Publicado: 2020-06-30

Siga o caminho: Uma proposta de aprendizagem para a sala de aula

Universidade de Málaga
Universidade Internacional de La Rioja
flipped classroom LKT/ICT EFL primary school learning path aula invertida TAC/TIC EFL ensino primário learning path

Resumo

Considerando a necessidade de se fornecer aos alunos novas abordagens para a aprendizagem do inglês, este artigo tenta oferecer aos professores do ensino fundamental algumas ideias para a sala de aula invertida de EFL. Um dos problemas dos professores desse nível é a falta de conhecimento sobre essa metodologia e sua aplicabilidade na sala de aula de idiomas. Depois de entenderem os requisitos, a falta de recursos atraentes os leva a duvidar de sua praticabilidade. Para resolver isso, este artigo propõe o uso de learning paths no site de bookmarking social Symbaloo. Esses learning paths podem ser construídos com os requisitos de qualquer sala de aula específica, facilmente personalizados e compartilhados. Os caminhos de aprendizado da Symbaloo oferecem a possibilidade de se reunir diversos materiais e recursos usando recursos on-line e material de ensino criado pelo professor. O papel das TICs precisa ser considerado aqui e algumas opções são fornecidas tanto para o learning path quanto para complementar o conteúdo da sala de aula. Este artigo mostra as etapas a serem seguidas e os recursos que podem atender às necessidades da maioria dos professores do ensino fundamental na construção de um caminho de aprendizado. Por último, é fornecido um learning path completo.

1. Introduction

In a society where the bilingual programs, in general, and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) are gaining ground, teachers must not forget the need of adding attractiveness to the very English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom to prepare students for a better understanding and natural production in the target language. Many different approaches are specifically designed for language teaching which teachers can choose according to the needs of their target groups. Among the possibilities, it is worth considering the concept of EFL flipped classrooms. The idea of flipping the language classroom is especially useful to save time when introducing new grammatical explanations (it does not matter whether they are to be taught implicitly or explicitly) and to devote class time to the real usage of language in context. Teachers face the problem of what to use for flipping the classroom due to the lack of knowledge about the resources available and/or expertise.

This paper aims to offer a sample learning proposal with some of the tools the English teacher can use for the flipped classroom. The tools intrinsically motivate students by employing interesting resources which can be easily shared and elaborated on by any 21st-century teacher. It is, then, necessary to go through a range of online resources both for creating classroom material and for gathering already-made material from webs that suit the methodology. Moreover, this article also aims at highlighting the use of motivational material to add interest to the contents presented. Motivation is a key issue in language learning and by using learning knowledge technology (LKT), students feel inherently interested in the subjects. It has been observed that when students are intrinsically motivated to perform a task, they spend more time engaged in the activity, learn better, and enjoy the activity more than when they are just extrinsically motivated (Lepper, 1988). By using digital resources for the flipped language classroom, the teacher adds variety, challenge, and meaning to the minds of digital natives.

2. Flipped classroom in the context of EFL

The flipped classroom – or inverted classroom (Lage et al., 2000) or “a rotational model of blended learning” (Wood, n.d.) – is a pedagogical approach in which teachers “turn the traditional classroom lecture model into a more active learning classroom” (Keengwe et al., 2014, p. 18). In traditional learning, students prepare by themselves for class, and during class time they just listen carefully to teachers’ instruction for practicing with exercises alone, after class at home. In contrast, in the flipped-classroom model, students are guided for the lesson, inverting, thus, the process. Before class, they watch a video or read a text explaining the lesson content; during class, they do practice activities under the teacher’s supervision; and after class, students are able to review contents and activities based on their teacher’s advice (Leis & Brown, 2018).

Teaching a foreign language (FL) as English following the flipped classroom approach is not only plausible but also a good idea to achieve a higher level of involvement of students in the learning process and with more opportunities to introduce their point of view into the contents. This is especially important to develop an active methodology based on meaningful learning and change the teacher’s role to become a facilitator. However, it has been argued (Mehring, 2016) that little information about the flipped classroom in the context of EFL is one of the main reasons to avoid its use. Besides, the modus operandi of the flipped classroom is not completely clear for many teachers and it presents confusion among them.

