Friday, January 20, 2017

Practitioner Perspective: Weaving Goals, Reflection, and Transferable Skills into the Curriculum

This week's blog post is from regular contributor Lindsey Halman, founder and teacher on the Edge Academy Team in Essex.

Each Monday on the Edge Academy Team at Essex Middle School, we have a full team meeting, called Gathering Meeting.  This meeting serves a number of purposes - it builds community, it provides opportunities for youth leadership, it’s fun, and most importantly it is the opportunity to share the Edge Goals for the week.  These goals guide our work and provide our learners with a clear vision of what they can expect for the week.  

In order to ensure we support our learners in understanding what it means to have self-direction and communicate clearly and effectively, we ask that they share their weekly goals with a parent/guardian or trusted adult on Monday (see Link to Goals Memo Template) and write a reflective email to that same adult(s) on Friday (see Link to Weekly Reflection/Letter Template).  These opportunities allow us to ensure that there is clear communication between home and school and that our students are taking responsibility for their learning.


Examples from Students:

VT Transferrable Skills:
Self Direction: Take initiative in, and responsibility for, learning.
Clear + Effective Communication: Demonstrate Organized and Purposeful Communication.

Notes on Goals
Steps to Completion for the Due Date
Clear and Effective Communication
  • Share notes about goals with parents by end of Monday.
  • Filling out table.
  • Friday email home due Friday.
  • Share doc with parents on Monday.
  • Sharing follow up due Friday.
Future Projects
  • Develop two driving questions that will guide project work and research.
  • Share evidence on Protean
  • Due date: Friday 1/13
  • Listen in class about driving questions.
  • Develop quality driving questions.
  • Post evidence on Protean.
  • Due FRIDAY!
Civic and Social Responsibility
  • Field Trip on 1/13  Friday  (Patin Libre)
  • Watch video by 1/10 Tuesday be prepared for Humanities.
  • Flynn Teaching Artist on Thursday
  • Bring layers for Friday
  • Watch video about Patin Libre on own time before Tuesday afternoon.
  • Bring layers on Friday.
  • Possibly sign up to lead future gathering meetings.
  • Post evidence on Protean about one or more goals
  • Post on Protean 2 Humanities Goals.
  • Post 2 Driving Questions
  • Create a reflection
  • Post the evidence about the various goals.
  • Write a reflection
  • Unit planning and Goal Setting Google Form DUE TUESDAY
  • Launch new unit
  • Choose new book groups
  • Flynn teaching artist
  • Fill out Google Form
  • Submission DUE TUESDAY
  • Prepare for performance on FRIDAY
  • Windmill packet DUE FRIDAY
  • Detailed response paragraphs typed up on Google Docs
  • Fill out packet in math class.
  • Type up detailed response paragraphs.

****This week is PROJECT’S WEEK****
In order to meet my goals this week, I will….
Work hard, have perseverance, and  put in 100% effort
I might need support with…
Driving questions
Thanks for looking over my notes and I will inform you of my progress on Friday!

Examples of Friday Reflections - Weekly Letters Home

Dear Mom and Dad,

This week has been a successful week for me because I completed all of my weekly goals. For the Edge weekly goals, I completed everything except the posting of evidence to Protean (Which I am about to do as soon as I finish this letter.) I created my two driving questions for my yearly project this week. My project goal for next week is to really get into the research and take a lot of notes. In Physical Education, we got split into two groups : Basketball and Weightlifting. I, fortunately, got put in the group that starts with weightlifting. One highlight from the week was the fact that we started a new unit in Humanities and we are going to have book groups. I am really excited to know which book I will be reading. One goal for next week is to get a good grade on my algebra midterms.

Dear family,
                    This week has been a fun week for me. We finished our windmill task which was great to learn the engineering design process and how to build things on Tuesday we heard a speech from a teacher that went to Cuba she told us about the way they live and how it is very hard to try to make it to america and how different are schools are. In projects we are creating driving questions for our future projects. My highlight of the week was today we went to go see Le Patin Libre, they are a ice dancing group that defies ice dancing stereotype this show was very unique and I'm glad that I got to experience it. My goal for next week is to learn something I never knew before.

 Sincerely, Natasha

Dear Mom and Dad,

This week has been pretty busy, with Paige and I making our flan and going to Micaela's to work on projects. This week we also worked on writing our driving questions to help lead our project research. After finishing those, Micaela and I used a directory of LGBTQ staff at UVM (given to us by someone who visited the Edge team named Erin) to find some possible people to interview for our book. We can hopefully start drafting next week. Something else we'd like to do is meet up after school on as many Wednesdays as possible to get some extra work done.

In DTE, we've finally finished constructing our car and we've timed it on the track. It made it to the other end in about 10 seconds, and we're working to make it go faster.

In Spanish, our flan went great! Some people found it too sweet for their liking, but Senora Psaros said it was perfect. I also feel like the presentation in itself went well.

Ms. Wager (she does lessons for the woodwinds) gathered everyone in districts to practice yesterday.

One highlight from this week was making the flan with Paige. That was fun.

One goal for next week is to set up some meeting dates to interview at least one of the people that responded to the emails Micaela and I set up. We'd have to get some help from Phil and Lindsey to do that, though, and we'd also have to create some questions.

See you later!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Teaching Through A Lens of Personalization

Today's post is by Don Taylor of Main Street Middle School in Montpelier.

For many teachers, the move to proficiency-based assessment and personalized learning, as mandated by Act 77, has been cause for rethinking and revamping curriculum. One approach to renewing the curriculum is to consider taking on traditional subjects through the personalized learning perspective.
Recently, students in my classroom completed the novel Fever 1793. Integrated into a study of culture and the migration and movement of people, technology and disease, the novel provides an easy-to-access platform for literary analysis that most students enjoy.
More importantly, when viewed through our personal learning framework, which focuses on identity, growth and reflection, and transformation, the novel provides a great literary example of a young adolescent girl’s maturation from self-absorbed teen to responsible young woman. For our middle level students, the examination of the main character’s identity, in conjunction with her developing relationships, provides a parallel to the personalized learning work completed earlier in the year.

After reading the novel and in preparation for writing a short analysis piece, students were asked to create a relationship web for the main character Matilda “Mattie” Cook. Once created, classroom discussion focused on Matilda’s relationships that helped her survive the yellow fever epidemic raging through 1793 Philadelphia.
Students identified how Mattie’s relationships influenced her through different stages of her growth and the principles and values revealed through those relationships. These discussions, along with examination of themes, use of language, and relevant evidence from the novel, were the background information provided to students prior to writing. Based on this approach to the novel, writing prompts were adjusted to reflect these changes in the curriculum. Students were given the choice of addressing three different prompts:

Prompt #1
Select a character from the story who has had a significant impact on Mattie’s growth as a person. Explain the importance of this character and how Mattie’s relationship with this character helps Mattie grow into a responsible young adult.
  Prompt #2
Identify and explain the most important event of the story and how Mattie’s
actions (and reactions) during this time represent her growth and transformation.

  Prompt #3
Identify the most important principle or value that contributed to Mattie’s growth as a young woman. Describe how this principle or value helps Mattie survive the yellow fever epidemic and contribute to her community.

As we move through the writing process, I will be soliciting feedback from students as to whether this focus on the elements of personalized learning helped them to develop a deeper understanding of the main themes in the novel.
From the practitioner’s perspective, these changes in curriculum were relatively innocuous. That said, the ability to make connections through personalized learning, in conjunction with our understanding of the middle level experience, can make the language arts experience more relevant and motivating for students.