Flipped Videos

Flipping your classroom is a fantastic idea. You should do it, especially if you are a math or science teacher. Flipping is perfect and easier for those subjects. For other subjects, I think flipping is a bit harder, but still doable. I teach sophomores English. This is how I flip my classroom.

In my classroom, flipping is a compliment to my teaching. I don’t flip everything. I don’t live and die by the flip. Flipping should be done for three reasons: 1) so absent students don’t miss out (2) so we don’t punish students who don’t get something the first time (3) so students can get a refresher whenever they want. Three is most important to me because I only flip concepts that my students will need all year. For example, if I teach thesis statements in September when they write their first paper and my second paper isn’t until October, it is most likely my kids have forgotten about thesis statements by then and need a refresher. With my flipped videos, they can go back, watch, and review how to write a thesis statement as many times as they want, whenever they want, until they remember.

Not every student gets everything the first time. They shouldn’t be punished for that, but I also don’t want to hold up my whole class because a few kids don’t get something the first time. After my live lecture on a concept, I release the kids who get it and let them go start their activities. For those who don’t get it, I have them watch the flipped video on the classroom computer or their phone. If they watch it a couple times, and still don’t get it, they can ask as classmate. If they still don’t get it, then they can come see me for one-on-one help. Differentiating this way lets me spend most of my time helping students on the more difficult activity, lets other students be the teacher (which is the best way to learn something), and doesn’t punish a kid who doesn’t get it right away. Rarely does a student ever need to see me for one-on-one time. The live lecture, flipped video, and asking a classmate is usually enough to get them on the same page. Don’t let students ask a classmate before they watch the video a couple times because now that student they asked isn’t working on the activity.

I link my videos to my class concept map that I publish on Schoology, so the kids can easily access it anytime, or many just subscribe to my YouTube channel. Here is what my class concept map looks like. It’s a work in progress, and I’m not in love with it yet, but you get the idea. I think a concept map is important to have so students can visualize how everything you are teaching is connected.

I rarely flip my lectures on content. For instance, I don’t make a flipped video about the life of J.D. Salinger when we read Catcher in the Rye. I don’t make a flipped video on what Holden’s red hunting hat symbolizes either, but I do have a conceptual video on what symbolism is and how to find symbols and decipher their meaning. They watch the video for a refresher if they need it, and then apply it to the red hunting hat or any other story we read throughout the year. I think that’s better than making a specific video for each instance. There’s nothing wrong with flipping your content, I guess, it’s just not for me. I get more out of my kids when I flip the concepts and make them work to use the concepts on the different content throughout the year. Additionally, if I flipped content too, I feel like I’d have a thousand videos.

So how do you make a flipped video?

First, decide what you want to flip and record your video. This means you’ll need a mic and screen capture software. If you are willing to pay, you’re going to want Camtasia 8. If you want free, you’ll want Screencast O’matic. These are the best out there, but feel free to include your favorite in the comments.

Your video should be five to seven minutes long for high schoolers. If it’s longer than that, you need to make more, separate videos. Don’t ask your students to pause a video while they answer questions. Keeping things in small, manageable, self-contained chunks is key when you want students to remember things. Have your videos start and stop in a logical place. You should also get a webcam and include an overlay of yourself talking. Students like to be able to see you rather than a disembodied voice. Don’t worry, you’ll be small enough on the screen that no one will notice all your weird facial tics and abnormalities (apparently my left eye is bigger than my right eye?!). They’ll be looking at the words/pictures on the screen more than anything anyway.

You can use a bunch of different mediums to present the information to your students. PowerPoint and Prezi are my favorite.  I use mostly PowerPoint since I have them already made. I use Prezi occasionally, especially if there is a visual connection that can be made with the lesson.  Like when I teach dramatic structure, I use a roller coaster Prezi to show the rise and fall of all stories. If I was teaching Science, I would use a Prezi to show the different parts of an atom. In History, I would use a Prezi to show troop movements in World War II. Prezi is best when used for a purpose; the WOW factor doesn’t last long and all that zooming around can be distracting to students.

Finally, and most importantly when it comes to making a video, we have to talk about perfection. The only thing that should be perfect in your video is your information. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong for your students, their parents, and the whole world to see. Spend most of your time making sure your info is accurate. Besides that, you need to understand done is better than perfect.

