When I first started flipping lessons in writing workshop, I worried about the amount of direct instruction I was creating. I was worried because that’s not my primary teaching style in the classroom. I like to have a balance of direct instruction and inquiry-based instruction in my writing workshop. I want my students to explore language and punctuation. I was worried that I might not be able to create inquiry-based flipped lessons. But I was wrong.
Two of my favorite inquiry-based professional development books for how to teach writing are Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray and The Power of Grammar by Mary Ehrenworth. Both authors encourage students to examine the work of writers in order to investigate and discuss their writing moves. Ray and Ehrenworth encourage students to come up with their own names for the moves that writers make such as “Fragments that Create Heart-Pounding Suspense” or “Endings that Circle Back to the Beginning.” This way, students can take ownership of the writing strategies and try them out in their own writing.
I was excited to discover that I can make flipped lessons that support this inquiry-based learning approach. I began creating lessons that did not use a direction-instruction method for teaching, and I found that students loved this type of flipped lesson.
For example, let’s say I wanted to create a writing workshop flipped lesson about writing leads in a fiction unit. I might take a sentence such as the first line of the book, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and use it in my flipped lesson:
“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog. This is what happened:”
In my flipped lesson, I would use an inquiry-based teaching method like Ray and Ehrenworth recommend. I would encourage my students to examine this sentence and jot down the writing moves that they’re noticing DiCamillo made when writing this sentence. I would use an inquiry-based teaching prompt such as “What do you notice?” to help students get started. This would open the lesson up to students noticing many things about DiCamillo’s sentence.
After students had the chance to jot down what they notice, I would ask them to think about DiCamillo’s sentence only in terms of leads. I would encourage students to jot down this type of lead in their writing workshop notebook and name this type of story beginning. Some students might call it an “Introductory” lead or a “How did it all Begin?” lead. Finally in my flipped lesson, I would ask my students to try to write a lead like DiCamillo’s. This way they can put their own spin on this type of beginning.
So here are my 5 steps to creating an inquiry-based flipped lesson:
- Choose or write something that you want your students to explore. Ray and Ehrenworth have great pieces of writing in their books that you can use. Sometimes I write my own sentences for my students explore. Other times, I pick a children’s book and find a bit of text that they can explore.
- When creating your flipped lesson, state your purpose: “Today writers, you will be exploring a bit of an author’s writing. I want you to read it with eyes wide open, looking for anything that might be interesting to you.”
- Reveal the text you have selected for students to examine. Encourage students to jot down what they notice. “What do you notice?” “What words or punctuation jump out at you?”
- Why did the author make this writing choice? Have students name what they are noticing.
- Have students try! They can mimic the author’s writing choice and see if they can create the same effect. Students should have all of this in their writing notebook, ready to share with you or their peers.
What I love about flipped learning is that the possibilities are endless. Students can have an inquiry-based learning experience at school, at home, anywhere. Technology helps make this happen.
Let me know if you have ideas about inquiry-based flipped learning with technology. I’m finding that it’s all about the questions you ask. With the right questions and encouragement, anything is possible.
Dana Johansen teaches fifth grade in Connecticut. As her dear friend and colleague Melissa says, “For teachers, June is like Friday night, July is like Saturday, and August is like Sunday.” Dana is soaking up the July days with #bookaday reading and teaching writing to middle school students. Dana’s newest book, Flip Your Writing Workshop, co-authored with Sonja Cherry-Paul, was released in April, and Dana is looking forward to #ILA2016 where she is going to present on flipped learning. 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 fifteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.