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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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.
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.