Willingboro Public Schools
Dr. Ronald Taylor - Superintendent of Schools
CURRICULUM MATTERS - MONTHLY NEWSLETTER (APRIL 2019)
WPS has a never-ending commitment to creating and maintaining a guaranteed and viable curriculum that will ensure the academic success of our students. 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 edConnect, this newsletter is intended to provide a closer look at the some of the learning experiences and outcomes that our students undertake.
Please feel free to browse through the curriculum updates provided by our talented team.
WPS Science Corner
STEM CONFERENCE 2019:
Our Theme…The Future of Earth!!!
Why is an event like a Science Fair or STEM Conference important to students? These represent opportunities for students to present their science project to the community at-large, including district stakeholders and other students. Studies have shown that "Science Fair" types of events motivate student participation toward science. They also contributes to student social development. Not to mention, these events can broaden a student’s horizon to someday pursue a career in the sciences. Overall, an event like the STEM Conference adds an exciting twist that can encourage a student to learn about the world around them.
Students received a take home STEM Conference Resource packet. This packet contains all the details needed to construct a successful project. Project timelines are available on the Parent letter that was sent home with the packet. This project will count as a Science Competency grade in Grades 3 & 4 for Marking Period 4. Each School will have it's own STEM Conference and exemplary projects from each school will be invited to join the District STEM Conference.
Save the Date! You are invited to join the STEM Conference at your child's school. Projects will be on display and there will be a small reception to celebrate all of this tremendous work!
Take a look at the STEM Conference dates below...
- Twin Hills Elementary School - 5/29 (Building Science Lead - Ms. Keefe)
- Hawthorne Elementary School - 5/30 (Building Science Lead - Ms. Spring)
- W. R. James Elementary School - 5/31 (Building Science Lead - Ms. Horn)
- Memorial Middle School - 6/3 (Building Science Lead - Ms. Wright)
- Willingboro High School - 6/5 (Building Science Lead - Ms. Wilson)
- Levitt Intermediate School - 6/6 (Building Science Lead - Ms. Fitzpatrick)
- DISTRICT STEM CONFERENCE - 6/14 (District Science Lead - Ms. Brandon)
Do you panic when your child comes home from school asking for help with his or her STEM Conference project? Do you ever wonder how you can help your child learn science? You are not alone. Many parents—especially those who didn't pursue careers in science—may be apprehensive, sometimes even fearful, about this endeavor.
We commend you for your desire to help guide and support your children in their education, specifically in the field of science. Science is a way of understanding the world, a perspective, and a pattern of thinking that begins in the very early years. That is why parent involvement is so important in a child's science education. Families who explore together nurture great young scientists! Studies show that the family experiences that students bring to school are some of the biggest predictors of success.
Here are some additional tips for success:
- See science everywhere. Parents can take opportunities to ask "What would happen if …?" questions or present brainteasers to encourage children to be inquisitive and seek out answers. Children need to know that science isn't just a subject, but it is a way of understanding the world around us.
- Lead family discussions on science-related topics. Dinnertime might be an ideal time for your family to have discussions about news stories that are science based, like space shuttle missions, severe weather conditions, or new medical breakthroughs. Over time, children will develop a better understanding of science and how it affects many facets of our lives. Movies and TV shows with science-related storylines are also great topics for discussion. For example: After watching Jurassic Park, you might want to discuss with your children the significance of the name of the movie or how human involvement in natural processes can cause drastic consequences.
- Do science together. Children, especially elementary-age children, learn better by investigating and experimenting. Simple investigations done together in the home can bolster what your child is learning in the classroom. Check with your child's teacher on what your child is currently learning in class and what activities you can explore at home. There are also many books on the market and numerous websites that present ideas for investigations. For example: Using a penny and a water dropper, ask your child to guess how many drops of water will fit on top of it. Ask your child to count the drops as he or she drops them on the penny. Why doesn't the water spill off after a few drops? Water molecules across the surface are attracted to each other. The attraction is strong enough to allow the water to rise above the penny without spilling. At some point, the molecules of water can no longer hold together and spill off the penny.
- Obtain science resources. Follow up science discussions, home experiments, or classroom lessons with books, magazines, and other resources. Science themes will be reinforced through further exploration, and over time your family will have plenty of resources on which to draw.
- Explore non-formal education sites. In an informal learning situation—the kind of learning that happens outside the traditional confines of the classroom, at science centers, museums, zoos, and aquariums—children are encouraged to experiment on their own and ask questions about what they are experiencing.
- Become active in your children's formal education by getting to know the teacher and the curriculum. Participate in your child's school science program by locating scientists and others to be guest speakers, or accompany your child on a field trip to a science-related place.
- Show excitement for science. Children tend to be interested in the same things as other family members and excitement is contagious!
WPS Mathematics Corner
There is a lot of information about learning mathematics that can be found at the Willingboro Parent Page for Mathematics, which can be found HERE.
Improving Math Results
Regardless of how your child performed in math class during the 2018-2019 school year, there are steps that can be taken to improve that performance over the summer. One possible concern is “backsliding” in which students forget much of what had been taught during the school year during a 10-week break. This can be solved with a visit to the Willingboro Parent Page for Mathematics that will take you to the listing of Eureka’s mathematical content by grade and module. From there, you (or your child) can move directly to the textbook to review material from last year or preview material for the coming year.
