• Science is a Verb

    Posted by William Benson on 1/18/2019

    Well, not technically…but today at Broadview Middle School (BMS) it is, thanks to Principal Battle, Ms. Bellerand (Broadview Teacher of the Year), and her fellow science teachers. BMS hosted a half-day event for students and parents to experience hands-on science at ten different investigation centers in the library. Using unpacked science standards to guide activity selection, students and their parents rotating through stations where they explored density, physical and chemical properties (using appropriate safety equipment), pH, and much more.


    How many drops of water can you fit on a penny? Well, at least 19 at the time I visited the station. Students used small plastic pipettes to add drops of water to a penny. As drops of water were added, a dome formed. Why (a very important question in science)? Water is a polar molecule, with a slightly positive side and a slightly negative side and is more attracted to itself (cohesion) than to the copper (adhesion) on the outside of a penny (Fun fact: Pre-1983 pennies are mostly copper, new pennies are mostly zinc with a thin layer of copper.) resulting in high surface tension.


    Great job! Thanks to all involved!!




    Ms. Bellerand with students Dr. Benson with students

    Floating eggs Mr. Battle with Students



    Comments (-1)
  • Squares at Sylvan

    Posted by William Benson on 1/11/2019

    I had the pleasure of helping out in Mrs. Sarah Farrell’s third grade class at Sylvan Elementary School today. Upon arrival, students were tasked with solving a math word problem as a warm-up. Students used a Know – Need – Plan strategy to attack the problem, identifying in table form what they knew from the problem, what they needed to know in order to solve the problem, and what their plan or strategy would be to solve the problem. 


    After morning meeting that included a discussion about current reads, what exactly does a superintendent do, and what students like most about school (Math, reading, and science were the first things mentioned!), students were challenged to identify and apply patterns in an exploration of square numbers. Mrs. Farrell reviewed what students are expected to know and be able to do using an unpacked standard, including academic vocabulary. During the learning, students explored how square numbers grow and developed equations to complete a simulated task – setting up a number of square tables for a science fair with all tables being square and no two tables being the same size. Students used paper, pencil, crayons, cubes, and a 10x10 multiplication table to identify and extended patterns in developing their solutions.


    Great students! Great lesson!! Fantastic job, Mrs. Farrell!!! Thanks to all for letting me participate.



    Comments (-1)
  • Lunch and Math Talk at Audrey Garrett Elementary School

    Posted by William Benson on 1/10/2019

    The Board of Education and I had lunch with students at Audrey Garrett Elementary School this week. We had great conversations with students over lunch served on Gator placemats designed by students (Mine is pictured below.). Following lunch, I had the pleasure of visiting classrooms with Principal Ammann. In Ms. Lori Smith's class, I had the opportunity to observe students engaged in Math Talk. According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Math Talk is a way of “representing, thinking, talking, and agreeing and disagreeing that teachers and students use to engage in [mathematical] tasks,” helping students develop the thinking, self-questioning, and explanation skills needed to master required skills and concepts.­ The strategy has two key components:


    1. Ask and model open-ended questions, and
    2. Engage all students in whole group instruction through partner share.


    Engaging all students in whole group instruction can be a challenge, often resulting in direct engagement of only a few students. This strategy requires all students to formulate a response, signal their readiness by hand signal, and share their response with a partner.


    It was a gatorrific visit! Thanks to all!!




    Gator Placement

    Comments (-1)
  • Space...the Final Frontier

    Posted by William Benson on 12/21/2018

    Yes, I am a Star Trek fan (and I have a holiday tree dedicated to Star Trek to prove it). But this is about a different kind of space – library space – more specifically, school library space. While I have always thought of a school library as the heart of a school, the role of the school library­­­­ (and quite frankly, the importance) has changed significantly in the last 20 years. School libraries have evolved into complex learning places where students and staff interact and engage with content, technology, and each other in varied ways. Flexible, mobile furniture, comfortable seating, interactive technology, multi-functional layout, and design characteristics enhance student experiences and help foster reflection, engagement, and discovery.  Making the shift doesn’t necessarily have a big price tag. Consider the grass roots transformation of the school library at Marvin B. Smith Elementary School pictured below (with an infusion of furniture from Ikea). Kudos to Principal Judy Hancock and Media Specialist Karen Parker!


