In a small classroom in the heart of Wewahitchka Elementary School, Sharon Peters and Jennifer Holloran gathered six third graders for a lesson involving colored chips, hand puppets and the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
There, the students had been meeting for about a year, pulled out of their other classes a few times a week to work together or one-on-one with Peters and Holloran. Many of them have learning disabilities, Holloran said. These students’ time in the small classroom helps them to target specific difficulties surrounding their language and reading skills.
As the students split into two groups to plan a puppet show based on a story the class collectively read a few minutes prior, Peters demonstrated some of the new resources that had been made available to the class — books, listening devices, puppets, all designed to make the coursework more engaging.
“We don’t have the funds to purchase things like this, and with these hands-on materials, we are able to really reach more of the difficulties that the kids are having,” she said.
“Different kids learn in different ways, and some kids really learn hands-on… This really helps us to reach those kids.”
In the fall, Peters and Martin wrote a literacy and language grant to increase literacy skills for the school’s low-performing exceptional student education (ESE) students, some exhibiting multiple learning disabilities.
Using resources purchased through the grant, along with Benchmark Curriculum and Barton Phonics, the teachers strongly believed their first, second and third grade ESE students would show growth in reading and would advance in Benchmark in all areas: listening, reading fluency, retelling stories, phonemic awareness, decoding and word identification.
They were still waiting for results from the students’ end-of-year assessments at the end of May. But Holloran and Peters showed that class averages had shown significant improvements between assessments given at the beginning of the year and ones given about half way through.
“It really shows that these materials are benefitting those kids,” said Peters. “Their hard work has paid off big time, and without these tools, I don’t think they would be where they are.”
Peters and Holloran wanted to express thanks to the grant sponsors, State Senator Corey Simon, State Representative Jason Shoaf, The Education Foundation of Gulf County, Consortium of Florida Education Foundation and the School District Education Foundation Matching Grant Program.
“We get only so much money to buy things, and that goes for a lot of supplies, markers and paper,” said Holloran. “Every once in a while we can get something like this, but these are like $100. It’s really important because the kids need these hands-on materials, and this grant is providing so many wonderful and tangible things for them to be able to move ahead.”