From the optional participation in field tests in 2016 to the implementation of Grades 5 and 8 required tests via CBT in the Spring of 2024, CA BOCES has been on the forefront of information gathering and dissemination regarding NYSED’s push toward 21st Century teaching, learning, and assessment. There have been a few bumps in the road, such as technical issues, fiscal resources, and COVID, but we’ve learned to navigate those obstacles and are ready to help our districts survive and thrive.
One of the tools we have been continuing to use and support as we work with teachers and students on building capacity for the CBT is Castle Learning. To be sure, Castle Learning has been around a LONG time! I hesitate to say it, but the year was 1990. It was the vision of two New York State teachers and a computer programmer who wanted to leverage technology to help students prepare for end-of-year testing. And here we are, 30-some years later using the same tool.
Castle Learning has adapted and grown over the years into a quality resource for both students and teachers, especially as we move in the direction of using technology for testing. I have some tips and tricks that will help teachers better utilize this resource. Having teachers go into the program with no guidance can be frustrating, to say the least. However, even Castle Learning “vets” can use these pointers as well.
Need to find questions on a particular standard that students struggle with? Use Keyword Search. Go in, click on the “standard” tab, and type in the standard.
Want to find old state tests or regents questions? Use Public Assignments.
Need to work on math facts or skills? Use Math Skills
How do you find passages from the NYS Sampler tests? Use Castle Reading Sets
If you need additional help, training, or just have a question, please reach out. Let’s make sure our students are prepared to conquer CBT!
By: Alexandra Freer, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Have you ever walked out of a meeting or away from a lesson and thought that the conversation that was had could have been better or more focused? A colleague and I attended a Technology of Participation (ToP) Facilitation workshop in September that guided us to do just that! We walked away with the steps to help people reflect together on just about any subject. We were taught the use of a structure known as O.R.I.D (Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, Decisional) In this conversation structure, the facilitator has crafted questions that lead the participants to answer difficult questions or participate in conversations while also generating a decision for next steps or a future direction. The focused conversation starts by answering objective questions to get the facts and information about the goal of a meeting/lesson subject. Then they reflect on their personal reactions or the emotions felt during the meeting/lesson. Participants then interpret the significance, meaning, values, or implications that the meeting/lesson has impacted. Lastly, the participants resolve the goal of the meeting/lesson by determining a decision that will lead them to next steps, an action that can be taken, or a future direction. The O.R.I.D. conversation method can be used with any group that would like to focus their conversation on having a resolution or developing ideas to better their participants’ knowledge of meeting/lesson topics, including students.
Teachers at Cuba-Rushford Elementary School, participated in a training to lead difficult conversations with students. The teachers worked together to help each other create a structure for clear dialogue and reflection for their students in the classroom. Using the O.R.I.D. method teachers are encouraging all students to have a voice in a non-confrontational way. This leads to belonging in their classrooms and school.
If you feel like Focused Conversations may help administrators, teachers, and/or students in your district and would like further information, please contact me at Janelle_Freer@caboces.org.
By: Janelle Freer, CA BOCES Professional Development
Welcome to 2023, a brand-new year that grants us the opportunity to prioritize student engagement, learning, collaborating and exploration through technology. In this era, our students are practically being born with tablets, iPads, videos, games, and apps at their fingertips. Teaching students how to properly utilize technology can enhance learning and strengthen core skills like reading, writing, math, science, and more.
Before the winter break, I was able to work with students at Hinsdale Central School to strengthen these skills using technology. The first graders had been learning all about the “Gingerbread Man”, an elusive sugar creation that runs away to protect himself from being eaten. I utilized Breakoutedu.com, an awesome resource that is offered through CABOCES, to adapt a physical breakout box activity to help the first graders to “catch the Gingerbread Man”.
What is a breakout box? It is literally a metal box with a variety of different locks that need to be solved to be opened; there is a lock with a three-digit code, one with a four-digit code, one with letters to spell a word or phrase, a directional lock, and the final lock- a key. Students receive different “clues” of varying levels (you can choose how difficult you want it to be), and they solve the clues to find the correct code to open the lock. The students usually have a certain amount of time, and a limited number of hints, to solve all the clues and “breakout”, meaning that they have successfully completed the activity.
The Breakout EDU website offers a variety of different breakout style lessons for all age ranges. There are some that require a physical breakout box, which can be borrowed from the CABOCES Learning Resources Center. There are others that are completely digital, so you do not need to have the physical box and locks. Either way, this resource supplies you with a list of exactly what you will need to do to set up the lesson, and it will provide any materials that you may need to print out or organize.
The “Gingerbread Man” breakout activity required a physical box. We used four different locks and the students had to complete a series of activities to find the “codes” or the keys to the locks, so they could help to find the gingerbread man. Some of the activities required math skills (reading a graph), and others required reading skills (coloring the words that included long vowel sounds, short vowel sounds, etc.). To do the activity as a full class, I adapted the PowerPoint that Breakout EDU provides, and the students were able to follow along on the classroom Promethean board as we completed the “clues” to find the Gingerbread man.
The students were so thrilled to have received these “messages” from the Gingerbread man, and they were so proud of themselves every time they figured out a clue, shouting, “We did it!” When being asked if they thought we could figure out the next clue, a choral, “Yeah!” rang throughout the room.
When we finally figured out the last clue and found the remaining key to open the box, you could feel the suspense in the air. In both first-grade classrooms, we were successfully able to open the box to discover where the gingerbread man had been hiding! He was sneaky enough to get himself out, but he left a note and a candy cane treat for each student, telling them that they had done a great job following his clues. The students’ excited exclamations, with a few hugs peppered in, demonstrated just how proud of themselves they were to solve the clues and find the “Gingerbread Man”.
Is this something that could be achieved without the use of technology? I am sure there are ways, but I am grateful for the Breakout EDU resource because it made the planning and executing of this lesson so much easier.
If you are interested in learning more about Breakout EDU, or if you are interested in bringing in other types of technology into your classroom, including fun review games like Gimkit, interactive presentations like Nearpod, or coding technology like Puzzlets or Pyonkee, please contact me at email@example.com so we can make an appointment. I would love to help!
By: Brooke Neamon, CA BOCES Model Schools
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