Sunday, 1 June 2014

Teaching an old dog new tricks or she who dares wins? - A Guest Blog Post from Jo Tidmarsh

We often say how lucky we are to work as MFL teachers who are so keen to collaborate and share ideas. So when we have Twitter chats about flipped learning, we often try to encourage new 'flippers' to share their experiences for us on our blog. We must have twisted lovely Jo's arm, as she has not only flipped a lesson, but written a brilliant reflection for us here. You can catch Jo on Twitter here @JoTidmarsh if you want to ask her any questions about her lesson, but for now, thank you Jo, and over to you....

Teaching an old dog new tricks or she who dares wins??


Thought I’d share my first full on experience of flipping my classroom with you all! I might also add that I am so convinced of the benefits of this that I actually chose to do it for an observed lesson with my least favourite class!!!

I should probably introduce myself first???  I’m Jo, Curriculum leader across all Key Stages for Spanish.  I’ve been teaching for 17 years but I’m reasonably new to twitter (@jotidmarsh) so have found #mfltwitterati to be the most inspirational source of ideas and quite frankly the best CPD I’ve ever had the pleasure to have.  I’m constantly looking to find new ways to enthuse the language learners in my classroom but we have limited tech resources (I only got an IWB 2 years ago!).  I was quite taken with some of the ideas that @missmclachlan and her colleagues have been throwing around and knew very early on that I had the power to make this work to my pupils’ advantage!  Sadie’s help and advice was gratefully received and when she asked me to guest blog about it I could hardly refuse. 

Of course it’s not really a new concept is it this flipping? I’ve lost count of the number of times in the past that I have set “learn this vocabulary so that we can hit the ground running next lesson” as homework.  But what are revolutionary are the tech tools that are available to us to enable our learners to now do this task much more effectively. 

So what is in my technologically whizzy bag of tricks for flipping??  Firstly, a virtual vocabulary classroom for every single pupil on Quizlet.  I create sets of vocab and record my own voice onto the flashcards which the children think is hysterical (????).  I have seen a marked improvement on vocab test scores and comprehension since making this part of learning homework.  It’s great for improving spelling and rapid recall. 

Secondly, the power of YouTube reigns supreme in the world of Flipping.  And at this point I must admit to cheating a bit and using a ready made video.  One of Sadie and Javier’s to be truthful on “Las pelĂ­culas” (Gracias!).  But what’s the point in reinventing the wheel! Technical issues prevented me from creating my own this time but my intentions are honourable and I’ll get there eventually.  A summer holiday project!

And the last weapon in my flipping armoury? A Google Form.  Quick and easy to set up and a great way to make sure that the pupils have actually done their homework!!  All their answers are logged and collated on a spreadsheet for me to check.

Did I mention that this was to be an observed lesson with a focus on progression, differentiation and developing spontaneous speaking? Ha Ha!!  You’ve got to be in it to win it folks!!!

Step 1:  Flip away!
Setting up the resources and establishing with the pupils what they needed to do was simple.  I also shared the resources with my SLT observer at the same time as the pupils to give him a real taste of the whole learning experience.  We let him join the class on Quizlet first and then shared the link to the video and Google Form.

Step 2: The next lesson!
As their starter activity pupils were shown a dialogue between two friends arranging to go to the cinema and talking about film preferences.  They then had three minutes to correct the mistakes in some statements on a mini worksheet based on the conversation. 

This was swiftly followed by an ‘En la taquilla’ listening comprehension.
So far so good!  Up until this point I have been able to use target language exclusively.  There have been no puzzled looks or huffing and puffing from the ‘I don’t get it corner’. 

Next, we tried some ‘FeedForward’, rather than ‘FeedBack’, based on their responses to the Google form.  As their submissions had been coming in I had decided to traffic light their answers on the form.  Green for ‘Good to go!’, Amber for ‘Hold on a sec!’ and Red for ‘Stop right there and have another go!’.  I displayed this on the board and asked them to Think, Pair, Share about the mistakes that they could see.  Three or four minutes later we had firmly established that, for some, adjectival agreement had not been at the forefront of their minds when completing the task and that despite being told a million times not to forget the ‘the’ after verbs of opinion there were a few of them that had!!  We then used this ‘FeedForward’ to help us do the next task – a 10 minute Sticky Note Translation Race!

