How to conceptualise group space activities for the flipped English classroom
To me, the biggest value of flipped learning is that it induces us teachers to rethink how to spend in-class time, so as to prepare our students for thriving in the 21st century.
Often in the traditional classroom, class time is mainly spent by teachers on presenting subject-matter content to students. In the 21st century, however, students can easily obtain information from the Internet. Class time should therefore be spent on the higher-order skills, such as the four C’s as advocated by many writers:
· Critical thinking
Flipped learning advocates presenting the key subject-matter content through pre-class work (often referred to as the Individual Space), and spending class time on higher-order levels of learning in the follow-up lesson (the Group Space). As each school subject has its own features and curriculum content, how should we ESL educators conceptualise group space activities for the flipped English classroom.
Under the generic flipped learning model, two approaches to such conceptualization have been proposed: (1) attending to the various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, and (2) active learning. In the remainder of this article, I will focus on the first approach.
(1) Attending to the various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy
Under Bloom’s taxonomy (revised 2001), the lower levels, such as Remembering and Understanding, are the more basic skills. The higher the levels, the more cognitively challenging they are. Writers in education generally agree that the higher levels of learning are more important for thriving in the 21st century. Hence, we should make sure that we pay sufficient attention to these higher levels of learning.
2. Applying the Bloom’s Taxonomy in designing classroom activities
Many writers have attempted to suggest ways to apply Bloom’s Taxonomy in designing classroom activities. One example is the following chart, created by TeachThought, a teacher development platform. The chart illustrates some actual activities that teachers can design for each level of learning under Bloom’s taxonomy.
3. Designing group space activities for the flipped classroom
Some writers have further applied the Bloom’s taxonomy in proposing how class time should be spent under the flipped learning model. In her blog, education consultant Maggie Hos-McGrane created the following diagram to capture her proposed distribution of class time use in real-life teaching situations:
In other words, in the group space lesson, the bulk of class time should be spent on Applying and Analysing, while some class time may be spent on the other 4 levels of learning.
This proposal by Hos-McGrane is founded on what actual classroom teaching is about, and focuses on how class time should be most profitably spent. Hence, for example, while Creating is deemed to be the highest level of cognitive ability and one of the four C’s for thriving in the 21st century, it may make more sense to start some of it during class, and have students continue the creation activity after class.
4. Examples for the flipped English classroom
Below, I apply Hos-McGrane’s model in suggesting some example group space activities for the flipped English classroom.
Example 1: Grammar – Adjectives vs Adverbs
In the Individual Space work, students have learnt how to form an adverb from an adjective. In the follow-up lesson, students:
- are given new adjectives which they will try converting to adverbs;
- are given a few pictures and a list of adjectives; they will then, for each picture, choose an appropriate adjective from the given list, change it to an adverb for describing what is going on in the picture;
- in pairs, write and act out a short dialogue incorporating some of the adjectives and adverbs provided.
- are given some sentences some of which include an ordinary adjectives while some will include adverbs not ending in -ly (e.g., fast, well, late); students analyse the sentences to identify the ones which contain adverbs not ending in -ly.
Example 2: Speaking – Making and Responding to suggestions politely
In the Individual Space, students have learnt the expressions for making and responding to suggestions politely. In the follow-up group space lesson:
- Students are given a dialogue which contain both positive and negative example expressions for making and responding to suggestions. They are invited to evaluate each speaker’s performance by analysing the expressions that they use.
- Students review the appropriate expressions for making and responding to suggestions politely. They then apply this knowledge in improving the problem dialogue they have been given.
Example 3: Reading – understanding an infographic
In the Individual Space, students have learnt about (a) what an infographic is, and (b) characteristics of good infographics. Then, for the group space activities:
- Students are given 2 versions of an infographic. The two versions cover the same information. Students compare and analyse the 2 versions, and then decide which is the better version.
- Based on the above analysing task, students then create an infographic related to the topic covered in the previous 2 versions, but with new data provided by the teacher.
To my mind, some school subjects, such as Science and Social Studies, because of their stronger focus on subject-matter knowledge, may benefit more from referring to Bloom’s taxonomy in designing group space activities under the flipped learning model. English as a second language, on the other hand, is a highly skill-oriented school subject. However, English Language teachers will also be able to obtain useful inspirations from Bloom’s taxonomy when designing group space activities for the flipped English classroom. In the next article, I will discuss the second approach to conceptualizing group space activities for flipping English: Active Learning.
Suggested Further Reading
In the article below, Maggie Hos-McGraine sets out 20 example activities for group space activities, such as guided practice, peer tutoring, and station rotation. Some of the activities will also work well for the flipped English classroom.