“Flipping” the World Language Classroom

During our August 16th #LangChat, our participants discussed the prospect of “flipping” a world language classroom. Simply put, the “flipped” model has students learn new information – which would normally be presented during an in-class lecture – on their own at home, often through readings or videos. Class time is then spent practicing and enforcing the new material through discussion and activities. @trescolumnae explained that proponents of flip would say that their methods offload the direct instruction to out-of-class time so there is more room for practice through communication in class.

The “flipped” method has become a hot trend among teachers of many academic subjects, particularly with the advent of many online learning technologies and resources. However, the technique is still relatively new among world language teachers (although it is more common in Europe). Participants discussed what exactly a “flipped” classroom would mean in the world language context, whether or not it was possible for the world language classroom, and the pros and cons of applying the technique to their particular subject.

About the “Flipped Classroom”

Although the flipped method is still relatively new to world language teachers, participants shared a wealth of resources detailing the meaning of the flipped technique, and several teachers’ experiences applying it to their own classrooms.

    • @DiegoOjeda66 recommended a post on the User Generated Education blog as a good general resource. “The Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture” includes a detailed explanation of the technique and lots of links to outside resources
    • Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams have written a book entitled Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Class Every Day. It is available on Amazon here: http://t.co/1KDRAAl0
    • Jonathan Bergmann (author of Flip Your Classroom) also has a personal blog where he shares more about the flipped method: http://flipped-learning.com/
    • Since flipping the world language classroom is still relatively new, participants interested in the method can look to teachers of other subjects for inspiration. Here are two examples of teachers of other subjects using a flipped classroom model:
    • @spanish4teacher (aka Emilia Carillo), a frequent #langchat participant talks about her experience teaching Spanish in a flipped classroom on her blog: http://t.co/H3c4Vg75
    • Another case of a Spanish teacher using the flipped method can be found here: http://spanishflippedclass.blogspot.com/p/about-me.html
    • @katchiringa has also written a post on her blog “Plugged in Pedagogy” about flipping: http://t.co/dezeHclc
    • @dr_dmd shared a link to a page on his wiki, where he is collecting flipped classroom resources: http://t.co/IrD5LgiY

Sophia.org offers teachers a chance to get “flip certified” for their classrooms: http://t.co/XBndlKXd
Interested teachers can visit the Flipped Learning Network Ning website and request to join: http://t.co/Asg7Cy9L

Skepticism and Concerns

Participants were very vocal in their skepticism of some aspects of applying the flipped method to the world language classroom. Some worried about the effect of flipping on the student, while others were concerned about the effect of the “flipped” classroom on the role of the teacher.

Although many believe that active learning on the part of the student is key, some were concerned that students would not take it upon themselves to prepare outside of class, which would cause in-class activities to suffer.

  • @Marishawkins worried that if students had too many flipped classes in too many subjects, they would tire of having to watch a bunch of lectures at home.
  • As a fan of TPRS, @SECottrell needs to constantly check her students’ comprehension of the learning material; she can’t see flipping her classroom because she wouldn’t be able to ensure that students were actually understanding what they were given.
  • @smschwab is afraid that giving students too much to learn at home, without direct guidance, might create anxiety that could keep them from completing assignments.

Others worried about the effect of flipped classrooms on teachers and their role in the learning process:

  • @klafrench thinks that it is possible to make a classroom student-centered without flipping; she could see lazy teachers using “flipping” to get out of doing actual teaching.
  • @SECottrell, on the other hand, thinks that flipping a classroom would take extra work on the part of the teacher, and she’s not sure that extra work would prove worth it in the end.
  • @fravan worried that too much reliance on outside-of-class learning through technology might cause school administrators to say that world language teachers are not necessary and can be replaced with online language learning programs.

@DiegoOjeda66 shared this link to an article titled “Five Reasons I’m Not Flipping Over the Flipped Classroom,” written by a teacher who is against the flipped classroom model: http://t.co/9ajyoa1O

Flipped Classroom, or Homework by Another Name?

While some participants were skeptical of the flipped method, others questioned the extent to which it was really a new and innovative technique. @smschwab suggested that the idea of a “flipped class” might just be a new-fangled name for a trend in more student-focused teaching that is already taking hold. @textivate clarified that flipping doesn’t just mean student-centered learning; it means taking the instruction and didactic part out of what goes on in class.

