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by Erica Fischer on May 19, 2014

The ‘Flipped’ Class in Language Teaching: What Works? What Doesn’t?

Upside down classroom by tm_hobbs, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  tm_hobbs 

“Weary from grading, finals, end of the year?” Looking for an ‘exhilarating break’? (@KrisClimer) If so, #langchat had you covered last Thursday night! Langchatters eager to discuss “the ‘flipped’ class in language teaching – what works? what doesn’t?” (@CoLeeSensei) were counting down the minutes (@aleanord: “One Minute to #langchat!”) and ‘flipping out’ (@KrisClimer: “I’m flipping out, [people] are ready to get this started!”) in anticipation of what proved to be yet another lively chat. @KrisClimer reminded participants, “if your eyes and fingers are tired, look for the #langchat summary.” So, don’t flip out! As promised, your weekly summary is here!

Thank you so much to everyone who tuned in last week, and a special thanks to our moderators Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Kris (@KrisClimer), and our newest moderators, Amy (@alenord) and Laura (@SraSpangish)!

What is a ‘Flipped’ Class?

Langchatters worked to come up with a definition of the flipped classroom and cleared up some ‘misconceptions’ (@MmeFarab). @SraSpanglish provided a helpful definition: “Flipped lessons are those where the ‘instruction’ takes place mostly online/at home, [and students] practice in class.” @CoLeeSensei added, “it’s [when] prep work [is] done outside class [so that students are ready] to use the language in class.” @trescolumnae wrote, “I think lots of folks have decided that flipping = watching videos at home. That’s one possibility among many!” @CoLeeSensei agreed, saying, “I think of flipping as an ‘activity’ outside class – [listening] to a song can be one [example].” It became clear that there is no one fixed definition for the ‘flipped classroom,’ and instructors can adjust flipping to meet their classroom needs.

Advantages of Flipping

Langchatters shared a variety of advantages of flipping the language classroom, which are summarized below. They highlighted additional class time, more use of the target language (TL) in class, the possibility for increased repetition at home before coming to class, and more productive review sessions.

    • More Class Time
      @MmeCarbonneau wrote, “Flipping = more time in class to get real meaningful language activities,” and @mmebrady commented on increased time for communicative activities: “more [class time] for communicative activities that are difficult [for students] at home.” Additionally, @bleidolf67 pointed out the possibility of providing more individualized attention in class: “I find the flipped class [gives] me so much more personal time to coach kids. That is so great!”


    • More TL Use in Class
      Remember last week’s #langchat on increasing your TL use in the classroom? Flipping seems to provide instructors with another way of maximizing their TL output in class. @trescolumnae commented, “Video explanations (in L1) of grammar for [students] who want/need [them] are a great form of flip.”


    • Repetition at Home
      In flipped classrooms, students are able to benefit from repeated exposure to materials before coming to class. @MmeCarbonneau observed that flipping more authentic materials [in the form of audio recordings or videos] not only exposes students to varied accents but allows students to listen to [them] as many times as needed.” @SraWitten concurred, citing personal experience, “My [students’] listening has improved tons since I moved [class instruction] online [and] they can [listen] as many times as needed.”


  • More Productive Review Sessions
    You might consider flipping your review sessions, encouraging students to prepare with materials at home and bring their questions to class. @CoLeeSensei shared, “I have totally flipped my ‘REVIEW’ – I don’t do it in class at all before tests – it’s all there for [students] on own time!” @ProfeCochran replied, “I REALLY love the idea of review videos before assessments.”

Difficulties with Flipping

Although flipping can be very productive, it has its limitations, which Langchatters also discussed. In particular, they commented on: students’ potential lack of access to technology at home, the difficulty of dealing with unprepared or confused students, the status of flipping as ‘homework,’ the amount of time required to flip a lesson, and the perception that instructors who flip their classes aren’t really teaching.

    • Access to Technology
      Several participants emphasized the difficulty of ensuring access to flipped materials for all students. @MmeFarab asked, “And what do you do for those that don’t have the tech?” @MmeShipton agreed that it’s “tricky when [students] have limited Internet access.” @BeckyTetzner added, “My biggest problem in flipped (I’m a beginner) is providing good options for those [without] Internet that isn’t ‘read this [worksheet]’.” In light of students’ potentially limited access to technology outside of class, @MmeCarbonneau wrote that “material must be in multiple formats to allow everyone access.”


    • Students ‘Who Aren’t Prepared from the Flip’
      But providing access to flipped materials does not guarantee that students will consult them. @SrtaJohnsonEBHS voiced a common concern among Langchatters: “I guess my problem is that if [students] aren’t prepared from the flip, they can’t do the communicative part – the actual practice!” @bleidolf67 wrote that a lack of preparation can make it difficult for students to keep up: “No computers in class [for] them to catch up.” @cbloodworth has “found kids wouldn’t do the [grammar/]reading/video, no matter the consequence.” Instructors shared some incentives and consequences that they attach to completing flipped activities. @bleidolf67 gives students a set of pre-class tasks and gives “points [for] that to encourage work [at] home.” @CoLeeSensei added, “I sometimes include hints about quizzes, upcoming things in the videos.”

@SrtaJohnsonEBHS offered an alternative consequence: “it’s usually only 1-2 [students] who refuse to do anything to be prepared. Then they get to be MY partner 🙂 mwahaha.”

