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.

Last Thursday our participants engaged in a thoughtful discussion about how foreign language teachers can maintain and enhance their own language skills.

Maintaining one’s own language skills has its challenges. Many participants cited time as one of the biggest factors: by the end of the school day, everyone is exhausted, and many have family responsibilities. Other obstacles include a lack of diversity in one’s community (meaning few to no native target language speakers). Even when educators make an effort to do foreign language meet-ups, scheduling can prove difficult, especially for those with small children to care for.

Fortunately, in our increasingly globalized world, and with the help of the internet, there are more opportunities than ever for language teachers to maintain and enhance their own language skills so that they can better serve their students. Participants emphasized the importance of continually seeking opportunities to develop interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational skills, through listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Simple Solutions

Although there are a myriad of ways to absorb and engage in the target language, participants shared some simple ways to practice the target language in everyday life – ones that don’t require special materials, subscriptions, or even an internet connection!

@senoralopez has both her phone and computer set to Spanish, while @Marishawkins has her ATM card set to Spanish and receives e-mails from her bank in Spanish. Participants might also consider setting their Facebook or Twitter account to the target language as a simple way of ensuring a small level of target language engagement beyond the classroom each day.

In previous #LangChat discussions, participants talked about the goal of using only the target language in the classroom. But on Thursday, @msfrenchteach pointed out another benefit of working towards this goal: it means increased use of the target language for the teacher, too! Speaking practice is still useful, even if it’s not with native speakers.

Strange as it may sound, another way to practice without the presence of native speakers is by speaking to oneself! Several participants admitted speaking to themselves in the target language, and found it to be good practice. @CalicoTeach has found that it helps improve production speed and fluency. @alenord sometimes pretends she’s talking to her husband in Spanish. @msfrenchteach shared that while few people like to hear or watch recordings of themselves speaking, she expects it of her students, so she makes herself do it, too.

Listening: Music, Radio, and Podcasts

One fun and easy way that many participants work on their own target language skills is by listening to music. @alenord enhances her listening experience by paying attention to the wording of song lyrics, and by looking up lyrics later. As @dr_dmd pointed out, music is an excellent way to tap into the current uses of the target language, and especially for keeping up with slang.

The internet makes foreign language radio accessible to everyone with an internet connection through streaming. Participants with iPads have found them to be especially useful tools, as they can download the apps for major foreign news companies. @dr_dmd has apps for Radio France, RFI, Radio Canada; he also likes RFI.fr for podcasts. @julieeldb00 listens to BBC Mundo.

Since participants cited time as the biggest obstacle to practicing their own language skills, @stephkrenz had a great recommendation: listening to foreign language audiobooks while driving!

Movies and TV Shows

Authentic target language films and TV series are another popular way to keep up language skills, along with cultural and historical knowledge. Many such target language movies and shows are accessible online. Netflix has a good selection of films in a variety of languages, although unfortunately it does not let viewers turn off the English subtitles for foreign films. It is also possible to add a foreign language channel to your cable or satellite package. @dr_dmd, for example, gets TV5Monde (a major French television channel) at home; he sometimes records French programming for later viewing. @CalicoTeach has even watched Spanish-language telenovelas (soap operas) at the local Mexican market!

Participants shared some of their favorite films in their target languages. For French, @lauren_schryver recommended “Jean de Florette,” “Manon des Sources,” “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “L’Argent de Poche,” and “Le Maître de Musique.” To that list, @dr_dmd added “Le Hussard sur le toit” and “Bleu.” For Spanish films, @senoraCMT recommended “La Misma Luna,” “Voces Inocentes,” “Cautiva,” “Sugar,” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.” She also shows these films to her students, although she sometimes skips certain scenes or asks parents to sign a permission slip for those films that contain more mature content.


Reading is another excellent way to keep up skills in the target language. Participants enjoy novels of both the classic and “beach read” genres, as well as magazines and newspapers. @dr_dmd pointed out that e-readers like Kindle and nook make access to target language materials easier than ever.

  • @ProfaEsp is reading the popular young adult novel The Hunger Games in its Spanish translation (Los Juegos del Hambre). @CalicoTeach read the Harry Potter series in Spanish, too. @senoraCMT also recommends lighter “candy reads” as an easy and enjoyable way to maintain fluency.
  • @dr_dmd, on the other hand, prefers native texts in L2 over translations.
  • The library at @lauren_schryver’s school subscribes to Paris Match, which is basically the French equivalent of People magazine in the US.
  • @dr_dmd recommends Le francais dans le monde, a magazine published by the International French Teachers Federation, which contains lots of articles and fiches pédagogiques.

