A new recipe for Personalized Learning Plans
Rather than trying to get students to care about existing PLPs, some schools are revamping their PLP process to start with what students care about. They are asking students to pursue their passions by crafting projects based on their personal interests and deepest curiosities.
The new recipe that is emerging: start with a cool personalized project and then build the PLP around it.
How did an 8th grader turn his passion project into a summer job?
I found Connor in the tech ed room during the first session of Brainado, a school-wide Genius Hour at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, Vermont.
He was taking apart a lawn mower. When asked why, he shrugged and mumbled something about how another student might need an engine part for their project. His Brainado project was undefined. He didn’t seem to have much of a plan other than tinkering.
Fast-forward four months and Connor is getting paid to work part-time at the Waterbury Service Center garage. He knows his way around the shop, has learned about persistence and problem-solving, and gleaned plenty of life lessons from Albert Caron, the owner and lead mechanic. But how did Connor get from Point A to Point B?
One way to make sure PLPs are student-driven: hand them the keys
At the end of last school year, the PLP Student Leadership Team at Crossett Brook Middle School presented to staff their recommendations for the future of PLPs at the school. And the staff unanimously supported all of the recommendations.
But it’s one thing to come up with a bunch of great ideas. It’s another thing to make sure they happen. For this group of students, follow through was not a problem. They met during the summer to keep the momentum going, convened daily during the first few weeks of school, then rolled out the new PLP process to their peers.
Making as evidence of transferable skills around Vermont
During the past year, EMMA has visited schools around Vermont to fuel the conversation about maker-centered learning.
As we reflected on each of EMMA’s visits, we continually noticed that maker centered learning provided evidence of students applying cross-disciplinary transferable skills.
Seeing failure as iteration
A trio of students at Crossett Brook Middle School, in Duxbury VT, have spent the past two years building a go-cart. When their first cart snapped in half on its maiden voyage, the students took that incident as a challenge, and the next year, they figured out what had gone wrong, and better yet, what would make it go right.
And the results have to be seen to be believed.
The #everydaycourage of being seen
Take the iconic back-to-school prompt for students — what I did on my summer vacation — and give it a twist. Imagine how students might respond to the prompt What I think my teacher did on summer vacation.
A lot of us wish other folks knew how hard we work during summer: the workshops, the team planning time, the reflection, the resource-gathering. So a lot of us should share out all the work we’re doing.
Let’s look at four ways Vermont educators are sharing their practice.
Guiding Crossett Brook PLPs with student voice
The Crossett Brook PLP student leadership group presented their recommendations on PLPs to the teaching staff at the end of the school year. The educators received the students’ ideas well. It was pretty cool to see a roomful of teachers rapt on a hot afternoon during the last week of school.
And the students knocked it out of the park.
Let students help you transform your school
Creating sustainable systemic change is hard work. Yet there are readily available, free, renewable resources right in your classroom. Students are embedded experts, creative geniuses, ruthless truthtellers, and intrinsic futurists.
Here are four examples of students as partners in school change: partners in building a makerspace, redesigning PLPs, serving the school community and negotiating curriculum.
It’s a movement, not a moment
Every teacher should consider making time for Genius Hour (sometimes called 20% time or Passion Projects). We know that when students are given the opportunity to explore their own topics, they gain skills in self-direction.
But I’ve come to believe that the ideal Genius Hour involves as much of the school as possible. Here’s what it could look like.
For exit tickets, student support & action research
Using Google Forms and Google Sheets together can streamline your process and make all your tasks feel just a little more manageable.
As an educator, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to keep all your different data streams organized, not to mention the finding the time to analyze and interpret that data! Let’s take three examples of how Google Forms can cut down on your paperwork flurries.