“Why does he keep saying that?,” was what one of the boys whispered to his friend in the elementary library. He had, what I would call, beige hair, and an inquisitive look on his face. His partner had an amazing ability to use the computer mouse. To him, the computer mouse was a part of his hand. I think first boy was talking about the fact that Wendy Sprague and I kept saying over and over “if you work hard you can actually get smarter.” After a brief introduction and an explanation of their first learning adventure, all four students used computer programing to get the solution. Some students were able to complete the learning adventure faster than others, even though learning is not a race and we all learn at different rates of speed. Whatever you do, please don’t tell them they were learning.
Wendy is a librarian at the Cuba Rushford school district. She has embraced computer programming and robotics in her schools. The learning of new things does not come easy to everyone and I think it is safe to say that that might be true of Wendy as well. Wendy is a great example of a life-long learner and a follower of the research headed up by Dr. Carol Dwick from Stanford University. Dr. Dwick has done scientific research to prove that if people work hard and believe that hard work can make them smarter and can increase your intelligence that the actual weight of one’s brain gets heavier. This weight change occurs due to the increased number of neurons, or thinking connections, created in your brain by learning. It is important for students to get a good night sleep because the neurons are solidified during sleep. The book called “Mindset” by Carol Dwick is a great resource for anyone and it discusses her brain research.
It is only natural for, what some might believe as, unconventional learning to occur in the library. With the easy access to information online, no longer can the library just be a place where information is archived and stored. Libraries are becoming more and more places where information is created to find new facts, invent products to help people and publish things of all kind, not just books.
Fifth grade students at Cuba Rushford used the computer programing language called Scratch, which can be found at Scratch.MIT.edu. This coding language consists of “drag and drop” blocks so no “hard coding” or syntax is used. So, instead of students making sure they capitalized using “camelCode” or that they used a semicolon instead of a colon, could put there mind work totally on the logic. Lots of logic goes into computer programming.
Students seemed to enjoy computer programming and I can’t wait till I can go back to Cuba Rushford to do some more teaching and learning with Wendy and her students. Programing is extremely fun, engaging and it teaches a lot of important skills that can help in any classroom. I can’t wait to see what the students come up with.
By: Rick Weinberg, CA BOCES Professional Development
Students at Forestville are taking an online Creative Writing class in Moodle through CA BOCES and are honing their skills as readers and writers with the use of Mahara’s journal feature. Students share their journals with one another and comment on the work their fellow writers are doing.
1. Each student has an individual journal that they are asked to write in five times per week. Those journals are then shared with each other.
2. The students’ teacher can then access all of their work from one page. This allows for comments from both the teacher and other students.
3. Mahara journals enhance student engagement and collaboration, bringing their work to the forefront of the class. Students have a place to play with language, syntax, genres, and various writing techniques without feeling pressured to be perfect since the assignments aren’t graded individually. Yet, students still strive to do their best since they know that their work is shared with their peers. This becomes an excellent formative assessment where teachers can constantly review the strengths and weaknesses of students and adjust the focus of lessons accordingly.
4. In this example of a creative writing journal, students are asked to find a literary device in a work of literature they are reading each week and write about it, so students are regularly exploring the way that writers use metaphor, imagery, symbolism, and other techniques and applying in their own work.
5. Mahara journals are an excellent summative tool, allowing teachers and students to see an arc of student development over the entirety of the course. At the end of the course, both teachers and students can see how students have grown as writers and have a digital portfolio to showcase their work.
Enjoy this translitic poem by Kessiah:
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Manufacturing Day is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. It usually happens the first Friday of October. I was lucky enough to participate this year in the Olean community which was organized by Evelyn Sabina. During the day, I was invited to tour and learn about three companies within Olean, SolEpoxy, Napoleon Engineering Services, and Scott Rotary Seals.
These products are being manufactured in Olean, NY. How many students, teachers, community members know this? I was very surprised by the knowledge I gained and learned from the day. These companies would love to help the school districts more in order to help prepare their students for their future, and it should be something taken advantage of!
You can learn more about Manufacturing Day by visiting their website: http://www.mfgday.com/
By: Clay Nolan, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Making sure that students read assignments can be a challenge. Some teachers use reading quizzes or one-page papers, while others create discussion boards. But as a given quarter nears its end, those options can seem laborious to both students and the instructor. VoiceThread is extremely user-friendly for students of varying technological abilities and offers an alternative that gives students options of how they respond, while still satisfying the goal of assessing how well they read assignments.
