February 23, 2019

Getting kids involved

Photos by Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Third-grade teacher Morgan Seibel holds up a book she is teaching from Monday, during a Core Knowledge Language Arts lesson at Homer Intermediate School. The lessons teach students language arts skills while also exploring other content areas. Monday’s lesson was on Norse mythology.

Kaitlyn Boylan giggled while she threw her arms around a pretend log, acting out the harvesting of timber.

Crouched on the floor, Kaili Koehler held a card above her head that read “bilberries,” another resource besides timber that third graders in Morgan Seibel’s class at Homer Intermediate School were acting out the harvest of, during a Core Knowledge Language Arts unit Monday.

The unit, introduced to the third grade this year, is a more interactive way of teaching English language arts, Seibel said, and the lessons often stretch across different subjects.

Ted Love, director of instruction for the district, said the district has been using Core Knowledge Language Arts, a research-based literacy program, at the pre-kindergarten to second grade level since the implementation of Common Core standards in 2011-12.

However, the district extended the units to the third- through fifth-graders this year, after a pilot program last year.

Before CKLA, Seibel said, students were doing modules, which she said was more paper-based and less interactive.

Kaili Koehler holds a card that reads Bilberries, a plant the third-grade students in Morgan Seibel’s class had to scavenge around the classroom to find, as Vikings would have had to scavenge for food in their travels.

Monday’s lesson was about the Vikings and Norse mythology. Students had to identify the continents the Vikings traveled from: Europe where Scandinavia is, to coastal North America, Vinland, which Norse Vikings explored in 1000.

They also learned the names of Norse gods and had to explain which one was their favorite. Grayson Fiore liked Loki, a sneaky god, “because he causes a lot of mischief.”

Freya, a goddess of love and beauty rode a chariot drawn by two cats — “that’s weird” called out a student, and Seibel had to agree.

Since the implementation of CKLA, Seibel has also taught other lessons in her language arts class that stretch across subject areas. Earlier this year, students learned about animal classification and another lesson focused on light and sound, with students researching Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.

In all of the lessons, students learn about grammar, spelling and pronunciation, but use a lesson plan that teaches them much more, Seibel said.

“We are exploring topics in a way that is easier for the kiddos to relate to,” she said. “And I’ve heard parents say their students are talking about the content and excited to share what they are learning in here.”

She’s noticed students are more excited to learn.

“It fills your heart to know that what you’re teaching is something they’re interested in and is making a difference,” she said.

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