Middle School Is Not a Building: What Does It Mean Today?

January 27, 2018

SESSION A 9:15-10:15 am

Break Out 1 Livak Ballroom Room 417/418 Facilitator: Joe Rivers

The Impact of Formative Feedback

Grace Gilmour

Crossett Brook Middle School
Throughout this year, I have focused on the impact of frequent formative feedback on students’ ability to understand the learning targets and identify where they are in the learning process. Students have tracked their progress, reflected throughout the learning process, and taken part in collaborative practice and feedback.

Improving Student Engagement through Personal Interest Projects (PIP’s)

Meg O’Donnell

Shelburne Community School

This research project set out to explore how implementing personal interest projects (PIP’s) can redefine student engagement, and ultimately transform the personalized learning plans (PLP’s). This fall, each team at Shelburne Community School implemented mini-PIP’s to practice the process of designing learning based on personal interests. By surveying and interviewing students, teachers and parents, we came away with important insights into the successes, the shortcomings and the next steps in pursuing personal interest projects.

Break Out 2 Jost Foundation Room 422 Facilitator: Kathleen Brinegar

Increasing Engagement Through Choice Based Literacy Instruction
Katelyn Floyd & Liz Siddel

Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School

In this workshop we will explore the impacts of student choice within the ELA classroom as they pertain to engagement. Topics will include: book clubs, choice based writing, project based learning and independent reading.

Flexible Pathways, Personalization, and Community Involvement Through Effective Implementation of Writer’s Workshop
Maddy Hulbert, Michael Rapoport & Ashley Goddard

Stowe Middle School

Using Lucy Calkins and the Writer's Workshop we will share how flexible pathways,
personalization of learning, and community involvement opportunities influence positive learning outcomes among all learners. Through the use of proficiency scales, writers notebooks and personalized learning plans we report on our progress and findings around our research question: How will providing flexible pathways, personalization, and community involvement through the Writer's Workshop model increase student engagement in the writing curriculum?

Break Out 3 Chittenden Bank Room 413 Facilitator: Life LeGeros

Voice and Choice in Mathematics using Proficiency Based Assessment

Laura Widdis

Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School

I share how designing structures that support student voice about their level of proficiency can make informed decisions when given choice in a mathematics classroom.

Student Thoughts on Proficiency Based Feedback

Brian Dumais

Crossett Brook Middle School
This action research project began by examining the impact of interactive scientist notebooks on how students receive and respond to feedback. The goal was to establish a physical place to organize student work, showcase their growth, and provide formative feedback. The focus of the project soon broadened to consider student perspectives on proficiency based feedback in general.

Break Out 4 Williams Family Room 403 Facilitator: Katy Farber

Personal Choice in Wellness Activities: Promote Inclusive Physical Education
Kelly Spreen & Lauren Goracy

Shelburne Community School
The focus of our action research was to offer personal choice in wellness activities that will promote student engagement. We found that this allowed for full inclusion within the physical education setting. This action research was conducted through a co-teaching model by a physical education teacher and special educator. A personal choice model in conjunction with co-teaching allowed for multiple access points and flexible pathways for all students.

Understanding Growth Through Effective Self and Teacher Feedback

Emily Desautels

Colchester Middle School
I share how the start of the school year has empowered students to reflect on their own learning, and continue to grow as learners through self-assessment, peer and teacher feedback. I will discuss my experiences with some of my 8th grade Music classes, specifically relating to their guitar and public speaking units.

Break Out 5 Sugar Maple Facilitator: Scott Thompson

Workshops and Problem Solving: How the Quest Team is Restructuring Their Day
Melissa Williams
Crossett Brook Middle School

Individualized instruction, proficiencies, personal learning plans, tier two intervention, and content curriculum, how does one fit all of these into a teaching day? This presentation will focus on a schedule that is not dictated by subjects. Personal learning plans fit into morning meetings, a workshop block incorporates tier 2 interventions and individualized learning, a problem solving class incorporates problem solving across the curriculum, a reading block for reading and interpersonal relationships, and an integrated inquiry for units from magnitude to more traditional early humans. Where’s the math? It’s in there. Where’s writing? All day.

