Wednesday, September 10, 2014

7 Reasons to Stay at the Embassy Suites During the Elementary School Conference

Are you planning to attend the Elementary School Conference next month? It will be held at the Embassy Suites Resort in Concord, NC, near Charlotte from October 19th to the 21st. It's hosted by the NC Association of Elementary Educators, and it's open to all elementary educators ... you don't have to be a member to attend.

If you ARE planning to attend, please consider staying at the Embassy Suites during your visit. NCAEE has reserved a block of rooms at a special discounted rate, but that discount ends on September 19th. You can find step-by-step details for registering at the end of this blog post or at the bottom of the registration page.

Enter to Win a $50 Amazon.com Gift Card
To encourage conference participants to reserve a room before the September 19th deadline, we're hosting a giveaway of a $50 Gift Card to Amazon.com to a participant who stays at the Embassy Suites during the conference. The more nights you stay, the greater your chances of winning.

Be sure you reserve a room using our group code of AEE so that we can confirm your reservation if you win. This will also give you a steep discount on the room rate. Most of you will only need a room for Sunday and Monday nights, but we did reserve 15 rooms in our block on Saturday, too.

Enter the giveaway by completing any or all of the options in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. A winner will be selected randomly on September 20th and will be notified that day, but he or she will not be able to pick up the gift card until the October 20th during the conference.

What if you haven't registered for the conference yet? No problem! You can reserve your hotel rooms now and register any time before October 1st. However, if you take a moment to register now, you'll earn one more chance to win that gift card!

7 Reasons to Stay at the Embassy Suites
In addition to the fact that you could win the $50 Amazon.com gift card, there are 7 more reasons why you should stay at the Embassy Suites during the conference:
  1. Luxury and Convenience - Staying onsite during a conference means you can relax and enjoy yourself in the beautiful new Embassy Suites hotel. No need to get up super early to drive to the event and look for parking! You might even want to arrive on Saturday to include time for a visit to the spa, golf course, or one of their great restaurants! 
  2. Free Internet Service - The Embassy Suites is offering FREE Internet service to Elementary School Conference participants who stay at the hotel! It's not normally their policy, but they have made a special exception for us. 
  3. Free Manager's Evening Reception - Network with colleagues during the manager's reception where you'll enjoy free drinks and snacks. Beverages offered include wine, beer, and mixed drinks.
  4. Free Hot Breakfast - The Embassy Suites offers a full, cook-to-order breakfast for all registered guests. This year NCAEE is offering a free luncheon instead of last year's continental breakfast, so if you don't stay onsite, you'll need to grab something to eat before you arrive. 
  5. Discounted Room Rate - Our discounted room rate makes the price reasonable, especially if you share a room with a friend. In fact, your half of the room cost will be about the "state rate" for reimbursement. To get that rate, register with Group Code AEE.
  6. Great Shopping - The hotel is located near the Concord Mills Mall, so after the conference ends each day, you can shop till you drop! 
  7. Support NCAEE - Staying at the Embassy Suites is one way you can support NCAEE and make it possible for us to continue hosting the Elementary School Conference. We receive a substantial discount on conference meeting room fees by reserving a block of guest rooms for our attendees. However, if we don't fill at least 80% of the rooms by the deadline (September 19th), we'll have to pay a HUGE penalty. How big? Some years we've had to pay over $6,000 in penalties because we didn't meet that minimum! Yikes!  

How to Make a Reservation
The Embassy Suites has a conference rate of $139 plus tax, which remains valid for reservations made on or before September 19, 2014. When phoning in your reservation, call 1-800-362-2779 or 704-455-8200 and be sure to tell the hotel that you're with the "AEE" group.

To register online, click this link to go to the hotel web page:
  1. Click Make a Reservation.
  2. Enter the conference dates: October 19-21, 2014. (If you want to stay Saturday, enter Oct. 18-21)
  3. Enter number of rooms and people.
  4. Then click Add special rate codes.
  5. Under Group Codes, enter AEE.
  6. Then click on the box to Check Availability.
  7. Complete your reservation. 
  8. Check your email for your hotel reservation confirmation code.
If you haven't registered for the conference yet, please visit the NCAEE website where you can learn more about it and sign up. Thanks for your support, and we look forward to seeing you next month!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Join the 2014-2015 NCAEE Team!

