Common Core for our Youngest Learners….. a Positive Beginning!



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FWSU is ready to implement the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS (CCSS), and we are committed to making school engaging for children.   In order to be “Career and College Ready”, our youngest children must believe they have something important to share, and they must stay excited about their learning.  Our mission is to hook our youngest and most eager learners.  They must ask their own questions and answer them.   They must solve big problems and use their inquiry to make sense of their world.  They must construct meaning.  They must want to run into school!

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Children thrive when teachers offer them new and different ways to express themselves.  These pre-schoolers are using digital media to draw and sequence, talking about their stories as they work with an adult.


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Block play is critical to the development of young children and supports many Common Core learning targets.    Through the manipulation of carefully chosen blocks and props, children develop spatial awareness and problem solving skills as part of their elaborate system of play.  Adults quietly observe and facilitate.  This child’s teacher asked a few honest questions and provided alternate language for the child to use as he describes  the story he had created.   She took a picture to document the detail of his work and scripted his story.

The teacher taking the picture below began a math lesson on measurement with these boys.

"He's really big- maybe 50 boards....   How big are you?  "

“He’s really big- maybe 50 boards….   How big are you?  “


The Common Core places emphasis on reading multiple types of text, both in print and digital forms.   Young students need practice to build their reading stamina.  They must learn to pay close attention to details, use phonics to figure out words they do not know, and use text features to locate important information.   These students each have their own book boxes with books they can read and learn from.  They have dedicated time during the day to read independently with “just right books”-  a  time that they learn to be independent and enjoy literature that they choose.

image Parents should expect children to be engaged in challenging reading, writing and problem solving tasks as a result of the Common Core.   At the same time, they can expect students in FWSU to be joyfully interacting with each other and with their world –  laughing, singing and sharing along the way!

 "Hey Mr. Dodge-  did you see the porcupines?   How many quills?"

“Hey Mr. Dodge-  did you see the porcupines?   How many quills?”


Are you looking for more information on the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS as they relate to your young child?    The National PTA offers A Parents’ Guide to Student Success.  Click on the link for a quick 2-page summary of Common Core Standards at each grade level.

“Part of our job has not changed –   we must continue to instill WONDER, HOPE and LAUGHTER within our children.  What better way to help them become “Career and College Ready”?        Mary Lynn Riggs, FWSU Director of Curriculum
























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First graders  examine a milkweed plant and work as a group to gether information and make sense of new information for a science investigation.  Students learn to participate in conversations with others by linking their observations and comments to the remarks of others.  They need opportunities and coaching to learn to ask and answer questions of each other,  to gather information, and to gain a deeper understanding- all skils demanded by the Common Core.


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“Children must see themselves as leaders in a world where they can lead.”

Children learn early to share different ways of thinking and to understand that there are multiple ways of solving a single math problem.    They learn to describe their thinking and to listen to the thinking of others- and they do  not need an adult to always guide that process.


FWSU Administrators Seeking New Ways to Grow

Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Action Step 1: Provide students w/ access to content, resources, and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls.

Indicator of success: Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

As a part of this year’s FWSU Administration retreat, principals and administrators were asked to get outside their comfort zone and challenge themselves to learn how GPS technology can be integrated into an educational setting.



To start, staff were introduced to Geocaching. Geocaching is the recreational activity of hunting and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates. Geocaching is the real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now, all around you. There are 2,484,378 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.  You can find more about geocaching by visiting the Geocaching website. FWSU recently purchased a set of GPS devices for all schools to use with students.

Bu24PRbIUAEPV9JAfter a brief introduction, staff were challenged with finding the hidden geocaches. Once they found a hidden cache, they had to complete a challenge in order to receive the GPS coordinates for the next cache. Despite some difficulty getting started, the teams preserved and met all of the challenges one by one.

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As they completed the challenges, the administrators then tweeted their responses including images of geometry in the area, written poems, and images of STEM Challenges.


This activity helped our school leaders see how this type of flexible learning can be easily applied to student learning. Geocaching challenges foster community and encourages a growth mindset for both staff and students.

FES Mapping for 2014/15 and Beyond!

Target 2 – Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment. FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.

Action Steps – (1) Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, & diverse resources. (2) Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community

Indicators of Success – (1) Teachers embrace role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment (2) Creativity and risk-taking will be evident and celebrated as learners embrace new technologies.


Tracey Godin, Jasmine Tremblay, Denette Locke.

As part of inservice, teachers at the Fletcher Elementary School took a leadership role in shaping the learning of students by continuing their work on curriculum mapping in the areas of Mathematics and English Language Arts. Mapping is a procedure for reviewing the “real” curriculum that is taught each day, week, and month of the year.


Lorrene Palermo, Cassandra Underwood.

This collaborative work demonstrates a diverse curriculum with rich, authentic questions, problems with which students identify, as well as the use of a variety of school, community and global resources including substantive use of technology.


Cathy O’Brien, Jannis Murphy, and Julie Steves.

We know that good schools do not happen by accident. They are built on a solid foundation of community, colleagueship, and good old-fashioned hard work.

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FWSU Welcomes New Teachers

Target 2Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment. FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.

Action Step – Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, & diverse resources.

Indicator of Success – Teachers embrace role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment.

photo (4)School officially started for new FWSU teachers this week. Our 12 new staff members spent the last two days learning about a variety of topics that will assist them with transitioning into our schools. The training encompassed all aspects of teaching and learning at FWSU, including introductions to our evaluation system, introduction to the SAMR model of technology integration, and introduction to the FWSU action plan.

