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Over the break, I took the time to research and read a little bit more into a flipped classroom.  Honestly, the idea of a flipped classroom appeals to me, it makes sense to get students to do any passive listening that (might) need to be done at home and do the active, hands-on stuff at school.

However, in the middle of all of this, I stopped and thought about my own classroom. In previous posts, I’ve mentioned my hesitation, due to the fact that I teach kindergarten, to mostly five and six-year-olds.  However, I not only teach kindergarten, I teach French Immersion kindergarten.  As soon as I began thinking about a flipped classroom method for a second language classroom, I knew that I wanted to learn more and write about it this week.

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Before I continue, I just want to mention that I took a couple of amazing classes from Andrea Sterzuk in my undergrad (and I have been planning/hoping to take more in my masters) on the topic of English as an Additional Language.  Although the classes I took were geared toward teaching students who do not speak English in an English classroom setting, the same principals of second language learning apply for children who are learning French as a second language (or other languages).  If you haven’t taken a class from Andrea, I highly recommend it, whether you teach students in a second language or not (and especially since we add more EAL students in our division each year).

So, back to second language acquisition. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to discuss French, and French in Saskatchewan in particular.

There are different ways that you can learn French in Saskatchewan.

  1. Core French.  This program is offered in most schools, and the curriculum states that the minimum required time for core French is 120 minutes a week, until level 6 core French.
  2. Intensive French. This program (I believe) is only offered in a few school divisions. It is an enrichment of the core French program and begins in grade 6, with intensive French language instruction for five months and then partly in French the rest of the year.
  3. French Immersion. This program is offered in a lot of schools. The curriculum states that, for the first few years (kindergarten, grade 1, grade 2) the whole day, 100% of instruction, takes place in French. English Language instruction begins in grade 3 as a subject, but the rest of the subjects continue to be taught in French.
  4. Fransaskoise. This program is offered only in the fransaskoise school division. The curriculum is slightly similar to the Immersion curriculum, however English Language instruction does not start until grade 4. The program is meant for students who already have French as their first language.

Just to note, it takes approximately 480 hours to reach a basic level of fluency in an “easy” language (like French is for English speakers). Basic fluency is defined as “Limited working proficiency” which means the person is able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements. Therefore, in a true Core French classroom, learning 120 minutes of French a week, you might (and that’s a big might) be basically fluent by grade 6.  Maybe.

(A whole other blog post could be written about how often Core French is not taught for the minimum requirement for many, many reasons).

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Now, with all of that explained, let’s circle back to the flipped method.  From what I was able to find on trusty Google, there is a big difference between a Core French setting and an immersion setting when discussing the flipped method.

The flipped method works in a second language instruction when you are teaching new vocabulary, especially, in my mind, with core French. This blog has convincing points to a flipped method, as well as tips to get started for flipping a core French classroom.  The reason that I think the flipped method works in this situation is that it’s for older students who are motivated to learn another language. I also believe the blog is for a core French situation since it focuses more on vocabulary building that content. In an Immersion classroom, vocabulary is important, but the content and knowledge is more important (since all subjects are taught in French).

This article outlines how it works for Mandarin instruction in San Francisco. I think the key point here is that parents and students are equally excited and motivated to learn Mandarin. The required time at home for a flipped classroom is welcomed and appreciated. The Mandarin school seems likes it is an intensive second language program, but not Immersion. I could be wrong about this, though!

The idea of a flipped classroom is discussed in this blog, where, again, the classroom situation seems like it is a core French situation. The second part of the article suggests only speaking the target language in the classroom (using gestures and repetition for comprehension). It’s a good tip, but what 95% of second language teachers already do.

This blog is written for Immersion teachers. It discusses how she intends to flip her teaching, recording her lectures for future students’ homework and then using her in class time for practice exercises.  I think this would work well again with the content being learned at home and practical applications happening with support at school.

After reading and researching, it seems that the flipped method is very doable in core French. Having students listen to French vocabulary at home would increase the time spent using the language in school, especially once students are motivated to learn a second language. (This might also be a way to increase the number of minutes that students learn French a week).

In an Immersion setting, I think that flipped would work as well.  Although, I’m wondering if flipped works in different subjects better than others? Last class we discussed which subjects worked better for a flipped classroom and, overwhelmingly, math won.  A lot of people could speak to flipping their math instruction, recording the lecture and then using the class time to do exercises or help students who didn’t understand the lecture. This would be the same in French Immersion, wouldn’t it? If it works for a class in English, it should work for a class in French.

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From what I could find, most of the flipped classrooms in a second language are in an older grade. When the children are a little older, they are more motivated and a little more willing to do homework.  With younger children, parents definitely need to be on board with the flipped method in order for it to happen at home.

It would definitely be interesting to try a flipped classroom in kindergarten. Although our new French curriculum doesn’t have subjects and is fully integrated, so it’s hard to pull one subject to try and flip.  But, that is a different thing to consider.

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Media, all the media

This week we were asked to respond to a reading from last week, chapter seven from Bates.  The chapter summarizes different medias such as text, audio, video, computing, and social media.

With each of these medias, Bates describes characteristics of learning and teaching. Positives and negatives are discussed for each.  A few quotes from each section of the chapter drew my eye. Here they are, one for each of the sections:

Text is that it can be carefully scrutinised, analysed and constantly checked

 

Added flexibility and learner control means that students will often learn better from preprepared audio recordings combined with accompanying textual material (such as a web site with slides) than they will from a live classroom lecture.

