Teaching Social Studies = Using the News (Part 2)

In the first half of this two-part blog, I shared an article from C3 Teachers that addressed the problems that using the news creates for our students. Research and experience shows that students have a difficult time differentiating, news from commercial content, fact from fiction, real news from fake news. In this issue, I share an article that provides an idea about how to engage students in “curating” the news to determine whether news articles are important or interesting or both.

This blog is from Future of History, a blog on MiddleWeb which contains articles and resources for teaching the middle grades.

Let Your Students Curate Current Events Articles
by Sarah Cooper

One of my favorite activities to help students understand the richness of the news is also one of the simplest. I often do it at the beginning of the year, but you could do it anytime you wanted students to think more deeply about the news stories they are hearing, watching or reading. Continue reading

Contemplating Race

One of the first times that I heard about microaggressions was when amendments to the Dignity for All Students Act took effect in July, 2013. While we were preparing the first version of our new certification class, I ran into the word in the required syllabus published by NYSED. Under the heading “Understanding how school climate and culture have an impact on student achievement and behavior” the syllabus states that participants will understand the relationship between harassment, bullying, cyberbullying, microaggression, marginalization, and discrimination on student achievement, attendance and dropout rates.

I remember spending a significant amount of time that summer reading about microaggressions, especially racial microaggressions. Continue reading

Adults Need Closure Too

It is hard to believe that we are at the end of the school year already. And, just like with student learning, closing the learning journey with adults is important. If you are like me, I am trying to find a ways to have closure with my coachees for the school year. Here are some activities you might ask your coachee to complete in order to wrap up the school year: Continue reading

Empowering Students to Become Leaders


2017 Syracuse PR/HYLI Delegation in Albany. Edward Marte, Namirely Pizarro, Greichalyz Rivera, Henrique DeLemos, Geriane Irizarry, Ilan Mizrachi, Charles Thomson, Alisandra Torres, Ashmir Zephyr Sanchez, Itamar Almanzar Perez, Karla Garcia, Naysha Rios, Omarys Rodriguez, Aruasy Barrios, Milton Estevez, Ruth Rodriguez, Gerson Casimiro-Elías.

On March 27, 2017, a bus filled with 17 sleeping juniors and seniors from districts across the Central New York region; including Syracuse, Binghamton, Utica, Ithaca, Solvay, and Whitney Point, made its way back to Syracuse from Albany. Besides the fact that they’re teenagers, what else could have made these students so exhausted? How about three days of waking up before 7:00 am and working nonstop until midnight! Despite the lack of sleep and overworked brains, the first thing out of their mouths as we said goodbye in Syracuse was, “I can’t wait till it starts again next year!”

These words were spoken by the students of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute (PR/HYLI) Syracuse delegation. Continue reading

Working with Paraprofessionals (Part 3)

Including Paraprofessionals in behavior management

Paraprofessionals are an important part of the learning communities. They are in classrooms and non-instructional environments in order to assist students with their academic, social-emotional, and behavioral success. Often times paraprofessionals know students extremely well and have developed a rapport with them.  They are very aware of both students’ needs and strengths and can give insight into their learning because of the close relationship that they have developed.

Teachers will often look to paraprofessionals to help with general classroom management and sometimes provide more individualized behavioral interventions.  The paraprofessional’s role in each of these scenarios should be explicitly determined and explained to him/her by the classroom teacher(s) and special educator(s).  Discussions around expectations for the paraprofessional in regard to supporting specially designed instruction, accommodations, modifications, and behavior plans should occur at the beginning of the year or when the paraprofessional is first introduced to a student and/or classroom.  Regular check-ins between the paraprofessional and teachers is crucial throughout the week.. Progress monitoring, tweaking of interventions, practices aligning to the Individual Educational Programs of the students involved, and any modifications to the expectations of the paraprofessional should be communicated clearly and often. Continue reading

True Confessions: The Truth about Standards-Based Goals

The term standards-based goal does not actually mean what everybody thinks it means. This is one of the biggest misconceptions in the Mid-State Region. So, I wanted to take some time to state the facts and myth bust.

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Fact: A student with a disability’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) must contain measurable annual goals. A measurable annual is a skill-based goal. The skill should be directly aligned with the student’s needs, as identified in the student’s present levels of performance.Fact: You can have both academic and functional based goals. If the student has an academic skill deficit, then there would be academic goals. There can be functional goals (organizational, study skills, daily living skills) if there are identified functional needs in the present levels of performance.

Myth: Measurable annual goals are based on the curriculum. No, measurable annual goals answer the question, “What skills does the student require to master the content of the curriculum?”   They do not answer, “What curriculum content does the student need to master?” The curriculum is a given, as all student with disabilities are general education students first and foremost.

Fact: Measurable annual goals are based on skills that can be assessed and measured all year round. If goals were written based on the curriculum, we would see statements such as “have not yet started this goal; will begin next quarter.” The IEP is in effect for a year, therefore the goals should be written with the anticipation the student will achieve the goal by the end of the year. The student will need the year to make progress.

Fact: A student’s IEP should be aligned to the grade-level standards. This is being known as a standards-based IEP. In 2014, the New York State Education Department released a memo titled, “Role of the Committee on Special Education in Related to the Common Core Learning Standards.” SED conveyed the message that a student with a disability’s IEP should be aligned with the grade level standards that all students are working towards achieving. It goes back to the concept that all students are general education students first and foremost. Therefore, the IEP should identify the essential skills and knowledge that the grade level standards ask the student to perform. In essence, in a given grade-level content area, what does the student need to know and be able to do? The IEP would then state where that student is currently performing in a given need area. This is what is called a gap analysis; the comparison between grade level expectations and current ability level (in an area of need). Once the gap is clear, the CSE can then determine what supports to put into place so that child can access and make progress in the general education curriculum. The CSE will also be able to identify the true skill needs of the child as we now know the priority skills for a given grade level.

Myth: The IEP must include goals that are standards. Be careful with this statement. A standards-based goal is not a standard written as a goal. It is not a measurable annual goal citing or referencing the standard. According to the SED memo listed above, “standards-based IEP goals are not simply restatements of the standards; rather, standards-based annual goals identify the essential skills and knowledge that a student with a disability needs to acquire in order to master grade-level content standards.”

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Fact: Standards-based goals are skill-based goals that are aligned to the standards. The skill identified in the goal is a priority skill for that individual child to access and progress in the general education curriculum. Working on this type of goal will help that child bridge the “gap.”

Fact: Recommendation is no more than 3-5 measurable annual goals on an IEP. There are numerous standards for a given grade-level. If you turned all the standards into goals, the student would end up with 20+ goals. 3-5 goals are a reasonable number of goals for a child to achieve in a year. Key word “achieve.” Goals should be achieved; not removed or the same from year to year.

Continue reading

In Pursuit of Inquiry

Innovation Tech ProjectsStudents at Innovation Tech are in the midst of a project where they are identifying the geographical and geological factors that influence the evolution of various species. The kids are answering this challenge with a research-based script and models of an evolved species that they will then film for a scientific documentary intended to inform the public about the possible effects of climate change. Continue reading