Stillwater teachers 'flip' homework and lectures

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2011 - 6:35 PM

Technology allows math teachers to work with students more in the classroom and have them listen to lectures at home.

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(left to right) Lake Elmo Elementary School Teacher Emily Heilhecker helped 5th grader Eric Faust with math problems during her class on 9/23/11. Stillwater elementary teachers began this year video taping their classes for online access. The program allows for students to watch classroom lectures at home and do their homework in the classroom, a "flipped" concept to traditional classrooms. Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune. Emily Heilhecker, Eric Faust/source.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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Some Stillwater math teachers are testing an innovative approach that they hope will boost test scores and student engagement: Having students do more of their homework in school after listening to class lectures at home.

Fifth-grade math teachers at five elementary schools are taking advantage of the Internet to have their students watch their lectures at home through a district website. That's freeing classroom time for the teachers to guide students through their homework, "flipping" the traditional process.

Teachers hope that the approach, called a "flipped classroom," will allow students to get more personal time with teachers.

"We're flipping where problem-solving usually takes place," said Kristin Daniels, a technology integration specialist with the district and a former teacher. "At home, no one is there to help the kids. We're making it now so that the teacher can do their job better."

Six fifth-grade math teachers spent several days this summer recording themselves teaching five units worth of lessons from their "Math Expressions" curriculum. Several school districts and colleges around the country in recent years have begun putting lectures online to save money and resources.

Stillwater officials thought they could use the tool to change the way teachers engage students in the classroom.

"We already had the infrastructure in place to put on a program like this," Daniels said.

Each day, students are assigned lessons to watch at home on their computer. The lessons usually last from five to 13 minutes.

At the end of the video, students are asked three to five questions about the lecture. Based on their answers, teachers are able to assess how well the student knows the subject matter.

The next day in class, teachers give a brief overview of the concepts taught in the video before assigning students their work.

"It's really exciting," said Emily Heilhecker, a fifth-grade math teacher at Lake Elmo Elementary who is using the program. "It opens up a lot of class time and lets the students take ownership of their learning. I want to know the process that's going through my students' brains to solve the problem. This allows me to do that."

Students in her class said they liked the way the program was set up.

"If I need help on a homework assignment, I can just ask for help in class," said Emanuel Kassie, a 10-year-old fifth-grader.

"It's a lot better than doing homework at home," said Eric Faust, another 10-year-old fifth-grader.

District officials are surveying parents and students throughout the year to track their attitudes about the program and areas in which they can improve. And they're looking at test results to see if the program will improve scores.

"We're doing this in a focused way to make sure we're getting the most bang for the buck," Daniels said.

Daarel Burnette II • 651-735-1695

Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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