Can you feel it? Winter break is fastly approaching. For many, this break is a time of a much needed and well-deserved rest. For others, winter break, like the several other breaks from school, is a time that causes stress because school is the safest home they know. The differences between these two feelings remind us of the importance of cultivating the social and emotional well-being in addition to fostering academic growth in public education.
In addition to the social and emotional well-being of students, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) has also recognized the importance of mental health education. Proposed in January of 2018, the continuum of well-being for mental health literacy was formally adopted by the Board of Regents in May of 2018. The NYSED Mental Health webpage nicely reminds us “research has shown that the quality of the school climate may be the single most predictive factor in any school’s capacity to promote student achievement. When young people are educated about mental health, the likelihood increases they will be able to effectively recognize signs and symptoms in themselves and others and will know where to turn for help. Health education that respects the importance of mental health, as well as the challenges of mental illness, will help young people and their families and communities feel more comfortable seeking help, improve academic performance and, most importantly, even save lives.” Some school districts have gotten creative in their approach to positively improve their culture and climate.
I recently walked into Cuba-Rushford Central School’s Middle/High School building and was delighted to see Lupo, pictured above, a 15-week old, male Bouvier des Flandres; the Bouvier des Flandres breed is loyal, gentle, and hypoallergenic, typically living 10 to 12 years growing upwards of 100 pounds. As I watched Lupo, he brought smiles to nearly all who passed him by, and he received welcoming embraces from both students and adults. Naturally, like most, I needed to learn more about Lupo’s role at CRCS.
Whose dog is Lupo? Lupo belongs to Chris Cappelletti, and is, ultimately, his responsibility throughout the day. However, Chris let me know that both getting Lupo into CRCS and taking care of him throughout the day wouldn’t be possible without the encouragement and assistance of the CRCS faculty and administration, particularly Nicole Williams and Sally Kus.
Why is Lupo at CRCS? Several events took place that allowed for Lupo to be welcomed at CRCS. After many weeks of researching the benefits of a therapy dog, the idea was presented to CRCS superintendent, Carlos Gildemeister. Then, after discussing the idea and the research, Carlos gave his full support knowing that the benefits of a therapy dog far outweigh the costs.
Who takes care of Lupo at night? Lupo belongs to Chris. This means that Chris is responsible for taking care of Lupo before and after school. Furthermore, Chris is responsible for having Lupo trained as a therapy dog; this means Lupo needs to pass a temperament test, complete obedience school, and undergo therapy dog training, each with an associated fee. The big goal for Lupo, once he completes all of his training, is for him to pass the American Kennel Club (AKC) Therapy Dog Test.
Has Lupo made an impact in his first 15 weeks at CRCS? “I’ve seen a huge difference!” Chris told me. “I’ve seen more smiling faces, more communication with children and adults, and increased empathy. Students worry if Lupo has eaten enough, and regularly ask to take him on walks so Lupo can go to the bathroom outside.” Nicole added “that socially he has created a bridge for students that normally would not hang out or speak to each other. For instance, two girls in particular that do not hang out, quickly and without any awkwardness, started talking while they were petting Lupo.”
What else do I need to know if I wanted get a therapy dog in my school district? In short, you need research, support, and commitment; research to identify which type of dog will be the suitable, support from administration and the dog’s owner, and a commitment both financially and mentally to the lifestyle of raising a therapy dog.
Prior to researching which type of dog would be purchased, Chris, Nicole, and Sally explored what the research showed regarding the benefits of having a therapy dog. Then, with a plan and the research to support it, Chris, Nicole and Sally received approval from their administration after several discussions. Lastly, perhaps the most challenging aspect of owning a therapy dog, each member of this small team must be committed to not only caring for this support animal, but they must also be committed to doing so consistently.
Do the benefits outweigh the costs? For the sake of clarity, there are several costs associated with owning a therapy dog. Not only does someone need to pay for the dog itself, its food, shelter, training, etc., but there are also physical and emotional costs such as training the animal early in the morning and throughout the day until the evening hours, caring for the animal in addition to normal expectations at home and at work, and determining whether the animal truly is having a meaningful impact.
