CBMS- MGI Mission Statement

Focus Statement for our work at the MGI, and in year #1, with the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education: In year #1 of our partnership with the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, CBMS staff will analyze and re-design the CBMS learning environment, with the goal of supporting an increase in personalized learning and meaningful pursuits for our students. We will be aiming to create a learning environment which allows our students to engage in learning that incorporates interests, questions and concerns about issues of personal and social significance in a democratic society. This work will begin in the Middle Grades Institute in June, where we will run a jigsaw approach towards exploring this lofty goal. Small groups will focus on:
*The utilization of time- how can the CBMS daily schedule change to better allow us to meet this goal?
*The roll-out of Personal Learning Plans @ CBMS- what needs to happen for these plans to quickly become a cornerstone of personalization?
*1:1 environment @ CBMS- what can this look like, and how do we get there?
Student Empowerment and Student Voice- how can these be ramped up @ CBMS?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Oct 13th Inservice Day

Coming together at Harwood, with a focus on goals (both for staff and students), on Schoology, on conferences, on Act 46, on iPad tools for self-reflection, on Math proficiencies, on building a "better" model for the delivery of special education services, on delving deeper and deeper.  Many pathways to a common destination?  Let's keep the dialogue going!

Friday, September 4, 2015

CBMS working on putting it together!

Fwd: Pic

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <tmichaelvt@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 12:57 PM
Subject: Pic
To: tmichael@wwsu.org


Tiffany Michael
5/6 Wizards Language Arts & Science Teacher

Be the reason someone smiles today! 

UDL National Park

Daniel R. Wiffin
Educator - 7/8 Social Studies
Crossett Brook Middle School, Duxbury, VT

Prodigy/Quest - Cultivating Connections

Nice use of technology!  I really like the video! 

💌 Here's a collage for you from PicCollage. 😀

Created using Pic Collage. http://pic-collage.com

Dream plp blog

Wizards - UDL, growth mindset, personalization


Friday, June 26, 2015

Last day thoughts...

I think Tiffany and Sarah and probably others expressed this: We are all here with the best of intentions.  As I worked and watched others throughout the week -- I kept thinking of my two years at Tuttle Middle School.  It was 1968 when it first opened.  We really did get the best of the best in terms of care, inspiration, and education.  When I moved to SLC right after that, I was a full year ahead of the students in Utah.  I still remember my English teacher, reading and seeing Romeo and Juliet; Mr. Means, my science teacher, who taught so much like the model we strive for today.

I am lucky.  I am here again - and I am with Educators who really want to create the best learning environments for our students.  My new unit will be challenging, and that is a good thing.  Thank you.

Victoria Taylor Smith
Language Arts Teacher, Titan Team
Crossett Brook Middle School

Thursday, June 25, 2015


My action research project is going to center around making my AG time (or whatever we're calling it now) a more meaningful experience for my students.  Kathy noted in the schedule changes feedback doc. that she would "like to see training opportunities for AG leaders, as well as a resource place to share activities, projects and ideas."  I agree, and I would be happy to help create a website where we can all share ideas for different types of activities that we can use, if that's something people think they might find helpful.  I attended the "Dynamic Advisories" session today, which was very helpful.  Check out Kathy's notes in her recent post.
Hi All you plop bloggers...

Here are my notes after interviewing students who came to MGI about the PLP:

  • There were three kids, two girls from the same school who had not piloted a PLP, but did work on eportfolios.  On this, they had a personal interest page.  There was one boy who had worked on the pilot plp.
  • None of them experienced a "hook in," and they thought this is a good idea, however, keep it short, and don't repeat.
  • The boy felt that his experience was extremely boring, repetitive, and useless.  He did a lot of worksheets and said students knew (or felt) that no one read the work, and they stared to just put down anything.
  • He said it was very disorganized.
  • The school never followed through with anything written down on the sheets.
  • The girls enjoyed completing their personal pages; however - the pages were structured this way - a table which had a place for a personal artifact and a place to write about why this artifact was important.  They liked the idea at first, but then wanted more freedom and less structure on the pages.
  • Some things that they added -- a photo of the girl's flute, the other girl put up a picture of herself skiing.
  • The boy couldn't wait to get home to work on learning about writing screen plays and make movies.  I found this very sad.  What a lost opportunity!
  • The girls felt that goals were good -- and that they should live also live in academic settings, such as LA.
  • Their suggestions are as follows:  give students more options, different learning projects, more freedom about how they learn -- for example, kinaesthetic learning.  Also they wanted some of the learning should be connected with people in the community.  
  • The girls loved a project in LA when they could write their own children's book and illustrate it any way that they wanted.  Then the class read them to the younger grades.  They received thank you cards from the kids, and they loved this.   

