K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

October 2020


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Engaging Students in the Virtual Math Class

Engaging students during virtual or hybrid learning models can be difficult no matter the age or ability of the student but for our youngest learners with little exposure to the school setting or even some of the technology being used, engagement can seem out of reach. Finding new ways to engage students during this new normal of social distancing and virtual learning requires teachers to think out of the box in new and exciting ways. Below are some ideas to try out to help students stay engaged in the math classroom.

Whether you are creating your own videos, doing live instruction, or showing students videos to help with instruction, be sure to include active engagement (think Blues Clues and other preschool shows) where you ask students questions and give a pause for students to have time to shout the answer at the screen or write it down if the students are older.

Be sure to keep the important components of the lessons no matter the delivery of the lesson. Number sense routines are still an important component of every math lesson. Students can use counters, fingers, or simply call out as the teacher introduces number talks, fact fluency etc. The best part about math is that any can be used for counters. Encourage students to be creative and use items they have at home. Matchbox cars, Barbies, coins, pieces of paper, anything that can be counted can be used in place of a traditional math counter.

Keeping the goal of the lesson specific and short is also important in the virtual/hybrid environment. Short lessons are key as young students can only sit passively in front of a computer for short periods of time. A math mini-lesson should be between 10 and 15 minutes long and be very specific. This may mean chunking traditional textbook based lessons into small parts across multiple days. Have students actively work problems out and hold them up, or use PearDeck, Jamboard, or other tech platforms to have them share their work. Encourage students to use their manipulatives when needed and try using breakout rooms for students to share their work.

Lasly, it is important to not only review the required assignments verbally but also make sure directions are written or use a voice note to remind students of what is expected of them next. Consider having students turn off their cameras when working independently or putting each student into an individual breakout room for independent work so students don’t distract each other but are still “close by” to ask questions when they are stuck.

The important thing is to keep trying new things until you figure out what works for your students and keeps them engaged and learning. When you find something that works, keep it up for some time before changing things up again. Collaborate with other teachers to see what is working for them and share ideas! Everyone is learning this year and sharing is important!

Engaging Discussion Techniques During Remote/Hybrid Learning

"Reading and writing float on a sea of talk" (James Britton, 1983).

Student talk is an essential component of reading and writing instruction. Classrooms are filled with students turning and talking to peers in order to process new learning, share ideas, check for understanding, challenge previous thinking, etc. In today’s hybrid and remote learning environment, educators need to think of ways to provide opportunities for students to have discussions. During Google Meets, it is common practice to stay “muted”, but how can we get our students to “unmute” to cultivate a community of conversation.

Here are some ways to engage your students in discussions:

  • Color-Coded Discussion: Students participate in a small group digital discussion by creating a shared Google Sheets with their peers. Present questions at the top of the sheet. Students can respond to the questions in the boxes in their own font and color. Then students can choose a different color/font to respond to their peers.

  • Human Bar Graph: A common technique when a teacher poses a question, then the students move around the room for the space that matches their answer. Now you can do this digitally through a human bar graph. On a Google Slide, create a small box with students’ names. On the slide, have the answer options, and the students can drag their name above their answer creating the human bar graph.

  • Breakout Room Discussion: Now Google Meets has the breakout room feature! Before putting your students in breakout rooms, have a student in each group be responsible for sharing what the group discussed. In upper elementary, you could have students take notes on a shared document as well.

  • Gallery Walk: Just like in a real gallery, students are able to quietly view images, and then come together to share their overall reflections. Create a Google Slide presentation with images that connect to an upcoming unit or text. Give students the chance to view the images silently, and choose an image that stood out to them to discussion breakout rooms.

  • Share Outs: At the end of the writing block, develop a routine where at least 1 student shares what they worked on today. Students could share with a partner on a Jamboard, or unmute themselves to share. When this is common practice, students know

Remote/Hybrid Learning & Arts Integration

More than ever, students and families are getting a taste of how the arts support wellness, bridge the disconnect of social distancing, and increase critical thinking. Any teacher can successfully integrate the arts in their hybrid/remote lesson plans, it does not require artistic talent from teachers or students. The practice isn’t intended to create artists, it’s about nurturing the whole individual.

