A Focus on the Essential
Systemically we have been working on identifying the most
important ideas that are key to the vision and mission of the North Reading
Public Schools. The process of involving
administrators, teachers, and school councils in this process has allowed all
stakeholders to help define what is essential for the North Reading school
Technology is one of the most challenging areas to focus as
something cutting edge appears to be emerging every day. This year as a district we have focused on
the exploration of two main areas: the educational website as a means of
extending classroom learning and the SMARTboard and iPAD tools as a way of
increasing interactive classroom learning.
Many educators have been engaged in professional development and
exploration of website design, SMART technologies, and iPAD trainings and are
bringing this knowledge and experience to their classrooms.
As a result, students are able to utilize classroom websites
as a communication tool for assignments, activities, and as a resource for
learning. Teachers are including video
clips to reiterate a lesson and links to sample solutions or practice problems
that students can access from home.
Others are able to submit assignments through the dropbox and receive
feedback from their classmates or instructor online.
In the classroom SMART and iPAD technologies are being used
to engage the students in interactive lessons that require them to work
together at the board and incorporate bodily-kinesthetic actions. In a seventh grade history class students take
photographs with their iPADs and transform themselves into their choice of
prehistoric men and women using the Smithsonian app MEanderthal. Talk about being able to put yourself in the
middle of the learning! As the students are
hooked by the fun of the activity they are able to explore more about the
history of our prehistoric relatives by following links to the Smithsonian
In Curriculum we have been working to clarify what is most
important for our students to know and be able to do. Using our new Mathematics and Literacy State
Frameworks as a guide our educators have used their expertise to determine the
most essential standards that all students should master at given points
throughout the year. These benchmarks
for mastery will allow our educators to collect data about the progress all
students are making towards these goals.
Defining which standards are most essential is a challenging
task since all agree that everything is important for our students to be
taught. This is true, and yet when we
consider the question of whether something is “nice to know” or essential for
the next year, in other areas of learning, or for the rest of their life it
allows us to focus on what is truly most important. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
believes that education must go deeper into fewer areas; that we must focus on
the core knowledge.
In instruction it is essential that we focus on the
learner. As we create opportunities for
student-driven lessons we allow for our learners to become more involved in
their own education. Project-based and
inquiry-based assignments challenge students to access prior knowledge and
develop their collaborative, creative, and critical thinking skills. Allowing students to become scientists,
historians, mathematicians, critics, artists, athletes, and scholars creates
within them the desire to become lifelong learners. The student-driven approach instills within
the learner the skills needed to seek out information on her own and builds
upon her desire to obtain that knowledge.
All of these activities share a common thread. This is not about memorizing the answers for
the test on Friday. This is about making
the link between today’s lesson and the career that awaits through the
real-world connections to the assignment.
This is a focus on what is most essential for our students: developing a
desire to explore the world around them and igniting a passion for life-long