MESH Workshop

MESH Workshop: Own Your Learning
Posted on 01/21/2022
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Students talking to each other and teachersIn 2019, Lakota West math teacher Jenny Circello introduced the concept of a flipped classroom to her students and she hasn’t looked back. In this type of personalized learning environment, students watch a video of Circello teaching a lesson for homework. When they come to class the next day, they have the whole period to work on assignments and get support, giving students more one-on-one time with their teacher.

In Circello’s flipped classroom, she insists that her students work at their own pace, working on a concept or lesson until they have mastered it before moving on to the next one. “Instead of spending 45 minutes lecturing, we’re spending 45 minutes sitting with students and providing support,” explained Circello. 

Kelsey Gelhaus taught English across the hall from Circello and was intrigued by the flipped classroom concept, wondering if she could make it work, too. The two began collaborating, noticing that they taught many of the same students. From there, the idea of the MESH Workshop was born.

MESH stands for Math, English, Science and History. “We’re thinking long-term,” said Circello. “We eventually want a four-bell block” that incorporates all four subjects. In this pilot year, the program includes CP geometry and CP 10 English. 

And it’s working. When Circello has asked their students if they feel more engaged in their learning, the answer is a resounding yes.

While the flipped classroom teaching concept is no longer new to Circello, it is new to students…and their parents. During the first week of school, Circello and Gelhaus explained that while the students would learn the same material as other sophomores enrolled in these same classes, the learning would look different for everyone. There are workshops with teachers, self-paced lessons and activities, small-group work and whole-class activities. The most important thing to understand is that students are the ones who determine what their time in MESH looks like.

The students have math and English back to back each day, but aren’t confined to what they are working on. For example, if a student is in English class but needs to finish a math assignment, he can choose to spend the class period working on math. Additionally, he can request to head over to Circello’s classroom for help. And it works both ways. “Everybody’s at a different pace,” said Gelhaus. “They’re responsible for owning their own learning.” Circello and Gelhaus explained that the learning process shows students that they have to complete their work in order. This allows them to master a concept before moving on and building upon that skill.

“At first, I thought it was a little odd,” admitted student Bella Murphy. “But now that I’ve experienced it, I like it. It’s less stressful.”

Classmate Olivia Kindberg agrees. “When you do (assignments) in a (traditional) class, you have to keep up. Working at your own pace is less stressful.”

Gelhaus has seen this benefit first hand with her students. “The kids seem to be less stressed out. Thinking of myself in high school, I would have benefitted from something like this.”

Circello and Gelhaus review data they gather in their classes to make sure that the concept is working. They’ve found that students with individual education plans (IEPs) tend to do very well in this type of learning environment. They also know it’s not for everyone. Eventually, they’d like to implement an application process for MESH.

So what does a typical day look like? For students starting their two-block period with math, they may spend the first part of class working on their math assignments, with Circello answering questions and providing support. The next part might be spent on a math workshop activity, followed by a five-minute break and then time to get additional help from Circello, if needed. The remaining time would be spent on English. The schedule would be flipped for students who start with English and then move on to math. They can also get help from intervention specialists Scott Rooks and Nicole Lampe during class. “With all the choices they’re making,” said Circello, “they’re learning what works best for them.”

The MESH workshop concept also allows the teachers to mix their students together based on the needs of the students and the projects or assignments. For example, Gelhaus pulled students from math into the English classroom to work on a project about Shakespeare’s MacBeth.

“Working at a realistic pace helps us,” said student Derrick Baker. “You’re working at our own pace. You can work with classmates to figure out one topic at a time.”

“In some classes, even if you’re not ready to move on (to the next lesson), the class does,” said Murphy. “Having different options is a relief. You can get what you need to get (your work) done.”

Abdel Saleh echoes that thought. “Even though it’s at your own pace, you can still get help from your teachers.”

The students can also see how this learning experience will help them once they graduate from West. “I think (MESH) is preparing us for the real world,” said Kindberg. “It teaches us to be individuals but still work together. It shows you that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.”

“You’re going to need to know how to work on your own (in the future),” said Saleh. “And this provides that learning.”

“(The students) are more active in their learning,” said Circello. “In the long term, I’m hoping that all of the soft skills they’re learning - prioritizing, organizing their work, owning their learning - will help them in years to come.”