Curriculum Matters

MTSD / Volume 2 / Issue 6 / March 2016

MTSD Office of Instructional Services

Deborah Sarmir—Assistant Superintendent Curriculum/Instruction

Damian Pappa—Director Assessment/Data/Accountability

Fiona Borland—Director Instructional Technology

Ron Zalika —Director Curriculum

Lucianne Smith—Executive Assistant

MTSD Content Area Supervisors

Jennifer Riddell—MHS Mathematics

Alma Reyes—World Languages & ESL

Melissa Hodgson—MHS Social Studies

Adam Warshafsky—Visual & Performing Arts

Jason Sullivan—MHS Science

Lisa Romano—LMS/UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

Karen Stalowski—MHS Language Arts

Christopher Herte—LMS/UMS Mathematics & Science

Amy Wish—OHES/VES Mathematics & Science

Amy Monaco—OHES/VES Language Arts & Social Studies

Naoma Green—MHS Physical Education & Health

From the Office of Instructional Services

MTSD has a never-ending commitment to creating and maintaining a guaranteed and viable curriculum that will ensure our students' academic success. This newsletter is a part of this equation, helping to communicate our curricular happenings and instructional activities across grade levels and content areas to district educators, parents and students. While all of our curriculum guides are available through an online database called Rubicon Atlas, this newsletter provides a closer look at the some of the learning experiences and outcomes that our students undertake. Please browse through the curriculum updates provided by our talented team of content-area supervisors.

Spotlight on Curriculum

Many of our K-12 curriculum guides have begun to incorporate a new kind of rigorous assessment called a Performance Task. According to expert Jay McTighe, a Performance Task is an assessment that asks students to perform to authentically demonstrate knowledge, understanding and proficiency. Performance tasks present a complex situation that calls for learners to apply their learning in context. In an authentic task, students consider goals, audience, obstacles, and options to achieve a successful product or performance. Believe it or not, Performance Tasks have been around for decades and have been routinely used in visual and performing arts, physical education, and career-technology where performance is the natural focus of instruction. However, we believe that such tasks should be used in every subject area and at all grade levels.

These Performance Tasks will not replace more traditional types of assessments regularly given to our students. Rather, these two assessment types will be used in tandem to better gauge student mastery. As we continue to develop and utilize these in our curriculum, our collective goal remains the same—to promote meaningful learning for students. Be on the lookout for a Performance Task coming to a curriculum near you!

LMS & UMS Language Arts & Social Studies

Whether it is a class read-aloud, book clubs, independent reading, or Newsela, our online nonfiction reading site, 6th grade is awash with reading. So much so, that Ms. Brenner’s homeroom took it upon themselves to level and to organize their own classroom library.

Alexia, Melanie, Lilly, Megan, Ananya, Emily, and Kimberly took control of the situation when boxes and boxes of new books were delivered to their classroom. They were literally running from series to series with excitement, eagerly sharing titles with each other and separating the huge numbers of books into separate piles for each of the four Language Arts teachers. This took them days and days and they never flagged, not once, no matter. They also numbered and labeled every single book so that students could track them, showing a real respect for their school’s property and their classroom library.

When asked what was most satisfying about their job well done, the girls replied, “It feels great when our classmates continually come up to us and compliment us on how great the library looks and how easy it is for them to find exactly what they want to read. That’s how we know that our hard work was all worth it!”

OHES & VES Math & Science

Although many people think of Algebra as a middle school math topic, our Elementary students have been learning to think algebraically all year long. Merriam Webster online dictionary defines algebra as “a generalization of arithmetic in which letters representing numbers are combined according to the rules of arithmetic” and describes it as a branch of math concerned with properties and relationships. In kindergarten, students have been learning to represent situations of adding to and taking from using math symbols. This is the very first step in generalizing. Our first graders have been exploring the meaning of the equal sign using balances. In these activities they represent values with objects and then translate the relationships on the balance into equations. Students learn about the properties of addition and subtraction in second grade. Although they may not call them identity, commutative and associative properties, they recognize and use these number relationships to compute efficiently. In third grade students explore function machines and generalize rules for arithmetic patterns. By the spring of fourth grade, our students are able to use variables to represent unknown values in equations. They can also explain using words and models how the equations are generalizations for the details of a situation. Algebra often feels like a puzzle, and so our students find it an exciting and fun part of our math curriculum.