One of the first things to bear in mind is that a flipped classroom is not to be considered as homework for the student. The flipped classroom is more than that: it is a new pedagogical approach whose aim is to wake up the students’ curiosity about a given topic so more classroom time is devoted to practice. In this sense, it is essential to create motivating teaching materials for outside the classroom. Therefore, students also need to update their conception of work at home such as the use of videos or readings as autonomous discovering tools which provide them with the necessary basis to approach new contents. This also includes the learning of FL.

One of the main issues with EFL teaching is the way it is taught in many cases. Those generations which have gone through non-interactive approaches find it difficult to change the perspective. A grammar-centred way of teaching where the student is passive will not be compatible with a flipped learning methodology, as the students’ role becomes much more important than just taking notes or reproducing accurate utterances. Being student-centred, the flipped classroom offers the possibility of making mistakes and learning from them in a natural and active way, taking into account the students’ needs from direct observation in class rather than correcting activities done at home. If remedial work is necessary, the teacher has the opportunity to check straightway the areas where required and address them in a more personalised way.

Therefore, flipping the language classroom offers a series of advantages worth mentioning:

  • It gives students the opportunity of revising content.
  • It promotes students’ autonomy.
  • It provides extra time devoted to language practice in the classroom.

The concept of flipped classroom moves around providing motivating activities and meaningful material. As a consequence, teachers must abandon plain worksheets and add more attractiveness to the lesson. The flipped classroom will only work if this aim is fulfilled. Ausubel (2000) mentions the need for meaning reception learning, which requires both a meaningful learning set and the presentation of potentially meaningful material to the learner. In other words, the contents must be relevant for the students and make sense. This implies that before presenting new vocabulary to students, teachers must pave the way for the introduction of new concepts carefully considering previous knowledge. It is important to note that meaningful learning is not synonymous with the learning of meaningful material, as the learning material is only potentially meaningful (Ausubel, 2000, p. 1) and, consequently, depends on the teacher and the students’ attitudes to become relevant. All this implies the teaching materials must be relevant for the students and should avoid the use of too many new concepts in the same day so they can assimilate them easily. The flipped classroom can help to deal with this phase, as students will devote classroom time to revise the concepts already introduced at home.

The flipped classroom also offers the possibility of providing each student with what she/he needs. Bearing in mind the multiple intelligences theory (Gardner, 1983; Gardner, 2012), teachers can design personalised flipped classrooms according to the areas where each student stands out. One of the advantages of language teaching is the realm of possibilities teachers have for introducing content in a meaningful and suitable way for the student. Being aware of the need of adding variety to each classroom is a must.

3. Learning proposal with online resources

Online resources are one of the main advantages of 21st-century teaching. Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) has become an important part of everyday syllabus in any school where resources are available. The intention of establishing a good quality in online teaching practice and efficient use of CALL is, however, rather complex in some areas due to the lack of hardware and software. Schools and government should be aware that current trends cannot be applied if appropriate resources are not available for teachers and students. Training in information and communication technology (ICT) and LKT is also essential to provide the correct resources and, what it is more, even know their existence (Cabero & Barroso, 2016; Escudero et al., 2018; Hepp et al., 2015). In fact, most pre-service teachers feel unsure about their capacity to use ICT in the classroom and decide not to employ it as much as they would like (McGarr & Gavaldon, 2018).

Despite the fact most online resources can easily suit the requirements of the EFL classroom, the truth is that most in-service teachers need some updating regarding the use of LKT to be able to implement them in their lessons. ICT tools and digital resources at our disposal for learning a specific subject are endless, even for learning a FL. If teachers want to scan through the millions of websites on the Internet, they should be aware of the time they have to invest for a thorough evaluation of those sites. However, once they have analysed the interesting resources, time saved can be used for sharing them with students. On the Internet, there are many templates proposal for analysing sites, but this paper follows Castillo and Arias (2018), as the authors elaborated a detailed template for evaluating English online resources for children with the following parameters:

  1. Identification: with information about the site (title, authorship, URL, etc.).
  2. Adequacy: in terms of level, theme and skills.
  3. General quality: with some other indicators such as design and layout, organization, the usability of the site and the content.
  4. Educative value: if the content offered is interesting and challenging from an educational point of view, as well as some additional services (downloadable exercises or games).
  5. Remarkable aspects: for pointing out some positive or negative issues related to the site.

