In order for a student to be considered college and career ready, a few of the essential overarching skills they need to embody include: creativity, problem solving, and collaboration. At Pioneer Middle School, the Pioneer MineCraft club, led by advisor Gio LoBianco, provides students with the opportunity to practice these essential 21st century skills in a game based environment.
The Pioneer Minecraft Club meets once a week in the Library Media Center. This club is exceptionally popular, and often times, has a wait list of two to three weeks. Over forty different students have joined the club this year alone. So, what exactly is Minecraft? Minecraft is often referred to as a “sandbox game,” meaning that the world students create within the game is based on their own imagination; there are no levels and no directions. Students break down and mine resources (blocks) that allow them to build personalized structures that look and function in the ways they desire. The more resources a student gathers, the more elaborate the structure they can build. Additionally, they can create circuits to build working machines such as automatic doors that open and close when the character approaches it, or creating a catapult. Ownership and self-efficacy are developed within this student driven, constructivist environment.
Every week students can play in different ways. The only hard and fast rule is that students cannot destroy something another student has made. Students set personalized or collaborative goals and depend on the expertise within their peer group in order to teach one another. The club also supports the development of social skills, as students work together in an environment that relies on communication, resilience and decision-making. Another exciting aspect of this gaming environment is that many students who aren’t traditionally successful in the classroom, have found engagement and success in this learning environment, and positioned themselves as leaders with their peers.
There are multiple opportunities for classroom teachers to extend the learning derived from the Minecraft Club and integrate it into the classroom curriculum. Teachers could create assignments for students to demonstrate understanding of the setting within a novel, develop math challenges, or represent geography skills by utilizing Minecraft as an instructional or assessment tool. “Minecraft develops creative thinking in the same way that chess develops logic and systems thinking- by promoting intense, focused mental engagement” (Spencer, 2017). In this digital age, Minecraft provides a platform for students to construct personalized understanding, utilize their creativity, partner with their peers, and foster creativity. What an outstanding opportunity for Pioneer students!
By: Colleen Root, CA BOCES Professional Development
Second Wave: CA BOCES will offer Teaching All Kinds of Minds (TAKOM) during the 2018-2019 School Year
Since 1996, All Kinds of Minds (AKOM) has served as the preeminent organization advancing the use of a neurodevelopmental-based approach to help all students learn and thrive. Now a part of QED’s suite of initiatives, it will continue to play a pivotal role in helping educators and students understand how individuals learn, discover unique learning profiles, and personalize both teaching and learning.
The Neurodevelopmental Framework for Learning (NDFL) developed by AKOM and taught in its programs involves:
The available resources are numerous, and all serve, ultimately, to foster learning communities in which students have personalized learning plans, understand their unique learner profile, and can leverage their strengths and assets to passionately pursue their life aspirations. Toward this end, educators interested in building their capacity to better serve and empower students, will be able to register for the 3-day TAKOM course starting in the 2018-2019 school year. Join us as we catch the second wave.
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
The end of June marks the beginning of a unique season for educators. We are given the opportunity to reboot after ten months of instruction, assessment, and exhaustion. If you have not yet established a plan for your summer reboot, feel free to use the URER model:
Since the summer months, seemingly, pass much more quickly than others, it is important to have a plan for managing your time and learning during this season, so you don’t find yourself unplugged come the end of August.
Take some time to set your professional goals temporarily aside to meet your personal needs. Whether that includes 24-72 hours to literally unplug from technology or it is a family vacation, your social, emotional, and physical needs should be met if you expect to find success in your professional life.
If you have been in the world of education for any length of time, you have most likely heard of John Hattie or, at the very least, his meta-analysis of 138 influences and effects on student achievement, Visible Learning. If effect size is something new to you, then it is important to note that effect sizes of 0.40 or more represent a growth of one year or more when you examine the updated list of factors related to student achievement. Effect sizes of less than 0.40 indicate less than one year of growth. Whether you are reevaluating your instructional practices by removing ineffective practices or refining your skills with larger effect sizes, Visible Learning is a great resource to reference as you prepare for the upcoming school year. However, regardless the resource(s) you reference regarding effective pedagogy, it is important that you reevaluate your instructional practices. Are your practices effective? How do you know your practices are effective?
