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Desert Trails is excited to pilot a new personalized learning program in our intermediate classrooms

Contributed by Sheri Duggan
Desert Trails Elementary School

Last spring, after learning about the Summit Basecamp personalized learning initiative, we submitted an application to join the Summit training in San Francisco.  We were one of two elementary schools chosen in the state of Arizona.  With the support of Mark Zuckerberg and a few of his Facebook engineers, the program has blossomed to include 120 schools throughout the country.  This partnership provides a platform and a structure to gather those real world lessons and projects and present them in an organized and purposeful way. 

There are 4 major elements of the program.  The first focuses on content knowledge.  This is the part of teaching that is more traditionally known and measured.  This is the math, reading, writing, science and social studies.  The second is the cognitive skills time or project time where the students collaborate, problem solve and think critically as they dive deeper into learning.  The third element is the student mentoring time.  Each student is partnered with a teacher who acts as the mentor throughout the year.  This mentor becomes the go-to person, helping the student set and monitor goals and coaching the student on habits of success. The fourth element is real life experiences. 

Here are a few things that our teachers have to say about the program:

Students feel a sense of  empowerment over their own learning.  They are able to pick and choose how to learn a skill that best fits their learning style whether it be watching video clip(s), reading instructional notes, and/or games for a particular skill.  They are enjoying the fact that they may test out of a skill set if they have already mastered a skill after they had taken the pre-test and post-test.  Building time into the week to mentor students is huge as students enjoy the personal time to discuss their personal learning plan, ideas or anything else.
-Nancy Taub, 6th Grade Math

The classroom is set up so students may choose the appropriate seating to meet their goals for the day.  There are places to meet in groups and pairs, as well as individual seating.
-Denise Anderson, 5th and 6th Grade Reading

Structured lessons with numerous resources to allow students to explore the concepts being studied. For example, in The Great Debate, students are able to watch sample debates, access written examples of assertions, and use resources to find evidence to support an assertion.
-Lynn Caccia, 5th and 6th Grade Writing

One of the biggest differences that the Summit Model is providing our students is the opportunity to learn the importance of goal setting and to work with them on developing SMART goals that meet their individual needs.
-Becky Keur, 5th and 6th Grade

Gifted Self-contained
The visual of the learning platform – I have used project based learning and individual learning plans, but the visual of the platform is great for the kids to see where they are, where they are headed and where they are going long term. This platform gives them a visual that is color coded as well, to have a quick look at how they are doing and it helps them to monitor their progress and work towards an attainable goal.
-Kim Cox, Honors