As the school year drew to a close, most teachers across NYS would welcome the end of June in a fashion indicative of rest and relaxation, particularly after the tumultuous 2020-2021 academic year. However, the end of June for many teachers in the Salamanca School District was one focused on professional development and personal growth. Various teachers from the Salamanca School District spent the end of June discovering the aspects of personalized and blended learning, delving into their current instruction practices to reflect on their forms of instruction, and designing personalized learning experiences for their grade level and content areas that can be used with their students next school year. This was certainly a contrast to many other educators across the state and a way for them to take a personal approach towards student achievement.
Participating teachers were first led in examining the aspects of personalized, student-centered learning and were introduced to ways in which student choice and personalized learning can be tailored to student interests and needs. They explored ways to create a classroom environment and structure that gives students ownership over their learning, and how to leverage technology in a blended environment to promote student achievement through interests, choice, and adaptation of tasks. They spent time reflecting on current instructional practices, looking for ways to incorporate a blended and personalized approach into their current instructional model, and worked to construct resources aligned to those principles.
Through exploration of the various methods and materials used for instruction and assessment, teachers worked to create resources that would assist their students as they travel down their individualized learning path during the upcoming school year. Depending on grade level, content area, and achievement objectives, teachers would work with various models and methods they had learned about to create a personal learning experience for their students.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
As the timeline for roll-out and implementation of the New York State Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards draws nearer and nearer to the first-year implementation phase, there are several resources that are worth considering to help both staff instruct and students demonstrate proficiency with these standards.
Google Applied Digital Skills
I know, I know. The first section in a Microsoft-themed article dealing with Google seems misleading. This is only one of two non-Microsoft sections, and I saved the other for last. I promise. I felt obligated to open with Google’s resource since it has been available for a little while longer, and more people are familiar with it.
Google Applied Digital Skills provides over 100 lessons for users to access with their EDU or personal Google account(s) ranging from everyday use of products like Docs and Slides to business use developing financial literacy or creating resumés.
Microsoft Digital Literacy
Microsoft Digital Literacy is for anyone with basic reading skills who wants to learn the fundamentals of using digital technologies. Resources can be downloaded in a variety of languages at the bottom of the Microsoft Digital Literacy webpage or they can be accessed by working through the online courses Working with Computers and Devices and Working and Collaborating Online through LinkedIn (no account necessary).
Microsoft Learn is a free, online training platform that provides interactive learning for Microsoft products and more. Microsoft’s goal is to help you become proficient on their technologies and learn more skills with fun, guided, hands-on, interactive content that's specific to your role and goals. Additionally, as students and staff sign in with their Microsoft 365 accounts, they are able to track their progress, collecting experience and bages along the way. (This is similar to the Microsoft Educator Center but contains additional resources and learning pathways for uses beyond the role of an educator.)
Microsoft Imagine Academy
Microsoft Imagine Academy is one of Microsoft’s newer education releases that should have educators, especially those explicitly teaching computer science and digital fluency, very excited. District Microsoft 365 administrators can get the ball rolling when licensing agreements are renewed using the Microsoft Imagine Academy Quick Start site.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Academy
CMU CS Academy is an online, graphics-based computer science curriculum taught in Python provided by Carnegie Mellon University. We create novel, world-class Computer Science education for your classroom —and it’s entirely free. WIthout signing up or creating accounts, students and staff can access CMU CS Academy’s Hour of Code module to get a glimpse of what the coursework resembles through CS Academy.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Although it’s been a trying year for most students and teachers, there have been quite a few interesting activities at Friendship Central School. Here are a few:
Tech Thursday Spotlight Students: Alaric and Gavin Magnani are among the next generation of skilled welders from the BOCES Welding Program. More than that, they are always willing to help others succeed as well. Recently, the brothers have taken Morghyn Ross, under their wings. Morghyn is a 7th grade student who has been working on a welding project in the shop. Alaric and Gavin have been giving Morghyn some pointers to help her become a better welder. Morghyn has been stepping out of her comfort zone to learn new skills. Great job Alaric, Gavin and Morghyn!
As an incentive to be online during remote instruction each of the Middle School and High School student were given duct tape determined by the number of hours they connected via Zoom. The students then had the opportunity to come down in the middle of January to duct tape the principal, Chris Cornwell and the Superintendent, Judy May to the wall. The elementary had a similar incentive to throw snowballs (marshmallows) at certain faculty and admin.
The 4th graders completed their simple machine projects again this year with quite a few interesting machines created for Mrs. Crabb and Mrs. Costello’s class.
Lastly, the Middle School and High School students in Tech class created trebuchet’s where they had a contest to see who could shoot the marshmallow to a target. The students earned points for hitting the board, going through the bigger hole near the bottom and even more for shooting the marshmallow into the smaller hole near the top.
By: Mark Carls, CA BOCES Professional Development
Conversations centered on healing from the Covid-19 pandemic have taken center stage in many educator circles. All learners have had to figure out how to come back together after a lengthy separation. Learning spaces look very different as social distancing measures are practiced. Even though spaces look different, students and teachers are finding ways to create classroom community and bring healing to families through learning.
Finding healing through learning develops resilience and healthy communities. Research shows that humans learn best through times of engagement and times of rest. This holds true for adults and children. This rhythm is also vital for creativity and curiosity. Combining creativity and curiosity through engagement allows children to chase after their dreams of becoming literate. Literate children flourish and create healthy communities.
One example of this can be seen at Friendship Central School. Students, faculty, staff, parents, and community workers engaged in a community reading of the book The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, throughout the month of March 2021. Partnering with Read to Them, the school participated in the One School, One Book program. Children and families created several projects that showed their understanding of the book. Staff frequently participated by reading aloud to students. Middle school students completed project showcases while high school students competed in a door-decorating contest. The excitement throughout the building and the community lifted spirits and opened spaces for unity among the Friendship Community.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
The current school year can be considered anything but traditional and causes some to look forward to a time when things can go back to ‘normal’. Others see the current situation and departure from ‘normal’ as a way to continue personal growth and development regardless of the situation and demonstrate the ability to be innovative and responsive to any situation. One such individual is Andover High School Social Studies teacher Harold Brown. Having lived what some would consider a non-traditional life, Mr. Brown is well prepared to face challenges head on and accomplish the mission of educating his students regardless of the time, place, setting, or circumstances.
