what the flip is a flipped esl classroom

What the Flip Is a Flipped ESL Classroom?

Students and teachers are flipping obsessed with the Flipped ESL Classroom model.

Flipping the script of a traditional classroom is trending in ESL classrooms across the nation.

What exactly does “flipping the script” mean? Well, consider the following as the traditional “script”:

Teacher: Teaches basic lessons on new subject matter in the classroom.

Student: Does practice exercises and other homework independently at home.

So then, if we are flipping the script, it looks more like this:

Student: Learns basic lessons on new subject matter individually at home.

Teacher: Does practice exercises and other reinforcement material in the classroom.

That’s the gist of it!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)


What the Flip Is a Flipped ESL Classroom?

In summary, students are learning the basics at home, at their own pace. This often occurs online, on their computers. With students learning the fundamentals at home, it frees up a lot of class time for the teacher to provide the class with other engaging learning material.

How Exactly Does a Flipped Classroom Operate?

In the comfort of their own home, students are able to listen to assigned lectures and video lessons along with other activities that are typically done strictly inside of the classroom.

The flipped ESL classroom model shows that while this beginning instruction is necessary for the learning process, it can be done just as effectively at home.

As opposed to traditional teaching methods, this model believes that the enriching practice assignments that are typically done at home are usually where students could use a lot more help from the teacher.

With flipping the classroom, the students are able to introduce the material to themselves and the teachers are able to assist where the students really could use the assistance – the practice activities.

The most important things to consider when working in your ESL flipped classroom are:

  • Maximizing class time with practice material and productive activities
  • Being creative and getting students out of their seats
  • Paying attention to what the students need to be re-taught in the classroom

The flipped classroom is also a great place to do fun video activities!

If you’re looking for a good resource that your students can work on at home, you’ll want to check out FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos like music videos, movie trailers, news, and inspiring talks, and turns them into English learning lessons. 

It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. These are videos that your students already love watching, so they’ll be beyond excited to interact with them in the classroom. 

2014 10 09 21.14.21 A Model Lesson for Using Songs as ESL Audio Listening Materials

On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.

2014 10 09 21.15.16 A Model Lesson for Using Songs as ESL Audio Listening Materials

Worried that students might be stumped by some of the harder videos? No way. FluentU brings authentic content within reach by providing interactive captions and in-context definitions right on-screen. For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:

2014 10 09 21.20.15 A Model Lesson for Using Songs as ESL Audio Listening Materials

Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”

2014 10 09 21.21.16 A Model Lesson for Using Songs as ESL Audio Listening Materials

It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!

What Are the Perks of a Flipped Classroom?

There are many benefits to the flipped ESL classroom, and here are just a few of them!

  • Embraces Multiple Skill Levels

ESL classrooms are different from other classrooms in that the skill level of students can vary drastically. Some students come in only needing to perfect the English language while others have never spoken it before. With a flipped ESL classroom, different skill levels are embraced. When students are learning lessons for the first time in their homes, they’re able to go at their own pace. The more advanced students are able to breeze through lessons that may be easy for them instead of waiting for the rest of their classmates to grasp the material. The students that are having more trouble with the subject matter are able to review the material as many times as they need to because they’re working independently.

  • Maximizes Class Time

With students learning the basics at home, there’s a lot of new available time in the classroom with the teacher. In the traditional classroom model, it can often be difficult to recognize if students are grasping material at an appropriate pace until it’s too late. In a flipped classroom, students are learning the material at home and practicing in the classroom. This makes it easier for the teacher to not only create engaging activities to help the students practice the material, but it also gives teachers the time and means to recognize what subject matter needs to be reviewed.

  • Increases Student Engagement

Lecturing in class can be a tough gig. It can often be difficult to keep the students’ attention while lecturing in the classroom because students love engaging activities. With all of the new technology available to students at the touch of a fingertip, it’s easy to get distracted in the classroom. Students want (and need) to be out of their seats and chatting it up with their friends (in English of course). With this classroom style, students get to do just that. Because students are doing the lectures independently, the teacher can be creative about making their curriculum fun and interactive, which will keep the students’ attention and help them learn more effectively.

