Building a Family Feeling
The culture at Sparkman Middle School has improved dramatically over the past two years, and one notable factor
contributing to this change has been morning meetings.
Each week, all students come together by grade level for a
15- to 20-minute meeting with teachers and administrators,
during which we watch the student news broadcast and talk
about issues that are important to all of us. From current
events and important dates to a quiz show and student recognition, the morning meeting has it all. “It makes us feel
like a family and like what we have to say is important,”
says an 8th grader. Since the implementation of morning
meetings, student discipline referrals have been cut in half
and test scores have gone up.
—Jennifer Whitt, teacher,
Sparkman Middle School, Toney, Alabama
to Increase Student Autonomy
Implementing blended instruction in precalculus class
was the answer to my differentiated instruction challenge.
Students who typically understood topics after initial
instruction were able to move on to the next topic after demonstrating proficiency. Students who often asked follow-up
questions became more independent as they began referring
to their videos before asking me. But the most profound
benefit was for my lower-performing students. They were
able to pause and rewatch videos without the criticism of
their peers—which has increased their mathematical confidence. Test scores rose 18 percent, and most students were
pleased with the change.
—Stephanie Dillard-McClain, math teacher,
Tarrant High School, Tarrant, Alabama
The WOW journal we implemented this year has been an
inexpensive way to encourage and inspire our team. The
journal circulates among our staff, enabling us to share
positive things we have noticed and appreciated, such as a
great lesson, a creative bulletin board, a great lunch in the
cafeteria, and so on. The team loves this practice, and the
journal has stayed in circulation since the fourth week of
school. I have heard comments like, “I feel validated. I’m
honored. I never knew that meant anything to anyone.” We
will make the WOW journal a tradition.
—Karen Norton, PK– 6 principal,
Carlisle Elementary School,
Taking a Daily Health Break
My school teaches adult students in Laos who are preparing for study in Australia. The students have a packed
daily schedule: four 90-minute classes, plus a one-hour
self-directed learning period. Although all the teachers in
our school have always tried to get students up and moving
in class, this year we have actively promoted a program
we call Stand Up for Your Health. We ask teachers to find
a way every 20 minutes or so to get students to stand up.
This might mean changing seats for pair work, having a
one-minute stretch time, or simply engaging in a group
discussion while standing instead of sitting. We encourage
students to initiate the Stand Up time if teachers forget.
We also have posters in all classrooms to serve as a visual
reminder. The response from teachers and students has been
overwhelmingly positive. The level of focus and engagement
in classes has increased, and it provides a much-needed
moment to pause in a class.
—Kristina Peachey, academic supervisor,
Vientiane College, Vientiane, Laos
Recovering Credit—And Self-Confidence
The question we need to ask as educators is not “Can this
student learn?” but rather, “How can this student learn?” For
many at-risk students, our district has found the answer in
A Small Change That Made a Big Difference
Tell Me About . . .