The ability to both recognize and respond to present situations is a hallmark of being able to succeed, and Mr. Brown possesses this ability in abundance. Maybe the awareness to positively respond and be dedicated to improvement is the result of the experiences he has had during his life. Growing up in a military family and contributing twenty years of his own life to military service, combined with almost two decades of teaching in both parochial and public schools, have enabled Mr. Brown to understand what it takes to adapt to situations and continue to push towards a clear objective. Regardless of where his experiences have come from, they have equipped him to be prepared for the current state of education today. His continual desire for personal learning and his attendance of multiple professional development opportunities are indicative of the growth mindset and the thirst for knowledge that Mr. Brown possesses and works each day to instill in his students. His teaching style is a true manifestation of his personal belief that one should go into education to enjoy the subject matter and his passion for history is easily recognized and displayed throughout his classroom. His willingness to learn things has been evident this year as he has worked to adapt his instruction in many ways, whether it be incorporating the use of Breakout rooms or using communication and chat platforms to keep his students learning and engaged. No matter the application or format he is, always seeking ways to help his students develop their skills while connecting to the content.
While this year has been anything but typical and has been subjected to so much change and expression of opposing viewpoints on multiple topics, the focus Mr. Brown has on preparing students for achievement and increasing their learning has not changed and remains a constant regardless of instructional model or format. This year may be viewed as a blessing since it has provided so much material and sources that can be examined for reliability, bias, and propaganda and given Mr. Brown the opportunity to be innovative and utilize various technologies to showcase to students the many aspects of the world in which they live. For a social studies teacher there is no better situation and circumstances than those which polarize our society providing opportunities to present students with the chance to learn the most desirable and pursued objective of Mr. Brown, for students to think for themselves!
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Do you teach 4th-12th graders that struggle to meet the reading and writing demands in your classroom?
“Adolescent literacy encompasses the skills that must be taught to all students so they can meet increasingly challenging reading and writing demands as they move through the upper grades (i.e., comprehension, vocabulary, writing skills), as well as what needs to be done for those students who fall behind who may need intervention instruction in foundational literacy skills (i.e., decoding and fluency).” https://keystoliteracy.com/blog/adolescent-literacy/
Click on the links below to find strategies that can be used across content areas:
● Build Background Knowledge-○ http://www.adlit.org/article/19865/
“Background knowledge is essential to the comprehension of more difficult text, and reading easy nonfiction that explains the critical concepts is an ideal way to expose all students to the essential background knowledge they need to understand their textbooks.” http://www.adlit.org/article/19865/
● Explicit Vocabulary Instruction-
“...researchers argue that the most common approach to teaching vocabulary — providing students with a word list on Monday then quizzing them on Friday — doesn't work. Kids don't really learn and remember words unless they see them many times in print, use them many times in their classroom discussions and written texts, and continue to see, hear, and use them subsequently.” http://www.adlit.org/adlit_101/improving_literacy_instruction_in_your_school/vocabulary/
● Discussion Protocols-
“Research demonstrates that oral communication in the classroom is an important precursor to both reading fluency and comprehension, yet it is often neglected in secondary schools (Horowitz, 2007). According to classroom observational studies, students are often silent in class (Nystrand&Duffy,2003). http://www.adlit.org/adlit_101/improving_literacy_instruction_in_your_school/vocabulary/
● Choral Reading-
“Some research has begun to show that fluency building—and by extension lessons and strategies for prosody, including choral reading—are also effective with high school students (e.g., Kuhn & Schwanenflugel, 2019; Paige et al., 2012; Rasinski et al., 2005).”https://www.timrasinski.com/presentations/Choral_Reading_Prosody_Secondary_Classroom.pdf
For additional strategies or questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Jessica Rose, CA BOCES Professional Development
In my October 2020 blog post I shared in detail about the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), a process that can greatly improve your student's ability to ask more, high quality questions. The QFT is simply one way to help engage students more deeply and tap into their natural, intrinsic curiosity. A stunning fact about students and asking questions is that the average preschooler can ask 400-500 questions per day while the average high school student asks only 1-2. This begs the questions, what happens to a student's curiosity as they go through school? Shouldn’t school be highly engaging and spark a student's interest resulting in them becoming more curious about the world around them? Why then do students ask significantly fewer questions, a sign of curiosity, as they age?
Every student possesses an intrinsic curiosity that fuels their desire to learn. As educators, it is our job to help tap into that curiosity in order to give our students the most meaningful educational experience possible. When students in our class seem uninterested, unmotivated, or fail to complete work because they just don’t feel like it, that is our cue that whatever we are currently doing instructionally is not working for these students. Instead of casting blame on the student and labeling them as lazy, we should aim to design more meaningful instruction, one that aims to engage students more.
For students to be engaged in our classrooms on a cognitive level, students must first be engaged on an emotional (sometimes referred to as “affective”) and behavioral level. In other words, students must feel as if their needs outside of the classroom have been met before they are capable of fully engaging in their academics. Building relationships and trust with our students is as critical in classroom instruction as is developing and consistently maintaining our classroom rules and procedures.
A bonus of the relationship building process is getting to know about our students interests and how they can be applied in our classroom instruction. Incorporating student interests in our daily instruction is a proven way of increasing student engagement levels in the classroom. For instance, when we know our students participate in certain sports, we can incorporate statistics from these sports into a math or science lesson. Or if a student participates in some civic engagement club or afterschool activity, we can incorporate their experiences into a writing task. These sorts of tasks also provide opportunities to give students a more “real-world” experience. When students feel as if the lesson has been catered to their interests, they’re more likely to participate.