MHS Language Arts

Senior Seminar Honors students recently wrapped-up their unit of study on Magic Realism with a multi-media project. After having studied a variety of works in both film and print, students were asked to formulate their own definition of Magic Realism based on their new understanding of the genre. To do so, students combined analyses of short stories, novels, film, art, music and even fashion into a video compilation which was ultimately presented to their classmates. Please enjoy a few samples of our students' work here:

Magical Realism

OHES & VES Language Arts and Social Studies

We’re ready to Spring ahead to new reading units at OHES and VES! In Kindergarten, our youngest readers are learning how to be their own reading teachers, working with partners to use their “superpowers” to figure out tricky words. When your child gets stuck on a tricky word at home, ask your child what strategies he/she can use to figure it out! First Grade readers are studying characters and ways to dramatize these characters when reading aloud in a unit titled “Dramatizing Characters and Deepening Comprehension in Reading Clubs .” They will end the unit in character book clubs, meeting with classmates to read and discuss characters! You can support this work at home by marking spots in books that characters have strong feeling using facial expressions to represent how a character is feeling, and noticing when a character changes throughout a text. Second grade readers will begin a unit on Series book, reading across favorite series such as Frog and Toad, Mercy Watson, Ivy and Bean, Judy Moody, Commander Toad, and more! When reading series books at home, your child should be on the lookout for patterns in series books and pay attention to when a character experiences trouble, seems to change, or experiences a big feeling.

In third grade, students will return from Spring Break ready to dive into Biography Book Clubs. In this unit, students will be working in book clubs to read biographies on subjects such as Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, Walt Disney, Amelia Earhart and more! In this unit, third graders will be using what they know about reading both fiction and informational texts to tackle this new genre, using fiction strategies such as visualization, paying attention to the setting and making inferences, as well as nonfiction strategies, including identifying the main idea and keeping track of how the sections of the book are organized. Consider exploring biographies at home or encouraging your child to research additional information on his/her biographical subject. Finally, fourth graders will be taking on the American Revolution in reading, writing and Social Studies! In reading, students will be reading texts on this time in history, focusing on reading strategies such as using text structures to organize notes, synthesizing across texts, considering perspective, and developing strategies for reading primary sources. Later in the unit, they will prepare to take on the viewpoint of either the Patriots or the Loyalists for a debate and reenactment of the Second Continental Congress! Students will be focusing on specific subtopics in both reading and writing, so consider conducting some research at home on subtopics such as the Boston Massacre, the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Boston Tea Party, etc.!

Thanks to all who attended our first Language Arts Parent Night! Our next Parent Night is scheduled for Wednesday, April 20th for parents of students in Grades 1-4. Are you interested in learning more about reading levels and leveled texts? Join us in the OHES cafetorium at 6:30 for a Parent Night titled “More Than a Letter: Using Reading Levels to Select Books.” Our final K-4 Parent Night of the year will take place on Tuesday, April 26th at 6:30 in the OHES cafetorium and is titled “What is a Writing Workshop?” Look for a link to RSVP in an upcoming Friday MTSD eNews update!

MTSD World Language and ESL

Upper Middle School German students strengthen their language skills through song and movement. In March, German 1a/1b students visited Hopewell Valley Regional High School to listen to Uwe Kind, a famous German educator and international communicator who escaped from former East Germany in 1960. As a German teacher in New York City, Kind developed SingLing, a language-learning technique based on familiar tunes. Uwe Kind also created and developed LingoTech, a teaching technique that fuses melody, rhythm, drama, movement and language phrases into a total experience that inspires young people to acquire languages. LingoTech builds on the premise that music helps language students with memorization, intonation and pronunciation. Kind has since published four SingLing books which are used by students and teachers world-wide as a fun and effective way to learn conversational German Spanish and English (as a second language). Our students had the opportunity to sing along, dance on the stage and learn new words and phrases.

LMS & UMS Math & Science

Congratulations to our Math and Science Teams!

Our Science Olympiad Team (grades 7-9) competed at the State Competition on March 8th at Mercer County College and took 3rd Place in NJ! Coaches Blakemore and Sowa worked extensively with the team from October through March after school and on Saturdays. They couldn’t be more proud of all the work that our students put toward their preparation. In individual events at the State competition our team took 2nd place in Bio Blitz and Crime Busters and 3rd place in Air Trajectory, Crave the Wave, Experimental Design, Mission Possible, Picture This and Reach for the Stars. The team consists of Neeraj Arunkumar, Parth Deshmukh, Chris Gao, Anshul Guha, Rupsa Jana, Shaunak Kinare, Colin Liu, Ethan Liu, Audrey Ma, Charles Ma, Carina Manek, Akanksha,Mathivanan, Dhruv Patel, Avhan Misra, Ahan Raina, Neha Sathishkumar, Surya Vangala, Frank Wang, Jimmy Wang, Larry Wang and Alex Zhang.

