6-12 Curriculum Newsletter

October 2018


Today is Your Day to Make a Difference

As the weather is getting cooler, we hope you'll take a few minutes to 'warm up' to some great strategies to use in your classrooms, no matter the subject area. Read on for some tips on how to incorporate meaningful writing opportunities, support English Language Learners, promote positive social habits, and more!

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Designing 3D Assessments in Science

Transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards means not just making a shift in instruction, but also in assessment. The standards place a strong emphasis on 3-dimensional learning and assessment, which includes the content, the science practices and the cross cutting concepts.

When designing an assessment a great resource is A Framework for K-12 Science Education, and the performance expectations found in the NJSLS-Science . Start by defining “learning claims” about what students know and can do. The claims should be more than just reference to concept (e.g., “plate tectonics”). It should be a statement that comes directly from the Framework, such as “Plate tectonics provides a framework for understanding Earth’s geological history” (derived from 8th grade expectation for ESS2.B). The learning claims for a given assessment can come from a single disciplinary core idea or from multiple disciplinary core ideas.

Once the claim is identified create a task that includes a scenario and natural phenomena that students must explain. Use the link here to see an example.

Designing rigorous 3D tasks takes time and collaboration. Be prepared to review and revise your tasks even when you’ve put a lot of work into them. Often, the challenge is not with our students but with the questions that we ask. It is difficult to develop tasks that allow all students to show what they know and can do, but it’s essential if we want to truly have fair and valid assessments of students’ three-dimensional science proficiency.

Building Reading Skills ... In Any Subject Area

Reinforcing reading skills in your classroom, regardless of subject area, is a surefire way to help students retain content knowledge. But if you’re not an English teacher, you might be unsure how to do so. This series of articles will explore several strategies that can applied to any text. Let’s start with close reading -- and moving beyond simply asking students to highlight or underline important information.

First, provide students with a printed copy of text -- for example, a newspaper article, speech, historical document, or letter. If a text is lengthy, consider breaking it into digestible chunks; this can be achieved by only presenting one section of the text each day or literally separating text sections with line(s).

Encourage students to jot down notes right on the text--margins should provide adequate space for this. As you introduce this strategy, guide students with a couple of focus areas. Depending on the type of text, here are some examples:

  • Highlight recurring words / phrases (ex: boycott, cone shapes, coping mechanisms)

  • Make personal connections to text

  • Ask questions (ex: Who does ‘he’ refer to? Who was the audience for this speech? Why does this happen?)

  • In your own words, restate main idea of each paragraph in 15 words or less

  • Focus on author’s word choice

  • Express your opinions

Before you begin, project any piece of text on your SmartBoard or screen and model the strategy. By thinking aloud as you read and jotting your own thoughts in the margins, you are providing an example of how skilled readers construct meaning from a text.

Writing in the Content Areas

Writing allows students to communicate, focus their thoughts, analyze information, and demonstrate a deep understanding of concepts. Writing should be a fundamental component in all content areas. By integrating writing across all content areas, students will increase their proficiency of the various writing skills while at the same time interacting with specific content differently. This will provide students additional opportunities to enhance their thinking and learning, which will yield a deeper understanding of content.

Here are some strategies to get students motivated to write in any classroom:

Develop Creative and Engaging Assignments:

Consider how students can use content in a meaningful and interesting way.

  • Write a letter to school or town official regarding a particular topic.

  • Create a news article.

  • Compose an email response to an unhappy citizen or customer.

  • Create a script for a Ted Talk on a particular topic of interest.

  • Write a No-Send Letter (Letter to someone famous, dead or alive).

  • Create a comic strip or PowToon showcasing a particular event or discovery.

  • Develop a fake interview (Create interview questions and the responses that would be given by that person).

  • Create an eBook using an application like Google Slides

  • Write a Yelp review for a museum, art gallery, or other location.

Provide Time For Students To Talk

Writing can be a difficult and frustrating task for many students and even more frustrating if a student gets stuck. By talking, students can share and discuss ideas with their peers. This articulation time can also be used by the teacher to individually assess where students are in their thinking. Creating flexible groupings of students can maximize student work and allows the teacher to more efficiently circulate and assist students while maintaining a pulse of the room.

Empower Students to Take Ownership of their Learning

By creating engaging assignments that connect to the real world, the ownership of learning shifts to the student, ultimately making them more active learners.

  • Research a potential career and share the findings through writing.

  • Write a letter in support of a particular change.

  • Pick a local or global issue and create a potential plan to address it.

  • Research and develop a passion project.

  • Develop an ePortfolio showcasing various writing, projects, and other activities that have been completed during the year.

