Thursday, January 18, 2018

Day 83 - The BHS Six Word Memoir Project - BHS English Dept.

Everyone experiences life differently. Everybody has moments of triumph, of happiness, of frustration, of loss, and of content. Everyone in our school has experiences and ideas that shape their identity and craft their story. The BHS Six Word Memoir project was designed to help our community understand a little bit about who we all are and what we are all feeling; it was designed to give us some insight into the lives of the people we share our days with.
This year, as we work to integrate the BHS Core Values into our curriculum and school culture, the English Department is taking steps to ensure that students have a real sense of what those values mean. In addition to making changes to our academic curriculum, we have also worked to present those values visibly throughout the school. One small step in this process is our school-wide Six Word Memoir Project. 
All students in the school spent time in their English class talking about Smith Magazine’s Story of Six and the power of crafting a six word memoir. Many English teachers connected this project to the school’s essential questions, specifically those focusing on identity and perspective. Others introduced the project as an effort to build community in the building. Once students completed their six word memoirs, teachers posted them above the lockers in the English hall and invited the school community to read through them. We noted that some will feel familiar,  some will prompt laughter, some are a little heartbreaking; yet, all of the memoirs represent the people in our school and each one of those people has a story worth sharing and worth acknowledging.
essential questions
BHS School-wide Essential Questions posted in the English hall

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Day 82 - Exam Review with Keys to Literacy - Ms. Bularzik - BHS English Dept.

My favorite way to help students study for midyear and final exams is study stations. I set up eight to ten stations around the room, let students choose four to five stations they want to visit and have students switch stations every ten minutes or so. For classes that need more structure, I set up fewer stations and have students rotate through all of them in assigned groups.

Study stations work well because they give students choice and variety. They also require students to decide what they personally need to work on, and students tend to appreciate this independence. My stations are never all KTL (I like including a “locate all your notes” station, for example), but many of them are. Here are a few of my favorites:

Give students a list of some or all of the key terms that will be on the exam. Have students develop categories and sort the terms. Students could also sort terms by how well they know them and then write down the terms they need to study most.

Top-Down Webs
Have students turn a list of key terms and concepts into a top-down web.

Have students use their own notes, handouts, etc. to develop a top-down web for all the material covered throughout the semester.

Rewrite your exam review guide as a partially completed top-down web to help students see the relationships between concepts.

Two-Column Notes
Rewrite your exam review guide as a partially completed two-column notes chart.

Have students condense their notes from the unit into a new set of two-column notes covering the most important ideas.

Summary Writing
Assign different groups of students to summarize different units or key concepts. Share these as a class resource.

Bloom’s Taxonomy
Using all levels of Bloom’s, have students create questions they might expect to see on the exam.

After groups create sets of questions, have them trade their questions with another group and answer them.

Have students create sets of Bloom’s Taxonomy questions and put them in different boxes according to their level. Use these questions for a review game, using different levels of questions for different activities or tasks.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Day 81 - Fall Art Club Canvas Paintings in the New Learning Commons - Ms. Small - Pine Glen Teacher Librarian

This post was originally published at

Ms. Fallon and Ms. Mills orchestrated this past fall art club. For six weeks, each fourth or fifth grade art club member painted a canvas that corresponds to a collection of books found in the Pine Glen Learning Commons. The paintings look wonderful and brighten up our new space. Please come check them out!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Day 80 - BHS Italian Students Study Art - BHS Foreign Language Dept.

In Italian IV and V, students study different facets of Italian art. While the Italian IV curriculum focuses on Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art, Italian V explores different modern art movements. In December, both Italian IV and V classes went to the MFA  to see first-hand paintings and sculptures from the periods and art styles that they had been studying in class. At the museum, the two classes went on separate tours, accompanied by a museum teacher and their Burlington High School chaperones. Afterwards, everyone went to the North End for lunch and cannoli. After vacation, Italian IV students presented their projects on the life, work, and significance of their favorite Italian Renaissance artist. Italian V students instead created, wrote, and talked about their own masterpiece, an object modeled after one of the modern art movements that they had studied.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Day 79 - Francis Wyman 5th Graders Using KTL Strategies - Mrs. Clancy - Reading Specialist

A group of fifth graders at Francis Wyman School are using the Keys to Literacy Comprehension Routine to deepen their understanding of text and non-text. The students are part of an intervention group that is becoming successful in using Top Down Topic Webs and Two Column Notes! This week’s lessons involved reading an article from NEWSELA, taking Two Column Notes, and determining the central idea of the article. Students were then successful paragraph writers! Way to go boys and girls!

During our first meeting, students read the article, Above and Beyond: Teacher’s Letters Make Former Students Feel Special by Sun Herald. The article was found on Newsela, a database of current events stories tailor-made for classroom use. Students worked to complete scaffolded Two Column Notes about the article. Taking Two Column Notes allowed students to record key supporting details. Students gained practice in gathering and organizing information (as well as practicing their reading fluency) as they reread parts of the text multiple times.

At our next meeting time, students revisited the news article and their Two Column Notes. Students were guided to determine the main ideas embedded in their notes. There was a rich discussion of the big ideas. Listening to the students converse, and even debate was exciting. Proud moment! Students added to their Two Column Notes as the conversations took place.

