Covering Content: The Flipped Classroom and VIPKID

If you join any VIPKID teacher facebook group, especially one for new teachers, you will probably see at least a couple posts per day from brand new teachers who are worried about getting through the material on time. Their concern is understandable! It can be a bit unnerving to open up that materials link for your first booking and see that you are expected to cover 35+ slides of information in just 25 minutes.

So, how can I thoroughly teach that much stuff in less than half an hour?? Answer, well…you can’t! At least, you don’t really have to. There are two reasons. First, the VIPKID curriculum is very repetitive (for good reason…more on that later!), so the student is going to get a review of that material again. The second reason, and the one I’d like to focus on, is because VIPKID uses a flipped classroom approach.

What is a flipped classroom? VIPKID explains it here. Basically, a flipped classroom…flips the traditional classroom. Growing up, you probably had lecture-style instruction from the teacher, busy work to fill up the day, and then homework at home to reinforce what was taught. So, the majority of the teacher’s instruction time was focused on introducing the concept to the students. Because the teacher was introducing a new concept, there were probably a lot of breaks for questions from the students, as they were processing the information for the first time.

A flipped classroom is the opposite. Work done at home, typically in the form of a video lecture or reading, introduces the concept, and the student has time to sort of play around with the concepts on their own first. Students can watch videos explaining concepts instead of listening to the teacher lecture, and they can do it at their own pace. This way, when the student gets in front of the teacher, they are already to the reinforcing part of the equation. Now, the teacher can focus on clarifying aspects of the concept that the student finds more challenging, or the teacher and student can extend on the concepts. So, instead of going deeper into the material at home with traditional homework, the student gets to go deeper into the material with the teacher (or with other students in the classroom). More efficient, right? And, despite the reliance on technology and online resources, it is actually *more* interactive.

How does VIPKID use the flipped classroom? Well, VIPKID students cover some of the material at home first. You are, in general, not introducing 35+ slides worth of new material to the student. Whew! You are the reinforcing part of the equation. So, when little Brucie flies through the 4 slides of “n-ap…nap!” you can give him a star and a high five and move on pretty quickly. That way, when get down to the 24th slide, and Brucie looks at you like you have four heads when you say “away,” you can take a little more time (and TPR) to reinforce that particular word. That is the beauty of the flipped classroom. Easy concepts are covered quickly by the student on his or her own time. Then, the teacher has a chance during the interactive time to focus on things that are, for one reason or another, tricky for the student. And, the great thing about the VIPKID method is the interactive part is one-on-one. So the teacher can really focus on clarifying and correcting the tricky things for that particular student.

So, how can you plan for that?! Good question. You can’t simply do the math; dividing the number of slides by available minutes isn’t going to work. There isn’t a “right” answer. But you can give yourself some guidelines. I like to aim for about half the slides in a little less than half the time. The slides in the second half of the lesson tend to take a little bit longer. I also like to move quickly through the first few slides since they are mostly review. One great thing about the VIPKID curriculum is the slides that best lend themselves to extension tend to be closer to the end. So, you can progress quickly, then start extending more and slowing down as you near the end, depending on the time you have left. So, if you aren’t sure about how fast a new student is going to move through the slides, simply meet the objective and go for the first slides, then start extending later on. Don’t spend time extending on the earlier slides unless you are familiar with the student and their expected pace. You can always slow down, but it can feel rushed toward the end if you have to speed up. You probably don’t want to end with a really rushed feeling, right?

Any more quick tips for getting through the slides in an appropriate amount of time? Keep your props simple and handy. You don’t have time to dig around for a certain prop. It is distracting and it takes time. Also, keep timing in mind when you are choosing a secondary reward. Don’t pick something that needs a ton of explanation if the student is too young or too much of a beginner to get it. I always use a simple reward for new students, and then I can have more fun with rewards for regulars who I know a bit better. And super important…keep that incidental language out! It takes time, and the student doesn’t know what you are saying. Your words/TPR should have purpose…otherwise you are wasting precious time and probably confusing your student too.

To recap, the flipped classroom approach means that your student has probably already seen the material, plus the curriculum is designed with repetition in mind. You don’t have to worry about introducing and thoroughly explaining every single thing you see on the slides. That is not your job! VIPKID gives you the objectives, which are mostly reinforcing what the student has already been exposed to, so keep your focus on what you are being asked to do. And remember, you are the fun part of the equation. You get to make the language come alive! Show the kids that communicating with someone in English is pleasant, not scary. Be a smiling face and offer tons of encouragement. The flipped classroom approach makes your job easier, so relax a little and have a good time.


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Mother. Teacher. Reader. Trying to make ends meet without losing pieces of my soul in the process. This is a place for my thoughts on teaching English and on life in general.

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