Archive for January, 2016

Flipping the Classroom FAQs

This is the second post about Flipping the Classroom.  To view the original post, see Flipping the Classroom at GRACE in GRACE News. This post clarifies how flipping is being used at GRACE with answers to frequently asked questions about this particular teaching methodology.

Is flipping the classroom a new strategy?

This is not a new strategy and several GRACE teachers have been successfully incorporating this concept into their repertoire of teaching methodologies over the last few years.  The concept of flipping focuses on the question “Where will the students benefit the greatest from the classroom teacher’s experience and expertise?” In planning lessons and making decisions about structure and pacing, this question stays of utmost importance.

For example, in English classes, if the teacher determines that reading comprehension is the class weakness, they will read together during class and leave application of ideas for independent homework. If reading comprehension for a particular text is not an issue, students will read independently and bring textual questions for class discussions and applied analysis. The second scenario incorporates the flipping strategy and has been used in English classrooms for decades.  Now math and science teachers can use videos and other technology tools for students to learn concepts at home and use classroom time to make sure students are able to apply the concept correctly by using class time for problem solving.

Is this a strategy that all teachers will adopt all of the time?

It will not be used by all teachers, all the time. Flipping the classroom will be used as any other teaching strategy at GRACE: when it’s the best strategy to teach the curriculum and engage students for a particular lesson or unit. Technology has opened the door for new subjects to try flipping, so it is a new strategy  for some teachers.  Just like with any new tool, teachers will decide if it is the best way to teach a lesson or unit in their classroom as they determine the setting or scenario that best accomplishes the goals and objectives for that skill set.  The concept of ‘flipping’ seems trendy but is not. It is actually class-specific education.

Is flipped classroom a common core strategy?

Flipping the classroom is not a Common Core Strategy. Common Core is a choice of curriculum for a school. Flipped classroom is a way of teaching for any teacher to use whenever this is the best strategy for a particular lesson or unit of lessons. It involves the students getting information outside the classroom, which has become more accessible with the use of technology, so that they are ready to use this information in the classroom for problem solving, discussion, group work, centers. etc.

Will this result in weaker or gifted students getting all the attention and average students being overlooked?

The flipped classroom allows time for students to read, research, or watch a video at their own pace so that they are ready to use and manipulate the information when they are in the classroom. Some of the best practices used by our teachers include keeping videos short (3-5 minutes is the goal), using a tool like Educanon or Edpuzzle to embed questions along the way to check for understanding and increase engagement, using good software like Screencastify or Quicktime to make movies, and having follow-up time in class on the video.  This follow-up includes time for clarifying questions and individualized extension work with the teacher as needed.  This strategy also allows students time to watch the videos again (and again and again, if needed!) and in an optimal environment for them away from distractions of other students. This strategy allows students at all levels to prepare for class time and follow-up questions in accordance with their unique learning abilities.

This also allows teachers to spend time in class utilizing different students’ learning styles in areas of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication which are vital for our 21st Century environment. Small groups may include weaker students working on a specific skill, honors students receiving enhancements, or average students practicing to solidify concepts. This strategy encompasses student engagement and allows for more differentiation and less of the lecture style, old school room (1950’s) approach. Committed teachers who put in the time to plan out and make a video are also the ones who are committed to spending more one-on-one time in the classroom.

Will this result in my student having more homework?

No, any videos or activities a student does to prepare for a flipped lesson will fit into our existing homework policy.  Hopefully, a flipped lesson will make homework less stressful for parents and for students since the student will have more time in class to work with the teacher to solve problems or discuss the lesson. Specific complex math and science concepts can be taught by the experienced teacher on a video and then the teacher can have a full 45 minute period to work with groups of students to ensure understand of these concepts.

Using the traditional method may result in the teacher teaching the lesson in class and then sending students home to work on homework before they have fully grasped and practiced the concepts. Students become frustrated and cannot complete homework with understanding. Videos also stay in the resources section of Talon so that students can access them whenever needed and review them before quizzes and tests. Students are able to access resources and keep up with work if they are sick or need to miss the class for any reason.

Community Service Opportunities

All GRACE high school students are required to complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service per school year. Consider meeting the following needs and earning service hours while blessing others at the same time.

