Classroom of the Week | Craneville third-graders lead their own way through learning

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DALTON — Whether it's singing songs to learn multiplication, using Skittles candies to master fractions or using Chromebooks to take on digital math and English language arts challenges, Dawn Sickell's third-grade students at Craneville Elementary School are quick to embrace creative ways of thinking and learning.

Parent Shana Huban Spratt, who nominated the group as a "Classroom of the Week," said that Sickell "is always looking for new ideas to engage the students."

During a visit to the class last week, students were conducting a survey among themselves on topics of their choosing. They collected notes on subjects like favorite sports, favorite ice cream flavors and even favorite lessons they've had in the class. Ultimately, the data will be used to make charts and graphs and used in a math lesson.

"I try to do some different things in our class to give [the students] a lot more choices," Sickell said.

One of the new things she has introduced this year is the use of Chromebooks and digital tools. Each student has a laptop to use to communicate with one another, complete assignments, and to create slideshows, posters, essays and more.

"They teach me how to use a lot of this," Sickell said.

Sammie Kaley and Logan Goyette toured this reporter through online math programs like Prodigy and Sumdog and talked about a popular interactive video lesson with "Mystery Doug."

"It's pretty awesome. They're games, but they still have learning in them," Sammie explained.

Sickell said that giving students these different options and new technology tools in learning has "been a little hard" for her, "because I'm a very structured person, but I've learned to let go of it a little bit. I've found I do enjoy it, because I see a different side of them and the way they're learning and they're sharing their work. They're very proud of it."

Alex Roots talked about how he was proud to share his love for hunting with his dad by doing a research report on pheasants. Trevion Hawkins was quick to show his poster about Albert Einstein hanging on the wall, and the posters of some other friends in class. He also shared an illustrated report on the white-cheeked spider monkey.

As for doing all this along with such things as creating original poetry in class, he says, "I love it."

Kalen Spratt, clipboard in hand, reported that, in addition to poetry, other favorite class projects included a read-aloud unit about Kate DiCamillo's book, "Because of Winn-Dixie," and the "Bottle Buddy" assignment. For the latter, students had to do biographical research on a person and then create a sculpture of them, using a water bottle or soda bottle as a base.

Kalen, for example, did his model of Walt Disney, which is on display with others in a glass case by the front office. In a row, you can also find Rosa Parks, George Lucas, Malala Yousafzai and Franklin Roosevelt.

Another big class project shared with the school that impressed parent Shana Huban Spratt was its hurricane-relief efforts to collect and organize change.

The first day, the class asked that people bring in pennies, then subsequently nickels, then dimes, then quarters and, finally, bills. They ended up donating $1,000 each to a school in Florida and one in Texas.

"The excitement and goodwill that it brought to Craneville is something everyone should experience. I was so fortunate to be able to go into the class and help roll change and watch the children light up as the number grew larger and larger," Huban Spratt said.

Sickell said the enthusiasm is something that the students bring to the classroom.

"It feels kind of good, learning new stuff," said student Ovi Telavane, who was also more than happy to show off her poetry and a report on hummingbirds.

"It's a very nice group, very nice kids," Sickell said. "They're pretty supportive of each other."


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