Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flipping a History Classroom

The concept of flipping a traditional classroom has been getting some attention lately.  The concept is simple enough, instead of the teacher lecturing during valuable class time, the students watch videos (hopefully created by the teacher) at home to gather the content.  The class time is then used for students to discuss the content, problem solve, do experiments work collaboratively or get the attention they need from the teacher to master the concepts they were exposed to at home.

Flipping seems like the perfect solution for a math or science classroom.  Instead of spending the time lecturing in class & having the students solve problems at home, alone or with parents who are overwhelmed by the content, the students gather the concepts and content at home and solve the problems in class.  I can imagine a classroom where students sit together based on how well they understood the material from the night before and work on problems together.  While the students who still need help sit in another section of the room, working closely with the teacher as the work on problems and get the support they need.

Here is a great example of a flipped chemistry classroom by Aaron Sams in Woodland Park Colorado.

But I teach history...I would love to avoid lecturing in my classroom and although I try to avoid a straight lecture at all costs, sometimes it does happen.  But suppose my students went home every night and watched a video lecture that I had prepared, what would we do in class the next day?  Here are some ideas:
- Read primary source documents, understand the context in which they were written and have outstanding discussions.
- Debates
- Socratic Seminar
- Quick writing (2 minute challenge writing to see how well the previous night's content was understood)
- Students reteach - have the students prepare mini review type lessons to teach the content back to the class.  With this technique, groups of students could watch different lectures, a sort of "at home jigsaw" technique.
- Projects - imagine the amount of time that could be freed up in class for students to create projects & write.

Flipping the French Revolution:
The next unit that my 9th graders will be studying is the French Revolution.  I have decided that I will flip the unit for one of my classes.  Anytime I try anything new I test it out on one class to make sure it is manageable and to compare their outcome to the rest of the classes.

In my effort to flip this unit I am compiling video resources to have my students watch each night.  I have another week before the unit starts, and this is just an early list of resources.  I won't have time to create the videos myself (that might have to wait until the summer time).

Kahn Academy - French Revolution Videos
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

This list will grow as I return to this blog post and update the resources...please feel free to comment with any additional French Revolution videos that I should use.

My biggest concern is letting go of the direct instruction and having my students (hopefully) watch the content at home.  Will I know if they watched?  Will I know if they get it?  Will I know if it is working?  Only time will tell.


  1. This is great! In my AP World History class, during the second semester, I "flip" my class. First semester is full of lectures, teacher-led discussions, etc. Second semester, I start putting the direct instruction online as podcasts (audio only for the most part) and essay writing instructions. Then, in class time turns into small group discussions, essay practice and evaluation, etc. I started this last year and I think the structure I provide and the rapport that develops throughout the class in the first semester, allow the second semester to be successful. I don't think I would start the year off this way - I need to train them first...

    Good luck, this is a great idea!

  2. Hi Greg. I will follow your experiment very closely as I am trying to figure out a way to get away from the traditional lecture and allow my students more time to "interact" with the material more directly in the ways that you listed above. My biggest concern, however, is for those students who don't have access to the Internet at home. Yes, many do, but not all. What will we do for those students who have no way to see the "flipped" world? Will it be enough for them to have the in-class experience and let them get to the "traditional" piece when they can? I am not sure that there are answers to these questions as yet, but they will have to be part of whatever discussion we have.

  3. Greg,

    Kudos to you for joining in the movement to "Flip". There are ample reasons to do so - certainly not least of those is that we are lecturing about material that is readily available on the web! (see my post "History in a World of Information Surplus -

    I presented the idea of a "Blended" classroom for History and Social Science at the Global Education Conference in November. Essentially, I suggest that teachers can use their expertise more wisely to enhance student learning by: A) leveraging the collective wisdom of professional Historians and other History teachers on the web; and B) using class time to help students analyze, synthesize, and create (i.e. 'make meaning'), the very tasks they'll need the most help with, and that we trained Historians are good at. The web is useful for multimedia presentations of content so let's use it! Class time is perfect for the kind of high-order thinking you advocated for in your post. In my presentation, I suggested some tools, though there are many others. (

    Great stuff Greg. I hope we can get many colleagues to do as you suggest! Cheers.

