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Students suggest elementary handbook amendments in panel

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As hands fly up from the audience, the discussion moderator descends in a purposeful frenzy, grabbing a microphone off the podium and running it to the next speaker in line. Her feet moves quickly, brows furrowed, concentrating hard at the task at hand.

When each speaker approaches the microphone, they clear their throat and speak candidly about making amendments to the Liberty Elementary School (LES) handbook.

This scene could be set at a board of education meeting, but members of the audience are sitting “Indian-style” on a gymnasium floor and the panelists are all less than five feet tall. The fourth grade speakers are all part of the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support) student panel, an open forum discussion with LES Principal Jackie Harris, LES Assistant Principal Victoria Curry and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Silver.

For the past few months, fourth grade students have been reviewing their schools’ PBIS data and analyzing the student handbook line by line to determine whether or not the handbook’s rules are addressed with enough detail.

Students took the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns to top administrators about the procedures outlined in the handbook regarding subordinate behavior in the school and on the bus.

The forum resulted in very tangible results: a pledge to move forward with revisiting the vocabulary in the handbook to make it easier for young students to understand.

The forum was organized by reading and writing teacher Mrs. Jodi Fiddle-Lieberman.

“Through this lesson, students learned about the power of the pen! They wrote their letters with such conviction and passion with the hope of making their school an even better place,” she said. Listening to them made my heart swell; they were all so proud for trying to make a difference.”

The module for this lesson suggested that teachers have their students review data from a school in New Jersey. However; Mrs. Fiddle-Lieberman and the fourth grade teachers thought it would be more effective their students studied their own school’s PBIS data.

While preparing for the panel, students broke into subgroups and wrote letters to their administrators to express their interested in an amendment to their school handbook based on their findings.

By preparing for and presenting at the forum, each student met the following Common Core State Standards:

  • Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes;
  • speak clearly at an understandable pace; and
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

“Our fourth graders not only used real data to determine real school issues and offer solutions, but they presented their information like experts,” Mrs. Harris said. “Their work has the potential to improve our school for everybody.”

Some students expressed concerns for stricter discipline, saying they have witnessed inappropriate behavior in the bathrooms and on the playground. Others raised suggestions for improving bus behavior, such as hiring extra monitors or letting students play with iPads or similar devices to decrease bullying situations.

“I love that they came prepared to discuss problems and solutions,” Mrs. Harris said. “They gave us valuable information and suggestions.”

Mrs. Curry agreed, adding: “I am so proud to have been a part of this panel. The fourth graders were articulate and thoughtful in their discussion. Their teachers prepared them well for this venue.”

For more pictures from the panel, visit the district's Facebook page.

 

Press play for preview of what students had to say at their PBIS open forum; click here for full story: h

Posted by Liberty Central School District on Monday, December 14, 2015
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