Like most teachers, I am a perfectionist. I feel like nothing I do is ever good enough. I feel like this post I’m writing isn’t good enough, I feel like my lessons aren’t good enough, I feel like every flipped video I make isn’t good enough. When I first started flipping, it took me ninety minutes to make a seven minute video! I kept restarting every time I felt like I made a mistake. In my mind, the mistakes were glaring, long-lasting, and unforgiveable, but when I asked a former student for their opinion, they didn’t even notice the mistakes I was so hung up on. That’s when I decided done is better than perfect. If I say uh or um, cough, or stumble over a word I keep going and you should too. Plow through your video. Don’t stop unless there’s a catastrophic mistake. One reason I like power point the best is I can pause for a second before and after I change a slide. That way if I do mess up horribly, I have an easy place to restart and edit from instead of going all the way back to the beginning.

So you have your five to seven minute, good-but-not-prefect video. Now what? Put it on YouTube and create a link and/or an assignment in your learning management system (LMS). I use Schoology; I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve tried a ton of systems and Schoology crushes everyone. Even more so now because they have badges!

Your video is made, published, and pushed to your students. Now, what if you want to have your students watch the video at home so you can do something more hands on in class? How do you get them to watch it at home? You have to assess it! No way around it. The best assessment I’ve used involves embedding the video and then embedding a Google form under it. The Google form should include a few easy questions on the key concepts of the video that should be easy to get if the kids watched it. It is important to include a “What did you not understand” type of question, too. These questions should be something you address as a class the next day, before your activity.

Assessing the lecture you want them to watch at home is not only necessary, but also why I don’t try to sell my kids on the whole “you’ll watch me lecture at home and well do homework in class” thing that flippers push. Kids don’t buy it. If they have to do something at home, it’s homework, and they won’t do it if it doesn’t count. Also, quick tip: don’t tell students you want to try this new flipping thing! People are afraid of new things. I promise students and parents will complain just because you said it’s new, experimental, or different. Tell students, parents, and administration that flipping is a better way to learn because of the benefits I outlined earlier, or, better yet, don’t say anything about it at all. Just assign it like it’s something you’ve been doing forever.

Hopefully my way of flipping my classroom gave you some ideas on how to improve your classroom. Good luck!


  • You were recently mentioned in a Schoology PD I attended, and I decided to have a look for myself. Naturally I fell in love with the great things you are doing, and figured I needed to start at the beginning of your blog. So forgive my lateness to this party…

    As a math teacher, I need to be able to write symbols and do things that would be so time consuming to have on a pre-made presentation. I use Educreations on my iPad so that I am able to do just that. I agree that it would make things more personal if student’s were able to see my face too, but for time sake, I need to be able to draw and manipulate what I’m working on solving or explaining. Plus, it’s a free app, and I’m all about that!

  • I love what you are doing! I too incorporate lots of 21st century stuff in my classes, but haven’t jumped all in like this. I’m curious how what you do works with others in your school who teach the same courses. I feel like I have freedom, but I’m supposed to be givingcommon projects and tests, and have a common grading policy.

  • Chris Aviles

    @Sharanda – If we see farther its because we stand on the shoulders of giants. Many of my ideas were synthesized from others. Steal away!

  • Chris Aviles

    @Kristin – I do quite a bit of peer assessment. They assess themselves with each assignment and for group work they assess their peers. I find it really works well. I’ll write about it in depth soon!

    @Helen – If letting your students move on works for you, that’s awesome. I use anchor activities to engage my students who are done early. I send my early-finishers to sites like iTunes U, Khan Academy, and Coursera.com while we wait for other students. If they complete a unit on these sites and bring me a certificate of completion, they get awarded an achievement (my class is a multiple player game). They can also work on their “Be About It” project, which is a year long project similar to the 20% Google project. Finally, they can buy a “redo” with their achievements points to attempt to get a better grade on an assignment from the current unit. These three anchor activities (redos, down time websites, and year long project) keep everyone busy, and surprisingly happy, until we are ready to move on as a group.

  • I am super excited about your classroom ideas. I teach 10th grade English as well and have a 1:1 classroom. I love using technology and am excited to try something new with gamifying and flipping. Just so you know, I’m definitely stealing a lot of your stuff! =)

  • Would you consider a 4th reason to flip to give students who are ready to move on an opportunity to work ahead or try something new? This was a great reason for my students so they could preview the next project/lesson and start thinking ahead.

  • Great to hear about your “Brave New World” Chris!
    I’ll be interested to follow your efforts as we move into a new school year. I’ve been dabbling in many aspects of today’s 21st century classroom, too. As a 1st year teacher last year – I had to have a good “editor” to keep sane and take it slow.
    I’ll be interested in hearing how you’ll track and use assessment as you move forward.