Technology in the teaching of second languages

Flipping the Classroom in L2

Flipping the Classroom in the Study of Second Language

Maria D. Wilbar


Flipping the classroom, or inverting the classroom, is a method in which class time is used for the application of knowledge which students have received prior to class. The teacher, therefore, must prepare two modalities: 1) Pre-class and 2) In-class. Typically, students are required to view an online presentation, or other material, and then come to class prepared for application, discussion, and problem-solving. Flipping the classroom changes the learning focus from “covering the material” to “mastering the subject”. The role of the teacher changes from a “sage on the stage” to a “guide on the side”.

Applicability to Second Language Study

A flipped classroom, or inverted classroom, is in harmony with the communicative approach to language study. The communicative approach seeks a functional result by using interactive settings to allow students to effectively learn and use the language. Second Language instructors who are using the communicative approach are in a good position to use the flipped classroom. They are already using class time in an interactive way. Now they must emphasize the other aspect: imparting knowledge to  students prior to class.


1) Personally Recorded Online Instructional Video

Recording your presentation, or overview, of a topic has several advantages. Perhaps the most obvious, and most advantageous, is that you are placing in your students’ hands the ability to rewind and review. This allows them to spend more time on portions of the presentation which are most challenging to them. As a result, they are more likely to assimilate material which at first might be unclear to them. They can listen to the presentation at their own pace. If there are areas which continue to be unclear, they can bring their questions to the interactive class time.

2) Online Instructional Videos Recorded by Other Educators

The concept of recording free online instructional videos was pioneered by Salman Khan. His online Khan Academy now offers instructional videos for a variety of courses. Unfortunately, Khan Academy currently has no offerings for language instruction. The language instructor must employ diligence in finding such material online. Such diligence, using online search engines, can be rewarding.

3)  Building a Shared Library of Instructional Videos

It is advantageous for foreign language instructors to create and share instructional videos with their colleagues. This occurs most easily in an interdepartmental setting. A World Language, or Modern Language Department which has a unified approach in its curriculum and learning objectives can explore the best ways in which faculty members can create and share instructional videos.

4) YouTube Videos

A variety of YouTube videos can be used in an instructional way. These videos do not have to be produced by educators. If the video is compelling, and makes an instructional point, it can be useful. For example, if your lesson is about the use of the imperative, you may search for, and find, YouTube videos which show the imperative being used in the target language.

5) Online Educational Platforms such as Canvas or Blackboard

If the classroom has been flipped, it is advantageous for students to have a systematic way of locating the videos, or other material, which they must view, or study, before coming to class. An online educational platform makes it possible for the instructor to make all, or any part, of this material immediately available to the student.


Use of a flipped classroom for the purpose of Second Language instruction is a promising, and evolving area. On the one hand, it requires more preparation time by the instructor, who must prepare both a pre-class and an in-class modality. On the other hand, it frees the teacher to make the best use of his time. As a “guide on the side”, the instructor is able to direct collaborative work among students, as they apply the knowledge which they bring to class. This approach offers promise in the realization of the communicative approach, in which class time is used to interact with the target language in authentic and collaborative ways.

The idea of flipping the classroom in L2 should be viewed from the perspectives of both the teacher and the student. The teacher-focused perspective should center on the question of how the teacher can make the best use of her time. The student-focused perspective should center on the question of how the student can master the target language.


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