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Steering students toward success
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In the 10 years Alice Brown has taught elementary school, she has learned what works and what doesn't in engaging students in learning.

Brown, fourth grade teacher at Heard-Mixon Elementary School, also has taught second and third grade and taught in Paulding, Douglas and Jasper counties. She worked in early childhood education as a daycare teacher for 8 years as well.

"Third graders are more people pleasers and they want to make the teacher happy," Brown said, "but by fourth grade they're more worried about what their friends think."

Because Brown sometimes has trouble motivating students to want to do their work, she has created several ways students can participate in friendly academic competition.

"If you can get them motivated they can learn anything," Brown said, "and from year to year they're so different, so how you motivate them is not always the same."

A colorful construction paper racetrack adorns a bulletin board she calls the "Multiplication Speedway." The speedway pits students against each other in a race to memorize their times table up to 12. Students are tested three times a week.

 "Everything's a competition," Brown said.

She even encourages students to finish their classroom chores with a bulletin board called T.E.A.M. or "together everyone accomplishes more."

 Through the years she has also learned to give students many choices when it comes to picking the projects they complete.

 Brown's gifted reading students sign a contract outlining the Georgia Performance Standards they must master by the end of the year, and then they pick the novels they want to read and choose the project they will use to show Brown they understand the standards-based concepts they are supposed to grasp by reading it.

"They're really in charge of their own learning for the most part," Brown said.

 Brown does make her language arts students take mandatory tests on basic grammar and vocabulary.

She said allowing students to choose their assignments works only after teachers gain years of experience.

Brown said in addition to the traditional subjects, she focuses on student socialization and technology education.

"I like for them to be prepared for middle school," Brown said.

Not only are students expanding their vocabulary and math operations in fourth grade, but also Brown teaches basic functions of the Power Point and Excel programs.

Brown said she enjoys seeing students understand a lesson, but likes it when they also enjoy or take interest in learning.

"I like that because I know it's not boring for them," Brown said.