The class are familiar with this activity so the transition was smooth and the confidence in the room was palpable!!  I have two new pupils in this set who are effectively 2 years behind the rest of the group having never studied Spanish before.  For them flipping using ‘Quizlet’ has proved invaluable to filling in some of the gaps in their basic vocabulary range.  Sadie and Javier’s video had also allowed them to think about the structure of the opinion phrases at their own pace. It gave them the confidence to come into the classroom knowing just as much as the others did and their pronunciation and intonation is coming on leaps and bounds.  Essentially, it takes the pressure off once they get into the classroom.  On this occasion I was able to ‘peer support’ them with the more able in the class and move around the classroom freely helping them all when or if they needed it. 

By now we are fast approaching the end (doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?) of our forty minute lesson and so it was time to draw things to a close. Once we’d worked out the winners of the Sticky Note Translation Race our plenary involved reflecting on and considering the benefits of flipping our classroom.  We talked about why it had worked for them and what hadn’t.  It was a great way to evaluate the lesson.  Understanding the way your learner feels about what you ask them to do should surely be high on your ‘to do’ list when planning any lesson!! Their responses were honest and positive.  They liked being able to rewind the video and listen again – they liked the interactive nature of the google form and how we analysed the mistakes in it and fed them forward so as not to make them again – they learned that proof reading their work before submitting it might be a good idea – they liked feeling confident when speaking/writing– they felt empowered to make faster progress – they left happy. So did my observer. :)  So did I :)!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

An exciting mention!

Just when the pressures of year 11 had us worried that we had lost our momentum for flipping the learning in MFL, Joe Dale has reinvigorated us with a mention in his article for The Guardian published today. 

The final MFL GCSE takes place next week (German on Monday 19th) and we have already scheduled a date in the diary to meet and plan our next KS3 and KS4 flipped language lessons, so watch this space. In the meantime, you can read Joe's whole article here and pick up some other great tips for using technology in the MFL classroom, with some mentions of our other friends in the #mfltwitterati.


Saturday, 22 March 2014

French flip!

French flipping the learning!

It has been a little while since my last flipped lesson, this half term has run away from me! However in a bid to rectify this, this Thursday saw me flip the learning with my Year 8 French group for the second time. 

The topic was 'quantities' and saw me following a similar lesson plan to our very first flipped venture in Spanish, 'At the grocers'. However rather than using a video to present the vocab, as we did for the Spanish lesson, I used powerpoint to present the vocab and included QR codes for the pupils to hear how it was pronounced. The last slide contained some sentences to translate and bring to the lesson. I used vocaroo to create the QR codes for the audio files, which I then put alongside the vocab and images on the power point slide. 

This flipped lesson was different in that I didn't use google docs to pre-assess pupils' levels of understanding. I wanted to try this out so I could see if pupils would put themselves into categories of understanding or whether they would work with their friends. I asked them to place themselves on a scale across the room (really confident - not confident/not completed).The pupils were very perceptive and honest in their understanding and generally placed themselves in the correct groups  (green, red or purple) although with pupils setting their own groupings, I did feel that I needed to give more help to more groups than before. Interestingly one or two pupils asked to move groups during the lesson as they felt they had placed themselves incorrectly. 

I think I would use this self-assessment method again, as pupils are required to bring with them evidence of their work which can be put in their books and they are quite honest when it comes to their understanding, although this could change depending on the group you were flipping your lesson with.

We're continuing to learn and change our plans based on feedback we are getting from our groups, flipping the learning is still an exciting way of mixing up our classroom teaching!

Onwards to our next flip!

Monday, 3 March 2014

I Flip, You Flip Let's Flip!!!

On Thursday 27th February Sadie and I were very lucky to get involved in an Apple Learning Event that took place on site at Wildern School at The Berry Theatre. An excellent event with a focus: using iPads in Education.

Sadie and I thought that it would be a good idea to deliver our first session together on Flipped Learning to spread 'the love' that we have for this teaching method which has been used for a long time in the States and that is starting to get people's attention here in the UK over the last 2 years.

We thoroughly enjoyed the session and we had some excellent delegates who were keen to ask questions to find out what Flipped Learning is all about. At the beginning of the session we asked them "what does 'Flipped Learning' mean to you?". Delegates had to scan a QR code that took them to the form we had set up via Google Docs - an idea stolen from @joedale during #ILILC4 -  and we had a  mixture of responses from "Never heard of it before", "Not sure but I am ready to learn" to "Maybe taking a different approach to learning?" or "I think it is where the children learn the content at home and apply the class". Some delegates had a vague idea before the session and others didn't know anything but they all were keen to learn!

