K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

November 2018


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The background of this newsletter was chosen because it represents a tool that was commonly used in the past in many classrooms.

The abacus (plural abaci or abacuses), also called a counting frame, is a calculating tool that was in use in Europe, China and Russia, centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu–Arabic numeral system.[1] The exact origin of the abacus is still unknown. Although today many use calculators and computers instead of abacuses to calculate, abacuses still remain in common use in some countries. Merchants, traders and clerks in some parts of Eastern Europe, Russia, China and Africa use abacuses, and they are still used to teach arithmetic to children.[1] Some people who are unable to use a calculator because of visual impairment may use an abacus. (Wikipedia)

As you read through the newsletter, use it as medium to help expand your instructional toolbox.


Holding Students Accountable For Their Learning

All educators encounter students who constantly make excuses and fail to assume responsibility for their actions. Teachers must ensure their students are accountable for their own learning and success. Holding students accountable doesn’t make the teacher “mean”. It is about teaching life lessons and helping students understand responsibility. By holding students accountable, teachers are giving them the tools needed to better themselves for their future.

Here are a few strategies to try in your classroom today:

  1. Allow students to take the lead: Students should be given the opportunity to take responsibility for their academic success by formulating a plan and identifying the steps needed to meet their goal. The teacher should assist, monitor, and provide feedback. By assuming responsibility for their plan and their mistakes, they learn accountability. Some teachers may chose to work collaboratively with parents because their students have a better chance of meeting their goal when working as team with their parents.

  2. Create a positive classroom atmosphere where students feel respected: Treat students how you would want to be treated, and remember that demeanor and tone will send a message to students. Communicate goals and objectives frequently, and remind students that that they are in charge of their own behavior and success.

  3. Make time for a reflective process: Students should be given adequate time to assess how well they are meeting their responsibilities. Rubrics are a helpful tool that enable students to grade themselves. Another helpful tool is the student portfolio, which is a compilation of academic work for the purpose of evaluating quality, progress, and academic achievement. Students can also engage in reflective practices with their peers.

Check out this video for information on holding students accountable.

Chat Stations for Class Discussion

Looking for ways to increase class discussion and student engagement? Use chat stations! Chat stations are a simpler approach to stations/centers with less prep and possible complication.

Here is how to get started:

  • Write questions down and place them around the room (i.e., break up a worksheet you were planning to work on in a lesson).

  • Group students in small groups (2-4).

  • To assist with accountability, provide each group a worksheet aligned to the questions around the room.

  • Ask students to rotate from station to station to discuss questions and record their answers. (The teacher can time stations or add stations so groups may work at their own pace.)

  • Students return to their seats for whole class discussion.

  • Call on each group to discuss their findings.

Advantages of chat stations:

  • Improves whole class discussions

  • Gets students up and moving

  • Allows students to be better prepared to discuss topics in class because they have had an opportunity to delve into the topics beforehand

  • Increases peer to peer discussion

  • Reduces prep time for teachers

Phenomenon What?

At the November 5 professional development day, all kindergarten through second grade teachers attended a workshop on phenomenon and models in the science classroom. Besides being a fun word to say (for adults and students), phenomenon in the science classroom plays an essential role in developing a three-dimensional science lesson. Three-dimensional science lessons refer to the three components of the Next Generation Science standards; science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and cross-cutting concepts.

What is a phenomenon? A natural phenomenon is any observable event occurring in the universe. Scientists observe natural phenomenon and use their knowledge to explain or predict. Phenomenon in the science classroom is used as a way to engage students in the science lesson. As in many disciplines with the roll out of Common Core and the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, the next generation science standards call for a shift in teaching. By anchoring student learning in a natural phenomenon, a shift from “learning about” to “figuring out” can be made successfully.

Students can observe, question, discuss and investigate the science content. Students who are taught through the use of phenomenon are able to see how the world around them is connected to what they are learning in the classroom and are more engaged in the content. Interested in trying out some phenomenon? Mystery Science is a great resource as well as the links listed below. Try it out! You will be amazed at how excited your students will be!

