Mix it Up

After implementing the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM), sixth-grade teacher Elizabeth Maleganos decides to shift the teaching strategies she uses with her social studies students. Her new approach blends cooperative learning, student-centered instruction, and authentic assessments, providing both solutions and new challenges for her and her students.

Elizabeth’s classroom is buzzing with activity. Her students use sculpture, drawing, technology, and mathematics to demonstrate their learning about Ancient Egypt.

When you first walk into Elizabeth Maleganos’s classroom, you can hardly tell she’s there. There’s chart paper sprawling across the floor, the clicking of laptop keys, lots of chatter, and books galore. Students are huddled over poster boards, busy googling websites about Ancient Egypt, deciphering hieroglyphics, and dismembering mock mummies. This may be Elizabeth’s dream, but it’s many teachers’ nightmare.

These students have decided to use art and writing to show what they have learned about Egypt and hieroglyphics.

Not everyone is comfortable facilitating this type of student-centered learning. And Elizabeth is just letting this approach seep into her classroom teaching from her recent work at PS 152 with the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM). She’s adjusting to her new role as a facilitator, letting go of the idea of being the source of knowledge for her sixth-grade students, balancing marching through the curriculum with giving students time to explore, and embracing the organized chaos that results. Basically, Elizabeth is having a ball. And so are most of her students.

See a report on the pyramids below: 

See a report on mummification below: 

Ashan’s mathematical abilities are outstanding.

Assessing students’ work may be challenging. Elizabeth hopes her guidelines on cooperative learning and culminating presentations will provide enough structure and accountability. She wonders about one student, Ashan, who prefers to work independently. He settled on creating hieroglyphic bracelets for each of his classmates, each one showing their birthdays. His grasp of mathematics, independent research skills, and the generosity of his chosen project all set him apart. But, then, that has created another challenge for Elizabeth: her goals include creating interdependence, building cooperation, and bridging gaps among the many immigrants in her classroom. Assessing Ashan’s work and helping him mix comfortably with his classmates are Elizabeth’s next steps.