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How Flipped Learning Works in K-5

How Flipped Learning Works in K-5
“Too often flipped learning is defined simply as video at home and homework at school,” says Jon Bergmann, a pioneer of the flipped classroom method of teaching. “There’s some truth to this, but it’s an incomplete picture.”

A more nuanced definition involves the difference between how teachers or home-schooling parents use group learning space and individual learning space. In group learning space, students are face-to-face with their instructor, while in the individual space, students work independently, either at home or at school.

Bergmann says that “traditionally, group space is information dissemination – the teacher is lecturing – and then the student practices alone. But with flipped learning, direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space. The teacher still presents her content for the individual space, but she records it, usually using a video-type tool.”

Students “consume” that material independently and the work that would traditionally be assigned for home is now done during class time, allowing the teacher to assist students as they’re grappling with the material.

“Now you’re free to use the group space to work with students,” Bergmann says. “It becomes an active place of learning, where sometimes students just practice things, but also you have more opportunity for deeper learning. If you think in terms of Bloom’s taxonomy, higher order cognitive activities like application, analysis and evaluation can now happen in the group, with the expert/teacher there.”
The In-class Flip
A more nuanced definition of flipped learning opens up possibilities for adapting the method to younger students’ needs.  With the in-class flip, both individual and group learning can happen at school, and the teacher can be available to help with both activities. Using stations, one group can view the lecture video and/or other video content while other students work on related material at other stations. One of these stations can challenge students to apply the material with a homework-type activity. 

In addition to increasing opportunities for educator support during independent work sessions, the in-class flip alleviates challenges for students with home-technology-access issues or who lack a home environment conducive to the kind of learning a traditional flip requires. 
“Pausing and Rewinding the Teacher”
When teachers are doing direct instruction, students, especially at younger grade levels, can get quickly and easily distracted. Bergmann says, “I once watched a second grade teacher presenting a lesson to a group, and she happened to say the word ‘dog.’ Immediately, three kids raised their hands to say, ‘I have a dog!’ The point of the lesson had nothing to do with dogs and they got completely off track.”

But when lower level content is presented in the independent space, students are each viewing a video with headphones, allowing them to work with fewer distractions.

Lecture by video is also helpful for students who may be reticent to raise hands and ask questions during a traditional lecture; for them, pausing and rewinding a video helps them “get it” at their own pace. After each student has comprehended the video, she can get right to the task at hand, further reducing distractions.

Educators should keep these videos very brief. Bergmann repeatedly refers to them as “micro-videos”, and provides a rule of thumb that prescribes video length of one minute per grade level, i.e., first graders can generally maintain attention on a video for a minute, second graders for two minutes, etc.
Another Teacher’s Experience
On her Reading Rockets website, teacher Dr. Joanne Meier points out that the videos kids watch on their own need not be – and some say should not be – limited to teacher lectures on a subject. The assigned media should give students the basic background they will need for the group lesson.

Meier offers an example from when she taught second grade. “We always did a big unit on Explorers,” she says. “If I were using a flipped classroom model, I could have assigned homework that included watching one or more of the explorers videos from National Geographic Kids or some of the famous explorers videos from The kids could come in that first day with some understanding of their explorer and we could start our classwork from there — jumping right in with our information-gathering matrix or more reading about an individual.”

Teaching Students How to Learn
A key best practice in implementing any flipped learning model is to begin by teaching students how to interact with the content, according to Bergmann. “You can’t expect them to just watch and learn,” he says. “Many teachers who utilize flipped learning check that students have interacted well with the required video material by asking individual students a series of questions about the content.” This same approach works just as well with the in-class flip. He says, “The teacher can address the questions in a large group. But better yet, as the teacher circulates throughout the room, he can interact with each student and have each ask their own questions.”

There are tools that can help educators manage the process. Some video learning software for example, will pop up a question when students pause the video, providing an opportunity for them to engage with the content. The software can also track students’ watching habits, helping teachers see which segments students typically re-watch, indicating content students find most challenging.

Transitioning from Lecturer to Mentor
One of the most important practices to achieve a successful flip is a shift in educator perspective. “We have to be willing to step away from being the center of the activity, from being the sole disseminators of information,” Bergmann says. “Instead, the educator becomes a guide alongside students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter. Of course, that means an important part of teaching becomes the ability to provide engaging activities for students, which is another shift for some teachers who are accustomed to lecturing. But for those who will take it on, I really believe that the relationship of teacher as learning mentor to his students is key to answering the problems of education.”
More Information on Flipped Learning
Bergmann offers a great deal of in-depth content on flipped learning on his website,, including information on the book he wrote with Aaron Sams, Flipped Learning for Elementary Instruction. His organization also offers an online certification program that provides the basic knowledge required to successfully implement the flipped classroom model.

And click to see a video by elementary teacher Jennifer Gonzalez that walks viewers through how the in-class flip works in the elementary classroom using stations.

About Jon Bergmann: Working with governments, schools, corporations, and education non-profits, Bergmann is leading the worldwide adoption of flipped learning. He coordinates or guides flipped learning initiatives around the globe, and is the author of seven books, including the bestseller, Flip Your Classroom, which has been translated into ten languages. He is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences which are dynamic, engaging events that inspire educators to transform their practice through flipped learning.
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