A Typical Day In My Flipped Algebra Class

The structure of my newly flipped Algebra class consists primarily of practice, practice and more practice for students in the form of different activities.  Here is a typical day in my flipped Algebra 1 class.

This is on the Smart Board in front of the room as students enter class.









Once class begins, students start with a Warm Up over previously learned material.  This should NOT be the topic from last night’s homework video.







I quickly walk around the room and give points for completed homework notes while students work on the Warm Up.  I go over the answers to the warm up problems for everyone to see on the Smart Board.

Then I give the students a list of the day’s scheduled activities.  Each day I select two to five of my favorite Algebra activities:

  • Large-group activities (Quiz/Quiz/Trade, Hot Seat)
  • Small-group activities (Sum It Up, Relay, Round Robin)
  • Partner activities (Placemat, Problem Pass, Puzzles, Matching, Scavenger Hunt, Gallery Walk)


Here is an example of a typical day’s schedule:








Students know they are to complete the activities in the order given before moving on to the next one on the list.  Since students work at different rates, smaller numbers of students are ready for the Scavenger Hunt (or Sum It Up or Gallery Walk) later in the class period.  Only the individual classwork worksheet (or work from the textbook) is turned in at the end of class for classwork points.

Here is another example of a day’s schedule.  Notice I selected different activities to keep the class routine varied.









Each of the large-group, small-group and partner activities is quickly checked by the students or teacher for accuracy.  The immediate feedback is essential for learning and mastery.

In addition to group activities, students are assigned an individual classwork assignment (worksheet or from the textbook) each day is collected at the end of the period for class work points.  I stop at each student’s desk multiple times while they work on the individual classwork worksheet and check their work for accuracy.  Again, the immediate feedback is essential.

With this schedule, students practice the new skills presented in last night’s homework video most of the 90 minute class period.  The activities add welcome variety and student interaction, making the practice more fun.  Often students do not really notice how much practice they are doing and, before they know it, they master the new skills and are ready to move on to the next topic the next class period.

What If Students Don’t Watch Homework Videos?

Much of student success in any class depends on students coming to class prepared.  In the flipped class, this means I expect my students to watch one or two short homework videos and to write detailed notes to use in class the next day.

It is common for a couple of students to “forget” to watch their homework videos early in the year until the routine becomes familiar to them.  I don’t make a big deal about it.  I smile, point to the classroom computers and tell them they are welcome to join the rest of the class as soon as they watch last night’s video and show their notes to me.

The beginning large-group activity is usually fun and the students don’t like being left out.  I find most students don’t forget to do their homework after missing out once.

I do require they start at the beginning of the list of the day’s activities, so they may be somewhat behind their classmates and may need to return to my room after school or another time to complete the mandatory individual classwork.  For an explanation of a typical day’s list of activities, please see my article “What To Do With Faster Students”.

“You Are The Teacher And Should Be Teaching My Student”

(This is an excerpt from a letter addressing common concerns and questions I sent to parents before school started.)

You are correct that I am the teacher and should teach my students.  In the flipped classroom, we will find that your student has more of my time with work where my expertise will be needed.

In a traditional classroom in the past, much of my time was spent watching students take notes from the work we did on the Smart Board.  Some students struggled to copy the notes and others were waiting while their classmates wrote more slowly than they did.  I prepared “classwork” for us to use immediately following the instructional notes to reinforce the concepts just discussed.

Many times, taking notes took longer than expected and the practice offered by the classwork was cut short or sent home as additional homework along with the regular homework page.   Students then had to do homework problems at home, sometimes without sufficient practice in class and without my knowledge and explanation available to them.

With the Flipped Classroom, students can become introduced to the lesson and write their notes as quickly or slowly as they need by watching me present the lesson on video at home.  In class, I will work with students throughout the entire 90 minute class.  Sometimes I will give demonstrations to the entire class that will work better in person than on video, other times we will have small group activities connected to the lesson and designed to give students deeper understanding of the material.  Other times students will work individually on exercises and I will work with them individually.