While the idea of turning lectures and note-taking (traditionally done in class) into at-home assignments might be more innovative for subjects like math and science, everyone acknowledged that the world language classroom is inherently different; thus flipping a world language classroom would also be different. Regardless of your feelings on the issue, @dr_dmd offered some perspective when he suggested that what we need is not to be tied to a label, but rather to do what is best for students.

Assigning Meaningful At-Home Work: Tools and Tips

Whether you’re a proponent of the flipped method or a skeptic, all participants agreed that all teachers should look for ways to assign more meaningful at-home work. Not all homework is created equal, and many participants, like @SECottrell, believe that world language homework is not living up to its potential.

Giving students work to do at home can allow them to work at their own pace, and re-watch or re-read to ensure comprehension. Some students work at a slower pace, and giving them the freedom to absorb materials at home keeps those students from getting left behind in a fast-paced in-class lecture.

Participants shared their thoughts on how to encourage active learning outside of class and to increase students’ exposure to L2. Some of these suggestions would require more initial prep time on the part of the teacher, but both @dr_dmd and @Catherineku1972 agreed that this was a worthy investment for the long-term benefits to both the teacher and the students.

  • @Marishawkins suggested that meaningful homework could be a comprehensible recorded story to watch or listen to a home.
  • @Catherineku1972 has about 50 books on CD that she bought at the 2011 ACTFL conference, which she lets her students use at home. She copies the CD to students’ mp3 players.
  • @profeslack suggested having students learn about culture topics at home in L1, and then coming to class to discuss them in L2. This would ensure comprehension.

Teachers often assign readings for students to do at home, but many participants have found this to present some problems. It is hard to ensure that students do the readings, and that they comprehend what they are reading. @klafrench tries to give students a specific task when she assigns reading at home. @SECottrell still finds that giving level 3 and 4 students reading guides to fill out at home frustrates them.

There was some debate amongst participants regarding grammar and the flipped model. @profeslack suggested that one way to “flip” a world language classroom would be to have students work on direct grammar instruction in L1 at home so that they can incorporate it into class time in L2. For example, @profeslack envisions giving an introduction to the preterit tense via video in L1, followed by in-class practice of the concept in L2. @textivate echoed this idea, advocating giving students vocabulary lists or grammar rules to learn at home; the following class period could be spent practicing using those words and grammar rules. But @Catherineku1972 disagreed, saying that few students would be enthused about the prospect of learning something as dry as boring on their own; only “language geeks” like herself would enjoy that! She advocated using out-of-class time to expose students to real media to enhance comprehension.

Online Tools for Meaningful At-Home Work and Learning

Whether they have deliberately “flipped” their classrooms or not, participants shared some online tools that they have used to give students meaningful at-home work to do:

  • This year, @DiegoOjeda66 will have his students watch others students’ conversations that he will flip using the TED-ed Flip Tool (http://t.co/oheY7n6Q), which allows you to make annotations, include questions, and more.
  • YouTube can be a very helpful tool for flipping a classroom. This YouTube channel shows an example of a Spanish teacher who flips his classroom by providing his students with grammar videos to watch at home: http://t.co/0okqSkKr
  • @SECottrell is currently exploring screencasting software for more at-home learning. So far she has found Jing, which lets users make 5-minute long recordings, to be the best free software.
  • @DiegoOjeda66 – This year I will try using Twitcam to talk about cultural topics. Not flipped instruction but more exposure outside of class. Live stream video on Twitter. Allows Twitter users to start streaming on their own channels, with live chat.

At-home learning doesn’t even have to be assigned or required. @Catherineku1972 believes that any extra exposure is good for learning; she doesn’t necessarily assess that exposure, but she makes sure to offer it. She will supplement her students’ in-class learning with YouTube playlists that include music, ads, travel videos, and TV shows – all in the target language. She also has a curricular website that she has been working on for 10 years, which includes quizzes, videos, games, reading, and listening.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this fast-paced, dynamic discussion! And special thanks to our moderators, @dr_dmd and @DiegoOjeda66.

To make sure you’re getting the most you can out of #langchat, we remind everyone to take advantage of Tweet Chat to follow the discussion and make sure your voice is heard! It’s a much easier way to participate than just using Twitter and searching for tweets tagged “#langchat!” To get started with Tweet Chat, click here: http://t.co/YTRBBZGq

Please remember to suggest future #langchat topics here: http://t.co/Li25loRn. It is your thoughtful topic suggestions that make #langchat so great! You can also have a voice by voting for a topic each week; watch for the link to the topic selection poll on twitter!

Join us next Thursday at 8pm EST/5pm PST for our next #langchat!

#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.

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