Thanks! and some concerns, thoughts...

I am still concerned -- even after all of our discussions - that kids will not feel that their learning will be authentic learning, unless much of the work is done in core and AA classes.

Also, I like the schedule change, and I was thinking that a lot of kids really like to go to the Art Room to just chill out and let their brains process all that they have learned by drawing, etc.  (Yes, I know that some are working on long term projects).  Again, my concern is that we are "making" kids find a goal, yada, yada, when they could be making a horror movie, or not.  ???

Victoria Taylor Smith
Language Arts Teacher, Titan Team
Crossett Brook Middle School
Teacher Advisory Workshop

  • What is the hope of what TA/AG will be
  • Create a clear vision statement
    • this is the purpose of AG
    • make it a shared vision statement
    • make sure that every student has at least 1 adult advocate in the building that they develop a deep sense of connection with
    • students need a positive connection with an adult
    • share the vision statement with kids and get their feedback
  • TA/AG should be stressed as equally important when compared with academics
  • Scott found that TA was most effective during the middle of the day (no tardiness or early dismissal)
  • TA has the power to be a “culture changer”
  • Avoid letting TA turn into “homeroom” and make sure that it is purposeful
  • Asking the students what they want out of TA, what kinds of activities are meaningful to them, what would they like to do
  • Will need to pursue the possibility of providing resources and funding for TA activities
  • had students write a letter to themselves and give it to them at their graduation
  • There should be a focus on what the purpose of each year of TA should be
  • A community map of resources that was generated by the TAs..identified the expertise from the parents and relatives
  • have each TA create their own flag and/or their own t-shirts...something to enhance the sense of community and relationship to one another
  • Suggestions for things to do in TA/AG (components of TA:  academic, community, service, movement and one day a week for PLP and specifically reflection time)
  • At least 1 academic check-in each week
  • team-building activities that will establish the group as a community
  • service-designing an activity that has a cause or purpose (letters to soldiers, doing something for TBPS students...etc)
  • something that includes movement

Characteristics of effective TAs
  • sense of community
  • promote open communication
  • know and care about their advisees
  • closely supervise advisees academic progress
  • problem solvers and advice givers
  • students and advisors perceive the advisory directly improving academic performance
  • students and advisors perceive the advisory function as a community of learners

**establish a student advisory committee to help in the on-going development of TAs

Five key dimensions of successful advisory programs

  • shared purpose
  • thoughtful organization
  • relevant advisory program content
  • ongoing assessment
  • strong leadership

Thursday Reflections

I like the idea of having students re-write the transferable skills and create a visual for a given area. I think maybe not this year, but maybe in a future year. For this year, maybe just present the Transferable Skills in a visually-pleasing format in kid-friendly language.
Another idea I liked was using backwards design in having a student “do” first, then decide what transferable skills they have already accomplished in that activity.
Sometimes you have to allow for a messy process in goal setting, in which the goal is not perfect, but students experience the process of setting a goal becomes a conversation.

I like the idea of using Nearpod to poll students on issues of concern, or group direction/interests in advisory time.
Interesting idea to have student-led conferences be part of advisory set-up, rather than team-based.

Each grade level advisory could have a particular focus:  5th grade: Who am I? 6th grade: Who am I in society? or something like this.

One cool idea was to develop a Community map of resources for advisory (parents, community members) and interests they could share with an advisory or PLP interest group of students.

Linking Transferable Skills to Student Goal Setting

Don and Maura's rich collaborative process was definitely inspirational. This choice illuminated the importance of sharing ideas, admitting when something doesn't work well, and being open to new angles on old ideas.

Dynamic Advisories for Enhancing Personalized Learning

Another choice session with great information and discussion.  Advisory needs clear vision/purpose for everyone, shared with everyone, and revisited every year.   Activities including: academic check in, advisory group team building, service in the community, movement, student voice and personal learning plans...

Potential Action Research Question

How can students’ development of a personalized plan specific to literacy (identifying areas to work on, establishing goals, setting out a plan to achieve those goals, reflecting on those goals/self-monitoring progress, etc.) help them improve their own investment in reading along with their fluency and comprehension?

