Faculty Blog

Islands of Creativity and Learning

We are just finishing up the Explorer Project with presentations in my sixth grade Integrated Studies class.  The project is a long running one where students choose an Explorer from throughout history and spend several classes doing research in various note taking categories (i.e. early life experience, personal characteristics, challenges encountered, reason for exploration, etc.).  From there they construct journal entries written from the perspective of their chosen Explorer and create a map depicting her/his area of exploration.  To create the journal entries (of which …

Posted by in Patricia McCarthy on Wednesday December 17, 2014
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Going Global: 9th Graders and the World That Awaits Them

On the wall of my 9th grade Global Studies classroom hang two essential questions that guide us each day in the course: first, “How does the past, with all of its complexities, shape the world we live in today?” And second, “What are my responsibilities as a global citizen?” The questions serve to remind us of two intersecting realities—that the problems in our world today sometimes emerge out of nuanced historical processes, and that, once we understand the problems, it is our obligation to do something about them.

This is heady stuff for a 9th grader. Sometimes…

Posted by in John Sharon on Wednesday December 10, 2014
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21st Century Schools

Attend a conference for educators in independent schools or pick up a magazine or journal on independent school education and it won't be long before you hear or read what you can and should do to become a 21st century school or how your students can develop 21st century skills. What does it all mean? How did these particular skills emerge from the pack? How intentional do you need to be in your focus on these topics? How do you measure whether you are succeeding or not? The answers to these questions and others can be elusive but there are certain truths, including that our students are …

Posted by in Derek Boonisar on Friday October 31, 2014
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Resource: Me Read? And How!

I met a fellow educator at the International Boys’ School Coalition in New York City at the Buckley School. We often share resources focused on boys and best literacy practice. Recently, he sent me a resource from a document released by the province of Ontario, Me Read? And How! Many of the teaching strategies described are often used in Fenn classrooms to encourage and support our boy writers: 

1. Boys who are allowed to choose writing topics show increased motivation and engagement.  p .10

2. Boys are helped by experiencing examples of different text forms. …

Posted by J. DeGemmis in Jen Waldeck on Wednesday October 22, 2014
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Fenn has Many Makers in its Midst

One of the joys of Fenn is that there are as many different interests as there are boys. A Makerspace at Fenn is going to allow those with an interest in technology, engineering, and creativity to have more opportunities to explore, tinker, and develop their ideas in these areas. We have spent time in the last year exploring how to engage boys with these interests through a variety of after school and activity offerings. Ms. MacLellan and I have collaborated on all of it and have found that a lot of boys at Fenn are clamoring for more. Some examples are:

  • making an electronic piano from …
Posted by in Susan Fisher on Sunday October 19, 2014
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Choice Reading

At Fenn, I often talk about the importance of choice reading in schools. What I particularly love about choice reading is it allows a student to follow his interests and passions while simultaneously practicing and improving his reading skills. Ultimately, choice in anything--books, writing topics, projects--leads to engagement, and once a student is engaged, real learning can take place.

Just as choice reading is imperative to reading growth, so is choice in other areas of school. Just recently, my fifth grade class had the opportunity to choose how they wanted to complete a project. At the …

Posted by in Laurie Byron on Monday April 7, 2014
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World Peace Game

This week we engaged in a thought provoking day of professional development at Fenn, in our Multicultural Educators Forum, where we heard the inspiring story of the World Peace Game created by our workshop speaker, John Hunter. He created the game 35 years ago as an enrichment activity for a gifted and talented program in his Virginia-based school. Over the years he has refined and broadened the game, which is now the subject of an award winning movie and is outlined in his 2011 TED talk.

In a previous post this fall I discussed some common characteristics identified by a study conducted by …

Posted by in George Scott on Thursday February 20, 2014
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Guys Write

This winter, the boys delved into autobiographical writing by creating an Alpha Biography. This idea was inspired by James Howe’s novel, Totally Joe, a humorous story in which each chapter’s title is significant to the main character and connects to his name.

