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The Flipped Grammar Classroom

Before I begin discussing my ideas about the flipped grammar classroom, here is an infographic providing the essentials of the flipped classroom for general education. Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

I became aware of the flipped classroom in 2010 when I was teaching Technology in the Classroom (07E/S:102) at the University of Iowa.  Khan Academy was becoming quite well known at the time as a popular resource for teachers to turn to for flipping classrooms.   I could easily see how flipping the classroom could help in math and science classrooms.

Although I haven't had many opportunities to teach English language learners since I left my full-time teaching job in 2009, I was playing with many ideas of how flipping the classroom could be applied to English language teaching.  I do not suggest flipping the classroom without a purpose, or else you may be wasting your students time.  For the most part, I am skeptical about flipping the classroom like fellow blogger Larry Ferlazzo in his review of the idea.

In 2011, I found a small opportunity to try flipping in the classroom but not to its full extent.  I had the opportunity to teach text skills (reading & writing) to students at the summer intensive English program at the International University of Japan.  Most of the curriculum was already set by the program coordinators, but there was a little leeway for visiting teachers to implement some of their own ideas to meet the course objectives and the students' needs.

The closest resemblance to flipping the classroom came to supplement my grammar instruction.  I was wary of using online videos to teach grammar because I did not want to give the impression that I was letting the videos do all the grammar instruction.  If you go to YouTube and type "English language grammar" in the search bar, you should be able to find lots of examples.  It seems that certain English language teachers are making their own YouTube channels dedicated to helping their students or similar students like them.  These channels may nicely fill the void in the Khan Academy, which has no category for academic language or English language grammar.  I believe this area needs more attention both pedagogically and empirically to see how effective these videos are in English language learning.

Instead of using online videos, I used online grammar quizzes where students could self-assess their grammar knowledge and (partially) their grammar usage.  The quizzes I used in 2011 seem to be inaccessible now, but you can go to any search engine and type in "online grammar quiz" and find a nice list.  I just did this today and found a larger variety then what was available just two years ago.  I found that most, but not all, students were appreciative of this self-assessment especially in preparation for their summative grammar tests in the program.  These online quizzes also demonstrated a triangulation, if you will, of grammar input: from the grammar textbook, from the instructor, and from the online quizzes.  If I had the opportunity to study my class more closely, I would be interested in how helpful those online quizzes were for the summative tests and for students' beliefs and attitudes towards learning. 

If you're a teacher who is good at and/or enjoys teaching grammar, then you probably don't need to flip the classroom.  If you're a teacher who dislikes teaching grammar directly or explicitly, you could flip the classroom, but then you may have more work cut out for you in terms of checking that you or your program agree with the way grammar is taught online.  Plus you or your program would need time to design flipped lessons.  If it works, then perhaps it's time worth spent.

Although I haven't tried it, I'm willing to try a flipped grammar classroom in which grammar rules are taught online but put into practice in the classroom the next day.  I would hope this would help students understand the importance of language usage over language knowledge in the communicative classroom.  This may be a good idea for action research if planned well with emphasis on student achievement.

This idea of the flipped grammar classroom, for me, generates more ideas about using web 2.0 tools in the English language classroom.  I plan to share some of them in the following posts, starting off with one that integrates flipped grammar classroom ideas.



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