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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Schools That Work | Practice

Mount Desert Elementary

Grades K-8 | Northeast Harbor, ME

Instruction Tailored to Students’ Needs and Interests

At Mount Desert Elementary School, differentiated instruction offers customized learning for each student, increasing its relevance and impact.

Overview: 

Personalized Attention for Each Student

At Mount Desert Elementary, SEL, coupled with an approach to academic instruction that is responsive to each student's needs, helps to create a school community where students gain not only a strong academic education but also the self-confidence, emotional maturity, and social skills needed to succeed beyond the walls of the classroom. Differentiated instruction at Mount Desert is supported by the following:

  • Writing from Personal Experiences
  • Making Math Relevant
  • Students Support Teams
The school's success is largely due to the teachers willingness to do "whatever it takes" to help each student achieve his or her greatest potential.
How it's done: 

Differentiated Instruction

At Mount Desert, instructors offer students learning opportunities that fit their individual needs and interests through the following methods:

Personal Reading and Writing

To help the students personally connect to writing, Mount Desert uses the Reading and Writing Project (RWP) from Lucy Calkins of Teachers College at Columbia University, which focuses on writing narrative from a personal and emotional perspective and places a strong emphasis on reading topics matched to the students’ reading and comprehension ability.

The RWP emphasizes an autobiographical approach to writing, which uses "small moments" to connect a student's writing to his or her own personal experiences. Students begin writing by thinking about a personal experience that generated strong feelings. For example, a suggested prompt is to tell students, "Think about things that you have done that have given you strong feelings -- times that made you really happy, for example, or really sad." Students then are given the opportunity to write a personal narrative based on the small moment, expanding the story by adding details regarding what happened, dialogue, and an ending. 

Relevant Math

In an effort to make math more relevant, Mount Desert employs several math curricula that enable students to play more of an active role in the learning experience through problem solving and hands-on learning. The curricula the school employs include Investigations in Number, Data, and Space by TERC for grades K-5 and MathScape for grades 6-8, a curriculum that emphasizes the human experience with real-world examples.

One example, part of the eighth-grade lesson plan "What Comes Next?: Modeling and Predicting," students use world population data to learn about linear and exponential models. At the end of the lesson, students prepare a culminating report to apply the concepts they've learned to population-growth data of a country of their choice.

Student Success Teams

Student Success Teams (SST) discusses ways to help individual students be successful. The team serves as a support group for the regular teacher by providing recommendations for academic or behavioral interventions as necessary.

When a student seems to be struggling with any type of issue, the student's teachers, parents, and the SST will meet to discuss and resolve the problem. The SST continues to meet on a regular basis to review whether interventions are helping -- and adjust interventions as necessary. The SST provides a team of specialists with expertise ranging from special education to guidance counseling, to ensure that no teacher is alone in providing supports. 

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