Monday, November 28, 2016

Thankful


The middle school participated in a “Thankful Meal” on Tuesday,  November 22nd. Each house hosted a turkey meal (with all the fixings,) where students and teachers worked together to prep, set-up, and clean. As a House, the middle schoolers sat down to eat with their peers and teachers.



Before digging into our meal, we encouraged students to consider what they were thankful for, offering crayons for them to express their thoughts on our makeshift tablecloths.

I would like to spend some time reflecting on some of the things that I personally have to be grateful for.




I am thankful to work in a school that puts students first. I have built wonderful relationships with the eclectic group of children I am lucky enough to call my students. They help to remind me everyday why I became a teacher.

I am thankful to work with faculty and staff who understand that we are growing together as a team. We all have our idiosyncrasies, and we may not always see eye to eye on every aspect of our craft, but we are a united team that works tirelessly to provide a safe, respectful and engaged learning environment for our students AND for each other.

I am thankful for an administration that keeps me humble. With each new initiative that is introduced, I am encouraged to go outside of my comfort zone and fine tune my methods.

I am thankful to live and work in a beautiful place, where I am greeted every morning by the White Mountains. My daily drive across state lines is the most peaceful commute I’ve ever had, and it offers time for much needed contemplation.

And, of course, I am thankful for my family. I am lucky enough to share a hallway at Hazen with my charismatic husband. This year, we welcomed our beautiful son into the world and I hardly remember what life was like without him.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to consider what you are thankful for… it's a beautiful life and we ought to appreciate it.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Waste Stream Audit


On Wednesday, a group of 8th graders collected all of the trash, recycling, and compost from the day. On Thursday, a seventh grade class helped sort it all out in order to collect data on how much we’re throwing away, how much we’re recapturing, and how well we’re following Vermont’s guidelines. With the help of Central Vermont Waste Management staff, we’ll crunch the numbers and prepare a report for the school and community.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Personalized Learning Plans 101


Personalized Learning Plans have been one of my favorite initiatives and targets of professional development over the past two years.  Hazen has been fortunate to have some wonderful mentors in this process, such as Peoples Academy and Main Street Middle School in Montpelier, as well as our invaluable partnership with the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education. Today, I would like to share some of the ways we implement them long before students start to think of college or career.  



At Hazen, we have realized that the earlier the realization of self, and the establishment of who students are as learners, the better off their high school experience will be.  Some may think that seventh grade may be too early to ask students to think about what they want to do after high school, but on the contrary, the earlier students establish self-awareness, the better they achieve in high school and beyond.  



While some middle school students may know what they want to be when they grown up (I certainly did not), others may need the extra catalyst in exploration.  Do I prefer math and science, or am I an English Language Arts/Social Studies-type student? Or,  Do I learn better by listening, or by reading? What about students who may wonder why they’re the only one who would prefer working by themselves, as opposed to working with their peers on a group project.  

Personalized Learning Plans at the middle level primarily focus on these explorations, rather than a twelve-year-old wondering What kind of doctor do I want to be?


Some basics that parents may want to know about their students’ Personalized Learning Plans...

1.  The actual "PLP" is a private Google site, meaning only people who have permission to access it may view it.  After some intensive work last summer at the Middle Grades Institute, a team of teachers designed the layout of the page using Hazen's academic structure as well integrating ample research and some tried and true models.

2.  At the middle level, PLPs are designed to bring self awareness to students, in both academic proclivities and general interest, as well as establishing goal-setting strategies. I have designed a "playlist" of tasks that the whole middle school follows, focused on identity and interests at this point in the school year.  As students get more comfortable adding to their PLPs, they will begin to add evidence of proficiency in each of the subjects.

3.  Every student’s PLP site can be accessed from any google browser he or she is signed into.  Each student should also have a folder in their google drive called "PLP", where some items have been worked on prior to being published on the actual site/  If you have a middle level student, you can ask them to view their PLP and the work they have done thus far.

We've already written a brief biography, crafted some goals and brainstormed steps to achieve them, and have allowed students to personalize the site to aid in buy-in.  The long-term goal in this process is that students will learn to gain initiative to add to their own site independently, perhaps as they feel they have reached another milestone on their way to a long-term goal.  Students are at different paces already, but are supported by teachers and a self-paced structure.  



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ipads

10/18/16

Hi everyone,

            Thank you to students who have turned in signed Ipad contracts and completed all of the digital digital citizenship lessons. Once you have met these requirements, you are able to bring your Ipad home. We are lucky to have these powerful tools for creativity and collaboration in the classroom, and happy to see you take full responsibility for and ownership of them. Below is a copy of the notice you will receive along with a few additional pieces of gear on the day you take your Ipad home. Feel free to contact any of your teachers with questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Mr. McIntyre on behalf of the Middle Level Team


________________________________________________________________________________


Congratulations!  you have completed your digital citizenship courses, you are aware of all iPad policies and procedures, and you and your parent(s)/guardian(s) have signed an extensive contract.  
You may now take your iPad home!

We have a few last-minute reminders for you:

▢    Your iPad is always connected to OSSU’s filter.  Every search anyone makes on your iPad is recorded and monitored by our Tech Folks, even when you are at home.

▢    You will be responsible for your iPad when you are at home.  Please have a plan of where you will keep your iPad so it is safe and secure when you are not using it.  

  You are responsible for remembering to bring your iPad to school everyday, charged. Otherwise, you may lose the privilege to take it home.

You do not have to take your iPad home everyday. You may still plug it in your TSA room. Students who play sports- you shouldn’t take it to games as the locker room is not really a safe place.