One amazing aspect of being an educator is also being a lifelong learner. In addition to reevaluating and refining our skills, we are able to explore new technologies, assessments, and instructional strategies among other things. Furthermore, the summer months are ideal for exploring new strategies since most educators have more time in their schedules to be flexible, reflective, and responsive. Whether you explore a new conference such as the International Society for Technology Educators (ISTE) conference, you independently research a topic, or you attend a workshop through CA BOCES, there are numerous avenues ready for exploration this summer. For a complete list of workshops through CA BOCES, visit the CA BOCES Registration System.
The ISTE Annual Conference that took place in Chicago marked the first of many summer explorations for me. This year’s conference broke all of its records for membership, conference attendance, and vendor sponsorship, and with hundreds of presentations and several thousand people in attendance, learning opportunities lurked around every corner. In a few short days, I was able to embrace sessions and conversations focused on increasing accessibility through Universal Design for Learning (UDL), becoming a Microsoft Innovative Educator, empowering educators to share their best ideas in a TED & ISTE partnership, and a variety of others.
My favorite learning experience was when I attended a session on accessibility with Kendra Grant, Chris White, and Keynote speaker Luis Pérez. The presenters provided a great means for thinking about UDL with clear goals (it’s as easy as your ABCs). When creating learning opportunities, we need to explore options for authentic Access to all aspects of the lesson prior to Building anything to ensure everyone is able to Capture the intended message and construct a path forward. In addition to the definition of UDL, the presenters shared some challenging questions such as “Bicycles are designed as a one size fits all, so why would your lessons be?” And “Are you providing the appropriate tools for all students to have access to deconstruct and construct the content provided?”
The most difficult aspect of summer break for most educators is moving past step 1. Too often educators find themselves unplugged for far too long, dreading the notion of plugging back in before summer comes to a close. However, if we can convince ourselves that learning isn’t on a ten-month time schedule, if we enter a cycle of evaluation such as the URER model, then I believe we will all begin to notice a vast improvement in the world of education. We will want to unplug less, improve our educational practices, and become better able to serve our educational communities.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
The second Southern Tier Annual Film Festival (S.T.A.F.F.) was held at the Cuba-Rushford Central School District auditorium on Friday, May 18. Participating schools included Allegany-Limestone, Belfast, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Cuba Rushford, Fillmore, Olean, and Whitesville.
Administrators, teachers, parents, and students gathered together to watch and vote on student productions to see which district would take home the trophy.
Leading up to the event, Courtney Brisky, a student at Olean High school, created the artwork for posters to be distributed throughout districts across Allegany and Cattaraugus counties to advertise and promote the festival. Student submissions for the festival were due in mid-April and the finalists for the event were decided by graduate students at the University at Buffalo.
Audience members watched forty-three films, voting in a mere six films as finalists.
Finally, the moment came for the audience to choose the winning film and they selected a parody of the popular television sitcom, “The Office.” Students DeAndre Ahrens, Gabby Dutton, Hannah Erwin, Cody Findlay, Dana Hatch, Colston Saulter, Jonah Williamson, and Trenon Zeager took home the trophy for Cuba-Rushford. The trophy was previously housed at Fillmore Central School District and will now spend the year at Cuba-Rushford until next year’s festival.
Teachers have been preparing for this festival throughout the year by attending ongoing professional development offered by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and presented by Dr. David Bruce at the University at Buffalo and Dr. Sunshine Sullivan at Houghton College. At the ongoing events, teachers hone their skills, brainstorm, and develop curriculum for teaching students to craft narratives, investigate the correlation between images and narrative, develop writing and media skills, and tap into creativity.
The first film festival developed out of a week-long summer professional development opportunity offered to English teachers through the region through a partnership by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES, Houghton College, and the University at Buffalo. This opportunity culminated with the creation of the Southern Tier Annual Film Festival by teachers because they wanted to offer their students the same kind of enriching experience in the classroom and give students the chance to present their work to a live audience.
“Writing with Video: Rural Voices” is going to be offered this coming year to teachers in every discipline to hone their skills, collaborate, and plan future film festivals. If you have interest in bringing this unique opportunity to your students, look out for the upcoming summer institute as well as for future film festivals.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
An immersive learning game platform offered through CABOCES 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 a number of various locks connected to it. These locks can be 3 or 4 digit combinations locks, directional locks, key locks, or even words locks requiring students to spell the correct word in order 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.
