Check out this month's Advancing STEM Challenge!
Advancing STEM Challenges are designed to bring engineering and design to your classroom in a simple, easy-to-implement, challenge-based way. Modify our Advancing STEM Challenges for your classroom. A new challenge will be posted monthly.
This summer, Cuba Rushford Elementary School incorporated a STEAM camp into their summer school curriculum. Students were hand-picked to participate in this innovative twist on learning and spent time working with coding, robotics, research projects, and solar ovens.
All of the projects were interesting to the students. But the solar ovens had a prize at the end! I will give you s’more information on that later!
As part of this experiment, a great deal of work was spent digging deeper into the Engineering Design Process, wherein students are encouraged to ask, imagine, plan, design, and then improve. Students researched to discover the mathematical relationship between reflection, transmission and absorption. They didn’t stop there, though! Students then applied their knowledge to building and testing a solar oven based on the supplies provided through CABOCES. In an extension, students investigated how these principles can be used as sustainable energy sources for our area through passive solar heating.
After the testing phase was completed and all the kinks were worked out, the students put their solar ovens in the sun and let the cooking begin! Chocolate and marshmallows were placed on a graham cracker. After about an hour and a half: voilà! Success. It was so good, some kids wanted s’more!
Interested! Order solar ovens from our SNAP page and get cooking!
By: Alex Freer, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Teachers at Randolph Central School learned to build equal partnerships in any co-teaching scenario. They learned the answers to the following questions:
Although there is more to learn, there is research that demonstrates the benefits of the co-taught classroom. For instance, children with speech and language impairments made stronger gains in a co-taught classroom than in a pull-out or classroom support model. In New York, an elementary school found that literacy achievement increased for students with disabilities from 20% at or above level to 40% in just two years. Pugach and Wesson interviewed nine, 5th grade students in co-taught classrooms and concluded, “The students we interviewed felt as if their academic and social needs were being met better than they had been in classes instructed by a single teacher.”
Educators report positive outcomes from co-taught settings such as professional growth, improved instruction, the ability to differentiate, better teacher access, and improved behavior management. Educators also claim that student engagement improved because two adults can share multiple perspectives, multiple voices, and generate creative connections to the content easier. Co-teaching provides a sense of belonging, acceptance for all students, while upholding high expectations for their students.
Whether you are already co-teaching or are thinking about developing co-teaching partnerships, this workshop provides the knowledge and tools to be successful. We will work to develop effective partnerships and amazing learning environments for teachers and students. To Learn more about how to build effective integrated co-teaching teams contact CA BOCES (Laurie Sledge at 716-376-8357).
By: Deanna Wilkinson and Marguerite Andrews, CA BOCES Professional Development
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
The Daily 5 framework lays out a structure for getting students to read and write independently during a literacy block, freeing up the teacher for one-on-one conferences or small group instruction.
Daily 5 is a student driven management structure designed to fully engage students in activities that support reading and writing. It is a structure that creates routines and procedures that foster independent literacy routines that become a habit and supports life long learning.
The five tasks embedded in the structure of Daily 5 are: Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading and Word Work. Teacher’s begin with introducing read to self and then move to the task work on writing. Students read to self and work on writing EVERY day; students work on the other 3 tasks in a rotation decided upon by the teacher.
The framework begins with a focus lesson/mini lesson on a skill or a topic with the whole class. The mini lessons lasts about 7-10 minutes. After the focus lesson, students make a choice of what task they are going to work on during the round. The round lasts approximately 15-20 minutes and it is based on student’s stamina. When the chimes sound, students clean up their area and debrief/share. The teacher then begins focus lesson/mini lesson for the next round. The Daily 5 rounds may be completed at different times throughout the day or during one literacy block.
While the students are embedded in the tasks of Daily 5, the teacher pulls students who are needed for small group instruction, one-on-one conferences or assessments. Students should meet with the teacher a couple times a week and the most needy are met with daily!
