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What Comes Before A Great Moment?

What Comes Before A Great Moment?

Every grade level, Beta-8th grade, hosts a signature spring exhibition. These exhibitions are not "thrown together" or "random" in nature. On the contrary, careful, yearlong, interdisciplinary teaching, research and inquiry lead to experiential learning and thoughtful rehearsal produces a polished performance. While no two exhibitions are the same, all require our students to share their learning using multiple modalities.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how third grade teachers and students begin in the fall to prepare for their Great Moments in History exhibition in the spring.

When students enter third grade they experience several shifts in their learning, from how they read to how they write and how they use technology. While the beginning years in Lower School emphasize learning how to read, the emphasis in third grade becomes reading to learn. In the fall, students dig into chapter books with a lot of independent reading followed by reading comprehension questions which focus on what is important in the text (i.e. main idea, supporting facts, etc.). 

Teachers also partner with Writers in the Schools (WITS) every week. A WITS instructor helps students to develop not only their creative writing voice but also their public speaking voice. The last twenty minutes of each WITS session is dedicated for students to read aloud what they have written in class. Students become quite comfortable with the center stage and the vulnerability of speaking in public soon dissipates. Beyond WITS, teachers also emphasize narrative and expository writing in class. Students learn how to capture their own personal story and the story of someone else’s life with a good beginning hook, transition sentences, and a strong conclusion.

Studies in grammar also contribute to developing a student’s sense of humor and voice in third grade. Learning idioms and having an “Idiom Day” where students dress up as their favorite idiom helps students learn how to express their own voice and personality as they write.

Utilizing both geographic map studies and a biography unit, teachers take students around the world to expand their horizons and worldviews. Students watch 30-minute “hero-classics”, educational biography videos, featuring individuals who have made a difference in the world. From inventors to activists to world leaders, students meet history makers and see firsthand the kinds of people, both good and bad, who have impacted and changed the world. Important events arise from these videos and authentic, robust classroom discussions open the pages of history for students.

Transitions in technology also begin in third grade. This is the first year students use iPads in a 1:1 capacity. Every student has an iPad which is assigned to him/her so that work can be saved and returned to each day. Students are introduced to a variety of apps such as Keynote, Pages, Comic Life, Strip Design, Word Cloud, and Pic Stitch to use to complete their class work. 

Studies in reading, grammar, writing, history, and technology culminate as students are asked to pick one historical figure who has made an impact in history and bring that individual to life in the spring. Using their more developed reading comprehension skills, students dive into age-appropriate biographies to learn more about their important figure. As part of a research unit, teachers walk students step-by-step through the process of notetaking and research. Students learn how to find what is important in their books, highlight information and transfer notes to cards. The culling of information and organization of notes is inspired and adapted from the IIM Research Method. Each student’s research informs upon the creation of a speech from the perspective of his/her chosen historical figure. Continuing upon their work in writing, students are at ease as they find their creative voice to write an engaging speech that grabs listeners right from the beginning.

The Great Moments in History exhibition features live speeches and a wax museum tour. Each student dressed as his/her historical figure shares their speech to a large audience and then retires to the wax museum for individual Q & A time. In the wax museum, each student has a trifold that features important information about his/her historical figure. Information from the trifold is created using several iPad apps students have used throughout the year.

The number one takeaway from Great Moments in History is that students become even more confident learners. Students can see their growth throughout the year and their progression in reading, writing, speaking, and technology. They realize that they can be independent learners and can take center stage by themselves. And that is a huge feat! Spring exhibitions never fail to help each student chip away at the masterpiece that they are becoming.