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4/18/2018

GUEST BLOG: Market Day...An Engaging Economics Lesson for Elementary Students — Kelly Miller, South-Western City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-871005836.jpgSometimes people who don’t work in schools find it surprising that students begin learning the basics of subjects like algebra, physics and even economics as early as elementary school. We expect teachers to cover these topics in high school and college, but elementary school teachers begin building this knowledge in their students much earlier. As a second grade teacher, I am always looking for ways to make learning fun and engaging. For example, teaching economics to second-graders certainly is not going to look like the stereotypical dry lecture you might imagine in a college setting. In fact, when it is time to teach the economics strand of the social studies standards to my second-graders, I get so excited about the project. Every year, my students love this lesson.

When I first started teaching economics, I stumbled upon a packet of teaching materials for second-graders. The packet basically covered important vocabulary words that are involved in understanding how money works. After looking it over and collaborating with my co-workers, we decided we had to make these concepts more interesting. This is how the “market day” project was born. To make the learning more meaningful, we created a unit where students build and participate in a marketplace. In this marketplace, students have an opportunity to design a product, create a business and sell their products to their classmates.  

We begin the first day of the project by having the students take notes in a packet to help them learn the key vocabulary. The next day, they start to put their learning in action. Students form groups of three. Each group is responsible for designing a product that meets certain criteria:

  • It has to be something that students can make at school. If students need materials not available in the classroom, they bring them from home.
  • Students are “paid” on production days with fake money. 
  • Students set prices for their products based on the demand (which was a vocabulary word they learned).

My fellow teachers and I also teach students about advertisements. Students create their own advertisements, which I videotape. After weeks of producing goods and advertising them to their classmates, market day arrives. Students eagerly set up their stores and begin shopping in their classmates’ stores. They spend only the money they earned on production days. By doing this, they learn how to make choices as consumers because they don’t have enough money to buy everyone’s products. Some of the items that students created were bookmarks, hair bows and — what every household needs — a box to hold straws. This year, one group even added a gimmick to make its bookmark store more appealing. The store offered customers the opportunity to lower a fishing pole into a pile of bookmarks and “fish” for bookmarks. This took real entrepreneurship and creativity because the group knew it was competing with another bookmark store.

The buying and selling happens in cycles so that only one of the business owners can go out and shop while the others stay back to sell their products and collect the money. We wrap up the unit by having the students add up their profits and reflect on their sales and what they might have done differently. For example: Was the pricing right? Did you create enough product or too much product?

Market day makes economics in elementary school so much fun. The students are always proud of their products, and they get hands-on experience with the decisions that all consumers and business owners make. It is a great way for my students to learn the concepts of economics through an authentic, highly engaging project. I can’t wait to teach this lesson again next year!

Kelly Miller is a second grade teacher at Monterey Elementary School in South-Western City Schools. You can contact Kelly by clicking here.

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4/12/2018

Bold Beginning! A New Online Resource for Building a Bright Start

By: Wendy Grove

GettyImages-133982134.jpgAs a parent of a young child, I often wondered whose advice I should listen to. There was certainly no shortage of advice. It seemed to come from everywhere — my mom, my friends, colleagues, the cashier at the grocery store. When you become a parent, people do seem to have a lot of wisdom to share. Given my experience in early childhood education, I could filter out the well-meaning, but outdated advice from the things I knew had some facts behind them. That does not mean, however, that I actually knew what to expect from an infant or toddler. You hear a lot of new parents joke that they wish their babies came with an instruction manual and it’s true. I used to wonder when my daughter would start walking or if there were signs that would tell me if something was not developing as expected. If I asked another person these questions, I would get lots of advice, reactions and sometimes unsolicited information. Internet searches also were available, but how could I know which sites were truly reliable? Anyone who has searched for a medical symptom online knows that search engines often diagnose a case of sniffles as a rare, deadly disease. So, where exactly can parents turn to for solid advice?

The state of Ohio just released a new resource that I wish would have been there for me when my children were small. It is called Bold Beginning! The goal of Bold Beginning! is to give Ohio’s youngest citizens a great start in life by making information and resources accessible to their caregivers. Getting early access to learning and basic needs is critical. Before we are even born, our brains begin to develop. As infants and young children, the experiences we have shape how our brains will continue to develop. This lays the foundation for all learning that takes place for the rest of our lives. The period between birth and kindergarten is the most rapid phase of development that we will experience in the span of our lives. This is the time when a child learns how to walk, talk, follow rules for safety and hygiene, develop significant relationships with trusted adults and make friends beyond their families. Everything that happens in this period of enormous learning and development has the potential to impact how that child grows, learns and experiences the world during his or her years in school.

