How to use Audio to "flip" your ESL lessons (+tech tutorial)

Welcome! This post is part of my Flipped Learning series. For more information on the magic of the flipped classroom (and what I'm even talking about) check out this page.

I've got tutorials on free flipped learning tools like:

  • How to harness the power of Youtube and the ESL community & even make your own videos
  • How to send pre-quizzes to my students with google forms
  • How to make digital flash cards for your students to study before class
  • And just when you thought you'd collapse under all this great information, I'll show you the lesson planning system that not only ties it all together, but actually saves you oodles of time while giving more value to your students.

Alright, on to the lesson!

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There are many ways to use audio in (and out of) your lessons. 

After private conversation lessons, I record my notes and send the 3-5 minute audio to the student along with a quick written transcript to the student. The whole process takes about 15 minutes, but my clients pay more for the service.

You can also send a listening lesson in advance, giving slower students the chance to listen repeatedly before class and save some more class time for discussion, which they can't get on their own time.


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Today, I'm going to teach you how I flip a grammar lesson by sending an audio file that focuses the students' attention on the grammar we're going to learn in the lesson. So let's get to it.

1. Select a passage:

I'll select a short passage that uses the grammar, in this case present and past passive tenses. They're plenty of these passages in textbooks, or you can even write your own. I'm going to record a passage I wrote about visiting Prague.

I haven't taught past passive before, but by having the students familiarize themselves before the lesson, I get them to zero in on good questions for class, and maybe they'll even pick up on some of the grammatical rules on their own.

Next, I'll record myself reading it.

2. Record audio on a Mac: (Got a PC? Use Sound Recorder. Instructions here.)

  1. Open Quicktime (found in the applications folder)
  3. Click the red button in the center of the audio recording pop-up to start recording and click it again to stop after you're finished. If you make a mistake don't worry, you can always start again.
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Once you're satisfied with your recording, under FILE choose SAVE and choose location on your computer or Google Drive. Once your audio file is saved to your Google Drive, anyone you send the link to can access the file, so you don't have to send a large file through email.

To get that link, open the sound file document in Google Drive. In the upper right corner, click the triple vertical dots. Click share. In the pop-up, choose anyone with the link can view. Then click Copy link. Paste it in the email to your student (or a place you will never lose it so you can use it every time you teach that lesson).


3. Create an exercise to go along with the audio file

With some audio exercises, you might just want to send only that link. But I want to create an exercise using the passage that I read. Take the passage and select the grammar you're trying to focus the students on. Swap the grammar (in this case, the present and past passive) for blanks.


4. File recording and exercise into your system

If you take the time to make these recordings and don't put them in a system that AUTOMATES your ability to send them EVERY TIME YOU TEACH A PASSIVE LESSON, I will personally reach through this screen and whack you upside the noggin'. 

Here's how I automate flipped learning in my system: 

  1. Save audio file to Google Drive (step #2 above)
  2. Copy text passage in Google Docs.
  3. Save both links to my Passive Lesson Plan card in the Trello for TEFL system
  4. Now every time I teach Passive, the system shows me ahead of time and I can swipe the copy & paste email language from the back of the card (see next step) to send in a few clicks. Easy peasy!

5. Copy, paste, send.

Hi [student],

Before our next class, please listen to this audio. Then fill in the correct words in this attached document.

See you in class!

Now my student will spend 20-30 minutes a few days before my lesson, focusing on the passive structure in the passage. It puts them in the driver's seat so I don't show up to a bunch of blank faces, waiting to be entertained by the tap-dancing English teacher!

You just gave yourself a HUGE leg up when you present the new grammar to the class. Slower students can work at their own speed before the lesson, and your students will be more engaged (and prepared) from the get go.

Do you want that audio file and accompanying exercise, plus all the other free lessons that come in my flipped learning series? Get it here>>

Now, I want to hear from you! Think of your typical lesson plan. What components could  give to your students to ahead of time that would make your lesson go more smoothly?

  • Could you send them an introductory Google "quiz" to get them familiar with a grammar point before you present it?
  • Could you teach twice the amount of vocabulary if your students had the opportunity to study them on digital flash cards before class?
  • Could sending a video or an audio recording before class make the class more interactive and the discussion deeper because students were able to watch/listen as many times as they wanted on their own time?

Tell us in the comments below: What's a single, small way you could flip your next lesson?