As the new school year approaches, teachers in several districts (Cuba Rushford, Andover, Franklinville, Whitesville, Olean, Fillmore and Cattaraugus – Little Valley) learn the importance of helping students improve a set of thinking skills known as executive function skills. “Human beings have a built in capacity to meet challenges and accomplish goals through the use of high-level cognitive functions called executive skills. These are the skills that help us to decide what activities or tasks we will pay attention to and which ones we’ll choose to do.” (Hart & Jacobs, 1993) These functions are a set of cognitive processes, such as focus, memory and self-control, which enable us to manage information and complete tasks.
CA BOCES provided professional development opportunities for teachers to improve how students learn and develop executive function skills during their K-12 education and beyond. Teachers were informed how to recognize students who struggle with executive weakness, and what strategies can assist students in developing these skills.
Knowing Cognitive Capacities
In order for teachers to target specific executive function skills, they must first be able to identify them. Our teachers researched and developed strategies for the following list of executive function skills:
Teachers reflected on how these skills might exist in the classroom. For example, Students with weak working memory are unable to remember and apply crucial information in order to move to the next step of a task. They often struggle when a task requires them to remember a series of directions, generate ideas in response to the directions and then express their ideas. Information just doesn’t “stick” for them. Once the teacher recognizes a student needs to work on working memory, they can develop a list of strategies to address this learning problem.
Teachers realize it’s important to recognize that the same strategy won’t work for each student. Some students work better with visual cues than verbal cues, for instance. Teachers must differentiate thinking strategies for each student to help them meet full learning potential.
Exercises for Executive Function Skills
There are a number of exercises to help students develop thinking skills. Practices can range from computer games to improve memory skills to physical tasks such as balancing. Here are just a few examples of how teachers in our district have worked with students to improve their executive function skills.
Organization and Planning
Teachers can help students to master these tasks by encouraging students to write down important assignments in a calendar and to allocate time accordingly. Students can be taught how to make lists of homework assignments. Students can be encouraged to use brightly colored folders to take home important papers (like homework and permission slips) to and from school, so those items don’t get lost.
For short-term assignments, encourage students to picture the end result of completing the task and the positive emotion that may be attached to it. Students and teachers can brainstorm ways to make assignments more interesting.
Feeling vocabulary can be taught through books by discussing the feelings the characters had and asking the student to make connections to his own experiences. When the student begins to experience strong emotions, allow them to identify it, validate it and provide a clear direction about what could be done instead of the negative behavior.
When it comes to improving executive function skills during the school day, a step in the right direction is to set up time and programs that are devoted to these strategies. It can take as little as two minutes before class or a full 30-minute session.
The group concluded that students with well-developed executive function skills really hold the foundation to success in school, with their peers, in college and for a career. These skills are what provide individuals with the capacity to meet challenges and accomplish goals! Collaboratively we recognized the responsibility educators have to build these skills in ALL students.
If you are interested in learning more about how to enhance these skills and promoting school and social success for ALL students, please contact CA BOCES (Laurie Sledge at 716-376-8357).
By: Marguerite Andrews and Deanna Wilkinson, CA BOCES Professional Development
What is blended learning? Are we truly blending learning in our region? Yes we are! Below are examples of Michael B. Horn - The Christensen Institute’s blended learning models that are taking place across our region, and quite successfully!
While blended learning began in simple applications to serve students in situations where there was no other alternative, it has grown exponentially over the past ten years in the Cattaraugus Allegany region, where our region is recognized as the leader in online learning in New York State BOCES regions!
