Tag Archives: Brattleboro Area Middle School

Who should be assessing student-led conferences?

Feedback is a key component of a successful, celebratory and growth-oriented student-centered conference. And your colleagues, your students and their families can all play vital roles in assessing student-led conferences.

Who should be giving and receiving assessments? There’s *lots* of room at this table. Remember: feedback is a gift.

(Resist the freakout: when we talk about “assessment”, we’re trying to get a sense of what went well, and what could be improved, with an eye towards supporting students and their families. It’s not a test, and it’s not pass-fail. Think of it as more of a cline: this assessment can be codified in Google Forms (or exit surveys) or simply take the form of unscripted reflection.)

Your students’ families

Down at Brattleboro Area Middle School (BAMS), in Brattleboro VT, families arrived for their first ever student-led conferences to be greeted at the door by the building principal, administrative staff, a table of baked goods — and a row of Chromebooks. (Yes, one of these things was waaaay more popular than the others).

BAMS educators designed a simple Google Form in which they asked families to provide a few key metrics about the new conference format.

how to evaluate the success of student-led conferences, assessing student-led conferences


92% of the 112 parents surveyed at BAMS responded that they felt “pretty good” or “fantastic” about the conference they attended. Parents contributed comments such as: “I think this is such a great opportunity for our students to showcase their talents and abilities. I appreciate the collaboration and the conversations that came of the student led conference process.”

Lamoille Union Middle School educator Katie Bryant and her team also used Google Forms to collect family feedback. The team gave their students a structure for the conferences that revolved around projecting their PLP from an iPad. Students walked their families through the pieces of their PLP they were most proud of. Afterwards, Bryant and her team sent out the Forms for family feedback. And when they looked at the data, they discovered that the student-led conferences helped families engage more with student PLPs.

Families want a bigger voice in their students’ education, and this is a perfect time to open that door.

Your students

An integral part of student voice is making sure your students get to assess their experiences in the classroom — including the student-led conference. Here are some sample prompts:

  1. What’s one word you’d use to describe your experience with this conference?
  2. What was the most satisfying thing about this conference?
  3. What was the most challenging thing about this conference?
  4. If you could change any one thing about this experience, what would you change?

Different strokes for different folks: let students answer a Google Form, free-write or even record a short video response. And yes, give students the opportunity to add those responses to the personal learning plans (PLPs). It’s all part of one big cohesive system.

Your colleagues

First, feel free to celebrate. You did it! You — yes *you* — are helping education move forward. You’re changing the dominant parent-teacher conference paradigm in favor of one that centers student voice. That is outstanding! Everybody have a cookie.

Then, keep it simple, you’re all exhausted. Throwing events takes a lot of work, and you have prepped your socks off for these particular conferences. So: how’d it go?

Take some time to decompress, then feel free to reach out to your fellow educators.

If you’re doing student-led conferences in pairs, you have someone who was there across the table, watching and hearing the same event. If you’re doing these conferences as a full team or a full middle school, before the conferences you can build in things to look for:

  1. How was good (or challenging) news received by the family? Did this seem different from previous iterations?
  2. What was the ratio of participants speaking? Did you hear more from the student? From the family?

And you can also just sit down with a colleague and ask them for a general reflection.

Longtime BAMS educator Joe Rivers provided some valuable thoughts on the whole general process during some downtime in the evening event. “I’ve enjoyed watching kids in this setting, talking with their parents. Their eyes light up, get bigger… Kids’ll talk about their lives here, and their lives out n’ about, in advisory, but now they’re talking about things they care about. That’s even deeper. It’s been eye-opening and enjoyable.”

Don’t forget you!

Yes, you absolutely deserve another cookie for this. And you deserve to know your own power as a very interested party. You know these kids. You’re with them every day. In thinking about their student-led conferences, Rachel Mark encourages us to consider the following indicators:

  • Do you see students eyes light up when speaking about a learning experience?
  • Are you blown away by students saying things like, “I used more tools to create the game and make it more complicated”?
  • Does your heart skip a beat when students connect eyes with a parent who tells them they are very proud of them?

Jotting some quick notes along these lines during conferences or directly after can provide valuable meta-data on the experience, and give you inspiration for doing it again next time!

Happy student-led conference season, y’all!


4 ways to jazz up a school exhibition

Going beyond the gallery walk

community based learningExhibition season is upon us!

And as you’re making ready to throw open the doors of your school and welcome in the community, let’s look at a handful of ways to jazz up any school event: by planning your capturing in advance, making interactive takeaways, going off-campus(!) or setting up a digital guestbook.