For some, these costs constitute burdens that are far too great, and for others the benefits far outweigh the costs. Based on the few days I have seen Lupo in action, I would argue he his performing his duties well. Based on the several weeks Lupo has been at CRCS, Lupo’s caretakers would also argue that Lupo is worth the cost. More time may be required for a concrete measure of Lupo’s impact, but perhaps time has already shown just how valuable this dog can be.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Last year, Mark Beckwith and Sarah Wittmeyer collaborated on a project to create an online database of every test question that has been assessed on the 3-8 ELA and Math state assessments in the last few years. This database, the NYS Assessment Item Notebook, allows teachers to easily click a standard that has been assessed, which in turn generates a list of every released question that is connected to that standard. The Notebook is tremendously helpful because it contains all of this public information in one place, rather than having to open a myriad of PDFs.
Districts in our region have been using this tool in numerous ways. At Cuba-Rushford, middle school ELA teachers have been analyzing the question stems to notice patterns in how standards are being assessed. For example, teachers noted that many questions reference specific paragraphs, such as “How do paragraphs 3 and 4 contribute to the story?” By mirroring their own questions to students in this format, students will be more familiar with the structure of the state exam. Additionally, analyzing question stems can uncover vocabulary that students may need to help them succeed. For example, if students don’t understand what is meant by “contribute”, they may struggle right at the beginning of attempting to answer the question.
In Fillmore, middle school ELA teachers have created a mid-year benchmark assessment using the Assessment Item Notebook. Teachers reviewed their data to determine standards that are commonly assessed. Then they selected two passages and ten multiple choice questions to assess students with in January. The benefit to using these questions is that it will give them an indication of how students will perform against the rigor of the state assessment. Also, because they know which questions are connected to which standards, data analysis is easier and can offer areas for them to focus on before the state assessments.
If your district would like support in using the NYS Assessment Items Notebook to guide data analysis and instruction, please reach out to our team!
By: Brendan Keiser, CA BOCES Professional Development
Imagine, if you can, a world where teachers are given choice in their professional development, where they lead their own research and collaborate with others to hone their craft. You wouldn’t have to imagine too much if you are familiar with the Collaborative Research and Development Professional Development instituted by the administrative team at the Wellsville Secondary School of Mary Ellen O’Connell (Secondary Principal), Jason Mank (Assistant Principal) and Rick Bull (Assistant Principal).
After some initial planning and collaboration by the administrative team, Mary Ellen contacted me with the idea and from there we created a Moodle course on Poverty around Poor Students, Rich Teaching by Eric Jensen, a FlipGrid component (thanks to Mark Beckwith for this idea and support) for reflection and as an instructional classroom tool. The team’s vision was to create opportunities for teachers to select to collaborate with others in their building around their four main initiatives for the year poverty, assessment, PBL and positive relationships with students and families.
Teachers may be researching and collaborating around something they saw at a BOCES workshop, or a conference or that they read about and want to dig into deeper. Mary Ellen created the opportunity for that research to happen for them by replacing three faculty meetings with three hours of collaborative research and development with a requirement to use FlipGrid to share their learning and reflect on their practice. Teachers have four checkpoints (30-60 second videos) along the way where they get to share their learning and how they apply new knowledge their classroom practice.
To date, the administrative team has seen an increase in general collaboration among colleagues, an increase in FlipGrid use as an instructional tool by teachers in their classrooms and a deeper dive by teachers into areas of interest based on instruction or content. Mary Ellen stated “The engagement and interaction on FlipGrid has been unbelievable! We have only completed two of the four “checkpoints” and already my faculty has accumulated 3,500 views and over 21 hours of time online learning from each other’s research. It is clear they enjoy learning from each other’s experiences and research. I’m also very sure they love not attending traditional faculty meetings and they are having fun with the flipGrid format.”
If you had a chance to read the ASCD Educational Leadership journal When Teachers Lead their Own Learning in November 2018 you can note some of the same elements (choice, flexibility, personalization) from those articles in the work that the administrative team from the Wellsville Secondary School has created for their building. Change can be good!
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
In September, several members of the CA BOCES ISS team had the opportunity to attend the Staff/Curriculum Development Network conference with Larry Ainsworth, educational expert on standards and formative assessment. It was an intensive day of exploring curriculum development through prioritizing standards. Members of the team worked with other Curriculum Coordinators from across the state in Math, Science, ELA, and Social Studies to examine the standards, learning how to prioritize, and the implications such work has on curriculum and assessment.
Because each discipline has dozens of standards, Larry Ainsworth argues that to develop curriculum, prioritizing the standards is a critical step in the process. Throughout the work we did, Larry made sure to say that just because some standards are prioritized, it does not mean the other standards do not matter. We worked with an analogy of a fence, seeing prioritized standards as posts and supporting standards as rails. Seeing standards in this light can help teachers determine what to elevate in instruction, and what standards are foundational to building other skills.
