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Transitioning from Direct Instruction to a Flipped Classroom

Marc Seigel
Chemistry Teacher, Middletown High School South
Middletown, NJ

This year will be my 5th year flipping high school chemistry. My learning environment is very different from many of my colleagues’, and I find that my students function better by transitioning into a flipped model of instruction as opposed to simply jumping straight into it at the beginning of the year. At the start of the school year, my initial aim is to change students’ mindsets about learning by altering my assessments (using mastery and student choice) and lab activities (introducing guided-inquiry), and then I start using video for instruction about 2 months into the school year. By the time I remove myself from the front of the room and put myself onto the computer, they are so used to thinking differently that the adjustment period is much shorter.

If you are thinking about flipping your classroom, here are several methods that have helped me smoothly transition my students:


1. Use the videos to start a class discussion.

The TED Ed Web site (ed.ted.com) is a wonderful resource for finding short, animated science videos to illustrate topics, and it can serve as an excellent first step toward using video for instruction. Just How Small Is an Atom? by Jon Bergmann and How Big is a Mole? by Daniel Dulek are 2 that I use as starter activities to introduce a lesson and begin a discussion on a topic. The TED Ed videos work well because the content is created by educators for educators so it uses simple terms and also gives real-world analogies to make it easier for students to understand. Also, the animation is excellent and helps keep kids’ attention. The TED Ed videos can be used for instructional purposes as well. One of the few instructional videos I use in my AP® Chemistry class is How to Speed Up Chemical Reactions (and How to Get a Date) by Aaron Sams and Mark Paricio. This video perfectly summarizes everything my students need to know about collision theory and reaction rates for the Kinetics unit. I assign this video for homework, ask them a series of follow-up questions the next day, then we perform a rate-law lab that demonstrates what they learned in the video. Students are then required, as part of their conclusion statements, to explain how the different reactions in the lab illustrate the methods for speeding up the chemical reaction that was shown in the video. 

2. Record examples you complete in class.

The first instructional video I created was simply a recording of me completing 2 example problems in class. A student made a comment that she really wished there was a way to hear me explain the hard examples again when she was studying. I used a video camera to record the computer monitor while I wrote everything out on the interactive whiteboard (IWB) and then dubbed my voice over the writing later. You can do this easily now, simply by asking a student to come by during lunch or after school, handing him/her your cell phone, and asking him/her to record what you write on the board. It will take 5 minutes to record and seconds to upload to YouTube or your Web site. Or, if you have an IWB, use a program like Snagit by TechSmith to capture all of your writing to share later.

3. Create instructional videos to serve as notes only, with no examples.

One comment my students make is that either my videos are too long (keep them under 10 minutes!) or that I provide too many examples. What I have started to do is create 2 sets of videos: 1 that is strictly notes that contains things like definitions or diagrams, and a second that contains only examples of how to solve problems. Some of my students watch the videos on bus rides to athletic events and say they can’t concentrate well enough on a bus to truly understand the problems I show, but the definitions are easy to get down in their notebook without much thinking.

4. Hold students accountable.

What you will need to remember, regardless of the purpose of your video, is you must hold students accountable for watching the videos. You can use a Cornell notes system, have students generate original questions based on what they learned, tie all assessments directly to the learning in the videos, or have them complete reflection logs after each video. Kids are used to watching videos for entertainment only. You need to help your students see the videos as learning tools as well and help them develop strategies to retain what they learn from watching them.


I hope these tips are helpful as you transition from a classroom utilizing primarily direct instruction to a flipped classroom. Video is a powerful way to excite students about a topic and to deliver content that will help you better utilize class time.