Flipping Without Flipping Out (part 3)

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Yesterday, Dana and I celebrated the publication of our second book: Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach. We are enthusiastic about sharing with you the ways that flipped learning has been instrumental in our writing workshops.

In previous blogs, we’ve discussed two of the major reasons we’ve turned to flipped learning in our writing workshops: Individualization and Efficiency. Today we’d like to spotlight another reason: Engagement.

At the TCRWP Digital Learning Day, Heidi Hayes Jacobs asked, “What pedagogy best serves engagement?” This is a question Dana and I have asked ourselves over the years as we strive to reach every learner in our classrooms. Patty Vitalle-Reily explains that, “Engagement is the act of being invested in learning. Engaged learners are passionate, hardy, persistent, thoughtful, committed, and connected to their work” (Engaging Every Learner: Classroom Principles, Strategies, and Tools – Heinemann, 2015). It has been our experience that flipped learning is such pedagogy that motivates students to become active participants in their own learning, demonstrating greater independence and agency in the learning process.

Example #1 – How many of us have had students exclaim during our writing workshops, “I’m done! What do I do next?” Taking a flipped learning approach in our writing workshops results in students never having to ask this question. As teachers create flipped lessons in anticipation of the various needs of our classrooms, students access these lessons and move seamlessly throughout the writing process from generating ideas to publication. If, for example, five students are ready to move on to editing when the rest of the class isn’t, this is no longer a problem. A flipped lesson on capitalization or tense agreement can help students move on to the editing process when they’re ready.

Example #2 – When we have students who are stuck on a particular step during the writing process, we can help them to demonstrate persistence with flipped lessons. Students can work with their teacher during a conference or in a small group, and they can continue practicing a strategy at home using a flipped lesson. They can even review the lesson in class the next day if needed. In this way, teachers can emphasize the importance of perseverance while students make use of the support they need to make progress.

One of the key factors of engagement in classrooms in 2016 is technology. Students are using devices regularly outside of school as part of their daily lives. If we want to engage students and create enthusiasm in the classroom  about curriculum, a blended learning approach is essential. For these reasons and more, we’ve turned to flipped learning and have been thrilled by the difference it has made in our writing workshops.

Next week we’ll reveal our #4 and #5 reasons for flipping lessons in our writing workshops!



Flip Your Writing Workshop


We are so proud to announce that our new book, Flip Your Writing Workshop, comes out today! In this new book, we teach you how you can successfully flip your writing workshop.

No matter where you are in the process of flipping, we’ll teach you the strategies and techniques you need for creating a flipped writing workshop lesson. If you’re new to flipped learning, no problem. If you’ve been flipping lessons for a while, no problem. We provide examples of flipped lessons that use simple technology and lessons that use more sophisticated technology.

Also, we walk you through how you might use flipped lessons throughout a writing workshop unit. From generating ideas to celebrating your students’ final drafts, our book can help you envision how you might use flipped learning in your writing workshop.

Our book offers advice on:

  • How to use flipped learning to enhance your writing workshop
  • Differentiating your instruction for individuals and small groups
  • Creating engaging flipped lessons
  • Assessing flipped learning
  • Answering administrators’ and parents’ questions about flipped learning
  • And a lot more!


Is Flipping Your Writing Workshop For You?


Take our survey below to see if flipping your writing workshop might help you! 

Answer Yes or No to the following questions.

1. Do you find that students are in all different phases of their writing during writing workshop? (Some are generating ideas, some are drafting, some are revising, etc.?)

2. Do you find that you have students who are anxious to move forward but cannot because they need additional instruction?

3. Are some students stuck in a phase of writing (for example: struggling to generate ideas to write about) while everyone else in the class is ready to move forward?

4. Do you find yourself repeating minilessons throughout the year? Are there 5 minilessons that you wish could be filmed so you didn’t have to teach them over and over? (Examples: paragraph structure, dialogue punctuation, how to use a period, leads)

5. Would you like to increase personalized learning opportunities in your classroom and increase student agency?

Scoring: If you answered “Yes” to most of these questions, then flipped learning in the writing workshop is for you! It can help you meet the needs of all of your learners. It helps increase differentiation and personalized learning opportunities. Plus you can “clone” yourself and be in multiple places at once!

