Penny Suazo's Lessons

Penny Suazo says that her challenge is to see that “the gifted kids learn as much as they can, and the kids with cognitive delays are not left behind.” Here are some of her strategies:

  • She has the boys create a photo collage that represents each U.S. state in the shape of that state, fitting the finished collages onto a giant map. Each collage consists of pictures the students found in magazines that depict a state’s industry, economy, ecology, and population. They learn about the state — and also about shapes and proportions.
  • In a daily spelling exercise, the class and teacher call out letters in a rhythmic chant, clapping their hands in time. They stop frequently to engage in discussion about a word, its form, or its meaning. Suazo calls this exercise “Word Tap.”
  • The class explores math and science concepts and develops spatial and problem-solving skills by using a set of classroom building materials called Zomes to construct bridges and other structures. While Zomes may not be in your school budget, the same concepts can be tackled with similar, commonly available materials, such as dry spaghetti or plastic straws and marshmallows.
  • To test understanding of reading materials, Suazo has the class read a page backwards. This exercise tells her whether students know the actual meanings of words or are using context clues to help them discern specific words. She also acts out certain concepts to help her students understand the meaning of idiomatic words or phrases