▢     We are giving you chargers for both your iPad and keyboard.  These are your responsibility and you must replace them if they are lost or damaged.
▢  Universal Wall Box charger: $19
▢  Lightning to USB cord $10
▢ Keyboard cord $5

Please remember the contract both you and your parent/guardian signed.

Monday, October 10, 2016

On Grades

Hey Folks,


Your friendly, neighborhood long term substitute here. Mr. Nichols is my name. At the moment I’m sitting at a desk. It is relatively cluttered, but that is besides the point.


The point here is this: I would like to bring some clarity and understanding to Grades in the Middle Level. To start, I’m going to introduce some terms.


Proficiencies - As you might know, the great state of Vermont has mandated that its schools shift to models of Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements. Each academic department has their own proficiencies. These are often stated “I Can” sentences, for example, “I can comprehend, interpret, analyze, and evaluate a wide range and level of complex literary and informational texts.”


Essential Learning Outcomes - Proficiencies are broken down into subcategories called Essential Learning Outcomes (E.L.O.’s). These E.L.O’s are also often stated in I can sentences, for example, “ I can analyze a set of ideas, characters, or events within a text and explain how they interact and develop using evidence.” As a result of both, Proficiencies and E.L.O.’s often appearing in “I Can” sentences, they are easily confused.


Learning Scales - E.L.O.’s are broken down further into Learning Scales. Learning Scales are the first place that something like grades appear as they categorize students as “Getting Started,” “Making Progress,” “I Can Do This,” and “ Transfer.” Each of these categories are assigned numbers from one to four.


Ok, Proficiencies, E.L.O’s and Learning Scales. Great. Good. Now I’ll make this more complicated.


There are two types of assessments used at Hazen, Summative and Formative. Both use E.L.O.’s and Learning Scales but they are separately averaged. Again, they are separately averaged. Why? Well…
Formative assessments are treated as practice. Activities intended to be assessed as formative, are designed for students to become familiar with the skill or concept being taught. These activities are deliberately introduced as low consequence. It should allow and encourage students to experiment, risk failure and grow.
Summative Assessments are intended to serve as main events. They are snapshots of a student’s ability or performance at any one point in time. As such they are used by students and teachers as evidence that a certain E.L.O. has or hasn’t been met.


Now for two confusing matters.
  1. Apart from how they are averaged, Formative and Summative assessments ideally mirror one another. This follows the athletic mantra of “Practice like you Play.”
  2. Academic Habits - Academic Habits are another means of assessment and are used to determine extracurricular eligibility. So they are important. Academic Habits are broken down into four categories, each of which are evaluated on scales ranging from one to four. As evidence of Academic Habits, students and teachers draw on both formative and summative assessments, as well as in class behavior. They are reported every two weeks.


Alright, so now that you know everything about assessment at Hazen, this is what I will leave you with - to start the school year the middle school teachers did not assess anything as summative. This was done for a variety of reasons. One result is that the most recent progress report, a report intended to relate a glimpse of student summative assessments to date, likely had very little data to draw from, if any.


That’s it. I’ve got to tend to some other matters of significant urgency. I’ve spilt my coffee.
Good luck out there!
Sincerely,
Mr. Nichols

Sunday, October 9, 2016

This Week in Math!

October 9, 2016


This week in Math class, we took some time to look at how mistakes can actually help us learn! We learned about growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset and began to see how this affects our learning. Here are two great videos to watch:






Students learned Jo Boaler’s 7 Math Norms for class:
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After watching the videos and then making a few mistakes in Math class, students reflected on their learning. Here is what they had to say:


“I stopped myself from getting frustrated when I made a mistake and started thinking of ways to improvise.”

“When I make a mistake I am now determined to get the right answer and try other ways to solve the problem. Now I know what to do if I get a problem wrong. Also now I know not to rush a math problem.”


“You should never be afraid to ask someone in class for help.”


“It’s different from the other math classes because I look at the questions I’m doing and I push myself more.”


“I now ask for help and when I get help I learn off my mistakes. I know the answer because I got pointers.”

Students are understanding that by thinking deeply about the topics we are learning about help everyone learn more. Believing in yourself is a key to learning! I hope that this helps all students know and understand that we are here to help them grow and learn, which may mean trying and trying again!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Community and the Local Ecosystem

Students in House 2 have begun working on their "Community and the Local Ecosystem" projects. In this unit students identify how they interact with their ecosystem and how their connections with the ecosystem are part of a larger interconnected local community. Students began the topic by investigating the interconnectedness of organisms in the local environment. They collected samples of goldenrod from behind the school that had goldenrod gall:

Students made observations of the goldenrod gall before opening the gall and discovering the pupa of the gall fly inside! Students used their ipads the answer their own questions about the gall fly's life cycle and connection to the goldenrod.


















Later in the unit students learned about invasive species in Lake Champlain. They looked at how the sea lamprey and the spiny waterflea affect various fish species in the lake and how humans have tried to intervene to mitigate the effects of nuisance species. After exploring these topics in ecosystem communities, students moved on to choose a project that explored their own place in the local ecosystem. Students are currently working to create projects that include a qualitative and quantitative investigation of a topic that is personally meaningful to them. Some examples of topics so far include: "Why do we hunt?" "What are the best local fishing spots?" "What invasive species have made it to our local ponds and lakes?" "How is yarn made?" "How has Jasper Hill Farm changed over the years?" "What regulations are there for egg farmers?" and "How is my forested land altered for human recreation?"