Parent Letter

I struggled with finding a way to introduce the Flipped Class to Parents. I combined my current Visitor Information Pack, with inspiration from a few Flippers around the web, specifically Chrystal Kirch, she's great you should check out her blog: I liked how she divided her letter into expectations at home vs. school. Here is what I came up with, it may work for you it may not:

Dear Parents,

Your child has an exciting year of History ahead in my classroom. However, things will be a little bit different than what you may have been used to in the past, you see my classroom is a “Flipped Classroom.” What is a “Flipped Classroom”? Please take a few moments and look at the presentation that I have put together on our classroom blog. While you are there make sure you book mark it, as I update this blog each Friday with information on what we did in school that week.

Here is the address:

An even better option would be for you to watch this presentation on Schoology with your child. They received the codes and instructions in class today, we will be going over it live in class tomorrow if they have any questions. On Schoology you will also find an important video on Web Resources for our class that you may want to view with your student.

In short, traditional classrooms see students receiving instruction in class (usually listening to a lecture of some sort) and then doing an “application” activity for homework (ie: worksheet, project, etc). In the flipped class we reverse that.

This letter is to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions that parents have regarding a “flipped class.”

What does homework look like now? They don’t have homework?

 Well that’s not entirely true, students do have homework, it just doesn’t look like what you’re used to.  Homework is completed over the course of a week, at your child’s own pace. Rather than completing worksheets and reports at home, they watch 2-3 lectures per week for homework. The lecture videos are created by me and are approximately 10 minutes long. Each video covers one topic, and is essentially the same lecture I would give students in class. The videos are available in our online classroom on Schoology. Students may access them from any internet ready device (computer, ipod, phone, tablet, PS3, etc). Students without internet access may also upload them on a flash drive. Students that traditionally have trouble keeping up in class or with notes can pause, rewind, and re-watch a lecture as many times as they need.

During the lecture they will fill out the corresponding pages in their “Coursepack.” The coursepack is a series of fill-in notes and section review checks. There are also flashcards that they create to correspond with each lecture. Both the videos and the courespack are organized in sequential order so that they will always know what they need to complete by a certain date.

Once they watch a lecture and complete all of the coursepack work that goes with it, they take an online quiz based on the lecture. They must achieve an 80% or better on this quiz before moving on. They may retake it as many times as needed.

In addition to their lecture work, every other week student’s complete a “Critical Reading” or “CR.” To complete a CR students read an article provided by me from a variety of sources (the NYT, the Smithsonian Institute are some examples that come to mind). After reading the article they fill out a form in their coursepack where they are required to think of a question regarding the article. On Fridays of CR weeks we have a class discussion, driven by student questions.

On weeks where we do not have a CR, students complete an Internet Literacy Worksheet or IL. IL’s range from deciphering reputable sources, to learning how to use the library’s search engine. They are skills that will help your student not just in history class but across the curriculum in high school, college, and the workplace. On Fridays of IL weeks we will go over the skills as a class and practice applying them to our historical research.

 So even though they don’t have traditional homework, they are actually doing a lot of work at home, but they are doing it at their own pace. Students are provided checklists with due dates that work must be completed by. As long as they meet deadlines, students may work ahead as much as they like. Many students like the option to complete their “homework” at times that work best for them in their schedule.

What does classwork look like now? If you’re not lecturing how do you “teach”?

I suppose it’s true that I am no longer “teaching” in the way we normally think of it- t I am not standing at the front of the room delivering content. However, I am still educating students all through class.

When students first enter the room they are presented with a “Media Literacy Question” of the day. Along with their groupmates they answer it as best they can in their coursepacks. We then watch CNN Student News together as a class. It is a 10 minute long news program produced specifically for students. During the newscast we talk about current events and answer the Media Literacy Question.