Math teacher Mrs. Mansfield’s recently gave her 7th grade students a Breakout challenge, and then added a twist. After having students work in two separate groups to complete the ‘Linear Equations vs. The Avengers’ Breakout game, she assigned a new task for her class. Working in small groups, each set of students was asked to create their own Breakout style activity for their classmates. Creativity was welcomed as students would create puzzling activities and mathematical challenges that their classmates would attempt to solve. Complete with an assessment checklist and rubric, each group received direction and instruction, and will conduct and share their activities in a few weeks.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
An exciting project officially launched throughout the region on March 12th: CA Today, an education podcast brought to you by the Instructional Support Services team of CA BOCES. The purpose of the podcast is to promote continual learning for educators in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. Hosted by Sarah Wittmeyer and Brendan Keiser, each episode will focus on not only the latest and greatest instructional practices, but the ones that are tried and true. Additionally, we’ll be highlighting the exciting things that are occurring in classrooms and schools throughout the region, while also exploring how the ISS Division can support educators and schools.
A podcast is very similar to talk radio. Episodes, which are audio recordings, are typically focused on exploring a topic through conversation, stories, or interviews. People can subscribe to a podcast to receive new episodes as soon as they are released. The nice thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them anywhere at any time! Sarah Wittmeyer, who had the initial idea to start the podcast, shared, “I was thinking about ways to connect to teachers and administrators in our region, to share resources, and to highlight the great work we’re doing for our students, in a way that fit into our busy lives as educators.”
Our current format for the podcast will be releasing a new episode each month. The episodes are structured in two different ways. First, a large episode will be released that has Sarah and a CA BOCES co-host exploring different topics, learning about an app or something new from the BOCES SNAP platform, and interviewing a colleague from the ISS division to learn more about what they do and how they can help schools. For example, episode 1 was hosted by Sarah and Brendan in which they explored innovation in the classroom, interviewed STEM Coordinator Clay Nolan, and learned about Apple Clips from Rob Miller.
The second type of episode will be shorter and will focus on one sole topic for that episode. Episode 2 explored MakerSpaces by interviewing Franklinville’s Technology Integrator, Betsey Bradley, who shared how the MakerSpace at Franklinville High School/Ten Broeck Academy was created and how it has impacted students. Of the experience, Betsey shared, “I enjoyed the time I got to spend talking with Brendan about MakerSpaces. Although we were being recorded, it felt more like a conversation than an interview. He listened and responded to what I had to say, with ease, and smoothly made connections with the research and preparation he did beforehand. It was definitely a worthwhile experience!"
You can stream us on our website at http://catoday.caboces.org/. The full audio library with show notes that have links to additional resources can be found on our website as well. You can also subscribe and listen to episodes on iTunes and Stitcher. Finally, continue the conversation by connecting with us on Twitter @CATodayPodcast!
We’re very excited to start this new journey! If you have something you’d like to share with the region, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to have you on the show!!
Special thanks to everyone who has supported this endeavor, including our website developer Alex Smith, graphic designer Kim Survil, Tim Clarke, Tim Cox, and the initial podcast committee team!
By: Brendan Keiser, CA BOCES Professional Development
During a Family Engagement Night, Allegany Limestone Elementary teachers, Mary Jo Reed and Caroline Miller present the topic “Growth Mindset” to parents. Over 185 students and parents attended the Family Engagement Night to learn more about Growth Mindset. A growth mindset movement would not be complete without the support of parents. When parents learn about the mindsets and how a growth mindset can help their child become more motivated and engaged, they are more than willing to begin the work at home.
Researcher “Carol Dewek states that students who believe their intelligence can grow with effort and practice - like a muscle - do better in school and in life. This belief is called a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset understand that they have control over their own success. They are more motivated to work hard; they put more effort into their schoolwork; they are more resilient in the face of obstacles; and they ultimately do better in school. In contrast, students who believe intelligence is set at birth - like eye color - have what is called a fixed mindset. They tend to do worse academically because they give up when challenged and think that having to work hard means you don’t ‘have what it takes’. The good news is that mindsets can be changed, and when they are, students show a significant increase in their academic achievement.”
