K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

May 2020


Addressing Unfinished Learning in the Fall

As we all sit in our homes teaching instead of our classrooms, it is easy to wonder and worry what next school year will look like for our students. Many are asking how we will determine the impact remote learning has had on our students both academically and emotionally when we return to instruction in the fall and how will we ever be able to address all of their needs. First, we WILL make it happen because we are educators. It is what we were born to teach students. It doesn’t matter where or how but we will make it happen.

It is still impossible to not think about how we will teach through the gaps in learning some students may have. We can imagine there may be some unfinished learning from this spring and we have to be careful how we approach this in the math classrooms. There will need to be a systematic approach to “fill in” the unfinished learning within the time constraints of the school year. A balanced approach to both filling in gaps while still teaching students grade-level content must be a priority. Consider the following steps:

  1. Scaffold prior knowledge standards and skills in the math classroom when necessary and build on what the students do know to lift their learning toward the grade level expectation. If students are missing some understanding from grade 2 about arrays, incorporate that skill into your small group lessons to prepare students for the upcoming multiplication lesson

  2. Assessments must be meaningful and used to make strategic decisions. We can’t assume students missed out on learning from this year. We will need to use formative data to determine exactly what gaps need to be filled in. Standard level data should be used to make strategic decisions on how your small guided math groups will look next year. This is especially important in the beginning of the year.

  3. Integrate on-going practice and review into lessons rather than stopping the learning to review concepts. Adding a review center into your guided math rotations is a great way to continue to spiral skills, review old concepts, and teach unfinished learning.

If you notice, the three steps listed above are exactly what we do every year. Each year our students come to us in September and we must learn who they are and what they know. Once we have this knowledge we can dig into our toolbox and start building up the student’s mathematical skills.

Independent Reading: Making it Work!

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are”. Mason Cooley

We want kids to read more. We want them to enjoy reading. We know that reading builds vocabulary, fluency, and background knowledge. As teachers, we work hard to help our students develop their reading skills and strategies so that they can become capable, proficient readers. Just as important, however, is helping them develop a love of reading. The desire to read for enjoyment and pleasure while under no obligation. To grow as readers, children need time to read.

The benefits of reading are well documented. Reading for pleasure helps children develop stronger social skills, vocabulary and writing skills, and helps them to better understand and process more complex ideas. Reading also expands their ability to build their overall knowledge– not just in subjects like English and language arts. Even knowing all these benefits, it can still be a challenge to motivate kids to read on their own. Here are some helpful tips( that you can do remotely) to get students reading on their own:

  • Do a lot of read alouds. If you are going to encourage your students to read, then you need to get them hooked on the joys of reading. Hearing you read a great book to them helps to build excitement about reading. Choose a book you love and really ham it up! Limit how many times you stop while reading aloud so as to not disrupt the flow of the story.

  • Set up a book club. Book clubs and reading groups are a great way for students to socialize and share their thoughts. This interaction makes reading so much more enjoyable, and it enhances their comprehension skills. Students can take part in virtual meetups, with you moderating, to talk about the book they are reading

  • Let students choose their own books. Studies have shown that when students choose their own books it will boost their reading ability. It’s ok if the book they are reading is a bit above or below their independent reading level.

  • Introduce students to a book series. Whether students are into adventures or fantasy novels, there is a book series for everyone. All you have to do is find out what your students love and get them to read the first selection. Once they get a taste of the set, they will definitely want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

  • Capitalize on technology. Engaging students to read can sometimes be easier with technology. Using technology can make reading fun. Technology and apps are already a part of a student’s world. It’s in their comfort zone. Storyline Online has famous actors reading well-known books, bringing them to life! This site is always free and a lot of fun.

  • Allow students to dislike a book. There’s nothing wrong with disliking a book. Everyone has their opinion about stories. Some students like reading drama, others are more into science-fiction or mysteries. If the student can give a well-founded opinion about why they dislike a book, you can use it to adjust your booklist or to let students choose a book genre they really like. Using books that are in line with their preferences gets you one step closer to persuading students to read.

The Arts: Overcoming the End of the Year Slump

At the end of the school year, many art teachers experience “the end of the year slump”. If you find yourself becoming easily irritated, overwhelmed, and lethargic, you could be falling down the slippery slope of teacher burnout. Recognizing the early signs is essential because clouded thinking often leads to emotional reactions and poor decisions.

