April 8 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you well. This winter our staff decided to make a concerted effort to examine how we use Flex Block.  Flex Block is a twenty-five minute period of time in all students’ schedules that teachers are using to deliver intervention and enrichment activities. In the past two years, teachers have used that time for students to access extra help from teachers, as a study hall to get homework done, or as time for silent reading. We have never had the opportunity to come together as a staff to create a set of expectations about how to use this time so that intervention and enrichment activities can be delivered more effectively. It is our goal for next year that we establish this set of expectations.

We started the Flex Block examining process early in January by convening a committee made up of teacher representatives from each of the four grade level teams, an Integrated Arts teacher, a representative from the special education department, and a representative from the specialized instructional support personnel.   The first order of business for the committee was to establish what we wanted the Flex Block to be. We determined that we wanted Flex Block to continue to be a time that teachers are able to meet with students to provide them with academic support. We also wanted the time to be used so teachers and can teach or reinforce critical skills such as executive functioning skills and skills related to social emotional learning. Lastly, but just as important as the other two goals the committee has established, we wanted Flex Block to allow students access to activities that they normally do not have time to participate in during a hectic middle school day. We believe giving students the opportunity to engage in activities such as creative writing, playing geography board games, and solving puzzles are so important because they allow the students to take part in valuable learning experiences without the pressure of being graded, to have the chance to decompress from the rigors of their classes, and to have the opportunity to socially connect with their peers and staff in positive ways.

On February 1st I lead the committee to visit Jonas Clarke Middle School in Lexington, MA and study how they structure their WIN (What I Need) Block. This school has been successfully implementing this model for more than three years. They schedule a 40 minute WIN block into three out of a five day week. Students are assigned to a Directed Study during one of the three WIN blocks. During the other two WIN blocks, students can choose to participate in any activities that are offered by the teachers. Those offerings include seeking extra help from teachers, going on nature walks, meeting with guidance counselors to work on creating a positive school climate, meeting with Math Team Coaches to prepare for upcoming meets, or coloring to de-stress.

The idea of allowing students to choose “What I Need” really resonated with our site visit team because it aligns with the UDL work our district is doing. The Flex Block Committee and I used two of our faculty meeting times to think about how to adopt what we have learned into our school’s schedule format. We decided to use two of the five Flex Blocks of the week to continue to focus on academic intervention and/or to teach important skills that we are not able to teach during the classes such as organization and digital citizenship. During the other three Flex Blocks of the week we will be offering different intervention and enrichment options to the students. Please note that academic intervention will be one of the options that will be offered during the three choice days. Students will have the opportunity to meet with teachers to seek out academic support during those Flex Blocks.

Our four grade level teams are working to pilot this new format of Flex Block this spring so that all kinks will be worked out before the 18-19 school year. Grade 5, 6, and 8 teams are planning to conduct their pilots in May. Our 7th grade team is ready to pilot the new Flex Block format this coming week. They have determined that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Flex Blocks will be the “choice days”. These are the options that will be made available to the students this week (please click here).

I am very impressed with the work that the 7th grade team has done to pioneer this Flex Block for our school. I am certain there are still a lot of kinks to work out but I am very excited about the direction that we are taking with our Flex Block. I believe what we are doing will create a positive impact on our students’ learning experiences at the middle school.

 

Here are some more updates for the upcoming week:

Quarter 3 Report Cards – Please do not forget that Quarter 3 grades will be made available through the SchoolBrains Community Portal this Tuesday afternoon. We will send out a notification once all grades are posted.

Book Fair is This Week – The MSPTO will be sponsoring the Spring Scholastic Book Fair this week. Please click here to find out the time that your child’s class will be visiting the Book Fair as well as other information pertaining to this event.

Middle School Math Placement Info Night – 6th and 7th Grade parents please note that Ms. Gartland, the K-8 Math Supervisor, will be holding a information session on May 24th from 7:00-8:00 pm in the North Library to discuss the next year’s math placement in the middle school. This information session is for current 6th and 7th grade parents only since 5th and 6th grade math courses are not leveled. Please click here for more information.

 

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week.

 

James Lin
Principal

GDRMS