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What is the HOT Schools Approach?

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John Lyman School is a former Higher Order Thinking (HOT) School through the state of Connecticut. Though the HOT Schools grant program is currently undergoing revision, the arts continue to be an integral part of the character and instructional practices in all subject areas at our school.  Because we employ the HOT approach, the entire staff is mindful of creating instructional tasks that require deep, critical thinking. Daily lessons are presented in ways that inspire creativity, independent and collaborative problem solving, and high levels of thought in the learner.  We pride ourselves on having students who learn to "think outside of the box," which in the changing world of technology and information, is a great asset.
There are three main components to the HOT Schools approach: Strong Arts, Arts Integration, and Democratic Practice.  The following descriptions of each are quoted from the state of Connecticut's HOT Schools website:
Strong Arts:  Education, in, about, and through the arts helps students develop critical thinking abilities, independent judgment, and creative problem-solving skills.  The arts, as rigorous academic subjects, each with their own sequential comprehensive curricula, convey knowledge not learned through studying other academic disciplines and provide stimulating vehicles for children to communicate their ideas.
Arts Integration:  Developing basic skills is central to the HOT Approach to school renewal.  An interdisciplinary approach to teaching reinforces learning in all disciplines; encourages students to seek, establish and test connections; and all allows them to synthesize relationships between ideas.  Integrating the arts into all subjects and creating arts-rich environments enhances and reinforces the power of the arts in learning in each school community.
Democratic Practice:  The arts provide avenues for expression in an authentic democracy.  HOT Schools cultivate a school culture in which purposeful activities support choice, participation, connection, and contribution to celebrate the unique voice of each member of the school community.  HOT School educators plan and work collaboratively and invite parent partnerships, input, and participation.
At John Lyman, you will find all three of these components in action.  We aim to create a learning environment where the arts help to facilitate learning and student choice and voice is valued and appreciated.  This is true inside and outside of the classroom.  Examples include our Weekly Assemblies, Teacher Artist Residencies, and our Interdisciplinary Planning Team, a group of teachers and parents who meet regularly to plan intra- and extra-curricular opportunities for our students as they relate to the HOT Schools philosophy.  Our staff works hard to ensure that our practices are consistent with the HOT Schools approach.


Whole-School Examples of the HOT Approach in Action
Weekly Assembly
A whole school assembly is generally held three times a month.  It is a time for the entire school to come together.  We celebrate our school community by singing together, sharing writing, projects, artistic and musical accomplishments, recommendations for books, and voicing concerns.  Students are encouraged and supported by their peers, and each Assembly is hosted by three to four students from a given classroom.  Parents and community members are always welcome to attend.  Assemblies are a part of the John School culture and have a dynamic and positive impact on our school climate. 


Teaching Artist Residencies
At John Lyman School, arts integration occurs not only with our teachers but through work with resident teaching artists. Each year, classroom teachers collaborate with professional teaching artists to develop a unit of study that connects directly to an aspect of our curriculum.  The artist then co-teaches that unit with the classroom teacher, typically over the course of five to ten contact times.  Students get the benefit of learning curricular content through a particular art form, and teachers learn new techniques that they can use with future classes.  Teaching artist residencies are typically memorable experiences for students and teachers alike.  Past teaching artist residencies have represented various art forms, including writers, dancers, visual artists, and musical artists.


ECHOs (Enhanced Curricular HOT Opportunities)
ECHOs (short for Enhanced Curricular HOT Opportunities) are choice-based, mixed grade level enrichment offerings on various topics connected to the curriculum or well-being initiatives.  Each ECHO meets once a month and all staff members are involved in facilitating the courses.  Offerings vary each year and have featured topics such as fiber art and hand sewing, makerspace, maps and culture, nature journaling, weaving, yoga, and coding.  ECHOs continue to be a highly engaging and motivating part of the student experience at John Lyman School.


HOT Schools - Student Boards

The following are student groups or organizations at John Lyman School that exemplify the HOT Schools approach in action outside of the classroom.


