Flipping the Classroom for ESL learners


Wired Contributing Editor Joshua Davis recently described a new breed of teachers who recognize “knowledge isn’t a commodity that’s delivered from teacher to student but something that emerges from the students’ own curiosity-fueled exploration.” For these teachers, the learning process often begins by asking students, “What do you want to learn?” Some are creating flipped classrooms, where students learn at home, at their own pace using resources like Khan Academy, and where classroom time is used to extend that learning in a much more personalized and collaborative way. Others focus on project based learning, where teachers create opportunities for students to explore real-world problems and use challenges that arise as entry points for learning. 

My experiences with Flipped Classroom Teaching and Learning

 My experiences with the flipped classroom philosophy have been very rewarding. This was my initial foray but an extremely important step which is why I felt the need to document it. While reading up on flipped classroom resources I came across it’s uses in the ESL classroom. The video changed my way of thinking about it. I saw the positive impact and how it could be of immense practical use.

However as a Language teacher, I was a little hesitant. It might help me reach my students but it also created my interactive class into a lecture. My heart revolted at the thought of imposing my voice into the students.

My ESL year 10 class does the same Literature course as the First Language Learners. Unfortunately, the language barrier makes comprehension very tough and one requires various strategies for scaffolding.

We were commencing on the reading of a tough novel under the World Literature Course. We tried hard to comprehend the novel, and I tried vocabulary lists in different languages (the classroom had students from 8 different countries). However, whatever I would say would get lost in translation! Literally!!

The flipped classroom had its benefits but I did not find it went well with language teaching. Not many educators had tried the flipped classroom approach with languages. There was conclusive evidence through Kahn Academy that it worked well with Mathematics and Science, but I felt I was walking into unchartered territory.

A little more research turned up this really short but explosive video. Suddenly I felt I had ideas running through my head. The video didn’t say much but definitely made me think and will make you also…


I downloaded ‘jing’ and created 5 minute modules of different chapters in the novel. My first experiment was to share Chapter 1. This was my first and tentative foray into the novel. Needless to say I was nervous.

My lesson objectives were

  1. To encourage an interest in the novel by providing some but not the complete information.
  2. To differentiate by providing a basic review of the main issues in each chapter.
  3. To extend by providing leading questions around the themes.

Response to video:

  • Students were required to read the first two chapters
  • View video
  • Read the differentiated and extension questions.
  • Prepare for discussion
  • Differentiated Question- What are the instances of religion mentioned in this chapter. Write a paragraph discussing these.
  • Extended Question- Why does Papa throw the missal at Jaja? What does it tell you about him as a person?

I provided enough time for them to be ready for a discussion. I explained to them that we would not spend time discussing and explaining the words and meanings. They were to read the chapter, use the video to understand what they couldn’t research on the questions and then come back in the next class prepared to answer questions.

Instead of spending time on explaining, I would discuss the themes and deeper meaning. Instead of spending time in providing meanings I would ask them to explore the deeper meaning. Mostly I would like to spend time on their written responses.

The video provided the basic explanation which the students could watch at their own time. They could view it twice or thrice, however long it took for them to follow the basic storyline.

The experiment worked!

Next lesson my students were keen and aware and enthusiastic. They had put in time and effort in understanding and had done it in their own time. They felt confident and relaxed instead of tense.

Finally, in class we discussed issues and themes the author introduces. We brainstormed on the deeper meaning and analysed the characters introduced. We discussed setting and plot. It was slow but the students were prepared and I was not spending time only explaining.

It transformed the classroom!

Not that one video but the rest of the work that we are managing to achieve with the flipped classroom approach. That was my technology transforming experience and one I want to document in Course 5. By then we shall have completed the book, and the actual transformation will be evident in various ways.

But that is all for later!!!!

Till then, here is some reading to inspire:



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