If you're an elementary educator in North Carolina who wants to make a difference, we want you on our team! The NC Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) is an active organization with a mission to advocate for elementary students and teachers by providing outstanding professional development across the state. Through our efforts, thousands of teachers have been inspired by motivational speakers and educators like Ron Clark, Dr. Jean Feldman, Dr. Harry Wong, Dr. Marcia Tate, and many others.

We are a volunteer organization, run entirely by educators who have a passion for making a difference in elementary education. NCAEE is led by a Board of Directors, and each year some of our Board members rotate off the Board and we bring on new folks. We also have positions available at the regional level. If you're interested, please read on!

How to Get Involved with NCAEE
There are three levels of involvement in the NC Association of Elementary Educators:
  • NCAEE Members 
  • NCAEE Regional Advisory Council (RAC) Members
  • NCAEE Board Members
Becoming a member is easy! You can join online from our website and pay a small membership fee, or you can attend the Elementary School Conference and complete the membership information form during the conference. Your membership fee is included in your registration payment. Members support our organization by attending the conference and sharing information about NCAEE with others.

Regional Advisory Council Members assist our Regional Directors with determining the needs of their region and implementing one-day regional conferences to meet those needs. Click the map above to see a larger view and find your own region.

NCAEE Board Members include all eight Regional Directors and others such as the President, President-Elect, Treasurer, Secretary, and At-Large representatives from various facets of elementary education including university professors, DPI, central office administrators, principals, etc. Visit our Leadership Page to see a complete listing of all Board members. Board Members attend all Board meetings and have an active voice all aspects of our organization. We generally have two face-to-face Board meetings a year and four or five online meetings. You can read more about our organization on our website and in our by-laws.

State and Regional Conferences
In order to understand the various roles in our organization, you need a learn a little about what NCAEE offers to elementary educators. We are most well known for our annual state conference, the Elementary School Conference that takes place each fall. This year's conference will take place in Concord, NC, near Charlotte, and features well-known speakers as well as practicing educators. A Conference Committee made of Board Members works with a conference planning organization to coordinate this event.

We also seek to inspire educators through smaller, one-day or evening conferences in each of the eight regions in our state. Our most recent conference was the Region 3 session that took place on August 4th in Franklin County and included opportunities for educators to learn about funding resources for classroom projects, attend workshops presented by teachers for teachers, and attend a Q&A panel discussion with NCDPI consultants. The event was a success, as you can see from the feedback we received from Crystal Williams, one of the attendees:
"Thank you for all you did to make the Regional Conference a success.  I appreciate your support.  It was an extremely beneficial conference and I can't wait to share the resources & ideas with others."
Regional Advisory Councils
Who's responsible for planning and organizing these regional events? That's the job of the eight Regional Directors who each work with 4 or 5 Regional Advisory Council members to find a location and coordinate the events of the day. Regional Advisory Council members do not attend Board meetings, but they meet online or face-to-face with other council members to determine the needs of their regions and plan an event that will meet those needs. We currently are in need of several Regional Directors and a good many more Advisory Council Members. All Regional Advisory Councils will hold their first meeting on Monday, October 20th, after the last session at the conference. The time and location will be provided to RAC members before the conference. If you apply to become an RAC member, please plan to attend the Elementary School Conference this year.

How to Apply for a Leadership Role in NCAEE
Getting involved in a leadership role with NCAEE is a wonderful way to share your knowledge and expertise with others in our state. We welcome all educators, including classroom teachers, retired teachers, administrators, and educational consultants. All you need is a desire to make a difference in elementary education and a willingness to work hard to help NCAEE fulfill its mission.

If you are interested in taking on a leadership role in our organization, please complete the Google Doc form on the right. You may not hear from us right away, but we will contact folks as positions become open.
We are excited about our upcoming Elementary School Conference and hope you will plan to join us at the Embassy Suites Concord/Charlotte for that event. You can learn more about it and register now from the NCAEE website. Our organization is growing, and we know that there are many talented and passionate educators across the state who would welcome becoming involved with NCAEE. We look forward to meeting you this October!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Register Now for the Elementary School Conference!

