K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

September 2021

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Bring SEL Into All Lessons

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) provides critical skills for our students in all grade levels. SEL practices help students build relationships, recognize and manage emotions, and problem solve. These are life skills that we all need now more than ever. These best practices can assist across all grade spans and subject areas throughout a student’s day and throughout the school year. Here are some practices that can be embedded into your classroom:

  • Pause and Appreciate- Begin or end a lesson with a moment of gratitude from the day. This is linked to SEL competencies of self-awareness and self-management. This can be done with a one-word SEL check-in and even lead to goal setting.

    • HPE Example- Provide a self-reflection rubric for the students with numbers or emojis to assist in expressing how they feel prior to a PE activity and after.

    • World Language Example- Allow students to complete an SEL Check-in in the target language. Pending on the level, the students can build with more language to express their emotions in reading, writing, and speaking.

  • Individual Check-Ins- Not everyone is comfortable expressing their feelings, especially in a larger group. Utilize the district tools for ways to communicate with a student in a space that may be more comfortable for them. These can be the first steps working towards building a student’s comfort level and work on their relationship skills (ie- Communication, social engagement...). Technology tool examples are listed below:

    • The examples provided below can be used in both a World Language class and Health & PE.

    • GoGuardian- Message a student directly during class without bringing attention towards them. This may be a more steady approach to a student that may be closed off and not ready to share how they are feeling.

    • Google Classroom or Gmail- Did a student not respond during class? Email them or send them a direct message on Google Classroom to check in on them and do an individual check-in. This is a big step in letting the student know that you noticed and care.

    • Pear Deck- this popular application has a section of slides specific to SEL. This allows check-ins throughout the entire lesson no matter the subject area.

  • Optimistic Closures- Use SEL in a closure to not only reinforce the lesson but allow the students to feel confident in what they learned and what they will learn in the upcoming lessons.

    • The examples provided below can be used in both a World Language class and Health & PE.

    • Still Curious- Provide a comfort level for your students that will allow them to share if they are confused or still curious about the topic that was discussed that day. An exit ticket may ask a question to check for understanding, but it is also meaningful for the students to share what they did not understand. Not everyone likes to share that they are lost or do not understand the lesson. Using the wording “Still Curious” allows the students to share because they are curious, and not confused.

    • One Word Share- Provide a prompt and ask all students to provide one word to reflect on the day’s lesson. This allows all students to participate and provide an expression before the end of the lesson.

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Academic Language and ELLs

One of the stigmas for exiting students from ESL is that sometimes a student is lacking in literacy skills or lacking academic language. BICS, conversational language, is what is often mastered quickly by ELLs. CALP, academic language, the language-specific to content areas, takes a lifetime to learn. Not only is it theme-specific, but also specific to the course being taught. It is content-specific vocabulary that is necessary for all students to be exposed to in order to help them get ready for college-level texts.

ESL teachers often touch on academic language, however, this language should be taught in context within the discipline being taught where the ELL along with their peers can use it appropriately. General education teachers can help facilitate the process of acquiring academic language by using visuals along with sentence frames/stems to help ELL students acquire academic language more easily. In addition, pre-teaching vocabulary along with the use of realia and other scaffolds are other ways that can help an ELL student expand his/her vocabulary.

Ways to Promote Social and Emotional Learning in Math

As students emerge from a much-needed summer break the work begins toward a more normal school year. After more than a year of switching between in-person, learning, and hybrid models of learning, students need more support than ever both academically and socially. The challenge for teachers is integrating social and emotional learning without completely throwing content to the side.

Math class is the perfect time to focus on building a student's social skills. Persevering through a difficult math task challenges a student's self-awareness, self-management, and responsible decision making, three of the five NJ Social and Emotional Competencies. There is a deep connection between persistence and math which makes integrating social skills in math seamless.

Board and card games are a great way to connect math and SEL skills. These games help students find patterns, build number sense, and promote spatial sense. These games also are great for building social skills. Students need to learn (or relearn) how to play and socialize with their peers. After months of social distancing and isolation, many students need to learn how to work with a group or partner. Simple games help teach students how to take turns, wait your turn, how to win and how to lose with grace, and how to follow a set of rules.

Doing puzzles and folding origami are also great ways to build mathematical skills and support mathematical habits of mind such as problem-solving, patience, and perseverance which are also important social and emotional skills.

One of the most important things we can do in the classroom to support social and emotional learning in math class is to foster a growth mindset. By teaching students to believe in their own ability to learn new things through practice and hard work, students will be able to transfer this mindset into their everyday lives. Having a growth mindset has been positively associated with higher achievement in math and lowering anxiety about math and many other challenges in life.

As we welcome students to a new school year this work must be done consistently and with the intention to assist students who have had to endure many transitions, pauses in learning, and a lack of social interaction in the past 20 months. By intentionally infusing social and emotional skills into the math classroom we are helping students create the building blocks for a successful year and future life.

