Get students engaged with the pre-class assignment in the flipped classroom. It matters!

Engaging Students in the Flipped Classroom. It Matters!

As you know, the flipped classroom is a pedagogical model where traditional instructional elements are reversed. What was once done in the classroom (lecture or direct instruction) is now completed at home by watching a video or engaging with technology before coming to class, and what was once done at home (homework) is now completed in the classroom (with the potential to do so much more at a higher level – but that is for another day, another post). While this seems like an elegant and logical solution to improve instruction, it is sometimes easier said than done. One of the obstacles to effective flipping is the struggle that some teachers face with the structure and implementation of the pre-class assignment. Teachers who have spent years in traditional instruction have “perfected” the lecture and the learning events that correspond. For example during the lecture, they encourage note-taking, periodically pause to ask questions and check for understanding, monitor student engagement, and so on. But as we know, it’s generally a cursory check for understanding and engagement is questionable at best. Moving the lecture to serve as a pre-class assignment has the potential to improve its effectiveness yet creates a particular set of challenges that needs to be addressed if the flipped classroom is to reach its full potential.

vitallyimportantassignmentAs the flipped classroom model has matured, making our own videos has become much easier with screencasting programs that are user friendly and readily available, so that’s good. Now how do we get students to participate in an effective manner?  What do students do while they watch? What can we do to make sure they are engaged and learning? How do we know they are learning?

There are many and diverse means to this end. It is vitally important that students complete some sort of assignment while they watch the video in order to ensure that they attempt to process the information. Some video assignments lend themselves to concrete questions and subsequent answers from students. These activities allow students the opportunity to make sense of the information and provide evidence of learning. EdPuzzle is an example of a free program that allows teachers to upload videos or locate existing ones with the ability to embed questions for students to answer. The video editor allows you to add voice-overs and comments, and to clip videos to a manageable size. It is incredibly easy to use. TEDEd Lessons Worth Sharing is another example of a program that provides a platform for teachers to create customized questions around a TED-Ed talk, TEDtalk or Youtube video then distribute to students. You can borrow lessons that have already been created and modify them to fit your needs or you can create your own. See this example

There are times, however, that we want students to make sense of the information, ask their own questions, and provide insight or perspective. This process lends itself to the use of graphic organizers. Here are a few suggestions:

Try using a WSQ (Watch, Summarize, Question). This graphic organizer, created by Crystal Kirch, a former high school math teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District has many renditions but in general the Watch section requires students to take notes while viewing, the Summarize portion prompts them to make sense of the material, and the Question portion requires them to list questions that they feel they could answer to a classmate and questions that they have about the content. Here is a basic WSQ that can be modified to fit your needs.

Another great graphic organizer to use is this one that has been developed to go along specifically with TED Talks. It offers students an opportunity to identify main points, analyze perspectives, share what they have learned, articulate questions, and critique the presentation.

Or you may want to create your own graphic organizer. Creately is a free (limited), web-based software for creating interactive graphic organizers such as Venn Diagrams, Mind Maps, KWL Charts, Storyboards and more. Or you can find examples and templates of dozens of graphic organizers at

In order for flipping to work at its full potential, we must not overlook the importance of structuring the pre-class assignment in a way that is meaningful and powerful. Students must have the opportunity to process the information and be held accountable for doing so. Once they get to class, use the assignment work product as a springboard for discussion and higher level learning. Failure to build on their work in a meaningful way reduces it to perceived “busywork” and compliance will wane, the power of the flipped classroom will be reduced, and opportunities for quality learning will be squandered. Make it count!

BoxCathyBy Dr. Cathy Box

Dr. Box is an Associate Professor in Education at Lubbock Christian University with a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas Tech University. She specializes in Formative Assessment and is a former classroom teacher. She understands the complex terrain that teachers negotiate as they make classroom decisions and the difficulties they encounter.  Her goal is to help busy educators find applicable research with practical strategies without having to wade through all of the literature.

Dr. Box can be reached at

Twitter: @cathybox or @LCUSoE


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