It should be noted that the template of the authors established a system of punctuation for the parameters Adequacy, General quality, and Educative value, the other two (Identification and Remarkable aspects) being the parameters for providing information and qualitative observations and comments.

The websites revised and analysed by Castillo and Arias (2018) are to be considered as a coherent set of exercises for Primary Education and as a way of providing remedial work or classroom material. They will help teachers to find suitable activities to enlarge what they have revised by using the flipped classroom material. What is important is to keep them at hand for further use. The following table (Table 1) presents the top ten resources according to the parameters explained before. The resources listed below constitute a rich source of materials in the form of activities, games, videos, songs, etc. that are carefully selected according to the learning needs.

Name of resource URL
LearnEnglish Kids http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/
Fun English Games http://www.funenglishgames.com/
ESL Kids stuff http://www.eslkidstuff.com/
Angliomacy.pl http://www.anglomaniacy.pl/
Games to learn English http://gamestolearnenglish.com/
English 4 Kids http://www.english-4kids.com/
ESL Kids lab http://www.eslkidslab.com/
ESL-Kids http://esl-kids.com/
LearnEnglish (British Council) http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/
English for little children http://bit.ly/1mzEJsy
Table 1. Websites for the EFL classroom (Castillo & Arias, 2018, p. 7).

Therefore, although they are not part of the flipped classroom proposal presented in this paper, these offer teachers a complete source of materials for complementing the learning path, which follows in the subsequent sections.

3.1. Symbaloo, more than a social bookmarking site

Once the need of looking for suitable tools for the flipped classroom is assumed, it is necessary to choose the most adequate space to store material. The resources for a flipped EFL classroom must be varied and come in different formats. Providing students with a document full of links is neither attractive nor user-friendly. Although most of the current browsers (Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer) allow saving websites in which teachers are interested by adding them to “Favorites”, these browsers’ options provide some limited bookmarking features. For instance, they are restricted to a local device, not being shared socially with other people. That is why the notion of social bookmarking has appeared. Some authors (Eastment, 2008) claim that the concept was coined in 2003 with the no longer working web service Del.icio.us, but others defend its origins in 1996 with some online bookmark management services. In any case, the truth is that the adjective “social” has been popularised with Del.icio.us (Tella et al., 2018).

Social bookmarking can be defined as the practice of storing, organising, annotating, managing, and sharing resources from the Internet. Most of the services offering the possibility to bookmark a site socially provide some remote hosting enabling users to access their bookmarks from any computer (Barnes, 2011). Some of the services offering social bookmarking are Diigo, Pearltrees, or Symbaloo. For example, the websites mentioned in Table 1 can all be kept in Symbaloo and remain accessible on a Smartphone or computer by creating a webmix (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.A webmix with resources for the EFL classroom created at Symbaloo (URL: https://www.symbaloo.com/mix/resources1437).

As a social bookmarking site, Symbaloo procedure for saving and organising resources is very user-friendly:

  • Users can manage and add webmixes created by other users.
  • Users can also create their own webmixes, according to their interest and the collection they want to save and manage.

Symbaloo, however, also offers the possibility of creating lesson plans and learning paths which provide teachers with an excellent platform for sharing content for the flipped classroom at the same time students are guided in the correct direction. In their own words, Symbaloo allows users to elaborate their digital lesson plans by creating “pathways for students so they may learn at their own speed”. The route for the learning path can be designed by adding every tile and adjusting the arrows in the order teachers consider effective for a proper and coherent EFL flipped classroom. This article shows how any teacher can take advantage of this tool for the flipped classroom with a sample learning path. The difficulty of the contents is to be adapted to the needs of each classroom, so the contents included are merely used as examples but can be taken as a reference for similar topics.

3.2. Building the steps in the learning path for the EFL flipped classroom

For building a learning path and contributing to a proposal of flipped classroom in the EFL context for the last cycle of Primary Education (Spanish educational system), this paper presents some interesting sites for the creation of material which can be easily complemented with some of the resources offered in the ten websites best valued in Castillo and Arias (2018, p. 7) (Table 1).