Parents can model a growth mindset by speaking candidly about the mistakes they’ve made, and what they’ve learned from them. Speak positively about the mistakes and struggles, and this will show students that taking risks and making mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. Explain to their children that trying hard things is what helps us grow, and you can’t be perfect when you try something hard!
Researchers have learned about mindsets that help students reach their full potential into accessible information and practical recommendations for teachers and parents.(www.mindsetkit.org)
After the presentation, parents and students enjoyed making pizza and door prizes donated by local businesses and PTO.
By: Marguerite Andrews, CABOCES Professional Development
“I wanted my students to feel more relaxed and comfortable while they were working on tasks in my classroom.” These words were spoken by Hinsdale 3rd Grade teacher Christine Goodling when asked about the recent transformation that has occurred in her classroom involving new seating choices and a more flexible furniture arrangement. Mrs. Goodling continued, “I wanted to create a classroom that was more visually welcoming and engaging, while promoting more collaboration and freedom for the students to work anywhere they pleased.”
This might not sound groundbreaking, but there has been an influx of recent research centered around learning space design and school classrooms. Beyond just making classrooms look appealing or eye-catching, educators around the world have started looking holistically at how schools, classrooms, and other learning spaces can be transformed for optimal student engagement. A well-designed and thought out classroom space can provide care for students and teachers alike. These spaces can alleviate outside stressors on students and allow them to focus on learning, while other spaces can be arranged to promote collaboration, creativity, or places for quiet, pensive thinking.
Using the book, The Space: A Guide for Educators by Rebecca Louise Hare and Dr. Robert Dillon, Mrs. Goodling and I set about on our journey to transform her classroom into something more learning-centered and student-friendly. We started with a few guiding questions:
First, we identified a variety of seating options for each space we were going to create using wobble stools, exercise balls, camping and gaming chairs, as well as keeping a few traditional chairs in the room should a student still prefer one of those to use. We next identified what we thought each space in the room should be and removed items that were a hindrance to creating an open, flowing, and flexible arrangement in the classroom furniture. Around the room, places for students to work were created on flat surfaces by applying whiteboard surface film to areas like columns between windows, on the front of the teacher’s desk, and on the sides of carts and other furniture around the room. A few tables were brought in and replaced student desks, while pillows and beanbag chairs were added to the reading carpet area for comfort.
To make these changes more meaningful and lasting, the final step in the first phase of our classroom transformation process was to sit with the students and review all of the new areas, seating choices, and classroom arrangement opportunities there were now. The students worked as a class to identify names for each station, like the Chat Café. They also collaborated to come up with expectations and norms regarding what was acceptable at each location around the room, and this helped to foster a sense of involvement and ownership in these new classroom spaces. The students have welcomed this change, saying that the new arrangements and options make them feel “more comfortable,” “able to focus on our work better,” and “gives us choices for where to work and how to work around the room.”
By Ryan McGinnis, CA BOCES Professional Development
Do you think communication is an important skill? I’m sure you immediately answered, YES, It sure is! Students in Mr. Donald Griffing’s Chemistry class found this out, first hand. Here is the backstory as to how this all happened. I experienced this activity at my professional development retreat at the beginning of January, and thought it would be a great way for the CRCS staff to experience the importance of communication. So, during the high school’s faculty meeting, Cuba-Rushford teachers and staff went through the same activity. Mr. Griffing found the communication exercise so valuable, he wanted to repeat the activity with his Chemistry classes. He hoped the students could see the importance of specific directions, and common vocabulary. He thought this would be a great way to remind them about being careful and clear in their lab reports, specifically with their data tables.
The entire class was given a chance to become familiar with two of the six objects the activity called for, before the activity started. The class had to come up with common terms to call each item. This would help with visualization and familiarity while building the items in the activity. Students were placed into groups of four. To set the stage for the activity, two students volunteered to be blindfolded and then were given a task to complete, while blindfolded. One of the students was given an object, already put together. This student was the “direction giver”. He or she was then asked to describe to the other blindfolded student how to put this object together…the problem was, this student’s object was in six pieces. The student responsible for building the object, was called the “direction receiver”. The other students were observers, and were instructed to only watch the activity. They were not allowed to help. They would be sharing their observations after the activity was completed.