Visiting Vocabulary Instruction

"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.” Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

The study of vocabulary is the understanding of words and their meanings. Learning new words to add to their vocabulary is an important part of a student’s development in reading and writing. When students grow their vocabulary they gain the ability to understand more complex text. An expanded vocabulary also helps students become more detailed and descriptive writers.

Students need multiple exposures to a word before they can fully understand it. They also need to learn new words in context. The more exposure students have to a word, the better chance that they will remember it and use it successfully. Teaching vocabulary can be challenging but there are some ways to make it fun and engaging for you and your students. Here are some tips to help make your vocabulary instruction stupendous!

  • Use Your Read Aloud - Reading aloud to children provides a powerful context for word learning (Biemiller & Boote, 2006; Bravo, Hiebert, & Pearson, 2007). As you read, draw students' attention to notable vocabulary words.Choose mentor texts that are rich in vocabulary.

  • Talk the talk - Use the vocabulary you are learning every chance you get in the classroom. The more exposure to higher level words students have the greater the likelihood that they will begin to use those words themselves. Engage students in daily conversations using as many of the vocabulary words as possible.

Independent Reading Time - Provide time and opportunity for students to read on their own . When we can engage children in reading for pleasure, students learn to value reading and the more they read, the more word meanings they will learn.

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Supporting ELLs in the Content Areas

If you’re a general education or content area teacher trying to find ways of supporting ELLs, you’re not alone. Here you will find some strategies to consider and other that can be implemented right away. Remember to always maintain high expectations of all ELLs and never water down the curriculum.

Getting to know each student by learning about their background, culture, and family will help you immensely when planning instruction. Not only will you be able to present content in a relatable manner, but you will also help students as they build background knowledge and make connections to the new learning. One other tool to keep within reach as you plan instruction are the WIDA Can Do Descriptors. By knowing what students “Can Do” at their English Language Proficiency (ELP) level, you will be able to create meaningful activities at their ELP level. If you don’t have ELP levels for your student(s), please contact your school’s ESL teacher.

Below you’ll find a few suggestions to try right away.

  • use visuals as often as possible

  • display sentence starters or sentence frames and teach ELLs how to use them when engaging in discussions or completing writing assignments

  • provide opportunities for collaborative work

  • allow students to use their word-to-word dictionaries

  • repeat or rephrase directions

  • model what you expect and how to complete assignments

  • modify homework, classwork, and tests

  • chunk reading materials

Dear Data Guy

I didn’t receive an SGP score but I taught in a 4th grade Language Arts Resource Room last year.

For mSGP to be part of a teacher's evaluation, the teacher must be:

  1. Assigned to a 4th-8th-grade Language Arts or 4th-7th grade Math course for 60% or more of the year prior to the date on which the state test was administered, and;

  2. Assigned 20 unique students by the district through the Course Roster Submission during the school year of the evaluation, or the combination of up to two previous years plus the current year.

These students must be enrolled for 70% or more of the course duration prior to the administration of the test.

iReady Resource

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

"Discovering and developing commonality between student and teacher leads to maintaining dignity in the classroom. If we truly consider the dignity of our students to be an absolute priority, everything else falls into place …. In the end and from the beginning, it all comes down to human dignity” (Gates 2017).

I found the aforementioned quote in the October 2018 edition of Educational Leadership. The quote was taken from the work of Valerie Gates (a high school teacher from Utah). Valerie’s message is a reminder of what we heard from Houston Kraft on Opening Day; it is crucial that we continue to focus on the dignity of our students.

As many of you know, the final slide (of my PARCC Roadshows) typically focuses on moving forward. The first item on that slide is remember the message of Opening Day. So many faculty members have agreed that Houston’s message was powerful, was a reminder of what we need to continue to focus on in education, was a wake-up call for focusing on the Whole Child. If you haven’t already done so, it’s not too late to “discover and develop a commonality” with your students; if you have, keep it going and share it with a colleague.

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

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL K-12, Title I Pre-K, ESSA Title Grants, & Family Engagement

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

Heather Lieberman, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science