THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Students “Check Out” Positive Behavior

Checking in and checking out is not just for hotels, library books, and airports anymore. At Fletcher Elementary, Check-In Check-Out is an important part of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to maintaining a successful school climate.


A student checks in on their behavior goal progress.

Check-In Check-Out, also called CICO, is a targeted behavior intervention. Students begin their day by meeting with the School Counselor, teacher, or another adult, to review their behavior goals for the day. During this brief conference, the child and adult review strategies for challenging parts of the day and the student receives positive encouragement that sets a positive tone for the school day to come.

Students are supported throughout the school day by checking in with an adult after each academic subject, as well as arrival, lunch, and recess. They receive between zero and two points for each of seven scheduled blocks, based on their success following the school-wide expectations of being respectful, responsible, safe and caring. Each child has a personalized points goal that is adjusted to meet the child’s current needs.

Stickers are used to help support progress toward reaching goals.

Stickers are used to help track progress toward reaching goals.

At the end of the day, School Counselor Sandi Simmons “checks out” with students to tally the day’s points and, if they meet their goal, recognize them with stickers that may be cashed in for small prizes or banked for larger rewards. If a student does not reach his or her goal, the conference serves to talk about strategies for the following day and as a supportive reflection on what went wrong.

“Checking out with students at the end of the day is a favorite time for me. When students reach their goal, they realize that they are not a bad kid,” School Counselor Sandi Simmons said. “They feel proud. Sometimes I am surprised at how such a little thing can  make such a big difference.”

When students are supported in following school-wide expectations, more time and energy is available for academic learning for all students.

“When children feel acknowledged in a positive way, they are not seeking that attention as much negatively during an academic block,” Literacy Teacher Leader Julie Steves said. “For some students, the frequent reinforcement is what’s needed to help them have an overall good day. That creates a learning environment that is more efficient and positive for every child.”


A student uses points earned to be Principal for 30 minutes and makes a phone call to the Superintendent.

Rewards for students range from small trinkets to being Principal for 30 minutes.


A snapshot of the behavior goals that students are working toward.

“I love Check-In Check-Out,” second grader, Rylan, said. “I don’t forget about the rules because a teacher helps me remember them every little while. I feel so happy when I reach my goal that I want to do it again tomorrow.”



Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

THE FWSU STORY: Classroom Meetings Build Community, Academics in Fletcher

Classroom meetings have long been a tradition in schools. Most commonly, Morning Meeting is an opportunity for all students in a classroom to gather with their homeroom teacher for community-building and the teaching and practicing of both academic and social skills. Typically, these classroom meetings take place first thing in the morning, setting a positive tone for the day and lending predictability and routine for students by reviewing the day’s schedule. The Responsive Classroom approach to Morning Meeting details four specific components that must be present: a Greeting, Sharing, Activity and News and Announcements chart.

A greeting is an important part of Morning Meeting.

A greeting is an important part of Morning Meeting.

The Greeting component of Morning Meeting promotes a sense of inclusion, importance, and belonging. Every child and adult is greeted by name and all students are able to see each other, typically sitting in a circle in the classroom meeting area. The Greeting is infused with countless social skills such as learning a proper handshake, making eye contact, and practicing appropriate voice and tone. Greetings range in complexity based on grade level and time of year. As students grow more comfortable with their peers, the Greeting includes increased risk-taking (i.e. shaking hands vs. simply saying hello.) Greetings also often incorporate academic skills. For example, a child may greet a classmate by name, followed by reciting a multiplication fact. Greetings are often themed, as could be the case if a teacher asks students to greet a classmate and then tell them the name of one state in the US. Greetings, as well as the other components of Morning Meeting, are adaptable to any skill – social or academic – chosen by the teacher.

Students enjoy music during Morning Meeting.

Students enjoy music during Morning Meeting.

The Activity component of Morning Meeting, while continuing to reinforce academic and social skills, often focuses on cooperation amongst members of the larger classroom group. The Activity is often a game and may involve listening, strategizing and working together toward a common goal. Students learn important skills for supporting each other and persistence, and these skills carry over into other school and home settings.

Students read a Morning Meeting greeting.

Students read news and announcements during Morning Meeting.

