A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

One of the fourth grade classrooms passionately discussed social issues and the impact they have on our world. These lessons stemmed from their yearlong unpacking of identities and coming together as a classroom community. 

In the spring, fourth graders participated in the opinion writing unit, which focuses on understanding how to take a stand, set a clear thesis statement, give supporting reasons, and back up their thinking with evidence.

The first project in this unit was for students to create social issues acrostic poems, where certain letters in each line spell out a word or phrase. This assignment helped students to think about issues going on in their world. They generated their own list and discussed what each issue means and means to them.

Fourth grade's list of important social issues

A list of important social issues generated by a fourth grade classroom with the help of fourth grade teacher Amanda Schirmacher, assistant teacher Ada Tan and support staff teacher Endia Moore.

These conversations were also supplemented with books as well. The issues they chose for their poems were ones that they felt strongly about in this moment–many about animals, as the 9- and 10-year-old brains adore their animals!

Students were pleased to show off their work to a very special visitor, Head of School Randall Dunn, during their classroom gallery walk.

Randall Dunn at fourth grade gallery walk

Head of School Randall Dunn visits the fourth grade's gallery walk.

Then the students dove deeper into the social issues and identified one that they care deeply about, researched the issues, and then wrote a five-paragraph essay on the issue. 

To view more of the students' acrostic poems, browse the photo gallery below.


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Social Issues as Told Through Poetry by Fourth Grade Students

One of the fourth grade classrooms passionately discussed social issues and the impact they have on our world. These lessons stemmed from their yearlong unpacking of identities and coming together as a classroom community. 

In the spring, fourth graders participated in the opinion writing unit, which focuses on understanding how to take a stand, set a clear thesis statement, give supporting reasons, and back up their thinking with evidence.

The first project in this unit was for students to create social issues acrostic poems, where certain letters in each line spell out a word or phrase. This assignment helped students to think about issues going on in their world. They generated their own list and discussed what each issue means and means to them.

Fourth grade's list of important social issues

A list of important social issues generated by a fourth grade classroom with the help of fourth grade teacher Amanda Schirmacher, assistant teacher Ada Tan and support staff teacher Endia Moore.

These conversations were also supplemented with books as well. The issues they chose for their poems were ones that they felt strongly about in this moment–many about animals, as the 9- and 10-year-old brains adore their animals!

Students were pleased to show off their work to a very special visitor, Head of School Randall Dunn, during their classroom gallery walk.

Randall Dunn at fourth grade gallery walk

Head of School Randall Dunn visits the fourth grade's gallery walk.

Then the students dove deeper into the social issues and identified one that they care deeply about, researched the issues, and then wrote a five-paragraph essay on the issue. 

To view more of the students' acrostic poems, browse the photo gallery below.


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Grid method in action

The Grid Method is a way of teaching that has proven successful in many classrooms at Latin across the middle school.

The Grid Method is an instructional framework for standards-based, mastery learning that is used in several science classes, language arts classes and language classes. Working from recognized standards, teachers create a grid of assignments and assessments for students to work through at their own pace. These assignments increase in complexity, from basic vocabulary up to higher-level thinking.

Grid method in action

A middle school science classroom has students working on a variety of activities according to the grid: some students are reading the materials; some students are building models of viruses; while some are researching them; some students are reading text materials; and some are working on the lab portion of the project.

Listen to Clara D. '26 describe her experience with a science project following the Grid Method. Along each step of the way, students need to show competency or mastery before moving up to the next level. This method allows students to work at their own pace and get individualized attention from the teacher when they need it. Students who master concepts quickly are able to forge ahead and do independent advanced work, whereas students who need more time are able to take it, within reason. Perhaps surprisingly, this method allows for a lot of personalized learning and one-on-one time with the teacher during class time, in small bursts right when the student is ready for it. Teachers monitor student progress for interventions and provide real-time feedback. It's an engaging way to meet the needs of all the learners in the classroom.  

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I Am Every Good Thing book

“I Am Every Good Thing” by Derrick Barnes, a book full of nourishing words and illustrations, was chosen as the lower school’s all-school read this year.

Written as a poem, "I Am Every Good Thing" encourages young readers to celebrate everything that makes you, YOU. This book affirms that kids can achieve anything they want to achieve and that it's okay for kids to make mistakes. It concludes with a beautiful message at the end:

"I am worthy of success, of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness. And without a shadow of a doubt, I am worthy to be loved." I am worthy of success, of respect, of safety, of kindness, of happiness. And without a shadow of a doubt, I am worthy to be loved.
"I Am Every Good Thing" by Derrick Barnes

On Thursday, October 15, all lower school students were excited to attend a virtual author visit with Barnes. Check out his presentation on the Lower School Library page on RomanNet.

Derrick Barnes author visit

Derrick Barnes, author of "I Am Every Good Thing," joined lower school students for a virtual author visit.

During a workshop over the summer, lower school teachers discussed "I Am Every Good Thing" and what ways the words and images will resonate with their students. They also talked about the concept of windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors in books best described by National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) member Rudine Sims Bishop, "Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author." Their reflection on this concept included a series of questions:

Who in your class will identify with the characters & storyline? (mirrors)

What will other students learn from the characters & storyline? (windows)

How will this create a deeper understanding of the world? (sliding glass doors)

Classroom activities will include deeper dives into the affirmations in "I Am Every Good Thing," relating to our school year's theme, Nourish.

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Graphic about intersectionality

According to Psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum, identity is shaped by individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors, and social and political contexts. However, the concept of identity can be complex because the answer to “who am I?” largely depends on who the word around me says I am. (For more information on Tatum’s work, please refer to this essay, “The Complexity of Identity: Who Am I?”
Students at Latin begin learning about identity as early as junior kindergarten. In addition to thinking about the question, “who am I?”, young students begin building an understanding of intersectionality, a term used to describe how race, class, gender and other individual characteristics “intersect” with each other.

An exercise that helped prepare Latin’s lower school teachers for working through conversations around identity and intersectionality with students was thinking about this series of questions:

“How do you identify yourself? And͑ what is the most important part of your identity? Is it your sex, your race or ethnicity, your sexual orientation, your class status, your nationality, your religious affiliation, your age, your physical or cognitive abilities, your political beliefs? Is there one part of your identity that stands out from the rest or does your identity change depending on who you’re with, what you’re involved in, where you are in your life?” (SOURCE: Critical Media Project)

In the classroom, students have been working on creating identity maps and writing “I Am” poems and talking about “single stories.” Ask your student about the classroom discussions they are having related to these topics.