Four years ago, before the concept of flipped learning really took off, I wrote a blog post about flipping the elementary classroom. It resonated with a lot of people, and to this day it is one of the most-read blog posts on my site. That response showed me that there is clearly a need for quality information about how elementary teachers can adopt and modify flipped learning for their classrooms.
The book was based on interviews with 20 experienced flipped elementary teachers. As we talked to these educators, we discovered one thing they had in common: All of them flipped their math instruction first.
As I have pondered this, I have come to the realization that these teachers are on to something: It’s easier to get a toe hold on a flipped classroom if you start by flipping math.
Here’s why I think it works:
1. Math is sequential.
More than any other subject taught in elementary school, math builds on prior mastery. Students need to know how to add before they subtract. They need to know how to add fractions with the same denominator before they learn how to add fractions with unlike denominators. The flipped class model is ideal for subjects where it is important for students to master prior material.
2. Math instruction has a greater need to differentiate.
In many elementary classrooms, students are all in the same math class. They are not grouped by skill levels and thus it is very typical for a very high math student to be in the same room as a student with profound struggles. Since the flipped class model allows for greater personalization and more opportunities for both teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction, math is the perfect subject to flip first.
3. Flipped math videos are easy to make.
Teachers know how to teach students how to solve math problems. Putting these on a video is a relatively easy step for them to take.
4. Math is simple to serve up in bite-sized pieces.
Best practices of the flipped class model require that short videos are easier for students to interact with. Since math is typically taught in relatively short, distinct bits, it is an easier subject for teachers to grasp when they first flip their classes.
5. A bunch of great elementary teachers started here.
I’m not sure exactly why all of the teachers we interviewed for the book started with math first, but I do know that they are all amazing teachers. When I see all of them doing the same thing, I take notice and think it is probably a good idea.
You don’t have to follow their lead, and maybe you think you want to flip your grammar or writing or social studies first. That is perfectly fine. The key is to get started and jump into flipped learning.
If you are a flipped elementary teacher, I would love to hear your thoughts about which subject you flipped first and why. If you are new to the flipped class model, what questions do you have?
Jon Bergmann is a pioneer in the flipped class movement. He spent 24 years as a middle and high school science teacher before becoming the lead technology facilitator for a school district in the Chicago suburbs. Today, Jon is dedicated to writing, speaking and otherwise promoting the flipped classroom concept.