Flipping Without Flipping Out (part 2)

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Dana and I are so excited about our new book that is available this week! Flip your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach is a result of two years of researching, collaborating, and trying out lots of flipped lessons in our classroom. Honestly, sometimes our attempts fell flat. These were the times that we grew the most as educators. We learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t. We learned that like any approach to learning, flipping learning requires planning and thoughtfulness to be successful. Our book outlines this path for teachers in a user-friendly way.

Recently, we revealed our #1 reason for flipping lessons in our writing workshop: INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING. Today, let’s continue with reason #2: EFFICIENCY.

Teachers are the busiest people on the planet! Dana and I can’t tell you how many times we’ve thought (and exclaimed to each other!), “If I could just clone myself, imagine what I could accomplish!” Writing lessons spiral. We expect and accept this wholeheartedly. Yet, this can be time-consuming and frustrating. It can halt our curriculum and our students. Flipped learning can greatly improve the efficiency of our writing workshops. Flipped lessons are a way to essentially clone ourselves; we really can teach more and  reach more students!

Example #1: Do you find yourself repeating the same lesson from unit to unit; month to month? Have you ever thought, “If I have to repeat this dialogue rules (or capitalization rules, or generating ideas, etc.) lesson one more time…!” Flipped learning can help! Try flipping that lesson you find yourself repeating again and again. Students can access it when they need it, which frees you to teach a new mini lesson or confer with students. Writing workshop is not about all students moving in lockstep. Flipped learning enhances writing workshop as a variety of different learning is happening all at once.

Example #2: Lots of planning goes into our writing workshops. We enter our classrooms with ideas about whom we’d like to conference with, which mini lesson we’d like to teach, and the mentor text we’d like to share. And of course, we want the bulk of our workshop time to be used for students to actually write! However, even the most organized teacher and her plan can be easily derailed. One student doesn’t have a clear path for moving forward and isn’t writing. Another is ready to move on to trying a flashback and needs to know how. Flipped lessons can help us juggle all of the different needs of our students so that they can get down to the business of writing!

Like other buzzwords in the field of education, there can be misconceptions about flipped learning. One such misconception is that teachers who flip lessons simply flip it and forget it! This just isn’t true! Rich, iterative assessment takes place to monitor and guide student learning. Flipped learning does not replace the teacher; it helps teachers manage the gloriously chaotic nature of our writing workshop.

When we use flipped lessons in the writing workshop, we really can clone ourselves to provide differentiation and address a wide variety of needs. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the third reason we’ve embraced flipped learning in our blended learning writing workshops.



Flipping Without Flipping Out

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When Sonja and I first began writing our new book, Flip Your Writing Workshop: A Blended Learning Approach, we kept referring to it as our “Flipping Without Flipping Out” project. We believe in fostering a balanced blended learning approach in our classrooms, but when we first began flipping lessons, we had some moments of panic. However, instead of flipping out, we supported each other and embarked on this journey together.

This Thursday our new book will be released. Many of you, who know us and have read our blog before, know that we love talking about our passion for digital texts and teaching our students to think critically and interpret texts through multiple lenses. We also love talking about our favorite ways to inspire our students to read and write and the challenges we’ve faced in our classrooms. This week, we will chronicle our journey with flipped learning in our writing workshops. We will take you through the good, the bad, and the ugly so that you can see what we’ve been working on and what it’s really like.

Today, we will begin with one of the reasons we began flipping lessons in writing workshop: REASON #1: INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING

Sonja and I get together on Saturday or Sunday morning at our favorite Panera Bread Restaurant in New York. We sit at our favorite table (the one near the electrical outlets) and begin typing away. We also chat about our classrooms and what we’re working on. Oftentimes, our conversations turn to the strategies we’re using in our rooms to help our students grow as readers and writers. “I’ve found this great digital text,” I might say to Sonja. And she might respond, “That’s perfect for a chart I’ve been thinking about.” We love our discussions about the ebb and flow in our workshops. We also talk about how we’re constantly trying to meet the needs of all our learners. How can we best differentiate our lessons?

