This year (2015/2016) we are implementing a new approach to teaching grammar in some of the second year Spanish courses. The traditional grammar lecture consists of the following: (1) an explanation of a grammar point provided by the language teacher (i.e. Focus on formS), (2) students must listen and take notes, and ask any questions they might have, and (3) students do some fill-in-the-blank exercises in order to practise the morphology and use of the grammar point studied that day. The new approach is based on the concept of the flipped classroom. The grammar presentations have been recorded using the program screencastomatic (https://screencast-o-matic.com/home). These weekly presentations are powerpoint documents with an audio track, and they are available three weeks in advance on Myplace so students can see/listen the presentations as many times as they need to, noting down any questions they may want to ask in class. There is also an online quiz available with exercises (e.g. fill-in-the-blanks), which students need to attempt (several times, until they achieve a minimum mark) before the contact hour takes place. This allows us to dedicate the contact hour to a 10 minute Q&A session to proceed with communicative/interactional activities in groups and within 'real-life' situations.
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Elena Sola Simon
Online and Distance Learning
Since grammar lectures usually have big numbers, traditional lectures can be slightly frustrating for students, because they might not find the opportunity to get some answers in order to fully understand the topic being studied. At the same time, it is important to foster interaction among students and with grammar explanations and drill exercises done at home and in advance, students have the time to engage in this type of activities where their motivation is encouraged.
Other tutors teaching this class have agreed with the fact that this new approach is an improvement, not only because we are adding an extra hour to the syllabus, but also because students feel they are more in control of their own study, as well as feeling more comfortable when they come to class, since they have some previous knowledge of the topic being covered. A feedback questionnaire was delivered half way through the first semester in order to find out what students think of this new approach. Most responses showed that students prefer to see the presentation and practise with the grammar point's morphology and use at home and in advance, so they can dedicate the contact hour to resolving some issues and working in groups using the target language (with a few exceptions that were not happy with the change). A second feedback questionnaire will be delivered at the end of the second semester.
The fact that only one person (i.e. myself) did all the 'screencastomatic' presentations was a huge challenge, since the recordings need to be done in one go. It took many hours (i.e. summer months) to record all the presentations, although the positive side is that they are now ready for next year. Other course coordinators are considering doing the same for other levels, but they are concerned they will not have the time to carry out this task in time for next year.
Some technical problems arose because the presentations would not play with certain browsers. I am planning to contact IT to see if the presentations can be converted into a different format or streamed when this course finishes.
Another drawback is the fact that if there are some students who do not prepare in advance for the grammar lecture (now referred to as 'workshop'), they come to class unprepared and this can be a burden for other students who are willing to work hard.
I will definitely update and improve the interactive/communicative class activities for next year. I did not have much time to work on them, so they need to be developed further.
Sending messages to students highlighting the importance of preparing in advance for that class is also something I plan to do next year with more frequency. Perhaps we should include the viewing of the presentations and several attempts of the practice quizzes in the continuous evaluation for next year.
72 students were involved in these classes. I believe this approach could be easily applied to other foreign language courses and levels.
I believe this method is already being employed in other faculties within the University (e.g. Physics). It also complies with the blended learning process approach followed by the University.