Recent News


Video: Differentiation Strategies-Jigsaw

We want to thank districts who invited us to observe classrooms! We enjoyed speaking with individual teachers and the opportunity to see the great work happening in the classroom. Clay County provided an opportunity to model a differentiation strategy, the jigsaw, for teachers to implement in their classroom.

In the video linked below, the jigsaw grouping for a 7th grade ELA class is shown. This is one differentiation strategy that could be incorporated in the classroom. This strategy incorporates small groups. This session also highlights the importance of setting expectations for small group instruction. Thank you to Hermitage Springs School and Mr. Franklin in Clay County for having us!

Jigsaw Strategy Video

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Best Practices Work for All - Bell Aire Elementary

Bel-Aire Elementary in Tullahoma, TN has taken part in training with SPDG, the State Personnel Development Grant in Tennessee. Over the course of the year, they have received training in the Universal Design for Learning, covering best practices that include differentiation, growth mindset, data-informed instruction, and intentional interventions. Below you will see 3 sets of images from their school and the work they have done to create a culture of student learning for all!

In addition, check out Bel-Aire’s video on Inclusive Practices!

Image 1/3: Flexible seating can provide a comfortable environment for students to focus on their learning.

Image 2/3: Anchor charts help students visualize information they have learned, but may need to refer back to at any given point.

Image 3/3: Growth Mindset helps students to see failures as opportunities for growth and learning rather than disappointment and a desire to give up.

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Webinar Recording - March 2017 SPDG: Strand Two Welcome

NEW! Webinar Recording - SPDG: Strand Two Welcome

Facilitated by Theresa Nicholls, Assistant Commissioner for Special Populations and SPDG Project Director, and Kate Martin, Intervention Specialist on March 17, 2017. This webinar provides an overview of upcoming SPDG strand two activities including training content, learning objectives, train the trainer information, and the role of the special education supervisor.

Technical Notes: In order to access this webinar recording you may need to download and install the AT&T Connect participant application (software). If you do not have administrative level access to your machine, or are attempting to view this recording on a mobile device, you may need to contact your local tech support for assistance.

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Murfreesboro City Schools Utilize UDL to differentiate the Learning Environment

In this presentation at the Partners in Education Conference on February 1, 2017, Amy Miller and Jennifer Clunie from Murfreesboro City Schools shared ways to differentiate the learning environment using principles of Universal Design for Learning. 

Presentation Slides: Murfreesboro SPDG Schools: Community of Practice

In this presentation, examples are provided for environments that support mindset, connections and community.  UDL principles are explained, and multiple means of engagement are described through a virtual tour of classrooms.  A highlight of the presentation is a video of quick interviews with Murfreesboro teachers embracing SPDG practices.

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Webinar Recording - Jan 2017 SPDG: State of the grant

NEW! Webinar Recording -  SPDG:  State of the Grant
Facilitated by Theresa Nicholls on Jan 10, 2017, this webinar provided leadership of the TN disctricts participating in the SPDG grant with an overview of current grant activities and goals. David McKay, SPDG Team evaluator from the University of Kentucky was a guest speaker.

Technical Notes:
In order to access this webinar recording you may need to download and install the AT&T Connect participant application (software). If you do not have administrative level access to your machine, or are attempting to view this recording on a mobile device, you may need to contact your local tech support for assistance.

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Evaluation Results for SPDG Fall Regional Trainings

SPDG Facilitators trained hundreds of teachers in SPDG participating districts across the state in a day-long workshop focusing on inclusive school culture and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) strategies.  Feedback surveys from the sessions indicated that participants believed that their knowledge and skills to support students with disabilities in the general education classroom had increased. In their comments, teachers indicated the need for continued professional development and additional strategies for their struggling students. 

Winter and Spring workshops, as well as monthly Communities of Practice are planned to address those needs and provide additional support to help increase access to core curriculum for students with disabilities, and to increase teachers’ capacity to select and use additional resources, based on assessment results, to help all learners achieve their potential.

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September 2016 News: Communities of Practice Sessions Begin

All across Tennessee this Fall, educators have been participating in monthly Community of Practice sessions to deepen their understanding of the concepts and skills presented in the SPDG Fall workshop, Increasing Access to Core Instruction. The Communities of Practice sessions are led in districts by SPDG Facilitators who help their colleagues apply principles of Universal Design and Differentiated Instruction in their classrooms.

“We’re seeing educators really dig in to the material presented in the workshop, and use these Community of Practice sessions to apply it to their own situation by trying out new approaches, asking questions, and talking it through with their peers,” said Anika Chambers, SPDG Interventionist working with SPDG school districts in Middle Tennessee. “It’s definitely making a difference for us.”

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August 2016 News: Fall SPDG Workshops Held in Districts Across the State

As a new school year is getting underway, State Personnel Development Grant (SPDG) Facilitators in each of the 30 SPDG districts are conducting a full-day workshop, Increasing Access to Core Instruction for Students with Disabilities. The workshop helps participants look at the data in their own district and schools, and assess their needs in creating classroom environments that are conducive to learning for all. Educators are digging in to concepts and case studies related to Universal Design for Learning and Differentiated Classrooms. 

One participant reported, “Our presenter was AMAZING! She did a great job explaining the content of the training. I also like how there were lots of activities that made sure all attendees were engaged in the learning, instead of just listening to a presenter all day.

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July 2016 News: SPDG Interventionists Announced

TN SPDG Director Theresa Nicholls has announced the hiring of three SPDG Interventionists to assist with SPDG activities.  The Interventionists will support SPDG District workshops and Communities of Practice activities, provide coaching for SPDG Facilitators, and assist in all parts of the SPDG work. 

  • Dana Johnson, serving districts in West Tennessee, will report to the Southwest CORE office in Jackson. 
  • Anika Chambers, serving districts in Middle Tennessee, will work out of the Department of Education offices in Nashville.
  • Rob Taylor will work with districts in East Tennessee and report to the East CORE office in Knoxville. 
Nicholls commented, “We are thrilled to have a full SPDG team and are encouraged by the level of knowledge and enthusiasm from each of our three interventionists.  They each bring their own experience and background and will be such an asset to our SPDG activities”.

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June 2016 News: Successful Train-the-Trainer Event Held

Over 60 invited district leaders and educators gathered in Franklin on June 6 – 10 to participate in the SPDG Train-the-Trainer professional development event, designed to prepare SPDG Facilitators and their supervisors to implement SPDG activities in their districts.  From Monday’s introductions through Friday’s good-byes, excitement ran high each day as the SPDG Facilitators participated in hands-on activities designed to strengthen and support their knowledge and skills regarding Universal Design and Differentiated Instruction

Participants learned to use rubrics and other tools to assess their own and other’s progress toward creating classroom environments that employ principles of Universal Design and Differentiation. Facilitators learned how to present a consistent message and an engaging training to their district colleagues on these topics while supervisors learned how to support them and their districts in these efforts. On Friday, participants showed off their skills by conducting a mini-session for their fellow SPDG facilitators.  Participants left tired but happy, loaded with materials, knowledge and skills to share back home.

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