The Daily 5 Framework is NOT CONTENT, it is a structure for fostering life long learning and independence. The 10 steps to independence formulate muscle memory, build independent learners and increase student’s stamina on reading and writing. The teacher models/teaches the steps to independence during the focus lesson and then the students work on the tasks and build their stamina.
This summer, we had 45 teachers from the region attend the kick off workshop and book study for DAILY 5, we have follow up dates in the calendar to support a smooth transition AND to support teachers and learn from one another. If you want to learn more about Daily 5, check out the text and/or attend one of our DAILY 5’s workshops during the upcoming school year!
By: Tessa Levitt and Shannon Dodson, CA BOCES Professional Development
When Microsoft originally announced that they were going to offer the Office 365 suite and its components free of charge to all schools who wanted access, it was seen as a “game-changing move” for education and learning in schools as we know it.
With the focus of today’s technology moving to cloud-based computing, storage, app access, and more, it made sense for Microsoft to offer these services to school districts to ensure that their software suites were still relevant and useful for students. Especially when factored in that competition in the education space has heated up between Google, Microsoft, and Apple, with all three offering enticing services to find their way into contracts with schools across the country.
This summer, school districts from Fillmore to Portville, and even administrators themselves, have been taking part in Office 365 Trainings offered by CABOCES. With a focus on what is Office 365, what features are included in the suite, what can be done with the programs, teachers and administrators have been upping their familiarity and comfortability in using the resources available to them in Office 365.
There were some topics that created more buzz than others, such as how to set-up and use ClassNotebook to run a blended or flipped classroom in various subject areas and grade spans. Seeing teachers experiment with creating classes, adding students and learning how to share documents and classroom resources with the push of a button to student computers is leading the charge this summer toward some classrooms becoming paperless! Sway, a presentation tool that creates its products as websites that automatically scale to fit different screen sizes was also a teacher favorite for combining elements of PowerPoint and website design into a friendly and easy-to-use format. Microsoft Forms, which allows for teachers to create surveys or quizzes online and quickly share them with students, access instant results, and provide data points that can be analyzed and diagnosed deeper to assess student progress on their learning of concepts was one that most teachers say they could see themselves using on a constant basis. With Fillmore and Portville students having 1-1 devices, the possibilities for enriching students’ learning are endless!
With everything around us moving toward cloud-based architecture, it only makes sense that our schools learn and adapt at the same time. Staying current for our students and using the resources in much the same way they do every day will allow us to stay relevant in education and keep the students with the best resources available to them at the touch of a button, mouse, or smartphone screen. With the move to Office 365, students will have the opportunity to have access to their files, and their programs, no matter where they may be with the devices they are already so capable of using every day.
By: Ryan McGinnis, CA BOCES Professional Development
On July 18th teachers, administrators and staff took part in a Community Action Poverty Simulation during a Professional Development Summer Work four-day study of Poverty. Approximately 40 Pioneer employees and CA BOCES ISS Staff took part in a simulated month of poverty. Teachers were assigned to family groups while administration, staff and CA BOCES employees supported the families as Community Resource Personnel. In addition, one member of the Community Resources Personnel is a Cattaraugus County Community Action (CCA) Representative. The CCA supports families that struggle to meet their family’s needs of food, clothing and shelter with an extensive list of services and a friendly helpful hand to complete forms and navigate the resources available. You can find out more about Community Action in your county or New York State at the sites listed below.
During the four-day study of Poverty teachers explored strategies and mindsets to adopt in their classrooms and buildings. The four-day study included the work of Eric Jensen in his books, “Poor Students, Rich Teaching” and “Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind”. Teachers were encouraged to find instructional strategies that engage students of all levels of socioeconomic status. Among the ideas teachers considered are: training working memory, using movement and music, adopting an attitude of optimism and gratitude, using cooperative learning and classroom discussions.
