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Blended… what does it look like in Saline?

December 10, 2017

HubThe term “blended instruction” can mean a lot of different things.  According to Wikipedia, Blended learning is an education program (formal or informal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student and incorporates digital tools or computerized lessons to enhance, or sometimes replace direct teacher instruction. Students do have some control over when and where to attend class, the path of their learning, and the pace at which they progress through the instructional materials.

Blended learning is merely an instructional design.  The reality is, the instructional design process is not a destination – it’s more of a journey.  Staff learn and refine each year and adapt to changes.  The staff member changes, the students change, society’s ask changes.  Frankly, the world changes.  As the instructional design process has evolved in the early part of the 21st century, it has shown new pathways that give students more choice over their learning time, place and pace.

Over the past several years,  Saline High School has offered a course called the Capstone Experience. It is a year-long class offered to seniors and offered in a “blended” format.  In the Capstone Experience,  students meet with the teacher only two or three times each week.  On the other days, students conduct research, collaborate with peers on the design of a service-related project, and participate in community-based projects. The term “blended instruction” can mean a lot of different things; the Capstone Experience is just one format.

The Saline Alternative High school uses a blended learning format to teach several core classes. Personal Finance, an online course, helps students understand global economics and how to make better-informed decisions about their own finances. Lessons are presented online, supplemented with additional content that the teacher provides, and then students work collaboratively to answer project-based questions about the coursework. Another teacher uses a blended learning format to present the Expository Reading and Writing course. Again, this is an online class, yet the teacher guides the instruction and provides opportunities for small group discussion on a wide range of complex texts. Student writing is enhanced through peer editing and multiple review opportunities.

The majority of courses at the Saline Alternative are presented in a “Flex” model of blended instructional learning. Most of the curriculum is provided through an online curriculum. Teachers are available to provide tutorial, re-teaching, and curricular enhancements as indicated.
As we plan for 2018-2019, we intend to explore further and incorporate blended learning at Saline High School and beyond.  Staff are currently learning about the process, and will shortly begin developing the structure.  Ideally, students will be able to choose the way the instructional format of some of their classes next year – face to face, blended, or entirely online.

Foundations for Positive Social, Emotional and Mental Health

December 2, 2017

Over the last few years, Saline Area School counselors and social workers teamed up to develop a list of positive social, emotional, and mental health foundations. This list encompassed many of the critical attributes that students need to possess in order to be “mentally fit.”

This past year, the Saline Area Schools Wellness Committee felt that it was essential to take this list of foundations and further develop and implement them. The group critiqued the list; added a few and removed others. Next, the Committee established a simple list of techniques that can be used by adults (teachers, parents, community members, etc.) to help students build the proper foundations they need to be “mentally fit.” Seen below is the list of foundations along with the suggested strategies for implementation. The “Saline Area Schools Foundations of Positive Social, Emotional, and Mental Health” cards are in use throughout the District.

As a District, all building Principals, social workers, counselors, and teaching staff are putting greater emphasis on supporting these foundations. Healthier, happier, more socially adjusted, and more resilient youth is the goal of this important initiative.

Foundation Card

More Process Praise & Less Person Praise

November 29, 2017

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An area of focus for Saline Area Schools, particularly over the last few years, has been to help develop a growth mindset in each of our students.  People in a “growth mindset” believe anyone can be good at anything, because your abilities are entirely due to your actions.  People with a “fixed mindset” believe you either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature, because it’s just who you are.

Dr. Carol S. Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, has been the leading voice on developing growth mindsets as a strategy for helping students become lifelong learners.  She states,

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

One of the ways we can help students is to praise the “process” vs. praise the “person”.  The idea that being “smart” means learning comes easy is myth, but one that persists in the minds of many.  A fixed mindset about being smart or not can lead students to avoid challenges for fear of not looking smart.  Here are a few examples of how process praise vs. person praise can work:

Person Praise: You are such a good student!

Process Praise: I like the way you stayed focused & you kept working on it.  That is great.


Person Praise: You got it! I told you that you were smart!

Process Praise: I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies on that problem until you got it!


Person Praise: See, you are good at English. You got an A on your last test.

Process Praise: You really studied for your English test and your improvement shows it.


Person Praise: Great Job! You must be smart at this.

Process Praise: Great Job! You must have worked really hard.

Challenging the beliefs of students with fixed mindsets with process praise can help them see the value and benefits of focused effort, engagement, and perseverance.