Literary Board
The Literary Board is a group of students that meets regularly with faculty advisors to review writings by students throughout the school. Any writer in the school may submit a piece of writing that he/she considers his/her best for review. The Literary Board then reads and critiques the writings. The writings that are accepted are exhibited on the Writers' Wall and the author is presented with a special pencil at an upcoming Assembly. Members of the Art Board mount the writings and design artwork to go along with the writing.  An outstanding piece of writing may be selected as the "Piece of the Week."  These writings are read aloud at Assembly each week.  All of the writing that is accepted by the Literary Board is published at the end of the year in Off the Wall, John Lyman School's literary journal.  
Art Board
The Art Board consists of students whose main job is to illustrate writing for the Writers' Wall. The writing comes to us after the Literary Board has completed its work and our parent helpers have printed the writing and mounted it for illustration. The Art Board also puts up displays of student work that they have solicited through assembly shares and announcements.


Hello Chorus and Songwriting Committee
As you walk into our building, you may be greeted by a group of smiling students sharing a song that welcomes you to our school.  This is our Hello Chorus!  The Hello Chorus is made up of first, second, third, and fourth-graders.  With the support and guidance of a faculty advisor, students first compose the greeting song itself. This wonderful process brings about a new and unique song each year.  Once the song is composed, the chorus is ready to practice and present the song to you.  The purpose of the chorus is to welcome our visitors in a special way.  It also reflects John Lyman's strong commitment to the arts.
Student Senate
Senators are school leaders who help to make John Lyman School be the best it can be. They bring ideas and information from their classes to senate meetings and then bring information from the senate meetings back to their classes. Senators do the morning announcements, give tours to people who visit the school, and plan community service projects for the school to complete. They also plan spirit days such as Sports Day and Pajama Day.
Senators are students who follow our school rules and demonstrate Region 13's Core Ethical Values of Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Kindness, and Courage. They have to be good role models because other students look up to them.  There is a senator from every 3rd and 4th-grade class who are elected by their class during the month of October. In December, 2nd-grade classes hold their senate elections.  One second-grade student from each class is elected by his or her peers.
Third and fourth-grade senators also have the opportunity to attend the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Elementary Student Leadership Conference each year.
Senators really make a difference at our school.  Senators usually meet once or twice a month during recess, which speaks to their willingness to give up their own time on behalf of their classmates.


The Tech Crew
Each week at John Lyman School, we have assemblies where students are able to share their learning in unique and exciting ways with the whole school community.  Did you know that students also operate the lights, curtains, and other audio/visual devices?  That's right!  Every year, students are given the opportunity to join the John Lyman Tech Crew.  These students are in charge of operating the lights, curtains, music, overhead screen and machine, and many other operations during all of our assemblies.  They work closely with the faculty advisor throughout the year, working together as a team and making each show run smoothly.  They are a very talented group of students who make each Assembly possible.
Nature Trail Committee
John Lyman created a nature trail and outdoor classroom so students could experience the joy and beauty of nature and learn about the natural world all around them. Through observation, exploration, and hands-on activities, children develop an appreciation and respect for their environment.  Students who understand the connection to the natural world will grow up to appreciate, protect, and preserve the environment.  The Nature Trail Committee is a group of students who work with a faculty advisor to maintain John Lyman's nature trail throughout the school year.
WJLS consists of fourth-grade students who write, report, and film a news program that is broadcast to the entire school on a periodic basis.  The broadcast airs through our school video system and exemplifies the kind of authentic, hands-on learning experiences that we try to provide for all children at John Lyman.
Yearbook Committee
Each year, a group of student photographers works under the direction of our yearbook supervisor to take candid pictures of classmates and staff members.  These photographs make up an important part of our annual yearbook.


Go Far Committee
Students who are part of the Go Far Committee work to assist parent volunteers in facilitating our recess running program.  Go Far helps to promote healthy activity during recess and Go Far programs can be found in other schools within the district as well as other communities across the state.