Experiencing flipped classroom and blended learning

FIRST THINGS FIRST

What is the flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom is just one of the latest e-learning models which has made its way into classrooms around the world. The pedagogical model sets out to reverse the role of teaching with homework, whereby students would typically digest new educational content outside of their classroom. Teachers would then use their classroom sessions to allow students to apply the information learned, through a series of practical assignments.

What is blended learning?

Blended learning, on the other hand, involves both online learning as well as in a brick-and-mortar location. In a blended learning classroom, both online and traditional teaching methods are utilized to provide a more effective learning experience for the students. Teachers would typically employ online learning components such as educational videos, games, online learning material and podcasts.”

What is a flipped classroom approach?

The Flipped Classroom is a blended learning model in which traditional ideas about classroom activities and homework are reversed, or “flipped.” In this model, instructors have students interact with new material for homework first.

Flipped classroom

Like many educators, I leapt into the world of virtual learning last spring due to COVID-19 school closures. While some teachers have spent years immersed in the world of technologyI was adjusting to sitting behind a screen and figuring out how to best translate the benefits of in-person learning to the virtual world and how to use technology-supported instruction to enhance student learning.

However, as we shifted to distance learning last spring, we had to take the best of blended learning and adjust it to exist in a completely virtual world.

As we transitioned to remote learning, we worked to capture the benefits of “traditional” in-person learning through live, virtual smaller-group classes. I found that this was ideal for our quieter students (who loved using the chat feature to share ideas) and also allowed teachers to connect with students in even deeper, more authentic ways despite the distance.

The flipped-classroom model, whether virtual or in person, has been a gift for many of my students, most notably those with learning differences or more introverted kids. I have realised that the flipped model places a greater emphasis on the student putting in more of their own intellectual effort, leading to greater retention of the material and a significant increase in confidence.

Blended learning also incorporates online learning tools, whether it is in class or at home, that can offer more personalized learning experiences for students. Furthermore, blended learning can incorporate gamification to keep students engaged and motivated.

I firmly believe that, as educators ,we will have to continue to examine and evaluate how to maximize teacher-student interactions as well as online learning tools to support instruction and student development. While this year is sure to bring more challenges, it is equally likely that there will be incredible growth and development along the way.

Why flipped classrooms work for distance learning

Distance learning provides the ideal opportunity for trying out the flipped classroom, as students are doing so much learning from home anyway. It will build on and improve our relationship with our students, as the teacher-student dynamic shifts from a less instructional model to a more collaborative one. And this can help with motivation, too. When our class time is all about practical application of ideas, supporting student understanding and peer-to-peer collaboration, it makes for a more dynamic and engaging online class.

Blended Learning

I have long been interested in ‘Blended Learning’ . It remains a ‘buzz’ term in language teaching, although it means different things to different people. 

Generation Z – that is young people born between 1995 and the mid-2000s – has grown up with the internet, Google, and social networking. A world without the web and related technology is almost unimaginable for them; it brings them freedom, autonomy and their online identities are an important part of their lives.

Blended learning creates opportunities for students to engage with English outside of the classroom, through games and practice that they can access on mobile devices or computers at home or on the go.

Why blend?

There are many reasons for transitioning to blended learning.

One common reason is to combine the well-known positives of classroom teaching with the advantages of online learning, considered to be studying at the students’ own pace, at a place of their choice; and differentiation – using the online platform as a way of delivering personalized, individual learning-when possible.

Time is another reason. There is simply not enough time for language learners to cover everything within the constraints of the class timetable. Indeed, some language areas are best suited to self-study, such as extensive reading and practising difficult phonemes.

We can incorporate digital technology into our classroom lessons along with traditional methods of instruction. I have realized that switching between computer-based or gamified learning and face-to-face instruction keeps my students engaged in their learning and strengthen lessons.

Possible challenges

-The students who enjoy the class may not contribute to the knowledge building occurring in the online environment, while those who enjoy working online may dislike the time restrictions etc

-Learners ( and some parents…) may not see the link between their lessons and online work. They sometimes perceive the online components to be of lesser value and fail to do the online work.