Preparing students for rock-climbing instead of ladder-climbing

November 19, 2017


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I think we can all agree that the pace of change in the workplace has significantly increased in the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down. As a district, Saline has focused on the 2014 Forbes, Inc. list of the ten skills employers are looking for in new graduates to help guide decisions for this instructional change.  It is one of the reasons that the SAS Learner Profile is so essential.  Saline teachers, staff, and administrators have a united focus to enhance the skills that all students will need to possess as they move on to college and career.

In thinking about careers, that landscape has changed as well.  The future of working and the workforce, in general, is being impacted by technology and globalization in ways we cannot anticipate or fully predict.  We do know that automation will continue to influence the workplace. The 21st Century graduates need problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills to adapt to these changes. Students must be globally aware of the economic impact that automation, technology, and software development have on job opportunities. Students must demonstrate flexibility and embrace the challenge of a new career – sometimes on a moment’s notice. They also need to possess the mindset of a rock climber vs. a corporate ladder climber.

“That means that the notion of a career ladder — predictable and linear steps upward — in a world that is constantly changing is obsolete. Rather, people will need to be like rock climbers — constantly adjusting to new opportunities and challenges. They must also be resourceful so they can take advantage of those opportunities.”Lou Glazer

Terms such as “growth mindset” and “grit” have become buzzwords in today’s educational environment. Students that embrace a positive outlook, approach adversity as an opportunity, and chart a personal course for continuous growth will be successful in whatever they choose to do beyond high school. They are ready for the rock climb. For those students that have placed walls in the way of opportunity, the educator must guide the student toward richer, deeper thinking that is beyond today’s minor missteps. As we continue to define and implement the student attributes in the Saline Area Schools’ Learner Profile, we need to be mindful of how the students will own and then apply these skills when they transition from the classroom to the workplace.


Environment & Resources

November 14, 2017

It was great to see the tweet below… Mrs. Terech has created the environment for students to be leaders and share their knowledge with classmates. It also makes me thankful for the resources that our community has provided for us to use! #sascompass

Community Conversation – November 28th

November 11, 2017

Community Conversation

We are about 1/3 of the way through the 2017-2018 school year, so it’s a good time to host a “Community Conversation” meeting. Over the last nine years I have had the opportunity to host numerous “Community Conversation” events to learn more about what interested community members see as the strengths of Saline Area Schools, and what areas they felt we needed to focus attention on for improvement. Through these conversations and other opportunities, I have learned a great deal about how many of you see our district and it has helped guide me, along with the Board of Education, as we move forward.

There are a lot of issues we can discuss – school calendar, screen time for students, social & emotional health, and many more… You bring the topics.

In an effort to continue this dialogue, I will be making time available on Tuesday, November 28th from 10:00am- 11:00am at Carrigan Cafe, 107 S. Ann Arbor Street. Please stop by, say hello and bring any thoughts about the district you feel I should know.

If you can’t make it, feel free to use “Let’s Talk” and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,
Scot Graden

Let the Compass be our Guide

November 9, 2017

Over the last few weeks, I have talked to numerous school and community groups about the needs of the district and community as related to the CARES Recreation Millage and the Sinking Fund Millage that appeared on the November 7th ballot. (Thank you, voters, for your support!) These conversations gave me the opportunity to engage with voters across a broad cross-section of individuals throughout the Saline Area Schools District.  After we discussed the campaign related to the millages, the conversation often turned to the direction of the District.

First, it was essential for me to inform citizens about the “Compass” learner profile – focusing on the eight student attributes that we want all students to embody as they graduate from Saline High School: Positive Communicator, Digitally/Financially Literate, Globally Connected, Creative Innovator, Motivated/Self-Directed, Complex Thinker/Problem Solver, Collaborative Leader, and Ethical and Responsible Citizen.  Most of the listeners quickly agreed with that focus.  However, there was often an awkward pause as they thought about how we measure those attributes. This query provided me with the opportunity to talk about various instructional models – different ways of delivering content through blended and personalized learning methods, project-based learning, service learning experiences, and competency-based approaches.  As I talked about these models – I was reminded how far we traveled from traditional paper/pencil types of assessments.  I was also struck by how far we still have to go to feel as though we are genuinely embracing and embedding the SAS Compass every day in all of our classrooms.

My focus has shifted from visionary in scope to the more strategic work of supporting the talented Saline Area Schools staff as they redesign instruction and re-think what “success” means for the students.  It’s exciting to see the progress we have made. The support from families, community members, alumni, and staff to do the work needed to provide our students with an exceptional learning experience is overwhelmingly positive and appreciated.


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