Embedded of Literacy in the Social Studies Classroom through Voice and Choice
Jeremy DeMink

Burlington School District
Through the use of predesigned scaffolds, guiding questions, and daily student conferencing, the students constructed interest driven projects guided by the social studies theme of Civilization. As a starting point this project embed a set of nonfiction, fiction, primary source, and current event materials--differentiated for reading levels, and student interest. This initial text sets served as a starting point for student as they were guided to find media resources that served their individual interests.

Break Out 6 Silver Maple Facilitator: Nancy Doda

PLP Pathways: Professional Learning for Middle Level Educators

Don Taylor, Maura Weiler & Participants

Middle Grades Collaborative

We will share our learning during a pilot professional development program that combined our webinar series with teacher consultations. You will hear about our efforts to support teachers and teams in their action research projects and ongoing professional learning.

A Multi-Age Middle School Team's Approach to Addressing the Three Pillars of Personalization

Kevin Pioli-Hunt, Amanda Laberge, Amy Skapof, Debbie Donnelly

Williston Central School

How do PLPs, proficiencies, and flexible pathways work together to provide personalized learning within the classroom? Swift House uses a model that addresses these three pillars of personalized learning in a way that engages learners, communicates learning, and offers authentic learning experiences...without feeling like extra work!

SESSION B 10:30-11:30 am

Break Out 1 Livak Ballroom Room 417/419 Facilitator: Jeanie Phillips

Student Led Conferences and A Redesigned PLP Process

Sarah Marcus, Madeline Pritchard & Alena Digan

Proctor High School

At MGI last summer we created a new PLP curriculum and a plan to implement student led conferences at PHS. We will share our plan and how it is going so far this year.

How Choice in Writing Affects Students’ Writing Output

Kimberly Fry

Champlain Valley Union High School

I studied students’ preferences on writing choice during a skill building block at CVUHS. On an initial survey most students indicated that they could improve their writing and that they disliked most types of writing. My results indicated that students value having choice in what they write but they prefer the structure of having assigned writing prompts. Both the quality and quantity of their writing is their best work when they write about something that is important to their individual lives.

Break Out 2 Jost Foundation Room 422 Facilitator: Emily Hoyler

What Do YOU Want to Know? Student Voice in Interdisciplinary Unit Design

Brian Audet, Wendi Dowst, Jennifer Gammon & Dennis McLaughlin

West Rutland Middle School

Our team is in the midst of creating an interdisciplinary, inquiry- and proficiency- based unit with input from the 7th and 8th graders. Because we are moving toward a system that integrates personalized learning, flexible pathways, and proficiency-based grading, we are exploring transferable skills through the lens of “Who are we as West Rutland?” We’re investigating how curriculum planning with students as collaborative designers changes the curriculum and student engagement.

Providing Voice, Choice and Self-Direction in a 6th Grade Math Class
Elizabeth Tarno

Warren School
I have been conducting an action research project in which I have transformed my 6th grade math class from a teacher directed program to one in which students have choice in determining the sequence, pace and, at times, tools with which to learn math standards. I am interested in the impact this direction will have on student engagement and achievement.

Break Out 3 Chittenden Bank Room 413 Facilitator: Monica McEnerny

Vermont Profile of a Graduate

Pat Fitzsimmons

Vermont Agency of Education

As Vermont moves towards a proficiency-based and personalized system of education, we need a shared understanding of the skills, abilities, and knowledge that all students need in order to be successful in life after graduation. Participants in this workshop will contribute to the development of a Vermont Profile of a Graduate. This will be an opportunity for middle school students and their teachers to consider, discuss, and describe the skills and abilities that are essential for a successful life in the 21st Century.

What’s Social Identity Got to Do With it?

Leo Rosowsky, Sabrina Brunet, and Giulia Gennari with support from Christie Nold

Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School

In this interactive workshop, students will lead participants in an exploration of social identity. Together, we will encourage deep thinking around bias, perspective, and individual identity categories including race, gender identity, and religion. We know that we can’t leave our social identities behind and neither should the education system.