  4. I make a CD with my podcasts available to students without Internet, iPod, or simply can't be on their computer for long periods of time...

  5. I just came across your blog and am interested to follow it. The irony is I'm actually doing just the opposite with one my classes, a senior elective. Until recently I had assigned readings that we would discuss in class. However, I found that they weren't doing the reading (or at least, not enough of them to make possible a good discussion), so I'm instead presenting information in class and doing some initial processing in class (we have 75 minute periods, which makes it possible to do both), with further written work outside of class to cement, apply, and develop the ideas. Because there is clearer accountability with written work, I'm hoping they'll be more likely to do the work. At the very least, I'll know clearly when they're not doing it.

    Have you had any such problems when you've tried flipping?


  6. Thank you to everyone who has left a comment on this blog post. I'm working to get my next unit ready (French Revolution) to try the flip with one class. I will definitely be taking your thoughts, words of wisdom and concerns into account when I try this out. I absolutely have some concerns: internet access ( I know of two students in my one class), the students actually watching the content at home, and what to do in class with the extra time. However, even with these concerns, from what I have read about the practice, it will be worth it and the ultimate goal: student learning, will be enhanced with the practice.

  7. I'm so interested to see how your experiment turns out. I teach College Study Skills in a community college and I'm thinking of ways I can use the flipped classroom idea. I can't wait to see your comments after trying it for a while.

  8. I am really looking forward to see how this works for you! I plan on using interactive notebooks in my class next year (similar to Cornell notes) and I think these two strategies may work nicely together... Can't wait to hear how it goes!

  9. What do you do when the students have the capability to watch the videos but choose not to do so?

  10. @btbrayman I think the question you posed is not specific to a flipped classroom. Consider it is terms of any type of work that has to be done at home, whether it be watching videos, or filling out worksheets. What does any teacher do when their students have the capability to complete the work at home but choose not to? Examine the assignment, figure out why it isn't be done and figure out a way to increase completion. The biggest question to ask is, why is the work not being done? This problem is clearly not unique to "flipping" a classroom.

  11. Thanks for all the information. I am in the process of "flipping" my history class. I'm going to try to use the class time for project based learning, something that doesn't always happen in a traditional lecture setting. I'm also incorporating the idea of using an interactive notebook. Its been a long time since I've been this excited about something! Thanks for reenergizing my teaching. I'm keeping track of my own experience at: and would love to know what other people are doing that has been successful!

  12. Mike,

    I flipped one section ( as I mentioned in the post ) and based on my experience with that one class, there was very little change in their understanding of the content and ability to demonstrate their understanding at the end of the unit. Granted, I rarely lecture and the fundamental structure of my class may be slightly different than a traditional classroom where content is delivered during class. Added to that idea, I assignment very little homework to be done outside of school. I'm still not quite sure where I stand on the concept of flipping an entire course. While I have read about entire schools that flip their curriculum and individual teachers that flip their classes, I don't think the process is a personal fit for my teaching style and my classroom at this time.


  13. Please feel free to flip this.

    Over 60 videos in US and World concepts.

    Keith HUghes

  14. I decided at the end of last school year that I needed to change my AP US History class. This school year I began to flip the classroom and the results have been awesome. I have so much time to do projects and spend quality time with each student on the writing process. One area where I need some help and examples is what to do with all the extra time I have in class? I give review questions, we read primary sources, watch some videos, and create some debates/projects. I am just looking for something different to do in class. Thoughts?

  15. Great stuff! I was wondering what software/hardware was used to make the videos you had posted.

  16. I am in the process of flipping my college in the high school government class for semester two (spring 2013). I have quasi flipped in the past, with recorded lectures when I am gone, recording lectures and providing them for when a student was gone or to prep for a test. I see a lot of research on the science and math models, and it fits so well with what those subjects, as the students come in and there is that time for hands on work in the classroom, and I feel it fits well with government too. So my question is much along the lines of others - what other things can you do in a history class? I am not a lecturer per se. We have topics and discuss them in a guided lecture through history. I do simulations with my classes (and have flipped 'lectures' when doing these to free up time), investigate primary sources, etc. But there is only so much of that to do. Want to see where this goes.