Don’t fear taking the necessary time to develop and maintain relationships with your students. Due to the demands of state assessments and the sheer volume of content expected, some find it difficult to devote the appropriate amount of time to this task. Rest assured, building relationships with your students can only get more instructional time back as the year progresses as when these relationships are prioritized, less classroom interruptions will occur. When relationships are not firmly established, you can expect more interruptions, leading to a loss in precious instructional time.
Take the time to work on student-teacher relationships, you’ll gain more instructional time, learn important information about them to include in your instruction, and you’ll increase their overall engagement.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
If you were to look back and reflect upon the last two school years, then I think you would likely fall into the vast majority of people who say, “this is not what I thought being an educator would look like.” I think this is especially true for teachers and aides and all others who have entered the world of publication for the first time these last two school years.
Things are different. Some things better, some worse, and some remain the same. Regardless of the circumstance, we have found ourselves in a position to reevaluate what we are doing in public education and why it should (or shouldn’t) be so.
Consider the original approach to the onset of the pandemic in the United States. Regional educators as well as the professional learning networks (PLNs) on Twitter immediately took to making connections and practical applications to real-time COVID-19 data for instructional purposes. In social studies courses, these conversations focused on how pandemics have impacted governments, economies, or cultures throughout history. In mathematics courses, these discussions included analyzing infection rates to determine the best function to model the data.
It didn’t take long, however, for educators to realize that the data they were using to guide instruction was not producing the desired results. New data led to new conversations and new questions.
Sentiments that were already increasing in nature such as “students don’t work as hard as they used to” and “students don’t care about grades like they used to” were compounded with the stressors of a pandemic, but were they factual? And how could we know?
When asking for help on analyzing data, a regional administrator shared some thoughts regarding the 2021-2022 school year:
For the past few months, I have not been able to stop thinking about the start of next school year. It does not matter whether a teacher has been teaching for 20, 10, 5, or even 1 school year, I just do not see how we can start next school year the same way we have any other year. The teaching and learning that has taken place has been so different that we need to reexamine what that looks like in terms of what and how we instruct students starting the new school year.
The nuts and bolts of the data project are this: we are reviewing skills-based report card data for the past several years as a means of identifying trends wherever possible. While I cannot share the details for most of that data, I would like you to consider the example in the graphic below.
The data graphed is collected over the last five school years (2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021) for all students at one grade level for a district using the four quarterly reports on a 4-point scale (1-below grade level, 2-below grade level and making progress, 3-at grade level/proficient, and 4-above grade level expectations).
There are many things that we can learn from this one graphic. We can see that scores for the 2019-2020 school year were not reported for quarters 3 and 4 in the same manner as had been done previously (due to the pandemic). We can see that the yearly trend for effort at this particular grade level trends slightly positively while remaining consistent at or about grade level expectations. We also see that during the 2020-2021 school year, a school year that opened dramatically different than any other school year for the current generation, this grade level of students has demonstrated notably greater effort than the recent years prior.
While I know there may be questions about the reliability of this particular perceptual data, the intent of this graphic is not to convince you to trust the data presented here. Rather, the purpose is for you to reconsider what it is that you think you know regarding pandemic teaching and learning. Making data-informed decisions is a practical way to do just that.
What data do you have available? What is it actually demonstrating? Why does that appear to be so? What implications does that yield as you move forward?
I would echo the sentiments from the regional administrator shared above. I cannot imagine the best pursuit for education would be to start the 2021-2022 school year as we would any normal year (however you would define a normal year), but don’t take my word for it. See what the data is showing you, and move forward from there.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
A number talk is a daily routine in ALL grade levels, that requires students to demonstrate flexibility in working with numbers and solving basic problems without using paper and pencil to find the solution. Consider how number talk routines can be used to help your students think more flexibly about whole numbers and operations with fractions and decimals.
Number talks require students to be flexible in their thinking about numbers and operations. In addition, students increase their ability to articulate their thinking, develop their mathematical vocabulary and refine their mathematical communication skills through the use of number talks.
How to Get Started with Number Talks
Like many other math routines, creating norms for the community and helping students feel like they are working in a safe space is crucial. In order for number talks to be successful, students must understand how to actively listen and hold a respectful exchange of ideas. Before implementing number talks in the classroom, brainstorm a list of classroom norms for how community members will participate and behave during the routine.
Teacher and Student Roles
During a number talk, it is the teacher’s job to encourage students to share their solution strategies, ask questions to clarify understanding, and direct the learning of the class. Number talks require students to explain their solution strategies, convince others that their strategy works, and listen to and pose questions about the strategies of others.
Extending the Thinking
Because the goal of number talks is to help students communicate their thinking, after a student has shared his/her strategy, there are several questions that can be used to extend and help a student better shape his/her thinking.
Final ThoughtsThe strategies that students use and are able to learn from doing number talks is invaluable! Students can build a mental storehouse of strategic tools through this process. In addition, the rich discussion that occurs between the students and the teacher during number talks is truly amazing! Imagine the possibilities if all of our students had the reasoning, critical thinking, language, and communication skills that result from regular participation in number talks each day for about 12-15 minutes.
· Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding Grades 4-10 by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker
· Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies by Sherry Parrish
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Mr. Arron Wixson’s 7th grade general music class was in for quite a treat after Christmas break. Mr. Wixson worked with Mark Beckwith from CABOCES Professional Development to be one of the first teachers in our area to use the new Ukulele’s that were purchased at CABOCES Learning Resources. The 7th grade students worked with Mr. Wixson for about 6 weeks learning the scales and the chords so that before the February break they’d be able to play a song of their choosing. Everyone had a ball learning the new and unique instrument, and the sounds of ukulele’s filled the Friendship halls daily.
Thank you Learning Resources team and Mark Beckwith for helping make this happen. We can’t wait to use them again next year.
