Pickerington Times-Sun

'Quieter classroom' helping students get on track

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A second-grade student works on a math activity as part of the math and reading intervention program Nov. 15, at Heritage Elementary School in Pickerington. To minimize distractions for students, Dana Nestorovski, one of the program's teachers, got headphones through donorschoice.org, a non-profit that connects donors and public school educators.

A Pickerington elementary response-to-intervention teacher is using headphones to help students who've fallen behind in class focus on the task of getting back on track.

Sometimes, little things can have a huge impact on the academic success of students, according to Dana Nestorovski.

Last school year, Nestorovski began handing out headphones to students who were sent to her for mathematics and reading intervention services because their academic progress in those subjects was lagging behind fellow classmates.

The relatively low-tech concept quickly was embraced by the students, who used the headphones to block out background noise in the intervention sessions while taking computerized tests that help chart their learning.

"We usually have two groups taking the test at the same time, and sometimes we have one group taking it while another group is not," Nestorovski said.

"If children were on computers taking the test, we just wanted them to be focused and able to hear the questions.

"It made the classroom quieter and allowed the kids to be focused on those tests."

After finding out the students preferred to use the headphones to help concentrate and do their work -- and after receiving requests from other classrooms to borrow the headphones from time to time -- Nestorovski decided to seek a grant to purchase more of them.

As a result, her "Quieter Classroom" project was one of 167 public school projects in Fairfield, Delaware and Franklin counties to receive donations totaling $74,672 from DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit website where public school teachers describe specific educational projects for their students, and donors can choose the projects they want to support.

Nestorovski's project received a contribution of a little more than $100 from Johnathan Hedgepath to purchase approximately 12 new sets of headphones.

Hedgepath's a Pickerington agent for Horace Mann, the largest national multiline insurance company focusing on educators' finance needs.

"We already had a few headphones, but we just wanted to have more so that more students could use them at one time," Nestorovski said. "We use them continuously throughout the day.

"We might have close to 20 pairs of headphones now."

Although Nestorovski said it was too early to tell if the headphones are helping yield higher test scores, she already believes the project has been a success.

For one, she said, students request them when they have work to do in her intervention sessions.

Nestorovski added that her classroom has been more quiet, in general, since she began using the headphones.

"With us, it's working in the classroom," she said.

"Things are running smoother, things are quieter and when things are quieter you're half-hour (intervention session) goes a lot better.

"We're giving all our kids a chance to focus on their tests and we're giving other kids the chance to receive instruction."

Nestorovski said she marvels at the change in the classroom, as well as how inexpensive it was to employ an effective classroom tool.

"It wasn't a big amount," she said. "Headphones, when you're buying them in bulk, aren't that expensive.

"The kids like wearing them and they seem to be working," Nestorovski. "

"They're always there, and even the students who don't need them or aren't taking the tests are using them to block out noise and to help them concentrate."