The Grade 7 ELA team has been working to connect classroom lessons with global events this spring. Here’s a peek into what’s happening in South Orangetown Middle School ELA classes:
South Orangetown Middle School teacher Emily McKay recently launched a campaign to express support for Ukrainian refugees. “My goal for this project was for students to realize that small acts of kindness and empathy can make a difference to others facing challenging times,” McKay said. “I am extremely proud of our SOMS community–students and staff–for creating nearly 600 cards to share words of hope and support. The students took a great deal of pride and ownership over their work, writing messages translated into Ukrainian and adding colorful, creative and inspiring illustrations. Their cards will be delivered to Ukrainian children currently living in Poland.
Students in teacher Stephanie Stehly’s classes are discussing how historical fiction novels relate to current events as part of a Historical Fiction Book Club project. “Historic books give students a window into the past and help them develop empathy toward people who have had, in most cases, much different life experiences than their own,” Stehly explained. “It was exciting to see how engaged students were in their books and how eager they were to learn about cultures and conflicts they knew very little about before the unit.”
One book that students are reading is “I Must Betray You” by Ruta Sepetys, which is inspired by events that occurred in communist Romania in the 1980’s. “Reading this book makes you feel like you’re actually in that time period. I really like this unit because it’s not just about reading a story, it’s also about learning what really happened in Romania,” noted Victoria K.
Clubs were created based on students’ interests, motivation, personality and reading level. Each group is tasked with creating a tableau–a still scene of student actors–that best exemplifies the theme of their book. Stehly said, “Students always enjoy activities involving drama, and tableau is a fantastic way for students to connect to characters and imagine what they might have felt at a particular moment.”
Across the hall, teacher Colleen Henry’s classes are reading “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, a novel based on one fiction and one true story of two young people in Sudan. Students are engaged in research about Sudan to create Google Slides ‘picture books’–including cover, table of contents, photos, a glossary and author notes–on topics relating to that nation. Yasmin H. and Katlyn S. chose to focus on waterborne diseases. “Since it’s something that’s still happening in the world right now, it’s good to know more about it,” said Yasmin.
“The focus of the nonfiction project is to provide their classmates with background knowledge on topics that are new to them, such as culture, sports, animals, war and tribal traditions of Sudan. They need to find creative ways to write engaging nonfiction and strategies to pass information to their class audience,” Henry explained.