Students used their Two Column Notes to write a short paragraph that explained the central idea of the article. They worked independently to show what they knew. Students used the KTL routine as they increased their comprehension skills. All in all, an exceptional learning experience for our Burlington students! As a Reading Specialist, I am loving what the Keys to Literacy Comprehension Routine are doing for my students. Students are becoming active and strategic readers!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Day 78 - Brandy Sales Presents to BHS Seniors - Mrs. Janovitz - BHS English Dept. Head

This post first appeared on the BHS English Dept. Blog

photo via

The BHS English Department would like to thank Brandy Sales, video producer and video marketing coach from  WeCast Productions, for spending the day speaking to BHS seniors about interviewing skills. Sales presented a workshop for students designed to teach them how to use the art of interviewing to create engaging and impactful videos and podcasts. BHS English teacher Amanda Lee organized the workshop in an effort to help prepare students for the senior research assignment.
This year, seniors are working on a new research project that requires them to address the following question: How can I impact change in society? They are tasked with identifying a topic of interest to them, developing a path of inquiry that helps them understand that topic, researching that topic, and proposing a way to address a problem related to that topic. Students are exploring a wide range of subjects, from using dance in special education classes to building youth leadership programs. Part of the research component of the assignment requires students to conduct an expert interview. The final component of the project is a digital presentation using a medium of the student’s choice.
At today’s workshop, students had the opportunity to hear from an expert on how to conduct effective interviews that will lead to a deeper understanding of a topic, while also creating engaging content for their digital presentation. Sales introduced BHS seniors to different types of questions that will produce the best results, offered specific examples of interviewing strategies, and gave advice on how to make the most out of an interview designed for video or podcast presentations. In his final thoughts to students as the workshop closed, Sales emphasized that students can have a huge impact on the world by creating something that is generated from a one-hour conversation; they just need to know how to direct that conversation, and they need to believe in their own message.
Thanks again to Brandy Sales, Burlington resident, for generously contributing his time and expertise to help BHS students!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Day 77 - Welcome To Burlington Operations - Bob Cunha - Director of Operations

I’ve created this blog to showcase the oftentimes overlooked work that happens and the workers who make it happen outside of our classrooms at Burlington Public Schools. I’m talking about the operations side of a school system.  Surely, when discussing a school system, you must first think about children and learning. Those are our top two priorities in Burlington. Burlington has wonderful educators, students and families, so those two priorities are covered.
Burlington has 6 schools; High School, Middle School, and 4 Elementary Schools, or close to a million square feet of building space. These buildings support about 3500 Burlington children and about 550 educational staff.  As Director of Operations, I oversee and coordinate with the teams responsible for Facilities, Finance, Technology, Cafeteria and Transportation. Over the course of this blog, I will introduce employees, discuss ongoing and future projects, provide information and pictures, and share what we do in Burlington to keep our students safe, support our educators, and promote learning.
As I don’t like to ask anyone to do something that I am unwilling to do myself,  I will start. My name is Robert Cunha. I am a lifelong resident of Burlington, though I did graduate from Shawsheen Technical High School. I am married to an Elementary School Teacher and have 2 young children, one of whom attends Kindergarten in Burlington. Trade-work was instilled in me from a very young age, with electricians, plumbers, heavy machine operators, welders, and computer engineers in my family.
My college education is non-traditional.  I earned my Bachelor’s in Science formally in Technology, specifically Information Security with a  minor in Computer Networking at ITT after starting my family and working full time.  I’m hoping that knowledge learned in school, along with my previous technical work experience, is what got me past my initial interview in Burlington almost 10 years ago. I spent the early part of my career in Burlington as a Systems Engineer for the School department. Time flies, but roughly 5 years ago I became the Director of Technology for both the Town and School District.  
Burlington has been fortunate to see a complete technology revival in the past 10 years, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. From bringing the Town and District under a common wireless umbrella, becoming a 1:1 school system of iPads, having a unified Town-wide Fiber network, new VOIP Phone system and more, there has never been a dull moment.
This experience allowed me to broaden my view of Local Government.  Not only did I have to manage two separate budgets, I was fortunate to be able to interact with with all of the Town’s departments.  Having the technology meet individual department needs meant developing relationships with individual department leaders to understanding the respective functions and processes of their departments. The relationships I have built and my knowledge of the many departments in Town gave me the confidence to respond to the internal posting for the Director of Facilities, Finance, and Technology – currently simplified to the Director of Operations.  Moreover, these relationships have proven to be invaluable to me in the first few months of my current role and extremely beneficial in maintaining and expanding the collaboration that is at the foundation of the School District and General Government relationship.
As the Director of Operations for Burlington Public Schools I oversee Facilities, Finance, Technology, Cafeteria, Clerical and Transportation. On July 1st we also created Facility, Finance, and Technology Manager roles in addition to our existing Food Services Director.  This four-person team allows for more focused expertise, efficiency and flexibility in the day to day operations. It allows these department leaders to have a consistent, daily focus within their field of responsibility.
My role is not only to oversee and collaborate with these departments, but coordinate daily with all operations employees. This includes new projects and policies, statements of Interest for larger building projects, contract negotiations, reviewing purchases and budgets, compliance, insurance, hiring and appointments, scheduling, training, and grievances/discipline. I work closely with the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and provide reports and updates to the School Committee.  
Parts of this job are new, but I am always striving to learn and achieve more. I enjoy taking classes regularly. Most recently I have completed the Massachusetts Municipal Administrators (MMA) certificate program in Local Government Leadership and Management through Suffolk University, as well as certification from the Office of the Inspector General in Public Contracting, and Supplies and Services (MCPPO).  While not an expert in all operational areas (yet), I have a talented team of experts and I look forward to introducing them to the community and to my continued learning and the opportunity to serve Burlington to the best of my ability.