When I first started teaching, group work was a way to kill time in class. Nothing planned? Group work. Life happened the night before? Group work.

One of my goals this year is to experiment more with the flipped classroom. I of course had visions of making videos, delivering content at home, and a dramatic increase in the learning of my students. None of that has happened.

Part of the problem is that I’m still not entirely clear on what a flipped English classroom looks like, or I (and most English teaches) have always been flipping the English classroom. This uncertainty stems from the question of what is the content in an English classroom. Is it the (content of the) text itself (in which case it has always been flipped)? Is it the interpretation of the text (in which case it is not flipped)? It is the skills of interacting with the text (in which case I’m not sure)?

This year I’ve been approaching class itself, if not homework, with the flipped classroom in mind. I’ve been focusing a lot more on group work and work in class with me circulating throughout the classroom. On the one hand, the traditionalist / 20-year teacher in me feels like I’m cheating, that I’m not working hard enough, that I should be before them ‘teaching’. On the other hand, I feel much better about what’s happening in class. Students are engaged. And even if, say, a third of them wander off on their computers away from the assignment while I’m helping someone else, that third is significantly less than how many would wander off if I were in front of the class.

In my English classes, this approach often consists of small writing assignments in class that require some interaction with the text (my goal now is to increase the amount and quality of that interaction with the text). In my Latin class, it consists of translation practice, either Latin to English or English to Latin. But whatever it looks like, I’m answering relevant questions and, more important, students are using their class time more productively than if I were droning on.

So this is a work in progress. But I like it so far.