Break Out 4 Williams Family Room 403 Facilitator: Katy Farber

Allied Arts and Humanities Integration to Deepen Connections, Relevance, and Engagement: Using "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" as a Primary Text

Lauren Grader-Fox

Burke Town School

Studies have found positive correlations between arts integrated instruction and intrinsic motivation, encouraged learning for understanding, growth mindset, and student motivation. This Action Research Project aspires to increase students' engagement in learning and sense of connectedness with school and community through a unified curriculum.

Project Based Learning: Does it Increase Student Engagement?
Deborah Serafino

Brattleboro Area Middle School
This action research project analyzes project based learning as a learning tool for students to gain mathematical knowledge of in the formative stage. Project based learning includes the daily research to find supportive activities and guiding resources for the students as they need them. I reflect on these scaffolding learning opportunities and discuss the adjustments made to encourage student engagement.

Break Out 5 Sugar Maple Facilitator: Don Taylor

Hacking Design Thinking

Eli Rosenberg & Daniel Maguire

Main Street Middle School

We asked our students to help design their learning with a protocol called “Care, Think, Design, Act, Share” to set and achieve their PLP goals. We also built negotiated curricula to let students have more voice and choice in their learning. Through broad use of these protocols, along with reflection, students have developed robust, transferable goal-setting and problem-solving mindsets. We will describe two different teams' approaches to this same goal, along with our reflections.

Measuring Student Engagement and Voice: An Interdisciplinary Unit Based On The Three Pillars of Personalization
Nick Gordon & Jon Potts
Harwood Union Middle School

How can Personal Learning Plans be integrated into a student’s experience in middle-level Humanities classes? We will define characteristics, practices, and events that support PLP development and also use them to increase student voice and agency in class, specifically during a community-based, ethnographically based writing unit.

Break Out 6 Silver Maple Facilitator: Lindsey Halman

Developing Career Pathways at the Middle Level
Sam Nelson & 3 to 5 students

Shelburne Community School

How do flexible pathways and personalization intersect at the middle level? This year 8th graders combine content (career exploration unit) with community connections (Burlington Tech Center) and PLPs (personal interest projects) to begin developing career pathways. This ongoing process has involved practical insight regarding career and college requirements, debunking stigmas surrounding technical training, and the potential for spring internships at desired tech programs.

Student Leaders Carve Our PATH

Jennifer Hill

Crossett Brook Middle School

Exploring how student leadership can improve overall engagement of staff and students in developing PLPs has led to choice and voice as essential pieces to the roll out, identity work, and project focus of our PLPs.


ROUNDTABLE SESSION - Feedback for a Revised Middle School Is Not a Building

12:15-12:45 pm

SESSION C 1:00-2:00 pm

Break Out 1 Livak Ballroom Room 417/419 Facilitator: Susan Hennessey

The Process toward Student Portfolio Defense

Michelle Holder & Kara Merrill

Randolph Union Middle School

We share our advisory practices to support the development of student portfolios. Students build these portfolios over the course of 7th and 8th grade which culminates in a portfolio defense at the end of 8th grade. We will show some of the steps in the development of our student portfolios and what the defenses look like.

Personalizing Protean to build a PLP and e-portfolio
Jared Bailey & Students

Williston Central School

Sterling House presents how we build PLPs and curate an e-portfolio through our use of Protean. Students will be presenting their learning and understanding. They will also be answering any questions you may have regarding how 5th and 6th graders feel about PLPs and their ability to use Protean.

Break Out 2 Jost Foundation Room 422 Facilitator: Don Taylor

PLPs in The Elementary Classroom
Courtney Elliott & Corey Smith

Proctor Elementary School

Discover how PLPs can benefit your students and promote student led learning as well as student self assessment. We will share resources we collected from MGI, templates we have created for our students, and share student PLPs that have been created in 3rd and 4th grades this year. We will also discuss how the implementation of PLPs will support student led conferences in 3rd and 4th grade.

Moving On Up: Facilitating Effective Transitions between Elementary and Middle School

Sarah Magoon

Peoples Academy Middle Level

Facilitating effective transitions between grade levels is an integral part of maintaining a positive learning environment where students can experience academic, social, and emotional success. Taking these things into consideration, I have focused my research on the following question: How can we provide scaffolded supports for our students, faculty, and families for a smooth transition between Morrisville Elementary School and Peoples Academy Middle Level? Student feedback and focus groups, along with research surrounding William Glasser’s five needs, serve as the foundation for this longitudinal investigation.

