What 4th Graders Taught Me about Flipped Lessons

Last month I wrote about risk-taking and collaboration. I reflected on my work with a fourth-grade teacher to design information literacy lessons. What I did not say in my last post was that the teacher and I collaborated to create flipped lessons. Remember: instructors are delivering a flipped lesson when, “instead of a lecture in class and hands-on work at home, instructors assign material to be reviewed ahead of time, allowing for problem solving activities during class time” (Fawley, 2014, pg. 19).

The development of flipped lessons reflects the growth in digital lessons for K-12 students. By the time students finish college, most of them will have to take an online class. Introducing students to flipped lessons will prepare them for their future. In addition to preparing students for college, many educators find flipped lessons helpful because adapting the delivery of lessons provides more time for problem solving and delivering student-centered lessons. Do you remember the student-centered strategies that I mentioned in my last post?

Because school librarians are already excellent models for implementing technology in schools (Everhart, Mardis, and Johnston, 2011; Smith, 2010, 2014; Wine, 2016), employing digital and flipped lessons affords us with an opportunity for providing our students with 24-7 access to lessons. In addition, school librarians frequently find that we have limited instructional time to assist whole classes. We need to make the most of the time that we have with students. Using flipped lessons can help jumpstart lessons by taking care of the basic details before classes visit the library.

Here is a scenario to think about. The entire fourth grade will be studying the history of your state at the end of the year. You have decided that you don’t want to do a boring lesson about where the biographies and history books are. Instead, you want to incorporate digital storytelling to allow the students to become curators and producers of information. However, this project will begin during the last month of school. Time will be limited. How can you and the teachers collaborate to teach the students research skills and a new digital tool, while helping them to locate assignment resources? You can use flipped lessons. The students will be able to begin learning about the new tool and specialized digital resources at home. When the students visit the library, they will get reinforcement lessons and hands-on assistance.

This is what happened when I collaborated with the fourth-grade teacher to design the lessons for the students. While I understood the opportunity that flipped lessons presented for school librarians, I did not know how students would react to the lessons. There is not an abundance of research about school librarians and flipped or blended lessons. Here are some things that I learned:

  1. Keep parents informed. Parents have to be introduced to the concept of flipped lessons. Otherwise, they will think that their children are being assigned “busy work” and will not support the lessons. Work with the teachers to send the parents an introduction letter, a schedule of lessons, and password information for their children. In addition, create some tutorials for them. The teacher and I sent a packet of information home with the children and put it in a LiveBinder.
  2. Choose an easy platform for lessons. The teacher and I used Playposit because it integrates with Edmodo, is great for multiple grade levels, and was free. The school already was using Edmodo, which gave the students a familiar portal for accessing PlayPosit. Playposit allows instructors to embed questions in videos, which in turn provides quick assessments. Then instructors can follow up on the questions that the students missed face-to-face. Another tool that you might like is EdPuzzle.
  3. Include the teacher in the online lessons. According to the students, they enjoyed the lessons. Most of them were recorded using PowToon and integrated videos from other sources. However, they wanted to hear their teacher’s voice too. If you are not able to record all of the lessons with the teacher, at least try to include the teacher in 30-second introductions to the lessons.
  4. Preparation is the key. Be sure to test drive the platform with multiple devices. This includes your phone. Students need to be taught how to use the platform face-to-face. Do the first lesson with the students in class. Make tutorials for them too.
  5. Keep the passwords simple. You want to be sure that you are assessing student knowledge. This will require you to create accounts for each student if you are using a tool like PlayPosit. The teacher and I decided to use the same password that the students were using to access online district resources. Do your students have usernames and passwords for lunch or for using digital library resources? These are good options for accessing their flipped lessons.
  6. Work smarter, not harder. If you plan to update the lesson, don’t record the lesson using one long screencast. Instead use tools like PowerPoint 365, Sway, Knovio, and Adobe Presenter to create presentations with slides or video segments that can easily be replaced.
  7. Offer multiple access options. Some of the students will not be able to access the lessons at home for various reasons. Always arrange for them to access the lessons during the school day, before, and/or after school. You don’t want the optional access to make the students feel uncomfortable. Offer it to everyone. This will help with students who may feel embarrassed because they cannot access the lesson before class.
  8. Keep the lesson length reasonable. If the lessons are too long, the students will not watch them in their entirety. If they are too short, believe it or not, they will complain that the lessons are a waste of their time. I found that 8-10 minutes with questions throughout the video and at the end was good for this class.