Literacy-Specific PLPs

I am hoping to use my Action Research to create something similar to a PLP but specific to literacy for students that have a hard time engaging in reading and comprehension and with the goal of, ideally, instilling intrinsic motivation within them with the knowledge that they are capable of improving their literacy skills themselves. I would like to help them identify their own areas to work on in reading and comprehension, set goals in those areas, lay out steps to achieve those goals, and then reflect on their own progress throughout the year.

I would like to use some of Don Taylor's resources to structure this as well as find some of my own to help students assemble this literacy plan. I will start with a handful of struggling readers this coming year.
I spent a large amount of time last night working through my thoughts on tier 2 intervention in regards to scheduling.  In addition to the "comment" I've included on the draft here are some of my other thoughts.

Changing the purpose of my classroom time from thoughtful observation and analysis, geared towards individualized interventions, to a push-in service model would have severe consequences on the quality of services I can provide for our students.  My present purpose for working in classrooms is to ensure that I am thoroughly versed in the material presented, as well as the methods and strategies teachers use to deliver that material to the students.  This allows me to most effectively identify the source of gaps in understanding, build from and supplement the student’s current knowledge and processes, and thoughtfully construct strategies to apply during our small group and individual time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Student Reflection with Digital Tools

I love when I can walk away from a training and say "I am going to use that in my classroom!"  This is how I felt after Susan's workshop on digital tools.  She demonstrated and gave us a wee bit of time to play with a few tools. Some were apps, some were also web based.  Either way, I could see the potential for all of them! Especially with my students who struggle with written expression.
I am already in love with "VideoNotes." (You can push the kids a video and as they watch, they can pause it and take notes, all on the same screen. ) They can then share the link with me so I can view their notes.

Here's the link to Susan's webpage of resources! Give them a whirl or come ask me about them:)
Today I met with 3 middle school students who described their PLP experiences.  One young man's comments was both disheartening and enlightening.  He said he spent the year filling out worksheet after worksheet for the PLP.  None of the worksheets were ever revisited (will this be read?) and the students learned to just write anything down.

As I began asking them questions, I took a few seconds to describe my "Oh the Horror" Unit to let them know how invaluable their input is.  Immediately the young man perked up.  He told me that he spent his free time studying films and working on film scripts. 

Okay, so what does this tell us?  Right. 
Reflection on Day Three at MGI

    After beginning the day on a foggy note due to the deep and meaningful discussions about learning and taking action steps that went late into the night, I became more excited as the day went on. We made real progress in the schedule group, beginning with actually thinking about limitations. We had grand plans coming into this, and we still have them, but for having something viable to begin the school year with, we focused on the main goals we had for a new schedule. We realized we had achieved the most important of those, and then hammered out the details. Presenting it to the rest of the staff at the end of the day was very satisfying.

   The other event that was pleasing today was having the consultation with strand leaders due to my "hybrid" status here at the institute. I now know exactly what I have to do to earn my graduate credit and it something completely attainable during these last couple days of here. 

  After two days of a lot going on in multiple directions with no clear end in sight, I feel much better about my time here and the viable and meaningful changes we could bring about at our school come fall.

Notes from "How to Hook Kids"

Notes from How to Hook Kids with Maura (PA)

  • unit on identity to start the school year in classrooms-this is likely already happening, so use this for the PLP
  • look at what is happening in the classrooms already-it is following along the lines of the PLP
    • I AM Poem-lots of examples and sites that offer templates for these
    • pic stitch collage-allows them to be creative and get
    • Identity boxes-Maura uses these
      • internal and external identity
      • shoe box with things others can see on the outside and other things on the inside that others only see if we show
      • great way to introduce values and self-esteem
    • Relationship Webs-relationship analysis
    • FLYIN Ryan Core Principles-get with Jen Hempey who is already using this with some of the struggling boys
  • share out among teams about different things during meetings
  • you need to live and model the PLP experience (identity, goals, plans, reflection and evidence)
  • bumper sticker for everyone (teachers too)-created by everyone and including goals for the year-engage in discussions about these and be willing to share yours too.
  • Growth Mindset-give kids resources, talk to them like adults and identify “mindset” moments during meetings with students-it is ok to try, you are not always going to get it the first time.
  • successes and challenges-you learn from both!
  • GRIT-take on big challenges, perseverance
  • do you feel like your brain is working?
  • Find Inspiration! Who has set and achieved goals...people in the community, sharing is huge
  • videos are helpful and most kids are able to relate to them
  • show challenges, ask what would you do?, explore ideas
  • DREAM BIG!! (Where do you want to go?)
    • Career Explorer
    • Start where you are in VT-get them out of the school setting and give them EXPERIENCES and let them internalize it and show it out in any way they want
  • PLP is more of the “showpiece” and the learning is more of the “nitty gritty” hard work.
  • Student-led conference in the end of October drove their timeline so that they were required to have the following prior to the conference:
    • identity
    • bio
    • goal (NOT finalized)

