If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
By Carmen Ensinger
A new class for eighth grade students at North Greene Junior High is making them excited to come into class on Monday mornings.
The Exploratory Language Arts Class is taught by Gina Edwards and teaches reading, English, grammar and writing in a unique and exciting way which has the students learning all of these elements without even realizing it.
Students love Monday because it is referred to as “Mystery Monday.”
“Monday we have our shortened period so we have Mystery Monday and when the kids come in the room they will be met with some sort of mystery I have set up in the classroom,” Edwards said. “It might be an escape room, it might be just solving a mystery of a missing item. Other times, they come in and find the caution tape is out and the outline of a dead body is on the floor and clues set up throughout the room and they have to solve the murder.”
One might ask how in the world this relates to language arts. Edwards explains there are many elements involved in solving the mystery that students use related to language arts.
“They come in here and have to use their observation skills and figure out what they think has happened and then infer what they think caused the murder, who did it and so forth,” Edwards said. “They have to use their observation skills, they have to read the details, they get a sheet with details on it so they have to read for reading comprehension, finding details, finding the inferences in the reading and then taking all of that and drawing conclusions with their own background knowledge and experiences and combining all of that together so they are using quite a few of their language arts skills in solving those mysteries.”
Edwards said the true is with the escape rooms which are like tackle boxes with padlocks and secret codes.
“They have to answer so many questions correctly to get a series of codes which then leads them to some place else in the room with another series of questions and codes until they finally get around to where they can unlock the box and get the prize at the end,” she said.
Edwards said all of the programs she has purchased are based on the eighth-grade common core standards for language arts and that the students have to utilize those standards to be able to accomplish the games and the tasks that they have to do.
So far the program has been an amazing success with the students.
“The kids are loving it,” Edwards said. “They come in here Monday morning and immediately start looking for the dead body or look for what is missing and are checking everything out. They are learning to work together in groups and with partners and cooperatively figuring things out, which is also a skill they are still developing in junior high, so the program is working out really well I think.”
But there is another aspect of the of this Exploratory Language Arts class that takes on a different aspect for those students who might be slightly ahead of others in the class.
“I am able to take those kids who are getting through their work quickly and push them and challenge them to try new things and work beyond what we are doing in class and that is where our news crew comes into play,” Edwards said. “I have a group of around 13 or 14 kids, who, when they are finished with all of their work in class, write articles for our new school newspaper – the North Greene News.”
These students are tasked with finding people to interview, coming up with interview questions, going out and getting the interviews and then writing the stories. They must also go out and get photos for the newspaper.
“They write the articles and leave them on the table and whoever comes up next gets to edit the article, goes through it and makes the corrections and helps them fix it,” Edwards said. “We have got some kids that are strong with the technology and so they are able to very easily clip things and fuse things together and put it in the computer to design the paper itself. We published our first edition on Oct. 1 and handed it out to everyone.”
The goal is to have a new edition out the first of every month with a variety of articles featuring things going on in the community as well as things the students and teachers are doing at the school.
The students came up with the name for the paper themselves and designed the headline themselves as well.
“I gave them some ideas for stories for this first edition, but it will become a pretty independent project for them over time,” Edwards said. “Our goal is to feature a different North Greene alumni each month and their job and really focus on that job and the training it takes to do that job so we are getting a little bit of career study in there. We also want to highlight the teachers, especially the new teachers and staff.”
Another feature will be on students.
“This month, they featured a student and his family who had gone on a big dove hunt,” Edwards said. “One of the students interviewed him and got a picture from the hunt.”
Edwards sees the newspaper staff growing over time.
“I think I’ll end up having 20 plus students easily involved in it before we are finished,” she said. “There are definitely some students who have the ability to be part of it in one aspect or another. It gives them a chance to practice their editing skills, their writing skills, they are learning to take their writing from first person to third person and they are learning objective writing so they are not putting their opinions within the articles they are writing. The students are reading it and gathering and building informational skills as well.”