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All things EFL… A collection of practical ideas, resources for the classroom and thoughts on EFL today


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Flipped learning: A student’s perspective

Well, despite a few hiccups along the way, we made it! We flipped our EFL class all year and what started as an experiment has gradually become our way of learning English…
Those of you who have already read some of my other posts about flipping learning with my 2nd year students in ESO (secondary school in Spain) will know it hasn’t all been plain sailing. However, once we got set up with Google Classroom, this made organising and managing the flipped classroom much easier Flip learning with Google Classroom.
As always at the end of a school year, I sat down to reflect on teaching and learning; what went well, not so well and what was a complete disaster. This year flipped learning was one of my main considerations, had the outcomes been positive enough to continue with this model of learning with my 2nd year students and to introduce it to another class? My answer was yes, without a doubt, but what did my students think about it all?
It turns out that we all agreed 😉
We decided that a good idea would be to make a video about flipped learning for the students in the year below who will become novice flippers in September. In order to make the video, I first wanted my students to reflect on their experiences and write down and share their opinions about flipped learning, and so this became our last cooperative learning project of the school year.

Individual space:

Stage 1

Reflect individually on the experience of flipped learning
Students answer as many questions as there are teams, related to flipped learning and their experiences (in my case this was 6.)

  1. What is flipped learning?
  2. What are the good things about flipped learning?
  3. What kind of tasks/activities do you do at home?
  4. What kind of tasks/activities do you do in class?
  5. What should/shouldn’t, must/mustn’t you do in a flipped classroom? (This question because we had just studied these modal verbs ;-))
  6. Describe flipped learning using 3 adjectives…

Group space:

Stage 2

Share individual opinions/experiences of flipped learning
Using the cooperative learning discussion strategy Round Robin, students share their opinions (their answers to the questions) at different stations around the classroom.
Each question becomes a station. The question is written in the middle of an A3 piece of paper. Each team has a different coloured pen and they move through the stations adding their opinions to the piece of paper.
For example, at station 1 students share their answers to question 1 and student A collates their answers. They then move to station 2, read the previous teams answers (they cannot repeat any information) and then check their ideas and student B adds any information they have between them that isn’t already there. They then move to stations 3,4,5,6 repeating the above steps and changing the secretary each time.
*As each team uses a different colour pen you can check that they have read their classmates’ responses in order not to repeat any information.

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Stage 3

Prepare a script for the video
When teams have visited all 6 stations and recorded their responses to the questions they return to their original station. Using all the information collated on the sheet of A3 paper from their classmates, they discuss how they are going to present this information in the video and write a script.

Stage 4

Record the video
Each team presents the responses to their question in an original and creative way. Once all teams have recorded their part the teacher or students use an editing tool (I used iMovie) to put all the videos together and add titles, special effects etc…
And voilá, apart from reflecting on and sharing their flipped learning experiences in a collaborative and creative way, we have one video ready to teach the new flippers all about flipping next September…
If you missed my other posts about flipped learning…
Flipped learning meets cooperative learning #2: Student-generated materials
Flip learning with Google Classroom
Flipped learning. And we’re off…
Flipped learning meets cooperative learning: #1 the spider’s web
Making videos: Flipped learning
Flip writing in the EFL classroom
Why flipped learning has got me excited

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Flipped learning meets cooperative learning #2: student-generated materials

One of the biggest considerations when you flip learning is how to best use class time. When I first started flipping classes, most of my attention was focused on the individual space (in my case the instructional videos my students watch and the accountability tasks they do)  Although it’s important that this side of FL is well thought out and presented, the group space is where all the magic happens…

It didn’t take me long to realise this and as soon as I did, I turned my attention to thinking about how best to make the most of it.

As a big fan of cooperative learning, I’ve been trying to incorporate some of the cooperative learning strategies my students are already familiar with to practise content delivered in the individual space.  Some of you will already know that one of my favourites involves nothing more than a ball of wool (no it’s not knitting, although I have been known to knit the odd thing) Flipped learning meets cooperative learning #1: the spider’s web  

I am also a fan of using student-generated material and when I heard Tatiana Golechkova’s talk on Using student-generated activities in class: problems and solutions at IATEFL 2018 I immediately thought “group space.”

Usually I post about tried and tested (by me) activities, but,  I have to admit I haven’t tried this one yet. However, I thought it was such a good idea for a group space activity that I’d share it anyway.

