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February 13, 2014

Top Five Activities from Umoja’s Curriculum

Manley_StudentsFINAL-smaller.jpgUmoja’s comprehensive 400+ lesson curriculum is being implemented in seven high schools across the city this year through for-credit grade-level Seminars or school-wide weekly Advisories.

All of our school partners also have critical partners in Umoja staff on the ground supporting the teachers - teachers like Ms. Bentley and Mr. Smith. Here is just a snapshot of their favorite moments from the school year so far:

  • At Al Raby High School the seniors particularly loved the “Game of Life” activity. In this introductory lesson to the College and Career Unit, students warm up with a Gallery Walk analyzing quotes which compare life to a game of cards. In the mini lesson, students unpack and apply the metaphor of a game of cards to their lives. In the workshop, students reflect on “the hand they’ve been dealt” and the changes they need to make to acquire a “winning hand” using playing cards. In closing, students share their “hand” with a small group. On one of the students’ posters sharing their reflections, a student wrote, “I have an 8 of hearts because that’s how many college applications I completed, but a 2 of Clubs because my GPA is low and I need to get it up.”

  • Juniors at South Shore left class inspired the day they did a lesson preparing them for college application essays. This set of lessons focuses on preparing students to write "This I Believe" essays about their personal values around education, which can serve as a first draft for a college application essay. One of the students brainstormed with Umoja staff about his passions and she talked to him about the importance of writing from your heart. He then sat writing feverishly for the entire period about his passion for music and later told the teacher it was the most meaningful thing he's done all year.

  • Seniors at Sullivan have been diving into a number of lessons on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Financial aid is notoriously complicated for first generation college students, but critical to being able to attend college. At the end of December, they worked on a set of lessons, which includes FAFSA Bingo, understanding FAFSA terms, and actually filling out the paper FAFSA to practice getting information right. On the first day back from break, one student shared that she had a friend who accidentally went to fafsa.com and paid to fill out her FAFSA. The student told her friend right away that she had made a mistake, and the girl was able to get money back from the company she paid. (FAFSA should be free.) The student knew that she shouldn't pay for FAFSA because of what was covered in class. In addition, after break, the Postsecondary Leadership Team at Sullivan had a highly attended FAFSA Night for families to get information on financial aid.

  • Freshmen at Manley High School spent a lot of time this fall on team-building and developing the skills they will need to survive and thrive in high school. One activity this fall was designed to help them think about the importance of persisting through obstacles. The students had to work together to get a ball through a series of tubes. One student who generally does not like to participate in activities started out calling the activity “lame” but ended being one of the leaders in his group helping others work together. At the end of the activity he reflected that “This was really hard, but we did it.”

  • At DeVry Advantage Academy, when a teacher was absent, one of Umoja’s staff ended up facilitating an Advisory on gratitude and giving thanks with juniors. A number of students were brought to tears when writing letters of gratitude to their family and friends. The activity truly exemplified how moving only a small group of students at a time—in terms of social-emotional learning—can be an important triumph and contribute to a supportive learning environment.