Social Emotional Learning can best be described as teaching ourselves and students to be
aware of our internal environment. Giving ourselves space to identify and recognize our
emotions isn’t necessarily a new idea, however it is powerful to explicitly teach our students how
to recognize what is going on internally. Only when we become aware of our feelings are we
able to help ourselves move through when we are in the grips of intense emotions.
Trauma-Informed Classrooms cultivate a culture of safety and focus on the external
environment for students to thrive. When educators focus on the external environment they
intentionally work on creating space for students to thrive and practice the skills needed for
Resilience is our entry to thriving, not just surviving. Recently I attended an ASCD virtual conference and heard Elena Auguilar share her ‘12 Strategies to Build Resilience in Yourself and Communities’ which we can put into practice immediately.
1. Right here, right now, everything is ok
2. Feel your body
4. Recognize, name and accept emotions
5. Stay connected to people
6. Take care of yourself
7. Practice perspective taking
8. Be kind to yourself
9. Distract yourself
10. Look for bright spots
11. Practice gratitude
12. Practice “maybe”
When individuals struggle with big emotions we owe it to our students to give them the words and means to move through their emotions and practice resilience. Resilience can be thought of how we weather the storms that life throws at us. Take a moment to remember a time you weather a small challenge and you emerged stronger than you were before. This practice helps to cultivate resilience. There is power in remembering the smaller challenges that you were able to overcome and if you have an opportunity to share your story (and hear another person’s story) it builds resilience in both individuals. When we share our stories it helps to expand our perspective, normalize our experiences, and boosts our oxytocin (which is so healthy and combats our stress hormones!). We all have resilience and we all have the ability to build it. A stress check is a great visual for students to use in order to self evaluate if they are learning ready. This stress check can also be used with a worry box. This graphic has been borrowed from peardeck, as their website has featured some free social-emotional templates. https://www.peardeck.com/studentpaced-demo-resources
A worry box is a great way to have students identify something that may be concerning them
and write them down on a strip of paper and drop into their box. The idea is once the worry is
written down and placed in the box it is captured inside and no longer needs to take up space in
your mind. At the end of the day you can come back to the worry box and see if it still is a worry
or if the worry was resolved throughout the day. If the worry was resolved then it can be thrown
away, if the worry grew the idea is to take it out and place the worry in the teacher’s worry box
so the worry can be problem solved together.
Another idea to cultivate a safe environment and build resilience is to have your students participate in the ‘Hands of Promise’ activity. In this activity the left hand serves as the past and the right hand the future. Students write and/or draw pictures to express their fears on the left hand and what they are expecting and looking forward to on the right hand. This activity can be used to help kids move their thoughts from the past into the present.
It is so encouraging to know that resilience can be cultivated and developed in anyone. We
have the opportunity to continue to practice, model, and develop resiliency skills in ourselves
and others. And, if 2020 has taught us anything it is this…..we are resilient!
By: Jessica Schirrmacher-Smith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Recently, I joined a "fireside chat" with some brilliant literacy experts; the chat was hosted by the International Reading Association (ILA), and the topic was "What Should Equitable and Comprehensive Early Literacy Instruction Look Like in 2020 and Beyond?"
One of the speakers was Douglas Fisher. Doug is a professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University and a teacher leader at Health Sciences High & Middle College. He is a member of the California Reading Hall of Fame and was honored as an exemplary leader by the Conference on English Leadership.
Doug discussed something that a lot of people are talking about, learning loss. He explained that the learning loss narrative emphasizes the wrong thing, and too much attention on learning loss and remediation can lower expectations for teachers and kids, creating negative mindsets. He cited recent 3-8 NWEA test scores for 4.4 million students in the United States; the organization reported that the students generally started school this fall about where they should be in reading. He shared that what needs to be magnified right now is that children will learn to read because of the great work that teachers are doing.
“Believe in yourself.”
Teachers across the region have been engaged in heroic efforts during the pandemic. If the "loss, gap, deficit" narrative changes, teachers will believe in themselves, their work, and that all kids will learn to read.
Wishing you a very happy, healthy, and safe holiday season.
By: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
In August 2020, ELA teachers from our region were invited to join Angela Stockman, author of Hacking the Writing Workshop and Make Writing, for a two-day institute on multimodal writing instruction face-to-face and across the distance. Through synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities, Angela led teachers in designing writing units and lessons that encourage students to use and explore hands-on approaches to writing.
As a continuation of this work, Angela is will be supporting the region in strategy sessions that are targeted towards specific grade bands, with rotating offerings for Elementary, Middle, and High School levels. Each of the strands will have a focus for that particular level with an overarching theme of multimodal instruction in face-to-face and distance learning situations. Teachers will engage in three one-hour sessions during the course of the school year and will have access to a variety of self-paced professional development lessons created specifically by Angela for our teachers.
Kicking off this series was the Middle School Strand that met after school on November 18, 2020. A handful of regional English teachers convened on Zoom with Angela around a focus on “Defining Structure and Form and Seeking Conventionality.” The next Middle School Session will be on January 27, 2021. Between now and then, teachers can access and work with Angela’s asynchronous resources.
An outline of the remainder of the series is as follows:
Multimodal Composition in the K-5 Writing Workshop
In each session, participants will examine explicit curriculum design methods, tangible writing tools, and instructional strategies specific to narrative, research and information, and opinion and argument writing.
December 2nd: Story Making
January 20th: Building Texts that Teach
March 31st: Composing Opinions and Arguments
MIDDLE SCHOOL STRAND
Multimodal Composition in the Middle School Writing Workshop
These sessions will challenge writing teachers to pursue and elevate the complexity of students' creative and academic writing. Each session will leave participants equipped to coach critical thinking, multimodal composition, and an iterative process, in service to more sophisticated thinking, learning, and written work.
November 11th: Defining Structure and Form and Seeking Conventionality
January 27th: Strategies for Coaching Critical and Metaphorical Thinking and Writing
April 14th: Lifting the Quality of Revision and Editing
HIGH SCHOOL STRAND
Multimodal Composition in High School Writing Classrooms
Participants in these sessions will learn how to leverage important constraints and help writers distinguish formulaic writing from coherent, sophisticated, and authentically influential work. All will leave with explicit strategies that move writers past mere replication in order to generate compelling compositions in every content area.
