George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teachers Support Differentiated Learning Through Professional Development and Collaboration

In order to keep up with the latest technology and successfully personalize learning for each student, teachers at Forest Lake Elementary plan lessons together, build a strong support network, and collaborate on professional development. More to this story.
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Teachers Support Differentiated Learning Through Professional Development and Collaboration (Transcript)

Sometimes, y'all when we're researching we find out things that we think we knew already might not be exactly true. Is that okay?



The teaching team at Forrest Lake is a tightknit group. Many of them have worked together for several years collaborating to improve their teaching skills and supporting each other as they embrace rapidly evolving technology.

Alright, we need to look at home life.

How they travel in transportation.



Every other week grade-level teams meet in what they call "Collaborative Corner" to discuss challenges and plan interdisciplinary lessons together. With the support of Instructional Technology Specialist, Paulette Williams.

Because we have plenty of resources on everything.

Media specialist, Lizzie Padget.

Do you like having the taste of the countries with everybody in a different room?

And Curriculum Coordinator, Marian Scullion.

The student will demonstrate an understanding of other settings across the world. So if we journey through other places of the world-

We've used a number of different models over the years for staff development and training. At this point in our process we use a collaborative meeting every other week and that is a very honored treasured time. You don't miss your collaborative. Professionally speaking, everyone expects you to be there and it's a meeting that you don't want to miss because it's a meeting where you kind of massage your unit plan to be better and better.

We can take an inventory of things that they want to specifically learn about that country and not necessarily narrow it.

We're doing graphing in math.


So that will be a great way to tie in.

The collaborative process allows us to spread the wealth and team teach. Teachers come down to Collaborative Corner. We feed them. You know, that's a very important part of it. We get- we soften them up a little bit with some chocolate and but we just give them a time to talk first and then we take the standards that they are teaching and we put together what kind of project is going to be a part of that? What's going to be your reassessment piece? What strategies are you using to get the objectives across?

The first _______ a light, was this experiencing a day in the life of?

We're not asking them to do all this by themselves. We're saying what part can I play? What can I do to make this work smoothly for you?

Principal Kappy Cannon drops in on classes frequently to make observations she later shares with the teachers.

We have created our own walk-through form which is an observation, it's not an evaluation, and we call that our "failure is not an option" form. What we did was we tried to think of all the things that we have worked on in the past few years. Maybe we've gone to a workshop, it might be professional reading that we have done, conversations, staff development, collectively put it all together to make sure that bottom line that we're doing what we say that we're doing and to stay focused and to stay on track.

And you like spending that time with him?

We also have times during the years where all of the teachers will go in each other's classroom. And again it's a nonthreatening type of process and you can get just that one snapshot of going in someone else's room and seeing how they have taken some of the same information that you have been given and they're using it in a different way.

Let me give you a round of applause.

Oh we can do that too.

I've thought of giving a lot of online and computerized testing and I wanted to know how would I show those grades like if they're-

Teachers who are new to the profession or the school are well supported. Once a month they gather in the media center with teacher leaders to discuss their successes and their concerns.

Coke and Conversation gives us a springboard for discussion about maybe things related to reading, things related to technology, things related to behavior management.

Maybe we want to discuss some tips for how to motivate those children that are not quite where they- we'd like them to be for that.

And it's not a scary time for them because all these other people are new as well so it's just a safe haven for new people, newbies, to have this time to brainstorm together.

Katie and I were looking at Google Lit Trips and it's a really neat tool for you to pick a book.

At a monthly staff meeting teachers share their latest tech discoveries with their colleagues.

And each one is really convenient because it gives you an overview of the book itself right here.

I think that's one thing that makes this school special is the collaborative spirit. It's a part of everything that we do. And we like each other, you know?

Have a great afternoon. Thank you.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis


  • Karen Sutherland

Associate Producer

  • Doug Keely

Camera Crew

  • Michael Epstein
  • Perry Goodfriend

Video Programming Producer

  • Amy Erin Borovoy


  • Michael Pritchard

Original Music

  • Ed Bogas

Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Click on any of the titles below to download a PDF of one of Forest Lake Elementary School's many resources.

Professional development

Walk-through observation form (


Teaching strategies

A write-up of best practices from the first-grade team ( 424K)

Smart ways to use a SMART Board ( 844K)

Example weekly plan for differentiated lessons - Grade 2 language arts ( 960K)


More at Downloads and Resources from Forest Lake Elementary

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