At the sudden onset of school closures, in March of 2020, as fundamental changes in our education systems were taking place, partnerships with families, parents and caregivers shifted into unprecedented territory. Parents and caregivers, quickly stepped into the role of teacher, counselor, mediator, coach, to name a few, however, above all else, they stepped into the role of an essential partner with their child’s school district. Engaging parents became a top priority for schools across the nation, and around the world.
For the first time, parents had a front row seat in their child(ren)’s classroom. Establishing and engaging relationships with parents, was no longer an option, it was a necessity. Parents were feeling vulnerable, teachers were feeling vulnerable, many, were uncomfortable in their new and necessary partnership. The discomfort, uncertainty and vulnerability proved to be the perfect recipe for new opportunities. One of the opportunities, included a new regional model of parent/caregiver support and education, now known as “Parent University.”
Parent University was intentionally designed with stakeholders across the region to align the needs of parents and caregivers, as well as those of our regional school districts. Collaborative leadership has been a guiding force throughout the process of drafting developing, revising and implementing Parent University. The Community Schools Advisory Committee spent months creating and revising a model that would provide a resource for school districts to offer to the parents and caregivers within their respective communities. In addition, many regional educators, community partners and local universities have come forward as partners in leading and facilitating monthly sessions.
The model is set up as a series of monthly, 1-hour sessions in the evening, via zoom. Sessions began in January of 2021, and will run through June, as the school year comes to an end. To date, there have been three sessions, with each passing month the participant registration and participation has steadily grown. Participants have included regional educators & administrators, parents, grandparents, foster parents and community partners.
If your district is interested in sharing this resource with their community or looking to expand on their own family engagement initiatives, please feel free to reach out the Community Schools Coordinator, Katie Mendell, at email@example.com for more information.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
In my October 2020 blog post I shared in detail about the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), a process that can greatly improve your student's ability to ask more, high quality questions. The QFT is simply one way to help engage students more deeply and tap into their natural, intrinsic curiosity. A stunning fact about students and asking questions is that the average preschooler can ask 400-500 questions per day while the average high school student asks only 1-2. This begs the questions, what happens to a student's curiosity as they go through school? Shouldn’t school be highly engaging and spark a student's interest resulting in them becoming more curious about the world around them? Why then do students ask significantly fewer questions, a sign of curiosity, as they age?
Every student possesses an intrinsic curiosity that fuels their desire to learn. As educators, it is our job to help tap into that curiosity in order to give our students the most meaningful educational experience possible. When students in our class seem uninterested, unmotivated, or fail to complete work because they just don’t feel like it, that is our cue that whatever we are currently doing instructionally is not working for these students. Instead of casting blame on the student and labeling them as lazy, we should aim to design more meaningful instruction, one that aims to engage students more.
For students to be engaged in our classrooms on a cognitive level, students must first be engaged on an emotional (sometimes referred to as “affective”) and behavioral level. In other words, students must feel as if their needs outside of the classroom have been met before they are capable of fully engaging in their academics. Building relationships and trust with our students is as critical in classroom instruction as is developing and consistently maintaining our classroom rules and procedures.
A bonus of the relationship building process is getting to know about our students interests and how they can be applied in our classroom instruction. Incorporating student interests in our daily instruction is a proven way of increasing student engagement levels in the classroom. For instance, when we know our students participate in certain sports, we can incorporate statistics from these sports into a math or science lesson. Or if a student participates in some civic engagement club or afterschool activity, we can incorporate their experiences into a writing task. These sorts of tasks also provide opportunities to give students a more “real-world” experience. When students feel as if the lesson has been catered to their interests, they’re more likely to participate.
Don’t fear taking the necessary time to develop and maintain relationships with your students. Due to the demands of state assessments and the sheer volume of content expected, some find it difficult to devote the appropriate amount of time to this task. Rest assured, building relationships with your students can only get more instructional time back as the year progresses as when these relationships are prioritized, less classroom interruptions will occur. When relationships are not firmly established, you can expect more interruptions, leading to a loss in precious instructional time.
Take the time to work on student-teacher relationships, you’ll gain more instructional time, learn important information about them to include in your instruction, and you’ll increase their overall engagement.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
If you were to look back and reflect upon the last two school years, then I think you would likely fall into the vast majority of people who say, “this is not what I thought being an educator would look like.” I think this is especially true for teachers and aides and all others who have entered the world of publication for the first time these last two school years.
Things are different. Some things better, some worse, and some remain the same. Regardless of the circumstance, we have found ourselves in a position to reevaluate what we are doing in public education and why it should (or shouldn’t) be so.
Consider the original approach to the onset of the pandemic in the United States. Regional educators as well as the professional learning networks (PLNs) on Twitter immediately took to making connections and practical applications to real-time COVID-19 data for instructional purposes. In social studies courses, these conversations focused on how pandemics have impacted governments, economies, or cultures throughout history. In mathematics courses, these discussions included analyzing infection rates to determine the best function to model the data.
It didn’t take long, however, for educators to realize that the data they were using to guide instruction was not producing the desired results. New data led to new conversations and new questions.
Sentiments that were already increasing in nature such as “students don’t work as hard as they used to” and “students don’t care about grades like they used to” were compounded with the stressors of a pandemic, but were they factual? And how could we know?
When asking for help on analyzing data, a regional administrator shared some thoughts regarding the 2021-2022 school year:
For the past few months, I have not been able to stop thinking about the start of next school year. It does not matter whether a teacher has been teaching for 20, 10, 5, or even 1 school year, I just do not see how we can start next school year the same way we have any other year. The teaching and learning that has taken place has been so different that we need to reexamine what that looks like in terms of what and how we instruct students starting the new school year.
