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May 24, 2017

Paideia Seminar at Ernie Pyle School 90  
 
 
 
The classrooms inside Ernie Pyle School 90 were overflowing
with thoughtful conversations on Wednesday, May 24, as students in kindergarten
through sixth grade sat in circles in their individual classrooms, politely sharing
their thoughts about courage.

 

Using evidence from books read to support
their responses, students were conscious of being respectful to their
classmates, raising their hands when they wanted to speak.

 

While this scene might seem unusual, at
Ernie Pyle it’s simply the Paideia Seminar way.

 

Once a month, Ernie Pyle hosts the seminars
for all grade levels at the K-6 school — even the youngest students participate. The
mandatory seminars are facilitated by classroom teachers asking open-ended
questions about the books read.

 

This month, students read everything from
“Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun” by Maria Dismondy to “The Story of Ruby Bridges”
by Robert Coles to “Henry’s Freedom Box” by Ellen Levine.

 

“The seminars are used to increase
critical-thinking skills, so they’re not your basic-level knowledge questions,”
said Valerie Allen, principal of Ernie Pyle. “Students have to cite evidence
from the text when answering. They have to use something in the text that can
support their thinking.”

 

Ernie Pyle is an IPS Paideia (choice) school. Paideia focuses on active learning that promotes higher-level
thinking. Students are taught how to have meaningful discussions about a story
by using evidence to support the responses.    

 

This focus is one of the reasons Allen signed on as school
principal. This is her third year at the helm.

 

“What attracted me to Ernie Pyle really was the Paideia
seminars and the critical-thinking. What I like most is that, during the
seminars, students are taught how to speak to each other respectfully and how
to disagree respectfully,” said Allen. “It teaches them how to listen and to
speak intelligently and to use the evidence that you have, not just formulate
ideas just because that’s how you feel.”

 

In an effort to raise awareness about the Paideia method,
the seminars are open to families and those seeking to learn more about the
school.

 

Each month there’s a new theme for the seminars. This month,
Allen wanted students to walk away a deeper understanding of the word courage.

 

“I
hope that the students understand that it takes courage, and along with courage
it takes perseverance. I want them to learn that having courage doesn’t
necessarily mean that they’re not afraid,” said Allen. “Courage is when they
are willing to go ahead, despite the fear that they may have. It takes courage
for people to do something. You just have to have the courage to do it, despite
the adversity that’s around you.”

 

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