In my two years as a flipped classroom educator, I’ve always been curious about flipping the whole-class novel. Typically in my resource room, we spent the class reading the text aloud and discussing it so the students understood the elements of the story and could analyze the text. However, this ate up a lot of time and left little room to do anything else other than read and discuss during class time. It wasn’t differentiated-- half the class was bored because we were moving too slowly and others were struggling to keep up. This year, in order to prepare my sixth graders for the demands of seventh grade, I decided to flip our final whole-class novel.
Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo is a simple enough book. It’s a little over one hundred pages and the events are easy for the students to understand, which made it the perfect novel to use with some of my reluctant readers. Despite its short length, Tiger Rising is jam-packed with symbolism, elements of characterization, and theme-- an excellent choice for diving into analysis. So, I got two class sets for my resource rooms and off I went to plan my adventure in flipping novels. It was then that I started to panic about the model:
What if the students don’t read? What if they struggle for support while reading? What are we going to do now during class? Where am I supposed to start?
I’ve mentioned before that flipping the resource room hasn’t been easy. There’s not a lot of other flipped special educators out there and the only research conducted seems to favor the in-class support model. Like my preparation for the regular flipped model, I had to connect ideas from a lot of different places to make it work for my students. I had recently heard about hyperdocs, which move beyond traditional worksheets and creating interactive Google Docs for students. I knew that was where I needed to go to make this flipped novel work.
My hyperdoc is an 18 page document that breaks down the entire novel for the students. I split the novel into five sections with approximately twenty-five pages in each section and at least five chapters. On the first page of the document, I liked the audiobook for each chapter from YouTube to support my auditory learners who like to follow along as they listen. I also linked all the subsequent assignments that would appear on the remaining pages. Each of the five sections required three tasks: one Must Do and two May Do assignments. Must Do tasks are questions or activities that they are required by me to complete. They focus on a particular skill in language arts that I believe they need to master or understand in order to truly get a grasp on the book.
The May Do section lists four tasks connected to the events from that section. The students were responsible for choosing two tasks to complete. These were still skills that I thought the students need to learn but the variety of options differentiated the task so students could choose either what interested them or skills where they needed assistance. Some topics included: word choice, character motivation, character traits, symbolism, allusion, etc. Assignments varied in direction, some were based around inferences, predictions, or text-to-self connections. Others were more creative and allowed for students to express themselves. In one activity, students are asked to take a virtual reality tour of the Sistine Chapel and explain how what they observed connects to the character, Sistine.
Since the hyperdoc was so big, I made everything in the document hyperlinked. On the initial page, students could click on the “Must Do” for a section and immediately be transported to that section of the Google Doc. At the end of each section’s tasks, student clicked an orange arrow to return to the top of the page. A large document can seem overwhelming and I wanted students to have no question about where they were supposed to go after reading (plus, it made grading each section easier on me). I created a video to help students as they moved through the hyperdoc at home. They were given a week to complete each section. Some came to me during academic assistance (our version of study hall) to work on the assignment each week, with most finishing in about two days. After each of the five sections, I gave them a grade and feedback on their work.
During the week, we worked on activities and discussions that connected to what the students had been reading at home. We wrote open-ended questions for each other and answered them around the room on the desks with Expo markers. We completed characterization dodecahedrons where the students determined the character traits and what type of character each person in the story represented. We created ABC books and went through the entire alphabet, using alphabetical words and phrases to represent important parts of the novel. We created symbolism presentations where the class chose a symbol and taught the class to understand the meaning of that symbol, like the tiger, suitcase, Sistine’s dresses and name, and Rob’s rash. Some days, we just engaged in deep discussions about character motivations and the events of the plot, making text-to-world connections and bringing in aspects of our own lives to understand the situations of the characters.
For the most part, the students completed the work each week for the novel. In traditional flipped classroom fashion, I did a quick post-assessment to see if the students understood what they had read and used that information to place groups, create discussion questions, or adjust the focus of the lesson of the day. While there were several students initially who did not complete the reading, once they saw they were missing out on valuable experiences and activities with their classmates because they had not read, they jumped on the bandwagon to complete the assignments.
Some important things I learned about flipping the whole class novel:
Overall, the flipped classroom novel in the resource room was successful. I don’t think I’ve ever had a group of students understand a novel to such a high caliber and have as insightful and analytical discussions about the text. My resource room said they did not feel overwhelmed with what was provided and definitely felt like connected with this novel and the work more than they have in previous units.
Verdict? Success! Can't wait to use it again next year!