Two groups of teachers in Scotland County’s elementary schools were given a way to bring their bright ideas to fruition with recent grants from the Pee Dee Electric Membership Corporation.
The Bright Ideas education grant program, sponsored by North Carolina’s electirc membership cooperatives since 1994, awarded grants to teachers at Laurel Hill Elementary School and Covington Street Elementary School.
Leslie Knauss, a kindergarten teacher at Laurel Hill Elementary School, entered a grant to build listening stations in each of the school’s four kindergarten classrooms. Knauss, with her fellow kindergarten teachers Deborah Taylor, Theresa Hollingsroth, and Angela Beasley, will design the stations to facilitate students’ acquisition of reading fluency.
“A really big part of 21st century learning is making connections to your life, to another story, to something that happened to you, and they can’t do that if they can’t comprehend the story,” Knauss said. “Another huge skill is being independent, being responsible for your own learning. So if they are sitting down at a listening station, putting in their CD, picking up their book, tracking, listening, then doing a follow-up activity, they don’t need you.”
Many students initially struggle while learning to read, expending such effort on articulating words that they are unable to understand their meaning. In listening stations, students will read books while listening to a recording of the book they are reading.
“It’s good for them to hear good reading,” said Taylor. “I had one today where the child read, but it was so choppy that when I asked what happened in the story, he could not tell me. He was so busy focusing only on the words. It was just so broken that they lose the meaning. When you ask them questions, which in kindergarten we now do, we ask them more than just factual questions; we ask what happened in the story and why they think it happened.”
Listening stations will also help students to recognize common English words more quickly, particularly words that are not pronounced phonetically.
“They’ll start to recognize sight words better, what sounds certain letters make, and it all leads to comprehension,” said Knauss.
Knaus received $1,800 for the project, which will help to purchase mp3 players and reading materials for the four classrooms. The stations will also serve as an alternative activity when teachers work with students grouped by skill set.
“You have children who need to really reinforce letter names and letter sounds up to a group of children that knows all their letters, knows all their sounds, can blend the sounds and read words,” Knauss said. “So you want to challenge them with different material.”
While one group of four to six students works with their teacher, the remaining 18 students in a class work on skill games at their desks or computers or at listening stations.
“I like using cooperative learning, where I have two high students at the table, one low student, and two mediums, so that way they can learn from each other and that gives the upper kids a chance to challenge their classmates,” Hollingsworth added. “I like that because sometimes, with 24 children and two teachers, you can’t get to a group at certain times, but if there’s at least one student there who understands what they’re doing, they can assist other students until the teacher gets there.”
At Covington Street, music teachers Angela LeFlore and Emily Lighthall were awarded $1,900 for the purchase of musical instruments.
According to LeFlore, the project will benefit students in all grades in a multitude of ways.
“Music creation is a full body experience,” LeFlore wrote in the grant application. “When a student is participating in an Orff or drum ensemble they are not only learning about music. As a student physically plays music on an instrument they work on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The student is intellectually involving the entire brain at the same time during the music making process. Students are reading notes and works while also using problem solving skills and high order thinking.”