Some steps you can take before students step into your room to get your school year started right.
The school year is nearly ready, the building still has equipment in the halls as the maintenance staff furiously finishes preparations. Teachers looking for great finds for the classroom can head down to the hallway of misfit furniture to see if there is something they just have to have. For flipped classroom teachers this is the most important time of the year. Whether you are a first time flipper or a veteran, now is the time to use an ounce of prevention to save yourself a pound of cure. Let’s take a look at a few steps you can take to ensure that students, parents, colleagues, and administrators understand how and why your classroom might look a little different than they are used to.
Summer Student/Parent Contact:
Flip early and flip often, if you have a flipped classroom then flip your before-school contact. My method for the past few years has been to use the school snowday contact system to email all parents a “Welcome” video. This parent video is a six minute introduction what their child will experience in my classroom. http://bit.ly/MTZINTRO1617 I include a screencast of some of the technology, organization, procedures, format explanation, student help options, and parent contact methods. This year, I also sent a similar video to all students in my classes from my school gradebook system as student this year each have a new gmail account. You might also consider a letter to ensure all students and parents are reached regardless of internet access but there is a postage cost associated with this option. Before doing this,see the next item on the list!
UPDATE: I recieved this email just this past week after sending out this year’s welcome
Wow! I love how you sent this video explaining how you run a class and how the students will learn and what is expected of them. This video was very helpful…. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into your teaching. Hope you have a great school year!
Educate Your Admin:
Be proactive and sit down with your administrators and brag about all of the cool things that will be happening in your classroom. Even if you are a flip veteran, have this conversation with your admin about all of the changes and evolutions that inevitably happen in our classrooms as we continue to improve our craft. You want the first things admin to hear about your class to be from you and be positive. I absolutely forwarded the parent email above to my new principal. Help your admin have great things to say about your classroom before they are asked by a parent, another teachers, or another admin. This is also the best time to ask permission to use district resources like the snowday system or student email system to contact parents or students. Ask permission, not forgiveness, flipped teaching is about relationships and teams not just among students but among professionals.
Bribe Your Tech Person:
Just like your administrators, your technology and curriculum people are important parts of your flip team. If they like coffee or if they like bagels, connect the dots and bring gifts. These are the people that will save your hinnie when website permissions need adjusted, or that AWESOME new app needs pushed to students. These are also the gatekeepers to all of the cool toys as you move through your flip journey. An often forgotten resource is old and outdated devices that can be used to help you address student access issues or help you create an instructional corner for students who need that type of differentiation.
Make Friends With Librarians, Study Hall Teachers, and Aides:
The benefits of flip include anywhere access but make sure the larger circle of professionals in your school understand your methods and tools that you provide for your students. If you school is 1:1 these may be the places that students access your materials so help them know what they may see. If you are not 1:1, you may use a system like I did where simple painted boards hung outside my room acted as passes to any computer in the school for students to use to access my materials. bit.ly/computerpass These are also the folks you want to help you ensure that students are making wise educational choices…not cheating, use time wisely, be good digital citizens.
Flip your Syllabus:
Just like the intro video why spend a whole class period the first day doing syllabus? Send students an EdPuzzle video or associated Google Form with the nuts and bolts of the class so that the first class period becomes an informed discussion of procedure and policy and you have timestamps of student responses and syllabus understanding. This can also be the place you survey your students or parents about interests, experiences, and internet access giving you a leg up on getting to know students and who may need various interventions to be successful. http://bit.ly/MooreExpectations
Teach Kids to Watch Informational Video:
It sounds ridiculous but students are trained to watch entertaining cat videos, but just like reading for information, students are not trained to watch for information. Consider sending students an entertaining, but informative video, along with an information search form or worksheet and have them reflect on what they had to do to collect all of the information from the video. This is something that may not happen before students show up, but should be done early. You can even do it in class as I do using an origami video on the first day and watch the kids scramble to try and complete the butterfly and get angry that it is moving too fast or they didn’t see it, or any other ways they miss the information. This is the opportunity to teach them how to pause, rewind, rewatch, and focus for key elements. http://bit.ly/oragamibutterfly
Get Started Right:
Every teacher knows that getting the year off to the right start is important, but flip teachers need to be intentional about communicating what may be a new experience for students and parents. Even veteran flippers have students who are new to the process and parents who are unfamiliar with the process. By taking a few preliminary steps that would be beneficial for any class we can leverage the advantages of flip to model for students and parents some of the processes that we will be utilizing for the rest of the year.