Establishing Purpose

When we think about a lesson we are about to teach, it is important to think about what the learning objective of that lesson is. What is the purpose behind the learning that we wish our students to walk away with at the end of that short period of time? Not only do we want to make sure we establish “what” it is they will learn and “how” they will show that learning, but we need to also be mindful of the “why”. Consider these questions: What is it I want my students to know and be able to do? How will I know that they know it? Why is it important that they know it? Why is it important to them?

To begin, we clearly state our expectations for their learning. We communicate high expectations and provide the necessary support needed in order to achieve them. When this is established from the beginning, student performance increases.   Continue reading

What is “Special” about Special Education?

In a word…EVERYTHING!! This is a very exciting time in the world of Special Education!! Did you know that there are currently more high school exiting options available for students with disabilities than ever before?  This is a hot topic when considering that the graduation rate in 2014 for students with disabilities was 50% as compared to 81% for our general education students (

Let’s take a look at some New York State diploma options:

  • Advanced regents
  • Regents
  • Local Diploma using the Low Pass Option
  • Local Diploma using the Compensatory Option
  • Local Diploma using the RCT Option (RCT option will no longer be available after June 2016)

Continue reading

OCM BOCES-Responsive Classroom® Blog: Returning to the Classroom After the Long Holiday Recess

The last few weeks of December can be challenging for students and teachers as they prepare for the holidays and put closure to 2015.  Most of us will be taking a well-deserved rest from the classroom with the hope to return rejuvenated and ready to conquer what’s instore for us in 2016.

In the beginning of the school year, many Responsive Classroom teachers prepare children for success by planning for the first six weeks of school.  Teachers use interactive modeling and responsive teacher language to Continue reading

Thanks for the APPR “Help”

On December 10th the Governor’s Common Core Commission issued 21 recommendations about the Common Core and related issues. The 21st recommendation targeted the use of Common Core-based assessments for teacher evaluation and suggested a four-year moratorium on the use of Common Core assessments, Common Core-derived growth scores, and other applications of Common Core-based assessments. From the report:
Continue reading

Teaching Social Studies = Overcoming Barriers, Part 2

This blog is the next installment in a series about the challenges that students have with using primary sources for historical inquiry as presented in the Jeffery Nokes’ article “Recognizing, Based on a synthesis of research, Nokes discusses four barriers to student success with historical inquiry and some ideas for what we can do about it in the classroom. In last month’s blog I discussed how analyzing historical documents overtaxes students’ cognitive resources so that managing all of the tasks of inquiry becomes untenable. Continue reading

The Skinny on Holiday Eating

Evan Sung for The New York Times

A few years ago, a health reporter for The New York Times decided to challenge the Calorie Control Council’s (the industry group for diet food companies) claim that the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories at a typical holiday gathering—3,000 during the meal itself and an additional 1,500 from appetizers and drinks. After a gluttonous, self-imposed “study,” she concluded that while it is entirely possible to ingest 4,500 calories over the course of the day, it is not typical for most people to be able to consume the purported 3,000 calories in one sitting. Continue reading

Dream Big, Design the Dream and Go for It!

Design, Develop, Implement and Evaluate

The fundamentals of Instructional Design are design, develop, implement and evaluate. That is my perspective as a graduate from Syracuse University’s Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation program. The purpose of this article is to explain my Instructional Design (ID) process in an effort to help educators with creating learning activities that are highly effective and prepare students for 21st Century challenges.

Project-Based Learning

What is a Project Based Learning environment? What does it look like? In my classroom, PBL looks and feels like controlled chaos. The notion of giving up control in the classroom is mind blowing for most teachers, including myself. But when you see students taking ownership of their learning, that restiveness pays off.

When students are engaged in a Project Based Learning activity, they are accessing prior knowledge that was delivered in your classroom (or in other classrooms for an interdisciplinary approach) and apply that knowledge to a learning activity. Designing a PBL learning activity allows the educator to identify the outcome of instruction delivered in one, or many, classroom settings.

For example, my goal is to get my students hired or accepted into the college of their choice. I use PBL activities to directly prepare my students for 21st Century challenges and opportunities. My students demonstrate professionalism and confidence building through conference calls with corporations, presentations to judges (including teachers and administrators), and through collaborating with business leaders in the community.

In my view, my classroom is practice for the corporate or college world. Within your classroom walls lies the opportunity to make mistakes, learn from mistakes and move forward without looking back. Businesses and colleges want to accept and hire students with this competitive edge. Designing PBL learning activities that engage students in deeper learning is one way to provide that edge to our 21st Century learners.

