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Putnam-Northern Westchester Educators Discuss Five C's Of Learning

Putnam Valley math teacher Joe Mahoney attempts to build a structure from Popsicle sticks and tape that can support 12 pounds.
Putnam Valley math teacher Joe Mahoney attempts to build a structure from Popsicle sticks and tape that can support 12 pounds. Photo Credit: Contributed

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. – An education conference focused on the four Cs of learning tackled new territory recently, adding a fifth C to the list.

Discussing various elements of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, Student Engagement Through the Four Cs – composed of 21 workshops – was organized by the Putnam-Northern Weschester BOCES, according to organizers, who added that a fifth C, climate, also became a key topic.

Peter DeWitt, an education consultant and conference keynote speaker, kicked off the conference, stressing the importance of a supportive school atmosphere that includes the four Cs, organizers said.

“’Climate’ is actually the plate that everything else should be going on,” DeWitt told the crowd of more than 120 educators at the PNW BOCES School Services Building in Yorktown Heights. “When I say it starts with us, I mean, we need to be reflective and say, ‘Are we doing these things properly?’ before we blame the students, the parents and the curriculum.”

Organizers said the consultant then discussed the work of groundbreaking educational researcher John Hattie, who identified and ranked 195 conditions that influence students’ ability to learn, such as teachers’ “self-efficacy,” or feeling that they can make a difference, and their credibility with students.

The conference’s workshops aimed to teach educators new ways to engage students, according to organizers.

Participants in one of the workshops, “Teaching ELLs Using Whole Brain Instruction,” followed along with hand gestures that Sophie Gourdon from Lakeland schools made as she spoke, according to organizers.

The hand movements help students in her English language learners classes remember the words. In one “whole brain” exercise, called “silent mirror,” the students imitate the gestures of the speaker while saying nothing, she said. That helps Gourdon see that the students are picking up the lesson.

“It doesn’t matter if I have five kids or 35 kids, I can see who’s with me,” she said.

In “Designing Assessments of the Four Cs,” Eastchester High School science teacher Alex Fletcher poured small piles of iron filings, salt, sand and crumbs of cork into a beaker and asked groups of educators to figure out how to separate out each element from the mix, organizers said.

When groups figured out the basic idea – a magnet and water can help – Fletcher discussed the intricacies of the solutions that students learn the hard way. (Use the magnet before the water, for example.)

“If you find that there’s a flaw in your system, start again,” he said.

In another session, teams of educators built small structures of wide popsicle sticks and masking tape with the aim of creating a base that could hold 12 pounds.

For Pelham Middle School Principal Robert Roelle, the exercise reflected the approach his school takes in allowing students to use their creativity in solving problems.

“We had to collaborate,” he said. “We had to be respectful of each other.”

Joe Mannozzi, conference coordinator said he was pleased with how the overall event turned out.

“It was truly gratifying to have so many educators eager to share their expertise around student engagement,” he said.

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