 

Video is particularly useful for recording events or situations where it would be too difficult, dangerous, expensive or impractical to bring students to such events

 

The issue around the value of computing as a medium for teaching is less about its pedagogical value and more about control.

 

The main feature of social media is that they empower the end user to access, create, disseminate and share information easily in a user-friendly, open environment.

All of these quotes show that each of these medias have value and are recognized by all, if not used by all.

Personally, I can’t choose a favourite style to learn from. I honestly like a blend of all of the different types. I enjoy reading text-based items, either in print format or online.

I appreciate audio more as a break in concentration. I find that I am able to do a lot of other things if I’m listening to a book on tape, or just listening to the audio of a video. Although multitasking is not real, I find that it’s a good way to listen and try to get something done at the same time.

I love videos. When I get ready in the morning I constantly have something on YouTube while I’m getting ready. Now that John Oliver is back (I have a serious crush on John Oliver, I’ve written about it before) I can now get ready on Monday mornings while listening and watching his show. I, of course, watch other things, but I really appreciate both the visual and the audio (and the humour) of most videos.

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Same goes for computing and social media, which I am going to lump together. Some days I enjoy the ease of using a computer to take notes or to create a blog. I enjoy creating content to share with others as well.

So, in saying that I can’t pick a favourite type of media, I guess that I have to keep that in mind with my students.  They may not be able to pick either. Or, maybe they don’t want to.

I completely agree with Katherine, when she said that learning styles/preferences might be a myth. However, what I do believe is that students like to learn in different ways on different days. And these might not be connected to learning styles at all, but to mood.  If I am feeling very overwhelmed, and I have a bunch of new concepts to consider, as a learner I might appreciate a text.  I can take my time with a text, reread, pause and think. Nothing is loud or overwhelming.

However, the next day I might need a refresher on a concept that I already know about. Listening to a podcast about it, or watching a quick video might be all I need.  If I feel like I need to create something, I can use social media or computing to provide me with that outlet, if that’s what I need for my learning that day.

When considering the different types of medias and how to use them as teaching tools, I think that a lot of the time teachers rely on their own personal biases when choosing media for their classes. This bias sometimes comes from “well, this is how I was taught…” but can also come from “well, I like this the best.” Of course a very common bias is “I’m not really comfortable with anything else.”

But, as Graham stated in his post, it’s not about the teacher, it’s the question “what medium of technology is best for my student to learn this content or skill?” It’s important to realize that although we may all have our predispositions or biases, the students are the ones who need to feel comfortable and need to be able to learn in the manner that suits them best.

I fully believe that we can present the same information in a multitude of ways, especially if we take a little time to find the other ways. When I am teaching my French kindergarten students a new letter, I “lecture” first, then they play games with the letter on an iPad. They watch a video with the letter in it and I have an alphabet song as well.  We also do lots and lots of hands-on activities (which aren’t mentioned here, of course). With all of these different ways of learning, the kids usually get a really good sense of the letter of the week.

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Of course, if I had older students I would have even more options, as five-year-olds are somewhat limited when it comes to some forms of media (either by reading or by privacy).

So, in summary – I believe that we all like different medias and appreciate the opportunity to learn from different medias when they are available.

Your thoughts?

I’m “Thread”-y

This week we were asked to check out some of the tools available to us online to help with our big project.

From the list, a bunch of cool tools that I’ve used before, either for school or for university.

(As an aside, I think my family/friends get super confused at the difference between school (kindergarten teacher) and school/university (Master’s classes).  I often have to clarify when I am talking about doing school work – is it planning for my kids or writing a blog – who knows!)

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From the list, I’ve used and/or liked a lot of them. For instance: Skitch, PowerPoint, Prezi, AdobeSpark, Screencastify, Explain Everything (when it was cheaper), iMovie, YouTube editor, Garageband, Powtoon, and Animoto. Writing these down, I realized that, while I have used a lot of the tools listed, there were still a greater number that I hadn’t used.

I tried a couple before deciding on what I would write about. I looked at both PuppetPals and Little Bird Tales. They both looked interesting, but my weird hang up on things that are animated and/or geared toward younger kids is that it inevitably looks creepy, or weird.  Like, remember when bitstrips were all the rage on Facebook? The avatars that came with the program were all vaguely similar and slightly creepy. Did anyone else think this, or was it just me?

Since I was weirded out by the two that I tried, I decided to look elsewhere.  The next one I tried was VoiceThread.  One of the first things that I liked about the website was that you can see and listen to VoiceThreads without having to create an account.

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Photo Credit: VoiceThread via VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a site where you can upload media and then record a voiceover to go along with the media. VoiceThreads can be used by teachers to explain concepts or by students to demonstrate their learning.

Another great thing about VoiceThread is that the website will host the VoiceThreads and you can embed them elsewhere, or share them to Facebook or Twitter. With this VoiceThread, the first slide is the teacher introducing the project and each subsequent slide is a picture or a video detailing the project.

One thing that would make the tool a little better would be more VoiceThreads that are publically shared. There are many categories listed on the main browse page that unfortunately do not have any videos shared to them.  This makes me wonder if the website isn’t as useful as it seems on the surface.

Also, another negative to the website is that in order to export videos, you have to pay for each export. Right now the offer is ten exports for twenty dollars. Although it is relatively cheap, there are other websites that will allow you to create videos for free (like YouTube…)

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Did anyone else look into this website? I might use it for our project, but I feel like there are easier and cheaper options!