Design and Develop

Let’s shake things up in the classroom and write a completely original learning activity! Start with a goal that you want your students to realize. For example, my goal is for my students to employ Skype in a professional setting. Next, determine what exactly you want to see your students accomplish at the end of this project. Then, write a performance objective that more specifically states what the student will do and what you will measure. For example “the student will answer three questions via video conference with a community member.” One good way to map your ideas is to describe the steps you will take for the project.


The critical element of implementing a PBL activity into the classroom is to “let go” and give up some control in your classroom. You are the facilitator of learning. You are observing interactions, taking note of gaps, assessing student development and providing feedback as needed. The Project Based Learning environment is fluid, always moving without boundaries. I find that by stepping out of the driver’s seat, my students begin to self-regulate and take ownership of their learning. This is the power of the PBL environment.


Now that you created the PBL activity, it is time to evaluate student performance. I like to provide verbal and written feedback as my student’s progress through the project as well as provide the formal evaluation at the conclusion of the project. I provide students with a performance based rubric. As part of the learning process, I typically allow students to revise their work leading up to the final due date. Corporations will offer feedback to an employee before publishing a piece of work so why not afford students the same luxury? This is planning for the world of careers and college.

Instructional Design in Action
CEO: Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity

Here is an example of how I attained my goal of Skyping with entrepreneurs in the classroom. I wrote a PBL learning activity after being inspired by Skype logos on display on the Microsoft campus and as a result implemented a new learning activity. My learning activity, CEO: Collaborative and Enterprising Opportunity, paired students with entrepreneurs coast to coast via Skype for help with developing the business plan. Once I had my goal in mind, the learning activity started to unfold. I wrote the program and had students collaborating with entrepreneurs via Skype for a period of five weeks. Students had scripts with questions and the entrepreneurs had guides to follow for discussions with students via video conferencing. As my overriding goal is to get students hired or accepted to the college of their dreams, this program directly prepared students for challenging career moments including meetings on-line. Students and entrepreneurs alike were anxious and honestly fearful of what the process would entail but those emotions were quickly replaced with excitement and drive to complete the project. As a capstone, I brought in local business owners to review the business plans Shark Tank style. Students went through an observable metamorphosis as a result of participating in the program.

It is my sincere hope that this blog helps educators to write their own learning activities and implement. The most important step is going for it…try it out once and evaluate your process later. Please let me know if I can be of assistance to anyone working to write and implement a new learning activity. Now go for it!

Patricia Ragan
Business Teacher Fayetteville-Manlius High School
Twitter: PatriciaRagan1

Authentic Assessment

Ok, blog readers. We’re going to start this off by playing a little game of Word Association. So, get out a pad of paper or just close your eyes and get ready to make a mental list. I’m going to give you a word.   For one minute, you’re going to write (or think of) all of the words that are, in your mind, associated. Are you ready? The word is: ASSESSMENT.

Keep writing or thinking for one whole minute!

Ding ding ding. Time is up! What words are on your list?

Here is my list:

Test, anxiety, study, multiple choice, guess, fill-in-the-blank, question, answer, recall, state, local, standardized, grade, paper, pencil, write, circle, evaluation, pass, fail, score.

I wonder if we have any of the same word associations! My guess is that we do have at least some commonalities. Continue reading

The wait is over. The new science standards are here.

The draft New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS), were released for public review, on November 19th. A survey to collect public comments on the draft NYSSLS is expected to be released on December 2, 2015. Here are OCM BOCES Center for Innovative Science Education’s top ten things to consider when reviewing the NYSSLS:

  1. Review the process by which NYSED went through to create the NYSSLS from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The process began in 2013 with a public survey that asked respondents to compare the NGSS to the current New York State science standards. Two sets of standard writing teams made edits to the NGSS to develop the NYSSLS. The Science Education Steering Committee reviewed the preliminary drafts after the first round of edits and provided SED with feedback.

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Empowered Parents = Empowered 21st Century Learners

When you think about your child(ren)’s needs, what comes to mind?  Education?  Social & emotional well-being?  Health?  How do you advocate for your child?  What kind of guidance do you provide in order to ensure that all of their needs are met and to ensure that they can be successful at whatever they do?  Now, imagine being in an environment where you are not familiar with the language and culture.  How would you get necessary information about your child’s school, teachers, and future?  How would you ensure their success?   What would you do if there is a problem? Continue reading