How I've made flipped learning via video work this year

Making flipped learning work for remote teaching requires some planning – but get it right and it can still deliver plenty of benefits

Gregory Adam

Remote learning during Covid-19 crisis

The idea of lecturing a group of young students over a group video call and keeping them engaged and interested is not easy.

And even if it is achieved it not likely to help develop high-order thinking skills.

Of course, though, just as in the classroom we do not lecture students and expect them to listen for the entire time, so too we must adapt out thinking for online teaching.

For me, this is where flipped learning has really come to the fore this year.

What is flipped learning?

As a quick refresher: flipped learning is where the students are given resources to review and become familiar with before the lesson, and then during the class, they have to opportunity to move beyond simple memorisation and understanding of content.

There is a fairly strong scientific consensus in the research that flipped learning is an effective method of education. It is repeatedly seen that students’ motivation and performance are increase.

Of course, though doing this remotely requires a slightly different approach

What I have found works well is sending students videos to review before the lesson on the topic we are going to be looking at or a key concept, such as air resistance.

Then during the lesson, we discuss this and students can work together to build on what they have found, perhaps by discussing with their classmates how they could theoretically build an air-powered machine using different sets of materials.

You can even set them a project to actually build something and bring it to show during the next lesson; it would depend on your students’ circumstances and how well they can access materials though.

After the lesson, it is also usually a good idea to give them a reflective task like “Two stars and a wish” – where they find two things that went well and one thing that they could have done better.

How you can use it in the online classroom

So what does this mean in reality?

Here are two online learning lessons where I have used flipped learning that worked particularly well.

A science lesson relating to pollution

  1. Send the students the materials to review such as on pollution and recycling (make sure you give them at least five days of notice to do this).
  2. When students come to class, you set them a task that requires collaboration and exploration, such as working in break-out groups to come up with solutions for excess waste from the local community. 
  3. Move between break out groups monitoring and offering support when needed. 
  4. Students do post-lesson reflections on their learning.

A language lesson on foods 

  1. Provide the students with resources that show them the meaning behind words (again, make sure you give them at least five days of notice to do this).
  2. When the students show up to class, demonstrate a conversation they can have using the language.
  3. Put the students into break out groups to practice the conversation
  4. Move between the groups to monitor and offer feedback when necessary.
  5. Students do post-lesson reflections on their learning.

These sorts of ideas work particularly well because not only are the pupils spending time pre-learning for the lessons, but it means the teacher can be more available to facilitate their learning as they delve into the lesson resources.

Moreover, the students themselves are more central in the teaching and learning process, they are independently guiding themselves.

Of course, though, sometimes students will not do the pre-lesson learning… I know, such a surprise. When this happens, you can group students who have not with students who have, this way they can be supported.

Even better though is to reduce the chances of this happening by incentivising the students to make sure they do the work, such as providing good feedback to parents – or ask them what incentives may work, they will usually tell you!

Worth the effort

Just like most of the teachers who have been working over the last year, the last few months have inspired me to work on the book I am currently writing: Teaching Online – A Practitioner’s Guide.

What’s been most striking in all of this is that while there are many barriers and problems we have to face, the students we teach appreciate it when they see that we care: their faces lit up when they got to interact with their teacher.

Having the right lesson set up that engages our students and lets them learn in effective ways are the seeds that bear the fruit of enjoyable learning. 

Gregory Adam is a primary teacher at Nord Anglia Chinese International School in Shanghai. He released his first book last year: Teaching EFL, ESL & EAL: a practitioner’s guide

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