Michael B Horn’s and Heather Staker’s book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, lays out the process in a useful level of detail making it a must read for educators that want to take full advantage of tech-enabled learning. Staker shared, "I feel deeply sad when I see how many children do not have equal opportunities to high-quality schools. It's wrong that in a rich country with universal public education, zip code determines quality." But she feels fortunate to be living through the learning revolution where internet connectivity and personalized learning is “decimating old constructs about who gets what and introducing a new paradigm of shared access to the best learning experiences, regardless of geography.” (Education Week article - http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/2014/09/blended_a_conversation_with_michael _horn_heather_staker.html)
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning? Michael B. Horn adds, “Online learning, particularly in blended learning schools, gives students more and more ownership of their learning, this is a big deal as it can allow schools to individualize for each student’s unique learning needs.” (http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2012/11/08/michael-horn/)
How do these online learning opportunities benefit students? Danielle, from Allegany- Limestone, replied, “I wish that I could have studied this way from the beginning of the year. When I’m in a classroom with people, I get distracted, but using APEX is great. The program is really straightforward. It tells me exactly what I need to know. Some days I let it read to me and sometimes I read myself. I came from Pennsylvania and the work was harder and my Biology class was in a different place and the online class is helping me.”
To learn more about successful blended learning models in schools, join CA BOCES in an Online/Digital Learning Showcase, where you can ask questions and view demos of 7 different online solutions for:
For more information about Digital Learning Day on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at CABOCES Olean Center Conference Rooms, go to: http://dev.caboces.org/iss/calendar/2017-04.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Distance Learning
Learning new information was difficult for Melvin the Monster. Melvin’s friends and family showed him how they learn new things by using art, math, sports, music, and encouragement from each other.
Puppetmasters David and Amy, also known as Up In Arms, combined a cast of 10 friendly, colorful monsters, humor and original songs from rock, to classical, jazz, pop, and Broadway standards to teach Melvin and the young audience about learning styles and self confidence.
Almost 2000 students (PreK- 2nd graders) from schools across Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties learned valuable lessons for school and life. Genesee Valley, Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Arcade Elementary opened their auditoriums to host these performances. Monster Intelligence marked the sixth and final performance of the school year contracted by BOCES. BOCES Arts-In-Education helps schools enrich the lives of their students by providing opportunities to experience the performing arts. TheatreWorks USA is a professional acting company based out of New York City. It is America’s largest and most prolific professional theatre for young audiences. For more information about bringing TheatreWorks shows to your area, contact Student Programs at 716-376-8284.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
Did you get the chance to watch the sitcoms where Phil and Sheldon were able to be in two places at once? Did you know that students in the Cattaraugus Allegany County region can also be in two places at once and stay part of classroom instruction from home or the hospital?
As part of the CA BOCES Distance Learning Coser, two VGo robotic devices are available to reserve for situations where students can't be in school. The VGo robotic telepresence solution is currently helping two siblings from Cattaraugus Little Valley Central School stay connected to their teachers, classmates, and instruction. Emmalee and Patrick are two fun-loving middle school students who many times throughout the school year can't physically attend school due to illness. Instead, Emmalee and Patrick can drive the VGo to every class and receive the same instruction as their peers, and they can even socialize with friends going down the hall.
The VGos were purchased as part of a recent USDA RUS grant that CA BOCES Distance Learning coordinates to help students stay connected to their studies. In the past, schools had to deliver course material to the student's home, now the student comes to school and engages in the course material first hand. All the student needs at home or in the hospital is a laptop or iPad with Internet access.
What are the benefits for the students and the parents? There are many, but let's learn from Emmalee and Patrick's mother how the VGo has helped her children stay connected:
How do teachers benefit from the VGo? Mr. Kaleta, Middle School teacher at Cattaraugus Little Valley, shared the following:
As the Staff Specialist for Distance Learning, I had the opportunity to visit Cattaraugus Little Valley to see how the teachers and students were adapting to the VGo. I walked into Mr. Conner's History class where the VGo was in action, and there was Emmalee's face, all smiles sitting straight up in her hospital bed learning about Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay. There could be nothing greater than witnessing a smiling student benefit from Distance Learning technology! The VGo provides the ability for students to participate in class, collaborate with peers, and socialize as a typical middle school student would.
If you have a student who could benefit from the VGo, please contact CA BOCES Distance Learning at 716-376-8270, and we will deliver the VGo to your school for easy access!
