Ory will stress communication arts in the fall

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 10, 1998

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / April 10, 1998

LAPLACE – Students selected to attend the John L. Ory Communication Arts Magnet School in the fall will have an edge over other students.

They will learn all subjects, but a special emphasis will be placed on written and oral communication skills, Principal Teri Noel said.

Magnet school advisory committee members define communication arts as a program “that uses the communication skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking to teach basic skills.

Writing is used in conjunction with reading in the context of studying science, social studies, literature and mathematics.”

The magnet school committee, made up of parents, teachers, school board members, administrators, business representatives and Noel, was formed to study the different types of magnet schools available and to select the type that would best accommodate the students in St. John Parish.

The reason the committee chose the communication arts magnet school, Noel said, is because, although students were passing LEAP tests, they were scoring low in reading comprehension.

The committee researched elementary schools in Miami which were implementing the same type of magnet program and discovered big improvements in reading scores.

Noel said students are already prepared to fit into the magnet setting by completing activities requiring the usage of the two points of communication arts that students will be using in the fall.

To sharpen oral communication skills, each class had the opportunity to be the leaders during the morning assembly for a week or two, allowing students to share different forms of communication including songs, skits, plays and sign language.

Written communication has been practiced through the school’s post office, Wee Deliver, which is run by the second-graders. But second-graders weren’t the only ones to benefit. Students wrote letters to peers and teachers through the mail system. The school also has a newspaper club that put out an issue each month. Also, a music program was offered to all students, giving them the opportunity to write their own songs.

Noel said through early implementation of magnet school atmosphere, students are already showing improvement in reading. Pam Beadle’s seventh-graders were the ones who showed the most drastic improvement, she said.

Scores improved because Beadle took a different approach to teaching reading. Instead of students reading the basal reader, Beadle had them read novels instead. The seventh-graders read “The Outsiders” and became so engrossed that they dressed as characters from the book one day.

“Novel reading requires them to do a further study,” Noel said.

Reading scores in the class were much lower the nine weeks before, Noel added. “Just in nine weeks about 80 percent of the students successfully passed reading,” she said.

The school now not only implements Writing to Write in second and third grades, but in fourth through seventh as well. Writing to Write is available for second- and third-graders parish- wide. “All schools have this available to them,” Noel said. “It’s just whether the teacher buys into it and uses it.”

The program is computer software that teaches students the steps to go through in researching a topic and writing a paper. But Noel said teachers need to be innovative with their time to use the program because it usually takes about an hour a day to implement it.

These programs and many more, including a radio station, closed circuit broadcast station and many writing activities such as newspaper, journal and book writing will be available to students who attend the school in the fall.

“It has evolved over the course of the year,” Noel said of the magnet school concept. “To best meet the needs of the kids and to have something the teachers could implement easily, we found that communication arts was the program that would best meet the needs for the students’ achievement as well as something reasonable the district could afford.”

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