“Must My Student Teach Herself?”

(This is an excerpt from a letter addressing common concerns and questions I sent to parents before school started.)

Absolutely not. At home, your student will watch one or two short videos in which I use the Smart Board lesson that I would traditionally have used in front of the class.  She will see my colorful pens on the screen working out the example problems and see and hear me explaining the process.  Your student has the luxury of rewinding the video to hear or see again the example in order to copy it carefully into her notes.  Then, the video will offer a “try” problem similar to the example.  I invite the students to pause the video at that point to give them time to try the problem on their own.  They can press “play” when they are ready to check their own answer with my answer.

“What About Students Without Internet At Home?”

(This is an excerpt from a letter addressing common concerns and questions I sent to parents before school started.)

I understand not all students have access to the internet at home.  The question I will ask students is how many of them are able to check their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat or other social media accounts daily.  If students can connect to these, they have the ability to view my instructional videos.  Additionally, school computers are available to students before school, during study hall, during lunch and after school for those who need them.  As I mentioned earlier, students who do not have their student notes with them will spend the first part of Algebra class taking the required notes using a school computer in my room before joining the class activities in progress.

“Why Is It Called A Flipped Classroom?”

(This is an excerpt from a letter addressing common concerns and questions I sent to parents before school started.)

Students’ “homework” will be to take notes, carefully copying examples I explain in detail in online videos using my usual teaching style. We will use class time to work together on activities and practice problems that would traditionally be sent home as homework.  This way, students will work with me, their teacher, on the activities that are the most difficult and where they need the most support.

I try to record most of my instructional videos so they are 5 – 10 minutes in length, with 7 minutes being the most common and only a few going over 10 minutes. Students are encouraged to pause the video as needed while they are taking notes.

Because our school is on a block schedule and classes meet every-other-day, we typically cover two lessons each time we meet.  Many days, students will be expected to watch two short videos to cover two parts of the lesson.  It is more inviting to watch two 7-minute videos than to watch one 15-minute video.  I will provide a video lesson calendar to help students keep track of the video schedule.

Any student who has not taken notes or who does not bring notes to class will use a school computer in my classroom to view and copy the notes at the beginning of class.  Once the notes are complete, the student may join the rest of the class in activities already in progress.

Some students may choose to view the videos several times while taking their notes and others may find they can take the notes in one viewing.

My instructional videos are free for all of my students and their parents and may be viewed as many times as necessary.  I encourage parents to create their own account to view my lessons so the activity I monitor on each student’s account accurately reflects his/her viewing activity.

What To Do With Faster Students

I was recently asked what I do for faster students while I spend time helping students who need more of my help.  This was an easy question to answer as my flipped class addresses this situation beautifully.

Since I no longer lecture in class, this means that the full 90 minutes of class can be used for Algebra activities.  I write a listing of the day’s activities on the board and briefly talk about where students can find each activity and give special instructions as needed.

The order of the list is carefully selected and students know that they are to move to the next activity as they complete the one before.  I plan this list of activities expecting the faster students to accomplish most or all.  I realize that students who work more slowly will probably not get through each activity, so I put the two or three most critical activities early in the list.

We usually begin with a large group activity such as Quiz/Quiz/Trade or a Relay so everyone works together with a group.  Then we might move to a partner activity such as Placemats or Matching followed by a worksheet that is to be completed individually.  I place a red check mark on each correct problem on each student’s individual worksheet.  Because the partners work at different paces, some students will move to the individual worksheet earlier than others.  This staggered pace allows me to spend time with each student as they work on the individual worksheet.  I collect the individual worksheets at the end of each class and give classwork credit in the online grade book.  I do not keep track of or give credit for the group activities.

After the individual worksheet, we often have one or two additional activities such as a Scavenger Hunt or Sum It Up.  This allows individuals or small groups of students additional practice with the new material.  With this plan, the faster students are actively engaged with learning activities for the entire class and the students who work more slowly have time to work through the two or three most important activities of the day with my help.