From Identity to Reflection: Piloting PLPs in 5th/6th Grade

Sarah Adelman

Cabot School

I will share how students explored the different parts of their identity through the creation of an identi-tree, an interactive illustration of a tree that represented themselves. Additionally, we will look at how students used a goal-setting model created by Angela Duckworth. Finally, we will look at challenges to and related strategies for maintaining student engagement during the reflection stage of the PLP process.

Break Out 3 Chittenden Bank Room 413 Facilitator: Monica McEnerny

Can We Grow the Grow Math Mindset of Faculty and Staff at Hunt Middle School?
Kimberly Hunt, Melody Daigle & Michelle Cullen

Hunt Middle School
After studying the work of Stanford math-education professor, Jo Boaler, we share our learning with staff about the brain science behind growth mindset with a focus on math. Inspired by research suggesting that parents may influence their children’s learning through their own anxiety, we work to improve the math mindset of staff at Hunt Middle School and have teachers think about the language they use with students.

Fostering a Positive Climate and Culture through Authentic Learning Opportunities

Stephanie Zuccarello
Peoples Academy Middle Level

My action research question is: How does authentic learning opportunities affect the climate and culture in fifth and sixth grade science classes and, ultimately, in our school? Pre and post interviews of students and observations through video and reflection of lessons were collected and analyzed. During the process of this action plan, I share the results of developing a healthy and positive climate necessary for effective personalized learning.

Break Out 4 Williams Family Room 403 Facilitator: Nancy Doda

Negotiated Curriculum for a Unit on Immigration
Anna Rehm

Milton Town School District

During our unit on immigration, students had choice in what they read and learned, and in how they showed their learning. I will present on some of the challenges I experienced with implementing negotiated curriculum in my second year of teaching.

Personalized Interaction with Text
Katie Leman

Main Street Middle School

I share the connection of personalized interaction with texts and motivation to read. The initial project revolved around the use of an “Interactive Reader’s Writer’s Notebook” but was later altered to meet the needs of my students and drive motivation.

Break Out 5 Sugar Maple Facilitator: Rachel Mark

PLP 4.0 at Flood Brook School
Carinthia Grayson, Charlie Herzog and Cliff DesMairas

Flood Brook School
We initiated a complete redesign of student PLPs this year. Following the lead of Crossett Brook's students, we're using passion projects (Genius Hour) as the vehicle for personalized learning. We'll share our observations, current projects, and students' reflections about the change.

The Effect of Integrating Genius Hour into a 5th grade Classroom

Cara Crowther & 2-4 students

Shelburne Community School

After struggling a bit to engage my 4th graders, I found myself questioning everything I did in my classroom last year. I took this as an opportunity to explore things like project based learning and personalized learning. I was curious to see if implementing Genius Hour would change what I saw in and from my students.

Break Out 6 Silver Maple Facilitator: Maura Wieler

Fostering a Positive Climate: Development, Diversity and Restorative Practice

Jessica Dambach, Elizabeth Sanner & Leah Belitsos

Peoples Academy Middle Level

The goal of our action research was to apply our knowledge of adolescent development in passive ways, deliberately implement restorative practices while actively celebrating diversity among everyone in our community. We sought to provide a better understanding of adolescent development, foster connections through engagement in teacher advisories, and implement restorative practices through familiar settings and people.

Projects for Hope: Global Goals & Local Project Based Learning
Morgan Moore, Dale Guisinger, Courtney Murray, Lori Robinson, Amelia Wurzburg & Josh Lambert
Burke Town School

The eighth grade team embarked on a cross-curricular project based learning unit, where students utilize the global goals to make local change. After becoming familiar with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, students analyzed data from their community and propose projects to make local change. Our presentation highlights the planning process and structure for this unit.

SESSION D 2:15-3:15 pm

Break Out 1 Livak Ballroom Room 417/419 Facilitator: Jeanie Phillips

Inspiring Independent Readers
Laura Zettler & Lorelei Westbrook

Maple Run Unified School District

We have worked to integrate student choice and goal setting into the practice of independent reading. Our hope and dream was to create a community of habitual readers. We discuss what worked to inspire the habit of reading through genre choice, personalized goal setting and choice of how to reflect on weekly reading.