Here you can see the presentation we used for the session

We asked our technician Matt to film the session, which you can find below too if you prefer to watch us explain in more detail. We hope you enjoy our presentation and we also hope that this will encourage you to try to 'Flip' at least one lesson. Remember, it's all about trial and error! Flipping one lesson might work for you and your students and this could be the beginning of your Flip journey.  Perhaps, and as you say in English, it is not your cup of tea and it is not suitable for your students in which case you will have only lost one lesson but hopefully learnt a thing or two in the process!

Finally, don't forget to send us an email or a tweet (you can use #fliplanguk too) to let us know if you have found the video and resources useful. Also, we will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.

Sadie & Javi

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Google Hangout with Kristin Pontarelli

Finally, here it is!

It has taken me some time to publish the GHOA (Google Hangout On Air) that took place on Monday 20th January but last term was absolutely crazy. I cannot remember a previous term being as busy as the one that has just gone (but again, I think that I end up saying the same every term!).

Anyway I want to start by thanking those great educators who joined us on a working day at 8 pm. Some were here in the UK (@joedale @spanishsam @fcharidine @thewondthewhy) and some in the States (@SraWitten and @srapontarelli).

The main reason for this GHOA was Kristin Pontarelli, an educator who is teaching at East Greenwich High School in Rhode Island and she is also a Flipped Class Consultant. Kristin has been flipping her lessons for the last two years so I asked her to join us and tell us about her approach to Flipped Learning (FL) in MFL. This is Kristin's blog where you can find her work. You can also find Kristin on Twitter during the #flipclass chat on Mondays (8-9pm EST).

These are some of the points that Kristin mentioned during the GHOA:

* More time in class for actual application of the language.
* More time in class for a 1:1 with students
*Kristin uses Camtasia Studio software to edit her vocab and grammar videos as she can edit pieces throughout the video. Videos which are then uploaded to
*One of the difficult things for Kristin at the beginning was to  introduce Flipped Learning and the concept to her students and to do that she had to train them. Something similar that @fcharidine did with his class when he trained his class how to watch a video and take some notes. This is a skill that our students will need later on in life when they go to college or University. I will definitely be doing this at some point with my classes as I have noticed that most of my students didn't take any notes when they watched the videos at home.
No direct teaching in class was her biggest obstacle.
* Do a starter activity to review the content from previous lesson particularly if the topic is too difficult (although she likes doing starters at the beginning of her lessons)
*Kristin likes spending 25/30 minutes during the lesson to complete activities like Reading, Writing and activities using technology but then she does some whole class activities to practise Speaking and lListening skills. It is important to work on pronounciation.

Joe Dale raised a point here by asking the question "Will  pronunciation suffer with FL?". This is a good question and something we need to think about carefully. We must not assume that students will listen and repeat several times  a word/structure whilst watching a video, as they would do in class when new language is introduced for the first time (although this is what I would expect my students to do). Instead, like Kristin says, we must think about doing some whole class activities to practise such an important skill. At the same time, we cannot forget that Group Talk (@GregHorton64) is a key aspect of MFL at Wildern School. Of course FL is about pupils being and working more independently but at the same time we need to ensure that the 4 skills are being covered properly, particularly when the speaking exam is worth 30% of their final GCSE. On the other hand let's not forget that FL is not the only teaching method; it is another teaching method. And as my mum always says 'Variety is the spice of life' (although she has never used this sentence in a teaching context!)

*Kristin spends most of the lesson walking around and monitoring students' work. I like Kristin's idea of highlighting mistakes in students' work and then the students need to ask 3 students to get the correct answer. A simple yet effective activity.
*Give Students a choice to either work with a friend or perhaps work on their own. This is something I might like to do as in the lessons we have flipped so far students have been put into 3/4 groups (green/amber/red/purple) based on the answers of their homework.

As I mentioned at the beginning these are only some of the points. You can find more by watching the video.

If you have any questions about what you have watched or about anything related to FL in MFL don't hesitate to contact us via the blog or via twitter. You can also use the new #fliplanguk on Twitter to get our attention!

Javi, Rhiannon & Sadie

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Reflections - Pupil reflections on KS4 Flipped Lesson

I quickly grabbed two of my lovely year 10 girls to discuss what they had thought about their Spanish flipped lesson on the conditional, have a listen to see their initial reactions! Do let us know any comments you may have.