In his book, Rigorous Curriculum Design, criteria is established for looking at each standard to determine whether it should be prioritized. There are four lenses to examine each standard through: Readiness, Endurance, Leverage, and External Exams. Readiness represents how the standard prepares students for next level learning. Endurance of a standard determines whether it’s a concept or skill that lasts over time. Leverage of a standard means that it has interdisciplinary connections. Finally, standards should be looked at through how they are assessed on external exams.
Due to the size of the group and the multiple different disciplines we were working with, we examined the standards through for readiness, endurance, and leverage. In small groups, teams reviewed standards at a particular grade level through the lenses, trying to establish a list of standards that should be prioritized. The conversations were fantastic and allowed for in-depth discussion on not only the standard, but the implementation of the standard in the classroom.
Because of the depth of analysis of the standards, Brendan Keiser and Sarah Wittmeyer facilitated the prioritization process with the Middle School/High School English Language Arts CLC in October. Teachers were divided by grade level bands, and in small groups looked at the standards through the first three lenses.
After the standards were reviewed through those lenses, we added in the data from the 6-8 ELA State Tests and the English Regents Exam regarding the most frequently assessed standards. This allowed for another layer and added in-depth discussion on what standards should be prioritized.
The purpose of the activity with the CLC was not to give teachers a list of standards to prioritize in their curriculum, but rather to give teachers a protocol by which to examine the standards. The process included discussions on unpacking the language, understanding what the standard looks like in the classroom, and the importance of the standard at the particular grade level. Teachers walked away with the ability to replicate the process in district, but also a more comprehensive understanding of the Next Generation English Language Arts Standards.
By: Sarah Wittmeyer, CA BOCES Professional Development
Ms. Pelligrino’s 7th and 8yh grade students are bringing literature to life by creating virtual reality reenactments of their favorite scenes. Virtual Reality is a 3d generated image or video that makes users feel like they are actually inside that environment. Users can view virtual reality through the use of head mounted viewers (Google™ Cardboard).
For this lesson the students chose a scene from a book they are reading or recently read. The students chose a part of the book that they wanted to share with other people. After choosing the scene the students examines the visual elements in the story, the character’s interactions with the environment and the critical elements. After noting these the students got to work creating their virtual worlds.
We used a free website called cospace.io. The students got a quick tutorial in the software and quickly created. The students were able to build the scene and use computer code to create interactions. Dialogue for the characters was created using thought bubbles.
Creating Virtual and Augmented Reality could be easy for students. Here are a couple free resources teachers and students and teachers could use to create content:
By: Rob Miller, CA BOCES Professional Development
What would your ideal classroom look like? Sound like? Is it a place where there are minimal distractions, students are respectfully collaborating and engaged with each other, sharing ideas, and learning is taking place? Have you ever seen a classroom where students respect each other and their teacher, positively comment on and support each other’s opinions, are eager to learn, motivated, determined to do their best, and excited to try new things? Does this classroom even exist?
It does! Though it’s not easy and requires a lot of work on the teacher’s part. If the commitment is made and the plan is meticulously carried through, this could be your classroom. Many teachers say that they don’t have the time to establish this sort of classroom. It’s easy to see why, with so many things expected of teachers including curriculum to cover, tests to prepare for, and required extracurricular activities.
However, in order for student learning to be optimal, effective classroom management is a must! In spite of the time commitment, research overwhelmingly shows that teachers that invest in their classroom management techniques have fewer discipline issues and increased learning occurs. Don’t worry about losing a little time at the beginning of the school year since with effective classroom management practices in place, you will get that time back plus some throughout the rest of the school year! Effective classroom management is a TIME SAVER not a time killer.
Wait, didn’t John Hattie’s meta-analysis research in Visible Learning state that classroom management has an effective size of 0.35? If you are unfamiliar with Hattie’s work, the primary basis is that teacher practices with an effective size over 0.40 are the ones that have the most positive influence on student learning. So why is classroom management so important then?
Successful classroom management practices are the foundation leading to more effective student learning. These practices lead to better classroom discussions, higher self-efficacy and effort amongst students, more time on task, and more. Research continually proves that classroom management leads to a more effective classroom experience for students.