Conference Dates: October 19 - 21, 2014

Are you planning to attend the upcoming 11th Annual Elementary School Conference this October? We're excited that this year's conference will be held in a brand new location, the Embassy Suites in Concord near Charlotte, NC. Our theme is "Mind, Heart, Body - Educating the Whole Child," and we have a terrific lineup of speakers who will share engaging strategies to keep you motivated during the 2014-2015 school year!

Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a PIRATE is our luncheon keynote speaker, and in his fast-paced, entertaining session he will share ways to dramatically increase student engagement and design wildly creative lessons.

Our featured speakers include The Bag Ladies, Dr. Kathy Kennedy, Pat Calfee, Kathy Bumgardner, and Laura Candler. You can read more about their sessions on the conference registration page here.

How to Register
The Elementary School Conference is hosted by the NC Association of Elementary Educators, but it's not just for NC teachers. It's open to all elementary educators, no matter where they live. Registration is open, and there are many payment options available. You can register and pay online with a credit card, or print out the registration form and mail it in with a check or purchase order. We also have a 20% Team Discount for groups of 5 or more. Get the details on our registration page.

Free Conference Registration Giveaway
To help promote the Elementary School Conference, we hosted a giveaway for TWO free conference registrations!

The giveaway ended on Monday, September 8th, and our winners were Amanda Righter and Lindsey Gaudet. Congratulations!

Please help spread the word about the Elementary School Conference by sharing this blog post with them or by sending them directly to the NCAEE website. We hope to see you at the conference this October!


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Community Engagement is a Win-Win For All

by Dr. Rebecca Smith

Children succeed educationally in environments where community, parents, and school stakeholders are all committed to the same priorities for student learning.  Such settings are represented over and over in educational research that demonstrates schools that are “beating the odds” for student performance.  Our schools are an essential part of the development of our communities and the sustainability of progress for our future. Therefore, the commitment of partners to learning is at the nexus of a school’s success.  So the question is why are we not involving our community supports in our schools to the greatest possible extent?  In many cases – it simply is because educators may be reluctant or overwhelmed due to the many demands of their time, focus, and priorities in an age of accountability.  However, partnerships with parents and community can be a best practice for reducing the stress and providing necessary support to lighten the load of such demands resulting in positive outcomes for all who are involved. 

In high-performing schools, community members, parents, civic groups, Faith Based partnerships, and businesses can help develop, understand, and support a clear and common focus for learning.  Prioritized and aligned academic, social, and personal goals contribute to improved student performance and the support of varied partners has a meaningful and authentic role in achieving these goals.  The educational community works together to actively solve problems and create win-win solutions.  Mentoring and community- engagement models make for a win-win for community and schools with our children ultimately being the benefactors of such efforts. 

Some examples of ways for parents and communities to be involved include:

  • Lunch, breakfast, book club and field trip, club and special interest activity buddies
  • Tutoring supports before, during and after school 
  • Mentoring relationships which provide modeling of specific job skills, educational attainment, visits to successful work and post-secondary environments
  • Community partnerships for funds or in kind contributions for food, gas cards, school supplies, and clothing needs on site for families/ students who have emergent or hardship needs.
  • Access to quality and interesting books and support for parents on specific skills to help support their emergent readers
  • Expanded learning opportunities via partnerships with Arts Councils, Theater Groups, Universities –(events on campus that are developmentally appropriate, athletic events, etc. which provide cultural capital and experiences for children)

Early Literacy efforts with book and numeracy supports for school feeder programs including daycares, Head Start, and Pre-School programs that are connected to the school’s literacy and numeracy goals.

All schools need and benefit from successful partnerships within their community.  There are a variety of business, civic and publisher opportunities for such efforts that offer free resources and support. Check with your school to see what is currently available, reach beyond the school and initiate partnerships and be a catalyst to engage the community at your school. You will personally benefit from your efforts and so will the community and children who are impacted by your efforts!




