At Lift For Life Academy, we, as a community, work to ensure that our students will go out into the world after graduation prepared for post-secondary endeavors and civic involvement. While we are able to inspire students to learn about the different paths they can take in their future with unique electives like culinary arts, fashion design and Chinese language, LFLA teachers are also able to work unique, engaging elements into their core curriculum classes.
One such teacher is Ms. Sinclair, who teachers Senior Composition among other high school English classes. While lower-level English classes may focus more on reading comprehension and writing reports, Ms. Sinclair’s Senior Composition class focuses on projects that help students find their voice with projects that not only respond to literature, but also film, news and current events that have a major impact in their lives today.
“One of the assignments I give my senior composition students is the cause-and-effect essay,” said Ms. Sinclair. We begin by watching a documentary called The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, which details the various causes for the failure of one of the most notorious housing projects in the country. We analyze the way the filmmaker structures and presents this documentary. Then, we turn to other problems in our society that have more than one potential cause. Some students research the causes for continued segregation in St. Louis, for instance, or the factors that led to the Great Recession.”
While this assignment reinforces students’ abilities to organize their thoughts and hone their writing skills, Ms. Sinclair also sees other benefits for the students.
“This assignment doesn’t only teach strong research and writing skills,” said Ms. Sinclair. “It also teaches students to think critically, to look for the comprehensive answer to a question rather than the simple answer, and to consider how to best organize their thoughts and get their message across to an audience.”
In this way, Ms. Sinclair encourages her students to use writing not only as an analytical tool, but also as a path towards self-reflection on past and current issues.
“The project I look forward to the most every year is the final project in senior composition,” said Ms. Sinclair. “As their last big writing project, the seniors choose a topic to research, organize, and present to their classmates. This weeks-long project requires students to research a topic thoroughly, decide on an organizational pattern, use proper formatting to write the essay and cite their sources, and present their findings using art or technology.”
This inter-disciplinary approach to researching and writing about a current topic keeps students especially engaged because, often, they are able to read, write and present about things that have had profound impacts in their lives.
“In the past, my students have researched the Black Lives Matter movement, the fashion industry, or the history of Japanese anime. The final presentations take up the last few class periods, and it’s a satisfying way for students to end their high school career.”
We’re grateful to have teachers like Ms. Sinclair who are not merely getting students through the required curriculum, but are going above and beyond to help our young scholars discover a passion for learning and making a change. It’s only a matter of time before we see how these voices will make a difference in the St. Louis community.