Behind the Scenes of Building Great Lesson Plans of a Flipped Classroom

Building great lesson plans in a flipped classroom successfully plays a key role in differentiating instruction. My goal as a teacher is a pretty simple one – Do a good job. OK, so that might be a little too simplistic.  How can I as a teacher do a good job each and every day? By serving each student and designing lessons and activities to meet each student’s unique strengths and weaknesses. This is what we like to call “differentiated instruction.”

The idea of providing differentiated instruction is appealing; however, actually implementing it can be quite the undertaking. A simple internet search will bombard you with strong opinions on if Differentiation actually works.

Bottom Line – It takes hard work and preparation to differentiate instruction. Weird, who knew? #sarcasmfordays

Aha Moment – Lesson Plans

An important realization that occurred early on in my career was discovering a need to map out my units and reevaluate the way I formed lesson plans. As an extremely visual learner and thinker, I needed a way for me to visualize the various pathways my students could take during their journey to mastering the content. Mindmeister has provided me with an opportunity to view my lesson plans as a “road map.” Students might begin from the same “location” (pretest) and finish at the same “destination” (passing score on the summative assessment), but the way they get there is entirely up to them by either choosing an activity they WANT to complete and/or by providing students with activities that best match their unique strengths and weaknesses usually by placing them in various learning zones.

Has it been easy to come up with a wide variety of activities? No, but Mindmeister has kept it easy to keep track of and make adjustments along the way.

Example for you to use

Take a look at the mindmap template below. You may notice a few things missing that traditional lesson plans might have. For starters, I do not have any dates or even specific days outlined. This is intentional as students work at their own pace. I can have a classroom full of 30 students and each of them might be working on something different. I cannot imagine how difficult this would be to try to write on a traditional calendar planner.

Feel free to click on the “map actions” button within the above mind map to duplicate the mind map and use it as a template for your own lesson planning 🙂

Something you might find especially relevant in the template might be some tips and tricks I have included using some of the basic features of MindMeister.

Each activity is given a background color so that I can easily tell whether this is something for the whole group (green), lower level, orange, middle level yellow, etc. Again, this is something that works for my visual mind. You might develop another method that works better for you.

What makes it great

The best part about this is that these plans are so easy to access. Do you ever get an idea for a neat lesson when you are out and about? How often do you forget about it before you get a chance to write it down? As long as you have a connection to the internet you can quickly load up your unit specific lesson plans and jot it down. Plans are saved and can easily be accessed each year, so the teacher does not need to “reinvent the wheel” every year. 

Most importantly, having lesson plans saved and easy to edit gives teacher more time to spend with family, research new teaching practices, start a blog, and rest and relax.

Your Challenge

What can you do now to help set yourself up for success? How can you change the way you map out a unit so that you do not feel overwhelmed at any point as you begin/continue to differentiate your instruction?

Have more questions on anything discussed in this post? Reach out to me via email at

Screencasts Do’s and Don’ts

Teachers everywhere have begun creating screencasts and are seeing the positive effects of how replacing whole group lecturing opens the door for more student engagement. Screencasting lectures are often the first step teachers take in flipping their classrooms. Students begin to receive the lecture that was once done in school in the comfort of their own home, friends house, internet cafe, etc. and use class time to complete the type of work that was once given as homework. The type of work now given in class often has the students practicing new skills that were covered in the screencast. Both teachers and students benefit from the new set-up. The students benefit from having the teacher there to help address any questions or concerns. The teacher can now get a more accurate assessment of how the students are performing.

So the question becomes…

What Makes a Good Screencast?

A good screencast can have a tremendous impact on student learning; however, the opposite is also true. Below are my tips on what makes a great screencast. Feel free to comment below to share any you think I left out!