December 9th: Equipping Writers to Assume a Professional Posture
February 3rd: Tinkering with Structure and Using Conventions for Effect
April 21st: Elevating Complexity and Scaffolding with Careful Intention
Any teacher who may be interested in participating in this series can visit register.caboces.org to sign-up.
For more information Angela Stockman, visit http://www.angelastockman.com/.
By: Sarah Wittmeyer, CA BOCES Professional Development
Together, we can do better. All students, school districts, families and communities have equitable access to rich resources to improve student learning, strengthen families and create healthier communities. School and community partnerships are empowered and connected in meaningful ways, problems are solved and resources are used effectively. The bi-annual Community & Schools Together Conference, is one example of how the vision of the Community Schools CoSer has been fulfilled. The conference has enabled school and community partnerships to develop, enhance and align.
On November 16th, Community Schools hosted the second virtual Community & Schools Together Conference, which appropriately, focused on relationships and resilience. Despite the fact that the conference was an all-day, virtual event, over 100 participants attended, and stayed the course of the day. This is a true testament to the quality of regional educational leaders and expert community leaders that presented at the conference. Presentations were intentionally structured in strands, starting with self-reflection and care and moving towards taking care of staff and prioritizing staff wellness and relationships. Next, sessions focused on students, parent and family engagement and finally, community partnerships and organizations. Presenters shared a variety of information, ranging from best practices, models of intervention, program evaluation and personal resilience.
In addition to the professional learning and growth that the day was centered around, personal reflection, connection and overall wellness were of equal importance, in terms of intended outcomes. One participant shared that they appreciated “addressing the 'real' issues with empathy and care, as so many people are suffering in their own ways. Information was presented in a way that really made you want to engage, listen and be active.”
Keynote speaker, Ali Hearn inspired participants by sharing her expertise on self-care. She demonstrated to participants that self-care can be replenishing, draining, or relaxing. Replenishing self-care requires people to truly identify self-care practices that are sustaining such as staying hydrated, exercise, and eating healthy foods. Additionally, Ali connected the importance of self-care practices of staff as a benefit for students stating, “If your staff isn’t OK, then students probably are not OK.” Participants were provided with many strategies for daily check-ins as a support for staff, relationship building between staff members, and connecting with families.
Thank you to all presenters, participants and districts that were represented at the recent event. You will find the “presenter profile” below, that provides a snapshot into the collective expertise represented on November 16th. We look forward to the next Community & Schools Together Conference, which will be held on March 22nd, 2021. Please stay tuned for information about the upcoming event.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools and Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
Are you looking for an interactive, fun, and different way to engage your students online? Do you want to tap into your student’s curiosity and increase their capacity to inquire, ask questions, and think more deeply? How about trying the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) with the use of the online tool, Padlet.com?
If you’re not familiar with Padlet, Matt Miller, author of Ditch that Textbook, explains it as “a web app that lets users post notes on a digital wall. The uses for this site in the classroom are virtually endless!” From bellringer activities, to notetaking, creating presentations, and more, Padlet is a great tool to help students collaborate in a virtual space. In addition, Padlet can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, as students simply need to have the shared link in order to access and post in the space. If you’re worried about students writing inappropriate things when you aren’t on the page, there is a “Require Approval” setting that can be turned on. With this setting, before any post a student makes appears on the page, you as the instructor and creator of the page will have to approve the post. If you are using Padlet live with your students, you also can delete any post made at any time. With a free account, you can have 4 Padlet’s at a time though you are able to endlessly delete one and create a new one if needed.
One highly effective way to utilize Padlet is by trying the QFT. The Right Question Institute describes as a tool that “helps all people create, work with, and use their own questions — building skills for lifelong learning, self-advocacy, and democratic action.” The QFT is a rigorous yet simple, step-by-step process that facilitates the asking of many questions. The seven steps include 1) a question focus (QFocus), 2) the rules for producing questions, 3) producing questions, 4) categorizing questions, 5) prioritizing questions, 6) next steps, and 7) reflection. By utilizing a Padlet, each of the steps can be clearly defined ahead of time for students.
When the link for your Padlet is shared, all students with access will be able to make original posts as well as react and comment on other students posts. Having this ability makes interactions between students during the QFT process not only possible but highly engaging and productive. If you are interested in trying the QFT in your remote learning space, I’ve provided a template via Padlet that you are free to copy and use for yourself. As we navigate the remote instruction waters, now is a great time to try something new and see if it works for improving the educational experience of your students.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
As schools look to create a more inclusive setting for all students, co teaching is a model that is frequently used. This collaborative approach allows all students to remain in the general education classroom. This model of inclusive education helps to ensure that all students have access to the general education curriculum. The following defining characteristics identify the unique relationship of co teaching.
(Friend & Cook, 2003)
Co-teaching relationships represent a significant change in the working conditions and day to day activities if school professionals who are often used to work in a more independent manner. Professionals should consider the defining characteristic of co-teaching and their own professional strengths as they initiate co teaching relationships.
Here at CA Boces, we can help you with your co-teaching ventures by providing professional development, as well as peer coaching with feedback to improve implementation and instruction. Some topics of the professional development could be:
By: Corey Wilson, CA BOCES Professional Development
Virtual restorative circles are the antidote for a great way to stay together when we must be so far apart. CA BOCES has been working with teachers across the region to focus on self-care, mindset, and the importance of positivity by providing virtual restorative circles. Virtual circles provide a place for teachers to connect, share ideas, and support each other through challenging times. It is also an opportunity for teachers to experience the social and emotional benefits of circle process and how this can transform into opportunities for supporting SEL with students through face-to-face, hybrid, and remote instruction.
The Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles followed the Kay Pranis circle process which includes an opening ceremony, mindfulness activity, establishing norms and guidelines, check-in rounds, guiding questions, and a checkout rounds. BOCES facilitators modeled through experiential practice with educators how these components could be present in instruction with students. We have all heard the popular phrase in education “Maslow before Bloom,” which is typically used to communicate that humans need their basic needs met before academic learning can be fully embraced. Self-Care Restorative Circles allows educators to embrace this phrase while embedding social emotional learning within the content they are teaching. Child psychiatrist Pamela Cantor told Edutopia in 2019 that “When we’re able to combine social, emotional, affective, and cognitive development together, we are creating many, many more interconnections in the developing brain that enable children t accelerate learning and development.” Allowing time to integrate social emotional learning into academics and content areas allows schools the opportunity to build relationships and make connections with students.
Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles model instructional approaches for educators to learn different ways to build connections with students during each component of the circle process. For example, educators might choose to start their day with an opening ceremony. This could consist of a morning greeting, short story, quote, poem, or even a song. Many of these could also be used during what is called a closing ceremony or ending a lesson. Educators also had opportunities to practice multiple mindfulness activities for all ages including deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and opportunities or self-reflection. All of which could be transferred to instruction with students. The most common component to educators was establishing group norms and guidelines. Most educators start each school year off with this. The restorative self-care circles model for educators how to provide 2-3 non-negotiable guidelines while encouraging the students to develop additional guidelines that could be transferred to any learning platform. Participants also engaged in a wide variety of check-in and checkout strategies including the Fist-to-Five, Emotional Weather Report, and much more. Many might ask where does academic content fit into the circle process? Academic content is embedded in each component, but most visible within the guiding question rounds. During this time educators can check for understanding, introduce new vocabulary, discuss homework, build schema for introducing new lessons, and much more.
Below are a few reactions from participants across the CA BOCES Region that participated in Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles:
“I loved the gratitude session! I have an app on my phone that reminds me to list something I am grateful for everyday and I love it.”
“Enjoy these meetings every week! Love seeing others feeling the same as me. Great hosts!”
“I enjoy this every week! Allows one to feel accepted and important!”
“If I could give this professional development 10 stars I would!!! This is the one session that I look forward to attending every week. It is very organized, provides essential and necessary information, and always makes me feel good!”
As educators we must make the commitment to prioritize self-care to successfully be able to help others. It’s like the saying goes “You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can take care of others.”
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that Microsoft Teams is the learning management system (LMS) of choice for nearly every CA BOCES component school district with the exception of very few. Teams is a dynamic application that allows educators to work productively in a digital environment.
Want a platform that can monitor student participation? Teams Insights has at-a-glance data. Need to video conference with one student, groups of students, colleagues, parents or guardians, or other stakeholders? Teams meetings “include audio, video, and screen sharing,” and “they're one of the key ways to collaborate in Teams.” Want students to submit their work but you struggle to store and keep track of physical papers? Teams Assignments are the solution you need. Whatever the problem may be, it is likely that a solution can be found in Teams.
Because Teams is so robust, it can also stir up strong reservations for educators who either struggle with integrating technology or those who need a simpler tool for their students. So if you are in one of these or similar categories, what do you do now that our school districts, for the most part, have gone all-in with Microsoft Teams? Microsoft still might have a solution for you.
Microsoft SharePointWhen you find that you are no longer struggling to keep your head above water in the midst of a pandemic trying to simultaneously teach students in your classroom and others at home, then I would strongly recommend exploring some of the other applications available through your Microsoft 365 account. My first recommendation for those of you seeking an alternative to Teams would be to spend some time in SharePoint. You can find this app by selecting the SharePoint icon (shown above) in your Microsoft 365 Home page.
SharePoint is the service that supports the other Microsoft applications. This is why you’ll see “sharepoint.com” in the URL when you share a file from your OneDrive (go try it if you haven’t seen this before). Another way to think of SharePoint is that it is a no-code, web-design tool. For example, the 3 Tools to Improve Results site was designed to replace the NYS Assessment Items OneNote file and allows members of the site to seamlessly transition from released assessment items to benchmark assessments to data analysis documents without the sync errors and delays that can often come with OneNote.
Also built on SharePoint, the Drone Education site was built with two objectives in mind: (1) to provide resources for educators seeking Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification and (2) to provide drone labs that can be utilized to teach content learning standards.
Once you are signed into SharePoint, you can create a new site by selecting the + in the upper left-hand corner of the page and then navigating through the prompts to get started.
After you pick an initial theme, you can start building your site by adding elements anywhere you find a +, or you can select the ⚙️ in the upper right-hand corner near your Microsoft 365 account initials and choose one of the options such as “Change the look” to get the theme that works best for you.
To make your site work best for you and your students, you can add a variety of media to your pages such as text, pictures, embedded videos, Microsoft Forms, and more. The best part is that your site will only include exactly what you want it to and nothing more (like that pesky Chat feature in Teams).
The biggest downside to SharePoint worth noting before you go exploring is the fact that SharePoint sites are designed to be used internally (i.e. users of the same Microsoft 365 tenant) as a means of security and protection. In order to enable access to guests such as parents, community stakeholders, or your friends at CA BOCES who may not have district accounts, you will need to get permission from your Microsoft 365 administrator who maintains the authority to change this setting.
For more help getting started with SharePoint sites, review Microsoft’s Create a Site in SharePoint resource or reach out to your friendly neighborhood CA BOCES coordinator.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Have you seen students who struggle with the following...
● getting started on their work, even though directions were just explained
● turning in homework when it is completed and sitting in their book bag
● planning out their time appropriately for long term assignments
● Cramming materials in their desk or folder
These are tasks that require executive functioning skills. According to The National Center for Learning
Disabilities, “Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with
present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details and managing time and space.” It is quite common to have a deficit in one or more of the following skill areas: time management, task initiation, planning/prioritizing, impulse control, organization, emotional control, flexibility, working memory, and self-monitoring.