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FWSU has developed a strong mentorship program to ensure that our teachers are successful. Day 2 of Orientation offers significant contact time between our new teachers and their mentors. The afternoon also provides work time for new teachers to prepare their classroom alongside their mentor and get ready for students next week.

photo 1 (4)We are extremely proud to welcome our new teachers to our system and wish them success. In the coming weeks we will highlight each of our teachers in more detail! Welcome!

FWSU Receives Grant From Bay and Paul Foundation For Global Student Engagement

Target 2 – Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment
FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.

Action Step – Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead,
advocate, and serve within the school and community

Indicator of Success – Creativity and risk-taking will be evident and celebrated as learners embrace new technologies.


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We are excited to announce the Bay and Paul Foundation has granted FWSU $17,000 to continue its work engaging our students with other students from around the world. This grant allows all of our schools to continue work that has been occurring for the last two years. For example, this year students in grades 3 – 8 at GEMS and BFA collaborated with classrooms in South Korea and Mexico. The learning experiences for our student working with our partner classrooms has broadened their knowledge and understanding of other cultures and other’s notions of citizenship.

Our goal for next year, with generous grant, is to expand the program to more grades next year as well as building our capacity of working with additional countries in Africa and Asia.  In addition, the grant will support an opportunity for a team of FWSU early educators to study and visit Italian preschools, establishing partnerships with the Reggio Emilia teachers and students.

2014-06-09 08.11.43The Bay and Paul Foundation is an independent private foundation located in New York City. The Foundation’s education grants are for School Change and support a variety of efforts to empower students and teachers by promoting the practice of democracy in schools, encouraging student voice, advancing an ethic of environmental stewardship, and integrating academic course work with meaningful community service.


The Bay Paul Foundation recognized the FWSU Action Plan was aligned with its core mission related to school change, personalized learning, and student voice. It also recognized FWSU leadership in Vermont incorporating technology into our teaching and learning in all of our schools. We are excited to continue work offering students opportunities to be leaders not only in Georgia, Fairfax, Fletcher and Vermont, but also to use those skills to lead globally.


BFA Driver Educator John Viau Receives Award for Excellence

Target 1 – Student-Centered Learning. FWSU students will engage in personalize learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step – Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.

Indicator of Success – Students and staff will apply existing knowledge to create original works as a means of personal or group expression.


BFA Driver Education Teacher John Viau was recognized as Vermont Driver Education Teacher of the Year, and he has been nominated for national recognition by the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA) for his innovative teaching strategies.    John was chosen to showcase his effective use of digital tools, especially his innovative use of  instructional tools in the car that enhance young driver’s knowledge and skills in driver and traffic safety education.  The theme of this year’s National ADTSEA conference is Strategic Planning: Driver Education in the Digital Age, and John Viau has much to add to the conversation.

In the car 2CoachEyeAppAt BFA, students routinely mount their iPad over their right shoulder when they enter the car for driving practice.  John uses the iPad with the Coach’s Eye App to gather evidence and data so that students can analyze their driving skills once they are back in the classroom. Students can then share their own personal driving videos, reflect on their experiences behind the wheel, and practice with their parents.  Students use this digital tool to do analysis and self-assessment of their driving as a regular part of their instruction.


Students also work in groups to create PSA’s to raise awareness about safety issues such as drugged driving, animal hazards, and text driving. Groups of students are charged with creating powerful messages for the community using  podcasts, movie trailers, and presentation software.   They act as responsible citizens, educating their community on safety issues as part of their driver education experience.



John’s work with local law enforcement provides in-class instruction and simulations for students, and it also emphasizes their responsibility as responsible citizens,  a key outcome for all BFA students.

Alcohol Simulation

Congratulations to BFA’s Driver Education Teacher John Viau and BFA students for their innovative practice and their willingness to harness the power of technology to promote traffic safety within our school and community. The world is watching!


BFA Teacher John Viau recognized for excellence.


“Two aspects of John Viau’s practice  were recognized in his selection as Vermont’s Driver Education Teacher of the Year-  John’s alignment of his program with FWSU’s Action Plan and mission statement, and his extensive use of technology in his program.  John is also recognized by others for his leadership and the individual interest he takes in each of his students.”     Lindsay Townsend, VDTSEA Exec Director

GEMS Students Make a Difference

Target 4. Engaged Community Partners – FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Plan and manage instruction around problems relevant to students and their community and develop solutions for authentic audiences.

Indicator of Success – Students challenge convention and make contributions in their community, state, and world.

Just before the holidays, GEMS Kindergarten and 1st Grade students found a way to support their local Georgia Food Shelf at a time when those in the community rely on it most!  This type of student leadership and community engagement are exactly the skills that we want our students to build as they progress through our school.

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The students decided to handcraft and sell bead bracelets with all proceeds to benefit the our local Vermont Fooddank.  The mission of the Vermont Foodbank is to gather and share quality food and nurture partnerships so that no one in Vermont will go hungry.

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Students took great pride in their colorful creations for a cause! Relevance in a students education makes a tremendous difference in their engagement. Students were certainly engaged and motivated while working for the benefit of others.

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Students enjoyed displaying their beautiful bracelets for friends, parents, and teachers to admire (and purchase!) – all for a great cause.

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Most of all, the opportunity allowed everyone involved to support friends and neighbors in need. It was rewarding for the children to recognize that their contributions can make a difference!

If you would like to become involved with the Vermont Foodbank you can learn more here.