Looking back on 2017, there were some consistent trends of topics that dominated the national dialogue with regards to ELA instruction.
First, empathy. Empathy can, and should, be taught across all content areas. For example, in technology courses, students can learn to be empathetic by considering the needs of people when they design and make/code. However, the nature of ELA offers a myriad of ways to develop empathy. Reading stories and analyzing character’s actions, choices, and behaviors can offer great opportunities to be more empathetic, as well as analyzing an author’s argument while considering their background and experiences. Another way is to focus on developing responsible and compassionate readers. Robert Probst, co-author of Disrupting Thinking, describes a responsible reader as a person who is open to letting the text confirm, challenge, or change his/her thinking. A compassionate reader is willing to see through another person’s eyes and is open-minded towards another person’s arguments or beliefs.
Another hot topic was developing student voice. With the nature of state assessments requiring more formulaic writing, many teachers feel it’s hard for students to develop their own voice when writing. Author Joseph Bruchac argues that the first place to start is by having kids write about one of their four roots: ancestry, family, place, or personal experience. Every person has these four roots, yet they are “diverse and different in their content for every one of us”. Having students write personal narratives about their family, for example, is a way for students to write about something specific to their own lives. Author Nic Stone suggests focusing on subvocalization, which means being able to hear what’s on the page. She suggests having students do a short quick write, having them change the punctuation to support the sounds they are trying to convey, and then having a classmate read the writing out loud to see if the writing sounds the way the author intended.
Finally, fake news dominated many scholarly articles, blog posts, and news reports. There are two main issues with fake news: 1) the discrediting of sound and valid news organizations/articles and 2) the susceptibility of believing fake news. Educators need to teach kids how to check sources, yet the fact that even adults cannot spot fake news means we need to teach more media literacy skills in our classrooms. Some of these skills include being able to examine URLs that appear unusual (websites that end with .co, for example), to discover low quality and grammatically incorrect work, and to check if other media outlets are reporting the same news. The Newseum in Washington D.C. also offers an acronym to teach kids how to spot fake news: ESCAPE (Evidence, Source, Context, Audience, Purpose, Execution).
Our upcoming BOCES offerings, such as the MS/HS ELA CLC, will be focusing on these important topics and more. We look forward to sharing the learning!
By: Brendan Keiser, CA BOCES Professional Development
Check out this month's AdvancingSTEM Challenge!
AdvancingSTEM 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 is posted monthly.
Post a photo of your students in action in our comment section or post a comment on how you modified the Challenge to work in your classroom.
A shared reading experience has blanketed Portville, NY, like an early morning fall frost. Portville Elementary School, families, and the entire community have embraced R. J. Palacio's book Wonder and the exciting project: One Book One Community.
One Book One Community is an initiative where the people in a school and the members of its community read the same book. The premise of this program is to promote literacy and engage students and community members in thoughtful reflections around a common text.
From September to November, the teachers and students at Portville Elementary School have been reading, listening to, and talking about Wonder. The enthusiasm for the book has transcended the school walls to reach local businesses, organizations, and families. It’s not uncommon for students and their families to walk into their favorite local restaurant or dentist’s office and hear the employees and customers talking about Wonder.
The power of One Book One Community comes from the reading connection formed between the students and the community and the book’s extraordinary theme: kindness. Wonder was selected for the project for that very reason: in a world that seems to have more animosity than compassion, Wonder has the power to inspire people to “Choose Kind.”
Portville Elementary School and its community are not just reading and talking, they’re showing their support for the project on Face Book, Instagram, and Twitter. Lawns and business windows reinforce the project with signs:
“We’re Reading Wonder; Are You?”
Wonder, the movie, made its debut before Thanksgiving. With support from CA BOCES Student Programs, Portville sent 3rd-6th-grade students and their teachers to see the movie and is planning a culminating event in January-a great way to start the new year. Although the project will end soon, the conversations will continue for weeks to come.
One Book One Community has been met with such enthusiasm that it’s anticipated to become an annual event.
Social Media Links:
Facebook: Portville Wonders
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
The ROBOTC for VEX training at Pioneer High School was led by Jesse Flot, a Research Programmer & Senior Software Engineer for the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and Josh Jarvis, the lead developer for CMUs CS-STEM Network. In attendance were nearly thirty participants from various districts across the region (Allegany-Limestone CSC, Andover CSD, Belfast CSD, Bolivar-Richburg CSD, CA-BOCES Belmont CTE, CA-BOCES ISS, CA-BOCES ISS, Cattaraugus-Little Valley CSD, Cuba-Rushford CSD, Ellicottville CSD, Franklinville CSD, Fillmore CSD, Genesee Valley CSD, Hinsdale CSD, Pioneer CSD, Salamanca City SD, Scio CSD, and Whitesville CSD).
