The Principal's Posts

News from Ms. Appleyard

March 15, 2017
by appleyard
Comments Off on EdCamp Elementary East – March 7, 2017

EdCamp Elementary East – March 7, 2017

On March 7th, over 200 educators participated in EdCamp at Mt. Bethel!  Most teachers came from MBES, East Side, and Shallowford Falls, but many came from the 24 elementary schools that comprise the Elementary East group.  Teachers participated in 45 different discussions ranging from behavior management to curriculum to scheduling and more.

Anchor charts/brainstorms are below from the variety of topics discussed!

October 19, 2016
by appleyard
Comments Off on Ozobot Challenge – STEM Lab!

Ozobot Challenge – STEM Lab!

ozobot-challengeI walked past the STEM Lab today and heard a lot of chatter and saw students working in groups on something that looked HUGE, COOL, and like PROGRAMMING/CODING coming to life.  I walked in to find collaboration and genuine engagement over a challenge projected on the board:   Can I create a maze to get out of the haunted house for a friend to try and complete?

I thought, surely, our fifth graders could not be experimenting with coding and video game design.  I was wrong!

img_0919-1Our fifth graders were beginning to experiment with the Ozobot Classroom Kit – recently funded by our Foundation.  The Ozobot Classroom Kit includes small programmable robots that follow student-created paths drawn with code markers. img_0927

Students learn basic coding and patterns through studying and experimenting with Ozocode Sheets that outline how to write color sequences that tell Ozobots to behave in a variety of manners (speed, direction, cool moves, wins/exits, timers, counters).  They worked in groups to create a large-scale paper maze on graph paper while deciding the paths and actions the robots/Ozobots should take.  This challenge required planning, communication, problem solving, teamwork, game theory, trial and error, and higher order thinking skills.

Our goal in the STEM Lab is to encourage innovation, increase hands-on experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math that foster higher order thinking skills in conjunction with social interactions, and to engage in real-world problem solving.

Our Foundation’s vision of ENRICH. EMPOWER. EXCEL. is clear in the STEM Lab with incredible support through the funding of cutting-edge tools…including robots!  We can’t wait to see what is achieved in the STEM Lab this year!

See The Ozobot Classroom Kit in action in Fifth Grade:

STEM Ozobot Challenge from Mt. Bethel on Vimeo.

Thank you, Mt. Bethel Elementary School Foundation!


October 14, 2016
by appleyard
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School-Wide Training

On Tuesday evening, I had the opportunity to attend a Legislative Listening Session with multiple members of the Georgia House of Representatives Educational Committee and State Senator Lindsey Tippins.  The purpose of this meeting was to allow administrators acolemanbrooks84nd superintendents a voice regarding education issues before the next legislative session begins.  One focus Chairman Brooks Coleman addressed was Georgia’s focus on ensuring quality reading instruction in grades K-3.

Cobb County and Mt. Bethel are ahead of the curve with this initiative – as our focus has been on ensuring quality professional learning for our teachers in  Orton-Gillingham phonics, spelling, and decoding methodology paired with the Lucy Calkins Reader’s Workshop Model to ensure comprehension and literary analysis at high levels through multiple-genres of texts is setting our students up for success beyond elementary school.    Training has taken place over the past several years and continues today!serravallo

This week, all grade levels attended two hours of training with Jill Hawes,  Literacy Expert.  Teams looked at reading levels through the lens of individual student data, classroom data, and grade level data.  They then discussed characteristics of readers and necessary actions to move students forward – through differentiation and SMALL GROUP INSTRUCTION – through guided reading, strategy groups, and individual student conferences.

Thanks to the Foundation, our teachers were given The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo that outlines at least 300 strategies to use to help students improve fluency, comprehension, and will help our teachers develop reading skills across all grade levels!

Our teachers were excited – and grateful – as The Foundation’s funding of training and resources continues to ensure that we are not only in alignment with the goals of the State and the District – but on the cutting edge – guaranteeing that we are providing exemplary reading instruction for all Mt. Bethel students – with teacher training on differentiation – a way of teaching that asks teachers to know their students well so they can provide each one with experiences and tasks that will improve learning.  Differentiating instruction means that you observe and understand the differences and similarities among students and use this information to plan instruction.

k-team-serravallo 2nd-serravallo

Reading impacts every other subject – and we are grateful to our Foundation to supporting our teachers so we can improve learning for every individual!

ENRICH. EMPOWER. EXCEL.  It is true.  Our Foundation makes this happen – in ways that will benefit our students beyond Mt. Bethel!








September 25, 2016
by appleyard
Comments Off on Orton-Gillingham Training

Orton-Gillingham Training

On Wednesday, September 21st, our Kindergarten and First Grade Teachers alongside several of our teachers who instruct multi-age small groups began a year-long journey toward earning Orton-Gillingham Certification.

