Flipped classrooms have been here for a while and a considerable amount of research shows that this pedagogical method can be used for a wide range of subjects (from biology to computer science), with K-12 and university students.
When Alison King wrote her seminal paper, “From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side” in the early 90s, teachers were essentially supposed to play the “sage on the stage” role – that is to authoritatively disseminate knowledge and information in the classroom, since they were supposed to have the unchallenged scientific authority to do that.
Luckily, things have changed considerably over the last decades. Nowadays learning opportunities available online allow students to look for sources of information outside the classroom and even take the learning process into their own hands.
Why an LMS is a great tool for an EFL flipped classroom
In EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classrooms, things tend to follow the old paradigm, especially with K-12 students. Imagine an American teaching English overseas; for example, in a Japanese or Chinese high school. As a native speaker, the teacher will be the authoritative figure even if this is not their intention.
A native speaker’s mastery of the language will be superior even to the proficiency level of many advanced learners.
However, we argue that a more “guide from the side” approach is also possible and even more beneficial for EFL learners.
An LMS can make a smooth transition towards the flipped classroom model and will empower students to form their own ideas and methods of language learning. It can successfully turn a language class into a personal learning experience.
Let’s see a few tips and tricks which could boost proficiency in all main language competences!
Writing lessons are sometimes hard to plan. Writing is a complex task and for some students who “lack inspiration” (not to mention the necessary language skills), it can be quite an intimidating experience.
In a flipped classroom designed in an online environment, the teacher can send students materials they can use to prepare vocabulary or to learn about a topic. For instance, if you want students to write about things we can do to protect the environment, you can add small articles about climate change, recycling, pollution, etc. in the corresponding resources area for that particular online lesson or module.
Allow your students to prepare; it is essential when you write in a foreign language.
Speaking can be even more difficult, as it adds spontaneity to the necessary mix of skills. Bear in mind that fear of public speaking is a very common phobia, which is believed to affect around 70% of the population. So it’s not a surprise that speaking activities might not be a student’s cup of tea.
But everything gets better with careful preparation and this is where a flipped classroom comes in handy. You can send students materials to prepare (interviews, dialogues, short videos, etc.) and this will make their task easier in the classroom.
It will be more effective as well, as students will interact more with their colleagues and with the teacher if they know more about the topic tackled in the classroom.
It goes without saying that reading as much as possible in English will make students more proficient. But with all the distractions out there, reading may no longer be a priority as it used to be.
So, why not use an LMS in your flipped classroom and make reading an online social experience for your students? Try to create something similar to Goodreads by using forums and pages available in an LMS and you will see that your students might enjoy reading more, as they share about this experience.
If you want to go the extra mile, create a reading challenge.
Listening comprehension can be improved if you… listen as much as possible in a given language. What a surprise, isn’t it? The most effective way is to immerse yourself in that language, but a study abroad program or a gap year after high school graduation may not be an option for most students.
Use the flipped classroom method to expose them to interviews, dialogues, radio, and TV shows and then give them the possibility to speak about them in the classroom. After all, it is the natural way we interact with audio and video material.
How many times have you listened to a radio show with the clear purpose of solving a multiple-choice exercise? Never. But I am sure you told a friend about an interesting thing you heard on the radio.
To sum up
Take a leap of faith and give flipped classroom a chance if you teach English as a Foreign Language. It might be just what your students need to become more confident and more fluent!