Are you looking to bring your French classroom to the 21st century?
A revolutionary teaching method is turning the traditional classroom upside down.
You’ve probably heard about it, but perhaps without knowing what it’s really all about.
It’s called a flipped classroom, and it’s been taking the country by storm.
Flipping is a new teaching style in which the traditional lecture and homework of a course are reversed—hence its named, “flipped.” Students watch short video lectures at home to prepare for courses, leaving time in class for interactive exercises, games, projects or lively discussions.
It’s fun, fresh and most importantly, highly effective.
Here’s everything you need to know to create a killer flipped French classroom in five steps.
The Characteristics of a Flipped French Classroom
Flipped French classes are the newest approach to language instruction. Here are the elements that make flipped French classes unique.
Moving away from the old-school teacher-centered method where the teacher passes knowledge on to students, the flipped classroom promotes a student-centered model where students are actively involved in skills acquisition.
You become responsible for guiding students, not lecturing them. Class time has a greater opportunity then to become dedicated to meaningful work and to accommodate the particular needs of diverse learners.
To prepare for flipped French classes, students watch pre-recorded videos and in some cases, PowerPoint presentations. Teachers are encouraged to select a variety of content (or even create their own materials). Also, flipped classrooms come with the freedom to base more lessons around authentic materials.
If students have limited access to technology at home, teachers must be sure students can use the school’s multimedia or computer room.
No two flipped classes are exactly the same. The beauty of flipped classrooms is that they encourage students to study what they like, promoting their curiosities. Learners have a chance to go beyond pre-recorded videos by researching the topics and elements which appeal most to them or which they don’t know.
Flipped classes also allow students to take their time and really work at their own pace. This personalized approach to learning helps students identify their weaknesses and come fully prepared for class.
Where the traditional method would discourage slower learners, the flipped method enables them to catch up with their peers in their own time. That also means that students don’t get as frustrated and don’t get the feeling that they “fail” in class.
Traditional homework is replaced by tasking students with learning a new topic using video lectures or study materials at home. This makes in-class lessons more productive and engaging.
The idea is to give students the tools to become active participants in your French classes, so they can activate and validate what they’ve learned during class, rather than learn new material for the first time.
How to Create a Killer Flipped French Classroom in 5 Steps
Flipped French classrooms require significant adaptation from both the teacher and the student. Here’s how to create your own flipped French lessons successfully.
Step 1: Record your lecture
Videos are the pillar of your flipped French lessons. Ideally, you want to create three short videos a week.
Create quality videos that will help your students understand French better. A lot of students drop out of French class because they find it confusing. Through videos, you should be able to offer clear, thorough and standardized explanations. This ensures that students stay on track with their French studies.
How to develop your videos
First, write a script or outline for your video lesson. It should be about 5-10 minutes and no longer than 15 minutes. Make the structure of the video obvious. It’s good to tell your students what they’re going to learn in the video, teach them and then recap what they’ve just learned.
Keep in mind that a video of a boring lecture is a boring video. Make it engaging! Hit all the important elements and highlight it with colorful examples. As much as possible, avoid engaging in long grammar discussions. It’s best to provide an overview and refer them to their grammar textbook.
What you should try to do more of, though, is to disperse interesting cultural anecdotes in your video. These do a great job of keeping your students engaged and interested. Speak as if you were standing in front of your students and really make an effort to talk to them directly.
It’s also important to end the video with clear instructions of what you want your students to do next. The purpose of each short lesson video is to encourage students to go beyond through research, reading or even more French videos.
Resources and tools
To record your own videos, use your computer’s built-in webcam. Use an external microphone instead of your computer’s internal microphone to ensure that you are recording high-quality audio. Opt for a Blue Snowball microphone or a headset USB microphone. The Microsoft Lifechat is a good option that’s used by professionals for voice over.
Then, proceed to record your video. Many websites and apps can help you create video lectures for a flipped classroom, including Screen-o-Matic or Educreations. This site also has great tips for recording and sharing video lectures.
Lastly, share your videos online. Upload it to your school’s platform, YouTube or Vimeo, or your own blog or Tumblr account if creating videos under 5 minutes. If you’re looking to keep it a bit more private, Wikispace or Edmodo are good sites to share your flipped French videos.
Step 2: Use a variety of videos
It’s important not to rely on a single source of content. Your students love variety, so be sure to incorporate videos on a wide range of topics and format to keep it interesting!
How to select videos
Besides your own videos, use real-world videos of native speakers. Students tend to learn better when they know the video they’re watching is consumed by French native speakers. That’s because it provides a bit of a challenge while also giving them a chance to see that yes, they really can understand French content.
In addition, French videos provide an entry into the French culture. It’s important to choose videos that will enrich students’ language skills while also adding cultural knowledge. Whenever possible, add reference materials to their watch list. Alternatively, select content from reputable sources or in-depth videos discussing important events or elements of the French culture.
To truly personalize lessons, create interest lists featuring matching video and study materials, and let your students pick from the list to study what appeals most to them.
Lastly, be mindful of your students’ fluency levels when selecting videos. Videos should be a tad challenging, encouraging your students to really make an effort and acquire new skills and knowledge. However, the videos shouldn’t be so difficult that they overwhelm your students. Be sure that the video host is easy to understand and has good enunciation and grammar.
Resources and tools
The sky is the limit when it comes to finding authentic French videos. YouTube is a goldmine for self-created content, but numerous French TV channels, too, upload videos and clips on their own websites. Euronews provides fresh content on a variety of subjects. TV5MONDE even includes videos for French learners that you can easily use with your students. Here’s an extensive list of hand-picked video resources for flipped French classes.
