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SD Department of Education Aug. 2015  



Sheltering students to help them go far

Lindsey Brewer, a math teacher at Huron High School, recently received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. This year, Brewer will teach pre-calculus, statistics, trigonometry and sheltered pre-algebra for English language learners. She has worked with Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) for about five years. She is also one of the district's SIOP coaches.

The Huron School District has the second largest ELL population in South Dakota. Many students in Brewer's sheltered classes speak Karen and have only been in the United States for a few years. If you studied a foreign language in high school, imagine if you had also been required to take algebra in that language.

"Their social English might be great—when they’re having lunch, hanging out with friends and casual settings like that,” Brewer says. “Academic vocabulary is what they need to work on. The goal is to increase language skills as you teach core content. I have to get students speaking a lot.”

Talking about math helps ELLs and native English speakers alike, so in all of her classes, Brewer has students use the big white boards hanging around her room to show and explain their work. At the beginning of the year, they work in small groups, then with partners. By the end of the year, students explain their thinking individually, in front of the whole class. “When they have to explain the process to me or their classmates, it helps them learn better,” Brewer says.

In recent years, Brewer has been sharing her own learning by working with fellow Huron High School math teacher Lori Keleher to deliver presentations on activities they use in their classrooms. Keleher nominated Brewer for the Presidential Award. The two of them spoke at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual meeting in Boston this past spring as well as the TIE Conference in Rapid City.

They also worked with Mid-Central Educational Cooperative to develop a day-long workshop which they led five times throughout summer 2015. The workshop focuses on transforming worksheets into engaging activities and games.

One way Brewer likes to engage students is with manipulatives. She says her students’ favorites are the ones they can eat. She has had geometry students in a sheltered class represent lines with pretzels, points with M&Ms and arrows with candy corn. For pre-calculus students, even carbon dating can be delicious. As carbon is depleted, it’s replaced by nitrogen. What yummier way to illustrate this phenomenon than with M&M carbon and Reese’s Pieces nitrogen?

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