• The Right Answer

    Posted by William Benson on 11/2/2018

    Sometimes the importance of getting the right answer in mathematics can get in the way of students deeper understanding of the problem-solving process. During a recent visit to Southern Alamance Middle School, I saw a great example of a strategy to overcome the issue. Students were presented with problems that had already been solved – incorrectly. Students were charged with finding and explaining the source of the error.




    Student work sample

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  • Growth Mindset at Graham Middle

    Posted by William Benson on 11/1/2018

    I had a great lunchtime conversation this week with students at Graham Middle School. They explained to me the importance of having a growth mindset (as opposed to fixed mindset) in achieving their goals. The concept is based on the work of Dr. Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. According to Dr. Dweck, individuals with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result, they reach ever-higher levels of achievement – which was clearly evident in my lunch companions – proud (of their school community) articulate (in conversation), confident (in their ability to grow), accomplished (in positive personal achievements), and on a path to a lifetime of success.




    Lunch with Graham Students

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  • Problem-solving at Andrews Elementary

    Posted by William Benson on 10/23/2018

    I had the pleasure of joining Mr. David Seymour’s fourth grade class last week for some math problem solving – more specifically, solving multi-step word problems. Mr. Seymour provided the following context for the first problem:


    Students our school secretary, Ms. Doss, has asked for our help.


    Hello fourth graders! I need your help. I am creating a budget for next school year for Ms. Robinson. I know that last year, the teachers used 550 marker pens, 310 fewer board erasers, and 55 fewer pencils than board erasers. How many total items did the teachers use? Remember to use words, pictures, and numbers to help solve this problem!


    -Ms. Doss


    According to the National Assessment Governing Board (2002), problem-solving is defined as tasks that require students to recognize and formulate problems, determine the sufficiency and consistency of data; use strategies, data, models, and relevant mathematics; generate, extend, and modify procedures; use reasoning (spatial, inductive, deductive, statistical, or proportional) in new settings; and judge the reasonableness and correctness of solutions.


    As such, it is important that students have the opportunity to solve problems like the one posed in Mr. Seymour’s class – multi-step problems in which more than one strategy could be used to solve, require a written response, and have authentic context.




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  • Books in Honor of Dr. Book

    Posted by William Benson on 10/17/2018

    I had the privilege to receive the first book from a book fundraising drive honoring Dr. Connie Book’s inauguration as Elon University’s ninth president. The Elon campus community gathered on Tuesday this week for a special College Coffee to support the effort which will provide books to ABSS. The presentation was made by Elon student Ashley Billie '21, the recipient of an Odyssey Program scholarship and an Elon Teaching Fellow. There are nearly 200 Elon graduates working for ABSS. Ashley would like to teach English. I asked her if she would be interested in an early contract.




    Dr. Benson receives book

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  • Lunch Bunch @ Broadview

    Posted by William Benson on 10/16/2018

    I had the pleasure of having lunch today in the cafeteria at Broadview Middle School with a group of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students (along with Ms. Johnson, our Chief Secondary Officer, and Principal Battle). We had a wide ranging conversation touching on the transition to middle school, favorite subjects, sports, musical interests, and career aspirations. However, we spent the majority of time comparing and contrasting amoeba, paramecia, and euglena – a dialog initiated by my lunch mates. We discussed similarities and differences in organelles, motion, and nutrition – including the uniqueness of euglena in that it can consume, as well as make its own, food. We also discussed the differences in complexity of the organisms. Relevant, detailed, insightful comments were made across grade levels – a testament to these students and their experiences in science classes at Broadview.




    Dr. Benson with students


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  • The Power of Story

    Posted by William Benson on 9/19/2018

    Stories connect us. Storytelling is an art. There is science in storytelling. In fact, there is research that suggests if stories are told in a certain way, a strong emotional connection occurs. Students in Ms. Burgesses’ class at South Graham Elementary school have been learning about the key elements of stories – characters, problems, plot developments, and outcomes. Using a graphic organizer, students used a mentor text, A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon, to identify the key elements of a story. I had the pleasure of reading the text, after which Ms. Burgess led a group effort to identify the various elements. Next up, students will be writing their own stories – moving from knowledge and comprehension to synthesis and evaluation, a significant increase in cognitive demand.



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  • First Day of School: Phase two

    Posted by William Benson on 8/28/2018

    We welcomed our traditional school year students back yesterday. In visiting schools, it was clearly evident that that our teachers were exceptionally well prepared to welcome back students. Starting back to school can be an anxious time for students (and parents for that matter), regardless of age. One of the classes I visited was reading First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. In the story, Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn't want to go to school. She doesn't know anybody. She is certain it will be awful. However, she is quickly befriended by her principal, Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. Our teachers, staff, and building administrators did just that and so much more yesterday. Thanks for getting us off to a great start.



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  • Conduction, Convection, and Radiation, Oh My!

    Posted by William Benson on 8/20/2018

    Students in Barbara Willett’s class at Haw River Elementary School are learning about heat (energy) transfer. Butter melts on hot corn due to convection, right? Well, no – it does melt, but it melts due to conduction – direct contact. Students who conceptually understand the differences between conduction, convection, and radiation are able to apply their knowledge to new examples (or better yet, provide a new example), not just identify previously provided examples. Students in Mrs. Willett’s class can do that! Hey, fifth graders in Ms. Willett’s class – I need help understanding the difference between a regular oven and a convection oven!



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  • Big Words

    Posted by William Benson on 8/14/2018

    I had the pleasure of co-teaching an ELA lesson with Kim Griffis at Eastlawn Elementary School last week. The lesson focused on understanding the difference between literal and non-literal meaning of words and phrases in context, supported by appropriate evidence from the text. One of the things I really appreciate about Ms. Griffis’ preparation for the lesson is the identification of compelling questions. The lesson had three compelling questions:


    1. How can I ask and answer questions about the text by inferring and using evidence from the text?
    2. How can I determine the meaning of unknown words and phrases in a text using context clues and text evidence?
    3. How can I distinguish the difference between literal and nonliteral language?


    Note that the compelling questions are all how questions, requiring a level of cognitive demand in response beyond basic knowledge and comprehension – clearly moving students into application and analysis.


    Through small and large group work, students learned to use context clues and text evidence to determine the meaning on unknown words, including the ‘big words’ in Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport.


    Many thanks to Ms. Griffis! It was a great lesson and I appreciate the opportunity to be part of it.




    Dr. Benson co-teaching

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  • National Night Out: Burlington

    Posted by William Benson on 8/9/2018

    I had the pleasure of participating in National Night Out this week at the invitation of Hardin Watkins, Burlington’s City Manager. National Night Out is held annually on the first Tuesday in August.  The event is comprised of citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials. Along with the traditional display of outdoor lights and front porch vigils, cities, towns and neighborhoods come together to celebrate with a variety of events and activities such as block parties and cookouts.


    I rode along with Police Chief Smythe and Assistant City Manager Rachel Kelly as we visited neighborhood celebrations throughout the city. A little rain may have dampened streets, but not spirits. A great time was had by all!Thanks to everyone who participated!!




    Dr. Benson and National Night Out

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