Task

Students create and share quizzes to practise target language.

Procedure

After checking understanding of content delivered in the individual space and clarifying any doubts in the group space, students work in teams to create a quiz based on the target content to test their peers’ understanding.

Students should be familiar with types of questions they can ask. You can provide models of questions depending on the content. You may want each team to prepare different kinds of quizzes e.g multiple choice, matching, closed test, true/false, fill in the blanks, open-ended questions…or all teams to prepare quizzes which include a variety of question types.

Your role will be to monitor, advise and guide students to create appropriate quiz questions.

When all teams are happy with their quiz, they can share with their peers.  I suggest setting up different stations for each quiz which teams move around, completing their classmates’ quizzes. You can set a time limit if time is limited or allow teams to work at their own pace.

For the answers, I suggest:

  • teams hand in their team answer sheet to the relevant station for correction at the end of the activity and each team member of that station can correct the other team’s answers

or

  • if you think it is more opportune that students receive immediate feedback, teams can prepare an answer sheet for their quiz which is made available when a team completes the quiz at that station.

Alternatives

One alternative is for students to create a digital quiz using a tool like Google Forms. Students can then create the quizzes in teams, pairs or individually and they can be easily shared with the class.  Think about how many different quizzes you will have for one content area!

Another alternative is for students to create quizzes on different content.  My idea is to use this activity to revise for the end of year exams.  One team, for example, creates a quiz on the present simple, one on the present continuous, one on the past simple etc… When teams have created the quizzes, they can move through the different stations revising content from the whole year.

Another option is to provide students with a rubric for creating the quizzes and to give them a mark for their quiz as part of their formative assessment. I think this is a good idea anyway even if you don’t grade their quizzes,  as clear guidelines (the rubric) help students to create high quality material.  Rubrics can also be used for peer evaluation of quizzes. Is the quiz too / very / quite easy/difficult? Are the instructions easy to understand? Are the examples clear?  etc…

I would also encourage students to leave their doubts/questions about the content at the station for their “expert” peers to resolve after the quizzes have been completed.

If you choose to set up this activity as a cooperative learning activity rather than a traditional group activity (as I intend to), students should be clear of their respective roles and responsibilities within the team and a rubric provided for self and peer evaluation not only of the final product (the quiz) but the effectiveness of their teamwork.  As a number of teachers at my school use cooperative learning strategies and activities in class, my students are already familiar with expectations regarding teamwork and the protocol for self and peer evaluation. Also the teams, and individual roles within teams are established at the beginning of every term.

If you choose to integrate  cooperative learning into your classes I highly recommend investing time in setting it up and preparing students for it in order to achieve optimal results. It is not something most students will do well without the appropriate “training.”

As I said, this activity is not tried and tested yet, but soon will be.  Stay posted for an update 😉 In the meantime I highly recommend Tatiana Golechkova’s talk which considers both the advantages and disadvantages of using student generated materials in class,  An evaluation of the use of student-generated materials by H Brown 2013 and Use of Student-Generated Questions in the Classroom teachingonpurpose.org 2016.

 

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Flip learning with Google Classroom

This post is kind of the 3rd installment in my flipped learning “diary.”  Some of you will know back in February last year, I got very excited about flipped learning (Why flipped learning has got me excited.) after completing the EVO sessions.  I consequently started to dip my toes in and test out the water until last September when I decided to flip learning in earnest with one class.

At this point, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, brimming with confidence and enthusiasm, having done lots of background reading and completing the Flipped Learning Certified 1 course.  I was all “badged up” and ready to go…

In October I wrote a post about getting started, Flipped learning and we’re off…  I worked hard to get students on board and got in touch with parents to explain how flipped learning worked, the benefits for teachers and students and their role as parents in the flipped learning model.  I received no opposition from parents or kids, so far so good 😉   

Then came the dreaded slap in the face.  I knew it would probably happen but I wasn’t prepared for it to happen on such a large scale.  First assignment, only 14 out of 25 students did their prep for class (and despite my optimism, things didn’t get much better.)

This is how that post ended back in October…

Now, I’d like to say there’s a happy ending to this story, however the story is just beginning…
Things are looking up though, I’ve just assigned the next video task and although the deadline isn’t for another 2 days, half the class have already done it ….. so I’m feeling optimistic 😉
The only way is up…. (surely?)