Our MATHCOUNTS team, along with their dedicated coaches, Ms. Yip and Ms. Donovan, attended the State Competition at Rutgers University on March 12th. The team consisting of Anshul Guha, Justin Kim, Avhan Misra and Frank Wang. They all did an outstanding job representing Montgomery. Frank Wang achieved 4th place overall in the State. Frank will be going to Nationals representing NJ along with 3 other NJ students! Frank Wang was also invited to take the American Invitational Mathematics Exam. We’re so proud of you!

Congratulations to our Math League 6 team coming in 2nd place in NJ! Team members were Eric Li, Sean Liu and Siddharth Vecham. Eric and Sean tied for 5th place in the State and all three were in the top 35! Great job Eric, Sean and Siddharth! Thank you to Mrs. Colitsas for administering this competition and the work going into it.

MHS Social Studies

After studying the causes of the Russian Revolution that took place in 1917 and eventually led to the creation of the Soviet Union, the 9th grade World Studies courses took an artistic turn. Students learned about the origin of the Faberge Egg and their purpose of showcasing the excesses of the Romanov Dynasty. They then crafted their own version of the Faberge Egg that compared an aspect of Russian society before and after the Revolution. Using colorful, creative language, students also wrote summary explanations of their eggs as part of the project.

MTSD Technology

At the start of the school year, the six Media Specialist met together to discuss the mission of a modern library. Together they wrote, “The mission of the Montgomery Township School District Media Center Program is to provide ethical and informative instruction that equips students with life-long learning skills delivered in an environment that optimizes services to support and enhance 21st century teaching, learning, and literacy.” MTSD students must develop strong literacy skills to be successful in a world in which knowledge is growing at an exponential rate. Our media specialist provide our students with the continuous opportunity to develop a passion and love of reading.

This year, Mrs. Wasiak removed the barrier of distance to help her students personally connect with the author’s of their favorite book. Most recently UMS students have been able to virtually meet with Sara Raash and Mindee Arnett. Students were able to share their experience and ask the authors about their books and the process of writing.

Developing a love of literacy will always be the focal point of our librarians and they are committed to using new possibilities and pathways to make this possible for all students.

MHS Science

The Montgomery HS Science Faculty joined all teachers of science from MTSD for a district-wide introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards on March 24th, 2016. Teams of teachers from various grade levels planned activities to introduce the new standards, but more importantly provide examples of how NGSS will shift our instructional practices. The hard work and preparation of the teachers demonstrated the strength of the MTSD instructional staff and their desire to articulate a coherent and appropriate K-12 learning progression for our students. The changes will help prepare our students an information and technology rich environment they will enter as adults. Please see the list of Science and Engineering Practices in NGSS that along with Disciplinary Core Ideas and Cross-cutting Concepts that will be the framework for all MTSD Science curricula starting with grade 6-12 in 2016-17, adding grades K-5 in 2017-18.

The eight practices of science and engineering that the Framework identifies as essential for all students to learn and describes in detail are listed below:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

2. Developing and using models

3. Planning and carrying out investigations

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Opportunities to be involved:

The MHS Student STEM Board is accepting recommendations for guest speakers to participate in the MHS Science Lecture Series. The students solicit individuals to share their experiences in education, research, and industry.

The Monty MakerSpace is open and getting ready to host open lab times on Saturdays this spring.

Spring is just around the corner meaning that the MHS Courtyard Garden will be set for another planting season. The Garden is divided into 3 areas. The Outdoor Classroom is a grassy expanse with benches that accommodates various classroom and Unit lunch activities. The Native Plant Garden displays numerous varieties of perennials and a small pond with waterfall. The third section is home to over 40 raised beds where fruits, vegetables and flowers are raised without pesticides or herbicides. Donations of plants, equipment, or time are always appreciated.

MTSD Mission and Vision Statements

Mission Statement

Our mission as a forward-thinking community is to ensure that all students grow into confident, compassionate, successful, and self-directed learners a multi-cultural and socio-economically diverse society by providing engaging and challenging real world educational experiences in a student-centered environment.

Vision Statement

We envision a district on the forefront of public education. We focus on the needs of every child, dedicating ourselves to their present and future success. Success means that all students possess a passion for learning, develop a deep understanding of rigorous content, demonstrate cultural competence, and exhibit ethical conduct, while cultivating social skills and healthy habits that will empower them to achieve their goals and aspirations. Achieving this vision requires that the district become a learning community that continually reflects and challenges itself to effect transformational teaching and learning. We prepare our students to take responsibility for their own educational accomplishments in our global society while nurturing them in a community where each student is known and valued. We believe by embracing frontier spirit, we can create a unique organization that is recognized as a forerunner in public education.