August 13, 2017

If you have been reading Butterfly Classrooms for a while, you might have noticed that one of the 21st-century tricks that are conspicuously absent is a flipped class. The reason is that while I like the theory behind a flipped classroom, I have not yet come across a situation or topic where I thought a flipped class would be appropriate. Until I this week…

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The class I am teaching circle geometry to at the moment is one of those special classes. It consists of a bunch of lovely, hard working girls, but I knew the moment we started with geometry that this is going to be an uphill battle. Because while they are clever and hard-working, they can also be what you would call pedantic. They want to be 100% sure that they have things exactly right, the circles they draw have to be perfectly round, and their books are works of art.

Geometry is a jam-packed chapter with a lot of theorems to work through, and you never, ever get enough practice. To get through the work in the allocated time a lot of the work has to be done at home. In the past, we would spend the majority of the lesson time working through the theorems, and then they would go and fight with the riders at home. But that will not do with this class. Each one wants to be 100% that not only have they followed the correct logic in their solution but that they wrote it out correctly. And anybody familiar with geometry knows that there are a lot of ways you can solve most problems. If we have to work through every variation, we would never get through it all.

 Save yourself some time and get the pdf here!

Save yourself some time and get the pdf here!

So I flipped the class

Since I already had the theorems and their proofs on Powerpoint, I asked myself, why not make them write the definition, theorems and proofs down at home, then we can spend all the class time we have to work on the riders? It worked like a charm. One week into the chapter and we have managed to do more exercises than any group before them.
I took the Powerpoint I was planning to use and removed everything except the theory and posted it on Classroom.

Why not just photocopy the theorems?

I am a strong believer that there is educational value in writing something in your own handwriting. When you just read something or listen to somebody explain it, you can only take in so much. However, once it is your own handwriting, it is a lot more accessible.

Copying the notes down in the afternoon, drastically reduced the time we spend on theory in class, this meant that we could devote more time working through riders, discussing different ways to get to the solution.
One of my big issues with a flipped classroom has always been that learners are not very good with working ahead (not even students at University do all the readings ahead of class). The first day I noticed that a few did not think copying notes was “real” homework, or they tried to copy it while I was explaining the proof, which is defying the whole point. So after that, I made a point to check every morning that they did copy the theory into their books. At least now I did not need to listen to how they tried to do the homework but didn’t know what to do.

Did flipping my geometry class make a difference?

One of the biggest mistakes schools and teachers make when they integrate technology, is that they are so focused on whether the technology is being used, that they forget to ask whether it is actually making a difference. I am busy creating a tool, based on the 7 Principles of Effective (e)Learning, which can be used to assess whether a tool, trick or activity is actually making a difference.

The aim is not to meet all the criteria, but you must be able to answer YES to at least one of the questions.

Flipping my geometry class has created more time in class to work on geometry problems, either as a whole class or individually. Not having enough time is a definite educational problem in maths classes, so gaining time, is enough to say that flipping my geometry class was effective. However, flipping the class has also meant that learners spend less class time copying work from the board (which is not considered being actively involved in learning), while I am standing around twiddling my thumbs. Not only did we gain class time to discuss problems, compare solutions and engage with the work, but a lot of the gained time was also spent working independently. This enabled me to spend extra time with individual learners that are struggling with geometry, something I have never been able to do.

Have you tried to flip your classroom?

Share your experiences with us in the comments.

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