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A Developmental Designs approach to student-directed learning

It takes a courageous village

#everydaycourageIn order for student centered learning to happen, we have to invest in explicitly teaching (and reteaching) routines, expectations, and behaviors for learning. The beginning of the year is an ideal time to first establish a culture and community for learning.

But it takes time to learn and practice these routines.

Often, we feel the pressure of time urging us to jump right into our first units, yet without this foundation in place we can find ourselves spending valuable time redirecting student behavior, rather than focusing on content-specific learning.

It takes courage to acknowledge that we need to model, teach behaviors, and establish routines before we can ask students to learn. #everydaycourage.

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How to evaluate student-led conferences

Feedback, feedback, feedback!

student-led conferences and engagement in PLPsAs educators, it’s absolutely critical that we reflect on our practices, especially new ones. As schools around the state finish with parent-teacher conferences this fall, I’d like to take a look at how to evaluate student-led conferences in particular, by checking in on how one school built feedback metrics into the process from the start.

As Emeril Lagasse would say: BAMS!

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Power up your Advisory programs

How 30 minutes can leave a lasting impact on the day.

advisory programsAdvisory: the first 15 to 30 minutes of every middle school day, during which you’re trying to build relationships with your students and engage them in meaningful social interaction.

You also might be fighting off the administrative minutiae of the morning: Attendance. Lunch money. Permission slips. Bus notes.

Let’s look at some strategies for powering up advisory programs

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Want end-of-year family involvement?

Try Passage Presentations.

family communication around education, social media and digital citizenshipThe end of every school year is tough. Teachers and administrators struggle to keep students in line, finish assessments, plan field trips, and tie up loose ends. But what’s really important? To provide closure, celebrate accomplishments, and allow students to reflect on how they’ve grown and developed. And including family in those celebrations is vital.

I had the pleasure of witnessing a particularly strong example of how well this can be implemented.

Continue reading Want end-of-year family involvement?

Will we see you at Dynamic Landscapes 2016?

Check out these dynamic educators

Dynamic Landscapes 2016Are you heading to sunny Burlington, VT this Monday and Tuesday (no really, it will be sunny and warm) for Vita-Learn’s Dynamic Landscapes? It’s a perfect opportunity to mix business with pleasure.

If so, check out our Tarrant Institute partner educators who are presenting! Feel free to store some of those ideas, haul them back to your classroom, and liven up these last few weeks of school!

What’s that you say? You haven’t created your conference schedule yet either? You do not have that sort of time to plan. Let us take care of that for you. Here’s your own personal schedule:

Continue reading Will we see you at Dynamic Landscapes 2016?

Making history on the radio with community partners

Middle school students power Brattleboro’s radio days

The 21st Century Classroom podcastBrattleboro, Vermont was incorporated back in 1753, a former military fort that embraced trading, commerce and the power of nearby Whetstone Falls to spur mill production. It was where Rudyard Kipling settled to write The Jungle Book, and where Harriet Beecher Stowe came to seek the famous 18th century water cure. It’s been home to countless tiny, fascinating episodes of Vermont history — episodes that current residents can now listen to each week on the radio, being described and re-enacted by students from Brattleboro Area Middle School.

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Implementing 1:1 norms and digital citizenship

How do student behaviors change?

how does professional development affect technology integration?Debi Serafino, a math teacher at Brattleboro Area Middle School, presents the results of her semester-long action research project examining the effects of implementing 1:1 norms and digital citizenship on the behavior of the incoming 7th graders, all of whom participate in a 1:1 Chromebook project.

Here’s what she and her team discovered.

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Exploring digital citizenship as a form of literacy

7th graders learn video as reflection tool

digital citizenship and students onlineWhen I sat down to work with my students on digital citizenship and literacy, I wanted to do something different. These are 7th graders coming from lots of different schools, different levels of understanding, different exposure to the concepts of digital citizenship and I was trying to think of some way to have them understand digital citizenship as something more than no online bullying and no plagiarism. They’ve heard that before.

I wanted to really get them to see how digital citizenship was part of their everyday lives – now – and to make them want to delve into it.

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How to use MoveNote for screencasting

Embed yourself in your video lesson

how to use MovenoteMoveNote lets you create screencasts where you appear alongside the material, making how to screencast a lot more dynamic for students and educators. Flipped classroom? Blended learning? Student presentations? Gallery walks? Support for students with disabilities?

Let’s look at some of the possibilities, features and how to get up and running with Movenote.

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