Writing: Stories, Tweets, and Blogs

While listening and reading opportunities in the target language (input) are relatively prevalent, it can be hard to practice target language output – especially when it comes to writing. @dr_dmd suggests writing creative stories on your own to use in your classroom later. Twitter provides a way to engage in target language writing, albeit on a small scale. Others suggested making a professional blog in the target language, and updating it regularly. Many of our participants have their own blogs already!

Communication with Other Target Language Speakers

Everyone agreed that engaging with other target language speakers (ideally native ones) remains one of the best ways to maintain and enhance skills.

Participants shared tips for how to connect with target language speakers in the local community.

  • @lauren_schryver has two colleagues who are native speakers; she has asked them to correct her when she makes mistakes, and she takes note of these corrections and writes down new vocabulary.
  • A few participants have volunteered as medical interpreters at local clinics and find it to be a great way to gain new skills while helping others at the same time.
  • In some areas, teachers and cultural groups may organize “meet-ups” as a chance for target language speakers to practice together. For example, @lauren_schryver shared that there are monthly meet-ups for French teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Nearby universities may offer target language speaking opportunities as well.

Of course, connecting with fellow target language speakers will be easier in certain areas, and with certain languages, than others. In those cases, resources like Skype provide opportunities to engage with native target language speakers around the world.

  • @msfrenchteach communicates regularly via Skype and e-mail with a colleague in Paris regarding a virtual exchange project they are working on.
  • @MmeCaspari found a partner for practicing Spanish via Mixxer: http://t.co/332QfXVt
  • @CalicoTeach used Speakshop to practice speaking with a native speaker in Guatemala. She finds the company to be well-organized and to offer good instruction from language teachers in Guatemala for reasonable prices. As a side benefit, part of the revenue from each lesson supports development projects in Guatemala.
  • @paulinobrener will be running free conversations sessions for Spanish language teachers. More information can be found on his site: http://t.co/fBeLcvC7
  • @dr_dmd said that we could consider setting up ePals opportunities for teachers through #LangChat. He asked that those who are interested post on the #LangChat wiki: http://t.co/HIUBk2SG

Professional development is an important way for language teacher to continue growing as educators and as target language speakers. @dr_dmd recommends joining professional organizations like the ACTFL, as well as state and local groups, and to take advantage of professional development days. He shared that most state language professional organizations offer opportunities for L2 practice through workshops and virtual connections. @julieeldb00 also recommended the Concordia Language Villages in Minnesota, which offer programs for educators and professional development.

Foreign Travel

Finally, participants touted the importance of travel to engage with native target language speakers in an immersion setting. This travel can be personal, or with a group of students. @senoraCMT takes a group of students on a relevant trip every other year. @dr_dmd recommended that French speakers consider humanitarian volunteer opportunities in Haiti and Francophone Africa during the summer; he has taken his sons on long trips to Africa, and found them to be life-changing. The National Endowment for the Humanities offers opportunities for travel; @dr_dmd once spent a summer in Senegal through an NEH program.

Another great #LangChat with our wonderful participants! Many thanks to all, and especially to our moderators, dr_dmd and @CalicoTeach!

Keep suggesting topics for future discussions, and don’t forget to join us for our next #LangChat, this coming Thursday, August 16th at 8pm EST/5pm PST. See you there!

#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.

Welcome back to #LangChat! Our participants enjoyed a relaxing July break, and everyone who made it to our August 2nd discussion did so with plenty of enthusiasm! Our topic for the evening was priorities for the first day of school that help start off the new year well.

Priorities and Goals for the First Day of School – and Beyond!Greeting and Getting to Know One Another

Participants all stressed the importance of making a good first impression on students on the first day of class. Participants had a wealth of ideas for enthusiastic greetings and fun activities to help students feel comfortable and excited about the upcoming year of learning.

One of the best ways to put students at ease is with a warm and friendly greeting. @dr_dmd and @ZJonesSpanish both like to put music on in the classroom and greets their students at the door with a handshake and a smile.

The first day of class is a great time to get to know students, and for students to get to know each other if they do not already. Many participants have their students talk about their summer breaks using the target language if they are able. @dr_dmd likes using an activity he calls “Hand it to you” where he has students draw an outline of their hands and write one piece of information on each of the fingers. Students then pair up to interview each other before passing their hand tracing to next person. At the end of the exercise, all the hands are collected and displayed together as a “quilt.” As @dr_dmd put it, the beginning of the year is the time to establish a culture of community and collaboration in the classroom.

One of the great challenges for a teacher during the first few weeks of school is learning all of his or her students’ names! Participants have used name tags and name cards on students’ desks from anywhere from the first few days to the first few weeks of school. When @SECottrell taught larger classes, she used paper name “tents” on students’ desks all year; she found they helped her switch seating around to allow for more interaction between students.