    • Students With ‘Poor Study Skills’ or ‘Confused Kiddos’
      When lessons are intended to be studied at home and practiced in class, Langchatters noted that some students may fall behind. @bleidolf67 pointed out, “I find that [students] who have poor study skills, [organizational] skills do not do thrive in the flipped class. Anyone relate?” @mcastroholland replied with an emphatic “YES!” @SraWitten takes struggling students aside to work through confusion, but she requires them to come ready with notes: “I take small groups of confused kiddos and work through problems. They have to have notes from [homework] though.” @SraSpanglish emphasized the need for self-study guidance: “definitely a need for establishing HOW to approach self-study [and] scaffolding appropriately beforehand.”


    • A ‘Fancy Term for Homework’?
      Instructors commented on the difficulty of convincing students that flipping is not just another name for more homework. @ProfeCochran asked, “How do you get kids to not see it as homework?” @mmebrady finds that “kids are pretty astute #callitwhatyouwantitsstillhomework,” and @LauraJaneBarber echoed this perception: “Ay the flipped classroom. Still feel it’s a fancy term for homework.” Whether you call it homework or not, @SraSpanglish shared a post from @SECottrell’s blog: “Time for them to use THEIR time”:” as a potential argument for flipping in the TL.


    • Preparation Time
      Flipping your classroom can require a lot of time. When discussing different forms of flipped lessons, @mmebrady noted that “worksheets certainly aren’t comparable to [videos], but burning DVDs is [very] time consuming.” @SraWitten also commented on the amount of prep work involved: “[Flipping is] awesome! Lots of work upfront though.”


  • “Are You Teaching?!”
    Instructors who flip lessons may also have to face the accusation that they are not really teaching. @KrisClimer highlighted this point: “I’ve also heard you need parent buy-in to avoid the ‘he isn’t teaching’ complaint.” He receives the same complaint from certain students: “Some complain about having to ‘teach’ themselves.” In light of these perceptions, @SraWitten feels it is important to make all of her flipped materials herself and justify her methods to parents: “That’s why make my own videos [and] also communicate [with] parents [before the] school [year] starts. [I also make a] sample parent

    and [later post one] on [my] blog.” @bleidolf67 and @ProfeTeeJay underscored the need for support from staff, parents, and students.

Tips for Those Looking to Flip

Langchatters provided some useful tips for those who are looking to start flipping some classes!

  • Flip with moderation. @cocamanar wrote, “We don’t want [students] to ‘sit [and] get’ in front of (yet another) screen all [night] if multiple classes flip,” and @MmeCarbonneau agreed: “I prefer the blended approach. Videos each night = overkill.”
  • Keep materials short and sweet (‘with an element of surprise’). @nash_wendy said, “Keep the videos short!,” and @Marishawkins encouraged instructors to add an element of intrigue: “Keep flipped work short and sweet with an element of surprise. Keep them wanting to do the work.”
  • ‘GO SLOW.’ @MmeCarbonneau advised teachers to take it slow: “GO SLOW. Flip one lesson a week and work up to a pace you and the students can handle.”
  • Make flipping work for you. Remember our chat on Comprehensible input? (i+ 1= ? What’s your formula for comprehensible input?) @bleidolf67 urged instructors to find their formula for flipping: “I think this is flying around, but [a] flipped class can be molded [to] work with your students and needs. No set recipe [for] success!”
  • Be explicit about your goals. @alisonkis commented, “I think teachers mush be explicit to inform [students] what they should pay attention to or think when watching [videos].”
  • Consider connecting with other ‘flippers.’ @SraWitten provided a link to a community of flippers:


    • Looking to create or locate materials for a flipped class? Langchatters shared their favorite resources, which included the following: Camtasia (@mmebrady), Snagit (@CoLeeSensei), Audio-lingua (@alenord), YouTube (@nash_wendy: “I put them on Youtube”; @CoLeeSensei: “I do the same – I have a ‘channel’ for each grade”), Educanon, Touchcast (@MmeCarbonneau: “Love using sites like Educanon and Touchcast that periodically pause video to allow comprehension questions”), Flipgrid (@MmeCarbonneau), Imagina (@SrtaJohnsonEBHS: “I used Imagina this year for [Spanish 4]. It has a decent mix of grammar-based and communicative/based activities”; @ProfeCochrane: “I looooove imagina! and I am not a text/program person!”; @mcastroholland: “used the videos on their super site”), Infografias (@tiesamgraf: “Google ‘infografias,’ then click on images, you’ll find a ton. [You] can refine by adding [a] theme to [the] search”), Explain Everything (@alisonkris: “Teachers can also use [the] Explain everything [application] to record lectures/instructions”), and Educreations (@MmeCarbonneau).



Langchatters had “a lot of misconceptions about flipping” (@MmeFarab), which they worked through over the course of the hour. They expanded their definition of flipping from videos to preparation materials for class in any form, and @SraWitten emphasized, “It is not about what you call it. If it works for you, do it!” For those looking to flip a language lesson, participants offered a wealth of tips and resources, and they highlighted some advantages and difficulties involved. As @bleidolf67 noted, there is “No set recipe [for] success!,” and we encourage those interested to experiment with and adapt flipping to their class goals and needs!

Thank you

Thank you again to Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Kris (@KrisClimer), Amy (@alenord), and Laura (@SraSpangish) for moderating yet another rapid-fire discussion. Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this (already lengthy) summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have any comments or questions that you would like to share, do not hesitate to do so. Send us your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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