These deficits can be heightened when a student has a disability or as a child progresses in school and academic demands become too grueling. Luckily there are many strategies that can help improve or eliminate deficits and set students up for long term success. The visual below shows an example of what a deficit in impulse control could look like in the classroom and strategies that could help eliminate those issues.
When determining which strategies to implement, it is important to personalize them to the needs of the
student. We all have strategies that work for us when tackling tasks. For example, many of us prefer a paper calendar to keep track of appointments or to-do’s while electronic calendars work better for others. You may prefer to take deep belly breaths to destress while others benefit from a quick walk. Students are no different and will need strategies personalized for them and to meet their unique needs. To find a strategy that works best for your student, begin by establishing a positive relationship, trying an approach that is age appropriate and seeking student feedback. In addition, strategies should be modeled, practiced and scaffolded by the adult until the student can be independent with the approach.
As we dive into the 2020-2021 school year and contemplate how to best support learning whether brick, click or hybrid, remember to give thoughts to how explicit instruction on personalized strategies can improve executive functioning skills and set your students up for a LIFETIME of success.
For additional information on Executive Function or to set up a zoom training for your staff, please reach out to Tessa Levitt or Jessica Rose.
By: Jessica Rose and Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Very soon the leaves will begin to fall and classrooms will begin to hum with the sounds of four and five year olds engaged in imaginary play. Although our schedules may be different and the number of children in a classroom will vary, play is still a necessity. Whether we are face to face or working virtually, children show us time and again that play is the way they learn.
It is through play that children develop necessary social-emotional skills which are linked to improved behavior, higher academic performance and better attitudes about school.
Play is at the core of development and learning. The early learning standards articulate the learning progressions for all students. Those who work with young children are charged with the task to provide intentional, experiential, and joyful learning experiences where play is the vehicle to deliver curriculum.
If you are interested in learning how to use play as an instructional tool in your classroom contact Michelle Rickicki or Corey Wilson.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
MORE THAN JUST A GAME
Not long ago, a handful of CA BOCES regional educators inquired about eSports at a Technology Coordinators & Integrators Forum (TCIF). The murmurs were subtle and few, but they were present nonetheless. Has anyone heard about eSports? A handful. Is anyone going to get involved? A few interested. What can CA BOCES do to help? We’ll look into it.
Not long after, the buzz grew louder and more frequent, and questions like, “What can CA BOCES do about eSports?” turned into, “What is CA BOCES going to do about eSports?” Consequently, our exploration hastened and narrowed in on some key players.
HSEL & PlayVS
If you search “high school eSports” in your favorite web browser, one of the first links (if not the very first) is High School Esports League | HSEL. (Smart business move.) According to HSEL’s website, the league includes participation from over 3,000 schools and 80,000 students. Similarly, it doesn’t take much searching or asking around before you find yourself on the site of PlayVS, a league that boasts of its presence in all 50 states, over 13,000 schools, and over 80,000 sign ups.
While there are a variety of leagues to join, HSEL and PlayVS are among the most popular. Each league provides organized eSports competition across the nation with regional divisions available and smaller subdivisions arriving in the near future, and both offer a variety of benefits such as technical support, resources for coaches, families, and students, and fully unlocked features through their game licensing.
However, it wasn’t until Rob Miller, former CA BOCES Model Schools coordinator and current Director of Educational Technology & Information Systems at Salamanca City School District, suggested we explore a different league altogether that we realized we were missing something bigger.
Ultimately, the work we do at CA BOCES is aimed at improving the student experience. When you attend professional development such as Don’t Ditch That Tech! (based on the book by Matt Miller), you will likely explore a variety of technologies, but the focus isn’t on the tech. The priority is using that technology, a means, to improve your instruction and assessment for the sake of students. When you explore the Advancing STEM curriculum and STEM kits, you will see numerous activities and projects around many topics, but the activities aren’t the focus. The emphasis is to improve STEM curriculum, instruction, and assessment for the sake of students. After only a brief meeting with NASEF, we learned that their mission was very much like ours.
North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF)
In our initial endeavors of exploring eSports, we were able to justify purchasing equipment through CSLO (ask your tech. director if you’re interested in what this means) since most equipment is multi-purposed, used in labs, STEM spaces, or for other high-capacity software such as CAD or video editors. But how could justify a stand alone gaming event? Thankfully, we don’t have to.
The key word making all the difference both in appearance and practice: scholastic. NASEF is not just an eSports league; it is so much more.
Because the mission at NASEF is “to provide opportunities for ALL students to acquire critical communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in work and in life,” eSports is simply the platform where that mission takes place. A means to an end. Furthermore, through the principal support of the Samueli Foundation, NASEF offers middle school, high school, and CTE curriculum aligned with Common Core ELA, NGSS, ISTE, and SEL standards.
If we weren’t excited enough after our first meeting with NASEF, we grew even more interested when we learned of NASEF’s COVID-19 response via Minecraft and the 14 beyond the game challenges. With our many questions answered, multiple meetings conducted, and the proper paperwork signed, we are pleased to announce that CA BOCES is among the many NASEF affiliates!
Consequently, with the fantastic support of NASEF, CA BOCES will be hosting our first semi-annual scholastic eSports tournaments at the CA BOCES Olean Main Center, tentatively December 16, 2020 and March 31, 2021. For more information regarding registration for these events, please contact Jean Oliverio (Jean_Oliverio@caboces.org), coordinator for Student Programs. For more information regarding the scholastic eSports collaboration between CA BOCES and NASEF, take a glance at the announcement on the NASEF website or contact Mary Morris (Mary_Morris@caboces.org), Program Manager for Student Programs.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
As one school year ended in an undeniably different fashion than years prior, so too is a new one set to begin under circumstances far different than the traditional expectations and norm. As schools create plans and explore various options to accommodate and connect students in both the face-to-face and digital formats, there has been a tremendous focus of time and learning dedicated to the exploration of various platforms that can effectively promote connectivity and collaboration among both teachers and students. One of these platforms is Microsoft Teams.