What is a robot, and what can we can we teach with it? These were the first two questions that Jesse Flot used to open the ROBOTC for VEX training. The first question is fairly direct: what is a robot? Perhaps you define a robot as something like Wall-E, or maybe to you a robot is Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Terminator. The definition is as simple as SPA: a robot is a device that has the ability to sense, plan, and act. What can we teach with a robot? This second question is more difficult to answer unless we first reflect on how we teach rather than the content of our teaching.
When teaching Algebra 1, my students would struggle with the concept of completing the square to rewrite quadratic expressions. Rather than using the skill of completing the square as a tool to accomplish a goal, I made the skill the learning goal; ultimately, it was not until I provided students with the necessary tools and shift my focus (using GeoGebra) that they were able to better understand the process of completing the square, how to use it, and when to use it. Similarly, “project-based learning (PBL) involves learning through projects rather than just doing projects,” says John Spencer. In other words, the goal of PBL is to focus on the learning process rather than a culminating project. Jesse explained what can be taught with robotics in the same way; he said, “the Robotics Academy at CMU uses robotics as a tool to teach programming; however, you can use robots to teach many other subjects and skills such as mathematics, physics, communication, teamwork, and time management.”
With these questions answered and an understanding that the VEX robots were a tool used to help teach programming, Jesse and Josh led participants through two days of hands-on training with the programming of ROBOTC as well as the hardware of VEX robots. Participants explored intuitive and basic commands using the block coding features of ROBOTC in conjunction with the physical features of the VEX robot the first day, and on day two, participants made the progression to virtual reality with Robot Virtual World software (RVW) and explored how the text commands of ROBOTC differ from its block coding commands.
In addition to Jesse’s 16 years of experience at CMU (12 of which being in professional development), the Robotics Academy’s research-based practices helped guide the hybrid training model. From anticipating participant questions to providing examples of student questions that participants should anticipate, Jesse and Josh led participants through a highly productive two days of learning. Jesse and Josh will continue this hybrid training online from mid-February through March in which participants will gain additional knowledge of the ROBOTC language, continue to track their progress with CMUs learning management system, and explore additional features of VEX robotics.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
In addition to the virtual field trips we offer, FieldTrip Zoom allows students the opportunities to visit faraway places and interact with experts in a particular field, museum, aquarium, etc. FieldTrip Zoom offers both interactive and recorded opportunities for teachers to bring the world into their classroom. This is in addition to the virtual field trips that we have traditionally offered. Contact Karen Insley or Carrie Oliver to get more insight into this great offering.
To Access Fieldtrip Zoom:
Teachers create an account (using their school email) at fieldtripzoom.com, book a program that fits your schedule from the Zoom Zone calendar, and then you and your class can sit back and enjoy the trip! There is no need to fill out a request form for the Zoom Zone trips since you book them on the FieldTrip Zoom Zone calendar.
You can also connect anywhere with Zoom. Each district in the Distance Learning COSER is given a Zoom Pro Account for use with administrators, faculty, and students. Zoom allows multi-user video conferencing, small group conferencing, content sharing, and so much more! Zoom is very user friendly and versatile. How will you use it with your students?
Contact Karen Insley for training or suggestions for Zoom use within your district.
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Professional Learning Communities (PLC) is “an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.” (Dufour, 2006).
Administration, teachers and staff at Hinsdale Central School are embracing the working concept of a PLC in an effort to make improvements in student performance on both 3-8 State Math Assessments and HS Math Regents exams. The work began a couple of years ago when key teacher leaders were trained by PLC Associates in Rochester and the work of Learning by Doing, but Richard DuFour. An emphasis was placed on ELA across grade levels last year and the shift was made to Math during this past summer.
Evidence of the Math PLC at work in Hinsdale include Professional Development work in Math instruction with an emphasis on both state assessment data and cooperative learning structures. In addition, a tangible example of the work done by the Math PLC is a series of teacher generated posters located across the district that shows Math representation in a variety of topics and manners. Some of these examples are shown below. These posters are strategically located within the building based on Math standards at specific grade levels.
Best of luck, Hinsdale, as you continue to monitor progress and address needs for your students.
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
The American Association of School Librarians recently released its updated National School Library Standards. Concepts imbedded in the new standards include shared foundations, key commitments, domains, competencies, and alignments which strongly supports new standards in school curricula. Recently, district librarians came together to review the standards and participated in collaborative activities and developed activities for student engagement.
Collaboration occurs through different venues and a Zoom meeting was used to connect more than 50 librarians from CA BOCES and Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Shared ideas for student engagement using library books included: Snowflake Bentley and making snowflakes, reinforcing the concept of symmetry, and a STEM challenge involving falling snowflakes; and Bill Nye’s Germ book, growing germs, identifying bacteria, and a STEM challenge involving germ fighting products.
