Flipping the Social Studies Classroom

More reasons you should consider flipping your classroom.

By: Melissa J. Dugan

What's so great about flipped classrooms?

Flipped teaching is a great way to create an active, vibrant classroom and enhance student learning. It requires students to complete lower levels of cognitive work outside the classroom and focus on the application, analysis, evaluation, and creation in class. The classroom activities are largely hands-on, teacher-guided, higher-level cognitive work.

Teachers become facilitators as students gather information, discuss, problem solve, and engage in project-based learning. As the students work individually and in groups, their active learning creates deeper understanding and improved retention of knowledge gained.

AMLE talks with author Melissa Dugan about Flipping Your Social Studies Class

Flipping the classroom is a good example of differentiating lesson plans. Students are given basic assignments of material they must cover at home by way of teacher-generated videos/lectures which they can study at their own pace with as much review and repetition as they require.

Time to Learn

When classroom instruction is lecture-based, students are taught to take guided notes. A disadvantage here is that some students write faster than others and are bored, while others rush to keep up with the pace of the class.

Under the flipped teaching plan, students study the material at home, where they can take notes at their own pace. Without the stress to "keep up," students have time to better absorb the information.

Also, reviewing content and taking notes at home allows students time to formulate questions they may have about the material.

Incorporating Technology

Having a basic knowledge of material assigned and studied at home, students are now ready to apply that learning to hands-on classroom activities. Here are some examples of engaging social studies activities that incorporate technology and brings students' ideas to life.

1. Students research an historical event, such as the Great Depression, World War II, or the Vietnam War, collecting information from the Internet, books, and family interviews. They write their presentation, then pair photos with their narration and use an app like iMovie or their smart phone/device to create a movie. Students share their work via iBook, on a classroom website, or even on a YouTube channel.

2. Students create a 30-second video explaining a social studies topic, such as the cause of World War I, using their own cell phones or devices. They email their videos to the teacher, who can quickly assess their grasp of the material.

3. Students use Glogster (www.glogster.com) to create animated posters about an historical event. Glogster is user-friendly and offers lots of bells and whistles to include in animations. Students can use graphics, original photos, Internet images, and videos to create class presentations that are easy to share.

4. A popular group activity that keeps students engaged incorporates Kahoot (getkahoot.com) which is a fun, interactive game.

In small groups, students compete against other groups by correctly answering teacher-created or contributed questions in a timely fashion.

Addressing the Challenges

Incorporating flipped teaching isn't always easy; there will be challenges. For example, teachers must find the time to create videos for students to view at home and ensure they have meaningful enrichment activities for students during class time.

They also must ensure all students have access to a computer and the Internet. Teachers and administrators might provide computer time for those students who need it before school, during a study hall, or after school.

Flipping the classroom requires time and effort, but seeing students engaged in their own learning makes it worthwhile.

Melissa J. Dugan is middle school dean of students and a language arts/history teacher at Elgin Academy in Elgin, Illinois.

Published in AMLE Magazine, April 2016.

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5 comments on article "Flipping the Social Studies Classroom"

I agree that flipping the classroom is vital for this new era of education. The issues lie with rural communities and migrant communities that might not have access to the internet. What could be some ways to solve such issues?

5/15/2017 12:48 PM

I have always wanted to try running a flipped classroom, in social studies as well as in mathematics. Again, I struggle to come up with what I will say to the student who has reason after reason for why s/he cannot complete or view the lectures and notes outside of the classroom. However, it's not like we don't already have that problem with students being unable to complete homework in a regular classroom.

That being said, the first step in including these students is assuming that they are trying to complete the assignment (not that they are making up excuses or being "lazy"). I would agree to always provide a time and place for students to complete the assigned task outside of class. For the benefit of all students, always have a student-led review of the material learned before engaging in the activities.

Make sure in opportunities of social learning that the students who often have trouble getting the at-home assignment complete are paired or grouped with students from whom they could learn the material, which could change up everyday or every so often (these students are then able to practice the material they have learned by teaching or demonstrating it). They also should be assigned tasks in groups that they can reasonably complete whether they have done the at-home assignment or not. This is also a way to engage those students who maybe simply choose to not complete the assignments. Success breeds success, so when you provide them with opportunities to be successful, they are likely to be more inclined to do the at-home tasks so that they can be even more successful in class. You as the teacher do not have to communicate with anyone except that student and his/her parents the reasons behind their in-class tasks.

Remember: fairness is not giving everyone the same thing at the same time. It's giving everyone exactly what they need when they need it.

12/9/2017 12:33 PM

I like the idea of a flipped classroom and the benefit it could have especially on the social studies class. By having students complete the lecture and notes online it leaves class time for more engaging activities that reinforce the content. The biggest challenge is how do you go about doing this in a rural school, or if you students are from low SES families. There will be students who are constantly saying they can't watch the videos and complete notes, should these students be punished and excluded from the activities because they don't have the resources to view the lecture.

4/29/2018 11:54 AM

While I feel this creates a fair amount of additional work for the instructor, It sets the in class experience up for such great successes it seems very worth while. Kayla's comment above made a great point, we can't expect all students to be able to complete all work at home all the time. This can be accounted for by pairing them with students who we know have completed all of the at home work.

12/5/2019 11:22 AM

I have been trying to figure out how I will run my classroom and I don't want such a traditional form of instruction because times are constantly changing. Practicing a flipped classroom is such a wonderful possibility. I really appreciate the openness and flexibility of it, and it also allows for students to take more responsibility of their education. This type of classroom is based around the students progess, and I think that should be the focus. Students won't get grades and gold stars after school, but they will continue to see their own progress in life.

4/13/2020 12:21 PM

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