– Technical problems can prove de-motivating.

A FEW FINAL NOTES

A.

Which online platforms/tools are MY most favourite and can be used for blended learning?

Quizizz: A game-based learning tool that can be used for instruction, both in and out of class, or for students to create their own games as more authentic practice. Quizizz has thousands of games available in the library and recently added a student log-in that enables students to track their progress and gives them access to prior games played so they can always go back and review. Having this available to students makes it more personalized because students can get extra practice whenever they need it.

Kahoot!: An engaging and popular game-based site that provides opportunities for students to take control of their learning and us ,educators to track student development. 

Challenges with Kahoot have become quite popular, among teachers and students. Teachers can “challenge” students to participate in a game as a way to practice the content or review for an assessment. Students can even challenge each other by sharing games and codes, which makes it good for peer collaboration and building social-emotional learning skills.

Padlet is an Internet-based application that can be used like a virtual pinboard, making it ideal for collaborating and sharing ideas and resources.  While there are numerous online tools that can be used for similar purposes, I think that Padlet is ideal for anyone considering blended learning.

B.

Digital learning web tools I have tried, and I recommend

Click here, to read an older blog post about them

Learning ,by acting and doing! #Experiential learning.

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Ι assume,all teachers recognize that children learn best through direct experience ,simply by providing them abundant opportunities for experiential learning—experiential learning is the process of learning by doing. By engaging students in hands-on experiences and reflection, they are better able to connect theories and knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

To me, the way we learn is the way we approach life in general. It is also the way we solve problems, make decisions, and meet life’s challenges. Learning occurs in any setting and continues throughout our life. 

“There are two goals in the experiential learning process. One is to learn the specifics of a particular subject, and the other is to learn about one’s own learning process.”
— David A. Kolb

At the core of my classes, self-directed play and exploration of materials allow for cooperative social interaction and support my students’ construction of knowledge about the world around them and this is crucial!

SOME THEORY

THE EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING CYCLE

According to research, learners retain 75% of what they do compared to 5% of what they hear or 10% of what they read (study). In a world where there are many distractions amongst the learning environment (think cell phones and other forms of technology), experiential learning keeps students engaged and attentive to the learning goal .

David Kolb’s work on the experiential learning cycle is among the most influential approaches to learning I have read about.

The experiential learning cycle is a four-step learning process: Experience – Reflect – Think – Act.

While verb drills and memorisation may have their places in language acquisition, taking a more interactive approach can offer students a wide range of important benefits when learning English.

All in all, by practicing their language skills through fun activities like cooking, photography, arts and crafts, music, drama, and sports, students can develop their skills much more quickly than they would through less active teaching methods.

“Learning by doing” can also boost students’ motivation and desire to learn, help them develop practical language skills that can be applied in their daily lives, and boost their confidence in their own English language abilities.

When students are learning a new language, it’s important not only to equip them with the basic grammar and vocabulary they’ll need to progress, but also to spark their interest and keep them motivated.

Therefore, learning English through fun activities makes second language acquisition an engaging, joyful, and interactive experience, building students’ motivation and ensuring they’re always looking forward to their next English lesson.

Benefits of Experiential Learning

There are many benefits to experiential learning.For example, students are able to receive a deeper understanding of the content being taught. Experiential learning also increases engagement and participation. 

By incorporating experiential learning into our curricular learning, we can result in a real mindset change, through learning skills such as leadership, empathy, collaboration, and communication through meaningful opportunities to practice.

If these benefits have not convinced you on this teaching and learning method, below there are a few experiential learning activities that have worked in my classes and  you can use in your class to help solidify the use of more hands-on activities in your classroom.

A growth mindset embraces learning by doing.

In my experience, students respond better when being engaged in practical activities, rather than reading from textbooks.

So, getting the children involved in practical activities that teach them English, among other subjects, is a highly effective way of engaging them in their learning.

Gone are the days when I was a student and where we were seated in rows and listened, for what seemed like hours, to the teacher on a particular topic.  It was as if the students were considered empty vessels to fill up. There was no time for trial and error for us to ‘play’ with various concepts or to learn a particular concept further. 

