January 2016 Curriculum Newsletter

Benton School District

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What's Algebra Got to Do with Angry Birds?

Recently, at Benton Junior High, Kim Piper’s Honors Algebra students were studying quadratics. She had seen an Angry Birds activity presented at a recent workshop and wanted to try it out. The purpose of the Angry Birds activity is to find the vertex and the roots of the equations. Just like the game, there were pigs in the mix so they had to determine which birds hit the pigs. Mrs. Piper thought, what better way to have students incorporate Algebra into their real life while having fun all at the same time!

Each student was assigned four birds. Based on what the students had learned in Algebra on quadratics and how parabolas behaved, they had to determine which bird flew the highest and traveled the longest distance after working through the following problems:

Red Bird, Yellow Bird, Blue Bird, and Black Bird are angry at the pigs. The pigs stole the birds’ eggs. The birds want their eggs back and will stop at nothing to get them back. The flight path of the birds can be modeled with a parabola. Use “x” as the distance and “y” as the height.

For each bird, answer the following questions.

1. What is the equation for the parabola?

2. What is the axis of symmetry?

3. What is the maximum height?

4. What is the total distance traveled and the total time traveled?

5. Describe when the bird is going higher and when the bird is falling.

Which bird flew the highest and traveled the longest?

Finally, figure out which bird hit the following pigs.

The project had five different versions so students had different data. Students made presentations of their work and all did a great job!

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Sixth Grade Quiz Bowl Wins 2nd Place

Benton Middle School Quiz Bowl team won 2nd place in the Dawson Quiz Bowl Tournament at Henderson State University on December 9, 2015. Susan McClendon is the Gifted and Talented facilitator and coach of this team at BMS.

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Front Row: Erin Brasher, Bobbie Barnes, Zac Bevil Back Row: Luke Fergsuon, Izzy Hammonds, Kinsey Garofalo, Andrew Armstrong, and Jack Ginther.

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'Tis the Season to Be Writing

A good educator looks at every opportunity and thinks to herself, “How can I use this to spawn learning in my classroom?”


Kindergarten teachers throughout the district have seized opportunities of the Christmas season to incorporate real world experiences into their classroom curriculum.

Many of our students went to Saline County Library to enjoy holiday festivities. Because Howard Perrin Elementary is within walking distance, their students walked to the library for a visit with Jolly Old St. Nicholas. Kindergarten teacher Shelly Harmon recounts, “Our kindergarteners were able to hear stories, sing songs, and make a necklace, but the highlight was seeing Santa. When they returned they used the experience as a prompt for their narrative writing."


Santa made his annual visit to Ringgold Elementary to visit all the kids on his nice list! The students expressed their excitement as they drew and wrote about the experience during their journal time.


The Polar Express is a wonderful story that all children love to hear. Students wear PJ’s and enjoy warm cocoa as a way to mimic the characters in the book. Teachers use the book as a stem for math and literacy instruction as Kathryn Wormington, from Caldwell recalls, “Our school did several activities centered on the Polar Express. After reading the book, our students wrote about their Christmas wishes. After drinking hot cocoa, we created a graph to represent whether we like hot cocoa with or without marshmallows.” Angie Grant teacher Shara Rickett added, “We sequenced the story and retold it through pictures and words. Our students were given their very own polar express bell as a surprise.”


As students leave for the two week break to make memories with their families during this Christmas season, teachers are confident in knowing they have done their part in creating a foundation for lifelong learning.


Jacqueline Vergason

K-2 Literacy Instructional Facilitator

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Literacy...the App for Life

November 19th and 20th, several of our teachers gathered with other educators around the state and beyond, for the annual Arkansas Reading Conference in Little Rock. This year’s theme, “Literacy…the App for Life” was such a timely theme for this year’s conference, as technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity…just like the ability to read!

While at the conference, attendees enjoyed a session with literacy guru Dr. Linda Dorn, Professor of Literacy Education at ULAR, discussing Engaging Children in Making Meaning. This session looked at ways students build connections and make meaning, as they read and discuss complex texts.

Ruth Culham, author of 6+1 Traits Writing Model, sharing that teachers must use the correct language so that students know they are scaffolding last week’s writing. Her philosophy is “squeeze it once and let it go; give them one thing to work on and let other things go until another time.” This model focuses on helping students develop their writing through ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence formation, conventions, and presentation. These 6+1 points are the key elements that define quality writing.

Sara Ward, 4th Grade Literacy at Howard Perrin, shared, “The highlight in my opinion was hearing Ruth Culham speak. I also enjoyed being able to look at the different writing programs that existed. I went to several great sessions, but two of my favorites were on organizing a parent/student book club and on nonfiction books. I hope to be able to attend the conference next year.”


Jodi Quinn

Instructional Facilitator 3-5

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Welcome New Facilitators!

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Kelli Fuller

Kelli has been chosen as the new Elementary Math Facilitator. She has been teaching fourth grade math at Caldwell and will be working at both Howard Perrin and Ringgold elementary schools. When asked about her new position, Kelli commented, “I am very excited about this new opportunity to work with so many wonderful teachers in the best district around! I am also excited to share ideas and get to know so many new faces. I feel so blessed to be a part of the Benton School District.”

Kelli is originally from Louisiana and is a graduate of the University of the Ozarks. Prior to teaching at Caldwell, she taught first grade in Texas and in Lonoke. She then moved to the Little Rock School District where she taught fourth grade and was a part time literacy coach.

Kelli loves reading, painting, crafting, and spending time with her family. She and her husband Chris have two children, Ryan and Landry.

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Jenny Parnell

Jenny has been chosen as the new Secondary Literacy Facilitator. She has been teaching English at Benton High School for 12 years and Journalism at England High School for 2 years. She graduated from Benton, received her BA in English from UCA, and MSE in Secondary Education from UALR. She is currently working on her Curriculum Specialists degree from UCA and plans to graduate in December 2016.


Jenny enjoys reading, knitting, and spending time with family and friends. She has two girls. Abby is a fifth grader at Caldwell Elementary, and Lizzie is in preschool.


Jenny is very excited about her new position and the opportunity to grow professionally and to work with teachers in one of the best districts in the state.

Benton is her hometown. To have the chance to work with and for teachers in her home district means a lot to her.