THE #FWSU STORY: Reaching All Learners through Professional Learning for Teachers

Over the past three years, in an effort to create a best practice approach to literacy instruction, FWSU has offered Reading and Writing Workshop courses. These courses were designed for grades K-6 and were attended by district teachers as well as teachers from nearby districts.

The courses met for four days during the summer, with two follow-up half-days during the fall to allow teachers to learn about the workshop model and then apply it in their classrooms with opportunities for feedback during the fall classes.  

While the focus has been on either Reading or Writing Workshop in the past, this year the course was designed to provide an overview of the workshop model and allow teachers to apply it to either reading or writing base on their personal learning needs. 

"The kids seemed more engaged than they had been before." GEMS Teacher

Research in cognitive science shows that people learn best when information is presented in a model that matches the workshop model.  This model need not apply only to literacy but can be applied to all areas of the curriculum.

Through work on the All Learners Project focus on math, FWSU has brought best practices in math instruction together with best practices in literacy instruction to create a Universal Framework for teaching and learning. 

There is so much student empowerment. We want our students to build their best reading life.

Teachers who participated in this most recent workshop course represented a wide variety of school personnel.  Not only were classroom teachers present, most of whom participated with members of their teams, but in addition, teacher leaders, science and math teachers, and a special educator completed the group.  These teachers taught students ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade. 

One of the most important aspects of the course is the ability for teachers to apply their learning to their own roles within their schools.  As a culminating event, participants create a final project individualized to their particular interest and role and present their learning in a short presentation on the final day of class.  Some of the most valuable learning from any class results from participants sharing their learning with each other. Math and science teachers brought explicit writing instruction into classrooms through their journals.  

For young students, realizing reading is everywhere is really important.

A special educator created solutions for the challenges that some students may meet within the workshop model. Teams of teachers and teacher leaders collaborated together through planning and co-teaching using the workshop model. Teacher leaders created materials to support teachers using the workshop model. A middle school teacher brought this typically elementary based model into her classroom. 

Writing is Writing

As FWSU moves forward with MTSS, the workshop model has moved from a reading and writing model to a way of thinking about teaching and learning.  Providing a clear and concise focus lesson, time for students to experience “just right” learning, and a closure that can provide quick formative data for next steps, the workshop model is a best-teaching model.


Juliet King is the Instructional Coach for Grades PreK-6 at BFA Fairfax. She has taught in-district teacher professional learning courses for the past two years.

THE FWSU STORY: At GEMS, First Days of School is All About Relationships

The new school year is off to a great start to the GEMS! The first days of the new year are always focused on creating relationships among students and teachers alike.


The goal is to build a promote respect and rapport across every member of the GEMS community.


This emphasis allows teachers to engage in positive interactions with their students, create classroom environments that are conducive to learning, and meet students’ developmental, emotional and educational needs.


Developing positive relationships between teachers and students is foundational to quality teaching and effective student learning.


The process is a year-long journey for all of us, but we are off to a great start!

Learn more about UN Sustainable Development Goal # 4 

frank calano


Frank Calano is the Middle School Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.



THE FWSU STORY: Students Prepare for Exhibitions at BFA Fairfax

Students at BFA Fairfax will share what they know, understand, and are able to do in a series of exhibitions throughout their time in grades 7-12. The exhibitions are built on the belief that:

Learning and growth are best understood and represented by the learner.

Essentially this means that the best way to know where a learner stands is to talk to them about their strengths, challenges, interests, and future goals. This is true for all learners, students and adults alike.


A team of teachers met during the summer to develop expectations and a timeline for exhibitions in grades 8 and 10. The team built a website that includes goals, expectations, a calendar and a variety of resources and information for students and families.

The first exhibition will be held at the end of the 8th-grade year. Students will prepare for the exhibition throughout their 7th and 8th-grade year by gathering evidence of their learning related to the transferable skills, reflecting on its importance, and exploring their passions and interests. Time and structure will be provided during students’ daily advisory time. The 8th-grade exhibition will include an audience that includes the student’s family, teachers, and choice of peers. It will be a conversation and presentation that focuses on what the students have learned, areas for growth, and plans for high school. This year’s 7th-grade students will be the first to participate in this process.

High school students will be participating in a similar, but enhanced experience at the end of their 10th-grade year. They will work on this process that, like the 8th-grade exhibition, includes gathering evidence and reflection, but also includes personal and career exploration activities. Students will work to prepare for their exhibition during advisories every Monday and Wednesday. The audience for the 10th-grade exhibition will expand to include community members who will learn about the student’s understanding, progress, areas for growth, and plans for their junior and senior years. This year’s 10th grade (the Class of 2021) will participate in an abridged version of the exhibition this spring. The Class of 2022 will prepare for and experience the full exhibition cycle. In fact, both classes have already started working! We will provide more details about becoming a community member of an exhibition panel as the year goes on.


The last portion of our exhibition plan is to develop a “capstone” experience for our seniors. Last year, a group of teachers began investigating models from other schools to find a model that could be adapted to match our goals and students. We will continue to explore and create a model for the senior year that will build on the exhibitions from grades 8 and 10. Our plan is to implement this capstone experience with the Class of 2021.

We are excited to provide students with the opportunity and structure to share their body of evidence for our Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements throughout their time at BFA Fairfax. We know that we learn so much more about a student’s learning and growth when they participate in a conversation than we will ever learn by looking at a number on a piece of paper.


John Tague is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Middle/High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @jtague252