This was not an easy task! It became very clear to all students how crucial specific vocabulary, as well as specific directions, were to complete this activity. There was a lot of explaining, questioning, and re-explaining during the exercise. Once the duo thought they were done, they raised their hands for their constructed objects to be checked for accuracy. The students worked diligently on getting their objects built. It was very difficult for some, and to others it felt impossible. The great thing is, NO ONE GAVE UP! They persevered through it all. The conversations afterward were interesting to hear, as the perspectives of the observers were heard, as well as the challenges the receiver and the giver faced.
By: Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development
High School ELA students in Jessica Brassard-Moore’s ELA class in Cattaraugus-Little Valley decided that they would use it to solve problems. After reading Bram Stroker’s “Dracula” the students determined a character as their custome and used the engineering design process to create a solution for that customer. Most of the students chose Van Helsing as their customer and designed products that would help him defeat Dracula.
The students individually brainstormed solutions and then worked on designing. The used a free 3d modelling website called Tinkercad (https://www.tinkercad.com/) to design their projects. Some students were given a quick tutorial, but soon became experts in the program sharing their newfound 3d design skills with each other. When students finished designing their projects, they were able to 3d print an actual product and “pitch” the products to their teacher and classmates.
The lesson idea originated form the website http://www.novelengineering.org/. In a Novel Engineering lesson: “Students use existing classroom literature – stories, novels, and expository texts – as the basis for engineering design challenges that help them identify problems, design realistic solutions, and engage in the Engineering Design Process while reinforcing their literacy skills”. Novel Engineering can be used for many different types of literature and across all grade levels. This is a great way to integrate STEM/STEAM lessons and the engineering design process into ELA classrooms. They provide many examples on their website
These students used a 3d printer but any materials for making or designing could be used to develop a solution.
By: Rob Miller, CA BOCES Professional Development
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
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
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
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 email@example.com.
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
K-12 English teachers from the Cattaraugus-Allegany region came together in grade banded Collaborative Learning Communities this October. The Middle and High School ELA CLC has seen many years of successful collaboration and we’re excited that we now have two additional CLCs to support our K-2 and 3-5 teachers. Our K-2 and 3-5 CLC offerings are split into a Math/Science focus and an ELA/SS focus for two sessions apiece this year.
During the first day of the Middle School and High School ELA CLC, facilitated by Brendan Keiser and Sarah Wittmeyer, teachers were able to do a crosswalk between the old Common Core State Standards and the new Next Generation English Language Arts Standards. For a few hours, teachers poured over the changes that have been made to the standards as well as delved into conversations about how to implement them in their classrooms. The day continued with learning and sharing new technology tools to use for instruction and vocabulary strategies to implement with students.
The Elementary CLCs, K-2 facilitated by Tessa Levitt and Marguerite Andrews and 3-5 facilitated by Tessa Levitt and Sarah Wittmeyer, provided teachers with an opportunity for focused professional development in ELA and Social Studies. During the first of two ELA/SS sessions, the K-2 and 3-5 CLCs delved into the Introduction to the Next Generation English Language Arts Standards and discussed the changes in the standards. The rest of each day was spent analyzing regional and district data trends and collaborating with colleagues to learn about and share strategies to support priority standards.
We look forward to future sessions of our CLCs. It is wonderful to see teachers from around the region in one room learning with and from each other.
By: Sarah Wittmeyer, CABOCES Professional Development
Creative Professional Development turns into Collaborative Life-long Learning, Innovative Curriculum, and a Regional Annual Film Festival
This summer I played, and I learned simultaneously. I had the opportunity to attend the Writing with Video: Rural Voices Summer Institute with Dr. Sunshine Sullivan, associate professor of education at Houghton College, and Dr. David Bruce, associate professor of learning and instruction at the State University of New York at Buffalo (University at Buffalo) Graduate School of Education. Under the guidance of Tim Clarke, Senior Program Manager for Professional Development at Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES, this summer institute was presented to area teachers throughout Cattaraugus and Allegany counties for two consecutive summer sessions.
