When I found out about Cramlington’s FLIP approach for languages, I got quite excited as I had been thinking for a while of different ways to incorporate the many strands developed recently through a whole host of National initiatives. Developing students’ independent learning skills is a challenging Faculty target as we are not talking just about changing working practices but also part of the learning ethos that permeates a school…
As a number of teachers from the UK and beyond contacted me to find out more, I asked Chris Harte, Head of Languages at Cramlington Learning Village, what made FLIP different from other approaches.
“The new languages curriculum at Cramlington Learning Village is perhaps easiest to understand if we try and visualise it as a series of transparencies being overlaid in order to give the big picture.
1.The CASKE curriculum-This is the foundation for the schemes of learning and in itself is quite a complex picture incorporating the RSA Opening Minds Competencies for the 21st century, Attributes-the 5Rs: Responsibility, Reasoning, Reflection, Resilience and Resourceful +Respectful-added by the school, Skills-PLTS (Personal Learning Thinking Skills), Knowledge-subject-specific knowledge, E-Experiences-the different experiences we want our children to have in the classroom.
2. The new National Curriculum for languages at KS3. The positive aspect of this is the emphasis on creativity, however, the use of the NC levels is a very two-dimensional view of what we are trying to achieve and a very clumsy measuring stick, but unfortunately we are currently bound to them.
3.The Framework for Modern languages at KS3, which we use to monitor linguistic progression. This is a more subtle measure of progression.
4.Compelling contexts-We have really tried to move away from traditional topics and looked at creativity through wider contexts which have an element of emotional as well as intellectual challenge.
5.Dependency-We start off with a higher degree of teacher dependency and build towards independent learning by explicitly teaching language learning skills rather than just language.
6.“Assessment is for learning” is also a key layer that we are working hard to develop. This incorporates assessment of learning, assessment for learning and assessment as learning. This will be achieved through “dipstick” testing, self and peer assessment through RealSmart
Rafl - real asessment for learning portfolios and learning conversations during the FLIP periods (Flexible, learner-led, “in-time”, personalised).
7.The use of ICT- permeates not only what the teachers are doing, but more importantly, what the learners are doing. ICT skills will be explicitly developed and students will have the opportunity to enhance their language learning skills through the appropriate use of technology.
8. The final layer, and perhaps the most important, is the promotion of a love of languages through enjoyment, challenge and support and an emphasis on the real life nature of speaking another language, cultural celebration and the responsibilities of a global citizen.”
“On average, one lesson per cycle will be a FLIP period. This stands for Flexible, Learner-Led, In-time Intervention, Personalised. We are giving this model the specific remit of building time within the curriculum to react to learners’ needs at the point of need; whether this be consolidation, stretching, exploring or indeed catching up.
In a normal flip period, we can expect to see the following scene:
The class enters the learning space chanting their numbers, alphabet and high frequency vocabulary. The teacher greets each individual in the target language and the class settles down to their FLIP bellwork - this is almost invariably a planning activity; looking back at last lesson’s review, setting targets and priorities for the next hour and choosing a focus to work on. James decides that he is still unsure on how the perfect tense works and decides he needs to do some consolidation work on it. In his plan, he writes down that he wants to talk to the teacher about it and then do some simple exercises on the computer to see if he can get it right!
The teacher is circulating looking at each student’s plan and notices that there are a number of people who are still hazy on the perfect tense. The teacher decides to run a workshop for those who are really struggling and writes up on the board “perfect tense workshop – 9:20 – 9:40am – sign up here”. Students who want to sign up, do so on the board. About 10 students want the workshop which takes place in one corner of the room, sat on the floor using mini-whiteboards to practise. Meanwhile, Jasmine has decided that she just wants to do some private reading, so she takes one of the books from the shelf and settles herself on a comfy chair. She reads the book, only looking up words when she really needs them, and records these words in her book to learn later.
Matthew and Samantha were absent last lesson so they take this opportunity to look back at the lesson plan to see what they have missed. They complete the online tasks and get themselves back on track. Some of the group decide they want to flex their vocabulary learning muscles and log on to the vocabulary building sites to play tetris, match flash cards and work on pronunciation. Others decide to play some of the card and board games, constantly building up their vocabulary through play. Others are updating evidence on their Rafls [ real asessment for learning portfolios-our online portfolios from RealSmart] whilst others are re-recording presentations to improve the intonation and pronunciation.
Thomas works with Emily as her mentor, working through his own understanding of the perfect tense in order to support Emily. After the workshop, the teacher circulates the room, ensuring that everyone is working at an appropriate level and, when necessary, encouraging some students to move on to different tasks and guiding some students to more appropriate tasks. At 10am, the class is called together to review their lesson in their learning log. Here they record what they have done, what they got out of it, any skills they developed and any key language they think may be of use in the future.
