Flipping the Speaking Practice in your ESL Classroom Featured

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Speaking in a flipped classroom    Want to engage and motivate your students so they get real speaking practice? Flipping your classroom using the PBL methodology can be the key you are looking for.

Easy access to new technology is enabling us, teachers, to reap the benefits of a flipped classroom when working with many of the areas and skills in the curriculum. However, when it comes to the speaking skill, many teachers are wary of new technology and still rely on more conventional methods. While using your class to explain students how they should address their audience in an effective way or to analyse a discourse looking for its key components can be useful, those are activities that students can do at home, at their own pace, and with the appropriate guidance of the teacher through the use of TICs. Flipping the classroom gives the possibility of using your face-to-face time with students to actually speak and put all the concepts and knowledge they are learning into practise.

Methodology: FP - Flipped Classroom; PBL - Project Based Learning & PPP - Presentation, Practice, Production

Just a word before actually beginning this post... As most of you, I had an email account long before Google existed, but the countless features it offers for education has made me choose it as the default account to keep in touch with my students. If willing to carry out this sort of collaborative projects, it is highly recommended that your students open a Gmail account at the beginning of the course so they fully participate in all the activities that will be later developed. When doing their project, they should also be advised to use Chrome as their browser to ensure all the tools work properly.


It can be perfect as an end-of-term assignment so students can organise all the information learnt during the previous months. In groups, they will prepare oral presentations on certain given topics. It is advisable that use visual support for their talk. Some visual aids, such as Google Slides, can be easily prepared in a cooperative way and students can work on the project while being on their own home. If their talk travels through different locations around the globe, a Google Map related to the project can also be introduced so the whole class can follow the presentation better.

After the students are assigned the topic of their presentation, they should be given at least four weeks to ensure they have time to prepare their projects looking for in-depth information about them. After all, the more time they spend researching for information, the more they can learn about the topic, which is ultimately the goal of the whole project. Once the preparation period is over, it'll be time to deliver the presentation in front of their classmates, which will build up their public speaking skills.


Lesson plan

Pre-class (Presentation)

To set the students in the right mood for their presentation project and so they start getting used to the idea they will have to deliver a presentation in front of the class, I usually post some videos with speaking tips in our Edmodo group. I also recommend them this fantastic post in the TED Blog about "The science of stage fright".

Joe Kowan's Ted-talk on how he beat stage-fright may also be helpful for those students who feel extra pressure when speaking in front of an audience.


Class: Session 1 (Practice)

In class, organised in groups, students are given a certain topic to start debating about it. It can be something related to the unit(s) you have just seen in class or are currently working with. Or, if yours are students of an advanced language learning class, you can bring to class different current pieces of news about interesting, modern and/or controversial topics.

After they have spoken about the topic on their card for a few minutes, each group with swop the cards with the group to their right. With this routine, we ensure that, by the end of the session, all the groups have had the chance of talking about all the topics prepared by the teacher. Then it is time to distribute the topics that each of the groups will work with for their presentation project.


Post-class (Preparation and Practice) [Estimated time: 4 weeks]

Using Doodle or a Google Form, each of the groups will choose one of the topics presented in class. The choice will work in a first come, first served basis. If you use Google Forms, you will need to install the “Choice Eliminator” Add-on to make it possible. If the presentations are going to be dellivered on different days, the form should also allow the students to choose the date. Alternatively, you can also distribute topics and dates at random (or purposefully), if it suits your needs better.

Small groups work best for this kind of assignment: it ensures everybody takes part and learns from the experience. Working mostly with adults, I have found out that groups of three tend to work certainly well. As for the time they should keep in mind while preparing their presentation, 5 minutes per person (like the short TED talks) seem to be appropriate. Each of the students in the group presents one side or one aspect of the given topic and after the three of them have introduced their part, an extra slot of 5 minutes is added to answer questions or clarify any aspect their classmates ask about.

Having all this information, it's time for the students to start their cooperative work. A very effective way for them to work together is creating a shared folder in G.Drive for each of the groups. There they can include all the material they are going to use in their presentation and you can monitor their work and answer any doubt or question that may come up during the creative process. Students can also be encouraged to use synchornous communication tools such as Hangouts, Skype or Oovoo. They can even record their interactions and link them to the folder with their project (which may earn them some extra credit).

While preparing their presentation, students are encouraged to conduct an extensive search on the topic: WikipediaAcademic Index  or Google Cultural Institute are some general sites with useful information the students can used as a springboard to fine tune their search and find specific pages profiling each of their topics. Social networks such as Twitter or G+ communities should also be taken into account and, if used wisely for academic purposes, they can be valuable sources with up-to-date information. It should be noted that, with these projects our students should also aim at becoming digitally competent and, as a result, competent digital citizens of the 21st century.


Class: Sessions 2 & 3 (Production) [The number or sessions required for the delivery of the presentations will vary depending on the number of students in each group]

The day of the presentation has finally arrived. If a digital recorder is available, I like recording my students and send them the files with their talk afterwards. Once they receive it, they have to complete the rubric as part of their self-assessment.

During the presentation itself, the rest of the classmates assesses the performance of each of the components of the group using the rubric.

Their final grade will not only depend on the teacher's perception, but it will also be informed by their own self-assessment as well as by that of their peers.


Class: Session 4 (Production) - Wrapping Up Activity

After all the presentations have been delivered it is highly advisable to use an additional session to help fix the knowledge gathered during the previous sessions. One student is asked to come to the front  of the class and given a card with one of the subtopics used during the presentations of the previous sessions. She will then tell her classmates all the information she recalls, being as informative as possible while structuring her talk to last a minute. In turns, all the students will be ask to do the same so that, at the end, all the topics will have been reviewed.

If students know this 'recap' activity will be part of the project they will do their best to be attentive during the presentation of their classmates. Additionally, the project will help them gain confidence to speak "impromptu" about a random topic.


Success of the project: The Rubric

Right from the start of the project, students should know about the evaluation criteria that will be used to assess their work. They should get familiarised with the rubric as soon as possible, for they will work with it from both ends: as the recepients of their peers' and teacher's assessment and as the ones who assess the work of the rest of their classmates.

Below you can see and download the rubric I created for this kind of projects.




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