AFT TEACH 2013: NYSUT members featured in many “how-to” sessions

AFT TEACH Jennifer Allard and Rhea Dowling

Jennifer Allard, a New Lebanon social studies teacher who spoke at the AFT TEACH conference about creating Common Core-based lesson plans, talks with St. Croix Federation of Teachers' Rhea Dowling.

On the final day of AFT’s TEACH Conference, the spotlight was on several teams of NYSUT members who are taking the lead in their profession.

Educators from around the country attended a session presented by four members of NYSUT’s Subject Area Committee who have developed exemplary Common Core lessons and posted how-to videos and lesson plan templates on NYSUT’s new Common Core website section.

“This was such an extremely helpful session,” said St. Croix Federation of Teachers’ Rhea Dowling. “I love the sharing, the teachers’reflections — that’s the best way for us to learn.”

The four teachers, Andy Palumbo, a Jamesville-Dewitt kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Allard, a New Lebanon social studies teacher, Katie Kurjakovic an ESL teacher in New York City, and Linda Zusman, a Shenendehowa foreign language teacher, shared how they created the Common Core-based lessons and what they learned along the way.

They said collaboration with colleagues proved to be crucial — to receive feedback and to tap into the expertise of other staffers, such as the library media specialist or an English language arts teacher on writing.

“It was a rigorous process, but I found the close questioning of the text (required under Common Core standards) to be a valuable teaching tool,” Kurjavovic said. “Close questioning makes students’ thoughts transparent to me as the lesson moves along, rather than waiting until the end with a culminating activity.”

Palumbo went step by step, line by line, to explain how he created text-based questions for his kindergartners. He noted that many Common Core lessons are posted on the Internet, but they generally don’t includet he lesson plan development process or reflections from the teacher.

Frances Newsom-Lang, a social studies and technology teacher in Queens, said Palumbo’s advice was invaluable. “It’s like a recipe that I can follow,” she said. “This is why I came to this conference.”

Other NYSUT members leading workshops on Wednesday:

  • North  Syracuse EA President John Kuryla and Marlboro’s Robin Hecht,  members of NYSUT’s groundbreaking Innovation Initiative, explained how student surveys and teacher observations worked to improve teaching and learning
  • NYSUT’s Susan Lafond led a session on the supports English language learners need to successfully meet Common Core standards. She and Diane August, a managing researcher with American Institutes for Research, walked participants through a lesson plan featuring the Gettysburg Address as they analyzed what’s different when teaching ELLs and what is the same as when teaching mainstream students.
  • Karen Alford, vice president of elementary schools for the United Federation of Teachers, led a panel on how teachers, school leaders, local unions and communities can partner through collaboration.


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