If you are interested in a Poverty Simulation for your building/district or would like professional development for your staff around teaching students of poverty please contact Tim Clarke, Kathleen Agnello, Jillian Putnam, Karen Insley or Brendan Keiser.
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Professional Development
A relatively new education innovation that has come to the CABOCES region is called Breakout EDU. This concept takes the idea of an escape room, a recreational activity where teams work together to get out of a locked room, and turns it into a learning activity for students where they work together to open a locked box. The idea behind this activity is that students will use their brains to solve various puzzles to get inside the tightly locked box which has several various types locks connected to it. These locks can be 3 or 4 digit combinations locks, directional locks, key locks, or even word locks requiring students to spell the correct word to open the lock. Various simulations and games are available on the BreakutEDU website, but teachers are also encouraged to build their own games for their students.
The end of the school year brought with it opportunities for students at Gail N. Chapman Elementary to participate in Breakout EDU and work together to open the box. The 2nd grade and 4th grade classes worked to find missing birthday presents and solve a chocolate mystery in the Breakout games they participated in at the end of the year. The challenge of breaking into the box was a mix of frustration, cheers, and ultimately success. The added difficulty of getting into the box in a limited amount of time brought motivation and challenge that pushed the students to use math strategies, geography, and chronological reasoning and thinking to accomplish the task. Congratulations to the students who didn’t give up, and who were able to proudly say “We Broke OUT!”.
Teachers appreciated the new experience that Breakout EDU was able to provide for their students, and are already discussing ways to incorporate the games into instruction for next year.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
What is the difference between group work and cooperative learning?
To qualify as cooperative work, rather than individuals working in a group, students must need each other to complete the task. Students are expected to participate in tasks that are clearly constructed and necessary for the group's completion and success. The teacher remains active as a circulating resource and, when necessary, a facilitator, but students should be capable of carrying out their tasks. Students, not the teacher, are responsible for accomplishing their tasks in the way they think best, with accountability to each other and to the teacher's standards.
When setting up lessons for successful collaboration in cooperative groups, consider the following ideas that help teachers differentiate between cooperative learning groups versus group work:
Cooperative group activities, unlike whole class discussions or independent work, provide the most opportunities for students to express their ideas, questions, conclusions, and connections verbally. In traditionally structured classes each student has about five to ten minutes of individual time to engage in classroom academic discourse. In cooperative learning groups, that amount of time increases dramatically. Students experience a greater level of understanding of concepts and ideas when they talk, explain, and argue about learning, ideas, concepts, and content with their group, instead of just passively listening to a lecture or reading a text/article or textbook.
In addition, metabolic brain activity accelerates during active constructive thinking, such as planning, gathering data, analyzing, inferring, and strategizing versus passive information acquisition. When the verbal center becomes engaged while information or a task is being learned, more neural activity travels between the left and right brain. When students describe their thinking verbally to the group or work on a group chart, diagram, or project, the new information becomes embedded in multiple brain sites, such as the auditory and visual memory storage areas. Now, with neuroimaging, we know that this multi-centered brain communication circuitry enhances comprehension, making new material more accessible for future use, because it is stored in several brain areas. The more a student is engaged in a learning activity, especially one with multiple sensory modalities, the more parts of the brain are actively stimulated. When this occurs in a positive classroom setting, without stress and anxiety, the result is greater long-term, relational, and retrievable learning. Consider the increased comfort and enjoyment that students have when pleasurable social interaction is incorporated into their learning experiences.
Successfully planned cooperative learning group work can help to support ALL students at ALL academic levels by reducing the fear of failure that can cause them to avoid academic challenges. Well-structured cooperative group activities build supportive classroom communities, which, in turn, increase self-esteem and academic performance.
If you would like to learn more about Cooperative Learning Groups and increased student engagement, please check out our high energy workshops in the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. You won’t regret it!
By: Tessa Levitt and Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development