JARED: This article about Flipping a Spanish Classroom is written by Analiza Torres, a Spanish and French teacher with 12 years of teaching experience. She also happens to be my sister-in-law and Diana’s sister! This article is from her personal experience flipping her Spanish classroom for the last two years.
In my article First Steps To Flipping A Spanish Classroom, I wrote about the basics of flipping a classroom. I have been working on flipping my classroom for about two academic years. I say “working on” because my flipped classroom is a work in progress. There have been ups and downs, but overall it has been a fulfilling experience, not only for me, but also for my students.
My First Impressions Flipping My Spanish Class
Here I summarize in ten points what I found the most important to flipping successfully after careful reflection of my road to flipping.
1. Start small
“Less is more”, is the proverbial mantra. However, after the first few attempts, I realized that concentrating on a few lessons rather than attempting to envision a whole year of flipped lessons kept my sanity.
2. Picking and Choosing Is OK
Let’s face it! It does not matter how much you try to reach, motivate, and engage all students, you are not going to get the same results out of each and every one of them. Since flipping the classroom itself is such a novel concept to me, I wanted my efforts to be fruitful. Therefore, I chose to flip only one of my advanced classes. Of course, the recorded videos are valuable to all my students, so I made them available to all through my website, but only used them as an enrichment tool for the regular level classes.
3. Which content is non-negotiable?
As a teacher new to flipping, I was quite hesitant about leaving the most important content of the course up to video lessons. Even high achieving adolescents have their moments of weakness, and may sometimes not complete the assigned tasks.
Verbs are the “meat” of Level 1 Spanish. When the verb lessons came around, I wanted to save myself the disappointment of preparing a performance-based task, just to find out that the students did not really watch the assigned video lessons and were unable to complete the practice in class. In order to continue to build on the process that I had started with the video lessons, I decided to press on with video lessons for the verb unit, but only assigned part of the content as video lessons. In the case of verb conjugations, I assigned the subject pronoun lesson as a video lesson. I figured that we had used the subject pronouns in context in class long enough during previous units that even those who decided to not watch the video lesson were not going to face too much adversity when I presented in class the verb conjugation patterns.
4. Prep or bust!
Be prepared to spend a big chunk of time preparing flipped lessons at the beginning. Any new model will require time to learn and work out the kinks. You will be preparing video lessons, and performance tasks for the classroom. I found it overwhelming that my lesson planning time almost doubled at times. As I became more efficient, the preparation time lessened. I also learned to negotiate through what needed to be a video and what could be presented with less prep-intense methods.
5. Resistance is a product of change
There will always be resistance from all sectors of the learning community. In my case, there were questions from all parties involved. I was able to purposely minimize student resistance by choosing a class of self-motivated students. I had questions from the administration about how I was going to ensure that all content was covered if the students or parents resisted participating in the flipped model. I appeased this concern by presenting my plan of starting small and also ensuring to them that I was going to remain flexible if the assessments did not reflect that the students were mastering the skills. The parents did not resist the method too much. I believe that this was due to choosing students who are independent learners as my first group to attempt a flipped classroom.
6. Tech Support? Yeah, why not!
I became my students’ and their parents’ “Geek Squad” at the very beginning. Even though the access to personal computers is wide spread where I teach, the users are still very new to the their operation. This is not necessarily because they are not computer savvy, but is due to the fact that in the last ten years, technology has changed faster than what the user base has been able to keep up. Often times I received frantic emails about not being able to watch the assigned video. Most times this was due to a missing application or plugin. I had to “take one for the team”, and spend time guiding a parent or a student after hours over the phone on how to operate their computer.
7. Show me your stuff
Know your students’ technology base. I sent a “Technology Survey” home with my class syllabus. I asked the parents to mark all the technology that the students had at their disposition and if they were going to be able to use it on a daily basis to complete homework. This was useful since I was able to accommodate those students who did not have access to technology at home. Although I had not planned on this with the survey, knowing the students’ technology platform was useful during those frantic “tech support” calls. I pulled the student records and instead of trying to help “fix” a computer, I politely directed them to their smartphone or tablet.
Especially at the beginning, giving the students a specific task to complete while watching the video is a must. Most times, students are only going to complete an assignment if there is something tangible to turn in, or if there is the threat of a quiz the next day. I have tried both methods with great success. Once the students see that their preparation is vital to the next day’s lesson, you may ease up on requiring “proof”.
I believe that the most challenging aspect of flipping, besides the fact that it is a time-consuming endeavor, is choosing how to deliver the lessons. I agonized a long time about the idea of recording myself and publishing it online for the world to see. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I was able to sample different methods of delivering lessons. I chose not to be in the videos, and resorted to the screen recording method. I could record videos when it was convenient for me or not depending on the school being open or even how the room lighting appeared. I became efficient at producing videos, but it was hard to keep up with the new pace of the class. This is when I chose to alleviate my workload a little bit by embedding videos from other sources on my website. Some videos come from other teacher sites or even from commercial public YouTube channels. As long as you can live with how the video presents the content, it is not necessary to have all original lessons.
10. Time is the enemy, and your friend!
Setbacks, resistance and plain failure are in the future of teachers who try innovative ideas in their classrooms. Reflect, regroup and carry on! It may sound like something out of a meme, but these are definitely the three things that you must think about when things may not be going as expected. Persistence is the only way for most to get to where they want to be.
The future of my flipped classroom will probably continue to face challenges, as I set to include more of my courses into this model. As technology and learners evolve, so will the educational models. I feel that there will always be the urge to try new things to engage as many students as possible in the learning community. Flipping is far from a magic formula to reach all students’ needs, but it is definitely an innovative way of bringing academics into the forefront of a student’s daily life.
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