Cristina SilvaI’m Cristina Silva and I’ve been an EFL teacher in Portugal for the past 20 years. I’m the International Project Coordinator at my school and a teacher trainer. Some years ago, I came across the concept of the flipped classroom. The basic idea is that instead of having the teacher delivering a lecture to the whole class and assigning homework afterwards, everything is done the other way around, or ‘flipped’. In other words, the students access digital content at home – usually video-based material - and then do the follow-up tasks in class. By reversing the traditional lesson and by blending the learning the aim is spend more time on productive language skills in class.

I must confess that I started flipping the classroom unintentionally. I was involved in many international projects that made me be absent from school for a few weeks throughout the school year. I didn’t want to leave my students behind so I thought this was a pragmatic way to keep up with the syllabus. Here are ten tips for any teacher thinking of experimenting with the flipped classroom, based on my own experience.

1. No need to be an ICT expert

The most common way to create digital content to flip the classroom is to produce a video. However, unlike what many may think, you do not need to be highly tech-savvy to do it. There are many free user-friendly tools that can do the job for you and help you go through the process. The first time I tried it, it took me a bit longer but after my 2nd video I started doing it fairly quickly.

2. Choosing the right tool

When it comes to editing and producing video there are different options. One way is to film yourself teaching which you can do with any type of camera or webcam. Another way is to use a Screencast tool which will record what’s on your desktop’s screen. I recommend Screencast.o.matic. It’s free, quite simple to use and easily downloadable to your device. Other options if you want to produce a lesson video (a sequence with or without narration) include a free tool called EZVID. It can be used to screencast, write text, add images, videos or music and include narration using your own voice or not.

3. What to film

I usually tend to make videos for grammar lessons as students can watch the explanations outside of the lesson and they can watch it more than once. Here some different ways I’ve experimented with:

  • I’ve produced some videos, using EZVID, with no narration. I call it a silent lesson: It is just text on animated Powerpoint and music.
  • I can also record my voice and give an explanation similar to what I might do in class at the board.
  • When I am working with young learners I include translation in the videos, either written or spoken. I personally find it useful to provide an explanation with a comparison between L1 and L2. 
  • I make sure the videos are not too long, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remember that your students will probably watch them more than once anyway.

4. How students access the videos

  • Students can watch the videos in different ways.
  • Provide them with the URL and load the video there or post it in a blog or wiki.
  • Post the video in any platform such as Moodle or my favourite EDMODO.
  • Some schools, like my own, have their own intranet and students are provided with a school email account so they can access video that way.

5. Give pupils time to watch

When it comes to flipping the classroom you can’t expect the task to be done for the following day. Provide a realistic due date and remember that some students may face internet connection issues at home.
If some students haven’t watched a video in time for a class, I tend to let them take out their earbuds and mobiles and watch the video in class. Meanwhile the other students proceed with the task. It is not the ideal scenario but it seemed the best solution.

6. Go further

As you start feeling more confident with using the tools take the video you created and go further. With a free tool called EDUCANON; you can actually insert, in the video, multiple choice questions that will pop-up at particular points, determined by you. You can then check who did it and how well they performed as you’re provided with a list of names and a spreadsheet marked Red, Green or Grey according to Wrong, Right or Not Answered questions. By having this general list you can assess what topics and students need additional work.

7. Do not try to flip all your classes

It is important that students get used to this new ways of learning so begin flipping your lesson a little bit at a time. It’s also important to note that not all lessons lend themselves to a flipped classroom. And as with every good idea, if you overdo it, some students may lose interest.

8. Be careful with copyright

If you choose to add images or music in your videos make sure you are getting free to use digital content. Search for Creative Commons content in CCsearch and you will find lots of possibilities that will help create content.

9. Involve everyone

As with lots of new ways of teaching, it’s important to make everyone aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. So if you are going to start flipping the classroom it’s worth informing students, school boards, colleagues and parents about the advantages. If necessary meet with people – especially parents - and give them the chance to ask about the benefits of flipping the classroom. Your answers might include: - The students can work at their own pace unlike in class where they have to follow their classmates.

  • They can stop the video whenever they want to take notes.
  • They can watch it as many times as they want.
  • They can choose the best time to do it.
  • It allows the teacher to spend more time in class on practice tasks and you have more time to work with different students (especially in larger classes).
  • Students develop the skills of working and learning autonomously.

10. My students’ feedback

One day a student I had never seen before, came up to me and said “your video helped me a lot”. He was referring to a video I’d made for another class which was on a YouTube channel I’d set up for the lessons. A student in the class had told him about the video so he’d subscribed and now followed my ‘classes’ despite not being my student. It’s just one example of how positive the reaction has been to flipping. Here are some more of my students’ comments which make me want to continue.
“I like the flipped classroom because I don’t need to ask Ms Silva to repeat, which is embarrassing in front of the class.”
“I don’t have to wait for others who take longer to understand”
“If the same content is taught in class it takes much longer because there’s 30 of us and there are always quite a few who don’t get it the first times. So Ms Silva has to ‘rewind’ many times. It’s boring for me”
“At home we’re in control. We can rewind whenever we want but only if we need”
“I usually rewind the video until I get it. In class I only ask once because I don’t want the others to think I’m stupid”
“I like having a lesson sitting on my sofa!”
“Having a class at home allows you to do things you wouldn’t do in a regular class like eating or drinking”
“Once I asked my brother to help me. Ms Silva wasn’t mad at me. I can’t bring my brother into class though”
“I enjoy controlling my learning”