I had another amazing week diving into classrooms and experiencing learning with our students. This week, I spent time in the math and science wing at the high school and a full day alongside our littlest learners at Boutwell.
While at the HS, I walked into Mr. MacDonald’s Algebra class while the class was taking a quiz. I decided to try my hand at the quiz and challenged the students to try to beat my score. As soon as I sat down, I realized I didn’t remember how to go about solving quadratic equations, so I figured I would just solve for X by plugging in numbers. In hindsight, this is not the best way to solve a quadratic equation… more on that later.
That’s when I got stuck. Mr. MacDonald was walking around and he simply placed a reference sheet in front of me that explained the steps for completing the square. He didn’t say anything – simply gave me the scaffold and kept walking. I was able to get to step 5 with this scaffold, and got stuck again. Again, because he keeping tabs on us, he noticed that I was struggling so then he explained to me why it’s important to know how to solve a quadratic equation and complete a square. I’d try to explain it, but I would butcher it, so you’ll have to email him! Also, he explained there are both real and imaginary numbers and sometimes the answer was not a real number so my previous method wasn’t the best strategy.
I worked on that one problem for well over 15 minutes but because of the support I was getting, I never felt unmotivated and even though I did not get the answer on my own, I felt like I was getting really close and if I had time to spend all day with him, I would’ve gotten it. That is really what UDL is all about. We want to give students the opportunity to use their own methods, try and make mistakes, and then have teachers coach them to continue to build their understanding.
On Thursday, I spent the day at Boutwell. Goodness, did those students hit the jackpot! All four teachers, Mrs. O’Neill, Mrs. Stiles, Ms. Dellogono, and Ms. Piersma had universally designed lessons that involved all students in amazing experiences that helped them understand and appreciate the season of fall. From apple stamp paintings in Mrs. O’Neill’s room to a lesson about fall weather in Mrs. Stiles’, which included a fun kinesthetic activity that involved raking imaginary leaves, to a free-choice pumpkin investigation in Ms. Dellogono’s room (learn more about that lesson in the Lesson of the Week video that follows), to fun with a parachute with Ms. Piersma, these kids were learning, but they were having a blast!!
The students were immersed in free choice activities aligned to the theme, circle lessons aligned to the standards, and fun outdoor play, facilitated by the teachers and their amazing para-educators, so every step was a learning experience. What struck me most about Boutwell was the focus on expert learning. In each classroom, students were expected to self-direct, make good choices, learn from mistakes, be creative, and most importantly, collaborate with each other to learn how to be motivated, kind, and empathic. It’s great to see that our Boutwell students have a great start to an education in Groton-Dunstable.