Flipping the Classroom


Rather than listen to his teacher lecture in class, freshman Emmett Koch works through an algebra equation with Mr. Thompson.

By Mark Vruno

For three school years now, Math Teacher Andrew Thompson has been “flipping” the educational experience for his freshman College Prep Algebra I students at Fenwick High School. Unlike their predecessors of decades past, these frosh do not sit through traditional lectures in the classroom. Instead, for homework, Mr. Thompson’s students listen to and watch 15-minute digital, audio-visual files of their teacher explaining algebraic concepts and, literally, working through equations. “They can see everything I’m writing as I’m doing it,” he explains. Then, the next day in class, students work (often together) on practice problems from their algebra textbook.


Thompson spent the better part of a summer preparing and pre-recording the video files to reverse his conventional learning environment, and he has been tweaking and improving the content ever since. (He employed the use of Explain Everything, an interactive whiteboard app for Apple iPads.) One major upside of this teaching style is that a student truly can work at his or her own pace.

“An advantage of the flipped classroom model is that the videos are pause-able and re-watchable,” the teacher points out, “and they’re always available for review and/or reference via Schoology,” the school’s online learning-management system. “My students are given time almost every day to work at their own paces in class,” Thompson adds.

On the course description that Mr. Thompson distributes to parents and students at the beginning of the semester, he outlines a typical night of homework:

  • Watching one video and taking thorough notes on the [built-in] Notes Guide, which is available as a printable PDF document, or on a blank sheet of paper. “I ask students to at least copy down exactly what they see on the screen, even if they’re confused,” he explains.
  • At home, students also may finish up any in-class bookwork from the previous day. (Mr. Thompson does not grade the bookwork for completion, “only effort,” but adds that he stronglyrecommends that his students do it.)
  • Other reinforcing homework might include completing a practice quiz/test or extra practice worksheet, which also are completed for a homework grade.

Meanwhile, back at school in Room 34, a typical day in class could include talking about due dates and upcoming events, such as chapter quizzes and unit tests. Students also will review, together, the material from the video by doing some example problems on the screen. “This is the time where students can ask questions about what they did not understand in the video,” Thompson explains, which can take anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. “I highly encourage them to ask questions.” They have multiple opportunities to ask questions in class, either with everyone or one-on-one with Mr. Thompson. The teacher sees value in peer collaboration as well. “They can learn the material from one another as well as from me,” he urges. Continue reading “Flipping the Classroom”