Here at Peoples Academy Middle Level, we were fortunate to have two professional development days over the past month and a half. One of components of our work during the professional development time was meeting in vertical teams to discuss the implementation of portfolios and proficiency based learning. This time proved to be greatly valuable -- all of the teachers came away with deeper understandings that will impact our practice.
At our meetings, the 5th grade team identified a key challenge to implementing portfolios; the struggle students have with setting goals. Fifth grade teachers were finding that some students were having a hard time identifying a goal, or they were creating goals that we not realistic, relevant or connected to the transferable skills. Knowing that our lower middle level students enjoy partnering with upper level students, we decided to have our 7th grade students collaborate with the 5th graders on their goals work.
To make this successful for all students, we had the 5th grade students start with a goal setting template so that they would arrive at their goal setting meeting with 7th grade students sharing some ideas around a goal. At the same time, we had our 7th grade students look at a SMART goals template, similar to what the 5th graders were using, and try to develop questions to help guide the 5th grade students.
After giving students time to prepare, we set up an hour block of time where our 5th and 7th grade students would meet with a goal partner. Students were reminded of expectations and then got right to work. The 5th grade students introduced their ideas for their goals and the 7th grade students acted as guides and facilitators. Many 7th grade students shared their own PLP sites, experiences, successes and challenges as a way to help guide the 5th grade students. Once the partnership reached a point that they felt the goal was a SMART goal, they collaborated on a Keynote that will go on the 5th grade PLP in preparation for student led conference that they will present in the spring. In thinking about next year, we have hopes of building a robust PLP mentoring program as a way for multi-age collaboration and support to occur with the PLP.
Here are some of the thoughts of our 7th grade students on their experience of helping the younger students:
“Being able to teach them the knowledge you have, feeling important to their learning.”
“Getting to that moment when they finally understand what you're saying, and they start cooperating with you.”
Helping the 5th grade students helped me to:
“It made me think about how my goals related to own my life and how I could improve upon my goals, as well as help them improve on their goals.”
“It helped me think of what I needed to change on my goal.”
“It helped me take a reality check on my goals.”