Jim Roberson, Berkmar Middle School, Gwinnett County, $1,080
Literacy for the Deaf
Jim Roberson is charged with teaching a second language; not Spanish or French. He’s teaching English to deaf children who use American Sign Language at Berkmar Middle School.
“In English, words have multiple meanings, but we only have one sign,” he explained. “Deaf students can’t make sense of the word in print because they don’t have those multiple meanings built up in their head.”
Think about the various meanings for the word “run.” You can run an errand, run for president, your pantyhose can run, your nose can run and you can run a race. When a student reads a book and they only understand one meaning for “run”, they can become confused.
“You have to understand that word has multiple meanings in your mind,” he said. “The English language may have more idiomatic expressions than any other language and that creates obstacles, too.”
Roberson used an innovation grant to purchase a literacy program that uses sign language.
“Without the proper tools to help them learn, many deaf and hard of hearing students never learn to read passed a fourth grade reading level,” Roberson said.
Dana Harrell, West Jackson Middle School, Jackson County, $1,229
The Stories We Sing
If you listen closely, you can hear our country’s history in the folk songs we sing. Yankee Doodle Dandy, for example, teaches us about life during the American Revolution. Dana Harrell, choral director at West Jackson Middle School, wants to empower her students to tell these stories and make them their own. Using grant funds, her students will do everything from arranging and recording music to designing the artwork for the CD cover and marketing their recording for sale.
“We are learning a variety of American Folk Songs, all which are in the public domain so that they can be arranged without permissions and fees,” Harrell said. “The students are coming up with ideas about how to change the songs to make them more exciting to listen to.”
In all, her chorus will record their versions of 13 traditional songs using their new sound equipment and will sell the music as a fundraiser for the chorus.
“This has been an adventure in music, history, marketing, recording and working together,” she said. “We will continue to use our recording equipment in the classroom, primarily as a tool to listen to our progress on music we are rehearsing, evaluate and make appropriate changes.”
Recordings from the chorus will be available at: http://danaharrellsonlineportfolio.weebly.com/the-stories-we-sing-cd.html
Tina Kinchen, Westside Middle School, Barrow County, $1,819
3D Physical Science
Two students are fighting in a corner of the classroom; a couple of group members disagreed over whose turn it was to weigh the copper cube on the balance.
“I’m always surprised by what they are interesting in-that task in lab they all want to do,” said Tina Kinchen, physical science teacher at Westside Middle School.
This type of disagreement is happy chaos. If not for the Bright Ideas innovation grant, Kinchen said her students wouldn’t have the resources for these hands-on labs. Today, students are learning about density using cubes and cylinders made from different materials. A cube made of copper and one made of plastic may be the same size, but their density is very different. That’s not an easy concept to wrap your mind around unless you can physically touch them, weigh, measure and compare the two.
“Last year, trying to teach some of these physical science concepts without these resources—even electricity and magnetism—you can watch videos and talk about it, but giving the students the opportunity to manipulate things and work collaboratively with other people in their discovery – that interaction isn’t possible with a worksheet.”