Once the news is over students move on to their weekly projects…Each week students are assigned a project that digs deeper into the content of one of the lectures. They are asked a critical question about the topic and are given the support and resources to find the answer. Students are given projects based on interest and ability. They spend Monday-Thursday in class researching, developing, planning and executing everything from posters to models, reports to brochures, even sometimes performing in a play. While they do not have “group” projects they do sit in groups and are encouraged to bounce ideas off each other and assist each other in the process. In other words, they are collaborating and learning from each other, but ultimately responsible for their own grade. My role is to circulate the class, giving one on one time where needed, helping students to hone researching skills, and clarifying facts and information. Sometimes I even get to have a whole conversation with a student on a topic they’re really interested in, it’s fantastic! I also have the ability to go over concepts a student may not have understood from the lecture, or to answer any questions they come into class with. I can give each student one on one attention, each day- something that would not be possible in a traditional classroom model. I am no longer the “sage on the stage” but rather the “guide on the side” it’s taken me a while to get used to not being the “center of the classroom”, but I feel I’m doing more “teaching” now than I ever did before…it just looks a lot different! Now your student is the “center of the classroom”!

What does the Flipped Classroom require of you as a parent?

The “flipped classroom” allows you to be more involved in your child’s history education. Many parents will agree that they don’t remember much of their 7th grade history class, so they do not always feel that they can help and support their child during homework. However, with the “flipped classroom” there are several easy ways you can help your student:

  1. Provide your student with a quiet place to watch the lecture videos. If internet access or a computer is not available, provide your student with the time to stay for open computer lab, open library, or with me in my classroom to complete their lectures. Students can typically complete all of the lectures in one afternoon at open computer lab.
  2. Ask your student questions about what they watched, and review their notes in their coursepacks.
  3. Follow along with their checklists to ensure that they are meeting deadlines.
  4. Encourage them to take their time when watching videos and to rewind, pause, or re-watch portions as needed until they really understand the content. Asking what their grade was on a quiz at the end each lecture is a good way to ensure they are understanding, and not just going through the motions.
  5.  Some parents like to watch the videos with their students and look at it as an opportunity to learn something together.
  6. Read Critical Reading articles and discuss them with your student on the way to sports practices, music lessons, or even over dinner.
  7. The best way to support your student is to be positive! This is a new style of learning for them and it will take some adjusting, however with a positive attitude from both their parents and guardians and myself, I’m sure they will find great success in my class. If you have concerns, please communicate them with me, so that we can alleviate any nervousness you may feel, as well as your student’s.

What does the Flipped Classroom require of your student?

In reality the flipped classroom does not change the expectation that students should be doing history homework every night. It just changes the type of homework that they do. Instead of completing worksheets, students should be engaging with the content at home.

The flipped classroom requires your student to be responsible for their learning in several ways:
  1. Students must plan to watch the videos when they are fully awake and when they can devote the time to completing the coursepack work that goes with each video. Some students prefer to watch all three lectures for the week and do the work that goes with them in one sitting, on a Sunday afternoon for example. Other students like to break it up throughout the week. It is up to your student, they may do what works best for them, as long as they put their full effort in.
  2. Students must take the initiative to re-watch videos that they need to see again. They should put the same amount of time into this as if they were re-reading parts of a textbook that they didn’t get the first time (although I think this is more fun).
  3. Students need to make sure that even if they are absent they still keep up with the due dates for lectures. An absence does not excuse a student from their weekly video or coursepack work.
  4. Students must take the initiative to communicate with me either online, or in person if they are having trouble with something. This includes before school, during class, after school, or during our online help sessions.
  5. If students are having technical issues with the videos, they need to communicate that to me so that we can come up with a solution before they fall too far behind.

Grading Policies

Just as classroom and homework look different than what you are used to, so does our grading system this year.

How are students graded? You don’t have tests??

