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by Erica Fischer on Oct 26, 2015

Ready to Take the Flip? Langchatters Talk ‘Flipped Classrooms’!

Welcome back to #langchat! Last week, participants were ready to dive into a chat on flipped classrooms! They began by discussing what a ‘flipped classroom’ is and why it may be gaining momentum. Langchatters then considered what kind of world language content is appropriate to be flipped out of class time. Additionally, they shared their ideas on how to make authentic resources comprehensible as flipped content. Finally, instructors reflected on some potential drawbacks associated with flipped learning and suggested ways to avoid them. #Langchat energy remained as high as ever, resulting in yet another speedy chat! @SECottrell said, “Well, that was one wild and fast #langchat. No time to heat up my coffee, even.” Don’t flip out if you got lost in the sea of tweets! Catch up on the chat highlights with your weekly summary!

Thank you to everyone who participated last Thursday, Saturday – or both! We would also like to thank last week’s moderators: Cristy (@msfrenchteach) and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) led the Thursday chat, and John (@CadenaSensai) kept the Saturday chat running!

Question 1: What is the ‘flipped’ classroom and why is it gaining momentum?

Participants began by defining the topic of this chat: the flipped classroom. @MmeFarab wrote, “‘Flipped’ means [students] do the ‘lecture’ part of instruction at home, so [instructors] can use class for furthering knowledge [with] activities.” In the words of @virgilalligator, “Flipped can mean presentation of content [or a] skill ([whether it is technology-based] or not) [that] students can learn [and] bring back to class to dig in and discuss.” For @doriecp, “[A] flipped classroom is one that allows [instructors] time with [students] to be focused on discourse rather than ‘instruction.’” Many participants questioned whether there is a difference between ‘flipwork’ and homework, and @SECottrell offered an explanation: “This is a REALLY good question. [The answer] is [that something] flipped is frontloading, [while] homework is after-learning-practice.”

So why might flipping be catching on? Langchatters shared some possible reasons. @JenShawSpanish wrote, “Flipping gives [world language teachers] more time to spend on valuable [communicative] tasks […] [You can get students] talking [and] practicing in class!” @WHS_French_ also mentioned increased opportunities for communication: “[The] flipped classroom is popular because then [students] can use language more in class.” For @mrsbolanos, flipping facilitates in-class collaboration: “Flipped to me allows for more collaboration in the classroom between students and the teacher.” @Marishawkins reiterated this point: “[One] of our math teachers loves the differentiation of a flipped class. I see it also allows her to work more [one-on-one with students].” Participants also noted that flipping can help hold students more accountable for their learning (@WHS_French_), while allowing them to progress at a comfortable speed. @LidaZlatic wrote, “We spend so much time presenting content [and] drilling to the middle. [When we flip, we] let kids do it at their own pace. In class we practice.” @SECottrell mentioned a practical reason why flipping might be gaining popularity: “[The flipped class] is also gaining momentum because of the availability of [technology]. 15 years ago it would not have been a question.”

While many expressed enthusiasm for flipping, this topic was clearly a source of controversy from the start, with some instructors on board more than others. Some voiced concerns early on. For example, @magisterb480 pointed out, “A lot of kids have busy schedules,” asking, “How do we know they’re doing the learning at home to maximize class time?” Others expressed hesitance about giving up too much control. @MlleSulewski said, “I think I’m too much of a control freak for a flipped class.”

Question 2: What kind of world language content is appropriate to be flipped out of class time?

Can you flip everything? Langchatters discussed what content is most flippable in the world language class. They considered the flippability of grammar and vocab, videos, readings, and cultural knowledge.

  • Grammar and Vocabulary? Langchatters generally agreed that grammar and vocabulary can be frontloaded before class. @LidaZlatic wrote, “Anything rote can be done at home (grammar, vocab, lecture, etc.).” @omahafrenchie also suggested vocabulary as flippable content. When discussing how vocabulary might be flipped, @SECottrell said, “[It] could be something as easy as watching a slideshow of images and listening to pronunciation before class.” @LidaZlatic shared another resource for flipped vocabulary: “@ClassTracks is a customizable [vocabulary] platform for the [foreign language] classroom. It gives you data on what your [students] learned. I’d love [your feedback]!” @MlleSulewski mentioned grammar: “I guess if I was going to do explicit grammar instruction [this could be flipped. I would] rather use class time for input.”
  • Videos? Some instructors are experimenting with flipped video lessons. @JenShawSpanish wrote, “I currently [flip] grammar, but next unit I’m doing an interpretive [authentic resources (#authres)] video [with] questions and some voiceover on @EDpuzzle.” Others also expressed enthusiasm for annotated videos. @Marishawkins wrote, “I really like flipping #authres videos for [homework] using @zaption or @EDpuzzle.” She provided the following example: “I found a video of a girl [her] her daily routine. I could insert questions throughout the video with reinforcement of [vocabulary].”
  • Reading? The flippability of reading was contested. @MCanion wrote in favor of flipping level-appropriate readings: “Extended reading that is at a student’s level is great to flip to outside the class.” Others wanted to play a more active role in scaffolding students’ comprehension and guiding them through a text. @SECottrell said, “I don’t believe stories can be flipped because I can’t see faces, check comprehension, ask 5700 questions during story.” @LidaZlatic also felt that “[stories] need to be done in person,” suggesting, “Flip the [vocabulary] before you do the story!”
  • Cultural knowledge? Participants seemed to feel that flipping cultural knowledge could be beneficial. @Mariwynn wrote, “Flipping can give [teachers] the [opportunity] to frontload cultural knowledge to inform [students’] L2 learning.” @SECottrell added that this knowledge base could be developed in students’ L1 outside of class, reserving in-class time for target language use: “Flipped is the answer to our continual question of how to teach culture at novice [without] being in [the] L1 in class.” @mrsbolanos also wrote in support of flipping “[anything] in [students’] L1 that would help keep the classroom in [their] L2,” adding, “[It’s tough] to get that 90% [target language use].”

