FRANCONIA — Souderton Area High School has two new class offerings this year — one that will give students a chance to be part of a rock band and one in which they can learn Mandarin Chinese. 

Souderton Area School Board members heard about both during the board's Dec. 9 Education-Personnel Committee meeting, along with an update to the kindergarten and first grade English Language Arts curriculum.

"I'm happy to say that, as we've gone through last year when these projects were proposed, that we were able to continue the work through the entire school year and also the summer and get to the point of implementation for September," said Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Katie Kennedy-Reilly. "It's very exciting to be able to offer new courses each year and this year it's definitely exciting to be able to offer some new opportunities."

Rock Band teacher Adam Tucker said the course starts with history and includes innovations that have happened between then and now.

"It's very sad how many students have no idea what rock & roll sounded like in the 1950s," he said. 

Along with the musical aspects, the class teaches about non-musician roles in a rock band, such as sound technicians and manager, he said. 

"The core of the entire course is the actual performance itself," Tucker said. 

Set lists are being developed for performance, he said.

"I'm just really excited that you are continuing on with this course, especially right now when kids need outlets, and this is a great way for them to learn how to cope with stress and keep some sort of normalcy in life when its so chaotic right now," said school board member Courtney Barbieri, who chaired the Education-Personnel Committee.

"I appreciate all the enthusiasm," she said, "and I can't wait 'til we can actually hear them perform."

Superintendent Frank Gallagher said the course promotes creativity. 

"It's also the kind of course that gets some kids to come to school," he said. "Some kids don't want to come to school for biology, but they'll come to school for a course like this and then do their biology." 

Chinese 1 teacher Xia Pomposi said she uses an integrative approach in class.

"I'm teaching for student understanding and our goal is communicating," she said.

She teaches about the language used in real life, she said, along with teaching about the Chinese culture.

"I love how you're incorporating all of the culture so that the students don't only learn to speak, but they can understand how to communicate," Barbieri said.

Gallagher said Pomposi's students are engaged by her teaching.

"She just brings a whole different perspective to the classroom," he said.

Before starting in Souderton Area this year, Pomposi taught Chinese at Columbia University, Gallagher said.

The English Language Arts curriculum revisions, including reading, writing and phonics for kindergarten and first grade, is the last part of a four year revision of the ELA curriculum for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, Reilly-Kennedy said.

"In kindergarten, our students begin their whole school experience with a launching of the reading and writing workshop," said Supervisor of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Geri Wilkocz.

She outlined units taught, including Word Detectives, which she said was a favorite in first grade.

"In first grade, because things are getting more complex, they have to learn to be problem solvers when they read and so Word Detectives really walks the student through how to problem solve tricky words that they don't know what they are," Wilkocz said. "It's done in a very playful way. They go on special missions to solve tricky words and they become detectives to solve a problem." 

By the end of first grade, the students are learning about what the stories they read are teaching them, she said. 

Students in first grade do a lot of writing, progressing from simple stories to more complex ones that are shared with classmates, she said.

Kennedy-Reilly and Wilkocz said district teachers worked hard to implement the ELA curriculum revisions at the beginning of the year.     

"Implementing a single curriculum at the start of any year is a challenge, much less doing reading, writing and phonics," Kennedy-Reilly said, "but it is necessary to do all together for the greatest results."   



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