6-12 Curriculum Newsletter

March 2018

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This month's newsletter focuses on the theory of growth mindset which was popularized by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck. In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities are fixed traits. However, Carol Dweck states, "people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment."

As you read through this month's newsletter, take time to reflect upon the successes you and your students have had in the classroom. Have you been instrumental in their success by creating a love of learning and resilience? What are some things you could do differently to instill a love for learning?

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MARCHing to the Beat of the Arts

By Danielle Tan

Arts education refers to education in the disciplines of music, dance, theatre, and visual arts. The arts stimulate students’ curiosity, foster problem-solving and creative-thinking skills, and help to bridge the gap between core subjects by finding common ground where disciplines overlap. Classroom teachers often utilize the arts to help students to access diverse curriculum in personal and meaningful ways. According to Muzaffar and Shaik (2016), the arts are a part of the cultural heritage of every human being, allowing students to explore their innermost selves and the world around them. Data from school campuses to corporate America support the belief that the arts are a significant component in fostering self-esteem and a love for learning, reducing student dropout rates, refining collaboration skills, and producing a more prepared citizen for the workplace. Moreover, the arts foster a growth mindset by instilling the belief that student abilities will improve through effort, risk-taking, and peer/teacher feedback. Therefore, providing a rich, balanced, and comprehensive arts program to all students is critical.

Youth Art Month was founded by the Crayon, Water Color & Craft Institute, Inc., in cooperation with the National Art Education Association in 1961, and was initially called Children's Art Month. Its goal was to emphasize the value of participating in art for all children. It was renamed Youth Art Month in 1969 to include secondary school students. Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM) began as a single statewide celebration in 1973 and has grown over the decades to encompass a day, then a week, and then in 1985 to become a month long celebration of school music. The purpose of MIOSM is to raise awareness of the importance of music education for all children, and to remind citizens that schools are where all children should have access to music. MIOSM is an opportunity for music teachers to bring their music programs to the attention of the school and the community and to display the benefits that school music brings to students of all ages.

Both Youth Art Month and Music in Our Schools Month take place annually in March, when art shows, special exhibits, and musical performances become the focus of schools across the nation. The Hamilton Township School District’s arts staff take great pride in their annual Fine Art Festival and Music in Our Schools Concerts. These special events bring the entire community together to celebrate rich traditions and the value of the arts in our schools!

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Mathematical Mindset

By Karen Gronikowski

Many people say that they are bad at math due to a lack of talent. The belief that people are born being good or bad at certain things is called a fixed mindset. If you contribute to this idea, then you may see ability and intelligence as unable to change. A recent theory that is becoming increasingly more popular by researchers is that we can improve at math or anything else with practice and determination. This viewpoint is a growth mindset. Of course there are differences in natural aptitudes or propensity but everyone can grow. It is not surprising that children with a growth mindset are more likely to take on a challenge or try something new.

There are many ways to foster a growth mindset. Students who are praised for trying hard or persevering tend to want to continue working hard. Another way to encourage a growth mindset is to use the word “yet”. In doing so, students understand that they can still learn the information if they work hard. If you consider your first months working as a teacher, you may have had a lesson or two that just didn’t work. Here you are still in the profession though and you have filed away the mistakes as lessons learned in order to embrace new methods. When students are disappointed by their attempts, ask them to reflect on what happened. Our biggest opportunities for growth come from failure, not success.

By helping develop a growth mindset, you do more than improve the chances of success in life. It is not likely that students will receive constant feedback and praise when they enter adulthood. It could be months or years to reach a goal. If they have a growth mindset, they will be able to find a purpose in the daily struggle when working toward a goal rather than a quick moment of accomplishment.


Do you have a fixed mindset or growth mindset? To find out take this brief quiz.

Video View

Carol Dweck: Developing a Growth Mindset


Teaching Young Pups New Tricks: The Science behind Growth Mindset

By Kirsten Pendleton

We tell our students to ‘keep at it’ and ‘work harder,' but often that still leads to frustration. How do we develop the stamina in our students to try something new? Research shows that teaching students about how their brains work and grow will improve their ability to adjust to a growth mindset. For example, the more a person challenges herself, the more neural connections she makes in her brain, and the stronger those connections become. Think of it like this -- the brain is a muscle, and it gets stronger the more it is used. This video describes what active rats and London taxi drivers have in common when it comes to overcoming challenges.

