Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pass It On

Change comes in many different forms, and when it does, it hits with a delightful surprise. It is bliss to see teachers taking a teaching strategy and making it their own. The teaching strategy is called "Pass It On." Instead of a teacher repeating the answers of a student when they respond to a question, the teacher asks the student to select another student in the class to either repeat, elaborate or provide a different answer.

Here is an example of what I saw in a physical education class. After the student leaders had guided the class through the warm up exercises, the teachers had the students come together in a huddle at the front of the gymnasium. The teachers wanted the students to review the elements of doing a "set" and a "bump" in volleyball. The teacher asked a review question and then had students respond through using "pass it on".

In a 9th grade English class, the teacher used the "human thermometer" as a motivational exercise to get students to address one of the themes in a fictional selection they were about to read. After explaining the rules of where to stand to indicate their views, either agree, disagree, or neutral. The students had a brief time to discuss their thoughts as to why they stood in the particular side of the room. The teacher then had the students share out in which the students were responsible to "pass it on" to make sure the members of their team had a chance to express their view.

OK - so why am I still abuzz? What you just read was a brief glimpse of real world application of a teaching strategy as it looks in a classroom. A principal presents an idea and models the technique in a faculty conference. Usually it is the end of the day, and one hopes that teachers will experiment and try it out. It was so cool to see not only teachers experimenting, trying it out and making it their own in the classroom. Now that's cool stuff.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Photos of McKee on SI Live

Check out the following link:

You are going to see great photographs from the photographer Jan Somma-Hammel. You are also going to see the caption under each of the pictures. I am sure it will elicit a reaction.

By the way - be on the look out for an article about McKee CTE H. S. on Sunday, December 20, 2009. I have my finger's crossed.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Magic of Cooperative Learning

When we do group work, we typically ask students that we have placed together to now "work together in pairs, or trios or quads and complete a particular task." We frequently find that in each group, some students work harder than others.

The extra "bounce to the ounce" in cooperative learning is that students work on a common activity and they feel they need each other in order to succeed. They can't hide behind their partners. What do I mean? The group activities are organized in such a way that all students within the group have to positively discuss with one another, all students are held individually accountable, and the students are constantly communicating with one another. Dr. Spencer Kagan calls the activities for every part of how students are to communicate with one another - STRUCTURES. Let's start with the top 4 STRUCTURES that I have found to be very effective.

1. Jigsaw - Groups with five students are set up. Each group member is assigned some unique material to learn and then to teach to his group members. To help in the learning students across the class working on the same sub-section get together to decide what is important and how to teach it. After practice in these "expert" groups the original groups reform and students teach each other. (Wood, p. 17) Tests or assessment follows.

2. Think-Pair-Share - Involves a three step cooperative structure. During the first step individuals think silently about a question posed by the instructor. Individuals pair up during the second step and exchange thoughts. In the third step, the pairs share their responses with other pairs, other teams, or the entire group.

3, Numbered Heads Together (Kagan) - A team of four is established. Each member is given numbers of 1, 2, 3, 4. Questions are asked of the group. Groups work together to answer the question so that all can verbally answer the question. Teacher calls out a number (two) and each two is asked to give the answer.

4. Roundtable
---Roundtable structures can be used to brainstorm ideas and to generate a large number of responses to a single question or a group of questions.
---Faculty poses question.
---One piece of paper and pen per group.
---First student writes one response, and says it out loud.
---First student passes paper to the left, second student writes response, etc.
---Continues around group until time elapses.
---Students may say "pass" at any time.
---Group stops when time is called.
---The key here is the question or the problem you've asked the students to consider. It has to be one that has the potential for a number of different "right" answers.
---Relate the question to the course unit, but keep it simple so every student can have some
---Once time is called, determine what you want to have the students do with the lists...they may want to discuss the multitude of answers or solutions or they may want to share the lists with the entire class.