The nuts and bolts of the data project are this: we are reviewing skills-based report card data for the past several years as a means of identifying trends wherever possible. While I cannot share the details for most of that data, I would like you to consider the example in the graphic below.
The data graphed is collected over the last five school years (2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021) for all students at one grade level for a district using the four quarterly reports on a 4-point scale (1-below grade level, 2-below grade level and making progress, 3-at grade level/proficient, and 4-above grade level expectations).
There are many things that we can learn from this one graphic. We can see that scores for the 2019-2020 school year were not reported for quarters 3 and 4 in the same manner as had been done previously (due to the pandemic). We can see that the yearly trend for effort at this particular grade level trends slightly positively while remaining consistent at or about grade level expectations. We also see that during the 2020-2021 school year, a school year that opened dramatically different than any other school year for the current generation, this grade level of students has demonstrated notably greater effort than the recent years prior.
While I know there may be questions about the reliability of this particular perceptual data, the intent of this graphic is not to convince you to trust the data presented here. Rather, the purpose is for you to reconsider what it is that you think you know regarding pandemic teaching and learning. Making data-informed decisions is a practical way to do just that.
What data do you have available? What is it actually demonstrating? Why does that appear to be so? What implications does that yield as you move forward?
I would echo the sentiments from the regional administrator shared above. I cannot imagine the best pursuit for education would be to start the 2021-2022 school year as we would any normal year (however you would define a normal year), but don’t take my word for it. See what the data is showing you, and move forward from there.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
A number talk is a daily routine in ALL grade levels, that requires students to demonstrate flexibility in working with numbers and solving basic problems without using paper and pencil to find the solution. Consider how number talk routines can be used to help your students think more flexibly about whole numbers and operations with fractions and decimals.
Number talks require students to be flexible in their thinking about numbers and operations. In addition, students increase their ability to articulate their thinking, develop their mathematical vocabulary and refine their mathematical communication skills through the use of number talks.
How to Get Started with Number Talks
Like many other math routines, creating norms for the community and helping students feel like they are working in a safe space is crucial. In order for number talks to be successful, students must understand how to actively listen and hold a respectful exchange of ideas. Before implementing number talks in the classroom, brainstorm a list of classroom norms for how community members will participate and behave during the routine.
Teacher and Student Roles
During a number talk, it is the teacher’s job to encourage students to share their solution strategies, ask questions to clarify understanding, and direct the learning of the class. Number talks require students to explain their solution strategies, convince others that their strategy works, and listen to and pose questions about the strategies of others.
Extending the Thinking
Because the goal of number talks is to help students communicate their thinking, after a student has shared his/her strategy, there are several questions that can be used to extend and help a student better shape his/her thinking.
Final ThoughtsThe strategies that students use and are able to learn from doing number talks is invaluable! Students can build a mental storehouse of strategic tools through this process. In addition, the rich discussion that occurs between the students and the teacher during number talks is truly amazing! Imagine the possibilities if all of our students had the reasoning, critical thinking, language, and communication skills that result from regular participation in number talks each day for about 12-15 minutes.
· Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding Grades 4-10 by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker
· Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies by Sherry Parrish
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Environmental science is best experienced by picking up physical objects, observing, discussing, sharing...
Well, 4th grade students at Cuba-Rushford and 1st grade students at Hinsdale, along with hundreds of other students in the CABOCES region, get to experience these interactive experiences still…but at a distance.
All the programs that the Environmental Science CoSer has to offer, have been transformed to allow students to be immersed in the wonders of learning about the remarkable features of the environment around us, the mysteries of animal behavior, and the natural wonders of how living (and non-living) things interact with each other.
Here students in 4th grade at Cuba-Rushford are learning about animal senses by observing why the Burmese Python can use its tongue to smell or why a Termite will follow a pen line when drawn. Students discovered the many mysteries of how and why animals use their senses to survive.
Pictured below are students in 1st grade at Hinsdale discovering where the concept of Velcro came from or how mimicking shark skin on a swimsuit can help someone swim faster. Realizing that humans use nature to invent incredibly important items in our everyday life is the process called biomimicry. Using this information, students were able to make a connection with other biomimicry examples in their life
These are just a few of the many Environmental Science programs that CA BOCES has to offer! For more information on these programs, please feel free to visit CABOCES Environmental Science or contact Lance Feuchter at (716) 376-8379 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Lance Feuchter, CA BOCES Learning Resources
An educator with experience in distance learning shares what he’s learned: Keep it simple, and build in as much content as possible.https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-tips-supporting-learning-home
In 2020, a challenging profession became a bit more challenging overnight. Last March, teachers woke one morning, and their workdays were very different. Some of the challenges teachers faced daily no longer existed, while new challenges took their place. It has been a year since shifting to online teaching in some form, and what a year it has been. Focusing on the positive, there has been growth, there has been perseverance, and there has been dedication among the many positive aspects. As we come into the one-year anniversary, I thought that sharing some tips that may have been overlooked through all those challenges would be appropriate, and possibly could be applied as teachers reflect and plan future lessons in education.
The article written by Kareem Farah is found on the Edutopia website ( www.edutopia.org ). The author shares struggles and provides some solutions to consider as shifting to teaching online. Most teachers are beyond the shifting point, being that we have been shifting, dodging and weaving for the past year, but looking back teachers can hopefully acknowledge the personal growth in learning with technology alone.
Teachers are always creating new lessons, recreating and then start it all over again to incorporate the latest strategies to ensure that they are providing the best learning environment they can. Even with the online shift, the time to recreate or modify has not changed. I am hopeful that somewhere in this article, one of the suggestions will add another component to the amazing lessons that teachers prepare for their students.
Be Kind and Be Well.
By: Lisa Scott, CA BOCES Learning Resources