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES
“You have to give a little to get a little.” Farmer Brown learned the value of negotiation and compromise from the most talented and funny barnyard animals around. Three smart, typing cows, three chickens and Farmer Brown’s granddaughter, Jenny, sang and danced for almost 2500 Kindergarteners and First graders from schools across Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties. TheatreWorksUSA’s talented cast performed Click Clack Moo, based on the Caldecott Honor book by Doreen Cronin this week.
Genesee Valley, Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Arcade Elementary opened their auditoriums to host these performances. For some of the audience, it was the first time viewing a live theatrical production. Teachers prepared their students well by utilizing the classroom activities provided by TheatreWorks USA. The pre and post show teaching tools supplement the teachers’ curriculum goals.
Click Clack Moo marked the third performance of the school year contracted by BOCES. BOCES Arts-In-Education helps schools enrich the lives of their students by providing opportunities to experience the performing arts. TheatreWorks USA is a professional acting company based out of New York City. It is America’s largest and most prolific professional theatre for young audiences.
For more information about bringing TheatreWorks shows to your area, contact Student Programs at 716-376-8284.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
Online learning has had a twenty-one percent increase in enrollment numbers since 2014 alone. The distance learning team at CA BOCES has been busy traveling to many districts helping students with their online classes. The most popular courses this year are Computer Science, Psychology, Sociology, Veterinary Science, Criminology, Game Design, German, Creative Writing, Engineering Design, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Law and Order, and Personal Finance. Although these are the most popular, students are also learning about astronomy, sports marketing, digital art, 3D Modeling and animation, world religions, mythology and folklore, social problems facing the world, and many other diverse and remarkable things.
Every year the online enrollment numbers seem to increase due to students’ curiosity shifting and job markets broadening the skills required for employment. Students say that online courses give them a chance to try out many things that aren’t offered in their districts. As juniors try to determine where their enthusiasm lies for future college degrees, they use online courses to test out content areas and to deepen their skills in areas they are already passionate about.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
This spring, two classrooms at Cattaraugus-Little Valley have been communicating with two schools in London. Learning Resources at CA BOCES helped facilitate the connections between the two schools. The students were all very excited and eager to interact with each other.
Mrs. Christopher’s 3rd grade class connected with Mrs. Begum’s 4th grade class at Red Bridge Primary School on Tuesday, June 2nd and talked about a variety of topics. Mrs. Christopher’s students walked through slides in a PowerPoint that showcased different classrooms, teachers and activities that they have here at Cattaraugus-Little Valley. The students from London asked a variety of questions about the number of students, the school mascot and what students here did during the day. Mrs. Begum’s class in London taught the students at Cattaraugus Little Valley about landmarks in London, what their neighborhood around the school looked like, and shared information about their school. At Red Bridge Primary School there are 21 classes and a nursery. Each year the grade levels have three classes with about 30 students in each class.
Later in June Mrs. Urbanski’s 2nd grade class will also make a Polycom connection with another school in London. The teachers in London reached out and stated that they would like to continue connecting next fall.
By: Mark Carls and Kristen Meiers, CA BOCES
“Wow. Mr. W. look what I did,” said Evan. “Oh yeah...Look at what level I’m on,” said Julia. Evan and Julia think they are playing a game. In some ways they are playing a game. The game teaches Evan and Julia, and students like them in Ms. Grube’s class, some basic ideas. The students learn the concepts of repeating, functions, if: then statements and looping. These concepts have to do with logic and they also are foundational skills for computer programming.
By the year 2020, statistics say that in America we will have 1 million more computing jobs than students to fill them. The fascinating thing is that the year 2020 is only 6 years away. All of the students in Kirsten Grube’s class just love working on the iPads. They are very engaged. Students work in centers and spend about 15 to 20 minutes a day learning to be young computer programmers.
Computers are everywhere and that makes some people want to avoid them. I just don’t think you can avoid computers any more. Businesses involving agriculture, automobiles, manufacturing, healthcare and entertainment, just about every thing somehow involves computers. Avoiding computers is about as equivalent to not using a school book or a pencil and paper. More and more jobs are requiring graduating students to know how to use computers as a tool to complete work. To a bit of a lesser degree, right now, not only will students need to know how computers function, students will have to be the ones who engineer the computers to be a better tool for others.