Giving students an opportunity for Sharing lets them know that they have something important to say and that they are valued. It affords the student a chance to practice public speaking and all of the skills associated with that. Typically, classmates ask questions or make comments to the person sharing. Often, these conversations give the student sharing a great deal of practice backing up their share with specific details. This skill frequently carries over into academics like writing, where details are essential. Sharing may be news that is lighthearted or serious. It allows students to practice socially appropriate responses to a variety of events. Preferably, students share news verbally, rather than physical objects. However, as students learn the routine these props can be helpful.


Students also engage in sharing during Morning Meeting.

The News and Announcements chart – also frequently called the Morning Message – is an interactive document usually written by the teacher. Students are typically asked to respond to a prompt or solve a problem. This allows them to share information about themselves (i.e. Do you have a dog?) or showcase their academic skills or thinking. The Morning Message also orients the class to the daily schedule and any changes in routine, such as special events. Students read the Morning Message upon entering the room, even before the meeting begins.

Morning Meetings are a fantastic opportunity to showcase student leadership, particularly for older students. With support, students can write the message, lead the activity or facilitate the sharing.


Ms. Locke shares with the class.

The importance of Morning Meeting necessitates that all students are at school on time each day. It teaches and reinforces important academic and social skills. It orients students to the schedule and creates a sense of importance and belonging. Missing Morning Meeting can cause undue stress and cause students do not have information that is given to the general group.

Mornings are fun at Fletcher Elementary!

Mornings are fun at Fletcher Elementary!

While Morning Meeting is the cornerstone – a daily occurrence – of classroom meetings, many classrooms also conduct a closing meeting or problem-solving meeting, when needed. Closing meetings are typically held at the very end of the school day and give students an opportunity to reflect on the day, how the group worked together, and on their individual successes and challenges. Frequently, the class and/or individual students set goals for the following day. It continues to build community, but is less formal and typically last for less time than Morning Meeting.


Preschool students in Ms. Hurt’s class enjoy Morning Meeting.

Problem-Solving Meetings are conducted on an as-need basis. They gather the entire class in an effort to address systemic challenges and plan for the groups’ success. These meetings encourage collaboration, peer support, honesty, respect, and envisioning an approach to create future success. During these meetings, the teacher (or sometimes students) facilitate and ensure a respectful, caring approach.

Classroom meetings are a great tool for building community and supporting academic and social skills development. 


Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

THE FWSU STORY: Celebrations Mark Success for Fletcher Students

Who doesn’t love a great celebration? The observance of a graduation, first job, wedding anniversary or college acceptance, celebrations are a festive and fun way to memorialize the major accomplishments in our lives. They become the “pat on the back” that keeps us motivated to keep up our good work. (After all, isn’t that what we all appreciate about our paychecks?)


Students in Fletcher celebrated meeting school-wide behavior expectations last spring with a kite-flying party on the playground.



The kites were imprinted with the school’s expectations.


Celebrations also play an important role in the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to student behavior. PBIS utilizes a recognition system based on schools’ school-wide expectations. In Fletcher, those expectations include being respectful, responsible, safe and caring. Throughout the year, teachers and student leaders teach, model and practice what it looks like to follow the expectations across a variety of settings including in the classroom, halls, library and on the busses and field trips, just to name a few.



Two students greet each other at a whole-school celebration in Fletcher. The celebrations typically follow the format of a Morning Meeting and include a greeting, sharing, activity and announcements.


When students follow the expectations, they are often recognized for their efforts with a token, often just a small piece of paper with the school mascot or other catchy design, as well as the expectations. These tokens become the accounting – like tally marks – for their class. In Fletcher, teachers use various wall posters to accumulate the tokens. When the class reaches a set number of tokens, they celebrate.

A Fletcher student practices Yoga as part of a classroom celebration of positive behavior.

A Fletcher student practices Yoga as part of a classroom celebration of positive behavior.

Even more important than the token, however, is the teacher language that accompanies the recognition. Since we want students to be clear about – and repeat – the positive behavior, it is essential that the adult handing out the token name both the expectation the child met as well as the accompanying behavior.

Fletcher students and staff review the school-wide expectations at a whole-school celebration.

Fletcher students and staff review the school-wide expectations at a whole-school celebration.

