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Using an In-Class Flip for Differentiation in First Grade

Lori Meyers

Touro University California


One of the benefits of a flipped classroom model is that it lends itself to differentiation.
In a flipped classroom model, students watch video lessons at home, then come to
school the next day, ready to learn and work on projects. The lessons can be
customized, so that the students are watching videos that are just right for them. The
teachers, rather than spending class time lecturing, are able to work with individuals or
groups of students on the specific content they are learning, addressing their unique
learning needs.

However, a traditional at home flipped classroom can be challenging for students in

the early primary grades. As these young students are learning to read, write, and
work with each other, they benefit from the support of a nurturing in-class environment
that allows them to develop independence, collaborative skills, and confidence in
tackling more challenging tasks.

The question becomes how a primary grade teacher can reap the benefits of a flipped
model to support differentiation, while preserving the in-class nurturing relationship so
essential in the early grades. This study explores an integration of the two through
implementation of an in class flipped model to support differentiation in a first grade

Keywords: differentiation, flipped classroom, elementary, screencast, first grade


In any American classroom, there is a wide range of academic levels and

learning needs. This diversity is supported statistically. Nationally, there is an
increase in ELL students in our schools (, 2012). Between 2000 and
2010, the prevalence of autism in U.S. children increased by 110.4 percent
(, 2014), and autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability. In
addition, gifted students make up 6 to 10 percent of the population (
Students enter the classroom with different abilities, challenges, interests, motor skills,
and developmental readiness.
Understanding the unique learning needs of each of these students is essential
to their academic growth. According to Vygotsky, students should be taught within
their zones of proximal development (ZPD), with sufficiently challenging curriculum so
that they can learn with some external support. If the curriculum is so easy that they
can master it without assistance, then they are not learning. If the curriculum is so
hard that they cant master it even with assistance, then they are not learning
(Vygotsky, 1978). The ZPD for each student is different, depending upon that students
unique learning needs.
In addition, addressing the unique learning needs of each of these students -
through differentiation - is essential to their academic growth. Differentiation is simply
attending to the learning needs of a particular student or small group of students rather
than the more typical pattern of teaching the class as though all individuals in it were
basically alike. (Tomlinson & Allen, 2000). This can take the form of modifying the
type of instruction, the content of instruction, and the product of instruction so that
every child has access to learning.

Research shows that understanding student learning preferences may help
students receive and /or process information more successfully (Joseph, Thomas,
Simonette, & Ramscook, 2013.) The same study measured the impact that
differentiated instruction had on student achievement. The results showed that
students in differentiated instruction groups obtained higher grades than their
counterparts in a traditional school setting, and that 90 percent of the students who
were exposed to differentiated instruction had a higher level of academic interest and
The benefits of differentiated instruction have become so well known that
differentiation has been integrated into the Common Core State Standards. For
reading, the CCSS states that instruction should be differentiated...the point is to teach
students what they need to learn and not what they already know. For math, the
proscription is similar, stating that educators the needs of individual
students based on their current understanding.
For many educators, a flipped classroom model is an effective technique for
differentiation. In a flipped model, teachers provide recorded lessons or screencasts,
which the students watch at home. During the next class, having already watched a
screencasted lesson, the students can then work on problems, projects, and
collaborative work. The teacher is available for interaction and support during this class
time. Differentiation occurs as the teacher can provide differentiated content for the
lessons, customizing both the content and the pace for the unique needs of the students
(Siegle, 2014). In addition, the students can self-differentiate the pacing of the lessons
by slowing down, speeding up, or replaying the differentiated screencasts when they
need to review (Bergmann and Sams, A, 2012).

