Sandburg English, Music and English Learner tour
Division Chair Sarah Smith led me on a tour of Sandburg's English, Music and English Learner classes this week. It was great to see the enthusiasm and engagement of students in a variety of settings within the department. The connection between students and staff was evident!
The Mixed Choir was preparing for their upcoming holiday concert. Students were working on the piece The Sleigh, focusing on their vocal balance and the specific harmonies. While this was the first rehearsal that both Men's Choir and Women's Choir were working on the piece together, it sounded awesome. Choir Director Nicki Denofrio's energy and enthusiasm permeated the Performing Arts Center. The strong rapport she has with her students could readily be seen.
Symphonic Band 2 was also refining their music for Saturday'sHoliday Concert when I stopped by. Band Director Brian Hillhouse was leading students through practice with musical phrasing, style, dynamics, balance, and uniform articulation. During the warm-up, students reviewed several performance aspects of their final exam.
Literacy Lab student tutors and supervising teachers were working with students in to bolster literacy skills through their coursework. Though most students who drop in during their lunch or study hall seek help related to writing, students also come to the lab for assistance with navigating difficult texts, preparing for speeches, and studying for exams. There have been over 2,000 visits to the Literacy Lab this semester alone. In addition to assisting with English coursework and literacy related issues, the 60+ trained student tutors that staff the lab each day have worked hard to develop lasting relationships with their peers seeking help. In addition, over the past two years, students who have been assigned to the Literacy Lab have found success in their English classes. Over 90% of these students, many of whom were struggling in their coursework before regularly attending the lab, ultimately passed their English class. It was great to see the interaction among tutors, teachers and students. A few teachers had even stopped by the lab during their plan period because they knew several of their students would be there.
The final stop of the tour was to English Learner 4 where Nick Fotopoulos' students were working with the short story "Amigo Brothers," a piece about two brothers and the conflicts they face. The larger unit is about loyalty, and thus the students explored how competition tests people's loyalty to one another through the story. Using a station activity format, students engaged in discussion with one another in order to explore key concepts of the story including the author's style, setting, characterization, and types of conflict.It was evident that students were being prepared to transition into Academic English courses next school year as the EL 4 curriculum aims to prepare students for the rigor and pace of those classes by focusing on the skills they will need to find success.
Overall, it was a great visit. Seeing the enthusiasm and engagement of students with staff in each of these classes helps keep me focused on the true purpose of our work - preparing students for their future.
This is who we are.