5. The Human Thermometer
A teacher says aloud 10 statements connected to the day's lesson. It is important to poll how the students feel by asking them to physically move to the side of the room that represents their opinion on the topic. Think of it as an anticipation guide. More importantly it will cause students to either AGREE, DISAGREE or be NEUTRAL. Have students stand in the center line in the classroom. As you say the statement students are to move to the side of the room that has the sign AGREE on it or DISAGREE on it. They are given 30 seconds to discuss and then select speakers from within the group to students indicate why they support that viewpoint. The more students are able to provide evidence from notes, or from the text then the higher the points.

To quote a famous detective, Monk, "Now here's the thing." Always explain the task BEFORE students go into groups.
1. Don't assume students know how to work together.
2. Practice going over the directions
3. Teach students how to get into groups, distribute materials, share, and use academic language
4. Define the roles and keep a reminder chart in the classroom.
5. State your expectations about the behavior when students are in groups

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Differentiating Instruction. What Again? Yes. Again!

There comes a point when one has to acknowledge that students learn in different ways. A teacher has to use different methods in order to reach the pupils in his or her class. What can be done.

Click here to see a quick reminder about the ways one can make a stronger, learner-centered environment.
---Display student work. Go to for ready to use rubrics to evaluate the assignments.
---Use ARIS to create your groups. Make your group assignments on different levels for the groups in one's class.
---Be consistent on the type of notes the students take. One can do guided note taking, Guided notes contain the main ideas and the related concepts of lectures as well as blank spaces for students to fill in during lectures. Key terms, phrases and definitions also may be included in the guided notes.
---One can insist upon writing notes using a T-Chart. One can also do the more detailed version of a T-Chart which is Cornell Note-taking. On the right are the content notes. One the left are smain ideas, key points that would connect to the notes.
---Informal assessments can be as simple as thumbs up or thumbs down or hands up and hands down in getting students to respond to how many understand a concept. There is also the traditional quizzes and tests. Why not mix it up and have students each have an index card. Some have concepts, Some have words. Give the students 2-3 minutes to find the correct pairing.

The point is that for differentiation to work, one has to try it. No one is perfect. Ideally, have one of your colleagues indicate whether you are on the right path for differentiating your instruction. Luckily, we have a UFT Center in which one can exchange ideas.

Interdisciplinary Vocabulary List

Looking to have students review common vocabulary terms within Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies?
Look no further than the vocabulary words and definitions that were identified and placed into this lovely EXCEL spread worksheet.
Click here to see the Interdisciplinary Vocabulary Word/Definition Chart. It is a great reference tool in which you can assign students the activity of making a foldable, using index cards, or decorating strips of paper and selecting words that are the same yet have different meanings across the disciplines.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

Big doings at McKee High School on Tuessday, November 24, 2009. At 3:15, Congressman McMahon, Kevin Hunt (Executive Director from Councilman Mitchell's office), Borough President Molinaro, and Superintendent Waite arrived at the Black Box Theater. After a brief slide show, there were speeches of gratitude for the work and support from the principal (your friendly blogger), Mr. Joseph O'Brien (the master of ceremonies), Ms. Katherine Kish (AP Math/Science), and Prof. Sonia Fields (Librarian). Additional expressions of gratitude were offered to Mr. Bruce Pane, the Drafting/Architecture teacher and his junior drafting class for designing the front half of the library. Their creativity were invaluable aids to realizing the layout envisioned by Prof. Fields.

Ms. Meryl Sheridan looks on as Superintendent Waite hears about the labs being conducted in the Forensics Science class.

Seated is Steven Martinez, a member off McKee High School's student council, explaining one of the features on the MAC to (from left to right) Kevin Hunt, Borough President Molinaro, Mary McVey (parent coordinator), Congressman McMahon and Ms. Patricia Manley (PTA president).

The Black Box Theater, room 221, was designed by McKee High School's junior drafting class under the instruction of Mr. Pane and then built by the senior construction class of 2009 under the instruction of Mr. Dennis O'Connell.