In conclusion, I had a great time working with the teacher and the students. Students are often wise beyond their years! Getting their feedback helped me understand some of the consequences and benefits of flipped lessons. Don’t be afraid to ask your students and teachers about the technology tools that you are incorporating into class. Their advice is valuable and will enhance your instruction.

Would you like to know more about my results? An article is available in Library Hi Tech News (Volume 33 Issue 8, pages 19 – 23). I also wrote another article about flipped lessons for the Texas Library Journal (Volume 92, Issue 2, pages 54-55). Please see the professional development below.

April 2017 Professional Development

Title:  3 Cool Tools for Student Response

  • Organization: TeachersFirst
  • Date: Tuesday, April 04, 2017 @ 06:00 pm – 07:30 pm CDT
  • Description: Explore, compare, and contrast 3 free online student response tools for formative assessment in the classroom. Explore how student response tools can be used to engage students, increase interaction and provide feedback. Participants will compare and contrast three free online student response tools, learn about the features of each, and explore ways to use them in the classroom. A question/answer period will be available to help with individual questions.
  • Link: https://events-na8.adobeconnect.com/content/connect/c1/1116418017/en/events/event/shared/1127345348/event_registration.html?sco-id=2073786621

Title:  Closing the Gender Gap in Computer Science Begins in Elementary School

  • Organization: EdWeb.net
  • Date: Thursday, April 06, 2017 @ 03:00 pm – 04:00 pm EDT
  • Description: It’s estimated that by 2020, as many as 3.8 million jobs in the US will be computer science-related. Yet to date, only seven states have created computer science standards for K-12 education. Even more troubling is that while tech jobs are among the fastest growing in the country, girls are being left behind. Though interest in computer science across all students ebbs over time, the biggest drop-off happens with girls between the ages of 13-17. Today’s educators can empower and prepare their students for the future, especially girls, by equipping them with computational thinking and coding skills starting as early as kindergarten. Join us for an exciting webinar with Sarah Judd, Senior Curriculum Developer for Girls Who Code, a renowned non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. Sarah’s engaging presentation will:
    • Debunk some of the myths about teaching coding
    • Provide fun ways to introduce computer science concepts, even in younger grades
    • Offer practical tips to combat the gender gap in technology with your students
  • Link: https://www.anymeeting.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EC59D787884C3F

Title:  Digital Storytelling In the Classroom Pt 3: Adding Tech Tools

  • Organization: TeachersFirst
  • Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 @ 06:00 pm – 07:30 pm CDT
  • Description: Join us to explore free options for creating digital storytelling projects with your students. Using digital storytelling as a formative assessment across subject areas, you can meet curricular objectives while engaging learners in cross-curricular writing. Come to this webinar to explore free options for creating digital stories with your students. Building on our fall and winter sessions, learn how to successfully create a well-planned digital storytelling project for your class and create a sample project. Attendance at the previous sessions is not required for participation in this session which is appropriate for teachers at all technology levels. Note: Feel free to register for this session even if you did not attend Parts 1 and 2 of our Digital Storytelling three-part series. The content in this session does not require any prerequisite knowledge.
  • Link: https://events-na8.adobeconnect.com/content/connect/c1/1116418017/en/events/event/shared/1127345348/event_registration.html?sco-id=2073768987

Title:  15 Free STEM-tastic Tools for Educators

  • Organization: SimpleK12
  • Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 02:00 pm – 02:30 pm EDT
  • Description: Would you like to make science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics engaging and meaningful for all students? Join Todd Beard as he explores 15 free STEM-related resources that will increase critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and computational thinking. Using a cross-curricular approach, he will examine opportunities that benefit educators and students from kindergarten through adulthood. Come discover how combining state-of-the art technologies and programs with proven practices can create opportunities for achievement with real-world experiences. 
  • Link: http://community.simplek12.com/scripts/student/webinars/view.asp?id=2739

Title:  10 Free Ways to STEM the Gap

  • Organization: SimpleK12
  • Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 03:00 pm – 03:30 pm EDT
  • Description: Would you like to learn about ways other teachers and industry leaders are making connections using STEM education across the curriculum? Join Microsoft Fellow Todd Beard as he discusses how we can work together to “STEM the Gap” with hands-on tools and activities. Todd will cover why it is so important to immerse our students in the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. He will explain how to integrate STEM tools in the classroom so that students can create and collaborate with others. In addition, Todd will share some great, free STEM tools and resources available to students, teachers, and parents, and show how the Microsoft Education Community can help. Come discover all of this and more! 
  • Link: http://community.simplek12.com/scripts/student/webinars/view.asp?id=2740