Becoming self-aware, practicing resilience, and taking time for own creativity is critical to overcoming teacher burnout; especially right now, in the middle of a national crisis. Being resilient does not mean things don’t bother you. It means you recognize the problems and understand that growth is possible through introspection and progressive growth. Take some time each day for objective self-reflection. Reflect upon your emotions and “default” responses to those feelings, and then consider if alternative practices and behaviors might improve your mental health and wellbeing.

Below are some tips to help you through your journey:

  • Rather than criticizing yourself for practices gone wrong, reflect upon the advice you would give to a friend, and use those kind and encouraging words on yourself. Ruminating on regretful moments will not help you forward toward healing and growth.

  • Reflect on the positive ways in which you are making a difference.

  • Have a set of achievable goals and a clear and firm schedule to achieve those goals. Be sure that the schedule is a good fit for your abilities and mental health.

  • While you are busy helping your students to be creative, don’t forget to take some time each week to work on your own art. Creativity is important for remaining healthy, connected to yourself, and the world you live in!

Having a Meaningful End of the Year...Remotely

As we get closer to the end of the school year is typically a time to think of how to academically finish strong. It is also a time to reflect on the memories that were built, relationships that were cemented, and on all the memorable learning experiences. With remote learning making up the latter half of the school year, this is going to look different, but it can still be a time to bring closure to the school year in a fun and engaging way. Below, you can find a list of ideas to close out the school year:

End of Year Celebration:

Have a GOOGLE MEET celebration and invite students to give a toast to the end of the school year. They can share their favorite memory of the school year or something that they are looking forward to next year.

Personalized Letter:

Write a letter to each of your students and send it to your students (Google classroom, email). This is a very sentimental way to say good-bye and they will surely be happy to receive something from their teachers.

Digital Spirit Days:

Have fun themes for the last week of school! Have students wear their gear during their video chats or have them send them to you to post on your school site or Twitter.

Virtual Memory Book:

Have students create a digital memory book via google slides. Students can work on their own memory books to reflect on their learning throughout the year. There are various templates already created for students to simply fill out.

Virtual Award Ceremony:

Host a virtual ward ceremony, where students are recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. An option is to create a Google Form and have students vote on each award. Afterward, you can post the certificates on Google classroom or email them directly.

Virtual Field Trips:

Since the school year ended before most field trips took place, many students were unable to take part in this experience this year. Many zoos, museums, and aquariums have virtual field trips FOR FREE!

Using Online Games to Support English Language Learners

Games are enjoyed at any age! When used in conjunction with a purpose, games can enforce new skills as well as language in any subject area. In addition, games are universal and can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of language and/or age. Games are one of the most useful scaffolds used by English Language Support teachers in formative and summative assessments. Teachers can use them to reinforce skills, rules, and even to find out background knowledge in any area.

Online games such as Kahoot, are particularly useful in assessing and reinforcing newly acquired skills and language by students who are apprehensive in Speaking. Quite often, English learners are in a state called the “silent period”. During this period, the student is absorbing all of the information around them however, for whatever reason known only to them, may be apprehensive to speak. By playing a game where Speaking is not essential in assessing the acquisition of newly acquired language, Kahoot can help assess whether a student has acquired the particular skills being assessed. In addition, Kahoot’s multiple-choice format is also an English learner-friendly scaffold sometimes needed for them to be successful.

Dear Data Guy

When the students take the second diagnostic, do they start where they left off of from the first diagnostic? For example, if a student was 1 grade level below on the first diagnostic, do they start at the same place on the second diagnostic?

Great Question!

Yes, students will pick up where they left off from the most recent assessment they have completed:

When a student begins the assessment, the program will first check if the student has previously taken an assessment (Diagnostic or Growth Monitoring). If the student has previously taken an assessment, the assessment will begin at the student’s estimated ability from the previous assessment. If a student has not yet completed an i-Ready assessment, the assessment starts from an initial estimated ability level which is the minimum score required to be considered one grade level below the student’s chronological grade.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

During the remote period of learning/work, I have been extremely impressed with staff participation in professional learning. There have been times where enrollment of virtual PD has been higher than when we offered sessions in a traditional face-to-face session.

As we have done in the past, the Office of Curriculum & Instruction will offer high-quality professional development throughout the summer. We anticipate running the sessions in a virtual manner.

Please consider being a presenter for our summer sessions. We have a lot of talent in our district (and certainly have learned a lot during the remote period of learning/work). Be on the lookout for more information.

Thank you for all that you have been doing for our students.....remember, they deserve solid, meaningful learning experiences until the last day of school.

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, Title I Pre-K, & Family Engagement

Heather Lieberman, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science

Danielle Tan, Fine Arts