Dr. Rebecca Smith has a background of 32 years of work as a teacher, administrator, and trainer K-12 at the school and district level as well as undergraduate and graduate teaching experience. She has Masters degrees in History and Educational  Leadership  and a doctorate in Educational  Leadership. Dr Smith  has published various curriculum guides and articles on effective teaching models and has provided training for staffs across her district and state via staff development and state conferences.    

She has most recently served as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for Rowan Salisbury in NC where she was able to create and lead  multiple literacy, technology, global ed, Common Core, Poverty awareness, brain based learning efforts, and various school reform initiatives.  Dr. Smith also wrote, secured and managed  many state and national grants for her district and worked on collaboration models to foster 90 new partnerships for the schools and community.  She is currently working on a publication on Reducing drop out rates and helping teachers improve student engagement.  Working with teachers and students to make learning relevant and interesting for reluctant readers  is her passion.  Dr. Smith serves as an adjunct professor for graduate education  for the University of Cumberlands in Kentucky and provides online instruction and advising for their School of Education.  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Engaging Students with Project Based Learning

by Dr. Nancy Betler

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As an educator, it is important to continue to learn and grow.  I currently teach students who are gifted and  continually need to be challenged.  At the end of the last school year I reflected on how the year had gone and decided that although things went well I wanted to push my students to another level.  There was a need to help them grow even further.  During my research on how to help students grow I came across the strategy of Project Based Learning.  Project Based learning is active learning that is student-centered.  Students learn about a subject through the experience of problem solving and creating a project.  According to the research, Project Based Learning helps the students develop flexible knowledge, effective problem solving skills, self-directed learning, effective collaboration skills and intrinsic motivation.  This was just what I needed to push my students. The Project Based Learning environment changes the roles of students and teachers and puts learners in the driver’s seat.

My next step was to discuss this idea with the teachers who I work with at my school.  I wanted to get their insight and collaborate with them to help enhance my growth as well as student growth. The teachers I connected with were enthusiastic about trying this with our students.  We planned how we would implement this active learning strategy during the next school year.

PictureOver the summer I developed and adapted two Project Based Learning projects based on what I had found on the subject to use with my students.  The initial project I started with was to have the students answer questions about a cupcake bakery in our project Cupcakes Configurations.  After being introduced to the project with cupcakes students were required to work in groups and develop the best way to package cupcakes for transport. The students had to discuss potential problems when transporting cupcakes.  They also had to make a list of possible solutions.  They had to create and defend their model.  They also had to discuss pricing and decide on a fair price.  This was more complex and had more pieces than what we had done in the past.  The teacher I was team teaching with and I were excited to get started with the students.  We could not wait to see how they responded to this learning opportunity.

When the problem based learning questions were introduced during our math lesson the students were thrilled.  There were leading questions and the students had to incorporate multiplication and division.  They were allowed to work in pairs or groups of their choosing.  The students began to work immediately and started to plan their strategies.  This process was different for us as teachers since we had to let them plan rather than take our usual role of teaching the topic.  We could guide but not give direct instructions on how they should answer or what they should produce.  They had to be prepared to present to another class their final finding.  We had to let the students be active learners and it was amazing!

The quality of their solutions and the models they created were fantastic.  Students were able to incorporate technology as they presented using PowerPoint or their Gaggle accounts. Some students created video demonstrations, some created songs to get their points across and others developed full scale models.  One student dressed as a giant cupcake to give her presentation.  It was a positive process for all involved and the teacher that I was working with and I decided that this would not be the end of Project Based Learning for the school year.  I wanted to work with the students and help them learn through there various learning styles.  Not every child learns the same way and it is essential as an educator to make sure that the students have opportunities to learn in different frameworks.  One student said that “this was the first time I felt that my project for an assignment was actually my project.”

