(This was a blog post I published on January 4th on my personal blog, Rethinking Education. I thought I would share it with you as it received lots of hits.  Enjoy!  Vicki)

Our #PTCamp PLN came up with a one word challenge, a resolution for 2015.  I chose WONDER.  Why wonder? It’s a word that sparks imagination.  It’s a word that can enhance creativity.  It is a word that has us thinking.


I had the privilege to attend the 2014 NYSCATE conference in Rochester, NY in November, and they had the fabulous Jason Latimer as a keynote speaker. He had over 2,000 participants ‘wonder’ about wonder, imagination, creativity using magic and science, but also reminding us, how to spark wonder in our students by asking questions. Asking questions is a lot more significant than receiving answers, isn’t it?

We just came back from two week hiatus trip to Colombia and traveled the region of Antioquia, the coffee region where it is very mountainous and very rural. We ended at our gracious host, Ana’s house above the town of La Ceja. My husband and I always love to be in the communities, learning the way of life and I am fortunate to have experienced many trips like this where we stay with folks or with my family and experience the way of living in a different country.

We were working around the house of our host when neighbor children came by. They love Ana and they were curious with these visitors who speak English. They were typical boys, curious to what was happening. They were 4 boys, from 7, 8, 9 and 10 years old. They were wondering, what is my husband doing reinforcing the shed roof? What is growing in the makeshift seed starter kits? How can we play “helicopter” with the 1950 metal lawn chairs? This is wonder, creativity, imagination, something that is a natural curiosity in our kids, not just in the US, but worldwide.

Unfortunately, some kids in our world don’t have that opportunity of wonder. They are stuck in poverty, trying to survive, trying to help their families, and at worst, trying to stay alive, working in child sweatshops because their hands are small and can weave carpets (like in Egypt carpet sweatshop factories), or worse, in worn torn countries like Syria, Iraq or fighting Ebola in West Africa. Then, some kids, like my nephew, are privileged to have high school courses called “Wonder” where they are taught in the Socratic method of questioning and discussion where his assignment over the holidays was to come up with a wonder. (That was a lively discussion!)

So, in the US, how do we develop “wonder” in our kids?  I challenge you to develop this in your students!  Place it in your lesson plans and ask wonder questions.  Spark wonder in your students and develop imagination and creativity.  It is our duty as educators to instill this in our students!

Other News

  • Bus Duty for Jan 5 – Jan 16 Team 8 : Kelly Ayen, Tanya Charron, Gina Caldwell.  Upcoming bus Duty:  Jan 20-Jan 30 Team 9:  Jessica Serviss, Brandi LaRue, Teresa Kiechle, Denise Croasdaile
  • Briana Marsh will be our new East Side counselor.  She will be starting January 20th.  Please welcome her to our East Side community.
  • A new opportunity is in the works this summer, and it’s FREE!  A bunch of us are planning EdcampCNY.  It will be held July 18, 2015 at Liverpool CSD.  The official website is here: EdcampCNY (Yes, that is me in the pic with the handsome Peter DeWitt giving opening remarks at EdcampUNY!)  Register at Tickleap!  Increase your PLN and meet new educators that are willing to share their knowledge!
  • A great article by Timothy Shanahan on How and How Not To Prepare Students for the New Tests.  A must read from the International Reading Association magazine!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!   Just do right!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

(Provided by OCM BOCES IS Weekly Dispatch )

  • Read about the authors of the Common Core math standards and how they went about developing the standards. It can help us understand the standards themselves, as well as the process.
  • SED has prepared guides for the 2015 3-8 ELA and math assessments. The guides include sample questions and a summary blueprint of the tests.
  • These anti-bullying and cyberbullying resources can be shared with parents.
  • Round Robin reading persists in many classrooms. You can continue to fight the battle against it with these suggestions and alternatives.
  • This Hangout addresses the importance of authenticity in your projects.
  • Like anything else, implementation of Project-Based Learning depends on good leadership and support, as described here.
  • If you are taking a good, hard look at the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs, think about the Essential Elements: Schools-to-Watch program. You can learn from the list of middle-level schools that have been recognized in New York (great schools to visit). If you are thinking about applying, the 2015-2016 materials have just been posted.
  • Consider a New Year’s Resolution to focus on rigor rather than difficulty (based on Kevin Daniel’s list):
·         Requires thinking, problem-solving, and transfer of learning.·         Students are genuinely engaged in their learning.·         Requires application of knowledge to new situations.

·         Involves students doing better assignments that require thinking and processing.

·         Includes student voice and choice.

·         Creates ownership

·         Gets better results.

