Oprah Winfrey found her way into a Keppel Elementary School classroom Wednesday, in the form of a fifth-grader with a pony tail.
Suzy Zaroyan, 10, had taken on the role of Winfrey during one of a series of skits meant to help connect students with history lessons they might otherwise have glossed over, teacher April Faieta said.
Suzy was interviewing 11-year-old Jyrek Robinson, who was acting as a 15th-century South American who said he had met Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, when she interrupted her classmate as if she was the talk show host.
“Well, that’s funny, because Christopher Columbus is here!” Suzy called out as she welcomed one of her classmates into the room as the surprise guest.
Students had learned in recent weeks about Columbus and his discovery of the Americas, and Faieta decided it was a good opportunity for an interactive learning activity. She asked the students to create skits that would help re-explain portions of their studies to the rest of class, she said.
“I thought it would just be more interesting, and the kids got more into it,” she said.
The final presentations were impressive and surprisingly thorough, especially since they came from a group that had previously shown little interest in history lessons, she said.
“I think they like it better not just reading it and doing a test on it, but actually interpreting it in their own way,” she said.
Some students made rough video skits using a pocket-sized digital camera, which Faieta plugged into an elevated TV to share with the class. Others used props, like signs and costumes made out of butcher paper, or a drawing displayed using an overhead projector.
“It seemed more creative than, like, reading a book,” said 10-year-old Ara Sukiasyan, after he gave a news brief on the impacts of explorers on South American populations. “You can, like, bring it to the class in a more fun way.”
Students chuckled as their peers sang and danced during introductions or could be seen reading from scripts during one video. The lesson also challenged students to find additional information from what was in the class textbook, Faieta said. Some students had turned to the Internet for research.
“It helped me know more than just reading it because it was more fun and exciting,” Suzy said. “Because social studies isn’t really that exciting reading it in a book.”
For Ara, the most fun part of the activity was pretending to be a news anchor.
“It was really cool acting out, like, Fox 11 News,” he said. “I watch that every morning, so I know how they do it.”
KIDS TALK BACK
The Glendale News-Press visited a fifth-grade class where children were performing social studies skits and asked students, “What do you like most about acting out your lessons, and why?”
“I thought it was fun to be able to bring social studies alive in a fun way and be able to do it with our friends.”
SIANNA TOONE, 10
“We get to see social studies in the making and we get to do it with our friends.”
MONICA BROWN, 11
"We write scripts and you can show the class what you want. And it feels like you’re learning more about it by doing it.”
KAMILAH ZADI, 10
“Normal social studies we just read it, but when you’re doing skits you bring social studies to life and it’s better for kids because we don’t like doing just reading, we like doing it in a more creative way.”
MONTEH HARTOUNIAN, 11
“You just can express yourself in social studies instead of just reading the book and going on to a new chapter.”
ELENA NAZARIANS, 10