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Published November 17, 2013 | English (Second Language)

The Flipped Classroom Could Be For You

A New and Exciting Strategy

I decided to flip my classroom, when I started teaching the second semester of general education courses in English as a Second Language, which are commonly called B-Block courses. I like to come out of class feeling like I did a good job, and I wasn’t getting that feeling. I looked into the inverted classroom and fell in love with the concept because I find that we learn a language more by being an active learner than a passive learner. By flipping, students learn at home and practice in class. Because I teach the second English class, students have already been exposed to most of the required grammar. What they need is review and practice to master the verb tenses learned previously.

Flipping also allows me to spend a lot more time on field of study content. For the past four or five years, students from all programs are taught together. We don’t provide reading about a specific field; students have to come up with their own article. Flipped teaching is very interactive because we do many team activities where students learn from each other. For example, for the midterm oral presentation, three people from three different fields of study were asked to talk about the same subject but from three different professional viewpoints.

Initially, I spent an entire month of summer preparing my classes. I found a grammar book called Fields of Vision, and divided it into units consisting of what I wanted to teach each week. Then I used Prezi, which a practice teacher, Émilie Gagnon, introduced me to. The Prezi activities I created last about two or three hours, because that’s the amount of homework students are supposed to do, but they include all sorts of short activities. Students enjoy the movement on the screen.

In Prezis, I focus on grammar, incorporating videos from the web. For example, in Week 1, students had to watch a video about the Simple Present and Present Progressive. Students are familiar with these tenses from their previous course, so I provide a three or four minute review explaining the differences between the two tenses. That’s my first frame on Prezi. Then I ask students to read what their grammar book says about Simple Present and Present Progressive. And there’s also a non-verb grammar unit afterwards which could be about indefinite articles, depending on the unit I want covered in the book.

An Example of a Prezi Assigned to Students to Use Outside of Class

Very often, I assign a reading activity related to students’ field of study. For example, in Week 1, I asked the library to buy Sean Aiken’s book called The One Week Job Project. Students had to read a unit that was related to their field. When they came back to class, they talked and wrote about it.

How Stuff Works

Figuring out whether students were doing the work was actually rather easy.  I use speed-speaking which is like speed-dating where students speak English. I put them in groups of about four. They then have to speak for 1 minute about something they had to watch or read in the Prezi. After the minute, I ask them to switch speakers. That’s how we start class. We always do a verb review based on the verb exercises in their book Field of Vision related to the assigned grammar.

Screenshot of How stuff work website

Students research a topic related to their field of study on the website How stuff work

I have a monitor with me. We walk around class, and if students didn’t do the homework, they can’t do the work or they will struggle. I don’t penalize but strongly encourage them to do it next time. Sometimes I’ll send a couple to the library or to the language lab to watch the Prezi and do the work. When it’s done, they can participate in discussions.

In class, we continue to work on verbs and other grammar elements. After, we’ll go to the lab where I’ve prepared pronunciation exercises. Every week there is a pronunciation or research exercise such as How Stuff Works. On the eponymous website, students research a topic related to their field of study, write a few lines and report in class. The fact that I have a language monitor means students get immediate feedback. We’ll notice new vocabulary or expressions which I can write on the board and teach afterwards.

Plusses and Minuses

I’m no longer regurgitating information, but delivering quality instruction that’s tailored to students’ needs. Although lecturing is satisfying, I believe students learn better when they feel involved in their learning process. Because there’s so much interaction with students during activities, I still feel like I’m the expert, even though I’m not “giving the show” anymore.

There are a few negative aspects to this approach. From a student survey, I found that two or three students per class didn’t particularly like flipping, but I’ve also noticed that those were the students who hadn’t done the homework. Most students, however, enjoyed the class perhaps because they saw that they were learning and were involved in their learning. This is something that I would not do with first semester or A-block courses because I find that students are not autonomous enough. Flipped teaching is not for every course.

Is the flipped classroom for you? Why or why not?

1 comment(s)

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    Elizabeth Charles wrote May 30, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    Great ideas and practical advice. Your experience is a true inspiration for those getting started with active pedagogies. I will definitely try out your methods of using Prezi as homework that can be brought into the classroom. Thanks for sharing.

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