    Smith Library Smith Library Smith Library Smith Library


    From my perspective, school libraries should be at the top of list for modernization as they have the potential to positively impact all members of a school community.



    Comments (-1)
  • EAR

    Posted by William Benson on 12/20/2018

    Event. Action. Result. I learned about competency-based interviewing questions from a former human resources director from Burger King Corporate, as well as what I should listen for in a candidate’s response. Question: Tell us about a time when you led the work of a team. As an interviewer, you should listen for a description of an event, an action taken by the candidate, and a result or outcome. Why? Simply put, the best predictor of what someone might do in the future is what they have already done. We revamped the majority of our interview questions for leadership positions in ABSS accordingly.


    I recently had the pleasure of co-teaching a class with Ms. Emily Quadrio at CCTEC where we focused on this very topic. After helping students understand the key elements we were looking for in responses, we conducted mock interviews. Students were to respond to the questions based on their chosen career paths – in my group, a midwife, soldier, pharmacy tech, pediatric nurse, and a teacher. While students may have not had direct experiences in their chosen careers, they were able to identify and relate experiences they have had in order to respond. Let me just say – I would have offered positions pending appropriate education and certification – impressive!



    Comments (-1)
  • Checking Road Conditions

    Posted by William Benson on 12/9/2018

    Snow run -- assessing road conditions. Yes, we are closed tomorrow.




    Snow run

    Comments (-1)
  • Future Teachers

    Posted by William Benson on 11/21/2018 7:00:00 AM

    I spoke with a Ms. Navarrate’s fourth grade class at Newlin Elementary last week during their career day. It is never too early to think about career paths. While there were no takers for my job, there were several students interested in becoming teachers. Given the national teacher shortage, I thought it would be a good idea to sign them up with a letter of intent for future positions in ABSS. Of course, the offer is conditional upon receipt of acceptable reference, a satisfactory background check, appropriate credentials, eligibility to obtain a North Carolina teaching license, and provision of sufficient funds from the appropriating body to the Board of Education.




    Dr. Benson with future teachers



    Comments (-1)
  • Girls on the Run

    Posted by William Benson on 11/20/2018

    Brittany Pate, an elementary ESL teacher, has girls on the run at Eastlawn Elementary School and I had the pleasure of running along yesterday afternoon. The program encourages positive emotional, social, mental and physical development and participants explore and discuss their own beliefs around experiences and challenges girls face at this age, while training to run a 5K no less.  The girls maxed out at 2.5 miles yesterday, in good shape for their target race: a mid-December jingle jog!



    Comments (-1)
  • TOK at Williams

    Posted by William Benson on 11/19/2018

    TOK (Theory of Knowledge) is a mandatory course in the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. At the core of the course is a fundamental way of thinking about what we know. In TOK, students are asked to reflect on the nature of knowledge, and on how we know what we claim to know. I had the pleasure of participating in Mr. Stuart Ringwalt’s TOK class at Williams High School last week. As we were getting started, students shared what they like about IB. Students stated that the curriculum challenges the way they think, causes them to question what they learn, and requires them to take responsibility for their learning.  One student commented that it forces them to look outside their personal bubbles. Another student suggested that all classes should do these things.


    The focus of the day’s lesson was revisionist history, and an essential question: to what extent is it ethical for a culture to alter information regarding history, science, or other areas of knowledge to fit the need of society? We discussed the importance of point of view (e.g. revolutionary patriot vs. loyalist) and selected observation (citing only the evidence that supports your position). We talked about healthy skepticism and the need to confirm facts, challenge arguments from authority, consider different explanations, and pay attention to falsifiability.


    I am a firm believer that true student engagement in class requires students to be cognitively engaged – in other words, having original thoughts. I was impressed with the thinkers and level of thinking in this class. Thank you, Mr. Ringwalt, for inviting me to participate. We are lucky to have you in ABSS.



    Comments (-1)
  • 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

    Comments (-1)