Gain More Class Time With Flipped World Language Class

--Originally published at Flipping my Spanish Classroom

I recently stumbled on a new chat on Twitter called #flipblogs. The participants had blogged in advance on the topic, whihc was "What problems have I solved in my class with flipping?" Although I had not done a post on this topic at the time, I thought that it was a great question to address. As I started writing down my thoughts, I realize this is a multi post topic for me. So, I will begin with the biggest problem and solution.

In my opinion, the greatest challenge I have as a World Language teacher is the small amount of time I have with my students. My school is on an alternating block schedule, so I see my students for about 90 minutes every other day. Therefore, I am always striving to find ways to incorporate more into our classroom time. But not just more; I was to incorporate meaningful activities that are a good use of our time together. Activities that not only help students learn the language, but activities that students enjoy. The other struggle with time is that 90 minutes is a long time for students to stay focused in a class, especially when we are trying to use as much of the target language as possible. I needed a better way to "chunk" material and activities to not lose students before our precious class time was up.

So the first problem I solved by flipping my class was that I gained more meaningful time with my students. I made activities more beneficial for each student by being able to give some assignments online so students could have as many opportunities as possible to learn, practice and achieve new skills. Flipping also gave students time to be able to work individually and receive individual help from me each class. I did this by taking all boring grammar explanations out of class and put them on idea. I stopped doing listening by playing a CD and moved those activities online so students could play them as many times as they needed to be able to get the gist of the listening and answer comprehension questions.this year, I have added more online practice for students with vocabulary and grammar so they can practice at their own speed and as many times as necessary to master the content.

So our block of 90 minutes (approx) is now often divided as follows, but not necessarily in this order:

  • 15 minutes of warm up - this can be translation, comprehension questions from a previous day's activity, a quick writing prompt, or a conversation activity.
  • 20 minutes of reading or conversation - Reading is done in reading groups with students having books appropriate for their level. Sometimes I read with them, sometimes I just listen. Conversation can be with a partner or a few classmates and be as simple as talking about the weekend, school activities, or another prompt I provide based on the theme I am teaching to the class. It can also be a fun activity like picture pages (where one student describes a picture in Spanish and the other draws what is described), for higher levels I sometimes use a picture as a story prompt and have groups come up with a story for the picture I show. I also love to use story cubes, which I have bought at Target. These cubes have pictures on each side and the student roll the cubes and create a story (www.storycubes.com). 
  • 10 minutes of content delivery - of course this varies. Sometimes it is a review of a concept I see students are struggling with, sometimes it is a new cultural concept, vocabulary, or a colloquial phrase and its uses (I am trying hard for a phrase of the week.)
  • 15 minutes of practice of new content
  • 20 minutes of individual work - this is when students work on listening activities, projects, practice exercises, reading (if they are behind), etc.
  • 10 minute wrap up - I try to end the day with a quick review, activity, exit slip, something to try to help them leave with a positive vibe. Unfortunately somehow this is time that still occasionally disappears from class while I am giving individual help. But, I always make it a priority on Fridays to end with something fun - usually these days it is a Kahoot deck (they love Kahoot and beg to play!).
Now of course these are approximates. I have had some days where conversations just really gets going and we switch partners and keep going for 30 minutes. I have other days where the kids don't seem to want to take at all and 5 minutes is a struggle. The point I am trying to make is that my students are actively engaged in activities for the entire 90 minutes. I always make sure to give them individual time so they can practice what they need to work on at their pace. This also gives me the opportunity to help students every class on an individual basis to help them avoid frustration that can often come with a new language. Many days I feel like the individual work time is the most reductive for the students because they can focus on their needs and not be forced to follow the class needs. Giving students that time is the most important thing flipping gives my students.

*Image source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7447/27544789976_d9ef43a082_b.jpg

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