The classroom described in the opening of this article may seem far-fetched but it is completely attainable. It is also never too late to try and implement in your classroom. Start today if you haven’t established a classroom you are happy with. Furthermore, if you would like to hear more about the research behind successful classroom management practices and how to obtain a similar classroom yourself, consider joining Patty Rhinehart and myself in an upcoming workshop on the topic. No dates have been confirmed yet but stay tuned, they are coming! In the meantime, here are some quick DO’s and DON’Ts of successful classroom management practices to tide you over.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
It is my belief that students do well when they can, not simply when they want to. Furthermore, students learn best when their physical, mental and emotional needs are met. This type of scenario is ideal for schools, but it is not the reality. What does it look like when a student’s needs are not met? Avoidance, distraction, disengagement, defiance, disrespect, aggression, truancy, anger and the list goes on. Educators have seen the impact of unmet student needs within their classrooms and report, that the impact is greater than ever.
The rural landscape of the Cattaraugus-Allegany Region presents a unique set of barriers that increase the complexity of existing systemic barriers for school districts, educators, students, families and communities when it comes to ensuring that all students have access to necessary resources. Despite the pressure, barriers and growing scope of student needs, is it possible to create conditions that enable every child to succeed?
Not only is it possible to create such conditions, it is necessary. This school year, with the help of 17 of our component school districts, Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES has begun the work of building the brand new Community Schools CoSer within their Instructional Support Services Division. The community schools strategy, is an exceptional, evidence-based school improvement tool that enables schools to create supportive conditions for students by sustaining an integrated focus on student support services, expanded learning opportunities, family and community engagement and collaborative leadership.
Each community school is unique and defined based upon needs and assets specific to the respective local context and community. Therefore, the Community Schools CoSer will also be unique as it grows and develops to fit the needs within the local context of our rural, regional area. In an effort to influence the region in a meaningful way, we are working collaboratively to complete a thorough assessment of needs and assets, at the district level, as well as at the regional level.
Simultaneously, while working directly with school leaders within each district, there have been ongoing opportunities to meet directly with community partners that provide supports and services to students and families. The Community Schools CoSer hosted the first Service Showcase in September, bringing community partners and school leaders together to learn about specific services available to districts. School leaders were provided more information about school based dental care, substance abuse prevention curriculum and a mentoring program. As a result, six additional districts have school-based dental services available to students and four additional districts have begun preparing to implement a mentoring program for students.
Students do well when they can. Period. Through continued collaborative work and problem solving, our region can provide all students with equitable access to resources that allow them to exceed our highest expectations.
By: Kathryn Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
On October 19th, 2018, Cuba-Rushford staff welcomed Mollie Lapi, behavioral specialist from C-A BOCES. Mollie presented the staff with an overview of brain research on trauma, how the brain works after a student experiences a traumatic event, and trauma informed interventions A brief overview of the biology of the brain and how it reacts to trauma was addressed. “This “fight or flight” response is a natural response to stress”, she said. Mollie also addressed Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as A.C.E.S. (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can dramatically affect the quality of health and wellness. Trauma is toxic to the body, and we can do something about it.
Mollie, then talked about strategies to help support the students. She said, “Educators can make a difference; believe your students can grow, change, and succeed? The common denominator could be YOU! Help promote resiliency within your classroom.” Mollie also talked about the “sweet spot”, which means being able to provide emotional nurturance and still expect our students to perform and own, but not judge, their shortcomings. It is a PROCESS. There has to be a balance between availability and accountability with the students.
The staff was also challenged to make sure to take care of themselves. Mollie stated, “it is so important for the adults working with any students to make sure to manage their own stress. Health, and wellness are not to be forgotten, especially to help regulate the body and mind.” The morning was filled with fantastic learning, and the staff was thankful for Mollie’s presentation.
By: Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development
As Pre-kindergarten-2nd grade teachers start the 2018-19 School Year they took a moment to focus on the importance of learning through play and movement. 66 educators from across the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES Region attended a professional development opportunity with Lisa Murphy, M.Ed., an Early Childhood Specialist. Lisa Murphy has been involved in early childhood education for over 20 years, teaching and learning with young children. She is the founder and CEO of Ooey Gooey, Inc., and is a nationally recognized presenter and keynote speaker. Lisa’s topics for the workshop sessions included:
What if Today Was Their Only Day? (Keynote)
In this motivational keynote address Lisa shared the powerful story of her first day of school. Through active and engaging storytelling Lisa brought participants back to her first day, taking you on a grand tour of Miss Mary’s Nursery School. And, in the style she has become famous for, she shared many observations, lessons and anecdotes about how early childhood has changed along the way. Lisa shared the sights sounds and smells of the place where, at the young age of three, she decided to become a teacher and identified the how, and why, that one day solidified her decision to become an educator. This inspiring keynote encouraged participants to get back in touch with their personal how and why.