For a better overview of a possible learning path using Symbaloo, it is necessary to choose a target group, a topic and some objectives. This target group is 5th-year primary, and the flipped classroom materials concern the topic of “food”. The objectives are:

  1. Acquiring/revising specific vocabulary about food and drink.
  2. Knowing the difference between uncountable and countable nouns.
  3. Practising the use of the constructions “there are” and “there is”, “any”, “some” and “a(n)”.
  4. Improving reading skills.
  5. Observing cultural differences related to food.
  6. Providing discussion about cultural differences.

First, it is necessary to customise the tool accordingly. Symbaloo offers several suitable backgrounds matching the chosen topic. Teachers can also select to create their own and upload it. Once this is done, the next step is to start with the learning path for the student. As this is a tool that learners are going to use at home without guidance, it is important to offer contents which are clear and, overall, user-friendly. To avoid insecurities, teachers must not include long explanations or too complicated language. Following Krashen (1985), new information should provide input + 1, that is, information which is slightly beyond the level of competence of the student but accessible. A good presentation for an activity provides motivation and security for the student (Dörney, 2001). There are several ways of doing this, but a good idea is to use any online tool for voice recording or presentation of contents. The next table shows some possibilities (Table 2):

Name of resource URL
Vocaroo https://vocaroo.com/
Voki https://www.voki.com/
Powtoon https://www.powt o on.com/
Voice Thread https://voicethread.com/
Table 2.Recommended websites for original presentation of contents.

In this learning path, contents are presented using Powtoon (Figure 2):

Figure 2.Presentation of contents for the student using Powtoon.

Once students understand what they must do, they can move to the next task. In this case, this learning path includes some vocabulary activities from the LearnEnglish Kids website. Being at the top of Castillo and Arias (2018) list, this webpage provides resources that can both fit the needs of the flipped classroom and the traditional classroom, offering self-correcting activities that help the students acquire new knowledge by practicing as many times as necessary without time pressure or anxiety. In this case, the learning path includes flash cards of some vocabulary food (Figure 3). By including them in a PowerPoint presentation, students can go back and forwards as many times as needed. Moreover, this part combines reading and listening, as it includes a short recording with the pronunciation of the word in the flashcard.

Figure 3.Sample flashcard from LearnEnglish Kids (URL: https://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/sites/kids/files/attachment/flashcards-fruit.pdf).

After the food vocabulary revision, grammar contents appear. Teachers must remember that, at this stage, grammar is taught implicitly. The explicit teaching of grammar during the primary-school years can be even completely removed. Such an affirmation leaves many teachers with a hole in their lesson plans. The fact is that grammar is actually present in the syllabus but in a different way. Cameron (2006, p. 96) reminds us that grammar is much more than the lists of labels and rules found in grammar books, but the actual use of the language. The very first source of grammatical correctness for the primary school child is oral language. Patterns are offered and learned in a natural and progressive way. Once the child grows up, grammar appears under labels (i.e. present simple, irregular plural, etc) which are not always necessary. In order to proceed with the teaching of grammar, it is important that children have a good command of the written language and know about grammar in their first language (L1). This situation would not be possible until the last courses of primary, and even at that stage metalinguistics is not essential. In this learning path, the concept of uncountable/countable appears implicitly in the presentation included. The format is that of storytelling, providing a playful approach to the concepts without putting too much emphasis on grammatical content (Figure 4).

Figure 4.Examples of language in use.

For storytelling-like presentations, teachers may use some of the following tools (Table 3):

Name of resource URL
Storyboard That https://www.storyboardthat.com/
Storybird https://storybird.com/
Table 3. Recommended websites for storytelling.

The next step in the learning path is to provide students with a kind of summary of the grammatical contents exposed in the previous story. In this case, this helps those students who need a more tangible approach to grammatical concepts and can serve teachers as a way of having the rules in a clear and visual format. The best tools for this type of presentation of contents are infographics, as they offer the students highly visual content (Figure 5).

Figure 5.Part of the infographic created using Venngage.

There are several sites that offer the possibility of building eye-catching designs, among them the following two are worth considering (Table 4).

Name of resource URL
Piktochart https://piktochart.com/
Venngage https://venngage.com/
Table 4.Recommended websites for infographics.