Of course, the powerful characteristic of the FLIP time is that it can be anything that we need it to be – it could be used as rehearsal time for a presentation, a whole class input by the teacher or a.n.other (including students) on the sound-spelling link, a whole class reading time, a relaxed movie slot in the foreign language or anything else we deem appropriate. It can be as structured or fluid as we need it to be.
It is in the FLIP time that we can truly personalise the experience for each student through learning conversations and “in-time” support. There are, of course, issues of management of time, resources and classroom climate, and the responsibility for this needs to be divided equally between the teacher and the students with the emphasis on developing independent learners.
Future developments for the FLIP time may be the use of Foreign Language Assistants and virtual tutors to support language learning as well as videoconferencing sessions with partner schools abroad and developing additional resources in the TV and sound recording studios.
Assessment and progression
Assessment of learning will be the snapshot approach to monitoring progression. At the end of each module, there is a product which will cover either/both speaking (AT2) and writing (AT4). A summative level will be given to each of these products and will be centrally held to allow monitoring across the cohort. There will be two listening (AT1) and reading (AT3) online assessments which learners can take at a time appropriate to them (they are pencilled in for January and June although this is flexible). By doing this, we will be assuring a minimum progression of two levels across the key stage – November Y7 being the baseline data and Spring Y9 being the NC level reporting period.
Assessment for language learning is to be seen as explicit but not bolt-on. That is to say that we have a varied repertoire of techniques which help learners to see where they are now, where they want to be and how to get there. These include; agreed success criteria in all lessons and productive tasks, modelling successful outcomes, working through process together, generic tools such as UN AVOCAT, www (what went well) and ebi (even better if), feed forward comment marking, learning conversations in FLIP time, effective questioning teacher->learner, learner->teacher and learner->learner.
Assessment for learning skills is central to getting learners to be reflective in their own practice, that is to make explicit the learning skills required to be an effective learner and set own targets for improvement. The reviewing of learning and reflection on skills will underpin everyday practice but will be made quantifiable in each student’s learning log which will be completed at the end of each lesson and particularly referred to at the start of each FLIP period. This will be the most effective way to monitor learner progression and there is an expectation that although it is a personal log, the teacher and indeed peers may want to read and comment upon it on a regular basis.
Are the lessons planned collaboratively across the Faculty? How do you differentiate?
Yes - we plan together but each teacher has to personalise to the learners in front of them. I say personalise instead of differentiate because we try to differentiate to "ability" but also to learning style and feedback from learners. Differentiation is made possible by the time we have freed up.
What sort of activities are specific to these lessons?
The only thing that is specific, I suppose, is getting learners to set their own objectives for the lessons - otherwise we are doing effective pedagogical activities - card games, reading booklets , consolidation and creation with ICT.
Are the lesson "calendared" for each group?
No, the teacher decides when they are in the cycle (3 lessons a fortnight, one of which is flip). and more importantly the purpose of the lesson - consolidation, rehearsal, independent learning or a mix of all of these.
Do all your classrooms have the round tables and groups of tables rather than rows? How do teachers organise FLIP lessons when they do not have a main classroom/ share one or several classrooms?
In y7 & 8 we have round tables and in the rest of the school, we group desks together - no rows except for testing or independent writing. We have boxes to carry around resources to different classrooms but the layout is universal. We also keep our resources on our VLE so they are accessible anywhere.
What would you say is the biggest difference between having specific FLIP lessons and trying to incorporate skills development in traditional language lessons?
TIME - we have created time in the curriculum to allow us to do this effectively rather than trying to crow bar them into content-driven lessons.
What sort of resources do you use in FLIP and in the other lessons? Same sort of resources -cards, reading booklets, mini whiteboards, computers...
Are some FLIP lessons delivered in ICT rooms? What sort of activities are delivered?
All rooms have ICT access - 1 computer per pair - either desktops in each y7&y8 classroom and laptops in the upper school. We do receptive, consolidation type activities (vocabulary games etc) but more for creative activities - goanimate, audacity, photostory etc.
How do FLIP lessons progress throughout KS3?
They progress with the rest of the scheme of learning - they are not separate to the rest of the lessons, they are part of a bigger cycle of effective learning.
Do you use FLIP lessons at all at KS4?
We use the model, but it is not organised - more on a reactive basis rather than proactive.
What do you think has been the biggest impact of this approach? (How long have you been using it? Have students shared their views about it?)
Learner independence and ownership - we have been using it for over a year now and our learner voice groups have talked about being more motivated and learning at their pace.”
I would like to thank Chris again for answering my questions in such a thorough manner. I do feel that although the FLIP model may not transfer directly to all schools, it should certainly give many Languages Departments food for thoughts and ideas to maximize opportunities to develop languages students’ independence and learning skills.