Through collaboration with another teacher, we determined that we would also use Project Based Learning for another group of students.  We decided to have the students solve the following problem based on our curriculum.  We used a project that had already been developed and added to it.  Students were told that the state fair would no longer be held at its current location.  They were then told that the governor had chosen their team as the representative and event coordinator of their region.  It was their job to convince the governor and his advisors (an unbiased group of students from your school) why the state fair should be held in their region.  The students once again were allowed to pick their own groups and were guided through the process.  We met with the students to confer and go over the question, their solutions and the rubric.  The student projects were once again outstanding and incorporated different learning styles and the use of technology.  The final step was that the students presented them to other students in our school.  They presented with rave reviews. Project Based Learning definitely has helped my student develop the 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity!

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As a result of the research, collaboration with my professional community and student learning I grew as an educator through the use of Project Based Learning.  I shared this information and the work that my students completed with our Talent Development Department.  I contributed to our district wiki some of the problems and enhancements I have used.  This is something that I am proud of as a professional.

This October I will be presenting with another teacher, Melissa Mooney, about Project Based Learning at the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators Conference.  We will be sharing an overview of the process, tips, lessons and student projects.  It is exciting to me that I am now considered an expert on this topic.  My pedagogical knowledge has bloomed on this subject.  During this school year I have grown professionally in response to the need of the students.  The students needed to be challenged more and to be able to use this approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges has really helped my students grow. Next year I plan to continue to integrate Project Based Learning into my instruction.  I plan to refine what has already been created as well as create new ones.

To learn more about Project Based Learning and how it can be used to enrich learning experiences and engage learners, check out the archives of a recent #cmsk12chat, which I co-moderated  with Joshua Lemere. The archive for our PBL-focused chat can be found here.



Dr. Nancy Betler is a Talent Development Teacher at Eastover Elementary and primarily works with gifted and high-ability students in grades K-5.  As a National Board Certified Teacher, she fully embraces life-long learning and has recently earned her doctorate degree.  Nancy is also heavily involved with the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) and serves as a Board Member. She looks forward to connecting with you on Twitter @nbetler and being a part of your PLN!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Disciplinary Literacy

by Dr. Steve Masyada

My turn to blog! Hi! My name is Dr. Steve Masyada (I just earned it, so I can at least use it a couple times before it’s pretentious, right?), and I am a consultant with the Social Studies Section within the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at my friend and yours, the Department of Public Instruction. There are so many things that I could talk to you about, but I thought for my first blog post, I would focus on literacy. Because reading, of course, is fundamental. So, we have all heard about traditional concepts of literacy, and as good teachers we do a pretty decent job overall of getting our kids prepared as readers and writers. How many of us, however, have paid attention to the idea of disciplinary literacy? Moving forward into the next school year, much of our work here in the section will be focused on helping teachers at all levels, but especially in the elementary grades, develop ways to approach disciplinary literacy in their classrooms. 

What is Disciplinary Literacy?

In simple terms for our purposes, disciplinary literacy refers to the ways in which the different disciplines within the social studies consider the world. A historian considers the world differently from a political scientist, who in turn views through a different lens than a geographer, who sees the world in a light different from a cultural anthropologist, who most certainly has a different take than an economist! Beginning in kindergarten and going all the way through the high school courses, we should be helping our students understand the different ways in which each ‘lens’ can be used to develop questions, research and explore topics, and consider ways in which we can interpret primary sources. Actually, I have a wonderful graphic for you here! In this graphic, you will find a description of each of the lenses and the types of questions that some considering something through that lens might ask!  Over the course of the next year, we want to spend more time with you exploring how disciplinary literacy, as we illustrate in the graphic, can work for you. Click here for a full sized version of the graphics below.




Resources for Learning More

Naturally, we in the Social Studies Section have begun compiling a number of resources for you to use as you explore the elements of disciplinary literacy. 

Our Webinar Series: Did you know that we hold FREE webinars at least 4 times during the school year? We do, and we want you to come! Webinar Four on this page was developed to expose participants to disciplinary and you can find a number of relevant research and resource links under that webinar (please be aware that we are still transcribing and videoizing (is that a word?) the webinar itself, but the presentation is there!). You will also find links to our webinars on inquiry and the C3 Framework on that page! 