As a word of caution, @SECottrell urged participants not to flip just to flip, but to carefully reflect on the usefulness of flipped content: “Let me put out the opinion that if it is a lousy class practice it is a lousy home practice.”

Question 3: How can we make authentic resources comprehensible as flipped content?

Instructors are used to making input comprehensible for students, so what happens when they aren’t around? Langchatters considered ways to make authentic resources remain comprehensible as flipped content. Nevertheless, some participants expressed skepticism. For example, @MmeFarab wrote, “I honestly don’t think I would flip #authres for students. What say you, #langchat?” @senortalone also voiced concern: “Agreed. [If] it needs to be scaffolded to be comprehensible in class, what is the scaffolding at home?”

That said, others ensured skeptics that you can make it happen, with careful planning! @IndwellingLang suggested, “[Pick] stuff easy enough for [students] to read without help.” In terms of building understanding, @jlynnhambrick proposed, “Let [students] show off what they DO understand from a [flipped] video, song or text in the [target language].” @mjosey1 noted that this could mean “simple [things] like [asking students to] list verbs, list things [they] saw [or] heard [that they] knew, look for [a] tense they have studied, etc.” @jlynnhambrick suggested that in-class activities could then provide scaffolding for a more nuanced understanding: “Then follow up the next day with those ‘harder questions’ when they have the [teacher] there and other [students] for support.” @JenShawSpanish expressed no reservations at all about flipping #authres: “I will absolutely flip #authres. [Students] can engage with [them], answer questions, [and] flipping tools like @EDpuzzle would be perfect.”

Question 4: What are the pitfalls associated with flipped learning and how can we avoid them?

Langchatters recognized potential pitfalls of flipped learning and proposed possible solutions. They mentioned students’ failure to flip, classes with a heavy grammar focus, and unequal access to technology as sources of concern.

  • Students who don’t flip… and make you flip out! @MmeFarab expressed concern about instances where “[students] don’t complete the flipped lesson and are unprepared.” @ProfeCochran described a nightmare scenario: “I can just imagine walking into my class [with] this perfectly prepared plan based on what [students] did night before, then…boom, nada.” A couple of participants offered suggestions. @JenShawSpanish wrote, “I’ve found it I assign a flip [three or four days] in advance [and] conference [with] the handful who haven’t finished a few days before, it helps a ton.” Alternatively, @LidaZlatic said, “When [students] didn’t do the work, I divided my class into groups. They made up the work in class, [while] others did fun [comprehensible input].”
  • Classes that feel too grammar-y: @MCanion shared his “[fear] that [a] trend to flip grammar lessons pushes [the] scope and sequence [of a class] towards grammar translation methods.” She added, “When flipped content begins to replace teachers in the classroom, [that’s a big] pitfall.”
  • Unequal access to technology: Participants noted that too much flipped content requiring technology could put some students at a disadvantage. @omahafrenchie cited “[no], limited or inconsistent access to [technology]” as a pitfall. @SECottrell agreed, writing, “I’ll reiterate after working with flipped learning that [technology] in low-income or rural areas continues to be issue.” @ProfeCochran pointed out that high student motivation can help reduce unequal access: “We are extremely low income, but I’ve been surprised lately of the willingness of students to stay late in library to work.”

Question 5: What tools, tips, and technology make flipped world language learning happen logistically?

Ready to get your flip on? Langchatters offered some final advice concerning logistics. We share their words of wisdom:

  • Carefully consider technology: @mjosey1 wrote, “Find out what technology [you are] familiar with already [and] always use something [you are] comfortable [with] or [it won’t] work.”
  • Take advantage of resource editing tools: @SraDentlinger said, “I think videos and video editing tools make flipped classes possible for [world language teachers].”
  • Keep your resources organized: @SraDentlinger added, “I also think a homebase like @GoogleClassroom or @edmodo to house everything is vital.”


Langchatters defined a ‘flipped’ classroom in their own words and discussed why it may be gaining popularity. Participants also considered what kind of world language content is appropriate to be flipped out of class time, and they proposed ways to make authentic resources comprehensible as flipped content. Lastly, they considered some drawbacks associated with flipped learning and thought up ways to avoid them. Throughout the discussion, participants came to realize that flipped lessons need not be entirely tech-oriented. They also noted that we need not get our flip on day after day. As @omahafrenchie reflected, “[Flipping] doesn’t have to be done all day every day. Use it as a tool.”

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to last week’s detailed chat. In case you can’t make our traditional Thursday chats, don’t flip out! Remember that now you can get your #langchat on twice a week—Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. Got a question you’re eager to discuss?! 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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