As a catechist, have you ever experienced the frustration of families not completing the family pages sent home after class, or never opening the text or thinking of last week’s message during the week, or felt like one session per week is just not enough time to engage children to the depth of understanding during the lesson? Sure, there are exceptions but if you can relate with any of these scenarios, read on!
There’s a new educational approach that’s creating quite a buzz: Flipped Classroom. If you’re not familiar, check out this overview. Flipping a classroom is sort of reversing the traditional approach to education. You know; class instruction, little time for activities or hands on learning, and homework. Flipping a class involves getting the students (and sometimes parents) involved with the lesson content before the lesson. Then, as class-time arrives, students have already been exposed to lesson content and possibly even instruction. Class is reserved for making meaning of the content through activity based, hands on, and even student led learning. It is important to understand that the degree of instruction or introduction to lesson content during the flip is negotiable. In the catechetical setting the flip may serve more of an evangelistic approach leaving the catechesis for the session.
How do I flip my class?
For the flip here is no set procedure you must follow. Teacher’s in the academic world have become very creative and since flipping came from higher education, online lectures kicked it off. For our purposes in *K-12 parish faith formation, depending on the grade, a lecture video might get the same response at home as a lecture does for many students in class! So, we might try a bit more creativity. Here is what I am doing to flip my classes: use a short video, encourage reflection, and motivate some kind of response.
For the video try using one of a zillion videos from any of the video sharing platforms: YouTube, GodTube, etc. So many great Catholic organizations have made it their mission to specifically create catechetical videos for the purpose of teaching. One note, I have used videos in classes for elementary grades but many are text heavy or simply move too quickly for some lower grade students to comprehend! Flipped presentations are great because students may view the video multiple times or even pause if needed. Another suggestion for videos is to create them with yourself with short personal reflections and examples from the lesson content. Interviews with the pastor, deacons, or other parishioners can be effective too! Finally, student led videos are very appealing to their peers.
Once you have decided on the video consider creating a few questions that get to the heart of the message. Catholic school school teachers/catechists may want attach a grade to these questions but parish catechists may not feel grading these responses are necessary. Either way, questions must encourage reflection by recalling information from the video, lead to higher level thinking by associating ideas or drawing conclusions, and motivate response.
Motivating response is hardly a new idea. Jesus did it, preachers do it, and marketing does it everyday. In faith formation we realize leading students to action is essential to the Gospel message. We can begin by having youth identify truths from the video content. After a couple of questions recalling information we may then simply ask for a free or constructed response. Ask a question that they have to write an answer from their own perspective…even if it’s short! The purpose is to get them thinking about what the topic means to their personal life experience or desires so that when they get to class you may springboard off their responses and achieve greater depth of learning more quickly. Another benefit of having students provide a response is that they have invested themselves into the learning process before the session. Students are more likely to become engaged having already thought about the content and formulated some concept of what the session will be about. Finally, you as the catechist will benefit from having access to their thoughts prior to the session.
How do I put it together?
Again, keep in mind that there really is no right or wrong way to flip. It may be arguable that so much experimentation is happening in the educational arena but couldn’t it be argued that doing nothing is potentially harmful as well! The point is to find what works with your class and Catholic climate, whatever grade level. Whether it’s with technology or methodology we are obligated to find solutions for the sake of our children. Having said that, Caroline Quinn posted an excellent blog on using Google Forms and Flubaroo for the flipped classroom. She creates forms for students to complete before classes and uses Flubaroo to grade them. Students get an immediate score by email and she gets the list of scores.
In the parish setting I am also using Google Forms to create my flipped classroom. I create a form that has the title of the class, the video of choice, asks for the student’s first name, and a few questions. Here’s a sample. It only takes a few minutes to put together and is ready to go. Don’t worry, you may edit at any time and if you teach the same grade again next year you’ll already have this taken care of! Parishes (or schools) with multiple grade level classes can share the load among several catechists of creating and using the flips! Additionally, I suggest creating all your flips before the class year begins. That way you can focus on planning the perfect classroom experience.
One last thing. You may wonder how to get the students to the Google Form. You may either email or text the link to the students (or parents), post the link on your website and have them find it, or use a service like Remind. Remind is a free service that offers safe text messaging to students and parents. It offers one-way delivery so they cannot respond and you never see their phone number or email addresses. So for flipped classrooms, its perfect, and a safe alternative to emails. You can set up all of the messages at the beginning of the year to be delivered on specific dates and times. You may then rest comfortably knowing you have completely flipped out, and your students will love you for it!
*Due to the dependence on a technology to access flips, and the maturity to process information, flipping may be best for grades 6-12.