Retreating

retreat

Image courtesy of Grant Kwok

For any of you who have been regular readers of this blog, you know that I haven’t been a big fan of ‘flipping’ the language classroom. To clarify a bit, I have never been entirely against the concept of having these students do some preparation at home before class, but the idea of converting your entire curriculum over to this method seems off to me. I have always felt like we were taking away something valuable by not having the ability to use this time to see how students were doing. One student may take longer to finish than another, but you wouldn’t find that out without having them in the classroom.

Fast forward to last weekend where I had the opportunity to sit in on a session about flipping given by two people I trust in the field of ELT, Iwona and Margarita of English Online. To be honest, I mostly went to the session to support them, but I was also interested to hearing their side of the matter. While I am still not completely convinced about flipping my entire classroom, I can see merit in some of the things that they mentioned, retreating a bit from my hard and fast stance. Here are my takeaways from that session.

  1. Flipping does not equate to homework. From what I have read from those who have flipped their classroom, this is exactly what they are doing. Instead of reading the textbook or finding a newspaper article (which is what I remember from high school), it has simply made it flashier with the use of technology (ie. video or audio files). I don’t get how this is helpful.
  2. Flipping does equate to providing scaffolding. That is what I was missing before. I failed to see how this could be helpful, but I get it now. This goes back to Vygotsky’s work of making use of the learner’s knowledge about a subject and then guiding them into that zone between what they can and cannot do. Allowing students to work on their own or with others (another thing I failed to take into account during my previous rants) within their own ZPD, instead of having to deal with others within the classroom environment. This idea, I believe, is best suited to the peer-to-peer modal that Iwona and Maragarita discussed in their session. A student who is able to do something can assist a peer who is not yet there, adding to the learning experience for both individuals. Technology takes this much further than what we would have had to have done in the past. Also, it allows students to work at their own pace without the classroom pressures of others finishing before them.
  3. Flipping should only be done in certain areas. It does NOT have to be done for everything. This is especially important in the language classroom where having the student in the classroom for what would seem like a menial task can be a valuable formative assessment tool for both the teacher and the student.
  4. Flipping is not about the tool, it is all about the student. Use whatever tool it takes to help the students, even if it doesn’t need electricity.
  5. Focus on receptive skills. This doesn’t mean that you exclude productive skills, but it is about helping build the student’s knowledge in an area leaving us time in the classroom to assist them with their productive skills.
Not all of these things were directly said in the presentation, but this is what I was able to gain from this session. I am pretty sure that Iwona and Margarita would agree with me on these (at least I hope so).

I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to add a comment below.

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