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  • Make your own – students enjoying seeing their teacher present new information vs. some random person on Youtube. You creating your own screencast personalizes the learning experience.
  • Outline what you will be talking about – Trust me. No one likes someone who rambles about nothing. I have caught myself rambling in the past and it is not good. If you want to expand on a topic, then do so! Just have a plan for what exactly you are going to share and do.
  • Keep it simple and short as possible – One of my favorite ways to present new information is to do a screencast of our digital textbook that has an audio recording of the text. I play the text and pause periodically to add notes, commentary, or whatever else I feel is relevant. In the past, this would be done in a lecture setting that could consume nearly all of a 40 minute period. In a lecture, you can only go as fast as the last student to write in your notes. Screencasting allows me to reduce that time to 1/4 of that while still giving students to work at their own pace by being able to pause and rewind the video when needed.
  • Have a definite purpose- What is the one thing you are trying to accomplish? Make sure your one thing is a present theme in your screencast. Please note that not all screencast need to be aligned with a curriculum standard. I often will make one giving an example of how to turn in an assignment or how to change the share settings on a Google doc.
  • Have everything ready to go on your computer- Most screencasting programs have a feature that will allow you to edit or trim your video, but save yourself as much hassle as possible by having everything prepared on your device. I can only imagine how LAME it would be for a student to watch his/her teacher search for a particular document or file.
  • Hide all personal information – Close all of the tabs and programs you are not using in your screencast.
  • Practice – Do a dry run on your presentation before you hit publish. Check to make sure everything is working properly and look for areas where you can trim down the length.
  • Se the appropriate screen size- True Story: The First screencast I made was perfect…if you were an ant. I somehow manage to record it in a small window and my students could not see any text when they tried to view it on their Chromebooks. I recorded a PowerPoint presentation using only the preview window instead of viewing the slideshow and adjusting my screencasting window to the full screen. So, do not be like me and remember to adjust the screen size appropriately.
  • Speak clearly – See below

  • Eliminate Distraction(s) – This would be one I have learned the hard way… multiple times. So, silence your cell phone, put the kids to bed, put the dog outside, and mute the TV.
  • Use Humor – I enjoy making seriously corny jokes throughout my screencasts. Think dad jokes of Science. Don’t worry, I will save them for my students and not expose them to you. Another fun way to mix things up is to randomly show a weird image or video. This will typically get a laugh and also “wake them up” a bit. I have been known to throw in a certain 7-second video of a screaming goat during longer screencasts.


  • Worry about your filmmaking ability. Whatever you are capable of will be great!

Quick Tip

The internet is full of screencasting programs. Many are super expensive. I personally use Screencast-o-matic. It is super easy to use and also has basic editing capabilities. The link below will lead you to their page. Many teachers can typically use the free version. I personally paid about $25 and have not been disappointed.

Click HERE to visit Screencast-o-matic.


What do you do to make a great screencast for your students?


The 411 on Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Learning management systems are the latest craze taking over the educational landscape. Keeping things as simple for the students as possible as you begin to use more and more technology and online activities is imperative. You have a hard enough time teaching your students the content of the class. Why would you want to add obstacles along the way?

The internet is full of wonderful activities to enhance student learning (#pinterestforthewin), but it can also be difficult for both teachers and students to remember how to access specific content.

For example, I might have students in my room working on different online activities. When I first started, I used to print out a piece of paper with the URL address written on it, but this did not go well as students were constantly misspelling words or skipping a number in the URL which meant valuable instructional time was being wasted as I made my way around the room typing in the correct URL. I then started to send out emails to the students with the links, but then I had students “lose” and/or delete the emails. That is when I realized something absolutely paramount to successfully flipping the classroom.

You need a place to house what you are doing. Keep it as simple as possible for the students. You do not want them to have to remember a bunch of passwords and add unnecessary steps to what you are trying to accomplish. You need a system to manage the learning taking place in your classroom. Enter the Learning Management System (LMS).

Behind the Scenes of Building Great Lesson Plans of a Flipped Classroom


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LMS 101

“A learning management system (LMS) is a software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses or training programs.” – Ellis, Ryann K. (2009), ASTD Learning Circuits

What Exactly Does an LMS Do?

There are hundreds of LMS systems available. A good LMS will allow you to do at least the following:

  • Give online assessments that can be graded automatically and easily format the data in a user-friendly way to analyze. This is a great feature as it eliminates human error in grading and is a substantial time saver.
  • Ability to complete and submit assignments.
  • House links to external sites like Youtube, BrainPOP, etc.
  • Create Modules – I will devote a blog post specifically on how to create an effective module in the future.

Where Do I Start?

First, find out if your district is paying for an LMS.

Second, start small by figuring out what the is the one thing you could do on the LMS to better serve your students?

Plan and brainstorm online with friends with the free mind mapping tool MindMeister. Click HERE to sign-up!

My Suggestions on How to Begin

A google doc to house links for questions of the day, youtube, links for screencasts, pdf copies of handouts and other materials you use can be a great start.

This can be done by sharing a single doc with the students and posting to your LMS. Even if your school does not have an LMS, you can still share the doc with your students at the beginning of the year and use it throughout the year. I recommend showing the kids how to create a folder in their email for your class and housing the doc there. Then each day the students would open up the doc to access your materials for the day. See the pictures below for help.

Check out this link if you want more information regarding lesson plans.