13 Student Council Members at the Nov. 24 Turkey Give Away

Time is one of the most precious elements a volunteer can give to a good cause. It is amazing the energy the members of our Student Council displayed on Tuesday, November 24th at the Thanksgiving Turkey Give Away sponsored by Borough President James Mollinaro. Here is an eye witness account of what happened from Ms. Starkey, the Coordinator of Student Activities.

The 13 student council members arrived at the location at 9 AM. Two tractor trailers pulled up. Next, the students, under the direction of the adult volunteers, set about putting the boxes together. The work does not end there. Tractor trailers do not unload themselves. The next step was to unload all of the goods: like the bags of potatoes and the over 1200 turkeys.
Then the items have to be organized into bundles to be distributed to the organizations such as Project Hospitality, food pantries, and families. The 13 Student Council members eagerly did this activity until 1 PM.
Hat's off to the Student Council on Tuesday, November 24th, they "worked it" in typical enthusiastic, soaring seagull style.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

McKee Student Council Members & Turkey Give Away

Check out the smiling faces from a group of McKee Student Council members who participated in the annual Turkey Give Away sponsored by the SI Urban League, and State Senator Savino on November 17, 2009. Our intrepid Ms. Starkey, the new Coordinator Of Student Activities, was instrumental in organizing our students to participate in this community service event.

Once the students arrived at the Staten Island Urban League office, they set about doing the prep work of breaking down the boxes, and organizing the items into neat bundles. The packages were then filled with turkeys, stuffing and the other traditional items used to celebrate the holiday.

Note the faces and the connections that occur. This event took place on Thursday, November 19, 2009. Way to go Soaring Seagulls. A great way to start of the holiday season.

Monday, November 16, 2009

News from the ACE Mentorship Program

Greetings from Tracy Pulla. I came in to talk to the principal about what is happening in the ACE Mentor program that myself and 10 other students from McKee High School started on October 9, 2009. We went to two meetings. The next one will be on November 23rd. A meeting occurs every two weeks.

So far, we have had an opportunity to split up into teams and exchange introductions. We went to Studio 16, which is a firm of one of the mentors on Staten Island. They showed us a number of buildings on Staten Island that they were responsible for designing and building.

What is exciting is the fact that we are working on a project. They are telling us to make a building. They are purposely pushing our minds to think as to how flexible we can be in addressing a need. The sky is the limit. They are not giving us any facts. Our minds are able to explore all the options. Our thoughts and creative input is valued. The project concerns a well known area of Staten Island that is next to South Beach. It's a pretty big strip of land. It used to be an arcade years ago. The goal is for us, the ACE mentors, to design a community center in an economically depressed neighborhood. The objective is for teenagers to have a place to stay out of trouble.

A big challenge is putting all of the ideas into one productive output. That is going to be hard. We all are committed about our ideas. There are restrictions that we all have to follow. In fact, the architects seem to take delight in the fact that they will be able to tell us what the restrictions are after we have designed the buildings. The idea is to work together to make the design a reality. Some of the students in the ACE Mentor program have already visited the area, taken

The ACE Mentor program is a great opportunity. It is more than what I hoped. I do a lot of things but this opportunity allows me to see the connection between Mr. Pane's architecture class and the real world. We feel empowered because we are able to discuss with professionals, using the language used in the businesses of architecture and construction. We also will be exposed to appreciating and analyzing classic structures in New York City such as the Guggenheim Museum.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kaplan Lesson Bank

On November 3rd, there was a wonderful presentation by Ms. Katy Shannon about the Kaplan Lesson Bank.

Here are just a few reminders from that presentation:
1. Type in the address:
2. Click on Program Log In
3. Click on LessonBank" Link

Make sure that you put in your User Name and Password.

The next page you will see is called: Achievement Planner
Click on Get Lesson Plans.

access thousands of standards aligned lesson plans by clicking on: Select by Standard. This will give you access to ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies.

If you click on Select by Topic, you will only get access to ELA and Math.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alumni Association Hall of Fame Ceremony

Ken McIntyre, the president of the Ralph R. McKee CTE High School Alumni Association presided over the Second Annual Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony taken by our resident student photographer, Ms. Joelle Connors.

