More and more, you might hear about the flipped classroom. What is it? Well, the flipped classroom is a teaching model where students do traditional classroom activities, such as listen to lectures, at home via the Internet, resulting in more time for engaging practice activities in class. It’s a nice setup because students listening to lesson materials at home can set whatever pace they are comfortable with. For example, lower level students can view materials multiple times and higher level students can breeze through everything more quickly. In a traditional classroom, students of various levels all have to follow the same pace set by the teacher and this is less than ideal for many students. In flipped classrooms, teachers are more involved in practice activities which are done in class, rather than for homework. This allows teachers to see exactly where students struggle and adjust their teaching accordingly. Here is an infographic that explains the concept nicely. For ESL/EFL classes, the flipped classroom approach is wonderful because it maximizes the amount of time students speak English in class and minimizes the amount of teacher talk time.
One resource to help you flip your classroom, even for just a few trial periods, is Allthink*, which I introduced earlier this month in my TESOL Connections article, “4 Websites for Tech-Savvy Teachers.”
It is very easy to use and allows you to combine a lot of different types of media. The best place to start is at Engrade, where you register for a free account. I’ll talk about the many perks of Engrade later on but for now, just know that registering for Engrade is completely free and gives you access to Allthink, which is listed as “Allthink Lessons” under the Apps tab at the top of the screen. Once you are on that page, click “Create New Lesson” to get directed to the Allthink page.
From Allthink’s home page, you can watch a tutorial and view previously made lessons. You might even just choose one to use as is with your students, but if none of those are what you are looking for, creating a new lesson is simple too. Add a video, PowerPoint, document, image, or text to create the first page and continue adding material until everything you want students to view at home has been included, then create a short quiz. Although you can add quite a bit of material, it’s probably best to start small, especially if you are incorporating one or more videos into your Allthink mini lesson. Just give students the link so that they can access the material outside of class, and then you can view the results of the quiz to see how well students mastered the material before heading into the next class.
While Allthink mini lessons and the flipped classroom are great in many ways, there are also some drawbacks. Firstly, explaining to students how to use Allthink and other online resources at home if you lack the technology to demonstrate it in class could be quite challenging, especially for beginning ESL/EFL students. Additionally, some students may have limited computer and Internet access so it’s important to suggest alternate places students can access this material, such as in a school library or computer lab. Creating Allthink lessons could also be time consuming in the beginning, but it gets easier and the material will always be available online so you can reuse lessons year after year.
The extent to which technology is used in education depends a lot on where you teach and what resources are available to you and your students. If you think a flipped classroom approach could work for you, try Allthink to get started. It is simpler than you think.
*Note: Unfortunately, Allthink closed its doors on 30 June 2014.