K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

April 2019


Big picture
This newsletter is provided to you on behalf of the entire curriculum department. The curriculum department provides you with many avenues for professional development including twitter chats, on site help sessions, PD days, after school training, etc.

Small-Group Conversation Structures for ELLs

Often times, students are strategically asked to work with partners or groups. As academic conversations are taking place, the teacher circulates in hopes of assessing learning and addressing misconceptions. However, how can each student be held accountable for their contributions? How do we ensure each member of the group completed the task and actively participated?

Listed below are some structures beneficial for ELLs, and all students, when engaging in group work.

  • Numbered Heads: once in groups, have students at each table count up so that each of them has a number (1, 2, 3, etc.). Ask a question and provide a few minutes for group discussion. When time is up, call a number and the student from each group with that number reports to the class.

  • Talking Chips: distribute the same number of chips to students in a group (pennies, plastic markers, etc.). Each time a student provides a contribution they give up one chip. Once a student is out of chips they no longer speak.

  • Pass the Stick: each group receives a stick (popsicle stick, straw, etc.). After contributing to the group discussion, students pass the “talking stick” to each other. This will ensure everyone has a turn.

The Power of Poems Using Poetry in the Classroom

April is National Poetry Month! In classrooms all over the country, students are exploring the art and beauty of poems. In addition to being being fun and entertaining, poetry can be used to help teach content and engage students. Most teachers know they can teach poetry in reading, writing, and language lessons. It also fits easily into classroom themes, projects, and celebrations.

Poetry can also be incorporated into other content areas. For example, in social studies, help students gain a better understanding of history by having them write a biography poem. After studying a particular person in history, students can follow a formula for completing this short but informative poem. Content Area Poetry Tips

Poetry is also a fabulous way for elementary students to find and express their creativity. It's a fantastic way for students to expand their vocabulary as well as navigate difficult feelings. There are many other benefits of teaching poetry.

  • Poetry broadens reading choices, as there are numerous excellent poetic picture books and poetry collections. best-poetry-books-for-kids

  • This form of writing naturally focuses on sentence-level skills with its purposeful selection of adjectives, adverbs, powerful verbs, specific nouns, etc.

  • Poetry is a perfect writing form to study immediately after holiday breaks when students typically show regression in the quality of written and spoken communication.

  • Because some poetic formats incorporate a limited number of words, poetry can be less intimidating for writers new to English.

  • Poetry can be written about any subject (imaginary or factual), personal experiences, concepts, or emotions.

For more resources to help with teaching poetry, check out:


Engaging Students in 3-Act Math Tasks

As spring arrives along with the beautiful weather outside, holding students’ attention during math class may become even more challenging. Creating fun, challenging, and exciting math lessons is even more important as we approach the end of the year. How can we expect the children to stay focused on multiplication facts when we are all dreaming of relaxing on the beach or riding the coasters in Disney? What can we do to make sure our students are learning until the last day of school? Plan engaging math lessons!

One strategy to planning engaging math lessons is to use real-life experiences to teach mathematical concepts. Now, by real-life experiences, I do not mean a problem about a 5-year old boy who ate 18 watermelons yesterday and 5 more today, because how many 5-year-old boys do you know that can actually eat 23 watermelons in two days?! I mean REAL-LIFE math problems not math class math problems. Students need to feel a true connection and see a purpose in the math they are doing.

One strategy to use to engage students in math is by introducing 3-Act Math tasks into your lessons. 3-Act Math tasks show students a (real-life) video or picture in act one. The first act serves to set the stage for the students and get them interested in doing some math with the problem. These tasks include things like baking cookies on a cookie sheet or shows a video of a dog running around the room popping balloons trying to be included in the Guiness Book of World Records. Scenarios that students (and teachers) can actually get excited about. This allows students to make connections to the things they see in everyday life. Students are also asked to come up with some possible questions they may have about the video or picture.

Act two gives students some information they may need to be able to answer the question(s) they have come up with in act one. In act two they will work in a team (or individually) to answer the question they have come up with. This is where the magic happens. Students engage in mathematical discussion and debate. Excitement about figuring out the answer is seen as students grapple with the task.

Act three is the finale. During this act the answer is revealed and the students get to check to see if their answer or prediction was correct. Many times you can hear shouts of cheer from classrooms during act three as students celebrate their hard work.