Building Reading Engagement
Kim Scott

Main Street Middle School

I share the work of my students in an ongoing project to help them unlock their potential as readers. Engaging fully and deeply with complex text and independent reading can be difficult for students, especially reluctant readers who so often want the immediacy of their learning. By utilizing interactive, hands on activities students I share how these activities deepen student reading comprehension and develop personal awareness around individual reading habits and practices.

Break Out 2 Jost Foundation Room 422 Facilitator: Maura Wieler

Improving Student Engagement Through Mindfulness

Michael Willis

Williston Central School
I discuss how student engagement changes through the intentional teaching of mindfulness to help students stay engaged when they face challenges in their school world. Students study brain structure and science as they learn that the brain is a growing and malleable organ with the capability to be changed. Through the use of regular mindful activities at targeted points of the day, students learn a variety of techniques to focus their thinking.

Mindsets and Mindfulness
Joe Speers & Kelsey Higgins

Peoples Academy Middle Level

We share our goal to improve the climate and culture at our school. From the beginning of the school year, we have worked with our 5th and 6th grade students on recognizing and improving their mindsets, and using mindfulness techniques to help students self-regulate. The hope was that this work would help improve our students' attitudes towards school, and thus improve the overall climate of our school.

Break Out 3 Chittenden Bank Room 413 Facilitator: Katy Farber

Building a Foundation for Personalized Learning Through Instructional Teaming
Cindy Kussius, Kim Dumont & Cathy Newton

Ottauquechee School

This presentation, given by a 4th Grade Teacher, a Special Educator and their Administrator, will walk participants through a team’s approach to building a foundation for personalized learning by using a co-teaching model of instruction, differentiated learning opportunities, and applying UDL to improve student engagement in mathematics.

Start from the Heart: Structured Teacher Advisories and Community Building
Brittany Hammond

Peoples Academy Middle Level

I share how a teacher advisory (TA), as a means of contributing to a improved sense of community, has the potential to be an essential part of a student’s day. I implemented a highly structured TA with themes, routines, and rituals with the hope of creating meaningful bonds and developing a strong sense of belonging.

Break Out 4 Williams Family Room 403 Facilitator: Monica McEnerny

Leveraging Google Classroom for Improved Self-Awareness

Elisabeth Kahn

Montpelier Public Schools

I will show some first steps towards using Google Classroom as a “hub” for self-assessment, feedback, and reflection.

Break Out 5 Sugar Maple Facilitator: Joe Rivers

The Three Pillars of Personalized Learning and North Country School's Three R's

Caroline Hlavacek Perry

North Country School

North Country School was founded in 1938 on the basis of instilling in students the three attributes of ruggedness, resourcefulness, and resiliency. Our version of the "Three R's" are integrated throughout our programming, which includes immersive outdoor and sustainability education on our working farm. The Three Pillars of Personalized Learning and the NCS Three R's converge in their mutual dedication to individualized and authentic learning experiences. This presentation will share the analysis of the connection between these sets of principles.

Break Out 6 Silver Maple Facilitator: Scott Thompson

M3: Mindset, Metacognition, & Motivation

Bruce G. Perlow & Helen Beattie
Unleashing the Power of Partnership, (UP) for Learning

Increased responsibility in a personalized learning model requires that students gain fluency in the language of learning — mindset, metacognition and motivation (M3). We share how M3 promotes positive social and academic outcomes for all students by means of a peer-to-peer teaching model. We explain how the M3 initiative trains and supports youth as peer-to-peer messengers during advisories to share the latest research on mindsets, metacognition, and motivation, and how youth team with adult partners to create a culture shift in their school that supports student engagement and self-efficacy.

Using Personalized Learning and Community Engagement Practices to Elevate Student Voice, Promote Agency and Build a Culture of Respect

Jessica Butler and Bruce Perlow

UP for Learning

When students experience intentional learning opportunities that encourage personal reflection, increase emotional intelligence, celebrate individual strengths and attend to equity, they develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for themselves as learners, have increased agency and resiliency for challenges related to their educational journey, and help build a culture of respect. This presentation shares specific strategies for incorporating these themes in a middle school day.