The ceremony, which happened on October 19, 2009, honored McKee alumni Carmine DeSantis, John Nappi, John DePalma, and James Klein in McKee's new state of the art library.

Here are two of the honorees:

Mr. John DePalma

Mr. James Klein.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Parent Conferences - A Busy Night and Afternoon

Every year administrators and staff prepare for Open Parent Night and Afternoon. These pictures represent only a small portion of the planning and dissemination of information that occurs during the event.
More importantly, it is a time for parents to hear the following:
- We hold high expectations and goals for all students and staff members
- We seek input from all stakeholders
- We engage in lifelong learning
- We value collaboration
- We live by the vision: learning is key at McKee

The picture to the left shows parents waiting patiently outside of one of the CISCO teacher's class door for their conference.

Members of the student council, National Honor Society, and peer mediators helped out in a variety of ways: dispensing water, distributing brochures, escorting parents to rooms, and providing a positive atmosphere.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Making McKee Greener Scratch Pads

To: Ms. Sharon Henry, Principal, McKee High School
From: Senior Center of the Church of the Assumption, Chapel of St. Paul
Subject: Making McKee Greener Scratch Pads
Dear Ms. Henry,
On behalf of the Senior Citizens of the Church of the Assumption, Chapel of St. Paul, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for the scratch pads that McKee provided to the senior citizens.
The senior citizens would like to thank Ms. Gina Simas, who led the project, Making McKee Greener. We would like to also thank the following McKee students; Michael DiMartino, Javon Cox and Tyreek Penn for all their time and effort in making the scratch pads.
Also, thank you to Kayla Simas of I.S. 2 and Troy Simas of P.S. 38 for all their assistance in making the scratch pads.
Many of us at the Senior Center are over 70 years old, we all have seen how the changes in the environment affected the way we live and breathe. It is comforting to know that the young people today are concerned about the environment as well. By making pads from scraps of paper that would have been discarded is a positive step in helping the environment.
In closing, once again we would like to thank McKee High School for sponsoring this program and the students for doing their part in helping the environment.
D. Picciocco

Friday, October 16, 2009

Principal For A Day - 2009

Through the PENCIL Partnership Program, we at McKee were lucky to be paired with our way cool Principal for A Day, Ms. Valarie Contrino. She is the owner and President of Contrino Travel. This year's Principal For a Day celebration occurred on Thursday, October 15, 2009.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Math and Science Teachers Pre-Observation Meetings

In line with our SMART Goals, the subject area assistant principals and myself are meeting with the subject area teachers to discuss the expectations in the classroom so that it is a meaningful pre-observation conference. First up were the math and science instructors. Yes, I took a picture, because collaboration between instructors in swapping advice and technicques is powerful. Our school is taking steps to systemically incorporate time for teachers to meet. The picture above shows the members of the math department meeting and trading strategies to encourage student accountability.

The process was repeated for the science instructors. Particularly insightful moments were going over the elements of Costa and Kallick's questioning techniques, their alignment with Bloom's Taxonomy, and the blueprint to helping students develop their critical thinking skills.

Click here to see a lesson plan template that was an outgrowth from the career and technical education subject area meeting courtesy of Mr. Robert McGillicuddy. Note, it is color coded. In addition, the career and technical education standards and technological literacy standards are also included. This is a starting point for teachers to have discussions as to which standards are the most crucial links between subject areas.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Neat Note in the SI Advance

The most surprising things happen over the weekend. Who knew that months later, the coverage would still continue regarding the work we are doing at McKee to help teenagers make healthy choices.
Click here to see the article written in the SI Advance on October 5, 2009.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Design Your Future with the ACE Mentor Program

The ACE Mentor Program, thousands of high school students around the country get an opportunity to design real-life projects under the direction of some of the nation's top engineering and design professionals.

What is it?

It is an after-school program that gives a student hands on introduction to architecture, construction management, and engineering. Through joining ACE, students have a chance, with the help of a mentor's guidance, to discover his or her career.