FluentU is an online immersion platform with a huge library of French videos, audios and flashcards that can be used in flipped French lessons. Everything is categorized by level, topic and format, so using these videos alone will save you hours and hours of YouTube searching.
FluentU is so much more than just a place to watch native French videos with interactive subtitles, though—it’s a complete learning program. Students can use downloadable transcripts, running vocab lists, SRS reviews, personalized Learn Mode sessions and more to easily become active participants in their learning.
If using external videos, simply email links of relevant content to your students or list video links on a Google Document, which you can share with the class. Google Drive lets you constantly update your documents and is accessible for free and without download, making it a great, simple alternative for those who shudder at the thought of setting up a class site or blog.
Step 3: Develop interactive content to support your lecture
Guiding your students with clear instructions and support materials is critical to the success of flipped French classes.
How to create support materials
Keep them short. Support materials are not designed to extensively cover what your students can find online. Rather, they will provide an overview of the main points raised in the video, encourage them to do more research and to ask questions if necessary.
Similarly, support materials are not a recap of the video. They are supplemental resources, such as detailed grammar points with examples, cultural notes, anecdotes, a brief list of any new or difficult words and expressions mentioned so students can verify spelling and meaning, or general instructions and questions to help them go beyond the video.
The idea is to make both your students’ time and your time more efficient. With support materials, you’re effectively eliminating common problems right away and also letting them find answers on their own. Think of it as a treasure map with several hints to help students come to a conclusion by themselves, quickly.
Resources and tools
Just like videos, there are many resources available online to create your own flipped French classroom support materials. Dropbox lets you share your text and even video documents in one place. Users need to register for a (free!) account and can have access to any materials that you share with them. If you plan on uploading a lot of files, keep in mind that your free account is limited to 2GB, so either delete old materials or upgrade to a premium account.
If you wish to keep it free for a while, try Google Docs for any text-based content. Select users can access your documents online (via Google Drive), or you can choose to make your content public so anyone with the link can view it. Google Docs lets you create folders, ideal for keeping your lessons structured and organized. When sharing documents on Google Docs, be sure to limit editing options so viewers can’t modify what you’ve created.
Alternatively, use SlideShare to upload and share your PowerPoint presentations with your class. You can even set your document to private if necessary. Encourage students to comment or leave you personal notes to confirm that they’ve read the materials or to ask questions.
Step 4: Involve your students
Engaging the cooperation of students is critical to the success of your flipped French classroom. Here’s what you can do to make sure they participate.
How to involve your students
Start by educating students about the method and philosophy, focusing on the positives. Have a discussion about what flipped means for them and its concrete benefits. Let them know that you’ve removed homework, but in exchange, all they’ll need to do is watch fun videos and prepare for assignments in class.
It’s also a good idea to create a quick guide detailing the new process, share it in class and online so they can review it at their leisure.
Then, make students accountable! Create quizzes and ask them to fill it out before class to ensure they’ve watched the video. Give your students the option to send you questions before class if they are having difficulty with some of the elements mentioned. Alternatively, discuss problem areas individually or even do a quick recap if you’ve noticed that many students are struggling with similar points.
Lastly, make sure to follow-up with lively discussions and activities in class. A good idea to take it a step further is to host a debate in French about the themes raised in the video. Encourage students to take a side and work in groups of three to develop their case. Concretely, you will have multiple groups working on the pro and con sides of the debate. One team of three will serve as jurors.
Then, ask one of the proponent teams come and present their arguments, and ask one of the opposing teams to make their case. Ask another pro team to counter it, and so on. Then, ask all the pro and con teams to pick one team to represent them during closing arguments. Once they’ve made their case, ask the jury to recap the debate and pick a winning side.
Resources and tools
Use Google Forms to create interactive quizzes and exercises. It can be used for free and you’ll be automatically notified when a student submits their answers through the site. Use a template or create your own quizzes in no time. This tutorial explains how to create a self-grading test on Google Form.
Typeform is an easy-to-use, innovative platform for quizzes, interactive forms and a variety of other uses. You can view their options for creating quizzes here. In fact, it’s the platform that Progress with Lawless French uses for their weekend French writing challenges.
Alternatively, Socrative lets you create and deliver real-time quizzes online. You have the option to request short answers or multiple choice questions and can quickly monitor your students’ progress through simple and visual data reporting.
Step 5: Develop a support system
Starting flipped French classes can be daunting if you don’t have the support you need. Luckily, there is a flipped community of educators who can make a real difference in your efforts!
How to learn about the flipped community
It’s important to really gain a grasp on the philosophy behind this method to create effective lessons. The flipped community is a goldmine for ideas and resources to help you come up with rich videos and activities.
They’ll also provide support and inspiration through shared experiences, success stories, research and new experiments that have been done all over the country by dedicated educators.
Try to educate yourself as much as you can on flipped methodologies through reading and even networking, including conferences or interacting with flippers online.
Resources and tools
Various sites offer concrete information on how to implement the flipped method into your classes. Flippedlearning.org and Flippedclassroom.org are the biggest reference sites for the flipped community. The sites are designed to empower educators, including French educators, with concrete resources, tips and activities to make their classes more efficient. In addition to in-depth content, the sites feature a list of upcoming events and conferences for educators across the country, so keep an eye on the calendars if you’re ready to learn from the pros.
If you’re looking to learn more about the authentic of a successful teacher, you’ll love Jon Bergmann’s blog. His posts share detailed insights that will help your use the method. Bergman also authored a book that is considered a must-read in the community, “Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day.”
Lastly, watch Teaching Channel videos for tips and inspiration to properly flip your French classes.
How fun are flipped French classes? We can’t wait for you to give this amazing new method a try and take your students to new levels in French!
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