As many educators have discovered, especially language and art teachers, there are a myriad of educational possibilities with VoiceThread. For example, students can practice foreign language skills by describing a picture. They can analyze and comment upon historically significant photographs or architecture. A class can create a virtual tour of a place or event they are studying. VoiceThread can even be used as a means to debate a topic.
Ultimately, Voicethread offers a platform that visually simulates a real discussion and helps to prepare students for class in an engaging manner that offers practice for not only writing but (for some students) oral presentation skills. Take a look!
By: Alexandra L. Freer, CA BOCES Learning Resources
“When you read, every day is an adventure.”
-Page Turner and her slapstick sidekick, Kenny, a former Ringling Bros. clown
About 1800 fourth and fifth graders from schools across Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties attended TheatreWorks USA’s production of Steam Trunk Circus last week. Genesee Valley, Olean High School and Arcade Elementary opened their auditoriums to host these performances.
Steam Trunk Circus marked the first performance of the school year contracted by BOCES. BOCES Arts-In-Education helps schools enrich the lives of their K-5th grade students by providing opportunities to experience the performing arts. Teachers received Storyologist Handbooks filled with classroom activities to supplement their Language Arts curriculum goals.
The performers made the audience become the heroes of the story by tasking them to solve problems and infer and predict by paying attention to clues. An old trunk, a mysterious book and Harry Houdini’s hat set the tale in motion. The audience willingly did this, laughing all the way at Kenny’s comedic antics. Thanks to Page Turner and Kenny Mikey, there are now 1800 new, official Storyologists in the Southern Tier who are ready to collect, tell and write their own stories.
Page Turner Adventures, from Florida, has teamed up with TheatreWorks USA, a professional acting company based out of New York City. TheatreWorks USA is America’s largest and most prolific professional theatre for young audiences. For more information, contact CABOCES Student Programs at 716-376-8284.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programming
We all have two fundamental social needs in our lives. One, is to have a purpose, and the other, to be accepted. Cuba-Rushford Middle and High School was fortunate enough to host the anti-bullying presentation called, “Sweethearts and Heroes”, on October 20th. CRCS Middle School principal, Katie Ralston was able to coordinate the presentation for the district. The presenters of the program, Tom Murphy and Rick Yarosh, truly believe in the fact that with everyone on board, we can stop bullying from happening, and allow our social needs to be met, especially in our schools.
A staggering 17,000 students skip school every day because they are bullied. An even bigger problem is that 100,000 students drop out of school, altogether, because they are bullied. This is a huge problem in our schools, and with the help “Sweethearts and Heroes” provided to the district, CRCS is addressing this issue head-on.
Rick and Tom spoke about a number of scenarios students could find themselves in, and how knowledge is power, in the face of a bully or bullying situation. The definition of bullying is as follows: A habitual action, where the bully is an intimidator of smaller or weaker people, and is intentional in his/her behavior. The students and staff were taught that bullying takes on many forms. The forms discussed were: 6% Social Alienation, 18% Indirect Bullying (bullying behind someone’s back), 30% physical bullying, and 46% Verbal Bullying. Tom also talked about Cyber Bullying being extremely problematic as most students have access to the Internet at home. Students think they can hide behind a computer screen, but they can’t. Capabilities to track online behavior are present, and kids are getting into trouble because of inappropriate online decisions.
Rick and Tom presented a plan for bully prevention. The plan outlined five bully buttons, when set into action, could prevent bullying. The five bully buttons are outlined below:
1. Perspective (Change Your Perspective)
2. H.O.P.E. (Hold On Possibilities Exist)
3. SWEETHEARTS (Bringing Hope to the Hopeless)
4. Jump Into Action (Force Yourself to Act Differently Than You Feel)
5. HEROES (Be Someone’s HERO)
Rick Yarosh spoke about H.O.P.E. Rick was involved in a military attack in Iraq, and sustained major injuries because of it. Rick was burned over 60% of his body with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. He had his right leg amputated below his knee; he lost both ears, his nose, multiple fingers and lost most of the function in both hands. He spoke about what it was like to be in an extremely hopeless situation, and how, through a stranger, he was able to regain his hope in life again. He stated that we never know how important our hope in others is. It can mean the difference between life and death. We need to be sweethearts and heroes to others.
