Published 21st October 2015

There are many different ideas behind the various teaching methods that are used in EFL classrooms and each of them have their own pros and cons. You will probably be familiar with the PPP method of lesson planning, the use of Cuisenaire rods and even Dogme – all various techniques and methods that have become popular over the years. A new idea that has emerged recently is that of flipped classrooms. Let us look now at what exactly a flipped classroom is and why you would and wouldn’t want to have one.

A flipped classroom is basically one where the student does a lot of the work at home, and class time is spent asking questions for clarification and discussion. In other words, it reverses what we would usually consider to be the classroom format: watching lectures or videos, reading texts or doing research at home and doing activities or exercises during class time. The content of the lessons is learnt at home by the student and the lessons are used to consolidate and demonstrate their new knowledge. 

Flipping classrooms initially began in mainstream schools, but it can be easily adapted to the EFL classroom. Basically, whatever you would usually give for homework can be done in class but your students need to prepare for that at home. To be more specific, let students read or listen to texts at home, and use those texts as sources of discussion in class. Let your students read grammar reference materials for homework, then spend time doing practice activities in class.

The benefits of this approach are many. Students can tackle material at home at their own pace so we won’t have to deal with students who read or work at different paces. This helps alleviate some of the issues with having students of different levels in the same class. It also allows the students to tackle the material how they want, without dictating how much time or how they should focus on the material. In this way students have time to consider the material and come up with any questions they may have. 

The teacher, then, is able to help with real issues and difficulties students may have had at home, instead of twiddling thumbs while students read a text, and more time can be spent on clarification and consolidation.  Plus students can be asked to do research or preparation for a task that is to be done in class, so time in the lesson can be spent talking with other students or working with the teacher to solve a problem or discuss a topic.

All in all, while some teachers may feel this approach has more difficulties than benefits, there are a number of advantages to this method and it’s worth a try.