What’s Happening in Classrooms the First Week of School?

Back in Action

This week was full of action in Groton-Dunstable. On Monday, August 28, we welcomed our educators and para-educators back to kick off the 2017-2018 school year at their buildings. Our principals universally designed activities to welcome everyone to the best year yet! On Tuesday, our administrative team welcomed everyone with a GDRSD Carpool Karaoke episode and two hours of professional development on the district vision and how we’re going to eliminate inequities for all students. It was electric!

On Thursday and Friday, I buzzed around the district to see what’s happening in classrooms. My goal is to do this throughout the year to share best practices with teachers and the larger education community so we can optimize our Universal Design for Learning (UDL) implementation. I plan to share a few of great examples of UDL each week and highlight them, sharing how the strategies align to the district vision and help to build expert learners.

Some great examples of UDL…

IMG_3974Mrs. Dinneen, a second grade teacher at Swallow Union, kicked off the year by asking students to self-assess their ability to use math strategies to add within ten. Our district is implementing UDL districtwide, and one of the UDL guidelines is to provide all students with options to self-assess in order to self-direct, or make personalized goals for their learning. This product (see right) is a great example of the importance of asking even our youngest learners to be more assessment capable and reflective. Once students highlight the strategies they need to work on, they can choose the best stations to help them increase their toolbox of math strategies so they can continue their journey to be great math thinkers.IMG_6062

At the middle school, Ms. Witt was using math stations to provide students with options and opportunities to learn about ratio and proportion. Students had the option of four (4) stations where they explored resources, answered a short assessment, and then collaborated with peers to determine correct answers once they all agreed on their answers. When Karen Gartland, the K-8 math supervisor, saw the lesson, she noted, “Giving students the opportunity to make a choice about what they need to work on, and how to get to the same end goal is so important in the teaching of mathematics. Collaborating on answers allows students the opportunity to have student math talk before they look at the answers or talk to the teachers, allowing them to become more self-directed.”

IMG_3965 (1)At the high school, Ms. Olson is flipping history and teaching it from the present. This backwards design in history is a great way to allow students to think critically about the impact of the past on modern life. Since no texts exist on what is happening RIGHT NOW, students are designing their own textbook. Ms. Olson started by asking them to create essential questions, or burning questions they want to know about the current state of our world, politics, etc… and students will work in groups to be resourceful, collaborate to explore various sources, and they will craft the multimedia text that will kick off their historical study. In this picture, students are writing their essential questions for each section of the textbook on the white board.

mousetrapLastly, Mr. Rocheleau, our robotics and engineering teacher, started off the year with a great example of design thinking. He gave every student a mousetrap, access to numerous tools the resources and then challenged them to make a self-propelled car. When I walked in, every student was deep in the design process, trying to figure out how to best other teams’ cars. It was an awesome example of what we’re looking to build in GD: innovative problem solvers; dreamers and makers.

So thrilled to share all the amazing happenings and opportunities for our students. Enjoy the long weekend.

Dr. Katie Novak
Assistant Superintendent of Schools