The idea of flipping the classroom for me came out of necessity. For the past 14 years I had been teaching beginning band. And, every year I would search for the “best” way to teach it. As we know, all music programs are not created equal, and each beginning band program has its own unique scheduling requirements. Once I came across the idea of classroom flipping, my classroom began to evolve. In fact, my entire approach to teaching began to evolve.

About 3 years ago, I was (yet again) searching for a new way to best approach my 5th grade beginners, I came across something called the “flipped” classroom. Our students start band in 5th grade (our particular middle school covers grades 5-8). They meet every other day, all together, as a large ensemble. This means we have anywhere between 80-100 students playing 10 different instruments in one room. Students, additionally, meet once every six days in a lesson group with like instrument groups. Since these groups meet somewhat infrequently, when we started to look at changing our teaching approach it was imperative that we streamlined our teaching during the larger ensemble band class. Each year my colleagues and I searched for a new way to approach the large ensemble. When we finally started to incorporate the Flipped Classroom model started to feel like we were at our best as educators.

So, what is a flipped classroom? The short version is that it is a way to have students learn a concept, topic, prior to class. It is NOT a full-length class. It is only a way of approaching  introductions to concepts. Think about a typical class period, how you might utilize the first 5 – 10 minutes to introduce a concept before applying the concept or checking for learning and understanding. A “flipped classroom” lesson only concerns this introduction. During the “flipped” portion of the lesson, you introduce students to a concept. Students are introduced to the concept by watching a video or listening to a podcast before class.

There are so many ways to approach the aspect of a flipped classroom. A flipped classroom activity could be a video, a podcast, or interactive activity that the students complete on their own. Let’s explore some ways the flipped classroom can be used.

  1. Standard Classroom setting:
    Students watch a video while (typically) doing an activity prior to coming to class. For example, we’ll have our beginning band students watch vireos specific to their instruments. A student will watch the video and make flashcards for the 1st octave of their individual instrument.
  2. Alternate uses of Flipped Classroom activities:
    1. Sub plans:
      Students watch a video on an introductory concept while a non-music sub is in the room. Students would complete a worksheet while watching the video and then would complete additional classwork based on the new topic learned. These videos do not have to be used for sub plans but could also be utilized as a traditional flipped classroom.
    2. Absent Students:
      Students watch a video if they are absent from class, allowing them to learn the concept that they missed. For example, one whole group lesson that I have utilized for sub plans or absent students. Or, depending on the year, traditional flipped classroom activities are used for the introduction of Dotted quarter note introduction. (This video utilizes the rhythm charts from in Darcy William’s Teaching Rhythm Logically.)

A New Band Approach: A Guide for Teachers explores the utilization of a flipped classroom model with beginners. Students start out watching a video to help them create index cards for the first octave of their own scale. The book goes into depth about how they would then utilize these flash cards during class.

The goal of a flipped classroom model is to streamline teaching. A New Band Approach will help you achieve this more easily with your new band students..

Want to read more articles about how I flip my classroom?

  1. Flippin’ the Band Room first appeared in SBO in July 2017,
  2. How to Flip your Classroom, appeared on NAfME’s blog in February 2018,
  3. Flipping the Music Classrooms appeared in The Instrumentalist Magazine in February 2019.