The adults at school – both teachers and support staff – also hold themselves accountable for behavior using the same school-wide expectations. Norms for staff have been created that align with the school-wide expectations and the adults assess both themselves and the group again the norms periodically after staff meetings. The results of the self and group assessments are shared with all staff for reflection.

Two Fletcher students greet each other with a high five during a whole-school celebration. The celebrations serve to review and practice social skills, celebrate success with behavior and build community.

Two Fletcher students greet each other with a high five during a whole-school celebration. The celebrations serve to review and practice social skills, celebrate success with behavior and build community.

Classroom celebrations need not be lengthy, expensive or disruptive. In fact, celebrations like 10 minutes of special math games or reading a silly story might already be a planned part of the curriculum and don’t require teachers to change their routine or give a tangible reward.

Fifty-eight Fletcher students celebrated having no office referrals during the first trimester this year. The school's trademark blue certificates marked the occasion. Here, one student from each class represents the larger group.

Fifty-eight Fletcher students celebrated having no office referrals during the first trimester this year. The school’s trademark blue certificates marked the occasion. Here, one student from each class represents the larger group.

Typically, when classes meet their set goal for earning tokens, they contribute to a larger, school-wide tally that eventually results in a school-wide celebration.

A Fletcher student puts a token on her classroom PBIS chart.

A Fletcher student puts a token on her classroom PBIS chart.

The PBIS recognition system values all three of these types of celebrations: the individual recognition when a student meets the expectations, reaching the classroom goal and achieving school-wide success. At each level, students are aware of the expectations and understand exactly what they have done and should continue to do.

School-wide expectations are posted throughout the building.

School-wide expectations are posted throughout the building.

Celebrations are are an essential component of PBIS. Within a larger framework of teaching, modeling and practicing accepted behavior, celebrations reinforce students for their hard work and ensure continued behavioral success.

THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Students Wonder About Bullying and Empathy

Fourth through sixth-grade students in Fletcher viewed the film, Wonder, this morning at the Essex Cinemas. The film chronicles the experiences of Auggie, a brainy 10-year-old fifth grader who has multiple facial surgeries following a car accident.

Wonder Movie Poster

The boy experiences both teasing and empathy in this heartwarming story with an important message about tolerance and acceptance. Here, please take a moment to listen to three students talk about the film and their reactions.


THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Students Experience “Out of this World” Learning at StarBase

STEM learning just doesn’t get any more engaging than standing in front of an F-16 fighter jet, poised for action at any moment.

FES student at StarBase VT

“You are going to see some top secret classified things in here. No pictures,” the all-business Vermont Air National Guard sergeant told Fletcher Elementary School fifth-graders earlier this month. We’re not allowed to use the soldier’s name in our blog, but as he guided students through the Burlington-based National Guard hanger, the intricacies of jet technology that he shared most definitely had students on a flight plan for loving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Students were on the base as part of a five-day program called Starbase. An affiliate of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Starbase Vermont educational program is located on the Air National Guard base in South Burlington and focuses on teaching students about physics, chemistry, technology, engineering,  and math, with a focus on possible careers in those fields. Students spend 25 hours in the Starbase facility and the instructors also teach lessons at the school.


Fletcher students at StarBase VT

It was Amelia Earhart herself who once said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” In many ways, this has become the teaching mantra at Starbase Vermont, where the lessons are hands-on and include everything from exploring an F16 jet in the hanger and flying planes using flight simulators, to studying gravity through cooperative games and learning about air pressure by experimenting on marshmallows.



Fletcher students at StarBase VT

But, the program teaches much more than science. Its mission includes fostering collaboration and healthy choices, exposing children to cutting-edge technology and building a sense of community. Each “Starbaser,” as they are called, selects a “call sign” like a pilot. The call sign represents them personally and they are referred to by that name throughout the Starbase experience.



Starbase opened its doors in 1994 and reaches more than 1,300 Vermont students annually. There is no fee for schools to participate. During the program’s physics component, students learn Newton’s Laws of Motion through hands-on experiments that include building and launching model rockets. Other topics include fluid mechanics and aerodynamics, much of which is learned through experiments and observations of military planes that enter and exit the base on which Starbase is housed. Exploring the base hanger, which housed two F16s, was a highlight for students this year.

