The keynote lineup for this year’s Vision 2020 conference
has been announced. The conference will take place July 15 – 17, 2014 at
the Cox Convention Center with the following keynotes:
- Tuesday, July 15: Lee Roland, principal at Tulakes
Elementary in Putnam City Schools.
- Wednesday, July 16: Paul Tough, author of How Children
Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden
Power of Character.
- Thursday, July 17: Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined.
For more information about Vision 2020, please
Test-taking can be a stressful time for students, but a
number of innovative teachers throughout Oklahoma have tapped their creative
energies to make the experience fun and interesting for their classes.
At West Elementary School in Weatherford Public Schools,
teachers got their fourth- and fifth-grade students pumped up with a pep rally. Teachers donned brightly colored wigs and “Rock the Test” T-shirts
for an assembly in which they strutted their stuff to Queen’s “We Will Rock
You” and other adrenaline-charged songs. A couple of high school seniors gave
the kids tips on how to be ready for tests.
“We just tell the students that you’ve been taught
everything you know. Do your best and you’ll be fine,” said principal Ryan
The Weatherford teachers aren’t the only ones who have
taken to the dance floor for the sake of the kids. At Coolidge Elementary in
Oklahoma City Public Schools, teachers headlined an assembly for a
tongue-in-cheek version of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it).” The
lyrics were customized a bit for the occasion: “If the answer’s right, put a mark on it.”
That wasn’t all. Kids who arrived at school by 8 a.m.
were eligible for drawings for prizes such as Frisbees, hula hoops and sidewalk
chalk. Students also found encouragement through an array of posters that lined
“It truly takes a village to take the test at Coolidge
Elementary,” said Coolidge principal Annette Williams.
Dancing for your students is gutsy enough, but what about
showing off your vocal prowess? In Tulsa’s Union Public Schools, teacher
Samantha Gross was brave enough to dive into the songbook of Disney’s hit
movie, Frozen. The night before her
third-grade students were scheduled to take the reading test, Gross’ husband
videotaped her singing “Do You Want to Pass the State Test?” The tune is a
reworking of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”
“I expose my kids to YouTube videos all the time, because
that’s how we’re learning right now. It’s all audio and visual,” explained
Gross, who is in her first year teaching third grade. “I wanted to
create something that was really personal to our class.”
The following morning, Gross showed the video to her
students — after first closing the classroom door, of course, lest anyone else
hear her Princess Anna imitation. The kids were delighted.
Little did Gross realize at the time that her husband had
posted the video on YouTube.
“It took some guts to actually do it,” she said with a
laugh. “It wasn’t supposed to get out the way it did.”
Students at Fox Elementary School in the Carter County town of Fox, Okla., recently topped more than 11,970 other schools throughout the nation to claim the title in a math competition. The winning students were recognized at an awards ceremony last week at the school.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi congratulated students for winning Think Through Math’s “March Math Madness” competition.
“These kids competed for this award by spending many hours taking math lessons,” she said. “It’s wonderful they are being rewarded for their ambition to succeed in such an important subject. It’s refreshing to see students so excited about learning.”
Third- and fourth-grade students at Fox completed 143,825 math problems and took 5,293 math lessons during the contest. All together, they spent 869 hours on the program, including 99 hours when class was not in session.
Fourth-grade teacher Becky Tivis said the school opened its computer lab for two days during spring break so students could come in and take lessons. Many used Think Through Math at home in addition to a daily class set aside for the program.
Think Through Math is a web-based program that challenges students with customized lessons and encourages learning with rewards and competitions. It allows students to practice mathematical concepts at their own pace, while providing classroom teachers with live progress reports.
“We have some extremely competitive kids in these classes,” Tivis said. “On the final night we had kids who were up to midnight trying to do as many lessons as they could.”
Tivis said things really began to heat up when the kids realized they had made it to the “sweet 16” schools in the bracket-styled competition, which is scored by the number of successfully completed lessons. While Tivis noted that the Fox students particularly wanted to beat any schools from Texas, their focus was on earning the championship.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) contracts with Think Through Math to make it available to districts at no cost to them, although there is a limit on the number of total users. Districts also can contract with Think Through Math, which is what the Fox School District did.
OSDE first contracted with Think Through Math in the 2012-2013 school year.
Many schools use Think Through Math in the classroom, but it can also be utilized by students when school is not in session. The company includes certified math teachers who are available to chat with students when they need help with a lesson.
In the 2012-2013 school year, more than 70,000 Oklahoma students signed up for Think Through Math. Program participants answered almost 17 million math problems, nearly 3.5 million of which were completed outside of class. Students also spent nearly 10,000 hours receiving one-on-one assistance through the program.
To learn more about Think Through Math in Oklahoma, visit: http://www.ok.gov/sde/think-through-math