Flipped classes

2 Feb

In order to acquire the number of vocabulary items that they need, a substantial portion of a student’s learning will need to take place out of class. When it comes to vocabulary acquisition, how should class time be best spent? Perhaps, we would do better to devote the limited time we have available to communicative practice of vocabulary, rather than using it to present new items. If we don’t use class time to recycle / revise vocabulary, it probably won’t happen much outside the class. A study by Moir and Nation (2008: p.166) found that, although some learners recognize the importance of revision, they don’t actually spend any study time at home revising previously learnt words, preferring to restrict themselves to the weekly list that they have been given.

This idea finds an echo in the currently popular notion of ‘flipped classes’ in mainstream US education. You might like to watch an inspiring TED talk on the subject by Salman Khan.


The idea is very simple. Essentially, Khan recommends that teachers devote classroom time to practice of whatever it is that the students have been learning … after they have studied the topic at home in the form of uploaded Youtube video clips. The medium (video clips) is different from a more traditional study sheet (or word list), but the arguments for a more considered use of classroom time remain equally forceful. Here’s an example of something I am experimenting with: it’s not exactly Hollywood, but you’ll get the idea. Students watch this at home: more time in class available for practice.

SF Pre Int 5A compound nouns

There is a useful blog entry (with lots of links) on flipped classes at the website of the consultants-e.



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