Flipping the Classroom…with Pedagogy, not just Tech… by Christopher Bronke

Posted on Posted in Teacher Blogs, User Stories

Following traditional pedagogy in the ELA classroom (and other disciplines, I’d assume), one can find teachers across the country employing the “I do, we do, you do” method for modeling skills and direct instruction. In this model, the teacher starts off by modeling the skill directly for the students, walking them through an example step by step. From there, students work with a partner or a small group to practice this new skill. Finally, they are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the skill alone, without the help of the teacher or classmates. There is value in this process, for sure. It is nicely scaffolded, allowing students to walk through a gradual release model, providing support along the way. This process makes it “easy” (knowing no good learning is easy) for students to find success as they are learning through imitation.

However, the “I do, we do, you do” model falls short in forcing students to navigate frustration. This model makes learning more about imitation than internalization and provides little outlet for meaningful reflection other than “I get it” or “I don’t get it”.

This is why we must flip the classroom…and I don’t mean by recording lessons for students to watch at home (although that can be good). But the flipping to which I am referring is flipping this model, empowering students to more fully own their learning by starting with “you do”, moving to “we do”, then getting the model from the teacher, the “I do”. For example, when working on text-marking/annotation of a poem in the traditional model, the teacher might use the Elmo and do a think-aloud, reading and talking through what he/she is annotating aloud, line by line. Then, the teacher might get the students into pairs and have them annotate a new poem together. Finally, for homework, students might be assigned a third poem and asked to annotate it individually. However, in this flipped model, I would start class by giving students a poem and an annotation/text-marking goal or two. They would then have ten minutes to annotate the poem on their own. Then, I would say, “get with your partner and compare what you did; if you see something you like that your partner did that you didn’t, add it to your annotations.” Finally, I would put my annotations under the Elmo and ask each individual to do a compare and contrast of their version to mine, noting, with specific examples, what looks the same and what looks different and WHY that is the case. Then, we would have a discussion about their similarities and differences.

A few critical shifts happen in this model:

1. Frustration creates perseverance and collaboration:
By not having the “answer” until the end of the process, students are forced to push on, even when frustrated. They don’t have an “out” other than to keep trying; moreover, they are “forced” into deeper and more meaningful collaboration during the “we do” stage because they truly do need one another. In the traditional model, they do not really need to collaborate because they already have the teacher’s model to help them. However, in this model, since they do not have the teacher’s model yet, they truly need to work with one another in trying to understand the learning.

2. Authentic reflection creates authentic learning:
One of the most crucial steps to this flipped model occurs right after the teacher shares his/her model because students are then forced into a comparative reflection, asking themselves “how is my product similar to and/or different from what the teacher shared?” This is a much different (and deeper) level of self reflection than simply asking “did I get this or not?” which is the sort of question asked at the end of the traditional approach discussed earlier. But in this model, students must critically compare their work to the teacher’s in an attempt to more fully ascertain that which they understand and that which they don’t. This reflection leads to authentic learning in which the skills become internalized, not simply imitated.

It is worth noting that this is where Recap becomes such a valuable tool for three reasons:

1. It gives the teacher a tool by which students can do these reflections, listening critically to what they have to say;
2. It gives students a logged record of them discussing their own learning which only helps them internalize the skills; and
3. Recap allows the teacher to share student reflections which can be valuable as models when actually teaching the skill of reflection.

3. Points of confusion lead to more purposeful teaching:
In my class, this model has led to much more pointed and purposeful teaching. Of course I still look at the actual student work along the way, using this formative data to help drive instruction, but now, I can also listen to their Recaps to hear where THEY think the struggle lies. Hearing students talk through the ways in which their work was similar and/or different to the model and why they think that happened is some of the most pointed formative feedback I could ask for. So, my instruction is much more pointed and individualized based on what they are saying about their own learning.

There is still a time and place for the traditional “I do, we do, you do” model; I am not saying we should fully abandon it; however, if we want students to fully internalize and own their learning, that cannot happen using this model alone, and students must be forced to be frustrated and pushed to deeper reflection about the what and why of their learning. I have said this for years now: my goal as a teacher is to have my students learn more while I teach less; flipping to “you do, we do, I do” makes this exponentially more possible…and successful.


Christopher Bronke has been teaching English for 13 years and is in his 5th year as English Department Chair at Downers Grove North. In this role he teaches 9th-grade honors, evaluates teachers, oversees the literacy coaching program, plans and implements PD, and works with other district leaders on CCSS integration/implementation and common assessments and rubrics. He has presented nationally on CCSS integration across all subject areas, creating a teacher brand, blogging to empower teacher voice, collaborative leadership, teacher blogging, teacher leadership, literacy leadership, as well as social media in the classroom. 
Check out Christopher’s blogRecap Pioneer page, and follow him on Twitter