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Skaneateles Teachers Prepare for Upcoming School Year in Socially Distanced Professional Development Sessions

Skaneateles Central School District teachers aren’t letting a pandemic prevent them from getting a leg up on the new school year. The district has hosted socially distanced professional development sessions to get teachers better prepared for learning in the fall, whether that is in the classroom or online.

Humanities Curriculum Coordinator Francine Grannell recently led professional development sessions at State Street Intermediate School as part of the Skaneateles Summer Literacy Academy. The academy empowers staff to understand the what, why, and how of evidence-based practices and the science of reading in order to ensure coherence of instructional materials and practices to support all students in developing life-long skills.

Grannell facilitated virtual sessions every week in May and June with grades 3-8 teachers to review the New York State Advanced Literacy Briefs.

"The sessions were focused on enhancing our understanding of what the briefs (NYSED guidance) say about Standards-Based ELA instruction, and then applying that understanding as we reviewed core ELA curricular resources to determine alignment to the briefs," said Grannell. "K-2 teachers will engage in the same professional learning offerings and experiences during their Summer Literacy Academy 2020 sessions. The Summer Literacy Academy sessions launch year two of the Skaneateles Central School District's Five-Year Literacy Action Plan."

“One of the most beneficial parts of meeting with Francine during the shutdown was having the opportunity to review the literacy briefs,” said Monique Ryan, a teacher at State Street Intermediate School. “It was nice to read the documents, recognize the pieces that we are already accomplishing, and identify the pieces that we need to be looking for as we consider adopting a literacy program.”

In the recent literacy academy session, teachers participated in the final in-person exploration of core ELA curricular resources to support future ELA programming. The resources evaluated included "Wit & Wisdom" and "EL Education." Earlier in the spring, teachers reviewed a total of four programs and used a process to narrow the selection to two programs. The recent session provided teachers one final review of the core ELA curricular resources to determine which program was the best match of the critical components learned about in the briefs while maintaining alignment to local needs.

“Both of the programs we are reviewing are aligned to the science of reading and evidence-based practices,” said Grannell. “These high-quality instructional resources teach literacy, build knowledge, impact equity in the classroom and support student achievement and teacher practice.”

Teachers found that taking a closer look at the resources helped in achieving the academy’s overall goal: to develop life-long literacy learners.

“It was nice to have the time to peruse the resources and materials for the ways in which my students would be engaging in collaborative reading and writing activities,” said Suzanne Dmochowski. “Personally, I am always looking for ways to build conversation, so I was especially looking for how language structures were spiraled throughout each. It's wonderful to be included in this ongoing literacy knowledge building process.”

“It was exciting to see so many educators engaged in this important work of choosing the best possible resources for our district,” added Connie Bohrer. “My colleagues and I feel fortunate to work with a team of administrators like Francine and John Lawrence, both of whom support teachers in their pursuits of deepening pedagogical knowledge to make the most informed decisions for our students.”

Teachers also recently took part in a socially distanced professional development session at Waterman Elementary School, facilitated by Instructional Technology Specialist Heather Buff. The session was part of a series of classes that targeted the individual teacher and the resource he or she uses. Other offerings include Google Classroom and PowerSchool learning classes for the secondary level.

In this session, teachers focused on improving their Google Sites.

Joanna Schmeling, a teacher at Waterman Elementary School, described some of the big changes she made to her Google Site during the session.
“All of the days we worked on with the kids are on one separate page now, where before they were all individual pages,” said Schmeling. “We put them on one page for parents to reference over the summer, so if they really liked a video from a certain day, they’re able to go back and re-watch it.”

Teachers also created a page with interactive games for reading, math, and other resources. Students can click the links on those pages to play interactive games related to that subject.

Dr. Paul Blair, Director of Technology, credited teachers for making the move to Google Sites quickly during the closure.

“When they had to jump into this in March, they did it with zero warning,” said Blair. “Now, they’re learning what worked during that time and how to enhance those things. If we have some sort of online component in the fall, we’ll have an improved platform for the students to access resources.”

“I think our overall goal as a team is to have our sites ready for everyday instruction,” said Schmeling. “Whether we’re in school or online, we’ll be able to maintain our scope and sequence for the entire year.”
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Eric Knuth
45 East Elizabeth Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152