Giving Points for Watching Homework Videos

Several years ago, before I started flipping my Algebra class, my school district revamped the entire Algebra program for all teachers throughout the district.  We were all required to follow the new program completely.

One part of the new program was a change in how students’ grades were assigned.  The district decided that each student’s grade should reflect their performance on the summative assessments, or chapter tests, only.  While homework, classwork and other formative assessments were to be assigned, no points for these assignments were allowed to be used in calculating students’ final grades for the course.

Obediently, I began that school year by explaining the program changes to my students, including the changes to the grading policy.  What I experienced was a classic example of a breakdown in communication.  The message I sent was not the message my students received.

My message was that homework would be assigned each day and the homework would not count for points.  The students apparently took this to mean that they did not need to do any homework, which is exactly what they did!

The important information I took away from this experience is that fourteen-year-old students will more likely do their homework if value (in this case, points) is given to their efforts and they will likely NOT do their homework if no value is given.

When I first flipped my Algebra class, I knew that I must assign points for watching the homework videos if I wanted the students to actually do the homework.  This has worked very well for me and my students.

We begin class each day with the students working a few warm up problems from the previous day’s topic while I check everyone’s notes from their homework videos.  I give 4 points if their notes are complete.  I do not accept incomplete notes at all, so no partial credit.  I direct students with no notes or incomplete notes to classroom computers to finish their assignment while the rest of us begin the activities for the day.

In the online grade book, I weight the homework category as only 5% of the overall grade.  This still validates homework for students and has little impact on their overall grade.

Where To Begin?

Wow!  So much to think about!  Where to begin?   Can I even make a video?  Can I start flipping in the middle of the semester or should I start at the beginning of a semester?  How will students react to the videos?  Can I make videos fast enough to keep pace with the curriculum?

I learned about flipping in the middle of second semester and had to decide if I could flip my class the following year.  I knew that I needed to be consistent in having videos ready to assign as homework if I wanted my students to become accustomed to watching the assigned videos.  I started by making videos for lessons I was currently teaching since the topics were fresh in my mind.  At the same time, I continued lecturing as usual in my classes that semester.

I made most of the videos for second semester before the end of that year. The week before final exams, my students watched these videos during class in the school’s computer lab as part of their review.  It worked well for students to pause the videos and rewind as necessary.  Students had favorable responses to the videos.   Some even continued watching videos at home as they reviewed for the final exam.

The favorable reactions I received gave me confidence and over summer break I recorded most of the lessons for first semester.  I still had a few lessons later in first semester to record after the new school year began.  I admit that I much preferred having videos ready to go well in advance.  While it might work for some teachers, I do not like the stress involved with “just in time flipping”.

By having my videos prepared ahead of time, each week I could focus on planning the classroom activities for that week’s upcoming lessons.   I’ll talk more about planning the classroom activities in another post.


Flipping Algebra Is NOT The Same As Flipping Social Studies

My first introduction to the flipped classroom was at a workshop that was led by a middle school Social Studies teacher.  I understood the concept and saw the benefits of flipping.  However, I could not relate the Social Studies teacher’s method to my Algebra class.
He would search the History Channel for a video about a topic such as the Roman Empire and provide a link for his students to watch the video at home as homework.  Then the students would have a discussion about the video the next day in class.

There are probably many appropriate videos on the History Channel relevant to the curriculum in a Social Studies class, but where do we go to find videos for Algebra?  Especially day after day, lesson after lesson?  I had to learn how to create my own videos, but did not know how to get started.  I then attended a conference and was introduced to tools that would allow me to do just that!

Discussions seem to be a natural part of a Social Studies class, and discussions in Algebra class can be valuable sometimes, but we cannot spend the entire Algebra class period discussing the content of the lesson in my video.  Students need time to actually practice working the types of problems in the lesson while they are in class.

I think flipping Algebra works well . . .  I did it and you can too!  I hope to share some of the insights I’ve gained and use this blog as a forum for discussion and to answer your questions about flipping Algebra.

Click here if you would like to see my videos outlining how I flipped my Algebra class