Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Building a Holistic Learning Environment

We've come a long way with regard to learning design, tech integration and student engagement this year.  I like what we're able to do now so much more than teaching in the past.  Due to digital tools, PLCs, and RTI we have greater ability to serve students in differentiated, personalized and responsive ways.  This increased ability to service students well has served to develop student engagement, investment and growth.

Now we're working on further growth. To grow further, it's first important to realize what we have.  Here are the program elements that are serving our students well.

English Language Arts
  • A strong developing multimedia, student-centered writing/composition program that focuses on organization, voice, genre and craft.
  • Literacy studio that focuses on students' reading interest, comprehension, fluency and response writing.
  • Read aloud that promotes reading comprehension strategies, story elements and further literary discussion.
  • Multiple digital tools available to further develop students' literacy skills including iPods, Kindles, iPads, and laptops.
  • Many wonderful programs that support student learning including KidPix, iMovie, Google docs, Animoto, Garageband, Lexia, SumDog English and more.
  • Wonderful school and classroom libraries.
  • Terrific cultural enrichment events, a weekly school assembly and frequent interdisciplinary classroom learning events
  • Streamlined data sources: GRADE test, Progress monitoring, MCAS
  • Reading Intervention Teachers and an ELA Director
  • Great software program support including Symphony Math, SumDog, That Quiz and Xtra Math.
  • Multiple digital tools and programs that support math project work such as Google docs/apps, iMovie and YouTube
  • Clear, learning standards. 
  • Streamlined data sources: GMADE, CBM, Symphony, Xtra Math, That Quiz, MCAS
  • Manipulatives, games and hands-on tools to develop math skill, knowledge and concept.
  • Math Director support. 
Social Studies and Science
  • Interdisciplinary units to grow content knowledge, skill and concept.
  • A great playground, healthy lunches and Open Circle/Responsive Classroom efforts which support optimal health and time for social skill development. 
  • Just Like Me Program which develops understanding for those facing challenges. 
As I think about our current program, the areas that stand out for growth and development include the following:
  • STEAM work and study (science, tech, engineering, art and math). Our students are hungry for this. 
  • Assistive Technology: tools to meet our learners with greater personalization including writing, reading, ELL, math and enrichment tools that focus on specific skills.
  • Creative, multimedia composition tools to develop students' repertoire for presentation and content creation.
  • Greater work in the area of guided research, discovery and presentation via unit research websites.
  • More hands-on materials for in-depth science and social study inquiry and project work.
  • Greater project planning and work related to units and field studies. 
  • Revision of curriculum map, student reporting vehicles and data collection schedules.
  • Guided social media use.  Family Twitter and student social media platform to be identified.
  • Brain coaching and executive functioning software, tools and activities. 
  • Greater inclusion of service learning in our social studies/science work. 
  • Greater use of "grow-at-your-own-rate" digital programs such as Lexia, Xtra Math, Symphony and others for home study to decrease need for parent help and teacher response, thus creating greater time for teacher response and planning for significant teaching/coaching efforts. 
  • Greater access and use of digital books that are accessible 24-7. 
  • Multiplayer social studies/science gaming such as Atlantis Quest.
  • More outdoor, nature exploration and study.
My team is meeting soon to begin the process of outlining and obtaining tools to develop our program more.  This collaborative process will serve to strengthen the work we do with regard to student learning and engagement.  Let us know if we're missing any primary tools, content or processes that make a difference.  Thank you!

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