WHITTIER, Calif. (January 14, 2016) — The three directors of the academic programs (Judith Wagner, Kori Vartanian, and Agnes Vasquez) have the privilege of observing your students as they work and play each day. (And, yes, they ALL play. Even the middle schoolers. And, in fact, their teachers do too!) On one recent day, we observed 7th graders’ posters illustrating their understanding of allegory and themes in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Students were challenged to represent their understanding with drawings and also to support their conclusions with specific passages from the text.
In preparation for this year’s 8th-grade play, students in the next room were studying Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors with Professor Gil Gonzalez from the Whittier College Department of Theatre and Communications Arts. Professor Gonzalez encouraged the students to think more deeply about the meaning of the Shakespearian words they were learning for their roles in the play. For example, he asked several students to accompany each word they spoke with a relevant action. In this way, students could see for themselves which words they truly understood and which needed more consideration. In true Broadoaks fashion, other students coached their peers as they tried one-by-one to act out their scenes. This lesson extended learning from an earlier activity in which students enacted scenes using modern English in whatever modern characters or accents they chose. Some rapped their scenes and some performed in British accents or as a popular movie character. Students were thoroughly engaged in learning the play, not just memorizing their lines.
The opportunity to study with Whittier College professors like Gil Gonzalez is one of the most unique aspects of Broadoaks’ academic programs.
On the same morning, 3rd graders were literally having a blast studying adverbs in a lesson led by one of the January Practicum students. Teachers posted sentences on the board and one student from each team had to find the adverbs. Here again, students at the board could be coached by peers on their team if they needed help. The students were so into this game one would have thought the prize was the winning ticket in the billion dollar lotto!
Next door in kindergarten, students were in language arts workshops, using hands-on materials to identify beginning and ending sounds. Just as in the other classes on this particular morning, each classroom accomplished the school’s goal of having 100% of the students on task and actively engaged in meaningful learning. Perhaps many of us recall learning the parts of speech in ways that were less interesting and a lot less fun!
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