What exactly is Orton-Gillingham?
An APPROACH that prepares a teacher to individualize instruction to meet the specific needs of a learner.

The Orton-Gillingham Approach is a multi-sensory approach to teaching phonics:  reading words, spelling words, writing words, and being able to fluently decode words to ensure reading comprehension.  In non edu-speak, this means that our teachers are learning how to understand and share rules to reading and spelling with our students in a way that best fits their learning style: as visual learners (who learn best when they see the information – often writing paired with a picture or symbol); auditory learners (who learn best when they hear information – again often paired with some kind of visual symbol or “trick” explained in words), and kinesthetic learners (who learn best by doing, moving, and engaging muscle memory).

Professional learning for our teachers in explicit phonics instruction is in direct alignment with our Superintendent’s Priority:  Simplify the foundations of learning to prepare for innovation.

Who is conducting the training?
We are working with REAP:  Reading is Essential for All People, a group passionate about helping educators receive the best training possible.

Our instructor, Joan Gerken, is an Orton-Gillingham fellow, advisor, and master teacher. Joan is providing the research, the background to the methodology, and the theory behind the OG Approach.  We are fortunate, also, to have Lisa Glickman, Literacy Coach, provide practical application and coaching for our teachers so they can use the knowledge immediately with their students.

What happens during training?
Simulations, direct instruction, guided practice, and time to collaborate/practice!

beginning-readersOur own Katie Walker led one simulation – where participants tried decoding and comprehending a passage that was in a difficult font and appeared to be written backwards.  This gave us the understanding of how students feel when they exert so much effort on physically trying to read the words.  For many, the meaning was lost in the effort exerted to just read each word.

beginning-writersLisa Glickman led a group through a simulation to understand how new or struggling writers feel.  I can personally say that I found it frustrating – and interesting – as our successful and smart staff began to employ techniques we see with students in the classroom. Adults had verbal outbursts, began joking around, were off task, cheated, and gave up.  This insight to how some of our students feel when presented with difficult tasks was invaluable!

reading-group-and-elkoninJoan Gerken led a group through a simulation with advanced vocabulary – that was written so that it was difficult for participants to read.  We experienced what a reading group feels like when early learners are exerting effort to decode words – and the true theme of the story is lost.  We also learned about Elkonin Boxes and how this strategy can help with reading and spelling – and increase reading comprehension.

Is this a big deal?
Our teachers receiving exemplary training on Orton-Gillingham Methodology is a HUGE DEAL!  Our school is working not only to apply this approach to benefit struggling learners, but also to ensure DIFFERENTIATION in our K/1 classrooms in regard to reading and spelling.  The gift of reading is a gift that lasts a person an entire lifetime – and if we can work to ensure that all Mt. Bethel students are reading at or above grade level by the end of fifth grade – through exemplary reading instruction – we have helped charter a course for success for each of our Buccaneers!

Why is this happening at such a large scale at  Mt. Bethel and not other schools?
Through the support of our Foundation!  Our Foundation is providing funding – and this would not be possible without the donations our parents make during The Patron Drive!  Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me or any of our Mt. Bethel Foundation Trustees if you have any questions about how each dollar you donate impacts students.


August 26, 2016
by appleyard
Comments Off on Kindergarten Readers

Kindergarten Readers


I was fortunate to spend the morning checking in with each Kindergarten class.  On the 20th day of school, I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the high levels of text analysis being completed by our youngest Buccaneers!  Kindergarten students are working on identifying CHARACTER and SETTING.  They were participating in scavenger hunts, collaboratively making large charts with examples of character and setting, identifying and comparing character and setting in books, and demonstrating the LIFESKILL of PRIDE as they discussed these two critical story elements.


Way to go, Kindergarten!  I am so proud!

August 16, 2016
by appleyard
Comments Off on Picture Days – Don’t Miss Out!

Picture Days – Don’t Miss Out!


We hope you choose to participate in Picture Days on August 17th and 18th.  These professional images appear in the yearbook and capture a specific moment in time.  In elementary school, these school pictures are a great tool to show growth – and evolution of teeth throughout a child’s K-5 career.

Other reasons to support the school picture program:

  • School pictures also provide an accurate likeness of your child (without filters, Photoshopping, or distraction) that are beneficial for identification purposes.
  • Placed side-by-side, they present an incredible story of growth.
  • Proceeds benefit our school directly and help Mt. Bethel fund school improvement projects and initiatives that support our School Strategic Plan.

Bring your smiles, brush your hair, and we can’t wait to see what the photographers capture!

August 13, 2016
by appleyard
Comments Off on STEM!


