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Flip reading assignments and make them interactive

By Jonathan Bergmann
October 2, 2015
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English language arts teachers often say they are the original flipped learning advocates. After all, they have always assigned books to students to read at home and asked them to come back the next day to discuss the readings in class.

They are absolutely right, of course. But one of the most common complaints of language arts teachers is that students often fail to complete their assigned readings. Instead of interacting with the actual text, many will look up the plot summary on Wikipedia or read the SparkNotes.

In the newly released book Flipped Learning for English Instruction, part of Aaron Sams and my flipped learning series, we address this age-old ELA problem with some digital age ed tech. Here’s our five-step plan for flipping a reading lesson to hold students accountable while increasing interactivity, their retention and their enjoyment:

1. Get some reading tracking software.

Software that tracks student reading and comprehension is growing in popularity among ELA teachers. The two programs we’ve heard the most about are Curriculet and ActivelyLearn. Students seem to enjoy these tools’ Kindle-like user interface, and teachers are thrilled that they make it easier to not only track their students’ reading, but also embed annotations, questions and other supporting media into the student interface to make it more interactive. 

2. Choose a reading.

You can upload digital versions of classic literature, contemporary literature, web-based content, or your own content to the software. If you use public domain content, web sources or web content, it is usually free. But if your content is not in the public domain, you will likely have to pay a rental fee of $0.99 to $1.99, depending on the title. If some students do not have access to the internet at home, you will need to give them either class time to read or paper copies to take home. 

3. Add interactive elements to the reading.

This is where the digital tool really shines. You can add interactive elements to highlight important aspects of the reading, multiple-choice or open-ended questions, or links to related media, such as videos, websites or audio files. This feature will keep students more engaged in their reading and allow you to check for understanding as they go along, which can inform your follow-up discussion.

4. Use premade interactions.

If you’re new to the process or don’t have time to create all of your own interactive elements, both tools listed allow you to use interactions that other teachers have created. Once you’ve got some experience under your belt, however, you will want to customize interactions to meet the unique needs of your classroom.

5. Assign the reading.

This is very simple to do, but you have to ensure that all students have an account. Guide them through the sign up by going to the website and having them type in a course activation code during class. 

6. Track your students’ reading.

The power of these tools is the teacher’s ability to monitor and provide feedback about student reading. You can generate reports that tell you how many minutes each student spends in each chapter or reading, and you can track all student responses to your questions to get a snapshot of student comprehension. 

If you want to learn more about flipping your class, check out our website,, or get a copy of Flipped Learning for English Instruction. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter highlighting best practices in flipped learning. 

Jon Bergmann was a classroom teacher for 24 years and is co-founder of the Flipped Learning Network and He now works with teachers, schools and corporations to help them rethink educational practice. He is the co-author, with Aaron Sams, of ISTE’s flipped learning series of books.