Course material would be taught in a predetermined way . With little ‘play’, one approach to learning and a fixed way of looking at the learning process, this could only lead to a very limited mindset to what each individual student could achieve.

Contrary to this view and at the heart of what makes the growth mindset( please, click on the link to read all about it in an older blog post of mine) so winsome, Dweck found, is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval.

 

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Experiential Learning Activities to try ,that have worked in my class

Scavenger Hunt

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Scavenger hunts are great experiential learning activities that get students moving and thinking. These hunts often involve having students solve riddles and clues, and students must work together to get to the next stop. Make the hunt lead to a reveal of the class field trip, incentive party, or as a study guide before the next test. The options are limitless and sure to excite our learners!

Put on a Play

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What better way for our students to work on their cooperation, leadership, and creativity skills than by practicing and presenting a play. Maybe our students have just learned a new topic.. Use a pre-found script (a simple Google search is sure to provide many), or have older students create their own. You can also use the course book dialogues or a picture book as a starting point for a play. Theater is a great hands-on experience, and my students do love showing off their acting skills!

Engineering and ELT?

Giving students the opportunity to build is appealing for so many. These sorts of experiential learning activities can be used as part of the curriculum, for brain breaks, for projects or as fun school-wide competitions. You can have students use straws and other recyclable materials to build practically anything related to any topic! The competitive atmosphere of these sorts of building competitions creates excitement and fosters class unity.

Games students play

Games or gamification of courses can be a way of keeping students engaged and motivated while achieving the learning goals in a way that is fun and low risk. Points ,stickers or badges can be awarded for satisfactory participation or completion of the game or goals in the game. Allowing repeat play of games also enables students to see failure as  indication that more work is needed to master the skill or knowledge at hand.

As educators, we can incorporate gaming elements (gamification) into other components of our course, include gaming activities or even structure the entire course like a game!

Games or gaming elements can be designed to be competitive or non-competitive. A competitive element, such as an individual-based or team-based point system, can facilitate friendly competition to make activities or the course fun and active. Games can also be non-competitive and have students work towards achievements and badges in class that signify proficiency with a learning outcome or goal. I have tried both, I can recommend both.

Ask students to bring in their own realia

If you want to get to know students better you can ask them to bring in several items from home that they feel represent them. If you’re teaching online, students can hold objects up to their camera instead. Have them present these items to the class and explain why they chose each object. For a variation of this activity, have classmates guess how the objects represent their fellow students. Students love to share things about themselves and are usually excited about activities that involve getting to talk about their own lives.

 Incorporate realia into a writing prompt

To make writing assignments come to life, I often bring in random objects and place them at the front of the classroom. I have students write a short story (usually with a prompt) incorporating all or a certain number of the objects. This activity gets students to think outside of the box and reflect on how we use the vocabulary they’ve learned in everyday life. It’s a great one for both the physical and virtual classroom as well, as you can simply hold the objects up to the screen if you’re teaching online.

Memory

I in a virtual classroom, quickly pass objects by the screen, one after the other. See if students can recall which objects they saw and whether they can name them in the correct order. If you’re in a physical classroom, you can set the items out on a desk and hide each object under a cloth ,in a box or in a paper bag. Then, lift the bag/cloth/box for a few seconds to reveal the object. You could also play “Memory” with hand-made vocabulary cards or use any items available such as cups, maps, toys, to help students boost their memory .

To me, if you’re wondering how to teach/revise vocabulary, this is a great activity, as you can choose items from a specific theme/category (ABC,food, sports, objects that are different shapes or colors, etc.).

 What is it?

I suggest that you fill a bag/box with realia and have students take turns trying to guess what one of the objects is by putting their hand in the bag/box and feeling it. They can use vocabulary to describe the object to their classmates as they guess. This game can be adapted to the virtual classroom by hiding an object in a bag or under a cloth. Students can have a look at the shape and listen to you describe the object (e.g., it’s heavy, it’s round, etc.) while they try to guess what it is.