STEM Challenges

Half of our 1st through 5th grade students are experiencing the STEM Lab in their Specials Rotation during the first half of the school year with STEM Teacher, Sammy Jo Hogan.  They have been completing multiple STEM challenges that include building floatable transportation for Barbie to navigate over water, creating movable shelters for animals, building lighthouses, and much more!

We are excited about our transition from a Science Lab to a STEM Lab – and the increase in opportunities to problem solve, create, collaborate, build, and THINK!

May 31, 2016
by appleyard
Comments Off on Rising Kindergarten Summer Learning Opportunities

Rising Kindergarten Summer Learning Opportunities

Summer Learning Updatae

Welcome to kindergarten at Mt. Bethel! Kindergarten is a year of growing socially, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Your involvement, interest, and enthusiasm will help make this a wonderful year of growth for you and your child.

What’s new in kindergarten? Kindergarten has changed greatly in the past years. It is no longer the kindergarten that you or I remember. Georgia’s Standards of Excellence for a child leaving kindergarten are high…reading at least 75 sight words fluently, writing multiple sentences, counting beyond 100, adding and subtracting, etc. It is a very rigorous but exciting curriculum. I know you will be fascinated when your child begins reading and writing. Don’t worry…your teacher will be discussing all of these things with you at the beginning of the year and many times throughout the school year.

Here are some activities to help you prepare for kindergarten:

  • Look at the pictures in a book and have your child tell you what’s happening.
  • Read a story and ask your child to draw a picture of his favorite character or favorite part of the story.
  • Ask your child to retell the story. Work on sequencing-what happened first, second, third.
  • Make your child aware of environmental print. Point out words all around Walmart, Target, Kroger, etc.
  • Practice writing his name properly (beginning with upper case, followed by lower case letters).
  • Play board games with your child. This will help with counting and numeral recognition; as well as, patience and taking turns.
  • Encourage your child to clean at home. Give her some simple chores to help with independence.
  • Most of all, it is important to encourage your child to be creative, to do his best, and to love learning. Celebrate this fun time with your child. Every experience will help her learn. This summer blow bubbles, build towers, climb rocks, plant flowers, cook, read lots of stories, and get excited for a great year ahead!summer link

Cobb County Schools has put together an exemplary SUMMER LINK website ( with resources for continued practice and learning in both Math and English Language Arts. You can find an overview of both Math and ELA curriculums for the coming year and sample problems with explanations.   There are a wealth of resources for incoming kindergarteners!  We also invite you to LOG YOUR SUMMER READING MINUTES at The Scholastic Reading Challenge. It would be extremely cool if Mt. Bethel students could OUTREAD every other school in the nation!

We can’t wait to meet you!

The Mt. Bethel Kindergarten Team

May 31, 2016
by appleyard
Comments Off on Rising 1st Grade Summer Learning Opportunities

Rising 1st Grade Summer Learning Opportunities

Summer Learning UpdataeWe want to be the first to welcome you as official First Grade Parents! The purpose of this letter is to help communicate pertinent information for next year.

First Grade IS vastly different from Kindergarten in so many areas, but all in GREAT, NEW, and EXCITING ways! One of the biggest differences is the amount of time and the number of tasks your child will be working on independently. First grade classrooms generally do not have parapros, so we have one less set of eyes and hands to help manage the classroom. This change in classroom support is HUGE and affects everything from focus, listening, and time management to shoe tying and coat zipping. Gradually increasing your child’s independence will be beneficial to your child’s success in First Grade.

Behavior expectations also increase in First Grade. Students will be expected to complete tasks in a timely manner, work independently, use self-control, control talking, exhibit good listening skills, follow directions and show respect to peers and authority.   Any practice of these important behavior expectations will help build your child’s confidence and prepare them for First Grade.

We absolutely know how challenging it can be to balance summer practice with summer schedules, but writing is essential to success in First Grade. Create authentic writing experiences for your child. Write letters to grandparents, friends, teachers, or other family members! Encourage your child to share stories about his/her summer thus far and work to create sentences with a capital letter and punctuation. Use new and fun writing tools to change things up, as well! Just as important as writing, is the reading component in First Grade. Daily reading and daily sight word practice is the BEST way to ENSURE skills are not lost, but rather maintained or further developed.

summer linkCobb County Schools has put together an exemplary SUMMER LINK website
( ) with resources for continued practice and learning in both Math and English Language Arts. You can find an overview of both Math and ELA curriculums for the coming year and sample problems with explanations.   We also invite you to LOG YOUR SUMMER READING MINUTES at The Scholastic Reading Challenge. It would be extremely cool if Mt. Bethel students could OUTREAD every other school in the nation!

We hope this letter has given you insight and family/summer-friendly suggestions about how to best prepare your rising first grader.   We look forward to meeting your child.

Have a great summer!

The First Grade Team


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