Title:  45 Ways to Support Struggling Readers: A School-Wide Approach

  • Organization: EdWeb.net
  • Date: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 03:00 pm – 04:00 pm EDT
  • Description: The statistics are staggering: More than 10 million American students struggle to read, but only 2.3 million are identified and even fewer receive special help. As school leaders, we need to bridge that gap by creating a culture of reading when reading is a barrier. We need to empower and support educators with school-wide programs that embrace different learning styles and prioritize continuity from one grade to the next. In this webinar, Learning Ally’s Terrie Noland, National Director of Educator Engagement, and Kristy Mathieu, third grade teacher at Kiker Elementary in Austin, TX, will share:
    • Examples of the fun and exciting ways you can build a culture of reading in your school (Have you ever considered bringing a furry friend into the school as a reading buddy? You just might when you learn what some schools are doing.)
    • Actionable ideas and tips to invigorate your school and excite students to read when reading has been a struggle.
    • Webinar bonus:Attendees will receive a 16-page downloadable guide that describes the 45 ways to support struggling readers.
  • Link: https://www.anymeeting.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EC59DB85894B3B

Title:  Creating Positive Relationships: Practical Steps for Positive Classrooms

  • Organization: EdWeb.net
  • Date: Monday, April 24, 2017 @ 04:00 pm – 05:00 pm EDT
  • Description: A positive relationship is a prerequisite for learning. In the presentation, we look at practical steps for enabling positive classrooms, decreasing disciplinary issues, and engaging the left-out learner. This webinar will be especially valuable for teachers, administrators, department chairs and PLC teams.
  • Link: https://www.anymeeting.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EC59DD8183473A

Title:  Differentiating the K-8 Classroom

  • Organization: TeachersFirst
  • Date: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 @ 06:00 pm – 07:30 pm CDT
  • Description: Learn to use instructional technology strategies that invite differentiation and provide opportunities to tailor your teaching to reach all students. Untangle the web of differentiation with the help of Tomlinson’s model. Explore the pedagogy behind differentiation to find various combinations of tools to enable you to meet the needs of your students by differentiating for interest and readiness. Learn to use technology tools to differentiate in various content areas quickly. Begin to develop a plan that fits your students’ individual needs.
  • Link: https://events-na8.adobeconnect.com/content/connect/c1/1116418017/en/events/event/shared/1127345348/event_registration.html?sco-id=2073778932

Title:  Structuring the Learning Environment to Promote Positive Behaviors

  • Organization: EdWeb.net
  • Date: Thursday, April 27, 2017 @ 02:00 pm – 03:00 pm EDT
  • Description: Is inappropriate student behavior driving you up the wall? If you’d like to learn how to envision improvements, this webinar will help you. The insights, advice, and strategies that will be shared are based on research and practical experience analyzing, restructuring, and transforming numerous school and afterschool learning environments. The focus will be on supporting the leader’s role in arranging the parts, elements, or constituents of any organization.
  • Link: https://www.anymeeting.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=EC59D88382483F

Title:  The Art of Coding

  • Organization: InfoPeople
  • Date: Thursday, April 27, 2017 @ 03:00 pm – 04:00 pm EST
  • Description: Are you interested in offering a coding program, but not sure where to begin? Join us for this one-hour webinar that will cover how to facilitate a coding club or workshop in the context of art making. Presenter Sylvia Aguiñaga will explore fundamental coding concepts and how to apply them specifically to visual design. Not only is this is a great way to engage kids of all ages, it is also especially effective for motivating students to express themselves in a creative way while teaching critical coding & life skills. Additionally, because art making is such an impactful method of self-expression, it is especially effective in recruiting girls into the world of coding. At the end of this one-hour webinar, participants will:
    • Explain what coding art means and why it’s important
    • Use the resources provided to launch a coding club or an introductory workshop
    • Apply teaching techniques that will help cultivate a safe and engaging learning environment. 
  • Link: https://infopeople.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=671


Everhart, N., Mardis, M. and Johnston, M. P. (2011), “National board certified school librarians’ leadership in technology integration: results of a national survey”, available at: http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol14/SLR_NationalBoardCertified_V14.pdf (accessed 10 March 2016).

Fawley, N. N. (2014), “Flipped classrooms”, American Libraries, Vol. 45 No. 9/10, pp.19.

Jarmoluk. (2017). “Apple education school knowledge”, available at: https://pixabay.com/en/apple-education-school-knowledge-256261/ (accessed 10 March 2016).

Smith, D. (2010), “Making the case for the leadership role of school librarians in technology integration”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 617-631.

Wine, L. D. (2016). “School librarians as technology leaders: An evolution in practice”, Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 207-220.






Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Professional Development, STEM/STEAM, Technology

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