Reviewed by Judi Holst
It seems that teachers never have enough time to cover their curriculum. I know that it is my biggest struggle. How do I incorporate lessons about reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, speaking and listening, along with having time to work with individual students? In a 47-minute period, it almost seems impossible.
When I became overwhelmed with trying to do it all, I started researching how it could be done. This is why I wanted to learn more about “flipping my classroom” – the strategy where students would learn the lesson fundamentals by video at home instead of during the class period.
When I went to teaching conferences, I would attend all sessions about the Flipped Classroom. Unfortunately, no one ever spoke about how to do it in an English class. So I was extremely excited when I came across the book Flipping Your English Class to Reach All Learners by Troy Cockrum.
This is the help I was looking for
Cockrum is a middle school language arts teacher and school technology coordinator; with that combination, he gained immediate credibility with me. His book is written from the viewpoint of a teacher in the classroom, so he understood my struggles.
Flipping Your English Class is an easy read; in fact, I read and annotated it in one day. Not only does Cockrum write about why teachers should flip their classrooms, he includes strategies to do so in a secondary classroom, along with lesson plans for different topics.
My main goal while reading this book was to find out how to give my struggling students, along with my gifted students, more individual attention. I wanted to make learning more student-centered.
I decided to try out some of his techniques while I was teaching three different units at once in my classroom. The students needed different lessons at different times, and flipping my classroom was the only way to achieve this task. I wasn’t sure if my students would be ready for this change, but I liked when Cockrum said, “Flipping is just shifting that direct instruction to another setting (9).”
Research based flipping
The first part of Cockrum’s book explains how to do this shift in easy steps. His steps are based on current research, which is always important to me in a teacher resource book. Cockrum also explains why flipping a classroom works. He includes his own struggles as a teacher, and he describes what he did to overcome them.
My biggest question was always What if the students don’t complete the flipped assignments at home? Cockrum offered some answers that I tested out in my own classroom. Did I have 100% participation? No, but his answers helped to guide me along the way.
The part that I most appreciated about Flipping Your English Class to Reach All Learners was Cockrum’s description of models of the Flipped Classroom. As teachers we know that one size doesn’t fit all. You have to find the model that best works for your teaching style.
Once the models are laid on the table, Cockrum provides actual lesson plans with the various models in mind. Not only does he include the essential question and objectives for his lessons, he also provides his learning plan. You can use these lessons the next day in your own classroom. I tried a few, and his techniques worked well for me.
Help with making videos
In the last part of the book, Cockrum includes tips on how to make engaging videos – a key component of any flipped classroom. I admit, when I began making the shift this past spring, I only used videos that were created by someone else. I simply lacked the time at the end of the school year to do any of my own. However, his tips are easy to follow, and I plan on creating my own videos this year.
The best tip that I took away was that your videos should only be one minute per grade level maximum. If you teach fifth grade, make them five minutes or less. He also explained that students want to see their own teacher in the video, even if it isn’t as polished as someone else’s. Just knowing this gives me more confidence to make my own.
With the knowledge of knowing how to do a Flipped Classroom, and what tools to use to best serve my students in my language arts class, I will follow Cockrum’s journey of trying to become a better teacher who works to engage students in applying learning during class time.
I won’t flip my classroom 100% of the time, but I now have the knowledge of how to meets the needs of my individual students inside the tight boundaries of of a 47-minute period.
Judi Holst is an 8th grade Language Arts teacher in Colorado. She is a Curriculum Instructional Leader, a Discovery Education STAR Ambassador, and the Gifted & Talented Lead in her district. She has been in the teaching field for 22 years and has taught Kindergarten through 8th grade. She has presented at the AMLE Conference, International Reading Association Conference, and the Colorado Council International Reading Association Conference. You can read her teaching blog at http://tbdteacher.tumblr.com/.