A team approach to literacy

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For Daniel Boone Elementary second-grade teacher Jill Van Dyke, the benefits of a Mike's Kids Education Foundation literacy grant are too numerous to count. 

That's why she collaborates with a team of teachers every year to apply for the $500 prize. And every year since the grant program's inception in 2009, this team has been a winner.Daniel Boone Betsy Ross Project

MKEF literacy grants help make possible creative classroom activities that promote student-centered learning and enhance education. Every year, 17 grants are awarded to teachers who bring innovative approaches to literacy into the classroom.

The Daniel Boone team — which has also included Tracy Hall, Lisa Sizemore, Angela Vaughn, Sondra Smyth and Cindy Moberly — has built upon a variety of projects that give students confidence in spelling, grammar and writing.

The team's most recent project focused on biographies. Students researched and wrote biographies about influential people in history, also making movies about them using Photo Story 3 (see video above). Van Dyke's students were recognized at the 2014 Madison County Schools Technology Extravaganza with a first-place and third-place award for their biography videos.

"The students absolutely loved it," Van Dyke said. 

Five years ago, Van Dyke used the grant to purchase authentic Chinese costumes that have been used in five different plays by 100 students. Students created all of the scenery, blocking and props, and performed for the entire second grade and their families.

Another grant provided resources for an Appalachian studies unit that continues to be part of the curriculum. The teachers purchased material and felt glue to create classroom quilts, cornhusks and twine to make corn shuck dolls, Ivory soap for whittling and resource material to learn about Jack tales. Guest speakers have included dulcimer makers, doll makers, a bluegrass band, a quilter, a whittler, an author and a basket maker. 

Previous grants have supplied grade-level appropriate biographies for the entire second grade that have been used for three years and by 300 students, as well as miniature word walls and dictionaries. Every student in the second grade at Daniel Boone will go home with a mini-word wall filled with hundreds of words of their choice. Students also benefit from a handwriting improvement center, which allows for a staff member to work on letter formation with individual students or small groups.

"Students used the letter center to improve their fine motor skills, which in turn improved their writing and language skills," Van Dyke said. "One mother was so excited by her child's neat handwriting, she thought I sent home the wrong spelling test."

The second-grade team at Daniel Boone is extremely appreciative of all of the support Mike's Kids grants have provided to second-grade classes, Van Dyke said.

"Each project has been successful and carried on to this day," she said. "Giving us the resources to provide our students with valuable, hands-on experiences is something that they will always remember."