J.P. King students, teachers experiment with technology, work to get out of priority

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Grace Goode, 13, center, helps out Jack Godwin, 13, and Joshua Johnson, 13,  with the new Virtual Virginia online Spanish program. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Grace Goode, 13, center, helps out Jack Godwin, 13, and Joshua Johnson, 13, with the new Virtual Virginia online Spanish program. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Franklin—Evolving technology was on the minds of J.P. King Middle School students and staff alike on the first day of the “New Year,” as Principal Lisa Francis was putting it.

J.P. King’s life science teacher Mollie Strozier had a new system for rewarding students. Back when Strozier was in Francis’s seventh-grade class seven years ago, they did something called strips. When a student did something good, his or her name ended up in the basket and was drawn upon for a prize.

Strozier, who still had some of those strips from that class, was using an app called ClassDojo.

“It’s basically a way to track positive behavior,” Strozier said. “They get points by doing stuff like passing tests, turning in homework or other positive behavior.”

Students, and their parents, can then look on the app or online and see how many points they are accumulating and what behaviors are leading toward those points. A certain number of points are worth prizes, such as a homework “skip,” a bag of chips, and the person with the most at the end of the year gets a Dairy Queen Blizzard.

“I used it over the summer and the students really like it,” Strozier said. “It’s easier than strips, and easier than giving out stars, too.”

Sometimes with technology comes confusion, and not all of the students were quite grasping the new Virtual Virginia online Spanish program.

Grace Goode, 13, had never used it before herself, but she figured it out pretty quick and started helping.

“Everyone was having trouble, so I just started helping,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to the class, but Goode was also a little worried. “It might be a little harder than usual — you don’t get that hand-to-hand connection of speaking it in the classroom.”

Her classmate, Kendall Brown, 13, was less worried about the classroom aspect, though.

“It’s cool because you can do it independent,” she said. “I can do it at home.”

Tayana Rogers, 13, also thought it would be cool.

“I want to learn how to speak other languages,” she said. “It will be fun.”

The Virginia Standards of Learning also crossed students’ minds.

“I want to do the best on my SOLs that I can do,” Brown said. “I did well last year.”

Rogers and her friend Alexus McKinley were also thinking about the SOLs. Rogers was looking to improve in math, while McKinley was looking for a perfect score.

“I passed all of my SOLs last year — advanced,” McKinley said. “I’m striving for 600-level success.”

Students weren’t the only ones with SOLs on their minds. Diane Dovell teaches seventh-grade English, but she’s also the lead for the seventh-grade team.

“We are going to do great things,” she said. “We’re all very excited.”

Francis said it was their third year of being a priority school, which means at the time they entered, they were one of the lowest 5 percent of Title I schools in Virginia. Francis said this is the year that they are coming out.

“Everyone in the J.P. King family is on the same page,” she said. “We want this so bad for the students. We want theme music to play when they get off the bus.

“We want full accreditation. We want to be out of priority. Those are our big goals.”

Not that people in the building were just thinking about SOLs or technology.

Goode was thinking about the future, specifically, high school. She wanted to get set up for the Upward Bound Dual Enrollment program, so that she could take college classes. Not that this year was a total afterthought.

“I want to pass, and I want to get good grades,” Goode said.

Strozier was particularly excited about science labs.

“I am always looking forward to the labs we do,” she said. “One of the first labs we’ll do is the bubble gum lab, to see which brand blows the best bubbles. We’ll make DNA out of Twizzlers and Gummy Lifesavers. Then we’ll have a gummy bear lab, where we’ll see how osmosis works.

“We’ll make things, and just take it above and beyond what they expected.”

On day one, Strozier said she makes a promise to her students.

“I guarantee that they will like science more in June than they did when they came in,” she said. “We are going to have a good time.”

And the rest of the school will have a good time, as well.

“We are very excited for the new year,” Francis said. “We’ve got a solid team, a solid staff, and everyone is on the same page. We have got this.”