Dartmouth teachers focusing on student voice, choice in the classroom

Dec 11, 2018

Dartmouth schools are bringing more student voices and choices into the classroom as part of a focus on improving how teachers teach, and students learn. 

At the Dec. 10 School Committee meeting, Director of Teaching and Learning Tracy Oliveira shared what her office is doing to improve student success and learning inside the classroom.

In reading and writing, elementary school teachers are making a big push to introduce reading and writing workshops into classrooms. The new workshops are providing students with guided choice in writing prompts, and reading.

“It’s a student-centered framework for teaching, reading and writing frequently for extended periods of time and choosing topics,” Oliveira said.

At Cushman, one enterprising student even put up signs advising avoiding spilling soap on the bathroom floors to prevent falls.

“She gave her opinion, and supplied reasons,” Oliveira said.

Teachers across all schools and grade levels are also working together to share ideas and align programming across grades and classrooms.

In science and technology, projects and embedding technology into the classroom are major focus points.

“We’re really trying to get all kids to use technology as a teaching tool, not a toy,” Oliveira said.

Teachers are learning how to use everything from 3D printers to new ZSpace virtual reality systems in a way that does more than simply using technology for technology’s sake.

As more schools are able to access technology, it’s also key to ensure smooth and stable use of technology across grade levels.

The state released new history and social science standards several months ago, and while district officials are still studying them, one stands out: An increased focus on civics. There is also going to be more focus on reading and writing like historians.

“I’m so happy to see the civics standards,” noted School Committee member Shannon Jenkins. “Only 26 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government. I’m hopeful the new standards starting earlier will provide a better civic education for our kids.”