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LS students Ignite the stage

If you are like most people, you don’t like public speaking, in fact you may be afraid of it. However, there are many benefits of learning the art of public speaking that can be advantageous in your personal and professional life. University Liggett’s first grade learners learned this valuable skill in their development and delivery of informative and moving Ignite Talks. Ignite’s slogan is “enlighten us, but make it quick” and that is exactly what our first grade learners did.

When we don’t put limitations on what young people can do, they often surprise us, and themselves! Our first grade learners exceeded all expectations in their depth of wonder, authenticity of probing questions, organization of research, capturing the heart of their topic, and giving truly moving presentations. What started as a spark, an idea, became the highlight of my year.

The more I support learners in: wondering, building explanations, considering different viewpoints, reasoning with evidence, making connections, uncovering complexities, forming conclusions, and taking initiative, the better I gain an understanding of the agency that learner-centered and teacher-guided classrooms are fundamentally built upon. This informs every interaction I have with learners.

My intention is to value the group’s, as well as the individual’s, contribution of ideas and thinking in the spirit of ongoing collaborative inquiry. This is where I find my flow. They make meaning while I ask questions and guide process and development. Learner agency was palpable the night of First Grade Ignite Night. The smiles from the stage after each first grader concluded their Ignite Talk embodied the joy that this experience gave to both of us.

Many years ago, Vygotsky wrote about the idea that learners develop their conceptual capacities working just outside of their independent scope relying on the support and scaffolds of someone more experienced. This is the process by which children grow into the intellectual life around them. At University Liggett School, we focus on ways in which learners make meaning of the world around them. In school, learners are contributing members of their classrooms where thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted everyday. The effect of being a part of this learning environment transcends specific content and subjects and develops overarching thinking and learning dispositions that they apply to the world beyond our walls and the life they might lead in it. When learners are engaged in thinking and iterating their ideas, they develop the belief that it is possible for them to improve. Together teachers and learners identify growth over time and celebrate the ways in which this growth was demonstrated. The first time learners attempted their Ignite Talks, they found comfort in recalling facts they had researched, but by the time they were preparing for ‘dress rehearsal’, we noticed improvisation on ideas and a depth of detail of their topics that emerged. This was discovered together through discussions and feedback. Their eagerness to share was driven by gained confidence and expertise. University Liggett teachers intentionally design for learner choice and ensure that young people see meaning and relevance in the learning they are being asked to engage in. This is the intellectual life around them. As learners advance from lower school to upper school the learning becomes more complex and sophisticated but the ways in which they are making meaning remains consistent. We are confident that the skills and dispositions that experiences such as First Grade Ignite develops lays the groundwork for all other learning at University Liggett School and beyond.