We recommend that you combine this with visits to Khanacademy.org for video lessons and review pages. Students who were in Grades 1-4 for the 2018-2019 school year still have their Zearn accounts active, and are encouraged to log in over the summer to practice their skills in the various contents.
Help Your Child Establish a Growth Mindset
If I want to improve my ability in a sport, such as basketball, I might spend extra time on the court practicing my moves or my shot. I might also spend additional time in the weight room to ensure that my conditioning is optimal for my sport. Math is no different. Instead of “I was never good in math,” try an approach such as “if you work at it, it gets easier”. More about establishing a Growth Mindset can be found in the article HERE.
NJSLA (New Jersey Student Learning Assessments)
The PARCC tests are no longer being used in New Jersey. The NJSLA tests are here and coming to Willingboro (in May for most students). The NJSLA tests are similar to PARCC, but should be less time-consuming and therefore less strenuous and less stressful. We strongly recommend that students and parents have an opportunity to take the practice assessments found HERE, both on their grade level and below their grade level, so that they can become familiar with all of the different technical aspects of the assessment. We will be doing this in class with our students, but you may wish to experience this for yourself.
We have taken strides to ensure that our end of unit assessments are structured in such a way that makes the look and feel of the NJSLA tests familiar to the students, and anticipate that our student results will demonstrate this. We can assure you that we are working hard to make certain that your students learn the content so they can perform their best.
WPS Literacy Corner
The ability to write well is not just an option for young people, it is a necessity. Writing, along with reading comprehension, is a major predictor of academic success and a basic requirement for college and careers. Statistics show that young people are dropping out of high school daily in the United States at an alarming rate -- many of them because they lack the basic literacy skills to meet the growing demands of the high school curriculum. Because we know that quality writing instruction can make a huge difference to students and their writing ability, all of our ELA teachers at WHS participated in monthly professional development workshops focused on writing instruction this school year.
If you ask your child about the writing they are doing in school, they may talk about the increased amount of writing practice going on in their classrooms. Providing students more opportunities to practice writing is a district priority, along with ensuring every student receives quality instruction each and every day. By meeting these goals, we are confident our students will continue to develop as writers.
Our teachers can make the difference: building student’s writing stamina and providing instruction in the form of a mini lesson focused on the writing process, writing strategies, specific product goals, studying models of effective writing (mentor pieces), and using a collaborative approach.
Quality instruction is the key to ensuring our students have the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the 21st Century.
WPS Academic Support Corner
Summer is quickly approaching and this is a great time to explore outside opportunities for learning in both enrichment and intervention. Many programs offer exciting ways to learn and apply skills from the classroom. Students can also experience healthy competition with students from around the state of New Jersey.
The following organizations have fantastic summer learning opportunities:
Rutgers Summer Reading Skills Program: With sites in Beverly and Cherry Hill, this is a wonderful way to help support readers as they transition in to the next grade level.
Rowan University has several summer programs in the field of STEM for young scholars. Please click HERE for a full list.
Is your child interested in the arts? There are internship opportunities with audio engineers. Please click HERE for details.
WPS Curricula: Unit Competencies
As part of the district's curriculum writing initiative in Grades 1-12, unit competencies were embedded into every unit of study within every curriculum guide. These unit competencies are summative assessments that measure mastery of the knowledge and skills as laid out in the NJ Student Learning Standards.
Students in Grades 1-4 take one competency at the end of each unit of study in their major content areas while students in Grades 5-12 take two competencies at the middle and end of each unit of study in their major content areas.
As the district focuses on fewer overall summative assessments that more accurately measure what a student knows and is able to do, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Every unit of study in every content area does not start and end at the same time - a student may be in Unit 2 in Math but in Unit 3 in Science
- Each Marking Period's start and end dates do not necessarily coincide with the start and end dates of any particular unit of study in any course
- The Report Card Grade represents the student's grade in each course at that exact moment in time. The student will continue to be formatively and summatively assessed and graded and as such, his/her overall grade in the course will remain in a state of flux up until the end of the course.
The video below, from the Wisconsin Department of Public Education, does a great job of explaining the important role summative assessments play in the evaluation of student learning. Take a look!
Curriculum Writing & UbD
This past spring and summer, the Willingboro Board of Education approved a massive revision to over 85 of our courses in preparation for the 2018-19 school year. All of our curriculum guides utilize the Understanding by Design (UbD) methodology, written by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, that offers a framework for designing courses and content units called “Backward Design.”
The backward design approach has instructors consider the learning goals of the course first. These learning goals embody the knowledge and skills instructors want their students to have learned when they leave the course. Once the learning goals have been established, the second stage involves consideration of assessment. The backward design framework suggests that instructors should consider these overarching learning goals and how students will be assessed prior to consideration of how to teach the content. For this reason, backward design is considered a much more intentional approach to course design than traditional methods of design.
Willingboro Public Schools Board of Education
Dennis Tunstall - President
Grover McKenzie - Vice President
WPS Office of Curriculum & Instruction
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Associate Director of Instruction & Programs
Supervisor of Instruction - Science
Supervisor of Instruction - Math
Supervisor of Instruction - Literacy