Want a copy of this or need to see it a bit bigger? Click HERE or the image above.
Want a copy of this or need to see it a bit bigger? Click HERE or the image above
Want a copy of this or need to see it a bit bigger? Click HERE or the image above

LMS Recommendation

My district uses the LMS Canvas. I strongly recommend them as they are constantly adding features and becoming more user-friendly as time goes on. The impact Canvas has had on my teaching is nearly impossible to put into words. Canvas is dependable, has given me the ability to enhance the learning experience of my students while also helping make my dream of flipping the classroom a reality. Click HERE or the image below to learn more about what Canvas has to offer.

Click here to learn more about Canvas!

Tricks and Tips

Whatever you do keep it simple and easy for both students and families to understand. You do not need to make it look fancy. Just provide a practical way for your students to access the information and materials of your class.

Your Challenge

Find the best way for you to house the magnificent activities your students are doing.

What Does It Mean to “Flip a Class” Anyway?

The simplified definition of a flipped classroom would be when a teacher gives more “control” to the students on how they learn new skills and concepts. Instead of giving a daily lecture, students can view this as a video in an environment they choose. This allows more class time to be given to various learning activities such as projects, labs, discussions, and small group or one-on-one instruction.

Does it Work?

HECK TO THE YEAH IT WORKS! I began flipping my class in 2014 taking small baby steps. I began to see the potential almost immediately . Fast forward to the present day, and I have students digging deeper into content than I have ever had before. I do not give homework (more on that in your free gift you receive for subscribing) and yet I have students completing assignments and projects on Friday nights as soon as they get home, because they actually WANT to. Students are in more control for how they take in new learning. This allows me to spend more time working with small groups or one-on-one with students in class.  I am constantly building and forming strong relationships with my students. This has led to fewer discipline problems, students are more involved in day-to-activities, and a greater sense of ownership by the students for their personalized learning experience.

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How Can You Get Started?

Simple -Research like crazy and ask teachers who have experience in flipping their classrooms. The good news is you are on this page and I am here to help. Please subscribe to the site by providing your best email address.  I am also in the middle of developing a FREE 7 step course on how to flip your class. Once completed, all of the subscribers will receive a free copy of the course. Don’t worry, I will not share your email out as I know how annoying it is to get a bunch of spam email.  Here is the best part! If you ever have a question, comment or concern, simply reply to the email which will be sent to my personal email where we can begin an on-going dialogue. So, check back as I plan on launching the course sometime this summer. 

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How I Started

I remember when our administration shared to us about plans to have more students in front of technology. I have always viewed technology as a magnify glass in that it will enhance what you are doing. Notice that I did not say having technology makes you a good teacher. If you are the kind of teacher that works hard to meet the needs of your students, then having more tech in your room will enhance your ability to do so.

I began to research the idea and came across this article from US News. The part that stood at to me the most was the following:

“New data from the program given to U.S. News shows the bottom third of students’ grades were more than 10 percent higher than in a traditional classroom (the difference between a D+ and a C) and more than 3 percent higher for the class as a whole (moving from a C+ to a B-).”

That is when I began to reflect on my own experience with using technology in the classroom both as a teacher and as a student growing up. The sad truth was that I had a limited experience at best. As a student, I remember a computer was pretty much used only for writing papers. As a teacher, I only gave my students computers to play review games or at best create a presentation on a topic.

I felt a bit stumped until I remembered the first time I heard of flipping a class. I was in college and was researching “inquiry based” learning. I wanted to be a science teacher (currently am one) and knew that I needed to do something during my student teaching that would make me stand out. The research on inquiry based teaching was pretty new at the time (circa 2007ish when Fergie told the world big girls don’t cry), but I was fortunate as one of the leading researchers was a professor at  Ohio State University-Marion and I was already signed up to take his physics class during the upcoming quarter.  I had an “OK” experience in that class. There were components that I felt were flawed, and others that I thought were full of potential.

Later on in Grad School, I had a professor that assigned our cohort to read various educational peer reviewed articles (sounds like a fun time doesn’t it?). The assignment had potential to really be a dud, but the professor put a spin on it. Instead of taking a quiz or giving a book report style presentation on it, we could show her what we learned in any way we chose. This spoke to my creative personality. A couple of buddies and I set out on a mission to dominate this assignment that was only worth 10 points. We ended up making music videos from old songs from the 90s (a.k.a. the best era for music), cartoons and even pranked our cohort. That is a long story for maybe a different post in the future, but the bottom line is that having the freedom to choose how we were going to be assessed led to a much more impactful learning experience.

Your Challenge

Think about what prior knowledge and experiences you have to build from. Are there teachers who have flipped classrooms in your building or network that you can reach out to? Feel free to reach out to me as I respond to all comments and emails ( if there is something I can help you with. Don’t forget to subscribe!

Have fun and enjoy the process of flipping your class!

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