Writing Supports Social and Emotional Learning

Writing is an integral part of our classrooms and teachers are constantly asking students to articulate their thoughts through writing. Writing not only helps students grow academically, but it also presents an opportunity for students to support their own social and emotional learning. Writing can provide an escape and outlet for students to express themselves through words and drawings. As students are returning to the classroom, it is essential that we provide students the opportunity to reflect and address their social and emotional needs. Writing can provide students with a safe space to express their emotions and reflect on their lives.

When developing the classroom environment, it is essential to create a space where your students feel safe to express their emotions. At the beginning of the year, teachers must focus on learning about their students in order to build relationships with them. Once mutual trust and respect is established, students feel comfortable having conversations about their feelings. To introduce using writing as a way to support students’ social and emotional learning, discuss why individuals write: what is the purpose of writing? Outside of academic purposes, discuss how writing can be a form of expression and a way to share their inner thoughts and feelings. In the classroom, provide students with time, space, and opportunity to write about how they are feeling.

Ways to Utilize Writing to Support Social and Emotional Learning:

  • Free Write Friday: During centers on Friday, provide a free write center where students can write about whatever they would like in their notebook. Create a special spot in their notebook that is specifically for Free Write Friday. Provide sample prompts from which students can choose if they are not sure what to write about. A sample prompt could ask the students to write about a success that they had this week. By providing space for students to choose what to write, teachers enable students to write about what they need.

  • Character Emotions: Ask the students to name an emotion that the character felt in a story. The students can write about if they ever felt that emotion and how they handled that situation. Not only are the students making a text-to-self connection, but they are also writing about their own emotions.

  • Emoji or Color Check In: Students can choose Emojis or colors that match an emotion that they are feeling that day. Students can explain why they chose that Emoji or color.

  • Personal Goals: Students can keep track of goals that they are working on, both inside and outside of school. Students can take time to write about their progress towards those goals.

  • Community Meeting Reflection: After the classroom community meeting, ask the students to write about something that stood out or that was important to them. Students are learning how to reflect on an experience or on what they heard someone say.

Social Emotional Learning & Arts Education

Addressing student learning and social-emotional needs is essential to both the "short-term response to the current pandemic and our long-term commitment to educational equity and excellence."

Now more than ever, our students need guidance with the five main competencies focusing on self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. The arts create amazing opportunities to integrate social-emotional learning into daily practice. In the September edition of Arts ED NJ, the reader is reminded of the following regarding arts education:

  • "Purposeful integration of SEL into arts education will enrich the students' personal connection to the arts."
  • "The relationship built between art teachers and students over multiple years of instruction fosters the caring environment necessary to help build school connectedness and foster empathy."
  • "The perseverance needed to dedicate oneself to artistic excellence fosters resilience both in and out of the art classroom."
  • Artistic creation fosters self-awareness and allows students to develop a greater sense of autonomy and emotional vocabulary."
  • The collaborative community developed in the art classroom welcomes discussions and awareness of acceptance and embracing diversity."
  • Through the arts, students learn the necessity of personal goal-setting, self-assessment, and accountability as they develop high standards for their artistic endeavors..."

As you see from the statements noted above, the arts are more than just the extras in the curriculum; they (along with other curricular areas) allow students to become the "whole child" and continue to prepare for the real world.

Dear Data Guy

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to work for the Hamilton Township School District. In my position, I am able to work across all schools and departments and have met some truly incredible educators/people. I really do mean that, and this year proves more than ever why the staff is truly incredible and resilient. Here are some tips to help communicate data to your families:

  1. Call parents or talk to parents/guardians who pick up their kids and let them hear how passionate you are about teaching their child.

  2. When giving feedback to parents/guardians about their child, give two positive statements, and one statement explaining what you are working with the child and how the parents/guardians can work on with their child at home.

  3. Explain/show through the data how their child has grown through the benchmark data. Some students may have grown their overall score, while some students might have grown on a subscore.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Welcome Back to the 21/22 SY!

Planning and preparation continue to play an important role in the delivery of instruction. As mentioned in a previous email, Danielson's Domain I (Planning & Preparation) will be included in formal classroom observations (announced and unannounced) during the 21/22 SY. Staff are encouraged to continue to familiarize themselves with the individual components. Here are few reflective questions to strengthen your understanding of this domain:

Component 1A - Demonstrating Knowledge of Content & Pedagogy

  • When designing my lessons, how do I anticipate addressing student misconceptions?

Component 1B - Demonstrating Knowledge of Students

  • What steps have I taken to acquire specific knowledge about students in my class?
  • Does this knowledge also include special needs, interests, and cultural information?

Component 1C - Setting Instructional Outcomes

  • How are my instructional outcomes differentiated for individual students?

Component 1D - Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources

  • In addition to physical resources, what role will instructional platforms play to strengthen student learning and engagement?

Component 1E - Designing Coherent Instruction

  • What activities (within the lesson) will promote student choice?

*Component 1F (Designing Student Assessments) will not be formally scored this year.

HTSD Curriculum Department

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Supervisors of K-5 Staff

Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Sandra Jacome, ESL K-12, ESSER III Pre-K

Robert Piskpecky (Interim), Art and Music

Laura Leidy-Stauffer, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science & ESSA Grant