Identifying and Creating Child Centered Environments
This session provided an in-depth exploration of the 9 points within the framework of Lisa Murphy’s approach to working with children. Via interactive lecture, true-to-life examples, anecdotes and her signature “learning and laughing” style, this session presented what it really means to be a hands-on, play-based, child-centered program. Lisa stated that “Environments that encourage play are environments that are preparing children for kindergarten, future elementary school academics, and a love of life long learning. This foundation then supports the house of higher learning.” Educators must create, move, sing, discuss, observe, read and play with children through daily interactions.
The Importance of Early Experiences: How play IS Kindergarten Readiness!
During this session Lisa identified the seven things we need to do with children each day. These seven things make up the foundation that supports the house of higher learning. There is nothing wrong with the “academic” expectations within this house: reading, writing, math… the trouble is that many early childhood educators are being pressured to build a house where there is no foundation. Lisa stated, “And you do not need to be an architect to know that if you build where there is no foundation, the house will come crashing down!” Playing is “getting them ready” and through an investigation of each of the “seven things,” Lisa showed us how.
Lisa concluded the workshop with encouraging educators across the region to create a 10-day challenge for themselves. She encouraged educators to identify a workshop takeaway after 10 days that they are still thinking about and use that as their baby step for creating engaging experiences in the classroom!
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
A truly successful schooling experience for students starts with a healthy and supportive school climate. Above all else, when students know they are cared for, they can truly focus on their educational experience and learning all that they can. Two staff developers and over thirty teachers and administrators from around the region took it upon themselves to collaborate and discuss ways to make positive changes to their school climates to better the learning experience of our students!
In late spring, Tessa Levitt and I had an idea to do a professional book study around a book we were both highly interested in ourselves, Lead with Culture, from author and Principal Jay Billy. This book is one of the Dave Burgess Publishing Company’s titles, made famous from the Like A Pirate series of books. We discussed different methods for how we wanted to approach this book study, and we both knew we wanted to try something “unconventional” in the sense of our current professional development opportunities.
We eventually decided that with it being summer and all, we wanted any participation to be completely voluntary from those interested in the book study. We also wanted to harness the power of the summer, and conduct the book study from an online platform, where participants wouldn’t need to physically be all in the same place to share ideas, discuss topics, and raise their questions to one another. In the end, we created a Facebook group, #BOCESLeads Summer Book Study, and anyone that expressed interest in participating in the book study was invited to join the group.
We met in person once, at the beginning of the book study, to distribute copies of the book to the participants, and to outline the dates and the layout of the Facebook page itself: We would meet online, from 8:00-9:00 on the Facebook page, Tessa and I would post questions from a few chapters at a time, and they could respond and share ideas and questions with one another, with Tessa and I there to help moderate and facilitate discussions.
The support and discussion from the participants were highly overwhelming! The amount of ideas shared and questions posited to one another were powerful, and really made this an interesting and unique experience for professional growth. The response from the participants was also noteworthy, as they liked being able to chime in from wherever they were at the time, and if they missed the discussion window, they could still go to the Facebook page and comment or discuss between the arranged question-posting days. The flexibility and freedom were lauded from those who took part!
Once the book was completed, we were excited to commence upon the final aspect of the book study: a live chat hosted on Zoom with author Jay Billy! Participants were able to take part in an online discussion forum with Jay himself, who answered their questions, shared advice, and helped spur more creative ideas for those who were able to join in. The session was also recorded and posted on the Facebook group page for those who were unable to make the meeting, so they could view it at a later time.
Overall, this experience was a phenomenal new approach to combating some logistical issues that we all experience: wanting to take part in something, but time and location not cooperating to allow it to happen. The discussion was rich and powerful, and multiple great ideas were shared and collaborated upon throughout the course of studying this excellent book. One of the most impactful results from this book study? The request to keep the discussion going over the course of this school year through the online group page and with regularly scheduled meet-ups for those that can attend, bringing that flexibility and freedom even further into the process. We look forward to continue documenting the journey of the region in regards to building and supporting the students of our schools through a positive and caring school climate and culture. When all else fails, lead with culture!
By: Ryan McGinnis, CA BOCES Professional Development
What if instead of going to math class, English class, or science class, students went to school? Would they be able to say things like “I don’t like math” if they were unable to differentiate between math class and history class? While this idea may seem like an impossibility, a team of 8th grade teachers at Genesee Valley Central School hopes to make this vision a reality.