The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework: On this page you will find the newly released College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework. This Framework, a model for standards and curriculum development, contains a significant section on disciplinary literacy and its role in quality social studies instruction. While we here in North Carolina are NOT using it to create new standards, it DOES inform our work with curriculum! Check it out! 

Summer Institute 2012 Resource: This site, used during NCDPI’s 2012 Summer Institute, contains some quality videos discussing literacy within the social studies disciplines and also includes a very good document discussing what it actually means to be disciplinary literate.  I encourage you to explore the site deeper as well. You find a number of useful links from that wonderful summer of twenty aught twelve! 

Contact Us! 

Well, sadly, my time here on the blog is done for now. Please know that any questions you have concerning this or any other issue relating to the social studies can be answered by any of our consultants! Contact information can be found at this link. We hope to hear from you! 


Dr. Steve Masyada is currently a K-12 Social Studies Consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. He currently serves as one of the NCDPI representatives on the NCAEE Board, and has spent over 12 years in public education, 10 of them in the classroom. He recently earned his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida, with a focus on civic education. To learn more about social studies in North Carolina, visit their wikipage here. Steve is a tweeter, and you can follow his tweets @SocialStudyMasy. He hopes to hear from you soon! 


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Five Domains of Development: Providing a Picture of the Whole Child

by Dr. Cynthia Dewey

As educators, we understand that how children learn is connected across multiple learning domains. For example, how children approach a learning task is connected to their cognitive development, their emotional-social development, their health and physical development, and their language development and communication skills. Observing for behaviors within these developmental domains helps us to get a more complete picture of what children know and are able to do. How well children perform in one area impacts how well they’ll perform in others, which could ultimately affect whether or not they reach their potential.

It is important to us, in the NC Office of Early Learning, to utilize Learning Domains and a whole child lens as the K-3 Formative Assessment is developed. The five domains included in the K-3 Formative Assessment are: Approaches to Learning, Cognitive Development, Emotional-Social Development, Health & Physical Development, and Language Development & Communication.  


The following examples from the NC Foundations for Early Learning and Development demonstrate what each domain might look like in K-3 classrooms.

Learning Domain
Classroom Application


Approaches to Learning


·         During a class meeting, the teacher may listen and respond to students as they share thoughts.
·         Encouraging students to think about new ideas and/or approaches.
·         Helping students to think and talk through different approaches to problems.
·         Ask probing questions to help students stay focused on task.

Emotional and 
Social Development
·         Allow students to participate in discussions related to classroom decisions and helping to establish rules and routines.
·         Read a familiar book and discuss each character’s feelings or reactions.




Cognitive Development


·         Making planning a regular part of the day.
·         Introduce a problem and encourage students to come up with as many solutions as possible.
·         Field trips to museums, galleries, plays, concerts and other cultural events.
·         Provide opportunities for students to respond through music, movement, dance, dramatic expression, and art.
·         Involve students in school and community service projects.
·         Prompt thinking and analysis by asking open-ended questions.
·         Have students use the scientific method of inquiry.



Health and 
Physical Development
·         Several periods of active physical play each day that includes child-directed play and adult-directed play, with the adult participating in the activities.
·         Students regularly use a variety of hand-held tools and objects (pencil, crayons, scissors, manipulatives, etc.).
·         Provide opportunities for students to practice self-care skills independently as they are able (open milk carton, zipping jacket, packing up book bag, etc.).
·         Practicing a fire drill and talking about the students’ responses.
Language Development and Communication
·         Model good conversational skills and encourage students to use them.
·         Provide and share fiction and non-fiction books that stimulate children’s curiosity.
·         Give students frequent opportunities to write for a variety of purposes.



Dr. Cynthia Dewey is on the NCAEE board and serves as the Director for Region 3. Cynthia recently celebrated her 10th year of service in public education in North Carolina. She is passionate about her work serving children, teachers, and families at the NC Department of Public Instruction in the Office of Early Learning. To learn more about the exciting work in the Office of Early Learning visit the wikipage. Prior to her work in NC, Cynthia served in Ohio and South Carolina as a classroom teacher, literacy specialist, district administrator, and literacy professor. Her career in education spans 27 years. You can connect with Cynthia on twitter.