The Bethel Education Foundation (BEF) is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that was organized in August 2009 to support Bethel schools. The mission of the Bethel Education Foundation is to enhance and invest in educational excellence in the Bethel School District. As part of this mission, BEF awards mini grants to teachers annually for a variety of teacher-produced projects. This year, we were fortunate to be awarded not one, but TWO grants from the foundation.
Our first project, A Technology Intervention, will fund the purchase of six Chromebooks with the primary goal of integrating technology into our math block. Bethel School District is in the rollout phase of introducing the Response to Intervention model in math, which means students will need to have independent activities available that can help ensure they are continuing to be actively and meaningfully engaged while the teacher works with small groups of students at the back table during intervention time.
Fortunately, there are a variety of online resources available that students will access on the Chromebooks as they rotate through the technology station, completing tasks such as daily fact fluency practice, accessing highly-engaging online math games such as Prodigy and Zearn and practicing math skills using online interactive math manipulatives. These programs are designed to meet students where their skill level is currently and help them build on those skills, helping students feel a sense of success while filling gaps in learning that will keep them from accessing grade level materials easily.
Our second grant, Magic in Math, will provide supplies and materials to transform math lessons into unforgettable experiences to help students retain content. Based on the book The Wild Card by Hope and Wade King, the idea behind this project is to incorporate games, hands-on activities, engaging mini-lessons, interactive notebooks and mini-room transformations—think math plus a little drama!—into math instruction to help draw in students.
Imagine you walk into your classroom just in time for the morning’s math lesson. “Ok, kiddos, here we go! Open your workbook to page 37. We’re going to learn about arrays today and how we can use skip counting to solve repeated addition problems. Let’s look at the first example. Kimi makes an array using 10 stamps. Her array has two rows. How many stamps are in each row? The book asks us to explain how we know…” Uh-oh. Are you beginning to feel a little bit like the students in the Charlie Brown cartoon where the teacher’s voice sounds like nothing more than some squawking drone?
Now, imagine this. You walk into your classroom to find your teacher dressed like a safari guide. She hands you a badge on a lanyard, a safari hat and a pair of binoculars. You sit down at your desk, which has been pushed together with five others, to make a jeep and find a paper dinosaur and some pom-poms (i.e. dino spikes!). “Oh, explorers! Look! There’s five dinosaurs there in the distance!” she says intriguingly as she peers through her own binoculars strung around her neck. “Five of them!” You pull up your binoculars to your eyes, spotting the picture of the five dinosaurs she’s posted while you were at recess.
“Oh, I wonder if they’re the ones special to the Clear Lake region! We’ll be able to tell if we can figure out how many spikes they have! I’ll use my high vision binoculars to see if I can count the spikes! I’ll need you to record (a vocabulary word from the week) the number of spikes on your explorer charts.” The teacher adjusts her binoculars. She reports out the number of spikes each dino has one by one, as students record how many spikes each one has by placing the pom pom spikes on their paper dinosaurs. Turning back to the class, she says, “Wow! I haven’t seen that many dinosaurs in one region in a long time! How many spikes did we record?” She leads the students through an accounting of their records (each jeep having five dinosaurs with three spikes each) and turns to the board where she has a repeated math sentence displayed: 3+3+3+3+3. Students count by 3’s to 15. “15 spikes! Whoa!”
Our many thanks to the Bethel Education Foundation for their tireless efforts to support the work teachers do each and every day with our students.