On paper, Mark Levine, Kelley McGinnis, and Donna Slawson can be identified as a technology, English, and history teacher, respectively, but in reality, innovator, risk-taker, and enthusiast would be more appropriate. This team of 8th grade teachers, in conjunction with Chris Gyr and Lindsay Simpson, technology integrators at GVCS, has implemented an interdisciplinary teaching and learning model, referred to as STEAM 8, with a focus on increased student learning by reevaluating time and relevance.
Buying Back Time
Possibly the most important concern for educators, time structures were re-examined. Hypothetically, if all 8th grade students, for instance, have either 1st period technology, 2nd period ELA, or 3rd period history, do they all need, say, 40 minutes of each period? What about the students who need 10 minutes for a quiz and others 20 and others still 40? How can we effectively ensure all students are productively and continually meeting learning targets at all times? With their new learning model, the teachers at GVCS decided to embrace these challenges.
By eliminating the “I have 40 minutes to teach ____” barrier, teachers recognized they now have 120 minutes to teach everything for the three content areas. Now, the students’ learning needs drive how time is allocated. For example, the 15 minute science lesson just allowed 25 more minutes to have a more meaningful, in-depth round-table discussion of the Battle of Gettysburg. Another option is to redistribute time as shown in the weekly schedule below in which students were teamed in group A, B, or C.
Why Do I Need This?
Beyond better use of time, STEAM 8 teachers have built greater connections between and stronger relevance in the curricula. For example, the first unit of instruction of the year for this team of teachers covers the Civil War. Consequently, Mr. Levine, Ms. McGinnis, and Mrs. Slawson use the Civil War as a means of meeting all learning targets. This approach as allowed students to review the Civil War holistically while simultaneously learning how to research, write, solve algebraic problems, and so much more; and although STEAM 8 isn’t comprised of your typical “STEM” teachers, they are undoubtedly addressing each strand of STEAM education.
Pine Grove Middle School
STEAM 8 is, in part, a product of the work with GVCS and Jason Fahy, middle school science teacher at Pine Grove Middle School. Jason was able to experience, first-hand, how changing both the physical environment and the instructional approach can heavily impact student learning. However, one glaring difference worth noting between East Syracuse Minoa Central School District and Genesee Valley Central School District is the focus on physical environment. ESMCSD was able to vastly change the manner in which learning took place due to its extensive structural changes; GVCS has made similar instructional changes while making minimal changes to the physical building.
Do not underestimate the importance of this difference. Often times we allow ourselves to get discouraged in thinking “I don’t have enough space,” or “we don’t have the right technology to do that.” Yes, GVCS did repurpose some of its space and has updated that environment, but as any successful educator can attest, good pedagogy supersedes good stuff.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Simply put, trauma is toxic to the brain as well as the body and learning. There has been vast amount of research conducted on the brain and its function over the last 30 years. In the midst of extreme stress our bodies are forced to respond in a state of heightened alert. When children are exposed to stress, the brain shifts from development to stress response, this can have a lasting effect on LEARNING!
The brain need 9 things to be HEALTHY FOR LEARNING and GROWING!
Based on Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Coordinator for Professional Development
Seventh graders at Randolph Central School were given a unique opportunity to participate in a year end activity that combined the activity of geocaching with the mind puzzles of a BreakoutEDU! Geocaching requires participants to use a hand-held GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) device to follow specific coordinates to an exact location. A BreakoutEDU activity has participants solve a number of clues to unlock several different types of locks as they work to open a box. Seventh grade teacher Erin McLure used combinations of these two different activities to prepare an afternoon of fun to close the year out.
Students were brought to Weeden Park where they were divided into groups of four different colors, and then separated again into smaller groups of five students. Each group was given a hand-held GPS, a writing utensil, and a clue sheet. They were given a set of coordinates and then worked together to enter them into the GPS and work their way to the destination. Once they found the cache, then needed to solve a riddle and figure out their next clue. Various thought provoking prompts were collected by Mrs. McClure from her other seventh grade colleagues to be given to the students. The grade level team also assisted in supervision and carrying out the activity.
Once all the clues and riddles had been solved, and a final Mathematical problem completed, the answer enabled the students to receive a ‘cool’ prize that was a welcome relief from the war summer day. This unique experience was a tremendous way to combine elements of different activities that students had experienced throughout the year in a memorable activity that was enjoyed by all.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
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 email@example.com. 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