In the Alpha Biography brainstorming session, boys started to make connections to topics that defined them. For instance, A is for athlete and K stands for kayak. Many boys also connected E to energy or J to jittery. According to one student, “When I went to preschool, I would play with other kids or ride a scooter…

Posted by in Elise Mott on Monday February 10, 2014
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The Love of a Son

How often have I pondered the question about how a perfectionist “good girl” like me could have ended up with three spirited, independent-minded sons and no daughters?  How often have I asked out loud—sometimes in sheer frustration, sometimes in absolute wonder—how I, of all people, ended up with three boys who rarely saw the importance of the attention to detail about the upkeep of the house, of their homework, of remembering that it was trash or recycling day, of how much time it would take to make out college applications and what the due dates were, and at 11:…

Read, Read, Read

The quote below is the reason for encouraging boys to read what they love. Every week, I ask my students to look at the reading they enjoy and name the wow factor. What is it specifically that makes you want to curl up in a corner with a book and get lost in it? Sometimes the answer is simply, “I liked the way he wrote the action,” and we try to nail it down further. Does the author use descriptive action words or lots of setting changes? If the action is so easy to visualize, why?

Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. …

Posted by in Jen Waldeck on Friday January 24, 2014
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Widening the Definition of Reading

Reading is active. It is empowering. It is an experience that can lead to further understanding of one’s self and surroundings. At Fenn, this is our goal as teachers of reading: to be able to help boys foster the ability to find, read, and connect with stories that bring meaning and pleasure to their lives. In order for this to happen, we have learned that boys need space to explore their reading choices and time in class to practice their reading skills and build reading fluency. Whether a student is a reluctant or prolific reader, we have come to realize that reading choice empowers …

Posted by in Laurie Byron on Monday January 13, 2014
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Chaos in the Classroom

The one thing a teacher tries to avoid on the first week of school is a chaotic classroom. It is a time of community building, introductions, and an orderly classroom environment--except in my eighth grade social studies classroom. In the second week of classes, my students participate in a chaos simulation where paper airplanes are flying, pencils are being stolen, and boys are getting up on their desks and yelling. Generally the mayhem is loud enough that a colleague will stick their heads in to make sure everything is okay. This is the introduction to our year studying government.

The …

Posted by in Elise Mott on Sunday December 1, 2013
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The Importance of Feeling Connected

In September of 1976 I walked onto Fenn's campus as a new seventh grader. I was coming from a local junior high school, and I was repeating seventh grade. Needless to say, I was feeling shy, vulnerable, and insecure. Before the first day of school, my parents and I read through the parent handbook to get a better understanding of what I needed to bring to Fenn, and I thought I had everything covered. Just like the students of today, however, I did not bring any sports clothes, and I had signed up for football. So I did what any normal Fenn boy would do and just got dressed, which included …

Posted by in Jon Byrd on Wednesday November 6, 2013
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Grit

Is grit the new hot commodity when it comes to how an applicant distinguishes himself or herself as a candidate for secondary school? We have always known that hard work, resilience, and tenacity are important factors in the success of our students, but we may not have fully appreciated how important these factors are.

At an SSAT conference I recently attended, I noticed an overwhelming recurrence of the theme of grit. One of the keynote speakers at the conference was Dr. Angela Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research centers on self-…

Posted by in Gisela Hernandez-Skayne on Monday October 28, 2013
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Finding Significance for Boys

In April 2012 I travelled to the Allen-Stevenson School in New York City to hear Dr. Adam Cox share the findings of his global research project for the IBSC on how school boys locate significance in their lives. Two years earlier, The Fenn School, the all-boys school in Concord, Massachusetts where I have spent the past eighteen years, was one of the twenty schools worldwide Dr. Cox visited as he conducted the research that would become central to the findings of his study. As a matter of fact, Fenn was the very first school Dr. Cox visited and one of two schools to which he verbally referred …

Posted by in Derek Boonisar on Monday September 16, 2013
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Teaching Boys

Years ago, when I first began teaching at Fenn, I happened across a tremendous resource developed by the International Boys’ School Coalition (IBSC) titled "Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices". The authors of the study, Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley, spent years researching the many ways teachers of boys crafted and delivered lessons, and they also spent years interviewing boys about what parts of that teaching resonated with them. Reichert and Hawley then endeavored to identify patterns within the research that would indicate specific skills or methodologies …

Posted by in George Scott on Friday September 13, 2013
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An Independent Day School
for Boys Grades 4-9

516 Monument Street, Concord, MA 01742

Tel: (978) 369-5800 Email:  info@fenn.org

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