“Slant” it: An Alternative to the Flipped Classroom for Practical Teachers

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Don’t “Flip” it, “Slant” it!
An Alternative to the Flipped Classroom for Practical Teachers

By: Rita Platt

The “Flipped Classroom” is all the rage these days.

Educational journals, blogs, and chat rooms, are flooded with the concept of “flipping.” That said, some may be wondering what it means to “flip” a classroom. In a nutshell, it means that teachers make videos of their lectures/lessons and post them online. Students then watch the videos at home and come to school ready to practice what they’ve learned.

Because, as we all know, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words; below are two links to wonderful infographics on the “flipped” classroom:

Link 1: WHAT is “Flipped”
Link 2: Flip Pros & Cons

As noted in the second link, according to proponents of flipping, it allows teachers more time to work with students on small group and individual areas of need instead of spending in-class time lecturing. Of course, most teachers know that this premise presents problems for students who do not have home access to the Internet or who simply do not, for whatever reason, choose to watch the videos for homework. Further, the model seems to be aimed at students in junior high and high school, without including suggestions for elementary students.

As an elementary teacher who is very aware of the power of video I became keenly interested in the concept of “flipping” and of using it as a way to differentiate my daily lessons and so I applied the idea using appropriate practice for younger students and came up with what I call the “Slanted Classroom.” In this model, the teacher uses videos to supplement and support teaching within the classroom, during class time. Of course, because videos are posted online students always have the option of watching them again at home or in the computer lab.

I like to think of using the “slanted classroom” as a tool for co-teaching with myself. Hmm, that sounds a bit narcissistic– let me explain. As the school library-media specialist and reading-specialist, I teach an average of 25 classes per week each populated by students of all levels and with multiple learning needs. In my effort to support classroom teachers in ensuring that all students meet Common Core State Standards I carefully select learning targets and write lesson plans. But, with only 30 minutes per week with most classes, I have to make their time with me really count! I do that by “cloning” myself. I split kids into two learning groups depending on need. One watches my video while I work with the other group on the same or a similar concept. Then, the group that met with me watches the video while I check in with the group. Most of the videos and small group lessons are structured so that they each last about ten minutes. In a 30-minute teaching block, that leaves the whole class with an additional ten minutes for practice, extension, and/or otherwise processing the learned information.
Below are four concrete examples of how I’ve used the concept of the “Slanted Classroom” in my daily teaching.

  • Kindergarten Reading Club: I work with the kindergarten teachers to provide a “reading club” for students who are ready to read connected text. Students check out books that they can read from the school library, write about them in their “Kindergarten Journal”, and meet with the club weekly to share what they’ve read and written. This year I have 23 little readers in my group. They represent a wide variety of levels in terms of reading and writing proficiency. To help this group learn the required procedures for the journal I made a video of me modeling them. I then divided the children into two groups. One group (17 students) were those that I felt would be able to work in their journals with little more instruction than was provided by the video. I sat with the other group and modeled the same procedures but was able to have constant interaction with these six children who I knew would need more support. Then, the next time the club met, I showed the video to my small group for reinforcement while I met with the larger group to review their work.
  • Second Grade Reading Intervention Group: Three times per week I meet with 27 eager upper-level readers in the 2nd grade. My role is to serve them during our school-wide 30-minute reading intervention block by providing them with challenging lessons and activities carefully designed to keep them moving forward in reading. As a result, the students have been working on identifying theme in novels and using textual evidence to support the theme they find most important. This proved to be a difficult challenge for many of the students. To help I made two videos to explain theme and demonstrate how to find it. One featured me and the other features my husband. We watched both videos as a whole group and I advised students who needed more teaching to watch them again at home (with their parents if possible.) Many did and the next day my inbox was flooded with thank-you emails from parents who spent some time discussing deep interesting questions about reading with their children.
  • Third Grade Library Skills: All third grade students learn to find books on the library shelves using the Dewey Decimal System for nonfiction and alphabetical order by the author’s last name in the fiction section. Because the space in the shelves is too tight to accommodate an entire class I created a series of videos to teach and model finding books. To facilitate the teaching and learning process I again, divided students into two groups. One watched the “virtual” me as I took them on a tour of the library shelves and showed them how to find books. The other went into the selves with me while I taught some foundation information about spine labels that formative assessment showed they needed. Then, the groups switched. As the first group watched the video, I was able to take the second into the shelves to try what they had learned. Students were able to get the same information presented in slightly different ways twice. It was a powerful way to differentiate.
  • Fourth Grade Note-Taking: The Common Core State Standards direct teachers of 4th graders to work extensively with informational texts and to teach students to gather information from them through note-taking. This is a complex multifaceted skill that generally takes students many lessons and practice sessions to master. To facilitate learning, I made a video of me modeling and explaining the note-taking process from start to finish. I shared the video with all students before we began taking notes. Later, after practicing the skill, students who felt they needed to review the lecture/demonstration were able to watch the video again at home or at school. Equally as important, I was able to share the method with other 4th grade teachers so that we all were on the same page.

For more on note-taking, visit my previous post, Two-Column Notes: The Twin Pillars of Supporting Reading and Writing of Non-Fiction Texts.

After experimenting with the “slanted” model, I can say without hesitation that my experiences were a resounding success. I was amazed at how attentive students were to my videos (oddly they seem to be more inclined to actively listen to me on video than they are to me in person!) Many students revisited the videos on their own during their classroom visits to the computer lab or at home. Several parents viewed videos and thanked me for giving them insight into their child’s learning activities. Even as I write this I am thinking of several more videos that I can’t wait to make and use with my wonderful learners.

To watch and “steal” any of my videos please go to my website.  My hope is to add more videos as I can. But, even more importantly, I hope that YOU will try “slanting” your classroom as well. If you do, please contact me and let me know how it went! Happy slanting!

Rita Platt is a Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student. She currently is a Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls SD in Wisconsin, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and consults with local school districts.

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