This is the biggest question I get. Again, not entirely true, there are tests they’re just a different style. I like to think of them as “assessments” rather than “tests.” Students are graded based on the number of units they master. Each term has between 4 and 5 Units. Mastery is considered an 80% or better.  To master a unit a student must complete all tests at an 80% or better. They also must complete all work in their coursepack associated with the unit. An example of how grading works is shown below:

If a student were to master:
4 units= A
3 units = B
2 units = C
1 unit = D

Mastery of Units counts for 50% of their overall grade. Grade breakdown as follows:
Mastery of Unit = 60%
Critical Readings and IL’s = 10%
In Class Weekly Projects = 20%
CE Quizzes/MLQs = 10%

Remember those quizzes they take after each lecture at home? They have to get an 80% or better on all of those within a unit to sit for a mastery test. They may take the mastery test online when they are ready, or if they prefer they may take a paper-based one in class or after school. Most students prefer it online as there is no time limit.

So you see your child will not have an “average.” In fact their grade can change at any point during the term, right up until the day grades close. They may redo and retake anything they wish until they achieve mastery. 

What do assessments look like? Can they use their note?

Yes they can use their notes! I want them to use their notes!! History as a discipline is not about memorizing facts and dates but rather synthesizing information and using it to create coherent arguments about the past. For their “assessments” students are asked to identify and define a number of people, places and dates from the unit explaining their importance. They choose a number off a larger list that they feel they can write about best. Finally they must write an essay that pulls all the information together and requires them to use all their information to create a solid thesis statement and back it up with facts and details. So they can’t really cheat since each test is different and I absolutely want them to use their notes, there is no sense in having all this information if they don’t know what any of it means in the “big picture.” If they have to redo an assessment because they did not master it, we would sit together first and look at their essay argument and how it could be more coherent.

If you have any further questions (and I’m sure you do because this is very confusing at first), please feel free to contact me here at the school at 781.937.8233. You can also email me at or contact me via Schoology if you would like a parent code. Finally you may may make an appointment to come and see me at the school, my door is open. If you would like to make an appointment to see the “flip” in action, I request that you give us a few weeks to adjust, and then, with the permission of the principal I would be happy to accommodate your request.

Thank you! I am looking forward to a great year!

Student Name:_____________________ Period: ______
Parent/Guardian: ___________________ Date: _______

Parent/Guardian Please initial the statements below:

___ I have read the letter (required)
___ I have watched the video (reccomended)
___ I have watched the Web Resources Video

Parent/Guardian Please initial both statements below:

___ I understand the expectations that the flipped class requires of me as a parent as 
          stated in the letter and FAQ video
___ I understand the expectations that the flipped class requires of my student as 
         stated in the letter and Student Information video
___ I understand that my child will be graded on a Mastery Based grading system

Please check one of the following:

[] We have a computer with consistent internet access at home.

[] We have a computer at home, but the internet is inconsistent. My child will bring a flashdrive to school to get the videos. My child will make arrangements to come in early, or stay for open computer lab, to take the quizzes when the internet is down, or speak to Ms. Miller about other arrangements.

[] We have a computer but do not have any internet access. My child will bring a flashdrive to school to get the videos. He/she will make arrangements to come in early, or stay for open computer lab, to take the quizzes when the internet is down, or speak to Ms. Miller about other arrangements.

[] We do not have a computer at home but my child has access to the internet consistently at a friend, neighbor or relative’s home nearby

[] We do not have a computer at home, and my child does not have access to the internet consistently. He/she will be staying for open computer lab, open library, or with Ms. Miller. He/She will come and see Ms. Miller to set up a plan that ensures he/she will be able to fully participate in the class.

I think the following solution may work: ____________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Student Name:__________________

Student signature: ________________ Parent signature: ____________

The way for Ms. Miller to contact me from 8am to 2pm during the work week:
[] Phone: _________________
[] Email:  __________________

Please note: Ms. Miller will work hard to ensure that there is a plan in place for all students to complete the assignments by the appropriate deadlines. In order for this to work it is crucial for students (and parents) to openly communicate with her if there are technical problems or acess issues. Please alert her as soon as possible if the status of a child’s computer and internet access changes during the year so that she can make the neccecary adjustments.

Questions, comments, concerns regarding the Flipped Classroom:

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