Information gap activities in a flipped classroom context

Information gap activities have always fascinated learners as they stimulate creative and critical thinking, they encourage engagement and give them the opportunity to express themselves and collaborate with their mates. 

Photo by Dimitris Primalis

Yet, this kind of activity is often a headache for educators in terms of time and class management. Learning technology however, can offer solutions to make the most of such activities without major disruptions in the syllabus. Below you can read a short definition of these activities and some activities that I have tried with my students using OneNote, a digital notebook that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. 

According to the British Council webpage "An information gap activity is an activity where learners are missing the information they need to complete a task and need to talk to each other to find it."

Activity 1: video/audio

Choose a video that you think will spark discussion and stimulate the imagination of learners. For lower level students, I prefer videos that have little or no language so that students can interpret and draw upon paralinguistic features such as gestures and facial expressions. 

Create two digital notebooks and divide the class into two groups. In Group A’s notebook, share an audio file (MP3)while in Group B’s a video file of the same video (MP4) but without sound. In a flipped classroom context, ask students to listen and watch the files respectively, at home and take notes. You can invite them via email. 

In class, ask them to work in pairs or groups and reconstruct the story by sharing notes. The end product is the first paragraph of a story. Ask them  to  share with the rest of the class, using OneNote again. 

This allows them to develop their creative thinking skills and benefit from being exposed to different writing styles. Even though learners have all shared the same information, no written paragraph is the same. Students add their personal element in each one.   For homework, ask students to finish the story. You can share the best ones on the school blog. 

Why do it in a flipped classroom context?
  • You save precious class time. What is more, weaker students can always listen as many times as they need to comprehend.
  • In a traditional classroom, split viewing/listening can be a challenge because you would have to use two classrooms or have each group outside the classroom for at least a few minutes. This usually distracts other classes and there are usually complaints from other colleagues.
  • You can devote more time to promote communication and collaboration in class. 

Activity 2: reading texts

Alternatively, you can choose two texts referring to the same topic but expressing different opinions. You can divide the class again into two different groups and ask them to summarize the main points of each text and present them in class (this could be in the form of a powerpoint presentation or a paragraph). In class ask the students to synthesize arguments and views and create their own text on the issue reflecting their views. 

Video, audio and text can be combined to provide sources of information to learners. What will make the activity successful is the gap that learners have to bridge by exchanging information and collaborating with their classmates.

Have fun!

Dimitris Primalis


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