Summer Camp for Special Needs

Volunteer this summer at a special camp in Raleigh where you can mentor children, teens, and adults with Downs syndrome.  You must be 16 years old and able to drive yourself (you will not drive campers) to field trip locations.  Experience working with special needs children or adults is a plus, but not required. Contact Stephanie Perera from Gigi’s Playhouse at for more information.

WAKE Up and Read

From May 3 – June 28, 2017 WAKE Up and Read will be distributing books from our annual book drive to 10 elementary schools. Volunteers will be needed on various dates to set up the book fair and to help children select books. Sign up to volunteer here.

Hope Connection International – Ongoing

Hope Connection International is a multi-faceted recovery and prevention center that provides support, healing, education, and resources to hurting people, specializing in reaching youths and individuals in crisis. Support this ministry, founded by a GRACE teacher, by working in a merchandise tent at Duke home basketball games. Sign up with this Duke Basketball Volunteer Link.

Thrift 2 Gift – Ongoing

Thrift 2 Gift is a local non-profit thrift store is run by a GRACE family and welcomes volunteers of all ages in both Cary and Garner. Early evenings and weekend hours are available. Call Sharon Jones at 919-651-0482 for more information. Volunteer applications and release forms can be found on the Thrift 2 Gift website.

Babysitting for Single Moms Bible Study – Monday Nights

Are you available Mondays from 6:00-8:00pm to babysit for 6-8 kids while their moms do Bible Study in Apex? If so, contact Kristin Troiano at or 919-414-9408. This is a job that two can do together so grab a friend and be a blessing to moms in our community.

Flipping the Classroom at GRACE

After three years as a Media Specialist at GRACE, this year I (Laura) am privileged to work as the Technology Coach for 7th-12th grade teachers. In that role, I have worked with many teachers exploring “flipping” a lesson or unit.

What is flipping? In a nutshell, it is taking direct instructional activities (such as a lecture or reading an article) and making them the homework. This frees up class time for higher-level cognitive activities, such as projects, science labs, group discussions, or individualized instruction. The goal is always the best use of class time. In some instances, teachers may decide that the best use of class time is not their lecture, but students working together on solving a problem or creating a video.

Flipping is actually an old strategy in education that has been given new opportunities by technology. English teachers have been flipping for a long time. When your English teacher assigned you to read a portion of Romeo and Juliet for homework and you discussed the selection in class the next day, that was flipping without technology. Technology allows other subjects, such as science or math, to incorporate flipping as well. For example, a math teacher can record a short video about the unit circle, or link to a well-made video online. After students watch the video for homework, then they can spend class time practicing the skills, using their classmates and teacher as a resource. One of the goals of flipping is for students to get more one-on-one time with the teacher.

As with many instructional practices, flipping is not the right solution for every lesson. However, when chosen carefullly, flipping provides opportunities for our students that just cannot fit in the normal 45 minute class time. One of the many reasons I love working with GRACE teachers is they are thoughtful professionals, and I know they are using flipping as a powerful tool for effective teaching.

If you would like to learn more, below are a few good resources. Many of them reference a “flipped classroom,” where flipping is the normal mode of direct instruction. This is probably not how you will encounter flipping at GRACE. At GRACE, it is more likely that flipping will be interwoven with other methods of instruction.

What is a Flipped Classroom (in 60 seconds)
Flipping the Classroom: Simply Speaking (Note: This video is made for college professors, but the content in it still applies to K-12 education.)

What if Your Child is in a Flipped Classroom?
The Teacher’s Guide to Flipped Classrooms

GRACE’s Makerspace Begins!

Imagine my surprise when, a week after I (Daniel) had shared a presentation on the relevance and importance of Makerspaces and 3D printers for 21st-century skills and problem-based-learning, I received a phone call telling me that there were donations that would provide the funds to jump-start our vision for these items at GRACE. I believe that the desire for these items – particularly the 3D printer – had been at GRACE for a while, but it was a matter of providing several key points to get the ball rolling. I tried my best to address these points in a short Google slides presentation that was shared with our Executive Leadership Team, and then with a School Board member and other interested parties in the community.