A few years ago, we began talking about the different ways we could use the technology in our classrooms to help differentiate our curriculum. Flipping lessons seemed like a great way to help our students review material as well as move forward at their own pace. We never set out to create flipped lessons for homework. We wanted to flip lessons in order to differentiate. We wanted to create lessons that our students could access at home and at school that would move them forward at their own pace.

Example #1:It can be hard to learn a new writing strategy as quickly as everyone else sometimes. Occasionally, students need more time to let concepts sink in. We all wish we could hit rewind sometimes! Students who need more time developing an important skill will love flipped lessons. With a few flipped lessons at the ready, students can learn from them as many times as they need. They can work at their own pace.

Example #2: Say you have a student who is new to your school and is already familiar with persuasive essay writing. This happens each year in our classrooms. With a few flipped lessons about some advanced strategies for writing a persuasive essay, this student can move forward independently.

Individualized learning is just one way that we’ve used flipped learning inside and outside the writing workshop. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the second reason we turned to flipped learning in our blended learning writing workshops.

Digital Texts for Inferring Characters’ Feelings

Here are two great digital texts for teaching students to infer characters’ feelings and emotions. They are both Amazon commercials. I’ve really enjoyed using the Amazon commercials in my classroom, and I confess that I tear up every time I watch them. (I’ve also blogged about the miniature horse commercial here.)

What I love about these texts is how they have very few words. Students can infer the characters’ feelings and emotions from their actions, facial expressions, and choices. After students practice this work with one or both of these digital texts, they can transfer this work to picture books and chapter books by attending to the authors’ descriptions of characters’ actions, facial expressions, and choices. (These texts also all have a before and after structure that might be useful to teach.)



Dana Johansen teaches fifth grade in Connecticut. She spent the whole of March teaching, going on spring vacation and working on the final edits for her new book, Flip Your Writing Workshop, co-authored with Sonja Cherry-Paul, due out in April. She believes in bringing literacy learning to life in any way that she can. Dana uses digital texts, flipped lessons, and all things Google to differentiate, be time efficient, and increase her students’ autonomy in the workshop. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. 

Digital Text for Teaching

When I first saw this Subaru commercial, I thought “How great! A commercial with a great message about getting outside and away from our devices! Plus singing dogs!” Sonja and I are always on the lookout for digital texts that teach. We love collecting digital texts that have positive themes about disconnecting from devices in order to reconnect with our families and friends. Enjoy!


Dana Johansen teaches fifth grade in Connecticut. She spent the whole of March teaching, going on spring vacation and working on the final edits for her new book, Flip Your Writing Workshop, co-authored with Sonja Cherry-Paul, due out in April. She believes in bringing literacy learning to life in any way that she can. Dana uses digital texts, flipped lessons, and all things Google to differentiate, be time efficient, and increase her students’ autonomy in the workshop. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. 

Flipped Lessons for Poetry

Today, Dana and I had the privilege of attending TCRWP’s 2nd Annual Digital Learning Day! It was truly an honor to be in the presence of such incredible educators and to present on flipped learning in writing workshop.

In honor of National Poetry Month, the following is a flipped lesson my students use to help them edit and prepare their poems for publishing. I shared this flipped lesson today during our presentation. Flipped lessons can be used in the classroom as well as at home. They are an invaluable resource that helps students access instruction when they need it, and they can help make your writing workshop more engaging and efficient. Throughout my poetry unit, I flipped lessons on line breaks and white space, personification, similes & metaphors, and punctuation.

When preparing a flipped lesson in writing workshop, be sure to include these tips for elementary and middle school students in particular:

  • Let students know what materials they need to have. They can pause the lesson to gather them if needed.
  • State 1 to 3 clear objectives. Inform students what they should be able to do as a result of this lesson.
  • Provide clear instruction for students to learn.
  • Make your lesson interactive. This can be as simple as asking students to answer specific questions, to working on a specific piece of writing, to accessing a link to a website to continue instruction.
  • Keep the lesson short! All roads should lead to writing and this is what students should spend the majority of their time doing.
  • Follow up with students in class to assess how they were able to apply instruction and to address any questions they might have.

Try flipping a lesson for your poetry unit and continue to enjoy poetry during the rest of this month and beyond!