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Fourth-graders write, produce, direct their own play

University Liggett fourth-graders in Laura Deimel's class read and discuss George vs. George, which chronicles the American Revolution. Pictured with Deimel are Rocco Scarfone, Henry Meraw, Tory Roth, Grace Wesley, Jack Parker and Elese Kogel.

July 03, 2014
Fourth-Graders Write, Produce, Direct Their Own Play:

This Project-Based Approach Demonstrates Liggett's Curriculum for Understanding

University Liggett School fourth-graders took the school's forward-focused Curriculum for Understanding to a historic level -– literally. They wrote, produced and directed their own play, called "The Road to Independence," to explore and learn more about the American Revolution.

The student-focused, project-based play allowed the two classes of fourth-graders to fully understand the American Revolution and how American government began.

"The students took ownership of the entire project," says fourth-grade teacher Laura Deimel. "They worked together to research and write the play, change it and add to it during the process, and determine what roles, on the stage and back stage, they each would take. They even built the scenery."

The students in Deimel's class met with students in the other fourth-grade class, taught by Jaejoon Lee, and discussed how the play would evolve. They used Google Docs to add ideas, and those ideas were further discussed using a SMARTBoard.

One student suggested that Thomas Jefferson's role be performed in a certain way. Another suggested that Patrick Henry be a part of the play. "It truly was their play," says Deimel, whose intention was exactly that when she launched the project. "We could have used a play that was already written, but this gave them an opportunity to really shape their understanding of history."

The five-week project is an example of Liggett's Curriculum for Understanding, which allows students to learn through experience. The Curriculum for Understanding allows students to apply their learning, absorb it, and then demonstrate what they have learned – both in the classroom and out.

The project brought together many of the tenets of the Curriculum for Understanding, including creativity, teamwork and adaptability.

"It was very powerful," Deimel says. "And they had a lot of fun doing it. Many were telling us that they couldn't wait to go to school in the morning."

The play was a new twist the traditional Presidents Day activities at the school, and Deimel says she can't wait to see what the students plan next year. "Who knows what next year's project will be," she says. "That's the beauty of project-based learning – it keeps growing and evolving."

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