Bold Beginning! is a reliable, online resource to learn about everything from healthy pregnancies to child development through the third grade. If parents have concerns about their children’s development or meeting their basic needs, it is a one-stop shop for resources to food, housing, education and child care. There is even legal help and links to family fun. You can enter the site as a parent or caretaker and go right to a page with specific information based on the age of your child. The Family and Community page links to all the resources available throughout the state to help families meet their basic heath, emotional, educational and employment needs.

Finally! A single site with information and resources that families can depend on. It’s not quite an instruction manual, but this is definitely something parents and others who help children and families will want to check out so Ohio’s children can have a bold beginning for a bright future.

Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office for Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. You can learn more about Wendy by clicking here.

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4/5/2018

STAFF BLOG: Family and Community Engagement is Something Good Schools Do — Tom Capretta, Family and Children Community Coordinator

By: Staff Blogger

GettyImages-607460110.jpgTracy Hill is the executive director of the Office of Family and Community Engagement at Cleveland Metropolitan School District and one of the 2014 Education Week Leaders to Learn From. The first time I heard her say, “Family and community engagement is something that good schools do,” it just clicked. She made the point simply and powerfully. Family engagement and community engagement are not separate from the everyday work of schools and districts. They are, in fact, critical to the success of that work. Research even shows that effective family and community engagement can result in better grades, test scores, attendance and enrollment in more challenging courses.

Because engagement with families and communities is so critical to school success, it is a part of any quality effort to improve schools. For example, when a district carries out the Ohio Improvement Process, the district must work with families and communities to collect data, determine needs, develop an improvement plan, work the plan and evaluate the plan. As the district does this work, it develops mutual relationships with families and community members. This allows everyone to recognize their roles in improving students’ education.

At a webinar I attended in August 2017, Ron Mirr, president of the Center for Active Family Engagement (CAFÉ), shared this process in simpler terms. Below are the five steps he outlined for meaningful and organized engagement:

  1. Commit: To get buy-in from the community and families, districts and schools must clearly define family and community engagement. Districts should develop policies that create a clear direction for engagement. Districts and organizations in the community must develop and subscribe to shared beliefs about family and community engagement.
  2. Assess: Districts and schools must assess the environment they operate in. To do this, they should survey stakeholders, review what they are already doing and identify opportunities for growth.
  3. Plan: Districts and schools should develop a team of parents, caretakers, students and community members. Writing a plan that includes all parties establishes a foundation of mutual trust. To be successful, schools and districts also must provide training to staff about how to engage families and the community.
  4. Implement: Districts and schools must move beyond traditional professional development and provide coaching. Their plans must include processes for checking progress and provide the necessary resources for success.
  5. Sustain: Engagement is not a one-time event. School and district teams must routinely review data and, if needed, adjust what they are doing. They should openly create and share the next steps in the process with their stakeholders.  

These steps align to the Ohio Improvement Process. They also are accessible to parents and community members. Intentionally engaging families and communities establishes trust. Trust leads to meaningful collaboration and support in other areas.

The draft of EachChild=OurFuture, Ohio’s five-year strategic plan for education, includes Eight Guiding Principles that recognize the importance of family and community engagement. The goal of the strategic plan is to help each child become successful with the guidance and support of caring, empowered adults. The plan itself is the product of engagement with more than 150 preK-12 educators, higher education representatives, parents and caregivers, employers, business leaders and philanthropic organizations. In fact, the draft is still being discussed at public regional meetings around Ohio. You can read more about EachChild=OurFuture and comment on the draft here.

Ohio and the nation are realizing the importance of family and community engagement. It is the perfect time for our state to be the meeting place for the 2018 National Family and Community Engagement Conference. The conference, hosted by the Institute for Educational Leadership, will be in Cleveland July 11-13. More than 1,300 people are expected to attend, and there will be more than 75 workshops. This is an excellent opportunity to see how schools and communities around the country are realizing mutual goals and making the most of family-school-community partnerships. Participants will leave the conference with strategies, tips and tools they can immediately apply to their work. To learn more, please visit the conference website or contact me directly.

Tom Capretta is the family and children community coordinator at the Ohio Department of Education. He supports districts in their efforts to implement effective family and community engagement strategies and serve vulnerable student groups, including students in foster care. To contact Tom, click here.