Students, just like adults, need to feel engaged in their learning. Without engagement, students are more likely to learn what they need at the moment but not learn for understanding. See the link below for more information about three-act math tasks and for standards-based pictures and video examples.

#MoveinMay 2019

It’s that time of year again! There are things that we should be doing in our regular routine, but it somehow gets away from us. May is the month to remind us to spread the word about national physical fitness and sports month and practice what we preach!

Hashtag #MoveInMay and #HTSDstrong for National Physical Fitness & Sports Month.

See below and see what you and your students can move on after Spring Break!

Jumping Jacks & Bouncy Chairs

This can be completed with any age or subject. As you review concepts, have students stand next to their desks. Instead of raising their hands to volunteer, students will do a jumping jack.

Act Out Stories

Reading a story in class? “Before you begin the story, explain to students that they are going to act out the movements in the story. Practice the movements prior to the start of the story. As you read, students will have to pay close attention to catch the actions and then demonstrate the movements practiced.

Classroom Warm-ups & Fitness Breaks

Establish a routine between activities in which you do something physical. Whether it’s a quick classroom stretch, walking around the room or even a few jumping jacks, this can be a great way to start the class off right or pump some energy into dozing students. Check out our full list of fitness break ideas.

SMART Board Fitness Games

The SMART board is a perfect resource to integrate physical activity into your lessons. On the most basic level, SMART boards can get students up, walking to the board and stretching as they move elements around the board. Here is one SMART board activity. In this example, there are also physical activity examples that students can mimic as a classroom warm up or fitness break.

Subject-Specific Charades

Review vocabulary or curriculum concepts by assigning students concepts/vocab to act out for the class. It’s all about getting students up and moving.

Acting Out Scientific Concepts

There is endless potential to have students demonstrate scientific concepts or vocabulary through movement.

For example, have students:

  • Act as electrons doing different kinds of bonding or breaking off as chemical reactions take place.
  • Imitate animals within different species as they identify the species, class, etc.
  • Play science charades with your latest vocabulary terms (tons of possibilities for animals, plants, weather, etc).

Teach Measurement Through Jumping

Jumping can add activity to the study of measurements, data collection and number order. Students first mark the measurements on the ground either with yard sticks or masking tape. Then, they’ll take turns jumping and recording their jump distances on the board. Students can compare jumps between students, compare a standing jump to a running jump or any other variation of ideas to practice comparing numbers. More advanced students can then used the collected units to create graphs or equations.

Historical & Cultural Movement

Each culture and historical period has different dances, popular sports/games or even day-to-day activities to survive. Try these out as a class. As you compare different countries, regions or time periods, you can try out their different dances, from Spain’s flamenco to Hawaii’s hula to the 1920’s swing.

Dear Data Guy

What are some test taking strategies I can tell my students to use on the NJSLA assessment?

Great question.

I think it is important that kids have strategies before they enter the test environment. While we don’t teach to the test, students should be aware of the format of the test so make sure students understand how many questions they have to answer, the format of the test, and the tools available to them. This information can be found in the NJSLA resource center located HERE.

Some teachers use the COPS strategy in the classroom as a writing strategy. COPS stands for Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling. Acronyms are easy to remember for our younger and older students. Whatever strategy you use in the classroom, you should remind students before they take the assessment.

When taking the Math or ELA assessment, I have found that the most important strategy is to tell students to live in both the paper and the electronic world. Students should use their scrap paper during the assessment. Students who have been successful on the state assessments gather their thoughts on the scrap paper, and then work off their notes to complete their answer in the online platform.

Lastly, students should be reminded that they can skip questions and come back to them. For some of our struggling students, you could tell them to take a look at the questions and pick out an easy question done first. While observing many students, I’ve seen kids stop testing after only 5 minutes. I think it is because they became overwhelmed by the first question. There is no penalty for guessing on the NJSLA assessment.

Practice the strategies each week leading up to the assessment.

Big picture

Notes from Mr. Scotto

I hope all staff enjoyed a well-deserved Spring Recess.

Last month readers were provided with some reflective questions regarding Domain IV (particularly 4A).

Here are some reflective questions to assist with Component 4D - Participating in the Professional Community:

  • What committees, meetings, and other professional groups have I been a part of? How have I taken a leadership role (within these groups)?
  • What professional resources have I shared with my colleagues?
  • What did I participate in to promote positive, school morale and school spirit beyond the scope of my assignment? (ie: before school, after school, evening activities, etc).

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