To get started:

  • Select one arts standard and one of anther content area

  • Explore essential questions and big ideas that are common between the standards

  • Develop a project that investigates the standards while incorporating critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

  • Consider the outcomes:

    • What are the end goals and objectives?

    • What data collection methods will analyze student comprehension?


  • The arts engage students and provide an outlet/escape during difficult times.

  • The arts are a vehicle for connections

  • The arts strengthen real-world problem solving and decision-making skills

  • There are no “wrong” answers in the arts

ELs and Language Acquisition Using Online Tools

When it comes to teaching online, navigating tools such as Google Classroom, Seesaw, Peardeck, and other user friendly add ons plays a key role in how those tools will be used to support learning in any subject area. EL students, in particular, can benefit greatly by being taught how to use these tools effectively in order to help them in their daily work. Therefore, it is important to spend time teaching them how to use these tools in order for them to feel comfortable using them to display and communicate what they are learning. Small incremental steps are ideal for students to master the effectiveness of their use as well.

Besides the online tools themselves, ELs benefit greatly from routines and structures in order to enhance learning. Having a daily schedule displayed online with visuals for students to click on is key to helping ELs organize their day and put a greater emphasis on the objectives and the content of what they are learning. When students are given routines to follow, they can better grasp what is expected of them.

In addition, making sure to put an emphasis on language production is essential when it comes to ELs displaying language acquisition in hybrid and remote environments. Language production can be verbal during Google Meets or even written when posting questions in Google Classroom or chat boxes.

Adding Engagement to your Screencasts

Screencastify has been a great go-to resource for all of our staff members in all grade spans and departments. The beauty of a screencast is that you can capture anything on your computer or tablet screen. When creating that mini-lesson, you have to think of what kinds of materials you want to use as instructional tools to support your students while they work from home. Google Slides is a great choice for presenting content in a linear fashion. Here are some more ideas:

  • Audiovisual feedback: Getting the same question over and over again? Are there common mistakes in your students’ work? Provide a quick screencast providing clarity on a topic, addressing an error, or refocusing on a concept. This may be more useful than extensive written responses.

  • Tutorials: Screencast how to access materials, use of an app or program, or navigation to and through a website that may be helpful for students.

  • Integrate digital tools with instruction: Support your content with digital resources. See below for examples for:

Health and PE example

  • G-W Health Textbook

  • Swork It Fitness App

  • EdPuzzle

  • Pear Deck

World Language example

  • Conjuegemos

  • Edpuzzle

  • Pear Deck

Dear Data Guy

Since we are at the beginning of the year, and we have begun to administer assessments and benchmarks from a remote/hybrid environment, I thought it would be good to offer some tips.

  1. Explain the purpose of the assessment to the student and how it will benefit the student and the teacher.

  2. Develop a procedure for the student to contact you if there are issues during the assessment administration.

  3. Tell students how long the assessment is expected to take. Offer extended hours for students beyond the school day to take the assessment in case there is an issue with equitable access to the internet or computer.

  4. Remind students of the rules for academic integrity.

  5. Hold data chats with students after the assessment to review his/her performance or class performance. For any students who performed well below expectations, develop a plan for resetting the benchmark.

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

We are looking forward to the (virtual) November In-Service. The focus of the day will be, "what I need." Our goal is to provide staff with as much support in areas that support hybrid/remote learning. Once the agenda packet is released, take a moment to think about your current PD needs. Perhaps it's taking another look at one of our instructional platforms or further examining online resources aligned to a particular curricular area. In the second portion of the day, staff will also have the opportunity to spend some additional time on planning and preparation.

We hope that you find both portions of the day to be productive!

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, ESSA Title Grants, & Family Engagement

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

Laura Leidy-Stauffer, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science