The sixth hour bell blares through the hallway. Senior Matt Hogan rushes into the Little Theater and takes a seat in the back row with his friends. A low hum fills the room as the teachers, Jamie Kelly and Ryan Oettmeier, take roll.
“Quiet please.” Kelly says to the restless room full of kids, then continues to call out names. But it’s hard to keep 60 kids quiet, so the side talk continues.
After about 10 minutes, Kelly and Oettmeier are finished calling out dozens of names and it’s time to move to the cafeteria. Students pile into the large space and spread out, filling 10 rectangular tables. Mr. Oettmeier rolls in the white board, and the screen in the front of the room is lowered, displaying the hour’s Google Classroom; Algebra 3, 6th Hour.
Kelly and Oettmeier’s two Algebra 3 classes, each packed with 60 to 65 students, are the first classes at East to use a flipped-classroom teaching style.
In a flipped classroom the teacher and student’s responsibilities are switched. Students learn concepts on their own time from assigned videos rather than lectures, and they complete their homework during class. The students are able to ask for help in class and learn to become responsible for their own success or failure.
“It makes you very independent and puts your priorities straight knowing that I could sit here and not do my work,” senior Katie Uresti said. “I could so easily do that, but I’m going to do [my work] because I don’t want to have homework, and I want to use my resources and ask questions.”
However, they are not completely left on their own. Every day, Kelly walks around the room answering questions and talking with every student that raises their hand, while Oettmeier is at the white board working out and explaining problems people are having trouble with.
Various groups spread out throughout the room during work time, and students collaborate to help each other when Kelly or Oettmeier can’t reach them.
“There’s usually four or five people at one lunch table and everyone kind of answers questions that people have,” junior Griffin Fries said. “I mean it’s not like we’re doing each others homework, but there’s someone who knows what they’re doing at each table.”
The class may be unorthodox, but it does have one major benefit: the large class size and independent learning style will help prepare the students for college, according to Kelly and Oettmeier. Oettmeier recalls his first semester in college and being in a Biology class with 500 to 600 students. He believes that the Algebra 3 classes this year have an opportunity to understand learning in bigger class sizes, which will help them in college.
Besides learning to adapt to large classes, Kelly and Oettmeier believe the students will pick up valuable life skills, like learning to interact and work with others.
“That’s a life skill,” Kelly said. “If you can’t work with your colleagues in your job than you won’t have that job much longer, or you won’t enjoy your job. I mean you have to [learn to] talk to people.”
Despite the benefits and the majority of the students liking of the class, some students have strong opinions on taking notes from assigned videos. While Matt Hogan enjoys writing notes on his time for homework since it keeps him accountable, Katie Uresti personally prefers taking notes in class.
“Some people can [learn from videos] but that’s just not the way I learn so it’s difficult for me,” Uresti said. “I would definitely prefer to have [the teachers] sit down and teach more with notes on the board but that’s the only thing I would change [about the class] otherwise.”
Although the students in second and sixth hour Algebra 3 are experiencing a different style of teaching than their peers, they are still learning the same material. What makes these classes so special, according to students, is not only the sheer size of the class, but the use of flipped-classroom style teaching.
“The one thing that probably makes it different is the flipping,” Kelly said. “but also [having] much more of a reliance upon your peers to help you out as opposed to always asking the teacher.”