Flipping the Unflippable Classes

Editor’s Note:This post was co-authored by Aaron Sams, Managing Director of FlippedClass.com and founding member of the Flipped Learning Network.

When the subject of the flipped class comes up, many educators see how it applies to academic subjects like math and science education, but don’t realize that the methodology has applications in a wide array of other classes. According to a survey of 2358 teachers by the Flipped Learning Network and Sophia Learning (PDF, 1.2MB), 33 percent of those teachers who are flipping their classes are math teachers, 38 percent are science teachers, and 23 percent teach English language arts and social studies. But can you flip the other subjects? Can you flip an elementary classroom? The answer is a resounding yes.

To flip the non-flippable classes, teachers need to ask this key question:What is the best use of my face-to-face time with students? Since every teacher has a specified amount of time with his or her students per week, we must consider how to maximize that class time. The answer to this question will be vastly different for an elementary teacher compared to a middle school PE teacher compared to a high school English teacher. Though there is no one way to answer this question, there is a “wrong” answer: information dissemination. Lower-level cognitive information should be moved out of the group space and into the individual space where students can consume data at their own pace and interact with the content in a manner that meets their individual needs. And as teachers answer this question, their class will be transformed into a center of learning where students are applying, analyzing, and creating content, rather than simply acquiring information.

Let’s look at a few examples of teachers who use the flipped learning model in what many have considered non-flippable courses.

Physical Education

Jason Hahnstadt is a K-8 PE teacher at the Joseph Sears School in Illinois. When he first heard about the flipped class, he understood how it would dramatically change his practice. He was frustrated with spending too much of his valuable class time telling kids how to move their bodies instead of seeing his students actually moving. So he embraced the flipped class, and his students now spend more time moving their bodies. He has also taken the flipped class into his second job — as an athletic coach. His teams benefit from additional time to practice because less practice time is devoted to instruction. You can read more at Jason’s website, The Flipped Coach.


Leif Blomqvist is a middle school woodworking teacher in Sweden. He embraced the flipped classroom because many of his students had never used a handsaw or a screwdriver before. However, others were familiar with the tools, and those students were not getting adequate help when he was teaching basics to the whole class. Ultimately, he wanted his students to spend more class time creating things out of wood instead of watching him teach them basic skills. In response to this need, he created two different types of flipped class videos — those that teach a basic skill, and those that teach how to make a specific object out of wood. Even if you don’t speak the Swedish language, you can get a pretty good idea of how this works by visiting Leif’s YouTube page.

Dance Education

Maura Herrera is a ballet instructor who wanted to spend more of her face-to-face time with students actually dancing. She created a series of short videos which demonstrate different ballet moves and exercises so that her class can spend more of the their time together dancing. You can see an example of one of her videos on YouTube.

Elementary School

Randy Brown is a third grade teacher in the Seattle area who has always wanted an additional teacher in his room to help students who struggled to learn. He told us that when he read our first book, Flip Your Classroom, he realized that we’d granted his wish. Instead of getting another person in his room, he saw how he could replicate himself to become that second teacher. He then set out to make flipped videos for his students. In his case, students don’t watch the videos at home, but rather in class. Half of his 26 students watch them on devices in the classroom, while the other half are working independently and with Mr. Brown. After a time, the students rotate. This method is becoming known as the in-flip, where students don’t interact with the instructional content at home, but rather in the class. Randy told me that his student test scores have significantly improved, but more importantly, his students are getting more individual time with him where he can differentiate for each learner.

What each of these teachers has in common is that they have answered the question about the best use of their face-to-face class time in their own unique ways. They have customized and contextualized the flipped class to meet the needs of their students.

For those of you who are flipping your classes and don’t fit the “flipped class” teacher model, tell us how you are flipping your class. We would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Odyssey School is an independent, non-profit school with a focus on whole child, emotionally intelligent, personalized curriculum for students in PreK-12. Our mission is to prepare students, families, and educators to lead lives of intention and purpose with an authentic sense of self.

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