Monday, September 5, 2016

Creating a community of learners: new principal implements Smart Start

This year I was assigned an extra duty, principal of a small K-8 school. I am excited to add principal to my list of duties. To start the year right, I developed a Smart Start plan based on the work of my friend +Jon Corippo. I presented the plan to teachers before the school year started, and then scheduled time to be in class each day this first week of school. As a new principal, with a young staff, I wanted to model these lessons and set the tone for the year.  Before the first week Jon gave me advice that took to heart. He said a key component was to not get to fancy. I looked at what I had prepared, which was a bit ambitious, and pared it down into three days of academic mini mixers. I taught a lesson each day in our Grade 4-8 classroom and then again in our TK-3 room.

Here is my Smart Start Plan for Gasquet Mountain Elementary School.

There were many benefits from the Smart Start plan. Mainly, I got to know my students better, modeled academic tools and skills for students and teachers, and set a standard of learning and achievement for our school.

Here are some examples of the learning we did together.

Day 1: Frayer Model
1st Day Smart Start Activity was to Frayer a Friend - the TK-3 class "Frayered" their teacher. 
Our Grade 4-8 class started reading The Hobbit, so the teacher had the class "Frayer" hobbits that afternoon.

Day 2: Dog and Cat Venn Diagrams
After we read dog and cat diaries, students used details from the diaries to compare and contrast the dog and cat.

Day 3: Category Collages with Pic Collage

Students randomly selected categories which they had to represent in a collage. This one was triangles.

These students created a collage for circles.

They measured everything using a ruler without being told to!
By the end of the week we had a common understanding of Frayer Models, Venn Diagrams and iPad camera and photo tools. I can't wait to see how the teachers and students continue to use these skills. My plans are to do one or two more Smart Start refreshers throughout the year and after school breaks. At first, the thought of doing Smart Start for K-8 with multi-grade classrooms was a bit daunting. Keeping it simple and modifying the activities for the two different classrooms worked well. Have you tried Smart Start? Thinking of trying it? I would love to know how it goes! Please share ideas in the comments.