Some of us, in my generation, took computer programming, around the 1980s, in high school. Some of us took to it and some of us did not. In many cases in high school, back in the 80s, students where just thrown into BASIC computer programming. Many of us had a bad experience with programming because we did not learn some of the necessary foundational skills to programming. What happened to many students in the 80s was the equivalent of being thrown into the language class Spanish 4 without having Spanish 1, Spanish 2 or Spanish 3.
That is not what is happening in Cattaraugus Little Valley. Some students, from an early age are learning how to make a computerized robot make a square on a computer screen. Some students are learning that if they don’t want to write out code over and over again, code that does the same thing, then they can use a loop. I have no doubt, that one day, we will hear about Evan or Julia, or some other student, who has helped to put people on Mars, contributed to cars that drive themselves or invented a micro controlled nanoparticle that cures cancer.
By: Rick Weinberg, CA BOCES
On Thursday May 15, I entered Kirsten Grubes’s room at Cattaraugus Little Valley school. Ms. Grube had a substitute and since I was entering a kindergarten classroom we had to forgo any introductions and attempt to match the activity level of about 14 six year olds. I never did get the name of the substitute.
As a helper at one of the centers, I teach students the fundamentals of programming using the app called Kodable. At the kindergarten level, Kodable requires students to follow directions, which is good but even this can be a bit of a struggle with this age group. I know this because I am pretty sure Kyle was not supposed to march around the room, growling like a monster while gently banging his crayon box on top of his head. Oh well, we won’t tell Ms. Grube.
These students get so excited when they see me enter the room with iPads. I often hear “He’s here. He’s here,” upon entering. With Kodable students have to make their “Smeeborg,” which I call a fuzzball, move across the screen and eat coins. Grechen Huebner, co-founder of Kodable, describes the game like this, "Kids have to drag and drop symbols to get their fuzzy character to go through a maze so they learn about conditions, loops and functions and even debugging," The code is read in order and it does not execute until the student pushes the play button. If the student has the code correct, he or she gets all the coins, completes the maze and goes on to the next level. If the student is “off the mark” then the student is prompted with an “oops” and asked to try again. Students are learning a great deal of valuable skills
We have just been using the free Kodable app but there is a pay version, which is $6.99. It seems like, as of now, the free version is working just fine. It may be necessary for the pay app someday, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For schools who want to buy the app and are part of Apple’s volume purchasing program (v.p.p.), if the school district buys 20 or more apps then they get them for half price. And now, with how the v.p.p. is set up, the school district owns the app and can deploy it to different iPads anywhere in the school, as long as they don’t use more than what was purchased.
Many of these students can’t tie their shoes yet so why are we teaching them to be computer programmers? "Ninety percent of schools just don't even teach it [coding or computer programming]. So if you're a parent and your school doesn't even offer this class, your kids aren't going to have the preparation they need for the 21st century," says Hadi Partovi, co-founder of the nonprofit Code.org. "Just like we teach how electricity works and biology basics, they should also know how the Internet works and how apps work. Schools need to add this to the curriculum." At Cattaraugus Little Valley we are taking some initial steps in adding these important computing skills into the curriculum.
By Rick Weinberg, CA BOCES
Through the generosity of a PEP Grant awarded to the Portville and Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School Districts, physical educators from across the region have been gathering over the last year as a Collaborative Learning Community.
With meetings alternating between Houghton College and the Olean Main Center, teachers have had time to explore best practices and strategies both inside and outside of the physical education classroom setting. PE teachers have heard presentations on DASA/bullying, law issues in sports and athletics, SLO’s and APPR, and the academic benefits of physical education. In the gym, they’ve shared lesson and warmup ideas, including ways to integrate technology in education, and have headed outside to explore Houghton’s Ropes Course.
Together, they have established a Weebly to share information online and have been given access to a Physical Educators email list-serve. Our hope is that they are able to establish collegial relationships that extend outside of our workshops and improve their practice on a regular basis.
The next Active PE Forum is scheduled for Friday, May 30th at Houghton College. To register, please contact Laurie Sledge at 376-8357 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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