Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades I


Session A
10:15 – 11:15 am


1. Morning Meeting: A Tool for Fostering Social and Emotional Development in the Middle Grades
Keli Gould and Tracey Gamache
Twin Valley Middle High School
Our project instituted morning meeting at the sixth grade. We will share results of our pre- and post-surveys along with projects that students created to promote social and emotional development. We will also share our own reflections about the impact of these activities on our students.

2. Experiments in Self-Paced Learning
Sarah Wright
Edmunds Middle School
Blending technology, student choice, and self-paced learning to create a more student centered learning experience, this project is my first attempt at a self-paced classroom. I will report on the successes and challenges of flipping the classroom to a self-paced model.

3. Power Teaching and Classroom Management
Paige Emory
Stowe Middle School
I have adapted the Power Teaching Model from Chris Biffle into my classroom. I have a student numerous students with rather unique learning profiles this year. Due to the diversity of my classes, I wanted to find something that was engaging, motivating, manageable and worked for everyone. I will report on how well this strategy is working so far.


1. Winooski JiLab
Chris Magistrale, Will Andrews, Anja Mosehauer, Amy Sheerer, Melissa Richard, Deb Gonter, Tim Rich & Jean Plasse
Winooski Middle School
This academic year the Winooski School District, in correlation with the Partnership for Change is dedicated to creating an atmosphere of student-centered learning, innovation and technological integration within the school day. Team Journey (encompassing approximately half of the middle school student body) is underway with a unique focus to change the way learning happens. Afternoons are no longer dedicated to the same traditional style classroom structures: teacher-designed curriculum have been replaced with student inquiry and personalized student designed content. We will report on how students decide where their interests lie and ways the seek answers to complex problems that connect to their own personal passions.

2. Personalized Learning at Mt. Abraham Middle School
Ellen Repstad & Cynthia Brisson
Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School
This year we replaced Exploratory block with ME Block (Mastery/Enrichment). Within ME block, students can personalize their learning experience and document their learning using electronic portfolios. We’ve worked closely with our Personalized Learning department to adapt their materials for the MS learner.


1. Communicating with Canvas
Valerie Lodish & Kevin Grace
Burlington Middle Schools
For the 2014-2015 school year we are piloting a new Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas, within the Burlington School District Middle Schools. Within the two district middle schools, Hunt and Edmunds, there are two distinct pilots. Both schools are piloting with a 7th/8th grade team. Edmunds is also piloting with two 6th grade teams. Through this LMS we are looking at how Canvas in a 1:1 program leads to better communication between teachers, students and parents.

2. Hunt Middle School Math Website
Kim Hunt
Hunt Middle School
I will share the math website that I created for parents and students at Hunt Middle School. There is a blog, curriculum pages, an algebra readiness page, and a page with links to math based websites.

Session B
11:30 – 12:30 pm

USING STUDENT FEEDBACK (Williams Family Room 403)

1. Middle School Peer Review
Laurie Roberts
Waterford Elementary School
The middle school students experienced the scientific method by selecting a problem or question that they would like to investigate. The students then designed and executed an experiment to answer this question. We invited scientists from our community (science teachers from St. Johnsbury Academy and Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium) to come and judge the fair. I will share the process of allowing students to design a peer review science fair and discuss how student engagement changed when they were involved in the planning of the fair.

2. Co-Teaching in the Middle Grades
Andrea Wheeland, Steve Forman, & Callie Reinker
Winooski Middle School
The new teaming structure at Winooski Middle School has provided us with the flexibility to design a “shared classroom” to meet students’ needs and interests. Middle School teachers for math, science, language arts and English as a second language will share our co-teaching strategies and practices implemented this fall and will discuss implications for our future teaching.

GETTING STARTED WITH PLPs (Chittenden Bank Room 413)

1. Implementation of School-Based Initiatives – The Green Team and PLPs
Amy Kimball & Don Taylor
Main Street Middle School
Team Summit has had success implementing a sustainability curriculum, called the Green Team, as well as a Personal Learning Plan pilot project. This action research project looked at the ease and barriers of implementing these two initiatives school-wide.

2. Student Empowerment for PLPs
Alexandra Bacheller & Bill Fishell
Peoples Academy Middle Level
This year we began to create ways in and out of the classroom to foster student empowerment in the first year of their portfolio process. We built community through a series of activities like toss the chicken and our Hosmer Point trip. Through community building activities and setting of norms, we hope to develop more empowered students in the portfolio process.