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3/29/2018

GUEST BLOG: Mental Health First Aid...Indian Lake’s Response to a Community Crisis — Robert Underwood, Indian Lake Local School District

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-177761232.jpgI’m going to be open and honest here. The staff and students of Indian Lake Local Schools have experienced the suicides of two high school students in the past five years. I was serving as the high school principal during these tragedies, and it was, without a doubt, the most challenging time of my professional career. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected. Reactions were painful and raw. Our young people and experienced educators were grief-stricken and asked, “What signs did we miss?” and “How can we prevent this going forward?” Making matters worse, there was an overall increase of suicides in our community during this time. These events emphasized the critical need for emotional support in our schools.

Although traditional first-aid training is not yet mandatory for all educators in Ohio, I would venture to say that most teachers and school staff have taken at least one first-aid course at some point in their lives. When you are responsible for the care of others, it makes perfect sense to be knowledgeable about lifesaving techniques should a medical emergency arise. First aid gives individuals the skills to provide basic medical treatment, often saving the person’s life, until a professional can take over.   

After the tragedies that Indian Lake School District witnessed in the school and the community, we decided to apply first-aid principles to our own mental health. As adults, we often focus on our physical well-being. We regularly go to checkups to ensure we are healthy. We model this behavior for students. We encourage them to eat right and exercise frequently. However, it is still common to neglect and even be afraid to address our own mental health. It is even more difficult to confront others — like the young people in our care — about their mental well-being. We often do not have the skills or confidence to address these issues. However, the data clearly indicates that youth need mental health support. One in six students experience mental illness, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10-24-year-olds. Locally, our school counselors also report an increase of students who need mental health services. Counselor responsibilities continue to expand, making it nearly impossible for them to adequately support all the students’ needs. At Indian Lake, we decided to address this problem as an entire staff.

I transitioned to the superintendent’s position in the summer of 2017 and began serving on a committee where I met Steve Terrill. Steve is a mental health advocate, community activist and a member of the Mental Health Drug & Alcohol Services Board of Logan and Champaign Counties. He introduced the Mental Health First Aid program to me. With support of the board of education and the administrative team, we quickly began planning a training event that included every district employee. Bus drivers, food service staff, teachers and office staff — everyone attended.

The training is much like medical first aid. Participants learn to provide lifesaving assistance until appropriate professional resources are available. However, instead of providing medical attention, Mental Health First Aid assists someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. During the eight-hour course, trainees determine how to apply the five-step action plan in a variety of situations. The situations could be helping someone through a panic attack, engaging with someone who may be suicidal or assisting an individual who has overdosed. An important component of the Mental Health First Aid course is the opportunity to practice the intervention strategy rather than just learning about it. Role-playing makes it easier to apply the knowledge to a real-life situation. The training builds an understanding of mental health and helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness.

Certified instructors teach the nationally-accredited Mental Health First Aid program. The training occurs in either two four-hour sessions or one eight-hour session. There is a maximum of 35 people in each session. At Indian Lake Schools, we trained more than 230 staff and community members during a professional development day. Our philosophy is that all staff members should work together to improve the student experience. We believe that recognizing the signs of mental distress is vital to a safe school environment. It was imperative that EVERY staff member participate in the training. In return, staff received continuing education units and a three-year credential that is valuable on any resume.

The most difficult part of organizing the training was finding enough instructors to serve our entire staff on the same day. I contacted Kathy Oberlin, director of the Ohio Mental Health Network for School Success, and she provided trainers and workbooks free of charge through a grant called Making Ohio Aware: Building Statewide Mental Health First Aid Capacity. Even with the support of the network, we were still short on trainers. We turned to The Ohio State University Extension in Hardin County for assistance. Many extension agencies across the state have certified instructors on staff. In most cases, extension agencies charge a modest fee to cover their mileage and the workbook fees. The workbooks typically cost $20 each.

The training was well-received by our staff, although I will admit that the morning doughnuts and free lunch probably helped to sweeten the deal! We also opened our training up to the community. There were 20 extra people in attendance, including an Indian Lake Board of Education member, educators from other districts, a Logan County commissioner, and State Board of Education Member Linda Haycock. We have plans to coordinate additional community events in the future, and the next phase is to provide training to students.