During the week-long institute, I worked alongside many other English teachers including Lacey Gardner (Whitesville), Michelle Grillo (Cuba-Rushford), Brendan Heaney (Fillmore), Michelle McGraw (Cuba-Rushford), Micah Rust (Fillmore), Suzan Snyder (Allegany-Limestone), Stephen Sorensen (Olean), Louis Ventura (Olean), and Sally Ventura (Olean). We collaborated, learned to use digital media on the fly with guidance from Dr. David Bruce and Dr. Sunshine Sullivan, and then created our own projects including narrative sequences, “Me in Six Words/Images,” video vocab, multi-genre e-publications, and “This I Believe” digital essays. These projects became model projects for our students when we incorporated similar projects into our curriculum. These models would help students use media alongside written reflections and heuristics to present their understanding of content and concepts.
The whole week was one of the most rewarding, challenging, and engaging professional development opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend – and it was difficult work. As Sally Ventura, a teacher at Olean High School said, "Rural Voices has been such an energizing experience! It has been as fun as it has been challenging. It has been a pleasure working with smart, creative colleagues in the area.”
The days at the institutes were packed and I was always surprised that it was time to go home. The amazing thing was that I didn’t stop learning and thinking when I walked out the door. Instead, I continued ruminating on the drive home. I tinkered with ideas at home. I filmed at home. I reworked difficult pieces. I researched. The entire week, from the moment that I woke up until I went to sleep, was spent planning, collaborating, developing, creating, and reflecting – exactly the kind of experience I want for my students. As Brendan Heaney said, “The work being done at the Institute is revolutionary. Teachers will learn how to truly incorporate technology in a way that enhances student literacy and composition skills. If you buy into this and utilize it in the classroom you will see student engagement go through the roof. You will also see some of the best quality work you’ve ever seen from students.”
Out of this experience, a project was born. Brendan Heaney worked tirelessly to help organize the First Annual Southern Tier Film Festival, an event where students from five districts competed for a prize for the best film. All the teachers involved in Rural Visions collaborated to help plan, develop, and contribute to this amazing event. The film festival was advertised regionally through social media, local newspapers, and radio stations.
On the night of the event, parents came to see their children’s work and creativity. Teachers attended to see their student’s efforts. Administrators attended to see the work of their teachers and their students and to have an opportunity to relax and enjoy some great film. It was truly a community event where students showcased their videography skills, thoughtfulness, and ingenuity to a real audience and competed for a chance to bring their school home a traveling trophy.
The film festival showcased thirty student films over the course of three hours with breaks and refreshments offered between each of the hour sessions. The audience voted for their favorite films with one final vote at the end to determine the school winner.
Out of this amazing grass-roots effort, came a multitude of class projects which culminated in an annual film festival. This year’s Southern Tier Annual Film Festival will be held tentatively at Cuba-Rushford toward the end of the school year.
Many of the teachers involved in the summer institute went on to present their learning experience using digital video in their own classrooms at the New York State English Council ( NYSEC) Annual Conference in Albany, NY held in October this year. Projects ranged from research thesis statements to video poems, documentaries, film class projects, and six-word memoirs. Dr. Sullivan remarked, “It was a privilege seeing our teachers present what they are doing in their classrooms as a result of our summer institutes and how well received it was by their audience at NYSEC. Our teachers are becoming teacher leaders in the field in writing with video. We are also looking forward to seeing our teachers attending and presenting at NCTE in St. Louis later this month.”
If you have an interest in entering student work in this year’s Southern Tier Annual Film Festival or attending the festival in preparation for next year, please look out for upcoming announcements at your school district or contact Christina McGee at firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 376-8281.
If you would like to learn more about the Writing with Video: Rural Voices Summer Institute, please contact Tim Clarke at 716-376-8321 or email@example.com.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
It was “that time of year again”, for our 6-8 Middle School Math CLCs to meet as a collaborative learning community. It’s a great opportunity for teacher in the C-A region to come to learn, discuss, and collaborate ideas for classroom implementation. On October 4th, teachers came to The Barn Training Room to attend the second of three meetings. The day started off with some learning focused around the mathematical practices, and how teachers can implement them in their planning and preparation for the classroom. The next part of the day focused around the review of the newly adopted, Next Generation Math Standards. Teachers were given an overview of the changes from kindergarten through high school, and how the changes would look in each grade level. Teachers had rich and thoughtful discussions surrounding the implementation of the new standards by the school year 2020-2021. Another portion of the day was used to look at the activities the PD team brought back from Albany, including learning through Algebra Tiles. The day was rounded out by digging deep into NYS test data for the 6-8 math assessments, as well as looking at released test questions, and planning instruction for units with colleagues at the CLC.
