July 14, 2008

Mifflin to Employ New Teaching Method

By David Mekeel, Reading Eagle, Pa.

Jul. 14--You might remember what year the French and Indian War began, but chances are you don't know why it started.

Beginning in the upcoming school year, students in the Gov. Mifflin School District will be expected to know both.

The district will be the second in Berks County -- joining Wyomissing School District -- to implement a program called the Learning-Focused School Model.

Dr. Daniel G. Bulinski, Gov. Mifflin assistant superintendent, said the idea can be summed up in two words: consistency and pervasiveness.

"Across the district we have to have our practices and curriculum be consistent, at every level," he said.

The first change that students will see is a shift in how lessons are taught.

Eric L. Wolf, director of instructional and pupil services, said each lesson will start with the posing of an essential question, which students will be expected to answer at the end of the lesson.

The question will be something that forces students to use what they've learned as opposed to just reciting facts.

"The question wouldn't be when the Magna Carta was signed, but why did it need to be signed," Bulinski explained.

Teachers say they support the learning method.

"It's almost like the students will know what to expect, they'll know what's going to happen," sixth-grade learning support teacher Amanda E. Cipolla said of the essential question. "I just think it will give them more structure, especially since they'll be seeing this in their classes year after year."

Karen S. Smith, a secondgrade teacher at Cumru Elementary School, said teachers also will ask students to summarize the lessons, another practice the Learning-Focused Model encourages.

"At the end of the lesson, they're tired of hearing us talk. We've been talking the whole time," she said. "It's very important for them to be able to take what they've learned in the lesson and express it."

The program will be phased in over two years, with different parts being added one by one, Bulinski said.

Another benefit, Wolf said, is that schools that use Learning-Focused are part of a community of U.S. schools that share ideas and information. Teachers will have access to all sorts of resources to help them find creative ways to teach the district curriculum and use Learning-Focused practices.

Teams of Gov. Miffl in teachers and administrators took a four-day training session on the Learning-Focused program and then shared that knowledge with other faculty during one-day sessions in May and June.

"When the kids walk in the door this fall, we'll be ready to go," Wolf said.


To see more of the Reading Eagle, or to subscribe, go to http://www.readingeagle.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Reading Eagle, Pa.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email [email protected], call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.