  • 3 goals-2 academic and 1 personal (this was what they did last year but they will not be doing looking at quantity and focus on quality of goals this year), 3 identified transferable skills (let them see the language of these first and use them to identify and attach goals to them.  EX:  finding creative avenues to demonstrate skill in the content areas (creativity), learning to beatbox (finding success)
  • 11 indicators of transferable skills that need to be met by the time they graduate high school-they do not have to reach all of these in 7th grade-remember that!!

Thoughts during workshop presentations

These are the interesting thoughts I had today during workshop presentations:

Including an activity on determining student values as part of the “Who am I?” section of PLP.
Include discussion and activities/goals on mindset.
I’m wondering if there are grade 5-6 level materials on Mindset? Or a list of resources for grades 5-6 mindset?
It seems as if 3 goals is a good number in general; I’ve heard teachers talk about 2 academic, 1 personal goal for student-led conferences. But this can be differentiated if students are struggling with goal setting, or haven’t experienced success academically.

I like the possibility of increasing access for students with disabilities through the web-based and iPad apps in which students can record their presentations, decreasing stress over presenting, and practicing presenting in a relaxed atmosphere.

Scheduling Committee - Wednesday

We came to the realization today that we could make some small, yet significant changes to our current schedule which would allow for student personalization and help us to further cultivate a sense of cougar community.
CBMS - Home of the Fighting Brookies!

PLP Focus Group Timeline (PloP DRoP) [DRAFT]

Bold= mandatory dates

CBMS students arrive August 25th

First week in Sept: week long intro to PLP, get to know you’s, mission statement, informal goal setting modeling

September 10th-Oct 9: activities, bio, mindset discussion, who am I? exploration, personalize  PLP template online. Students pick a passion to explore.

Oct 9th- set personal goal for students’ passion based on transferable skills (as identified by WWSU PLP template) and have something to share by Nov. 25th

November 11th- in AG, students prepare and present for their student led conferences the “who am I?” section and one personal goal related to passion. Evidence shared.

PLP suggested celebration of AG’s work toward goals

November 25th- PLP introduction to parents with student led conferences in which students present the “who am I?” and evolving work toward goal surrounding a passion.

November 30th-PLP update mandated by law (will be a work in progress)

December 1st ----? Set two academic goals based on transferable skills
Staff/student voice feedback on how it is going so far what are theneeds moving forward?

December 8th- PLP group meet to re-evaluate and set timeline until spring conferences

February 1st-Staff/PLP group determine the elements of the final student led conference

Early March/Late February-students practice presentations in AG

March 18th-student led conferences

June-evaluate the PLP this year and discuss adaptations for next year

Student Voice Committee: Tuesday

Today, we created a blog.  We did this, as this is how MGI is soliciting feedback, and we are using this as a model. This blog's purpose is a platform for AGs to interact, and for students to have a more direct voice into the CBMS community.  Each AG leader would have an account, and would need to be trained on how to use Blogger.  Then, there would be a prompt (to start us off) that each AG leader would use to lead a discussion.  The prompt would be a post.  The AG leaders / students would craft a response and comment on that post.  There is a function where AGs could then reply to posts from other AGs.  These posts could narrow and expand in focus from "What should we have for lunch on (a particular day)?" to "How are plp's going?" to PBIS to "When do you get to make choices in school?" 

Here is a link to the test blog.  We would share author privileges with AG leaders.  Note, it is only a test, where we are experimenting with Blogger functions.

Nuts and Bolts 1:1

Nuts and Bolts, 1:1 implementation 

This choice workshop had many very valuable insights into the highs and lows of 1:1 implementation. Much food for thought, including pros and cons of sending devices home as well as parent involvement.

Draft 1:1 Vision Statement- what do you think?

We envision a student-centric learning environment where students use modern technology as a tool routinely, transparently, and naturally in their journey to become lifelong learners and contributing members of a global society.