CONCLUSION

We all know that,every child learns in a way that is unique to themselves. Experiential learning activities help to take all students’ learning styles and make the activity suitable for a diverse group of learners. The benefits make experiential teaching worth a try. So do a scavenger hunt, put on a play, plant some seeds, rot an apple, or build a tower. Students are sure to walk away with powerful and memorable learning experiences.

Here is a link to visit and find out a lot more about experiential learning activities and useful tables such as this one, below.

Traditional learning activities

Experiential learning activities

Teacher-centered/focused Student-centered/focused
Learning outcomes are prescribed to a fixed rubric or scoring system Learning outcomes are flexible and open
Aim to explain knowledge and/or skills by transferring information Aim to develop knowledge and skills through experience
Fixed structure, high degree of facilitation Flexible structure, minimal facilitation

The importance of Reading Rewards

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In order to stimulate learning and to motivate reading books , lots of teachers use rewards for students.

Research confirms that student motivation is a key factor in successful reading. However, in order to effectively support reading motivation in the classroom, it is helpful to consider the research on reading motivation and engagement.

Academic achievements are important to recognize. Recognizing the achievements that they have made in each area with curricular awards is a great way to foster confidence and promote good study habits.

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Even our bookworms need a bit of encouragement

We all know that, some kids are just into it from the beginning and others need a bit of encouragement.  To me, if  we have a reluctant reader on our hands, special reading rewards are a fun and colourful way to make the idea of reading more engaging.

They are a way to track their progress. When they see how much they are achieving-  as the bookworm reaches its full length- our students will ,hopefully, become more motivated to sit down with a good book. Before we know it, they’ll be hooked on reading (well that’s the plan anyway).

It could be that the real value of reading-related rewards is that both the desired behavior (reading) and the reward (small gifts etc ) define a classroom culture that supports and nurtures the intrinsic motivation to read.

A few reading motivation ideas

Honoring books for self-selection, sharing the excitement of read-alouds, building a balanced book collection, making their passions public  and providing rewards that demonstrate the value of reading are just a few simple but transformative suggestions that can nurture the love of reading in our classrooms!

Our English library

Our school library is actually, a book case filled with books which have been categorised according to student level. This means that a student at an intermediate level will be able to select from a -limited, so far- range of books (novels) very clearly for his/her level without having to wade through books and reading the back cover or the first couple of pages to see if the book is going to be written in language that is too easy or too difficult for them.

In addition, it means students are able to read English books without having to pay for them. This may be especially important for students who are on a budget, or those who don’t really like reading and would be less motivated to read if they had to go out and find a book in English and then pay for it.

It also means, with a more restricted number of options available to choose from because they are divided into levels, students may end up choosing something to read they would not normally choose, even in their own language. And who knows, it might be the start of a whole new interest for a student.

In our English class, our bookworms , receive their rewards ,three times a year: at the end of each semester and at the end of the school year! Their names are published on the school site.

The rewards, usually consist of items like: bookmarks, educational toys, office supplies, balloons, lollipops etc

But, we should be careful: our students shouldn’t get addicted to rewards. They have to work because of an intrinsic motivation. As students achieve success in your class, they can learn to be motivated by their own achievements.

I really look forward to seeing a bigger number of my students take advantage of the school English library to improve their English language skills in any way possible, next school year!

End of the year remembrance kit

I came across this cool idea, on Pinterest, few months ago! Loved it!

This year, I decided to use it with a bunch of special older students of mine, to see if they like it ,too…

Next school year, I am definitely going to offer  these bags, to my 6th graders, on their last day in class!

This isn’t too difficult or expensive to do! The photos will help you, with the steps you will have to take and what to put inside.

Here is something to remind you of  Grade 1 (or________)…

Some seeds to remind you how much you’ve grown-
A lollipop to remind you of how sweet you are-
A book mark to remind you to always love books-
Money to remind you of how much you’re worth – (Play money)
…All in a cup/bag filled with love and a kiss.

Put all items in a paper cup/bag –wrap it up with cellophane and/or tie with raffia, yarn, or ribbon.