A Day in the Life: An Inside Look at Ward Traditional Academy
Tempe Elementary has many wonderful choices for middle school, offering different learning styles and programs at each campus. ITK is continuing its special series brought to you by Justin Aungst, Community Affairs and Marketing intern, to attest to the wonderful programs each school has to offer. Our “A Day in the Life” series will give readers an inside look at a typical day in each of our middle schools!
Ward Traditional Academy, Tempe Elementary’s first middle school academy, always strives to push their students to excellence. They do this using a technique called direct instruction.
Direct instruction creates clearly defined teaching that reduces the amount of misunderstanding between the student and teacher. Teachers work closely with students as they implement their carefully planned lessons in order to create a fast paced learning environment. This allows the student to grasp and master concepts easier and quicker.
Creativity begins to flow once students fully understand the skills they learn and can apply them to either the next project or lesson.
Jason Blackstock’s seventh-grade technology class is a great example of what direct instruction has to offer. Throughout the first half of the year, the technology students worked with SketchUp, a 3D computer modeling program. The program is versatile and used by everyone from video game developers to engineers.
The seventh-graders, however, were using the program as architects would building their own renderings of different rooms and structures. They started off small, creating their own digital dog house with provided measurements to get a handle on the program. They eventually worked their way up to where they are now. They are currently creating a digital rendering of their own bedroom, using the exact measurements of their bedroom at home.
These assignments are all a build up to their eventual project where they design their own “dream bedroom” from scratch. This is where the students creativity really begins to show. Using the skills they previously learned through their assignments, the students will create “something” from “nothing.”
Back in the physical world, Sylvia Chapman's seventh-grade science class was fresh off their recent biome project. Their task was to create a brochure for a specific biome discussing the environment's unique plants and animals. Things like the biome’s energy pyramid and food web were to be included to show the relationship between the different species. Finally, students created their own model of their assigned biome to visually represent the environment.
“A lot of the time reading out of the book helps, but there are times when doing a project like this is better,” said Samantha Arredondo, one of Chapman’s seventh-graders who modeled her biome off of the temperate deciduous forest. “It allows you to be more hands on and involved which helps me learn difficult topics better.”
The class also conducts lab experiments including the dissection of a frog.
“I found the dissection really interesting, we learned a ton about the amphibian’s body and the function of their parts,” said Arredondo. “It was interesting to see how frogs compare to humans and other mammals.”
Inside Melissa Revel’s eighth-grade English class, students see part of their direct instruction with critically analyzing text. They are given tools and methods on how to read deeper and better understand passages before putting these skills to use on their quarterly book reports. In these reports, they recognize and interpret aspects of literature such as prominent themes and literary devices.
Once they begin to have a grip on critical analysis, they hold classroom discussions on texts that they read together. These Socratic seminars encourage open-ended discussion and collaboration between the students and allows them to hear and discuss different views and ideas.
“We have hour long discussions on texts that took ten minutes to read,” said student Rachel Early. “It really makes the class more involved and gives the room a more tight-knit atmosphere.”
The insistence on mastering concepts propels WTA to earn high-marks and have students reach their full potential. This creates a motivating and friendly learning environment. This environment is felt throughout the campus from the school's band classes to their sports programs. This hardworking attitude creates a well-rounded campus that focuses on more than just the classes.
WTA’s approach to learning is unique, but it sees results. For more information about WTA including how to apply and contact information, please visit http://www.tempeschools.org/our-schools/k-8-schools/ward-traditional-academy.