  • Provides Flexibility

The flipped classroom provides great flexibility for both the student and teacher. The student gets to learn flexibly on their own time, in their own environment. They’re able to focus on the material in the comfort of their own home, at the pace that is most comfortable for them. The teacher benefits from the flexibility of the flipped classroom structure in that they’re not burdened by getting through the material in a short amount of time. In the classic classroom, many teachers struggle with knowing how many times to review a specific subject for straggling students that are falling behind. They often have to make difficult decisions that can involve moving past a subject matter that they know some students don’t fully comprehend. The flipped classroom model nearly eliminates that struggle because it gives students the freedom to review the material as much as they need to at home while they gain the practice that they need in the classroom with the help and guidance of their teacher.

  • Gives Students More Control of their Learning

Students like to be in control of their learning. They like to feel like they’re in charge. The flipped classroom gives students the sense of control that they’re searching for. They get to make decisions on their learning. The student gets to decide when, where and how often they do the lesson and they’re held accountable for their learning in the classroom during the practice exercises.

What to Do with Extra Time in the Classroom

One of the great features about the flipped ESL classroom model is obviously the amount of free time that it gives the teacher in the classroom.

With this newly-found freedom, some teachers ask the question: “Well, what am I supposed to do with all this free time?”

Having this free time can often be a tad overwhelming for the teacher that’s new to the flipped classroom, but once teachers get used to this structure they often find that they’re able to use their class time more effectively and help their students learn better.

Conversation-based Flipped Classroom Learning

With students learning the basics and logistics of English at home, teachers are able to include more conversation-based material in the classroom! Students can take what they’ve learned at home and put it to use in the classroom! Teachers are able to monitor their conversations and give feedback to the students on what they need to be working on. It’s really a win-win for everyone!

Here are some conversation-based learning exercises that you could do in your flipped classroom:

  • Classroom Starters

Try starting your class time with having students pair up and discuss what they learned from the at-home, virtual instruction. Have them write down their partner’s answers and share with the class one or two things that their partner said. This will help refresh the students’ memories and allow them to catch a glimpse of anything that they may have missed in the virtual lecture.

  • Speed Dating

One fun activity that helps students with conversation is a speed dating activity. To do this activity, first set up chairs in two even lines facing each other (enough for all of your students). Have half of your class sit on one side, and the other half of your class sit on the other. For the first round, yell out a topic (something that they learned in their lesson at home) and tell the students to talk about only that topic with their current speed dating partner. After a minute or two, yell “Switch!” and have one of the lines move one seat to the left, while the other line stays seated. Give them a new topic to talk about each time they switch partners!

Interesting Projects for the Flipped Classroom

When students are able to use their brains to get creative with the material that they’ve learned, this helps them to synthesize the information better. Students show that they’ve truly learned material when they’re able to synthesize information instead of just regurgitating it.

Interesting projects for the flipped classroom will reinforce material, promote conversation and encourage students to think outside of the box.

Projects are also a more interesting way of testing students on the subject matter that they’ve learned and help students to become more culturally engaged. Teachers can use this project time to incorporate fun ESL vocabulary games into the routine, and continue to make learning fun and interesting.

Here are some projects that you could do during all the extra class time that you’ll have now:

  • The Talk Show Project

Have the students break into groups of three to five and give each group a real life topic to discuss on their talk show. Instruct them to have one or two students hosting the show, while the remaining students in the group act as the interviewees. The goal of the project is for students to construct characters, questions and answers that will share the story to the rest of the class in an interesting way. This is a great exercise to do when checking for comprehension of a specific subject matter — if they’re able to communicate the scenario or topic effectively to the rest of the class, then they understand the material!

  • Trip or Event Planning

This idea works well when teaching about holidays and can be an effective way to use all or most of one day’s class time. Split students into groups and give them the option of either planning for a holiday trip or planning a holiday event. Instruct them to pick a specific holiday and plan according to what is significant about that holiday. Have them create a presentation with a PowerPoint or poster board.

***If students need extra assistance, prepare worksheets for them with logistical information to fill out.

Trip Planning: destination, departure/arrival dates and time, transportation, hotel and plane prices, activities to do during the trip and what to pack.

Event Planning: location, time, date, budget, food, beverages, activities, guest list and types of decorations.

Have each group present their trip or party to the class!

Teachers are doing backflips due to the happiness they get from the flipped ESL classroom model. Give it a try and see how you like it. You’ll probably flip out and be flipping amazed by what it has to offer!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)



If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.

Bring English immersion to your classroom!

Comments are closed.