Mental Health First Aid credentialing is only available to people ages 18 and older. Karey Thompson from the Suicide Prevention Coalition will help us provide Mental Health Gatekeeper Training to our middle school and high school students in April. Gatekeeper training lasts approximately 90 minutes. It teaches students to recognize their own mental health struggles and to understand warning signs in their friends. The main idea is to “Acknowledge, Care, Tell” or to “ACT.”

Focusing on mental health has helped to develop a shared sense of caring in our school district and in the community. Additionally, it has answered many of the questions our staff members faced after experiencing the heartache of student suicides. Finally, parents and community members know that we are doing everything we can to protect the overall health our most valuable assets — our students. I am truly thankful to all the agencies and volunteers that came together to make this training happen. The response has been extremely positive, and I am confident that our district is well equipped to support student mental health, although there is still much work to do.

If you are considering an event in your district or community, feel free to contact me by email or at (937) 686-8601. You can contact Steve Terrill by email, at (919) 623-0952 or on Facebook. Kathy Oberlin also is an excellent resource. I would encourage you to get to know the behavioral health authority in your county. You can find a directory here.

Robert Underwood served as a teacher, principal and coach before becoming the superintendent of Indian Lake Local Schools. To contact Superintendent Underwood, click here.

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3/22/2018

Free and On Demand: What You Should Know About the Learning Management System for Ohio Education

By: Julia Simmerer

GettyImages-519912973.jpg“The most important attitude that can be found is the desire to go on learning.” – John Dewey.

Everyone is born with a natural desire to learn about the world around us and an eagerness to thrive in the world. The motivation to learn never ends — it continues throughout our lives and our careers. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of millennials say job development is important in a job. Essentially, we crave opportunities to learn and grow throughout our lives.

Today’s technology also has made us crave media that is available at our fingertips. With streaming video services like Netflix, we can watch movies anytime and almost anywhere.  Internet-connected smart phones put the answer to almost any question right in our pockets. While an internet search can provide quick responses to basic questions, it isn’t the best method for developing our professional skills.  

The Ohio Department of Education recently introduced a new tool that both helps educators meet their learning goals and is readily accessible anywhere there is internet. The Department’s Learning Management System for Ohio Education, or LMS as it is commonly called, is a free, online learning system for actively credentialed educators. By logging in to their SAFE accounts, educators can participate in high-quality learning anytime — available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Department designed the current courses based on input from Ohio’s educators. The LMS allows districts to collaborate with each other through interactive discussion boards and activities. Each course covers specific skills that match an educator's job assignment. Traditional professional development courses in school settings offer “one size fits all” learning opportunities. This system allows users to select courses that are specifically relevant to their teaching assignments. The courses within the LMS also offer strategies that teachers can use immediately in the classroom.

Having spent several years as a classroom teacher, I recognize the benefits that free, online training brings to Ohio’s educators. Some of these benefits include not missing a day from class to participate, not needing a substitute teacher to cover your class and the flexibility to work from home at a time that is convenient for you. Now that I work for the Department, I appreciate that the system allows us to make sure everyone taking the course receives a consistent message and instruction — no matter where they are in Ohio.

To take a course in the system, educators sign in to their SAFE accounts and select Learning Management System. From there, educators can search the Course Catalog. Some of the topics covered by courses in the system include:

  • Instructional practices;
  • Evaluating digital content for instruction;
  • Transition services for students with disabilities;
  • Educator evaluation systems;
  • Instructional coaching;
  • Differentiation;
  • The Resident Educator program; and
  • The OhioMeansJobs resource.

Participants can complete reflections and time logs throughout the courses. This allows them to potentially earn credit for working on their Individual Professional Development Plans. (Educators should review each course’s syllabus for the recommended procedure for submitting their work to the Local Professional Development Committee.)

Currently, the Department’s Office of Educator Effectiveness is offering the following courses:

  • Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) for Teachers;
  • Learning About the Ohio School Counselor Evaluation System;
  • Ohio Principal Evaluation System (OPES): Essentials for Educators;
  • Resident Educator courses;
  • Formative Instructional Practices, (FIP) Series (seven courses available);
  • Coaching for Self-reflection and Instructional Change; and
  • Using the Ohio Standards for Professional Development.

If you have any questions about the LMS, feel free to contact Alison Sberna at Alison.Sberna@education.ohio.gov or (614) 369-4071. In the meantime, log in to your SAFE account now and take a tour of the Course Catalog. Instead of “binge watching” TV shows, let’s do some “binge learning” on the LMS.  

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching Profession at the Ohio Department of Education, where she oversees the implementation of policies and programs that support Ohio’s teacher and leader corps. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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