz works with her students in small groups according to where they are in the curriculum. Some students are a bit behind where they should be, others are right on target and some are working at a much faster pace and ahead of where they would be in a traditional classroom instruction model.
“They can work at their own pace, and they’re building up the skills,” Komatz said.
Students are able to focus on a topic until they master it, developing a solid foundation before moving on the next topic.
“Their confidence skyrockets because they are able to succeed,” she said.
I will be interested to see how my son fares if he is assigned next year to a teacher who uses flipped learning for math. It seems to be something more and more teachers are embracing. My challenge will be to make sure my son is actually watching his math videos and not rocking out to music videos!
Nancy Cole is a public information specialist and grant writer for Capital Region BOCES. She lives in Onondaga County with her third- and fifth-grade sons.