Staying Connected: Your Stories - November 24, 2020
Connections in Education During COVID-19

Throughout New York State, administrators, teachers, and school personnel continue to demonstrate their extraordinary dedication, support, and commitment to their students and New York's children. The State Education Department (NYSED) wishes to highlight the exceptional efforts of our educators to stay connected with students during the coronavirus pandemic.

This edition of Staying Connected highlights:

  • How the East Rochester Union Free School District continues to honor our nation's Veterans;
  • Strategies for teaching and learning in a concurrent hybrid instructional model from the West Hempstead Union Free School District; and
  • Brockport Central School District's creative means of emphasizing social emotional learning with students at all grade levels.

NYSED is grateful to the dedicated educators and school personnel who are working so diligently to ensure that students are safe and well. We encourage you to Submit Your Story detailing how you continue to stay connected throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
Honoring our Veterans
East Rochester Union Free School District — The East Rochester UFSD traditionally holds a ceremony for Veterans Day, inviting veterans to the school to be recognized. This year, however, the district had to adapt the ceremony to align with COVID-19 protocols.

Students and staff learned why we celebrate Veterans Day and then wrote letters that were mailed to veterans, thanking them for their service.

In lieu of an in-person assembly, a video was created that was shared as a virtual assembly for students and then on social media for the entire community. Thank you to all of the veterans who have and are currently serving!
Teaching and Learning in a Concurrent Hybrid Model
West Hempstead Union Free School District — The West Hempstead UFSD is a diverse suburban school district located in Nassau County with approximately 2,000 students in five schools. The stories below focus on the teaching and learning the district is doing in its concurrent hybrid model. 

Chestnut Street School (Kindergarten) 

Goal: To connect to distance learners

Outcome: Build relationships with distance learners and help them become a part of the learning community through discussion, role play, etc.

To support kindergartners as they begin their academic and social-emotional journey, West Hempstead instituted a daily ‘Lunch Bunch’ for the Distance Learning model students. The daily Lunch Bunch is an opportunity for students to join a Google Meet hosted by the psychologist, social worker, or building principal and eat their lunch while socializing. Students have engaged in conversations during the Meet, played games, and gone on virtual field trips under the adult host's direction. The Lunch Bunch has allowed distance learners to truly be part of the Chestnut Street learning community and experience all kindergarten's wonderful social-emotional aspects.
Cornwell Avenue School (Elementary)

Goal: To create an inquiry-based learning environment.

Outcomes: Solve mathematical problems. Develop reading and writing strategies to become autonomous learners.

In Grade 1 math, investigations are off and running! Teachers and students love the inquiry aspect and truly see a difference in learning. Teachers use Jamboard during Google Meets to monitor students' mathematical thinking as they complete tasks "live" in real-time. Pictures below are pattern block creations from Google Classroom. A combination of online and hands-on pattern block work is making the impossible possible. One class states, "Something remarkable happening is how we can describe and identify 2-D shapes! We love geometry!"
kindergarten students at West Hempstead UFSD
Here's what West Hempstead teachers are saying:

"One remarkable thing that has gone on regarding Investigations math is how we can incorporate the math exploration games with my online learners. We can pair them up with a student in the classroom, and they play the games virtually. Both students have fun while learning new concepts!"

"One additional remarkable thing that has occurred with Investigations was how I was able to get my struggling learners to understand and master the concept of 'counting on' using math tools such as a number line and hundreds chart!"

"Investigating numbers and shapes in so many different ways have led to such rich conversations and deep understanding of our thinking even from a distance!"

"Children are cross-learning! Experiencing math digitally, physically, and through practical conversation!"
Focus on Social Emotional Learning
Brockport Central School District — Brockport CSD teachers and staff have been finding creative ways to focus on social emotional development with students in all grade levels as they return to school for the 2020-21 school year.

Ginther Elementary Counselor Peter Kramer developed a virtual counseling classroom for all students, offering resources focused on behavior, social emotional learning, and a sense of belonging. The main room has a mailbox where families can check in with Mr. Kramer, as well as a link to a calm room with activities, a “zones of regulation” check-in, a counseling library, and a room where Mr. Kramer posts video lessons that he films each week to creatively address specific social emotional issues.
By visiting the zones of regulation link, students are asked to mindfully consider whether they are in the blue zone (sad/sick/tired), green zone (happy/calm/focused), yellow zone (frustrated/worried/excited), or red zone (angry/mean/disgusted). This allows students to check in with their emotions and assess if there is anything they can do to feel better.

The counseling library offers a variety of picture books that students can either read or listen to. Books include “The Way I Feel,” “I Believe in Myself,” “I am Peace” and “My Mouth is a Volcano.” The book selections address how and why people feel different emotions and that it is okay to feel a range of emotion, but that you should reflect on them so you can take care of yourself.

Mr. Kramer says this is the first time in his career he has a place where teachers, families, and students can access all the work he is doing with students at any time, along with various resources that may help at home. It has allowed him to engage with families in a way he has never been able to do in the past. Families can watch, learn, and discuss the lessons together or review them at any time. The teachers are also able to visit and revisit whatever topic they feel is most relevant to their students. Many different staff have volunteered their time to help create the videos, as the virtual counseling classroom has become a big success.
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