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Small Group Instruction in the Flipped Classroom

 

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I started flipping my math class 4 years ago and haven’t looked back since. One of the main things that has evolved for me is how my students use class time. Our class time has become sacred in the sense that every minute has value and what we do within those minutes has value. Students do not drag into the classroom, they enter the classroom with excitement and anticipation of their small group tasks. They have an idea of what we’re going to do but have no idea how we’re going to do it.
I am at the point now where almost all instruction is done exclusively in small groups. Before I get into small group instruction, I have to talk about a few things I had to do to get there.
Build a Sanctuary – Building a Sanctuary within my classroom was one of the most important fundamental things I’ve done. The students have to know and feel that within the space of our classroom they are not judged, are safe, and free to take risks.
Establish Norms Not Rules- Establishing Norms takes work. For the past 2 years I’ve opted to ditch rules and establish norms. For the past 2 years I’ve stated to my students that there are no rules in our classroom. For the past 2 years I’ve watched my students stare at me in confusion. It isn’t until we work through the process of establishing norms, and the students see that their voice matters, that they fully buy into the idea of norms. I am always amazed at how deeply my students feel about the type of environment and the interactions within that environment that help them not only learn best but challenge them to be at their best for others.
Build a Team- Build a team within a team. The idea of being a member of a team with an important role within that team makes our classroom better. In my classroom, there are four student roles during small groups. The student roles are social scientists (group leader), communication specialists (group reporter), materials engineers (decides the tools needed for tasks, gathers & collects supplies), and horologists (time keeper). As students participate in small group tasks, each student understands their role within the group and knows how to carry out that role. This is no different than any sports team. For example, on a football team, the players have an important role to play within their team. These roles include offensedefense, and special teams. Your position on the team falls within at least one of these three units but you are still part of one team.
Small Group Instruction 
During our instructional part of the day, students work in their small groups.  The work that students are participating in is usually  related to the most recent instructional video they have watched. Instructional videos are viewed by students either at home the night before or the next morning at school. Students view an instructional video twice per week.
Hands-on, movement, and visuals are important to my students so I make a point of incorporating this into the instructional tasks. Instructional tasks are printed out and given to each small group to place into their interactive math journals. Sometimes tasks are given to groups on task cards, chart paper, or are displayed around the room. All tasks are considered practice work and are never graded.image-2
I have 21 students. The students are divided into 5 groups with 4-5 students in each group. While students are engaged in instructional tasks, I meet with each group to facilitate their learning, clear up misconceptions, reteach a concept, extend a concept, or listen as students teach each other. I learn the most and how to best facilitate by listening as students work to problem solve, explain their thinking, work out problems, revise their thinking, ask questions, critique each others work, and persevere through challenges and frustrations. This is one of the greatest benefits for students that participate in flipped learning. More time is available for students to deeply engage in and explore their learning.
 
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This is just a small peek into my flipped learning classroom and by no means does this blog post touch on every aspect. I’m a believer in small group instruction and attribute my ability to have students participate in such an environment to flipped learning.
What are your thoughts on small group instruction in the flipped classroom?

Post written by Celeste Clemons
Flipped Master Teacher, Sealey Elementary Math and Science Magnet School, Florida

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