By: Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development; Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources; and Ryan McGinnis, CA BOCES Professional Development
When students and teachers are browsing Jody Thiel's library in West Valley School, they can expect an interactive experience to learn about her students' favorite books. Visitors can point their phones or tablets at the book Pig Pug by Aaron Blabely and a student video will "pop up" to give viewers a summary of the book. You can virtually explore 20 different books in her library.
West Valley students in third grade created "Augmented Reality" book reviews of books they recently finished reading. The students created props in the Library Makerspace to use on their summaries. To prepare for the video recording, students read their books and wrote a review that included the book's authors, the setting, the storyline and their favorite parts of the book. Some students listed similar books that piqued the interest of others.
Augmented reality is putting a computer-generated layer in a real-world environment. The layer is not seen by the user until they view it through the lens of an augmented reality viewer on a phone or camera. The students used the cover of the books as "targets" and placed a video of their summary on the cover.
The videos were recorded on iPads. We then used an app called Aurasma (https://www.aurasma.com/) to put a new video layer on the books. When a patron or another student in the library has the Aurasma app, they can point their tablets or phones at the books to view the student created videos.
By: Rob Miller, CA BOCES Professional Development
This summer, I had the opportunity to attend a powerful three-day learning experience, facilitated by Solution Tree, which focused on the essential elements and practices of effective professional learning communities (PLC’s). In the context of education, the idea of utilizing PLC’s and the power of collective teacher efficacy is not a new concept. But, just how powerful is the correlation between teacher collaboration and improving student learning outcomes? John Hattie, the author of Visible Learning, conducts meta analyses, which evaluates multiple research based studies surrounding a specific instructional practice or strategy, as well as well as school, home, and teacher based influences that impact student achievement, in order to identify the effect size or impact that strategy has on student learning. To put it simply, an effect size of .2 indicates below average gains, .4 indicates average gains, and anything above .6 correlates with a significant effect on student learning outcomes. With an effect size of 1.57, collective teacher efficacy is ranked as the number one factor influencing student achievement (Hattie, 2016).
Most districts effectively utilize several of the essential elements of professional learning communities such as: peer coaching, data analysis meetings, and creating opportunities for teams to meet during common planning time. During the institute, one of the speakers, Eric Twaedell, Superintendent of Adlai Stevenson High School, challenged participants to reflect on the three big ideas of PLC’s:
In addition to the three big ideas in PLC’s, it is imperative for educators to reflect on the four critical questions surrounding effective professional learning communities:
A key take away from this institute was the importance of focusing on an organizational mindset committed to continuous improvement. When goals are met or surpassed, new goals geared toward improving student achievement and learning outcomes are set and plans for reaching them are collaboratively developed. Reflect. Plan. Keep moving forward. That’s how we move from good to great.
By: Colleen Root, CA BOCES Professional Development
Teachers, administrators, staff, and parents at Allegany-Limestone Elementary School have worked together to form a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee (BPCC). On September 20th and 22nd, committee members participated in a two day Olweus Reboot. Staff members learned about bullying, identifying roles people play in bullying situations, and prevention and intervention strategies to create a safe and welcoming school climate.
OBPP is used at the school, classroom, and individual levels and includes methods to reach out to parents and the community for involvement and support. OBPP is not a curriculum, but a program that involves a holistic approach.
School administrators, teachers, and other staff are primarily responsible for introducing and implementing the program. These efforts are designed to improve peer relations and make the school a safer and more positive place for students to learn and develop.
The goals of the program are:
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has received recognition from a number of organizations and researchers committed to preventing school violence. OBPP has been named a Blueprints Promising Program by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and was highlighted in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Policy Statement: Role of the Pediatrician in Youth Violence Prevention.
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program’s Coordinating Committee at Allegany-Limestone is excited to turn-key training to all staff members and plan for the 4th year of implementation in the elementary building. Currently, ALES utilizes the following school anti-bullying rules:
The OBPCC will be embedding Olweus training in faculty meetings, student assemblies, parent nights, and much more!
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
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