While Microsoft Teams is not a new product, the awareness and familiarity has become relatively new to many in the educational world as a shift to remote learning became a reality. This application is meant to enhance teamwork through enriched collaboration and communication. It has the capability of video streaming, document collaboration and sharing, one-on-one and team chat, and more. Additionally, since it is part of Office 365 suite, integration already exists with other Office products making access to cloud storage and files simple for the user.
The CA BOCES staff worked through the school closure and throughout the summer to offer varied training opportunities to cater to the familiarity and expertise of those desiring to learn more and gain deeper understanding about this application. Teams training was based on three different levels of users; Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
Differentiation of these specific workshop trainings brought all those involved, teachers and administrators, a deeper understanding of not only the functional components and the customizable aspects of the application, but also the safety and security features that are built in as well. Through these targeted workshops that were open for any teachers who desired to participate, and through training offered to district level groups of staff, CA BOCES trainers worked to increase the ability of those using Teams across the region focusing on ways to effectively collaborate and communicate with each other and with students in an online environment. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced user of Microsoft Teams, if you’re looking to increase your ability to help your Team, reach out to your Essential Partner at CA BOCES because we are here to support you!
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Brain rules are twelve rules proposed by John Medina to help us understand how our brains work and how to use them as effectively as possible. Of the twelve brain rules, there are several that I want to explore in detail that could be used and implemented in the classroom.
Rule 1: Survival
Our survival instincts are what have helped humans evolve into the society we form today. Medina explains survival as the ability to solve problems, learn from mistakes and create alliances with other people. Thus, collaboration and group work are important for our survival. The classroom should not be any different. Teaching team work skills, active listening and developing social intelligence will not only create an environment of trust in the classroom, but also help the students lean on each other and survive the year together.
Rule 2: Exercise
Starting a class with a quick exercise is a way to refresh the brain. This can be as simple as moving our arms in swimming motions or performing deep breathing exercises. The aim is to get some oxygen to the brain. If there are two classes back to back, a break between them would be good too.
Rule 7: Memory
By recapping the material often, relating it to present day happenings or relevant day-to-day activities and tasks, students will remember more. Brains possess neuroplasticity which means that they are constantly evolving and the more we use them, the stronger they get.
Rule 9: Vision
Getting content across to students. does not have to be just about pages full of words. Expressing material in different ways using pictures, videos, and models allows the brain to make sense of things quickly and remember them better.
Rule 12: ExplorationSchools are a safe environment where students have the opportunity to experiment and evolve at their own pace. I want my classes to be an adventure where the students can each explore their interests to some extent and share their experiences. Inquiry-based learning is a great way to get students to do this.
If you want to learn more about Brain Rules by John Medina, check out his book. If you are interested in the 2 hour workshop with ideas around classroom implementation of the 12 brain rules by John Medina, reach out to Tessa Levitt or Jessica Rose at CABOCES.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Teaching Physical Education Without the Gym. . . A Reflection from Portville Elementary School’s PE Teacher, Christina Matz
Field Day at Portville, like many schools, is a fun, engaging day not only to help close out the year but to give students ideas to stay active in the summer with their families. Obviously, due to the school shutdown, I had to modify Field Day, but I was not going to cancel it.
Throughout the shutdown, I was able to collaborate and share ideas with physical education teachers with whom I networked from around the country and around the world. I took advantage of the many CABOCES PE webinars and forums afforded to us, especially with learning the use of technology, which is a smooth segue to our Portville Virtual Field Day.
Before the shutdown, I had limited knowledge of Google slides, publishing to YouTube, or Facebook Live. But, I learned these skills to combine with my prior knowledge of physical education to create a Google slide with 23 Field Day events as well as 36 clickable images. The links led the students to YouTube videos of me and my family doing the various Field Day activities. I was also able to attach a scoresheet and a certificate to the Field Day slide post. Some of the activities were my own, while some were shared with me with other PE teachers from as far away as California and Australia.
One of the many challenges was how to come up with physical education activities to do without the aid of traditional equipment. To overcome this, I looked around our home for common household items present in most homes. For example, I used rolled-up socks and pillowcases, ladders, and spatulas. To help hype it up, I asked for elementary teachers and staff to send pictures of themselves with an encouraging sign for our students. Using a video editor, I put together a collage set to music for the students to enjoy.
The community response was overwhelming. On my PE Rockstar Facebook page, I asked for families to share pictures and/or videos of their children doing the activities. I had so many responses, it was hard to keep up with them all!
During the shutdown, community support and involvement is even more important than normal times and this was a great way to inspire passion and excitement for physical education.
So why did I do this? I did it to continue to interact with students but also to bring families together with physical activities designed for students, which the whole family could engage in. The passion I have for physical education is something I will always have but staying positive and learning new skills during our time at home will only enrich my teaching in the future.
I would not have been able to do this without the support of our Portville school and community, especially our elementary principal Lynn Corder, who is always supportive of my ideas for our Portville elementary PE program.
By: Christina Matz, Portville Elementary
Coordinated by: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
The students in Mrs. Sortore’s Forensics class at Friendship Central School have been busy searching for clues! Two different crime scenes were created in the school area, and two teams were chosen to investigate each crime. The class consists of 21 students that are a mixture of seniors and sophomores this year. Each group included a Facilitator, Lab Technicians, Crime Scene Investigators, Photo Analysts, Crime Scene Sketch Artist, Blood and Fingerprint Analysts. The teams used their prior knowledge of Forensic Science to gather and analyze the clues. One of the critical tools to analyze hair collected from the scenes was the Amscope Digital Microscope from CABOCES. This scope allowed the students to measure the medulla to compare hair from the scene and hair collected from suspects. Without this technology our student’s ability to narrow down the suspects would have been severely hampered leading to a possible incorrect assumption. The ability to measure and view the hair at this level was a key component to solving the crime. It was inspiring to watch this group of students work together to piece together the clues. The students worked tirelessly gathering clues, piecing together evidence, and solving critical pieces between the separate scenes.
By: Mark Carls, CA BOCES Professional Development