Doing Flips — Flipped Attendance and a Flipped Test

I teach at a public charter school in North Carolina dedicated to doing things differently (I’m paraphrasing the mission statement a bit).

Students bring their own electronic devices — mainly laptops, but it’s BYOD, so we get a mix — and we’re committed to the “flipped classroom” model.  

Accordingly, I’ve already made some videos to help my students learn such things as:

how to annotate a reading 


how to be an active and engaged learner.  

I will make more videos as the year goes on, and I plan to have students make videos as well — to teach their classmates about the things they learn.

But I’m not stopping at flipped lessons — I’m also “flipping” other things in my classroom.

For example, I’m taking flipped attendance.  Instead of taking attendance by calling out students’ names, I have students visit a shared Google Spreadsheet where they answer a brief question at the start of class.  This technique has a few purposes — it gets everyone’s voice out there, and it makes sure their machines are ready to go so we can do research or collaborate or even take notes.

Here’s a fun example of the results when I asked “what did you have for breakfast?”

(student names would appear at the left, but I clipped off their names to preserve anonymity).



The fourth line is blank because that student was absent.  That’s how I take attendance.  A blank line means a student is absent (or is having trouble getting online, which is useful to know as well).

I love the third one from the bottom — “I don’t even remember what I had for lunch.”  This was in a class just one period after lunch.  I now know that student has a good sense of humor 🙂

“Flipped attendance” can also be more serious.  For example, I might ask them about the day’s reading — here’s an example of from a day when I asked students to record what they learned about Harriet Tubman from watching a video I made:


Taking “flipped attendance” allows me to learn not only who’s absent, but also which details from a video or reading my students found most interesting.  It also tells me which students did not do the homework (I appreciate the honesty of the student who fessed up, highlighted above).

This Friday, I’m trying my first-ever flipped test.  Instead of the traditional test, where I would have to read the same responses from all 100+ of the students I teach (five sections of about 20 students each), I’ve asked each of them to write me a one-page paper telling me the most interesting things they have learned thus far in our class.

Some students have started writing already, and it’s neat to follow along as they write in a shared Google Doc.  I can even provide feedback and ask questions as they progress in the writing process.  They take notes in shared docs as well — in a future post I’ll show some of the ways I can provide feedback and help them improve their notes.

Ideally, the notes will serve as the rough draft for the “flipped test” and students will choose to write about the most significant things they have learned.

Here’s a working draft from one of my students, who gave me permission to quote this work-in-progress:

So far in class, I’ve learned a lot.  We started off by talking about history itself.  “History” comes from the word “historia,” which means, “to learn by asking questions.”  We discussed what characteristics an ideal student has and the expected respect levels in the class.  We also talked about Andrew Jackson very early on, and I learned some interesting things about him.  My favorite thing that I learned about him was about his temper.  He once got in a duel (a real duel, guns and everything!) with a man who insulted his wife, who had died before he became president.  Jackson was shot twice and carried those bullets inside of him for the rest of his life.  We discussed the Michael Brown case, and shared our opinions on whether his death (or possibly murder) was justified.  In order to make comparisons, some people, myself included, also researched the Trayvon Martin case.  I enjoyed getting to know what people, including George Zimmerman, Martin’s attacker, said had happened in that case.  Supposedly, it was self defense, but I’m not really sure if I believe that.  


I look forward to reading the rest of that “flipped test” (and the 100+ other tests I’ll receive tomorrow).

Based on the work I have seen from my students thus far, and on the general culture at the school, I have a feeling that this is going to be a great year. 

This is my 20th year teaching, and I feel like doing flips.



About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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2 Responses to Doing Flips — Flipped Attendance and a Flipped Test

  1. Angie says:

    As long as you don’t “flip out”, everything is going to be wonderful. I really like the idea of the flipped attendance. I always do an opener while I am taking attendance, so this would take care of both at once. Great idea!

  2. One of your students in 6th or 7th period says:

    We miss you Mr. Goldberg I hope you feel better and can’t wait until you come back teaching,love your class because you bring so much energy near the end of the day. See you soon

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