Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How I Started Flipping

I have been teaching German language, culture and literature at the college level for a very long time and have always enjoyed it. There are, however, a few aspects I truly love about interacting with my students, and I wanted to multiply them in depth, intensity, and duration:

  • Making class time dynamic and FUN.
  • Harnessing the knowledge of more advanced students and/or the energy of highly motivated learners to help their struggling or less interested peers.
  • Having sufficient time in class to answer students' smart questions about German culture: "Why don't Germans smile at random strangers more often?  or "Why is a college education nearly free in Germany?" or "How do many Germans construct a self-identity?" 
  • Leading students to discovering answers to these questions by providing them with the tools of critical thinking
  • Seeing students overcome the fear of producing utterances in a second language.
  • Helping students individually, depending on their personal needs.
  • Assessing all of the learning that occurred in my classroom, not just isolated vocabulary or grammar.
  • Giving students the tools to evaluate German culture, warts and all.
  • Making space and time available for learners to analyze differences and similarities between their own cultural practices and the way Germans handle theirs. Is there something to learn from these analyses?
  • Offering alternate German identities for my students so that they can walk in another Schuh and shed their monoculturism.
  • Laughing and playing in my classroom.
  • Celebrating students' success in creatively communicating in German.
  • Boosting the motivation in the classroom and outside through in-depth cultural discussions that make my learners think critically.
  • Providing explanations that students can access a second (or third or fourth) time around.
  • Witnessing students connect to the German culture in their own meaningful ways.
  • Talking less while my students interact and collaborate more in the target language.
  • Developing more intellectually each semester rather than repeating the same lessons and jokes year after year.
  • Giving students detailed feedback on the spot (instead of grading stacks of homework that those students who need my explanations usually just toss as soon as I return to them my toil of many hours).

The search for a teaching strategy that allowed me to achieve all the above took me many years. I constantly added and eliminated classroom practices, but the problem remained: LACK OF TIME! There simply wasn't enough time to do the pleasurable, mind-stretching, analytical, and creative activities that I saw as so desirable (and my students did, too). Not only that: it seemed, as the years went by, that students' grammatical preparation in high school was less and less adequate, with the result that I needed more time to explain grammar, first the English version and then the German variation. And that is when I discovered the flipped classroom. Shifting all those grammar explanations out of my group learning space gave me the breathing room I needed to start transforming my classroom into a dynamic group learning community in which amazingly smart insights occur by enthusiastic students.

Incorporating flipped learning into my German college classrooms supports my students' needs and my own desires as a professional educator. I hope you, too, will discover the same joy of reconnecting your discipline, your students, and yourself in this innovative and gratifying manner.









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