The Extraordinaire Design Pro kit was introduced for Maker Space ideas with some participants enthusiastically embracing the design challenge. Also demonstrated was the use of Zome Tools for grades K-12 with ideas for ELA activities and STEM challenges.
With Zoom’s increasing availability, participants were encouraged to consider its use in connecting students to learning beyond walls, buildings, and geographic locations.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Teachers Across Cattaraugus-Allegany Counties Prepare for Student Video Submissions
Many teachers committed to the Writing with Video: Rural Voices Summer Institute over the past two summers and now attend quarterly reunions throughout the year in order to plan, collaborate, and write about the upcoming Southern Tier Annual Film Festival (S.T.A.F.F. Awards).
Teachers from the institute are invested in including digital audio and video assignments in their classrooms throughout the year in order to help students solidify their writing process through planning, pre-writing, and reflection. Students complete a variety of video projects including research, narrative, poetry, remix, vocabulary, and themes that they will then present to their classmates, publish, and screen to a larger audience.
Students who have created video projects across the region are invited to submit original films. The submission deadline is April 13, 2018. All student films will be judged by University at Buffalo graduate students in the education program.
Students whose films are chosen will have their films shown at the S.T.A.F.F. Awards which will be held at Cuba-Rushford Central School District this year on Friday, May 18th. Students will have a chance to see student-produced films from across the region, eat snacks, vote alongside the entire audience, and help choose a winning entry. The winning student or team will take home the traveling trophy to their school.
If you would like more information or would like your student to submit a video entry, please contact Christina McGee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
After years of research on asking and answering questions, both in the work place and education: a protocol—the Question Formulation Technique— was developed that makes it possible for anyone, no matter their level of income or education, to learn how to produce and improve their own questions and then strategize on how to use them.
The Question Formulation Technique includes the following steps:
Design a question focus.
The teacher designs a question focus. The focus is a statement, not a question.
There are four rules for producing questions:
Students have 7 minutes to write down as many questions as the small group of students can think about. During the question flood, students must follow the rules for producing questions.
After students created their initial list of questions, the students are presented with a simple explanation of the difference between closed-ended questions (those that can be answered with a yes or no) and open-ended questions (those that need more explanation). Then the students reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of both kinds of questions. This offers students the opportunity to discover how the way a question is asked can shape the kind of information that follows.
During this step, students practice changing questions from closed to open and from open to closed. This task can be challenging for students and adults of any age
Students prioritize questions.
Choose three open-ended questions you want to use in your research. Students review all their question and discuss what they think are the 3 best questions for their research or unit of student. The scribe places a star beside the top 3 questions.
Teacher and students discuss next steps for using the questions.
Once students had chosen their top three questions, students would use those questions to drive their research or unit of study.
The students by now have produced their own questions, analyzed their list, categorized the questions, changed questions from open to closed and closed to open, prioritized the questions, and discussed how they would be using their questions. They had done a lot of thinking and work in about 45 minutes.
Rigorous research on this strategy has been carried out in a range of settings outside the classroom. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) randomized control trial, for example, showed dramatic increases in patients' ability to participate in their health care and partner more productively with professionals when they used the Question Formulation Technique (Alegría et al., 2008). The NIH study and other research published in medical journals demonstrated that it is possible to deliberately teach the skill of question formulation to all people (Deen, Lu, Rothstein, Santana, & Gold, 2011).
Would the same simple protocol work in the classroom? Could teachers easily adapt it to teach the skill of question formulation to students? Initial research on use of the Question Formulation Technique in a classroom environment has shown that "the development of these questioning skills and behaviors empowers the learners to conceptualize and express their thinking without having to depend primarily on teacher questioning to provoke or promote their natural curiosities" (Elves, 2013, p. 2). Teachers who have used the technique in primary, middle, and high school classrooms across all subject areas in a wide range of classes have reported newly energized students who are excited by learning to ask their own questions.
When students first go through the Question Formulation Technique, some take to it more quickly than others. But teachers consistently report that they are struck by how students who traditionally have not participated at all seem to be most readily activated by this invitation. Soon, these students become experts at asking, refining, and prioritizing questions. They can take themselves through the question formulation process as part of a homework assignment. They can use it as a pre-reading activity on their own or in class with others. They can use it to analyze math problems and demonstrate new problem-solving abilities.
The Question Formulation Technique promotes student voice and critical thinking. As students learn to produce their own questions, they are thinking divergently--that is, more broadly and creatively. When they focus on the kinds of questions they are asking and choose their priority questions, they are thinking convergently—narrowing down, analyzing, assessing, comparing, and synthesizing. And when they reflect on what they have learned through the process, students are engaged in metacognition—they are thinking about their thinking.
Students who learn to use all three of these thinking abilities become more sophisticated questioners, thinkers, and problem-solvers.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development