PROJECT BASED LEARNING (Jost Foundation Room 422)

1. Getting to ‘Y’: A Project-Based Learning Model
Helen Beattie & Mary Whalen
UP for Learning
Personalized learning requires increasing students’ capacity for self-directed learning and problem solving. This presentation explores a proven project-based learning model that is: 1) rich in multi-disciplinary content, 2) documented and readily accessible, and 3) consistently sparks the interest of middle school students.

Session C
1:45 – 2:45 pm

LITERACY TO ENGAGE STUDENTS (Chittenden Bank Room 413)

1. Using Close Reading Strategies, Class Discussions, and Digital Tools to Improve Comprehension of Nonfiction Text
Amanda LaBerge
Williston Central School
During this action research project, 7th and 8th grade students used Google Documents to read nonfiction articles about topics related to their learning in science class. They also employed close reading strategies and class discussions, and then were asked to answer text-dependent questions about the articles.

2. New and Improved Independent Reading
Laurie Hickey, Cara Sawtell, & Diane Pawlusiak
Hunt Middle School
After years of an unstructured independent reading program, 7th and 8th grade teachers at Hunt Middle School revamped the program to mirror strategies from Penny Kittell's Book Love. Students now read daily in class and are held accountable for the number of pages read, resulting in increased performance and greater pleasure in reading.

3. Reading Widely: Literature Genres
Susan Gibeault & Victoria Arthur
Currier Memorial School
We restructured the self-selected reading component of our reading block to retain student choice. In alignment with the Common Core literacy standards for 5th grade, we seek to build a program that will include informational text, fiction, plays and poetry. We will share individual reading goals, reflections and evidence shown in student personalized learning plans.


1. Student Choice and Voice in World Language Exploratory Classes
Mairead Harris
Stowe Middle School
I have revamped the trimester-long curriculum for my 6th grade Chinese language exploratory classes around the guiding principles of Student Voice and Student Choice in an effort to help students make more informed decisions about their choice of which language to study long-term at the end of their 6th grade year.

2. Using Mindful Awareness to Help Students Respond to the World Reflectively, Not Reflexively.
Lee Orlando
Hunt Middle School
This year, I have focused teacher-based guidance on a range of mindfulness strategies which students apply in various situations: transitioning in and out of a lesson, listening attentively to a partner, or settling our minds before a test. I will provide examples of lessons, describe how my students have responded to mindfulness and how and to what extent they feel it has helped them gain more control of their emotional and cognitive energy.

PERSONALIZING LEARNING (Jost Foundation Room 422)

1. Personal Learning Plans at the Middle Level
Susan Ludington, Elizabeth Emerson & Hannah Lindsey - 6th grade
Leah Bronner, Jordy Griffin & Maura Kelly- 7th grade
Leslie Meyer & Shaun Noonan- 8th grade
Peoples Academy Middle Level
We have developed a portfolio process for 5th through 8th grader students. The portfolio reflects the student’s personal learning plan. Teams from each grade level will show sample student portfolios and outline the process used with students.

Poster Session (Livak Ball Room 417)

Mathematics and the Growth Mindset
Ian Bleakney
Edmunds Middle School
How will teaching students about neural pathways, brain development, the power of mistakes and the growth mindset affect student math achievement and their perceptions about what makes someone smart? This presentation will share some of the findings from this semester’s work on growth mindset in a mathematics classroom.

Deepening Understanding of Complex Text
Laure Angel
U32 Middle and High School
During this fall semester my goal was to identify text complexity and to define specific close reading strategies to use in the classroom. In this presentation I report on how to help students comprehend complex levels of texts and strengthen their use of evidence in academic conversation and academic writing.

How does a Grade Management System Improve Communication?
Scott Appel
Main Street Middle School
During the fall semester I monitored how students and parents accessed grades electronically using Powerschool. This presentation discusses how access to Powerschool can influence communication between parents, students and me and how that changes our relationship and student achievement.

Close Reading in the 7-8 Classroom
Linda Lang
Saint Albans City School
Close reading is a skill all students need to acquire, and the pressure to do so has been heightened by the upcoming Common Core testing. My first year in the classroom has been a challenge on many levels. I will present instructional strategies, resources, and student work based on the theory and practice of Close Reading.