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Building blocks of matter, physical and chemical changes and atmospheric properties are all taught as part of the program’s chemistry strand. Additionally, technology innovations including the latest in mapping, nanotechnology, robotics, and chromatography (a method for separating organic and inorganic compounds to determine their composition) are features.

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

​Three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD), along with information about the engineering and design processes, comprise the engineering elements of the program, while number relationships, measurement, geometry, and data analysis bring in the math. Among other projects, students used computers to design unmanned aerial vehicles.“Every minute of the Starbase experience is rich with both academic and social skills,” Fletcher’s STEM Teacher Leader Denette Locke said. “At the same time that the students are exploring an F16 jet and learning about aerodynamics they are also being taught the social skills necessary to be part of a group and to be a guest outside of school. It’s a well-rounded experience that not only creates better, more excited scientists, but also more successful community members.”

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Read more about Starbase Vermont here.

THE FWSU STORY: Author-Adventurer Jan Reynolds Talks Sustainability and Culture in Fletcher

“Well, they could just ride their bikes to work,” Fletcher Elementary School kindergartener Matthew Ryan suggested with enthusiasm, wagging his left index finger in the air while holding a microphone in his right.

Children display books by Author Jan Reynolds

Stowe-based author-adventurer Jan Reynolds visited the Fletcher Elementary School Monday to speak with students about sustainability and the many cultures she has visited throughout the world. Pictured here, with Reynolds, is sixth grader Chase Murray, sixth grader Kaden Lovejoy, sixth grader Reed Stygles, sixth grader Maggie Nadeau, second grader Adelaide Gillilan, first grader Allora Lawton, first grader Lily Howard, second grader Harrison Frennier and first grader Koda Chipman.

In front of the entire school, Ryan was responding to a question by author-adventurer Jan Reynolds, who visited Fletcher Monday to engage students in a conversation she calls Cycle of Rice and Celebrate, one of the several themed presentations she delivers at schools throughout the year. The presentation focuses on environmental sustainability and the similarities and differences between human cultures. Ryan was responding to a call by Reynolds for suggestions about how adults could help preserve the environment.

A kindergartener talks sustainability with Author Jan Reynolds

Fletcher Elementary School kindergartener, Matthew Ryan, speaks with award-winning athlete and author Jan Reynolds on Monday. As part of a whole-school conversation about sustainability, Ryan suggested that more adults should ride their bikes to work in an effort to reduce pollution.

Reynolds calls her visits lectures, but not in the traditional sense. She engages students in critical conversation that gets them thinking about the impact of their decision-making on the environment. Through the lens of environmental stewardship, Reynolds speaks with children about food, housing, transportation, and clothing. In addition, through music and Reynolds’s own vibrant photographs from around the globe, the author of 14 books for both children and adults takes her audiences through a cultural voyage that provides a glimpse at the similarities between celebrations worldwide.

Author Jan Reynolds speaks with students at Fletcher Elementary School

Jan Reynolds, author of the Vanishing Cultures series of books for children, visited the Fletcher Elementary School on November 6th. Reynolds spoke to students about environmental sustainability and a variety of cultural celebrations.

“I learned a lot about sustainability today,” sixth-grader Chase Murray said.  “It means not polluting the air or causing other damage to the environment. I learned that our choices matter and that we can make a difference, one day at a time.”

Reynolds is a writer, photographer, athlete, and adventurer who has traveled the globe exploring extreme environments and spending time learning from the locals. She has participated in expeditions to China, Tibet, Nepal, New Zealand, Australia, Lapland, the Amazon Basin, Canadian Arctic, Mongolia and the Sahara. She was sponsored by National Geographic when she set the women’s high altitude ski record. Her countless radio and television appearances have featured these expeditions, as well her mountaineering experiences.

Author Jan Reynolds discusses world cultures at Fletcher Elementary School.

As part of her Celebrations presentation, author-adventurer Jan Reynolds spoke to Fletcher Elementary School students about both the connections and difference between cultures worldwide on Monday.

“She’s an inspiration,” sixth-grader Maggie Nadeau said. “She teaches you to follow your dreams and make good choices for everyone along the way. That includes the people and the earth.”

