Wednesday, 2 April 2014

First flipping steps

I have finally managed to take my first steps in flipping my German Year 9 lessons.  These are my experiences so far.

Firstly - why bother?
This is a beginner "express" course, with 2 lessons per week.  Not a lot of time, and I wanted to maximise my use of class time. I want to do more speaking, and have time to do more interesting reading tasks, and also have the time to support them with extended writing.
Although some are good at learning vocabulary, some are not, and I wanted to promote more active ways of learning vocabulary, and nudge them into using sites such as, which I had used with great success in class.
This class also has some very able linguists who are desperate for more stimulation, and will willingly go away and learn things for themselves, and I wanted a way to give them links and to push them forwards.

How did I set it up?
Until my exam classes go on study leave, I have limited time, but this class can't wait till mid-May. So, for the initial stages, I have used a combination of edmodo and quizlet.
Edmodo - Edmodo looks like facebook, works a bit like facebook, but is designed for schools.  It's pretty easy to use (with the help of this wonderful guide to Edmodo), and if the pupils add in their email address, the lost password issue is also less of a headache.  For me, I have the chance to share files and documents, links to quizlet and other useful sites, but most importantly, I have the ability to set quizzes to check whether they had understood and learnt the work and I can make them do something active with the learning they do.
Quizlet- flashcard games on the computer, complete with pronunciation to learn vocabulary.

I got the pupils to join Edmodo, after talking about behaviour online and getting them to sign a code of conduct form which I made - which turned out to be important.  With Edmodo looking like facebook, the lines between a "school" site and "fun" site were blurred, and a couple of pupils needed reminding.  There is also a setting to allow the teacher to moderate all posts before they are published.  I have opted for this.

We did the first Edmodo lesson together, and I showed them the link to their learning homework on quizlet, and told them and messaged them on Edmodo to learn the words first with quizlet and then do the quizzes.  In my head this made perfect sense. What happened? Well, many completely ignored that instruction and simply did the quizzes, meaning that they got low scores. Luckily, because we were in class, we discussed in the plenary why that hadn't worked. The instant feedback from the quiz when they saw their score is something the pupils really liked, and they looked at which answers they got wrong, and I could hear some really good comments, such as "I didn't put the endings on the neuter adjectives" or "I've forgotten my capital letters".

They were set loose with a homework to do a similar thing - use to learn the names of clothes and then use the Edmodo quizzes to test whether they knew the vocabulary and to get more practice on adjective endings which we had been practising in class, and which I suspected were not fully secure.

The result
The quiz scores were really mixed, but it sparked a few interesting reactions.  Several pupils, and not necessarily the "keen" pupils sent me direct messages to say that they didn't understand a certain aspect of the topic, could we go over it again.  Some asked questions which showed they had completely the wrong idea.  These pupils were showing a sense of responsibility for their own learning and a degree of reflection which was new and encouraging.

The planning for the next lesson was therefore tightly based around the results I had seen from Edmodo.  Rather than having to find out during the next lesson that the pupils were not sure about adjectival endings, I had been able to see this in advance, and save myself some time, and pupils had been able to ask questions without losing face in class.

The boys who had done well were "experts" at various stations in the breakout space, and their job was to help the other pupils get to grips with the adjective endings for masculine nouns etc.  They took this role very seriously, and I was then able to reward them with school merits and badges on Edmodo. This took the first 20 mins, and meant we could then do some more rewarding speaking and writing work based on what we wear at the weekend.

There were some issues with access to the internet.  Some pupils only had a tablet, and the Edmodo app didn't allow them to do the quizzes, and one boy quietly came and told me that he only had a rubbish computer.  I have a week till my next lesson with this class, so he has arranged to do some of his work one lunchtime.  It's not perfect, but I bet he will still spend more time on the vocabulary than with a standard vocab list.

Initial conclusions
This allows me to be more responsive to the pupils, and it has nudged them towards taking more responsibility, and I think the boys respond well to the format of Edmodo, and are more open to asking questions.  It did allow me to circulate and talk to the pupils, and the boys who were "experts" also felt they understood the rules better after explaining them and helping others. The language which I heard from the boys in the rest of the lesson also convinced me it is another tool in the box which is worth exploring.  I intend to flip one lesson each week. I will keep you posted!