·         Usually involves more quantity rather than depth.·         Often means more novels, more worksheets, more homework, more review, etc. ·         Looks like traditional classrooms.

·         Is often confused with rigor.

·         Typically involves teacher-centered activities.

·         Values compliance and convergence.

·         Most products look the same.

·         Gets the results we’re already getting.

  • This entertaining TEDTalk explores the gaps in peoples understanding about global patterns and trends. It is both informative and entertaining.
  • A leadership position sometimes includes having tough conversations. These lessons from one principal can help you get through them and increase the likelihood that they are productive.
  • Governor Cuomo vetoed the legislation that would have enacted the Common Core APPR safety net provision for the state’s 20%. Cuomo said: “…the 2013-14 teacher evaluation results recently released by the State Education Department are not an accurate assessment–only 0.7% of teachers were rated “Ineffective” under the APPR, and so the legislation is unnecessary.”
  • Rubrics help to provide feedback to students, but they also scaffold their work along the way. These tools help teachers generate rubrics more easily.
  • The beginning and ending of each class meeting is often the most important time. Don’t waste them with administrivia or getting an early start on the homework. Consider using the precious time in these ways.
  • This collection of explanations about Project-Based Learning includes three different videos.
  • A teacher reflects on her first PBL unit in this post.
  • How do you know if you are making a difference? This list suggests signs that you are having an impact on your students (and their lives).
  • Teaching our students how to find images that they can use in their work that doesn’t violate copyright law is important to do. This column describes some of the background and makes suggestions for doing things the “right” way.
  • Although more students than ever are taking AP courses, acceptance of AP scores for college credit is not increasing. In fact, their utility seems to be idiosyncratic and state legislatures are getting into the mix.
  • Not only does this infographic express how important the 4Cs are to employers, it also demonstrates a gap between what they are looking for and what their potential employees think is needed. 
  • The 12 Years a Slave DVD and accompanying resources are still free to schools.

A Touch of Humor

Michelle DiPoala..I just saw this on twitter and thought you might ;)

PBL (Project Based Learning) How can we incorporate this into our classrooms?

Project Based Learning.  You are wondering, I’ve heard about it, would love to try it, but I’m too stressed and tired trying to get the Common Core curriculum in.  I wanted to make you aware of what Project Based Learning is and to have you think and reflect, how can we add this into our school and make it engaging for our kids.
You’re  probably thinking, there goes Vicki, trying to push more stuff on us.  No, I am not.  I really think this is something we need to explore and develop.  We have worked very hard to incorporate CCSS and engage our students with NYSED curriculum.  Actually, some of the curriculum lends itself to PBL.  My concern, and I have voiced to folks with the curriculum is that is it engaging and innovative for our students and will it work?  How can we enhance them?  Hence, project based learning.
 So what is PBL?  The Buck Institute for Education gives a definition.
Project Base Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge.  Essential Elements of PBL include:
  • Significant Content – At its core, the project focuses on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of the academic subject.
  • 21st century competencies – Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as critical thinking/problem solving, collaboration, and communication, and creativity/innovation, which are taught and assessed.
  • In-Depth Inquiry – Students are engaged in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
  • Driving Question – Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing,l which captures their task or frames their exploration.
  • Need to Know – Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
  • Voice and Choice – Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
  • Revision and Reflection – The project includes processes for students to use feedback to consider additions and changes that lead to high-quality products, and think about what and how they are learning.
  • Public Audience – Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.

I think it’s intriguing, and of course, it will take lots of work and training, but how powerful would this be for our children.  Something to think about.  Visit the Buck Institute’s website.  Also, Patrick Shaw is a PBL trainer for OCM BOCES.  Check out the archived PBL and Responsive Classroom newsletters here.  Patrick also developed OCM RC and PBL Facebook pages you should all ask to join!