Chromebooks in the Classroom

Informative choice session.  There are powerful extensions and apps in google chrome that would be beneficial to both students and staff at CBMS.  We should get some Chromebooks to experiment with as a possibility for 1:1...

Chromebooks are pretty awesome!

Check out the 1:1 Chromebook Workflow link at https://sites.google.com/site/plan4plp/home

1:1 Action Plan- draft

Coming together nicely...we will be sooooo ready for 1:1 when that day comes....projected August 2016!  Click here for the draft Action Plan.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

About Professional Development...

Would there be overlap between the 1:1 staff and para training and our ideas of school? Could the PD mentioned in the 1:1 action plan allow us as a staff (teachers and paras) to work on how to engage in the uncomfortable in our classroom? Could this be a way for us to learn/practice/refine/fine-tune how we connect with students while coaching students through their construction of connections between their interests and school?  I would like to know more about the PD that the 1:1 action plan mentioned and the timing.

PLP Mission Statement in three formats

State of Vermont Act 77 

“documentation of an evolving plan developed on behalf of a student in an ongoing process involving a secondary student, a representative of the school, and, if the student is a minor, the student’s parents or legal guardian and updated at least annually by November 30 … ”.

Crossett Brook Employee Version

“an evolving plan documented on the WWSU PLP website for grades 5-8 at CBMS, developed by the student, with peer coaching, teachers and staff at CBMS, the student’s parents or legal guardian and updated at least annually by November 30 … ”.

Student Friendly: PLoP time!!

“The time during the day that we get to talk about ourselves and take selfies and build a website centered around what we think is cool now, and stuff we’ve heard might be cool to explore -- then tell all about it ”

PLP Focus Group Tuesday Reflections

PLP Focus group

GOALS for the group and for the end of this week:
1) Determine the purpose of PLP for the students and teachers and families
2) Work on student engagement piece before the actual PLP begins: “who am I”?
students to explore identity, disposition, learning styles, mindset
3) Timeline/map for implementation of PLP (short and long-term goals) big picture through 2018-19, and nuts and bolts for 2015-16 for next year and to think about the continuum within WWSU (challenge after lunch)
4) Develop a student-friendly and student-driven mission statement based on ACT 77 - given that there is no language in the law about student input in the process

The PLP group explored the difference between a PLP at the 5-6 level and the 7-8 level. We discussed having the 5-6 PLP for this year's rollout be more about "Who am I?" and being called an EEP - Explore Everything Plan (thanks, Melissa!) with perhaps a Personal Goal for 6th grade, and the 7-8 PLP being more evidence-based and including more academic and "the future"-related goals. We talked about building the PLP gradually over 4 years, so that the first COHORT in 2018-19 will have experienced most aspects of the PLP process.

The group honored the work of last year's pilot group, and looked at materials and the timeline provided by that group's members.

Scheduling Committee Notes

* These are preliminary ideas.  No need to get too excited yet!
We have started looking at a number of potential schedule changes.  We are trying to find opportunities for personalization, including PLP implementation. This could happen in a longer AG block at the end of the day.  In addition, we are looking at creating a math team in order to better address the diverse needs of our students.

Student Voice Committee

Student Action Team
Goal: To infuse more student voice into the daily goings on of the school day. (The why)
Who:  Each team sends 2 kids per team. (Senate style)  These students will gather information from the different teams and will bring these ideas to the action team meeting.  There will be 2 teachers on this team as well.  Each team chooses which students go (student voting, teacher choice, speeches, however the team sees fit). 
What might be discussed at these meetings:  
  • Assembly planning
  • School climate
  • TV in lobby
  • PLP
  • Attending/participating in other staff action teams
  • Newspaper
  • Other student ideas!
When:  This student action team would meet one Wednesday a month from 2:00-3:00 (students and teachers are relieved of duties during that time.)
Where: Conference room.
How it changes the daily goings on:
  • Students come up with action steps
  • How is this rolled back to the teams?  Through team meeting and survey/email notifications.

The March to 1:1 @ CBMS

What we want to achieve at the MGI:

  • Draft an action plan to get to full 1:1 in 16/17 school year, including steps to get us closer to 1:1 in 15/16.
    • Utilize and seek out expertise of other TIIE schools here at the MGI who are in 1:1
  • Tech Coordinator hiring- peruse applications to date
  • Review already created notes on 1:1 implementation