There are a myriad of videos and resources out there to show students how the brain works. This lesson plan series from Khan Academy goes through the process of teaching middle school students about neuroplasticity--how the brain can change.

And, as this gentleman discovered, even old dogs can learn new tricks. Watch as he learns to ride a reverse bicycle!

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By Francesca Miraglia

Carol Dweck's research on growth mindset has revealed important insights into helping students --and teachers--- learn. Here are some tips to help you integrate the growth mindset model into the Danielson Framework for Teaching.

1a: Clearly let your students know what they will be able to do at the end of the lesson (unit/semester/year) that they could not do at the start.

1c: Ensure that expected work outcomes EXCEED the current skills of your students.

1e: Build in differentiation so that all students are challenged in relation to their current skill level.

2a: Create opportunities for students to support and praise one another in terms of effort. Model what you’d like to hear!

  • Great mistake! - What did you learn from that?

  • That looks like it took a lot of effort - how many ways did you try it before it turned out that way?

2e: Use classroom space intentionally. Place resources in an easily accessible and attractive place. Hang posters that reinforce a growth mindset.

3a: Incorporate vocabulary in your classroom that complements the growth mindset. Model and emphasize the importance of perseverance, determination, effort, and participation.

3b: Increase wait time. Embrace the silence as your students formulate their thoughts.

3c: Ensure outcomes and expectations are clear! Break down tasks incrementally.

4a: At the end of each day, make it a practice to reflect on how each lesson went … quickly jot down your thoughts on a post-it note, in Evernote, or in the margins of your lesson plan.

4e: Find a mentor among your colleagues. Identify someone on the faculty you admire and from whom you can learn.

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Redos, Retakes, and Do Overs

By Erick Shio

The role of a teacher is multifaceted. Teachers manage classrooms, develop lesson plans, foster students' social-emotional well-being, grade papers, and much, much more. Each and every day, teachers develop presentations and engaging activities to help students learn and apply concepts in various content areas.

Quizzes and tests are often used as assessment methods. These assessments certainly provide a glimpse into a student’s understanding, however, tests are merely a snapshot of student learning at one moment in time.

Making mistakes is a part of learning and it’s through these mistakes that students further develop their understanding. As well-known author and educational consultant Rick Wormeli states in the November, 2011 edition of Educational Leadership, “adult professionals actually flourish through redos, retakes and do-overs.”

For Wormeli's perspective on student redos and a connection to the growth mindset, please view Redos, Retakes, and Do-Overs. For more information on classroom protocols and useful tips for successful implementation, please read Rick Wormeli: The Right Way to Do Redos.

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Framing the Data through a Growth Mindset

By Kevin Bobetich

Reviewing data is an important way for us to determine whether or not our students performed as we expected. Our frame of reference is also just as important. For the purposes of measuring growth, we want to look beyond student proficiency and review growth measures.

We have up to five points of reference in Linkit! for our diagnostic data (i-Ready) and multiple points of data for our state data (PARCC, Access for ELL’s). When determining whether or not your students have shown growth, consider the following questions:

  • How did my students perform at the beginning of the year? Where are they now?

  • How did my students perform three years ago? Where are they now?

    • Were there any areas where my students excelled? If so, are my students continuing to excel? outperform?

    • Were there any areas where my students struggled? If so, are they performing better now?

(Note-When using Linkit!-Click on the select columns feature, and select the “Show growth" column when comparing like assessments)

The frame of reference is also important for the child. Consider setting regular intervals to share data with your parents and students. Feel free to use the data chats in i-Ready or the data protocol from Mr. Scotto to frame your conversation.

Additional Resources

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

I hope that all staff enjoyed the recent District In-Service. After reviewing the survey responses (following the October In-Service), many staff indicated a desire to have choice sessions during PD.

I'm proud to say that we ran 47 choice sessions on March 29th. In fact, 32 of the sessions were facilitated by teachers.

Initial feedback has been very positive. In the coming weeks, we will once again ask you to take a moment to complete a survey to enhance future professional learning.

Thank you.

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts

Kirsten Pendleton, Science and Technology

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Danielle Tan, Visual and Performing Arts

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