Reynolds’s has also worked as a writer and photographer for National Geographic, Vogue, Esquire, the New York Times, various ski magazines and her photographs have been exhibited at the United Nations. In 1985, Reynolds participated in the Beyond the Summit Expedition, flying a hot air balloon over Mount Everest and reaching 28,000 feet, setting an altitude record and creating the award-winning film, Flight of the Wind Horse. She was a member of the US Biathlon Team in 1983 and 1984. Reynolds graduated from UVM in 1978.

In her presentation, Reynolds used the example of Indonesian rice farmers as an exemplar for sustainability. She showed students photographs depicting the cycle of life and how the culture is self-sustaining. She also drew attention to the many ways, such as the use of fire, that various cultures celebrate. She implored students to recognize the differences in various celebration, yet honor the “oneness” of the human race.

Jan Reynolds speaks about culture.
Noted author and athlete Jan Reynolds visited the Fletcher Elementary School on Monday to discuss sustainability and cultural celebrations world-wide. Reynolds engaged students in conversation about being environmentally friendly and how our celebrations are not that different from those in other cultures.

“Opportunities like this are essential for our students in understanding that their decisions not only impact themselves but other people and our environment,” sixth-grade teacher Jasmine Tremblay said. “The world is bigger and more diverse than most of our students realize. Conversations and photographs like those that Jan provides help to build students’ understanding that they are part of a much bigger picture. For students, understanding other people and places is the first step in respecting them and valuing diversity.”

Reynolds’s presentation at Fletcher on Monday was the first in her 2017-18 school tour.



THE FWSU STORY: Dot Day Inspires Creativity, Individuality in Fletcher

Students at the Fletcher Elementary School celebrated International Dot Day during the first several weeks of school. While the official Dot Day takes place in mid-September, in recent weeks the students at the school have explored the concepts of creativity, kindness, uniqueness, and mindfulness through art.

Students celebrate their uniqueness with International Dot Day!

Students celebrate their uniqueness with International Dot Day!

The book, The Dot, by noted children’s author Peter Reynolds, chronicles the story of Vashti, a reluctant student artist whose teacher inspires her to have the confidence to be creative and different. Ultimately, Vashti becomes the artistic motivation for another student,  paying forward the gift she received from her own art teacher. The book is the inspiration for International Dot Day.


Student artistic creations in celebration of International Dot Day.

“Students sometimes get stuck in a belief that they can’t be a great artist, that they are limited somehow. I want all students to know that they are only limited by their own mindset and their beliefs about themselves. The school environment needs to nurture creativity and individuality in students and the confidence to transfer those skills and beliefs across environments, Art Teacher MC Baker said. “Confident, caring and creative students who value diversity will carry those skills into adulthood and make the world a better place.”


Students learning to create an artistic project using dots.

Ms. Baker worked with kindergarten students to create mindfulness calming jars connected to the individual hopes and dreams students articulated for themselves for the year. Using jars filled with colored water, students added water-absorbing orbs to represent their goals. As the orbs expanded, students connected that growth with their own acquisition of new skills. Students also used iPads to manipulate 3-D dot art. Now, students use the mindfulness jars to help themselves focus and as a reminder of their hard work.

“The goal of the mindfulness jars is to help students begin to understand having a growth mindset,” Baker said. “It’s important that students, even from a young age, understand that being open to new ideas is important. When they practice this way of thinking during art, they are more open to all kinds of diversity at home and in the global community. Using the water-absorbing orbs is a great visual metaphor for this new learning.”


Mindfulness jars!

First through third graders focused on the word texture to create clay medallions that ultimately became wearable pendants. Using polymer clay to decorate the medallions, students spoke of the importance of taking risks and being brave, both in art and in life. Older students designed and created pens that were used to write graphic novels during writing.

Throughout the Dot Day study, students communicated with Reynolds, the author of the book, via Twitter.

“Peter Reynolds responded to us and let us know how much he appreciated the creative connections between his writing and our art,” Baker said. “Not only did this encourage our students to honor their ideas, but it also connected us to the global community of artists.”

“Dot Day is important because we learned to follow our dreams and be respectful of others’ dreams,” sixth-grader Logan King said. “You should follow your dreams and understand that other people have other dreams and ideas that are just as good as yours.”

Students’ artwork was on display for the school’s open house earlier this month. This year, 10,107,880 participants from 107 countries registered online to celebrate International Dot Day.