The ACE Program is looking for students who are motivated and willing to commit to showing up at the bimonthly meetings. Juniors and Seniors are preferred. Applications are due, Friday, October 2, 2009. To fill out the application, please visit the website at Please note - no paper applications are issued or accepted. For questions contact ACE at 212-696-1207 or email:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vote for McKee High School

Come on Soaring Seagulls. Vote for McKee by clicking on the link below.America's Favorite School Contest - help your school win $20,000 - vote today!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our Dynamic PTA Executive Board

Here is the new PTA Executive Board for 2009-2010.
From Left to right: Pat Manley (President), Jeanne Johnson (Co-President of SI Parent Association); Theresa Keane (Secretary/Treasurer); Manny Innamorato (Vice-President).

What Do I Look At In A Satisfactory Lesson?

1. Teacher monitoring student entrance into the classroom. Stating expectations at each major point of a lesson.

2. Aim, & Do Now,
previous day's homework plus an indication of the expectations
3. Motivation of 5 minutes in the form of a visual, audio selection, journal entry, or connection to the lesson
4. Mini Lesson in which the skill is modeled, and the content is discussed
5. Distribution and explanation of the rubric and/or handouts
6. Explanation of the group work, or differentiated instruction with designated group roles. Steps should be pre-posted on chart paper, or transparency, on PowerPoint, or on a handout
7. Monitoring the progress of the students by taking anecdotal notes as to who is exceeding expectations, meeting expectations and who is below expectations

8. Students respond to or use questions from Habits of Mind and Blooms Taxonomy to share out core understandings that build toward answering the aim
9. Final summary provided by the students either verbally and with an EXIT PASS. Pupils can either repeat, or elaborate on the answer to the aim
10. Homework assignment.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pictures from the Welcome Back Breakfast

We had a blast at the Welcome Back Breakfast on Saturday, September 12, 2009. As the parents sat and gnoshed on fruit, coffee, tea, and bagels, the staff shared information about the school goals.

Next our intrepid man who covers the budget, Mr. Velija, indicated to the parents the impact of the budget on the school and encouraged the parents to fill out contact sheets with both their cell phone and email addresses and to turn in lunch form. It is all part of the process of letting the parents see how the return of paperwork helps the school pay bills.

Next, Ms. Mullen reviewed the safety and security procedures in place at the school. She also went over the fact of how we use progressive discipline and the newly formed conflict resolution program

Ms. Kish-Martinez spoke about how post-secondary institutions have increased their standards. College representatives have made it very clear to high schools that they are "out of the remediation business". We at McKee want to make sure that our students are fully prepared for their post secondary experience. Students are expected to take 4 years of math and 4 years of science, English, and social studies.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Opening Day!

What a great opening day! The students entered and immediately the building is infused with energy. I enjoy the aroma of bulletin board paper, polyurethaned wooden floors, polished staircases, and the hustle and bustle aura of teachers preparing their rooms.

Click here to see the "Welcome Address" to the faculty to rev them up for the 2009-2010 school year.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Let's Start At the Very Beginning - State Expectations

The goal of every classroom is to develop students who are responsible, motivated and highly engaged in meaningful tasks.

How can this be done. Post the guideline, skill, attitude or traits that all students are to learn to exhibit. At every point in the lesson, use the word expectation.

There are three levels, just like the Quality Review. The student is exhibiting a skill, attitude, behavior or trait that is:
1. exceeding the expectation
2. meeting the expectation
3. below the expectation

See the pattern. Students need consistency. Students need to know what you want them to do at each step of the lesson.

Put the word expectation into every major transition of a lesson. Stick with it. It makes the conversation objective and about the facts. It is specific, observable, constructive statements. Its not about letting emotions cloud one's vision.

I learned about C.H.A.M.P.S. from a wonderful educational leader, Arisleyda Urena, principal of the Academy for Language and Technology. C.H.A.M.P.S. is a positive method to instill routines and rituals in the classroom. It is a tool to help both teachers and students remain poised. Remaining poised is essential to maintaining control, especially in a classroom situation.