Table 1. Comparison of Traditional and Flipped Instruction


While the flipped classroom is an effective model for older students, face-to-face
learning is essential in the earlier grades. Younger students need an in-person
connection in order to develop bonds with their teachers, and to build a supportive and
safe learning space. Within the security of this bond and connection, students develop
comfort taking on academic challenges. A 2001 study shows that positive relationships
with teachers provide security for young children; they are better able to become
independent because they know that they can count on their teachers to recognize and
respond to...problems. (Hamre and Pianta, 2001) In addition, students who
experience high quality student-teacher relationships in the early years exhibit fewer
behavior problems and show more engagement in their learning (Hamre and Pianta
2006). The challenge becomes how a primary grade teacher can capitalize on the
benefits of a flipped classroom model for differentiation, while preserving the in-class
student-teacher and student-student relationships so essential during the early primary


In the first grade classroom used as the sample for this study, there is a wide range of
student ages, interests, abilities, and readiness. There is a wide range of language
proficiency and social skills. There is a wide range of ability to work independently.
The students are in school from 8:20 a.m. - 3:45 p.m., longer than the typical
public school day. The day is split between religious/language studies and General
Studies, leaving a maximum of 3 hours per day for reading, writing, math, science, and
social studies. On most days, this usually leaves about 50 minutes for math.
In the past, math instruction was differentiated in two ways. First, two teachers
divided the grade into two flexible, leveled groups. One teacher taught the group that
was at low-to-middle grade level; the other teacher (this researcher) taught the group
that was at middle-to-high grade level.
Second, even within the middle-to-high grade level group, the students received
differentiated work. During each math period, a whole-group concept or strategy lesson
provided the basis for content instruction. Figure shows the progression of traditional
differentiated instruction.

Figure 1. Traditional Differentiated Instruction Model


This whole-group lesson was followed by one or more of the following activities,
depending upon the lesson, needs of the students, and the amount of available time:
Math Practice: Students worked on independent practice pages. Depending on
the lesson and student need, the independent practice consisted of the same
page for everyone, or differentiated review, practice, or enrichment.
Math with the Teacher: Depending on the needs of the students, the teacher
worked either with a group of students needing additional instruction or practice,
or on critical thinking problems with a group ready for enrichment.
Math Games (optional, for early finishers): Play a math game with a partner.
While the games were the same, the numbers and quantities were differentiated
by pairs of students.
Addressing the needs of each of the students in a 50 minute math block is
challenging for one teacher. Often, the group needing additional instruction or guided
practice filled the time intended for the enrichment group. In addition, especially in the
beginning of the school year, students needed extra help understanding and following
the directions on the independent practice pages.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of screencasting using an
in-class flipped classroom model to provide the benefits of differentiated learning in first
grade while preserving and nurturing the essential in-class student-teacher relationship.
The goal of differentiation was to identify and address the unique learning needs of
every student in a class. A standard flipped classroom helps a teacher to effectively
differentiate by giving students at-home access to differentiated content, followed by
in-class individual and small-group time to support the flipped instruction. However,
students, particularly in the early primary grades, need an in-person connection in order
to develop bonds with their teachers, building a supportive and safe learning space.
With this bond and connection, students develop comfort with growing and taking on

academic challenges. Without this bond and connection, learning is compromised. The
main objective of this study is to explore how young students can be supported in a
in-class flipped learning model.


What are the effects of using an in-class flipped classroom model to support
differentiation in first grade? How is student achievement affected by the use of in-class

This action research was a mixed method study using a pre-experimental design.
Data from student assessments was used to measure the effectiveness of the flipped
learning design using teacher-made screencasts for students independent learning.
Participants were a convenience sample consisting of first grade students in a
self-contained classroom. These students included both boys and girls; students who
were English Language Learners (ELLs); children with special needs, including one
child who didnt attend kindergarten and is testing at an early kindergarten-level in
literacy; and gifted children. For this study, the researcher examined both pre- and post-
assessments for one unit of math from her 2016-17 first grade class. The students took
a pre-assessment before instruction for the unit began, and a post-test after the unit
was completed. Figure 2 illustrates the flipped model for math instruction.


Figure 2. Math instruction for the study followed an in-class flipped model.

