The "Unplugged" Flipped Classroom

The more I heard about the "flipped" classroom model, the better it sounded - introduce students to a topic at home and then work through and learn the process/content in class with the teacher. And then I did the (warning, I'm about to go very cryptic with the next reference) "Hey ... HEY!" double-take from classic 1940's films like "It's a Wonderful Life" because I think my classroom has always been flipped (if I understand it correctly).

My English students do a lot of reading during the course of the year and almost all of it is done at home. They do the assigned reading and we discuss it the following day (usually after a quick "did you do the reading?" quiz at the beginning of class). The discussions usually include reading of passages from the text out loud, which is an important part of the process to understanding and appreciating literature. Maybe it is because I have always done things in this manner and therefore, I am a little biased, but it seems like this works great for literature. Of course, some reading assignments are more difficult and students need to be "prepped" in some way (Shakespeare comes to mind) ahead of time.

The hope is that the class discussion turns from "how to approach the reading" to what ideas are being presented and why. That's one of the reasons why the readings (maybe with a little nudge from me :)) need to give students something to latch on to. Otherwise, I will lose them along the way.

This unplugged version of a flipped classroom has worked in my literature courses but has been met with some resistance from those who believe that assigning any homework is a bad thing. Honestly, I'm not sure I can be convinced to change the process. Having students read great stories and discuss and experience them as a classroom community is a very positive thing. Note that the word "great" does not necessarily imply classic, important, or something parents can brag about at a cocktail party that their son is reading. It is simply something that is very effective with high school boys and leads to the discussion of their ideas generated from the reading. It's a process that they hopefully continue for the rest of their lives.


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