Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hazen Union: Linking PLPs, Identity, and the Community

Our incredible team of Hazen Union 7th and 8th grade teachers have been working collaboratively and intentionally over the past year to create opportunities for all students to feel empowered in addressing the mission of our middle level.  "The middle level years are important in building students' social and emotional skills, as well as developing their abilities to communicate, work with others, be creative, and problem solve. By instilling these skills in our young students we give them the opportunities to express themselves and explore their interests in order to prepare them for the next stage of their lives."

Our team gathered last summer at the Middle Grades Institute with a tremendous task at hand: create a sequence of learning that blends a community-focussed interdisciplinary unit, negotiated learning, personalized learning plans (PLPs), digital citizenship, and the rollout of our 1:1 iPad initiative.  With the support of Susan Hennessey and the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, our middle level team developed dynamic curriculum and experiences to begin and sustain through the school year.  

In addition to this work, we have worked hard at sharing our story.  The middle level has created a blog to reflect on a variety of experiences, to which teachers and students contribute.  Our school has begun podcasting, interviewing students and faculty on numerous subjects.  And most recently, we created a video (to be shared at the Middle Grades Conference) documenting our journey:

Great things are happening here at Hazen and it is only the beginning.  Our students have built strong foundations for their PLPs, engaged in meaningful ways with their school and town communities, and developed a rich understanding of their digital footprints.  As educators, we are continually amazed by the learning and work produced by our thoughtful and skilled students.  We look forward to a great second semester and the opportunity to reflect, refine, and revise the work we have started.  

(If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at or on Twitter @OldManCraig.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Using Labels In Blogger To Support Evidence and Reflection

Returning to school after the winter break, I always feel that I need to refocus my students on their evidence and goal reflections.. At this point in the year they have been working on their goals for enough time to do a larger self-assessment and think about adjusting their goals based on the evidence that they have been collecting.

One of the large challenges of doing this is trying to figure out what system to use with students that allows them one place to put all of their reflection and evidence. It also needs to be easy to use and easy to organize so they can find their evidence to put on the PLP.  At Peoples Academy Middle Level, all of our teams use Blogger. Paired with the use of labels, it has allows students the ability to reflect on their learning throughout the day in one organized place.

With the addition of labels on the blog, students can tag their posts so they will have easy access to evidence demonstrating  growth towards  their goals. Labels also allow students to put multiple labels on one post, allowing students to track goals and growth in all subject areas. Please see an example student blog on the PLP Pathways site.

Maura Kelly is a 7th grade humanities teacher at Peoples Academy Middle Level in Morrisville, Vermont. She has a passion for working with young adolescents and believes in the power of a strong middle level program in developing students to be ready to face challenges in our world today. When Maura is not teaching you can find her out skiing and biking around the state of Vermont.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Benefits of Continuous Professional Development

This weekend educators from across the state gathered at UVM's Davis Center to discuss their work implementing personalized learning and elements of Act 77 at the Middle Grades Collaborative's Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades Conference.

Many of the participants had attended the Middle Grades Institute in the summer of 2015 and reuniting, sharing stories, and receiving insights and teaching tips was an invaluable experience.

Perhaps more importantly, the opportunity to reconnect over the course of the school year allows for reflection and a return to the professional development goals set six months ago.

Often, educators get wrapped up in the speed and complexity of the school year. Goals, objectives, and initiatives identified during the relaxed days of summer are hard to keep going. By attending ongoing professional development, educators can be rejuvenated and re-introduced to the theories, ideas, and pedagogy that would perhaps be lost without these events.

Additionally, these events often build consensus around issues that need to be addressed in future professional development opportunities. At this weekend's conference, themes of scheduling, class structure, and time for implementation were at the top of the list.

Recent blog posts by the Tarrant Institute have addressed some of these concerns and more resources are in the pipeline. You can stay connected by visiting the Tarrant Institute, the Middle Grades Collaborative, or by following PLP Pathways.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Collaboration on Goals

This week, we've been collaborating on two fronts with regards to setting goals and how teachers can best implement the goal-setting process. Life Legeros of the Tarrant Institute has been working with Crossett Brook Middle School as they implement goal-setting with growth mindset. Check out their presentation here: Goal Setting Resources.

Additionally, a colleague requested some examples of student goals to show their staff and students. An example can be seen at left.

This ongoing collaboration has been particularly effective in keeping up to speed with personalization and elements of Act 77. You can check out more information, resources, and contributions from educators around the state at PLP Pathways.