During each math period, the students started the lesson with a whole-class
math warm-up. Then, the students rotated through the following math stations, with one
optional station:
Screencast Math Lesson: Students watched a teacher-created screencast of the
lesson. This station consists of five iPads or ChromeBooks, on which the
students watch the screencast. The screencasts were recorded using
Math Practice: Students worked on differentiated independent practice
assignments. One or two ChromeBooks or iPads were also available at this
station so that students could refer to the screencast lesson, if necessary.
Math with the Teacher: Students worked with the teacher on differentiated
instruction. This could be reteaching material, additional guided practice, or
Math Games (optional, for early finishers): Students played a differentiated math
game with a partner.


The math unit being evaluated in this study consisted of about five lessons. The
duration of the unit was approximately 5 days.


The data measured for this research consisted of student scores on pre- and
post-assessments for the math unit. The pre- and post-assessments were identical so
that they accurately measured student learning in the unit. Each assessment contained
10 tasks, and the full point value for each task was 1 point. The maximum score that
could be earned on each assessment was 10 points. Figure 3 displays scores for the
pre-test assessment and the post-assessment, the scores for the 13 students were as

Figure 3. Pretest and Posttest Math Scores

The mean for students scores on the pre-assessment was 9.46 points; the mean
for the scores on the post-assessment was 9.92 points which indicate an improvement

in math achievement after the treatment. The study results also were analyzed using a
paired t-test. The two-tailed P value for comparing the pre- and post-assessment
scores was 0.0269, indicating that the difference is statistically significant.
These results indicate that the in-class flipped model for this math unit resulted in
students increasing their scores on the post-assessment. Of the five students who
scored less than 10 on the pre-assessment, all increased their scores on the
There were eight students who scored 10 on both their pre-assessments. All of
them were given differentiated enrichment lessons and work throughout the unit, taught
during Math with the Teacher. The differentiated lessons extended the concepts taught
in the unit through operations with larger numbers, solving and creating word problems,
critical thinking exercises, and logic puzzles. The researcher assessed student
learning in these differentiated lessons both informally through observation and
discussion, and formally through student work.


In summary, the wide range of ages, developmental readiness, learning styles,
and proficiencies in every classroom necessitates differentiated instruction. For older
students, flipping a classroom is one way to address this need. However, for younger
students, who need an ongoing face-to-face connection with their teacher in order to
learn, a traditional flipped classroom isnt effective. This study attempts to address that
gap by experimenting with an in-class flip in a first grade math classroom, in which the
flipped instruction occurs in class rather than at home.
The results of this study on a single math unit are encouraging. Given that the
results show that the in-class flipped model led to increased learning for all of the
students, several additional types of analyses are indicated.
First, the study should be repeated with a similar quantitative analysis for a
different type of math unit. This math unit consisted of counting and very basic addition.
A different type of math unit might consist of more complex computation, geometry, or

graphing. This type of study would help to determine the effectiveness of an in-class flip
on a variety of content. Second, the study should be repeated without using an in-class
flip for a similar math unit. This would allow the researcher to compare the
post-assessment results for the flipped and un-flipped units. It would be revealing to
quantitatively see the difference (if any) in student learning between the two. Third, it
would be beneficial to undertake a qualitative analysis of student perceptions of their
flipped experience. So much of how first graders learn is driven both by their enjoyment
and by their feelings of self-efficacy. Do the students enjoy learning from the
screencasts? Do the students think that the screencasts keep their attention as well as
a teacher would? And do the students believe that they are good at learning math from
the screencasts? Do they think that they are growing as math learners?
Finally, it would valuable to include both quantitative and qualitative data about
the impact of this model on the teacher. As Linda Darling-Hammond (2009) noted that
one of the hallmarks of an excellent school system is that teachers have plentiful time
for collaboration and planning. Does an in-class flip require significantly more or less
planning? Does the screencasting have an up-front increase in preparation and
planning, yet significantly make math group rotations more smooth? Is the increase in
preparation worth the (hopefully) increase in results? Regardless of the impact on
student learning, it is essential to ensure that the teacher has sufficient time to prepare
and plan for an in-class flip.


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