I have been in contact with Patrick and don’t be surprised, we may see him soon.  PBL also goes hand-in- hand with Responsive Classroom and Academic Choice.  All I ask is that you keep an opened mind.  Have a great week!
Other News
  • Bus Duty for Mar 10 – Mar 21  Team 3:  Jessica Serviss and Teresa Kiechle.  Upcoming bus duty:  Mar. 24 – Apr. 4  Team 4:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Kathy Buell
  • I will be sending out the updates of special switches for the ELA tests on April 1,2,3.  Look for an email soon.
  • DWIS is on Monday at West Side.
  • Our Spelling Bee is Wednesday morning.  Thanks Paula!
  • We are going to try and do the pie in the face assembly on Thursday in the afternoon at the end of the day in the gym.  This will happen!
  • The District Transportation Committee is meeting Tuesday, 3/18 at 6:00p.m. per Mrs. French’s email.
Things in the Blogsphere
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!
Other Items of Interest
The Board of Regents has not yet adopted the Social Studies Frameworks. They will be voted on at the April meeting
The Governor’s Common Core Implementation Panel released their report which is pretty much what the Regents said last month.
Perseverance is a characteristic we value in students. This study points to perseverance as an important characteristic of effective teachers.
The new program Cosmos has a companion website. It includes full episodes as well as supporting resources.
Do you have a growth mindset? Do you deliberately promote a growth mindset for your students? Project Based Learning can help.
All Grades | All Subjects | CCSS
This video kicked off the Let’s Chat Core series. We talk about how to read the CCSS, how the Core affects teachers and students, and offers insights on implementation.
All Grades | All Subjects | CCSS
This webinar demystifies what “text complexity” is all about and explores ways we can use it to make purposeful decisionsabout what we’re asking our students to read.
All Grades | All Subjects | Planning | CCSS
We “zoomed in” with this video to look carefully at the language of exemplar tasks to help us wrestle with the finer details of the Core. 
A Touch of Humor

Student Engagement

On #satchat, the Twitter chat I participated in this past Saturday, the questions that were being posed where around the theme, An Education Worth Having.  There were three national chats, to hit various time zones, and basically, the chat dialogue reflected around the topic of student engagement.  My tweets were geared to how our teachers are trying to engage our students using the NYS modules and not making it boring.  One of my tweets was to start using Fun-o-meter’s, something like this:
(Yeah, use that for staff meetings too!  Stop it, I try. LOL)
All kidding aside, how are you engaging your students?  Watch your students during instruction, are their eyes glazing over?  Are they staring out the window, putting their heads down?  Are they in cooperative groups, exploring and learning?  How can you engage students using the NYS modules and units to spark conversation?  Are you using project based learning?  Are you having students reflect on what they are learning?  Are students writing? Thinking?  How are you asking those essential questions?  
You are all great teachers and you are ALL working hard to create great lessons.  Please know that I am watching you work together to manage and create inspiring lessons from the NYS modules and units,.  This has not gone unnoticed.  We have to work together as a team and I know that we will all get through this once again, because we are educators, we are born to do it.  As I have stated, you are the best of the best.  I am truly blessed to have such an AWESOME staff.  Keep up the great work! Have a great week!

  • DWIS is Monday.  Please see the agenda I sent to everyone.  Title teachers will be meeting in Paula’s room.
  • Just a reminder that group 2 lesson plans are due to me by Friday, Sept. 20th.
  • Please remember to take the Math survey that Mrs. Bushey has sent out.  Make sure you take the time and answer the questions honestly.  Here is the link.  I would be surprised if anyone has knowledge of the PARCC exams and the use of the evidence tables.  If you have knowledge of that, please show me because I don’t have it and it’s not a trick question!
  • Be ready, I will be starting walk through observations on Tuesday.  Please make sure you have checked the iObservation system to make sure you are linked to ES.  I have to start so I don’t get behind.  Look for emails for announcing who I am visiting for a specific day and don’t stress about it!
  • Make sure you are registering for the Math workshops that are scheduled and have been sent to you.  These are mandatory grade level workshops on the CCSS Math modules. Thanks.


  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other items of interest:

This chart lists posting dates and update for SED’scurriculum modules.

When you think about how many beginning-of-the-year letters and messages go home to families about supplies, homework expectations, and support requests, it was inevitable before a parent sent a back-to-school message back at school. Funny!

Myths and realities image
Will the PARCC tests be dramatically different than the standardized tests we already administer? This list of myths and realities from FairTest explains what will be different and what will be the same.



Calculation Nation Image
Calculation Nation is a site where students work with others students across the country to work on math problems and play math games. It’s fromIlluminations and NCTM.


Are you ready for STEM educationThis post introduces the notion and tells you what to expect.


This scholarly article explores how teacher evaluation might, or might not, be an effective tool for education reform. The authors are dubious about any impact based on the lack of any significant impact of teacher evaluation in the past. They conclude by suggesting that resources should be directed in other directions to actually have an impact on learning.


What makes planning for teaching and learning in a Common Core, standards-based environment different?Standards-based planning is what effective and highly-effective teachers do. This course provides a comprehensive experience for teachers of all subjects at all levels.

These maps compare the relative sizes of different countries and the United States – they can shed light and broaden perspectives through these simple comparisons.


This white paper about PBL implementation concludes that you will need a comprehensive, deliberate, sustained, and well-supported effort. Although these characteristics are necessary to implement anything, the paper includes good background, suggestions, and citations for further reading.

This chart explains calculator use on PARCC assessments.