Classroom time always feels too short to do everything we know we’re supposed to do! Connect to students’ prior knowledge, scaffold learning, repeat vocabulary, give multiple opportunities for practice, give students think time, engage with manipulatives, and of course, differentiate all of their tasks. Standards based learning and proficiency scales require an eye for levels of mastery. The flipped classroom approach offers a way for teachers to address students’ levels of comprehension at different times. Imagine, dividing the levels of Marzano or Bloom’s Taxonomy into different segments of a lesson. Dividing some of the student expectations into separate time periods allows more think time for new content. How this structure could be incorporated into our use of proficiency scales? Walk with me through this standards-based math lesson for 4th and 5thgrade elementary students.

In a Flipped Classroom model of learning,  new concepts are introduced the night before with a brief video. A short homework assignment, think exit ticket, helps students connecting background knowledge, and play with the new ideas. 

The next day the teacher reviews so students have already seen it twice! Their questions and troubles will come up faster and be able to be addressed right away. A quick pre-assessment helps the teacher identify the specific struggles or level of support each student will need. In a matter of minutes the teacher can then break up from whole group learning to small group instruction. The pretest become the guide for sorting your small groups for differentiation.

My son’s classroom teacher just announced that she will use this new procedure for mathematics class. As a parent, I LOVE that I can see that the exact content that he’s working on. If I’m not able to be there with him, he can still independently follow the link watch the video and attempt the practice problems. There;s no homework anxiety with this process! He knows that he will have another chance the next day to understand and address questions. The accountability for students lies in just attempting both problems. It’s so freeing for students to know that they have space to make mistakes before it counts against them! 

Let’s dive deeper into how this could be integrated with your proficiency scales. 

This standards-based math lesson for 4th and 5th grade elementary students, compares decimals to money. This comparison allows students to connect what they already know about pennies, dimes and dollars, to the function and meaning of place values. Students have the chance to explore and reflect on how place values are related to groups of 10; a dime which is 10 pennies, a dollar which is 10 dimes, or a ten bill which is 10 Ones. I use the following worksheet to connect and assess students’ background knowledge with place value. 

Step One: The night before, assign this worksheet to students with a quick video link. 


This video link gives an excellent explanation of Place Value: decimals and money in less than 5 minutes.

Step Two: Students are asked to do as much as they can inside the blue chart. I may even divide the expectation into “whole numbers” and “decimal” place values.

After watching the video link students attempt to find equivalent decimal amounts for each amount of money shown. For example next to the $100 in hundreds place students would write 10 in the 10s place, and 100 in the ones place. If students understand that each place value is 10 times more or less than the adjacent place value, then 1000 belongs in the tenths place because it would take 1000 dimes to make $100. Following the same pattern of needing 10 times more pennies, students would write 10,000 pennies in the hundreds place box. 

I always required my 5th graders, or in this case it might be your higher achieving students, to complete the lower level (first and easiest problems) first. this ensures that they fully understand the previous concepts before moving on. It also helps you to know if you need to do some quick review with your higher level students. In my experience, being a fast learner does not guarantee that there aren’t some learning gaps!    

Students are completing this initial work at home on their own time. They don’t have to rush and they don’t have to finish. I would encourage them go to make a mental note or to write down any questions they have even maybe circle things that are confusing to them. Then they’ll remember to ask about them the next day. 

Step Three: students bring their worksheet to class the next day. the teacher can collect them all and quickly sort them into groups according to proficiency levels. OR, give them 1 or 2 exit ticket tasks as a pretest.

Remember that you get to define the proficiency levels. this is where your scale can come in handy if you have a scale related to the specific task or standard. Here’s an example of groups for this exercise.

Level 4 – “I can extend the place value exercise by accurately placing the decimal point to create a dollar amount and explain how I know.”

Level 3 – “I can accurately compare whole dollar amounts to decimal values on a place value chart.”

Level 2 – “I can compare the amounts in whole number place values only.”

Level 1 – “I still need support to identify whole number place value amounts.”

Step Four: Assign students to a leveled group. 

Decide if you will combine one or two of these groups to meet with you for differentiated instruction. 

If you have really big groups, like 15 kids at level 2, divide them in half. 

*IMPORTANT!! They don’t have to know how they’re being leveled. DON’T LABEL IT ‘high’, ‘medium’, ‘low’, etc. I used to use colors, shapes, or numbers. 

Assign each group a portion of the activity worksheet to work on together. (Note the division between my 4thand 5th grade student assignments) OR you may use another problem worksheet that is related. 

Step Five: Meet with your small groups and go over the worksheet, from easiest to hardest problems.

I like to work with my lowest students first to make sure they are using the time well to catch up on concepts. See how much of the problems they were able to do on their own, and then after the whole group explanations. Provide further instruction, practice together, and answer questions. Set a timer to work with them. Before leaving their group, give them a goal to complete x number of problems together before time is up.

Then I like to work with my middle kids. Check whatever extra problems they’ve done as a small group. Provide further instruction, practice together, and answer questions. Give them ample opportunities to explain their thinking. Set a timer to work with them. Before leaving their group, give them a goal to complete x number of problems together before time is up.

I like to meet my highest level learners last, because they are the most independent and will likely accomplish the most on their own. When your higher students successfully complete the first task, they move on to the second one and finish as much as possible. See how much of the problems they were able to do on their own, and then after the whole group explanations. Provide further instruction, practice together, and answer questions. Set a timer to work with them. Give them more opportunities to explain I thinking.

*ALTERNATIVE – Prepare independent work folders or menus for each leveled group to work on. The tasks should be related to the skills practice, but differentiated.

Benefits of Flipped Learning

  • Students watch a simple video and interact with the content before there is any time pressure! 
  • You address the lowest levels of Marzxano’s taxonomy, addressing background knowledge and vocabulary at home, before you being instruction. 
  • You get to spend more class time at the level of understanding and application! 
  • Students can rewind a video to repeat explanations during the video introduction. 
  • Homework anxiety is relieved because there is no pressure to have them correct the first time.
  • Deeper learning happens when students have more time in the content; encouraging more sophisticated questions and discoveries.

Here’s a testimonial from my own fifth grader;

“Mom, I love the flipped classroom thing! It’s 10 minutes of watching a video and I understand it more!”

If it gets kids engaged, it has to be worth a try!

For more info visit

Or Jon Bergmann, one of the founders of Flipped Classroom

On YouTube

Thank you to Josie J., who tested and reviewed the following resource… 

5th Grade Math Assessment with Marzano Proficiency Scales – EDITABLE

“This resource was amazing! It made comparing date within our PLC very manageable and easy to analyze! I would highly recommend this resource to all!” – October 2021

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