Definition: I knew that to speak to a wide variety of people, that I would need to craft definition in this presentation. Some people may know a lot about Makerspaces and 3D printers, but many people I have spoken with also were not exactly sure what these are, what they do, and how they drive student learning. I started this with the most basic definitions I could so everyone could enter into the rest of my presentation with at least this base-level of knowledge.

Relevance: Showing how important and relevant these technologies and ideas are is also key. I included information on how creating, designing, and building engages all levels of the uTEC model (Using, Tinkering, Experimenting, and Creating), how it reaches the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, how these technologies are backed by Constructivist educational ideology, and how using these tools meets AASL’s Standards for 21st Century Learners.

Need: I wanted to include a unique aspect to the presentation to show how important a 3D printer is for our specific school. I showcased some photos of previous projects I had noticed – cardboard armor a student had designed, a need for a tool not currently invented a student mentioned to me, and other various applications related to my wife’s 20% time projects (modeled after Google’s 20% concept). I asked teachers how they would use a 3D printer for their classes, and included those examples in the presentation as well. I also included application related to our mission statement, “…to impact our world for Christ.” In a society and culture that seems preoccupied with consuming, I spoke on what it means to build and to produce for others – what will our students design and build that will change our community and improve the lives of others? How will we reflect Christ with what we do?

A Plan: I outlined my plan for how to jump start Maker culture at school. I outlined (in general) the various steps of identifying student interests, gaining community support, creating structure and guidelines for the club, and letting it be adopted and grow naturally as it starts. This does leave a lot open for interpretation, however how the club forms is important as well. If everyone takes part to create a club around a loose plan, then I feel that it will truly be community owned, and not me dictating how, when, and what we are using the printer and Maker Club for.

Options: Lastly I provided options for the printers I was investigating. I included both the Makerbot Replicator 2 and the FlashForge Creator Pro. They both look like they have dissimilar positive aspects to them – ultimately we went with the FlashForge because of a deal running on Amazon and the experience of an interested volunteer with this particular model.

A Point Person: I know that there has been talk around GRACE about a 3D printer long before I began at the start of this year. There has been prior interest from several parties, the previous media specialist has done extensive research on them, but everything had not converged yet. I ended up at the convergence to identify and share the ideology and needs of this technology and movement, and pitched a plan; now I am poised to continue developing this project and cultural shift at GRACE. I am thankful that I do not have to know everything about everything – my passion is in driving inquiry, research, and creativity within our students – encouraging them to get messy in their research, question things, invent, and to continue to try new ideas when one fails and to learn from their failures. I don’t have to be an expert on 3D printers at the start of this, but I must be willing to try, to learn all I can about them, and to identify and pull in individuals from the community with the same passion I have for encouraging this type of learning in our students. I have to identify those naturally inquisitive “maker” students, the early adopters who will learn all they can about the printer and then teach their peers. I can bring these point people together to impact the rest of our educational community. There are already a couple volunteers I will be speaking with in the new year to develop the particulars of starting a Maker Club and implementing the printer at GRACE.

From here, the plan is to follow the steps outlined in the plan. 🙂

  1. Identify student interest – What do they want to build? Where are their passions? What problems do they want to solve? I want to have a student interest meeting this month to showcase the ideas presented in my presentation to students and to have our parent volunteer show how a fully functional FlashForge works. I want to spark student interest and invention here.
  2. Identify community support – We have parent volunteers and people interested in helping grow this movement. How else will the community support the vision? Through resources for other Maker projects? Through financial donations for more plastics and build parts? Through volunteering time to supervise during club meetings?
  3. Club Guidelines – Determining how to keep our club safe and all the particulars of meetings. How often will we meet? What projects will we work on, based on student interest from step 1? How will we keep the kids safe if they are working with tools to build?
  4. Monitor and help the movement grow – Again, I am entering this movement without a predetermined end goal. I want our students to explore, discover, and grow from this experience and tools, and part of that is them learning through trial and error. Part of that is being open when teachers approach me with ideas for how to use the printer in their classes and going out of my way to show how the printer can benefit their classes. Part of it is working together as an educational community to nurture this movement. I know going into this that beginning this club may be messy at times, and will be a new experience for me – but that is where the fun and the learning is going to happen.