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Leaders in Learning

Shea Peterson, Megan Green, Kyle Hearn, and Caroline Gerlits work together to plan their team's poster and power point presentation on a theme of geography.

      The fifth grade students at Waxhaw Elementary are becoming leaders in their own learning as they tackle the new North Carolina Essential Standards for social studies. Our classrooms are alive with the buzz of wonderings, questions, collaboration, and interest-based research.
    The new standards sparked the idea of a new approach to learning social studies--an approach that puts more emphasis on integrating reading and writing into the social studies content.  This new way of teaching social studies is being piloted by the fifth grade team at Waxhaw under the guidance of Joni Case, who has spent countless hours developing a program based on questioning, research, and collaboration.
     The students began the school year with a focus on researching as historians.  They learned ways to pull the important ideas out of a text, ways to track their thinking, and how to create organized frameworks for recording their thoughts.  Now the students are" full steam ahead" as they work collaboratively to research the answers to their questions using primary sources and technology.  The first major project is to teach their classmates about the five themes of geography.  This is only one of many opportunities they will have to be leaders in their learning.  Throughout these projects, they will compile research, work together to create posters, power point presentations, and slideshows to accompany their oral presentations.
     Joni Case reacted to the implementation of the program, "I'm very excited by the enthusiasm of the teachers and the students.  Social studies really is coming alive in our classrooms.  Students are becoming more comfortable with nonfiction text.  They are asking questions and learning to research effectively."
      Two fifth grade students were asked what they thought of this new way of approaching social studies.  Taylor Bigham responded, "I think it's good because you're learning with your team and they can help you."          
     Phillip DePaola added, "I'm learning a lot about how to present facts to the class.  It also helps people not to be shy." 
     Both the fifth grade teachers and students are looking forward to a year of learning through  self-motivation and authentic presentations.

Written by: Maureen Stuka, Fifth Grade Teacher
Posted: Nov 02, 2011 by Kimberly Thomas

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