A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I wanted to experiment with the flipped classroom approach and asked students to complete a task at home. Encouraged by the response I got from students, I decided to try again with a reading text.
The coursebooks I use (in-house textbooks) have one long reading as part of each unit, and with only 80 minute classes this doesn’t leave much time for reading and exploiting a text. I’ve tried changing the tasks up to move away from the traditional skim-scan-comprehension-vocab model that the book prescribes, but the feedback from students has been that they don’t feel they really understand the text through jigsaw reading or anything else, and prefer to go through the exercises (students, eh?).
So, I gave them the text and exercises to go through at home, the idea being that they would only spend a short time in class comparing answers and checking understanding before spending quality time on a productive task related to the theme of the reading.
The text was a magazine-style piece on “10 Keys to Success”, and I had planned for them to use the material from the reading to create plans for success in different scenarios, using the advice from the text to frame their plans. Students would then assess each others’ plans, using the text criteria to judge how effective the plans would be.
However, there’s a bit of a holiday mood pervading school at the moment, we have a big cohort of students leaving next week (including many of my class) and homework hasn’t been high on the agenda this week. So I came into class to find that less than half of the class had done the homework.
So what could I do in that situation? Shelve the lesson plan and go with something else? Persevere with only a few able to get the most out of the task?
I improvised: I asked the students who had completed the reading task to work with those who hadn’t. The non-doers had to act as “auditors” for the doers, asking what the answer was, how they arrived at it, and checking for themselves in the text.
This worked, and was very challenging for the students; but of course it led to very little time remaining for the success planning task afterwards.
This played to the biggest fear I had when thinking of introducing a flipped classroom approach into my teaching, that of students ruining lesson plans by not keeping up their side of the bargain.
Was there a reason why the video task worked (in that it motivated students) but the reading did not? Possibly students are more willing to do homework if it’s viewable on their mobiles, but I’m not convinced.
Regardless, I haven’t lost hope. Over the weekend, they’re not doing their customary writing homework (this nearly caused insurrection!). Instead, they’re going to be doing a task to practise relative clauses ahead of a grammar class next week. My idea is for them to basically teach themselves – I’m confident they won’t get into too many difficulties – and then I’m going to try to exploit their knowledge in a task next week.