Theme Work
Laura Graves, Dana Gore & Gina Krol
Winooski Middle School
At Winooski Middle School, Team Nexus used the Beane Model and some inspiration from The Edge Academy to introduce problem-based learning. It took us a while to gain momentum, but now all of our students are engrossed in researching a topic connected to the democratically selected theme: Harassment and Abuse of Power.

National Identity: Perspectives from an American Middle Schooler
Lauren Wesnak
Williston Central School
I once heard the saying, “A country is only as strong as its youth.” If this is true, than we have to hope that even with a population of over 300 million people, our nation’s identity is still one that makes room for our youth to find a place and grow. This project takes a look at how middle school students have found their place as members of the American community and faces of our global identity.

Using the Sheltered Immersion Observation Protocol (SIOP) to Increase Student Understanding and Communication in a Social Studies Classroom
Anna Kovaliv
Camel's Hump Middle School

For our first unit in Social Studies this year, my students focused on the BIG essential question of “What is Culture?” As with most of my school’s Social Studies district assessments, at the end of the unit students are told to write a response to the big essential question. This study focused on using the SIOP to guide lesson planning and incorporate technology to see how those tools might aid in the students' demonstration of their knowledge of place and cultural identity.

Helping Science Students Gain a Deeper Understanding of Complex Text
Travis Courser, Lyndon Town School
Melissa Muzzy, Vergennes Union High School
This study is meant to help our students gain and demonstrate a deeper understanding of higher level informational texts through the intentional use of close readings and independent evidence writing via the gradual release of responsibility.

Altering Emotions in the Classroom
Casie Grossman
Peoples Academy Middle Level
The focus of this study is to evaluate the effects of using the brain based teaching strategy of creating various emotional states in students, in order to increase meaningful, deep and lasting learning experiences.

Mindset in the Middle Level Math Classroom
Amelia Burns
Peoples Academy Middle Level
This project is an exploration of implementing strategies to foster a growth mindset in a middle level math classroom. Inspired by Carol S. Dweck’s research on mindset and Jo Boaler's research on how to learn math, I report on the findings to student achievement in math.

Flexible Grouping in a Multi-Age Humanities ClassrooM
Jennifer Schoen
Albany Community School
This Action Research Project explores how a combined multi-age class addresses the diverse academic and social needs of young adolescents. It looks at evidence of higher achievement, engagement, and successful differentiation of a 7th/8th grade group using a co-teaching model that includes 2 teachers and a special educator.

Metacognitive Teaching the Primary Level Art Classroom
Suzanne Journey Blain
Essex Elementary School
Using Brain Based learning strategies an art educator has translated the new National Core Arts Standards into student friendly language and demonstrated ways these can be used in as primary level art classroom.

Increasing Student Engagement
Hannah Prescott
Hartford Memorial Middle School
This action research project looks at increasing student engagement in Language Arts as the team moves towards a multidisciplinary curriculum. Using a student negotiated curriculum, students’ responses on surveys, feedback, and questions about the world are being used to shape an unit on conflict and war.

English Language Learners: What do teachers value as most important?
Thomas Jacobs
Johnson State College+
For my Action Research Project, I created a survey for teacher of English Language Learners in Burlington and South Burlington School Districts. I will report on the primary influences that effect ELL teachers when planning curriculum and instruction.

Using Technology to Transform Formative Assessment in the Classroom
Andrea Nelson
Berkshire Elementary School
This year, middle school students at Berkshire have benefitted from 1:1 iPads. The polling and quizzing app, Socrative, has enhanced my ability to formatively assess students more efficiently through instant and concise results. This has allowed for more worthwhile and differentiated instruction.

The Dystopia in Literature
Victoria Smith
Crossett Brook Middle School
I designed a unit on the genre of Dystopia. My objective was for students to become informed about the use of story and the dystopia, and ultimately see themselves as world builders, and find a sense of hope for the future. In this presentation I will report on how I used a variety of collaboration strategies to allow students to attain literacy standards will developing a sense of hope and responsibility for their future.

The Process and Outcomes of Teaching Middle Grades Students about Growth and Fixed Mindsets
Matt Saraca & Meghan McGrath
Vergennes Union High School
This was an interdisciplinary unit between language arts and science centered around the brain, how we learn, and growth vs. fixed mindsets. Matt worked with the 7th graders while Meghan worked with the 8th graders. We plan to share our unit as well as some products and student testimonials.

Thank you for joining us today.

Have a safe trip home and a very pleasant evening!