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Getting Students Excited About Target Language Learning

@tonitheisen shared her mantra: I always want my class to be the class that students want to go home and tell their parents about after the first day. Other participants shared plenty of fun ideas to get students excited the upcoming year of target language learning.

  • @msfrenchteach is going to serve her students some traditional French dish on the first day – that guarantees conversation about French class around the dinner table at home!
  • @Marishawkins and @tonitheisen talked about making Facebook and Twitter-themed bulletin boards on which students can “post” and “tweet” – both fun and relatable for their generation!
  • @tonitheisen recommends choosing a theme for the year and talking about it on the first day of class. Last year’s theme was stereotypes about the target language culture and how to diffuse them.
  • @Elisabeth13 always shows her students a funny target language commercial or video at the end of the first day of class; she wants them to leave laughing.
  • @carmenscoggins likes to show her students comments from and videos of former students talking about how they have used Spanish since high school. This gets her new students motivated to learn themselves!

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Establishing Routines and Expectations

The first few days of class are also a crucial time for establishing routines and making clear to students teachers’ expectations. @Marishawkins starts with routines like warm-up activities from the very first day so that students get used to them. @msfrenchteach is planning to create a document for her students with tips for success in class in the coming year – especially since her students will all have iPads this year.

While the first day of class is traditionally a time to go over the class syllabus, a few participants had different ideas for kicking the year off right. @tonitheisen makes the traditional syllabus reading into a fun activity by turning her syllabus into a Wordle, and having students figure out what they will learn that year based on the words they see. @gwalbrecht, on the other hand, doesn’t bother going over a syllabus: she just focuses on getting started in the target language.

@dr_dmd plans on getting his students set up on Edmodo the very first week and giving them assignments to use it collaboratively and creatively.

A few participants talked about using the beginning of the school year to have students set their own goals and express what they hope to get out of their L2 class. @gwalbrecht has her students each write on a notecard what they already knew in the target language, and what they were hoping to learn in the coming year. @SECottrell polls her advanced students to find out what they are interested in doing and learning so that she can tailor assessments to their motivation.

@Musicuentos suggested an activity to familiarize students with proficiency levels and to help students gauge their own. A description of the activity can be found here: http://t.co/PXj4ieor If students understand proficiency levels, they will better understand teacher expectations. As @tmsaue1 reminded us, teachers can take the secrecy out of language learning starting day 1!

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L1 or L2? Getting Back Into “the Groove”

There was some debate amongst participants as to whether it was important to launch straight into the target language on day one, or if it was okay to use L1 for introductions and explanation of class procedures. This hearkened back to our May 31st LangChat, when participants discussed the role of L1 in the L2 classroom.

  • @SECottrell does not use the target language that much on the first day. She explained that her class policies and procedures are so different from what students are used to, she wants to ensure absolute comprehension.
  • @senoraCMT, who starts her students off with TPRS, uses only the target language for the first 5 days; then she gives the rules in L1.
  • Level 1 students in @msfrenchteach’s class learn to say hello and introduce themselves on the first day; they also learn a few other expressions. A few weeks later, the class is taught entirely in French.
  • @dr_dmd assured us that there are plenty of great community-building, get-to-know-you activities that can be done in L2.
  • To get her intermediate and higher level students back in the swing of things, @MmeCaspari has them do a lot of circumlocution work the first few days, with games like password and taboo.

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Teacher Goals

Several participants shared their goals both for their classrooms and for themselves in the coming school year.

  • @dr_dmd plans to make a big effort to include twenty-first century skills in the classroom this year, and to make and provide his students with better grading rubrics.
  • @msfrenchteach wants to set up parent e-mail contact lists for each of her classes and so she can send them the syllabus and stay in contact throughout the year.
  • @tmsaue1 suggests that teachers commit themselves at the beginning of the year to using the target language 90% of the time – or more. It’s a much easier goal to accomplish if you start in August rather than November.
  • @msfrenchteach hopes to start a professional blog, and to have her students set up a class blog, too. @dr_dmd added that a professional blog is an excellent way to enhance your work as a teacher by recording your journey and engaging in reflective practice.
  • @ZJonesSpanish shared this helpful reference worksheet, which readers might find useful for planning the year’s activities: http://t.co/5JPBCKdR

We are so glad to be back in the swing of things – many thanks to everyone who participated! And a special thanks to @dr_dmd, the evening’s moderator.

Many more exciting topics have yet to be discussed, so please make your suggestions for future topics and be sure to join us this Thursday, August 9th 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.