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Singing adds new 'dimensions' to learning

March 01, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Making up a song that incorporates key people and events from the American Revolution period wasn't too tough, said Northern Middle School eighth-grader Katie Sigafoose, whose group penned lyrics about the second Continental Congress to the tune of "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

It was fun to take information they had learned and try to explain it in a song, said Sigafoose. She, along with Latisha Williams and Kayla Cline, performed the song for classmates this week.

"It makes it more interesting instead of just sitting there writing out of a book," said Sigafoose, 14.

She said she wishes teachers would assign more projects that build on the information they're teaching and link it to real life.

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The project is a good example of how "Dimensions of Learning" - a framework of five instructional goals - can work, said social studies teacher Claire Seibert.

She said the assignment would be considered a "Dimension 4" activity - where students are asked to meaningfully apply historical knowledge by translating into either a song or a poem.

The framework provides teachers with new terminology and lesson-plan organization, explained Seibert, one of three teachers on Northern Middle's Dimensions of Learning peer training team.

"To a real veteran teacher, these are probably things you did all along anyway," said Seibert, who has been teaching for eight years.

Other "Dimensions of Learning" goals include:

  • To make learning a positive activity.
  • To get students to extend and refine their knowledge by putting it to use.
  • To have students use their knowledge meaningfully in a new context.
  • To help students develop productive thinking habits.


The framework - based on a theory of how students learn - will be used by teachers at all grade levels in the Washington County school system, said Donna Newcomer-Coble, who coordinates professional staff training.

Elementary school teams were trained last year, with the plan of having them return to their schools and train other teachers, Newcomer-Coble said.

Teams from the county's middle and high schools were trained earlier this year under the same plan, she said.

Newcomer-Coble said the framework promotes critical thinking, which students need to do well on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests.

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