Once contents are clear, teachers may choose to complement the path with some assessment. Assessment is necessary but students must perceive it as a natural part of the process instead of a threat. By including any type of activity which involves practice, students may be aware of the areas they need to improve or revise. Google Forms allows the creation of questionnaires (Figure 6) which provide feedback for the student. Including such a step in the learning path will give learners the opportunity to check their understanding and if further explanation is needed. As the questionnaire is created by the teacher, she/he can also revise the students’ answers and obtain feedback about the methodology and the way contents are presented to students.

Figure 6. Sample question and feedback from Google forms.

The cultural component is also particularly important in any lesson plan. FL teachers are asked to guide learners through the process of acquiring competencies in attitudes, knowledge, and skills related to intercultural competence while using the FL. Byram (1997, 2009) urges teachers to lead students through activities in which attitudes about the FL speaker are considered, and ideally transform the learner. The objective is offering the students the possibility of thinking critically about their preconceived ideas, getting closer to the FL speaker, and finally engaging with otherness to ultimately experience relationships of reciprocity (Byram, 1997, 2009). Elements as simple as food can help teachers promoting intercultural awareness among their students. Any of the tools offered above can be employed for designing cultural contents. In this case, this learning path includes a simple picture plus some questions which can be done in a text processor or PowerPoint. As the topic of this path is food, the cultural component deals with a traditional English dish: baked beans. By giving the questions to the students beforehand, they have the possibility of thinking about their answers before submitting them in the classroom, preventing insecurities and having the possibility of doing some research if they want. Finally, a video from YouTube offers students authentic material about the topic. Using real material is important as it shows learners language is alive and it is used in the real world. By using YouTube, teachers offer them the possibility of watching the same content in their free time and accessing the same material native speakers do.

To finish this learning path and to maintain motivation, the last part is a mere positive message. Even though this can be considered as positive from the point of view of motivational teaching practice, it is also a source of sample expressions for students. Among the possibilities on the net and on any personal computer, the meme included in this learning path was elaborated in the website Memegenerator.es.

The result is the following genuine learning path, which can be shared and used by other teachers (see Figure 7):

Figure 7.Learning path created with Symbaloo (URL: http://learningpaths.symbaloo.com/preview/L138729/).

4. Conclusions

The main advantage of using Symbaloo learning paths for the flipped classroom is the wide variety of possibilities and resources teachers can include. Thus, teachers can cater to diversity and offer what the students need. The lack of knowledge regarding online resources (Cabero & Barroso, 2016; Escudero et al., 2018; Hepp et al., 2015; McGarr & Gavaldon, 2018) can be easily solved by checking new tools and doing updating courses specially addressed to teachers. This is a shared responsibility, as no country can expect good quality education if teachers are not provided with enough training. Most online resources are not used because teachers do not even know their existence and, consequently, students will never benefit from them. Innovative methodologies such as the flipped classroom draw on LKT. Exploring it is a must for the present-day teacher. Regarding EFL, the flipped classroom gives teachers the opportunity of providing students with authentic material and motivating activities they can check in their tablets and feel more confident when facing the contents in the classroom. The use of English is a source of anxiety for many students (Horwitz, 2001); however, they could start perceiving the English classroom as a place for solving doubts and using the language in a stress-free context. Thus, the EFL classroom would be seen as a place for practising communication (Daud et al., 2005) and not for merely testing them.

In this paper we have designed a sample proposal for flipping the language classroom for a concrete year of Primary Education. For doing so, a topic has been selected and some materials and activities have been elaborated and ordered coherently in a learning path so that students can follow them without problems and, therefore, progress in their learning. This proposal is not intended to be rigid. On the contrary, the intention is to elaborate a flexible proposal for further additions of resources in the form of materials or activities that can be collected for the learning path. This paper also leaves an open door for further research on the real use of websites or applications from real teachers in their own context for flipping the EFL classroom.

The research in this study has been partially carried out in the framework of the innovation project Implementation of educative breakout as a micro-gamification tool for a significant learning in the languages classroom (GAME-EDU) (Ref. No. PIE19-186).

Acknowledgements

The research in this study has been partially carried out in the framework of the innovation project Implementation of an educative breakout as a micro-gamification tool for significant learning in languages classroom (GAME-EDU) (Ref. No. PIE19-186).

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