Students Challenged to SOAR in Classroom

Article excerpt

Byline: AbScalf Daily Herald Staff Writer

Walk into Betty Steiner's math class at Adler Park School in Libertyville and you will see students building a pyramid.

In her reading/language arts class, Steiner's students are not just reading a book assignment. After studying "Canterbury Tales," they rewrote the book in a more understandable language.

Teachers in Libertyville Elementary District 70 are challenging the minds of fourth- and fifth-graders, who excel in math and reading/language arts, through challenging projects in Strategic Opportunities of the Academic Realm (SOAR).

"The purpose is to provide a differentiating curriculum for children who are academically gifted in areas of math and reading/language arts," said Steiner, who teaches the SOAR program at Adler Park School.

Steiner said her goal is to devise a curriculum that challenges her students. In the classroom, she said, students need to listen to what the teacher says instead of assuming they already know the answer.

At Butterfield School, where Irene Lerner teaches a SOAR reading/language arts class, her students are reading "Old Man in the Sea," a difficult book for fourth- and fifth-graders to read, she said.

"I differentiate the curriculum by adding reading which challenges the students who can benefit most from that material," Lerner said.

Nick Abreu, a fifth-grader at Adler Park School, said he enjoys the challenging units the students follow in the classroom, especially the archaeology unit. In this unit, the students transformed their classroom into an Egyptian museum featuring a tomb filled with "artifacts" and a pyramid.

Students are told to convey their answers in various ways, Steiner said, which may include writing a formal essay or performing a skit.

Jocelyn Miller, a fifth-grader at Adler Park, said, "Instead of reading out of textbooks, Mrs. Steiner thinks of creative ways to show our work instead of working on paper."

One major aspect of SOAR, Steiner said, is teaching students there are multiple solutions to a problem and teaching them to respect other students' answers to a problem as well as their own.

"The students' goal, is to accept your ideas and my ideas and together come up with a new approach," she said.

When solving problems in class, Abreu said he enjoys working with his fellow classmates. "When I was stuck, other students would say keep trying but would give little hints."

Steiner said that when SOAR students see themselves struggle with a problem and then see a student who has trouble learning, the gifted student will try to help his classmates. According to Steiner, the gifted student learns not to say, "Why don't you understand this?"

Students often conduct projects where they share information they learn with other students. …