Tom Murphy said that even though 95% of the audience reported knowing either a bully or someone who is bullied, only 10% of peers intervene if witnessing a bullying situation. He reminded the audience that it is everyone’s responsibility, including the adults, to make sure they can identify and respond if anyone sees a bullying situation. He also gave three easy letters that correspond to action steps. He called it the ABCs of Bullying.
A- Away (Get the bullied student AWAY from the bully)
B- Buddy (Become his or her BUDDY)
C- Confront the situation (get a teacher, older brother/sister involved)
Tom chose three student volunteers to come up in the front and model the ABC method for the audience, and it had quite and impact on the students, and teachers, alike. It put the words Tom spoke into action.
The Cuba-Rushford School District also hosted “Sweethearts and Heroes” for an evening presentation to the community. Hats off to “Sweethearts and Heroes” for a thought-provoking and powerful message about anti-bullying!
By: Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development and Cuba-Rushford Central School
In September, Harvey Silver was in Olean presenting to area districts about student engagement;” Tools for Conquering the Common Core.” During the training, Harvey spent time talking about student’s cognitive engagement and discussed the Eight C’s of Engagement to increase our students’ commitment to learning? Here are some quick ideas to get you started.
Competition. There’s no question that competition is motivating to many students, but if too extreme, competition can become a liability in the classroom. To maximize the motivational power of competition, focus classroom activities around mild and friendly forms of competition that allow everyone to experience success. For example, near the end of each unit, you might use well-designed learning games or Vocabulary Jeopardy to help your students review and master key terms for the test.
Challenge. Why do so many people work so hard to ski down a double black diamond slope? Why do so many students choose to play the hardest level of their favorite video games? Because they love a challenge. You can increase the level of challenge in your classroom b
providing tasks at three different levels and allowing students to choose the task they feel most capable of completing (Graduated Difficulty: see Silver, Strong, & Perini, 2007, based on the work of Musska Moston, 1972). More generally, you can foster a challenge-oriented classroom by letting your students know that you expect excellence and by “daring them to go the extra mile.”
Curiosity. Look for opportunities to puzzle your students, to engage them in solving mysteries associated with your content. For example, why not start a unit on the American Revolution with this question: How did an untested ragtag militia defeat the most powerful army in the world? Or a lesson on insects with these questions: Why do we need pests like insects, anyway? Would we be better off if we got rid of them? Provoke students to inquire, investigate, and go beyond the yes and no questions.
Controversy. Our content areas are loaded with controversies, arguments, and intellectual disagreements. Invite students into the controversy. Challenge them to take and defend positions on the “hot button” issues at the heart of your discipline (Do women and men write differently? Was Algebra invented or discovered? Is global warming more a result of human activity or natural causes?).
Choice. You can easily capitalize on this powerful motivator by giving students more opportunities to make selections and decisions about their learning. Learning centers and Shared Interest Groups (small groups of students working together to learn about a topic of common interest) let students explore content in ways that work best for them, while choice-based assignments and projects offer students the chance to decide how to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
Creativity. Many students long to express their uniqueness and individuality. Look for ways to invite their creativity into your classroom through divergent thinking activities, non- routine problem-solving, metaphorical thinking (How is a colony like a child?), projects, and just about any way you can think of that allows students to put their own original stamp on what they’re learning.
Cooperation. For many students, the greatest inspiration comes in knowing that they’re part of a community of learners. Nurture this sense of belonging through cooperative learning activities, learning partnerships, small group work, and lots of classroom discussion. Or, the next time students conduct research, try Jigsaw (Aronson, et al., 1978/Slavin, 1995), which organizes research projects around a highly effective cooperative structure.
Connections. Why do I need to learn this? Why does it matter to me? These are common questions from students, and in them we can hear students looking for – and not finding – a way to connect what they’re learning to their lives beyond the school walls. It doesn’t take much to let students express their own opinions or to encourage them to draw on their experiences before, during, or at the end of any lesson or unit. Work questions and activities involving students’ values, priorities, and experiences into your content (When is rebellion justified? Have you ever used fractions to settle a dispute? What do you want to learn about spiders?).
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development and Whitesville Central School