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Flipping lessons and homework

New York Teacher

This year, I used a different teaching model that helped me use my time with my high school math students more productively: I “flipped” my class so the lesson was taught at home and traditional homework was done in class.

This strategy was easy to implement and helped many of my students to understand at a deeper level and achieve higher scores in class. You can record your own mini lesson or find an instructional video online and assign it to your students to watch for homework. Students watch the video and take notes in preparation for class the next day. In class, after students complete a “do now,” you answer clarifying questions and then they get straight to work. All the practice and application of strategies is done in class with the teacher’s support.

This flipped model puts the easier work at home, where notes, vocabulary and formulas can all be shared via video. This work is easier to complete without teacher support. For example, students can pause the video to copy down information or rewind the video if they need to hear something again. Conversely, the more difficult exercises and applications are done in class, where the teacher can clear up misunderstandings.

At first, some students were a little resistant because they thought I wouldn’t be “teaching.” But as the year progressed, all student feedback was incredibly positive. Students watched the videos on their personal devices and took notes before class. Plus, the videos are archived on my classroom website, so students can go back and watch them again when they are reviewing for tests. Think about how useful that is for students who are frequently absent.

More important, students love that they have more support when doing the actual work. In a 45-minute period, we can spend 40 minutes practicing, collaborating and discussing. Many say they understand in more depth and wish their other classes were taught this way.

There are a lot of details to think through before flipping a class. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions to help you.


How do I know if students watched the video?

Some websites will host your video and capture the students who log in to view it. Some sites will even tell you how much of the video the students watched and will allow you to prevent fast-forwarding. You can also embed questions that students have to answer before the video will proceed. (Check out EDpuzzle for these options.)

Alternatively, you can verify that students actually watched the video by checking for the appropriate notes. I do this every day during the do-now. It takes about three minutes for me to scan student notes for the appropriate formulas or vocabulary words.


What happens if my students don’t watch the video?

Students who don’t watch the video have, in essence, not completed their homework. My students know that if they didn’t watch the video, they should go straight to my desk, grab an iPad and headphones and watch the video right away. I have seven iPads and headphones in my classroom for student use. After watching the video, they can embark on the work. Unfortunately, these students will not have time to finish so they will have to take it home to complete without my support. They must hand their work in the next day for a grade.


How do I create a bank of instructional videos?

There are different options. Some people take a video of themselves at a whiteboard, marker in hand, with Vimeo or another video app. Others use videos created by Khan Academy or TED videos. I use ShowMe, which is a digital whiteboard app available for iPads. It records my voice while I write on the screen.

I do not consider myself technologically advanced. I asked for a little help from a colleague to start my classroom website (I used Google Classroom). On my site, I have a catalog of every video I created throughout the year. I put videos in virtual folders with copies of the classwork we did that day and links to additional videos or resources by other providers. This works wonders for chronically absent students, students who join the class midyear and students who want to go back and review a topic they never fully understood.