A Best-Practice Reflection by: Cathy Murty Morais and Renée Landry, Riverview Middle School
Walking into Superior Middle School is like walking into a beehive. Students are all on task in various areas throughout the school. Superior Middle School has revamped student learning, which in turn has increased motivation, work production and brought meaning to their daily work. Walking into a classroom, you can quickly see students demonstrate that they are accountable for their learning. They are able to talk about their strengths and areas that they will focus on in order to master the curriculum at hand. Students all start their day in their art, music and/or physical education class. The whole school then switches to math class. Every teacher teaches math at that time. Math specialty teachers work with students that want or need the more traditional approach to teaching math.
Students that are not attending the small group sessions are working on their own using their technology, as this is a one to one school. Teachers have invested many hours of their common preparation time in the mornings and Wednesday afternoons to create math modules that students have access to that include power points, videos, tutorials and much more.
During the rest of the day, students are engaged in projects that have been designed by grade level teams and include outcomes from all of their other subjects such as Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, English and French. At the end of each term, students are able to demonstrate their learning by hosting a showcase that is open to the public. Walking around the showcase, you can quickly observe that students are very eager to share their learning, some even personally inviting guests to follow them to view their accomplishments. Projects range from making rock angels that will be given to the elderly to coding a game.
While at Superior Middle School, we had a chance to talk with students from grade 7 who shared how they felt about this new approach on learning. The consensus shared with us was that they preferred problem based learning to traditional teaching. Students shared that they love having the freedom to demonstrate their learning in their own way. They did also share that they preferred the option of attending math mini-lessons as opposed to having their entire math curriculum self-passed.
During their day, students also choose an activity that is offered by teachers based on their personal interests/skills. This allows teachers the opportunity to connect with students in not only academic scenarios but also in a social context.
Superior Middle School has also implemented a system in which teachers stay with the same students for all three years in this school. This created a strong bond between teachers and students, which in turn encouraged a more positive learning environment.
Anyone given a chance to see the students and staff at Superior Middle School in action will definitely return to their school inspired and motivated to improve their own teaching practices in order to create a more personalized learning environment for their students!