Click here for the PowerPoint on How to do C. H. A. M. P. S.

Click here to help one use C.H.A.M.P.S. for a classroom activity.

Click here to help one use C.H.A.M.P.S. for a transition in the lesson.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

McKee High School's SMART Goals: 2009-2010

Attached is version 1 of our SMART Goals for 2009-2010. This is our blueprint to help us see how we are helping our students achieve. Throughout the year we will look at the outcomes to see our progress.

If you visit our school you will see our SMART goals in the lobby, by the department offices, on the school website, and wikispace, .

Click on the title or right here to check out McKee High School's SMART goals for 2009-2010.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Who needs to know about the Quality Review? We All Do!

1. The entire school needs to know about the Quality Review.
2. Our school gets money if we do well on the Quality Review.
3. The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, the mayor and the chancellor give money to schools that do well on the Quality Review.
4. The money goes towards academic programs, and technology.

Why should the whole school care about the Quality Review?
1. It is in the best professional interest of the staff to know about the Quality Review.
2. The reviewers are people who have great influence in the NYCDOE.
3. A student who is learning should know the components of getting a "well developed" on the Quality Review.
4. A satisfactory teacher should know the components of getting a "well developed" on a Quality Review.
5. A satisfactory assistant principal should know the components of getting a "well developed" on a Quality Review.
6. A satisfactory principal should know the components of getting a "well developed" on a Quality Review.

Click here to know the components of getting a "Well Developed" on the 2009-2010 Quality Review.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quality Review - 2009-2010 - Phase 1

It always takes me a while to wrap my mind around what is being required when I come back from a principal's conference or workshop or meeting or session. I work through the process by writing about it, marking the text, asking questions, creating visuals, and working collaboratively with the school community.

Let's get it started with 5 take away points from the Quality Review Principal Feedback session:

1. The Quality Review has been in existence for 3 years.
2. The rubric for the Quality Review has been modified for the 3rd time.
3. The Quality Review has 3 levels:
--Underdeveloped with proficient features,
--Proficient, and
--Well developed
4. The school community, 90% at least, should be able to use one or more of the accountability tools, on a daily basis.
5. The accountability tools are: Inquiry Teams, ARIS,, Periodic Assessments.

Educational Geek Moment:
- Two educational researchers - Costa and Kallick created Habits of Mind which is part of the language used in the Quality Review
- Douglas Reeves wrote a very famous book called Making Standards Work which also seems to influence the structure and the next steps for the growth of the inquiry teams

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Richmond Choroal Society Youth Chorus Auditions

· Do you like to sing?

· Would you like to improve your music skills?

· Would you like the opportunity to meet other young choral singers and perform with them?

Richmond Choral Society Youth Chorus is looking for you!!

Call Louise at (718) 448-3656 for more information and to schedule an audition

Wednesdays, Sept. 2nd and 9th, 2009, 4-6 p.m.

New Dorp Moravian Church Parish Hall, 2205 Richmond Road, Staten Island, NY

No previous experience or preparation necessary

This program is made possible, in part, by a grant from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and grants from The Staten Island Foundation and Northfield Bank Foundation.

Click on the title or right here:

Friday, July 24, 2009

How a Wii Remote Controller Can be an Educational Tool website is cool. There is an engineer named Johnny Lee who added $10 worth of additional hardware to the $50 Wii remote controller and was able to show educators how to make it an interactive whiteboard. Click here to check out Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote

Click here for step by step instructions on Projects with Wii Remote Controllers. Dr. Lee provides user friendly, visual instructions on how to make the Wii remote a conduit to creating a low-cost whiteboard to tracking one's head motion to create a virtual environment.

For a Brain Blast - is this really cool site that features many visuals, videos and talks by activists, artists, politicians, and thinkers who speak about different themes on a weekly basis. It is a great way to connect with the world. It's also a great way to take a mental break when proofing a dissertation proposal.

Apture Multimedia