Language Arts and Life Skills

Jenison Junior High students are combining key components of Language Arts studies with a journalism focus to sharpen powerful life skills. The 8th grade students invited community members to help them hone their listening, speaking and writing proficiency.

Packed with students and friendly interviewees, the JJHS media center was abuzz with conversation. Students were prepared to practice natural speaking and active listening but it also required them to do some quick thinking on their feet. Taking quick, succinct notes was also a challenge.

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Dawn Dykstra shares her perspectives on Jenison as a former student, a current parent, and a current teacher.

Mr. Dustin Morley, 8th grade Language Arts teacher, is excited for this new kind of learning experience, citing that this is pushing kids into an area they may not be overly comfortable with, but gives them valuable practice for these crucial skills. Students rotated stations in the media center conducting multiple interviews. After the class hour concluded, the students worked to complete the project with a feature story about one of their special guests.

I was honored to be among the group sharing my experiences through natural conversation. The students asked some really great questions, taking the discussion in interesting directions. I’m glad our teachers are always looking for creative ways to provide authentic learning experiences. And I’m very encouraged to see the next generation embracing face to face interaction and learning to be active listeners, critical thinkers and contributing citizens of the future.

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Matt Kroon graduated from JHS in 2000; he shares about how the area has changed, including the addition of Rivertown Mall.

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Jamie Scholten discusses how the cost of things such as gas has changed drastically. 

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Doug Smith, a retired JJHS social studies teacher, uses sports props to engage students and talk about his experiences. 

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Kara VandenBerg shares about her work with dogs, including Bernie the golden retriever. 

 

 

JJHS presents Seussical the Musical, Jr.

A few weeks ago, the Jenison Junior High Thespians traveled to our elementary schools to give students a sneak peek of what was to come in their show, Seussical the Musical, Jr. While they used limited props and were unable to travel with their amazing set, this is always a fun experience for the actors and audience alike and sparked great excitement.

Since then, the finishing touches have been finalized and the JJHS production officially opens the curtain tonight! Led by Director – Holly Florian, Music Director – Sarah Hazel and Choreography Director – Carol Johnson; this group of dedicated and passionate students (on stage and many hidden behind stage) have demonstrated amazing team work and put their talents to work creating something very special.

The story on stage begins with a small boy, with a big imagination. With assistance from the Cat in the Hat, an inspiring and peculiar story will unfold; transporting viewers into an imaginative, colorful, and playful world. At first glance, Horton is just a jolly and friendly elephant, but soon he exhibits a dedication to his beliefs with inspiring determination. Director, Holly Florian embraces this theme and says: “In a year where young people have committed to making their voices and beliefs heard on a National and International level, Horton’s story has been a reminder of the power of listening carefully, and not being afraid to speak up in the face of injustice.”

136804905aecb19948c2b14793d449147828c32a13680527681ae838fca1bfffc5d630c0f4652fd8This show will be a hit for all ages, as many of us grew up reading Dr. Seuss and his stories remain a classic for students today. Ms. Florian captures the essence of the joy behind this show for her and the students saying, “His stories allow the reader to be transported to a magical world where anything is possible and even the “smallest of smalls” can have a role in making a positive change in the world.”

Treat yourself this weekend and make time to witness this spectacular show! I promise, you will leave your seat inspired to follow in Horton’s footsteps and make the world a better place! Show times are January 24 and 25 at 7:00pm and January 26 and 27 at 2:30pm. Tickets are available here!

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JJHS Language Arts Teachers Alana Kooi & Deb VanDuinen Rise to the Top!

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(L to R) Language Arts teachers Alana Kooi and Deb VanDuinen

For the past several years, Jenison Junior High Language Arts teachers Alana Kooi and Deb VanDuinen have been focused on a single goal: improving Language Arts instruction for their students and empowering other educators across the state and nation to do the same.

Together they have studied research related to how students learn to read and write, have poured over methodologies, and have applied new instructional techniques in their classrooms. Not afraid to ask hard questions, they have challenged traditional perspectives in favor of approaches that have been proven with data.

Because of their determination to excel, Mrs. Kooi and Mrs. VanDuinen have emerged as leaders in their field, recently receiving certification as consultants with the National Writing Project. They have additionally been awarded a grant in “Leadership and Learning” from the NEA and have completed work with the Lake Michigan Writing Project. 

Working as a team, this duo has presented at numerous conferences and conducted countless workshops to train their colleagues and help them develop a “deeper understanding of how students develop as learners…and use research-driven best practices in the classroom.”

Aside from working locally with West Michigan districts as the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, Mrs. Kooi and Mrs. VanDuinen have also presented at the Michigan Council of Teachers of English conference (MCTE).

“We’ve been privileged to work closely with teachers in several districts in the area over extended time — it’s exciting to build these relationships and see their enthusiasm about teaching writing!” they said.

Both women say the most important part of their work is the personal growth they’ve experienced along the way. Being well-read and aware of current developments in research gives them the tools needed to individualize their instruction and offer “specific moves” for their students to use in their writing. This also lays the foundation for stronger writers who are able to work more independently in a workshop-style classroom format.

This summer the team will be serving as facilitators for the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators (MAISA)During the conference, Mrs. Kooi and Mrs. VanDuinen will be part of a team tasked with the enormous undertaking of aligning all of Michigan’s K-12 classrooms with the Common Core standards. They hope to achieve this with a student-centered approach to reading and writing.

“We thoroughly enjoy this work! It has changed how we see teaching and learning, and provided opportunities to work with other professionals on the cutting edge of education.”

Please join us in applauding Mrs. Van Duinen and Mrs. Kooi for modeling life-long learning and for their commitment to excellence in the classroom!