Unfortunately it wasn’t.  I continued to struggle to get students to do the prep on time.  I tried to find out what the problem was…

  • Were the videos too difficult, easy, boring…? No.
  • Were the tasks to check understanding/accountability tasks too difficult, easy, boring…? No.

I came to the conclusion that the majority of the students not doing the prep just weren’t used to doing their homework (copying their classmates’ exercises at breaktime before class wasn’t an option anymore!) For some students it was a case of being so disorganised they were forgetting what they needed to do or where the task was, and if on the slight off chance they remembered and decided to do it, they couldn’t because they’d forgotten their one of many logins for different classes/platforms/apps etc…

I have to admit I was feeling pretty defeated.  Week after week of the same thing happening was getting exhausting and I was feeling alone and miserable (I’m a lone flipper at my school.)   I talked to some colleagues and asked for advice.  Would they continue in my situation?  Was it a lost cause?  Should I just go back to traditional methods after the Christmas holidays?  The one response that really resonated (and which was probably meant to steer me in the opposite direction) was Is it really worth it?  That’s when I was finally able to pick myself up, dust myself down and get on with the job…

Yes, it was!  I just needed to find a solution to the problem…

Fortunately I’d just received news from Google that our application for an upgrade to Google for Education had been successful.  That meant that I could now use Google Classroom.  Could this be the solution I was looking for?

And so a new chapter began… Continue reading

wheel decide


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3 more ways to use Wheel Decide

Back in 2016, I wrote a post about using Wheel Decide, a free online spinner tool.  This tool has proved to be a favourite amongst my students and makes a frequent appearance in class.  It has the power to transform something quite mundane (like a gap fill exercise) into something quite exciting.  

In my original post I shared 5 ways which I am using Wheel Decide to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom.  In this post I’ll share 3 more ways that I have used this tool successfully with my students. Continue reading


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Look what you missed in 2017!

The end of a year/beginning of a new one is often a time for reflection when we look back at our triumphs and failures…

A common post I see around now is “My most popular posts in “insert year” “My top 10 posts of “insert year”
I thought about doing the same but then felt kind of sorry for the not-so-fortunate ones. So I’ve dragged my least popular posts of 2017 out of hibernation to give them another chance in 2018.

Here’s what you might have missed …

Word Art 23

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Flipped learning. And we’re off…

If you read my blog post back in February Why flipped learning has got me excited, you will know all about my new found enthusiasm for flipped learning.  After months of delving deeper, doing courses and webinars (including getting flipped learning certified) and connecting with people in the FL community, I’ve finally made a start 🙂

I decided to flip with one class to begin with as I neither have much free time nor much experience…

After getting the go-ahead from school in September, I started to plan out how I was going to introduce the idea of flipped learning to parents and students.

I had the idea of flipping from the off.   Continue reading


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Flipped learning meets cooperative learning: #1 the spider’s web

September, the start of the new school year and time for reflection.  What worked last year? What didn’t? What can I do to improve learning in my classroom? What can my students do to become better learners?  What innovations in education might benefit my students? What’s working for other teachers and students?  These are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been getting my teaching head back on (not that we ever really get it off, par for the course being a teacher!)

Back in June after reflecting upon the year and doing some self/student evaluations, I decided that the protagonists of my classroom this year (apart from my students of course) will be flipped learning and cooperative learning. Flipping in earnest will be new for my students this year, however cooperative learning is something we introduced last year. Students are finally getting used to this way of working and starting to understand (and reap) some of the benefits…

After doing a couple of courses at school, most of the teachers in my department have engaged with cooperative learning methods and students are now familiar with various CL strategies.  So, I’ve been thinking about how to incorporate some of these strategies to make the best use of the extra class time I’ll have when I start flipping learning with one of my classes this September.  

spider´s web

One of my favourite cooperative learning activities is the Tela de Araña (Spider’s web). I’ve also heard it called the “web of understanding.”

To use this strategy you’ll need a ball of wool (and a bit of patience if you’re working with younger learners!)

Students sit or stand in a circle and the ball of wool is passed to and fro to create “a spider’s web.”

Although our course leader demonstrated the spider’s web as a team-building, getting to know you activity, it can used in many more ways, from storytelling to checking understanding to recalling facts, summarising… It’s as versatile as you are creative…

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