Supporting the Academic Achievement of English Language Learners Through High Expectations

English Language Learners (ELLs) are a unique group of students who come to our schools from different parts of the world. They bring rich cultural experiences which we embrace and welcome. Studies show that maintaining high expectations for students makes a difference.

Decades of research also demonstrate that teachers’ expectations, attitudes, and behaviors have a profound impact on the way students see themselves. In the book, No More Low Expectations for English Learners, Nora and Echevarria believe that “ELs are as capable as other students to think at high cognitive levels about complex ideas and topics.” They add, “Just because they may struggle to express their ideas in English doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged intellectually in the lesson, especially when instruction is scaffolded to ensure comprehension.”

Rather than watering down the curriculum, it should be made accessible to all students. Below you’ll find a few ways of supporting the academic achievement of ELLs while maintaining high expectations.

  • value and build on students’ native languages

  • model and create opportunities to use academic language

  • use wait time

  • create a safe classroom environment that values risk-taking

  • teach self-advocacy

  • establish and monitor language expectations

  • provide feedback that recognizes approximation

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Valuable Critique Practices

Critique is a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, artistic, or political theory. Critique is a common practice in arts classrooms that plays an integral role in igniting curiosity and ingenuity, and nurtures innovative “makers” who push each other to their full potential. Although critique is commonplace in the arts classrooms, all teachers are encouraged to prompt their students to look closely, think critically, and plan inquiry-based lessons that involve student critique.

Educators should identify and develop an age-appropriate topic that is relevant to their curriculum and interesting to the students. The theme should be broad enough to invite multiple perspectives and encourage diverse viewpoints. Educators should also consider how the activity will deepen or expand their students’ understanding about the topic.

Tips for leading open-ended discussions/critiques

  • Allow time for students to look carefully at an art piece, prototype, passage, or model before beginning discussions.

  • Ask students to list words, ideas, interests, or initial observations that come to mind when they look at a work of art, prototype, passage, or model.

  • Ask students to use specific visual evidence found in the work to support their thoughts and opinions.

  • Use follow-up questions such as “How do you know that?" “What clues do you see that give you that idea?” or “What do you see that makes you say that?”

  • Ask students to add to their friends’ observations.

  • Encourage students to compare and make connections to previous work.

  • If evaluating personal work, ask students to provide feedback for improvement.

What's All The Noise about STEAM?

“STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking” (Riley, 2016). Yet today, few students pursue STEAM-related fields and we have an inadequate amount of teachers skilled in those subjects.

A few facts to consider:

  • STEAM jobs are expected to grow 17% by 2024.

  • Science & engineering careers earn more than two times the income of the median job in the US.

  • Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives.

  • STEAM education helps to bridge the ethnic and gender gaps found in math & science fields.

  • STEAM education is critical to help the United States remain a world leader.

Students in Hamilton are fortunate to have STEAM classes beginning in third grade and continuing through high school. If you are looking for a way to add a little STEAM to your classroom or after school club, consider having your students collaborate on a real world problem in need of a fix.

Promoting Healthy Social Habits in the Classroom

“Being socially healthy is all about being connected and belonging. It refers to your ability to build and sustain relationships, deal with social conflict and be part of a positive social network (Kay, 2018).”

HTSD had a meaningful convocation from Houston Kraft before the start of the school year on being KIND. As the year continues one can reflect on how society in general can focus on improving social health and how kindness can be that vehicle that drives social health for our students. Social habits on being a good friend can be a route a teacher takes to highlight good social habits. Educators should be the spokespeople to promote these healthy social habits in the classroom. Look to model, coach, and remind students what it is like to be socially healthy. When moving forward, ask yourself, how can you make kindness the expectations for all students in all routines. Social health needs to be an active component of the classroom routine.

Here are some ways to promote positive social habits in your classrooms:

  • Greet your students everyday and have them greet one another as well! This simple act is a great way to start the day off on a positive note.

  • Teach students about empathy and forgiveness: these are very important in our everyday lives. Learning to understand how others are feeling can help students build relationships. Learning forgiveness can help them keep those relationships.

  • Teach students to leave their comfort zones and take social risks! Encourage them to sit and talk with new people.

  • Foster the growth of individuality and show students that it is completely acceptable to be unique.

  • Lastly, tell them it is okay to have fun! In this fast paced world, it is no wonder that anxiety in students is on the rise.

Dear Data Guy

What is chronic absenteeism and do we have any data on our students who are chronically absent?

A student is chronically absent when he or she is absent for more than 10% of the school year (18 days) or about 2 days per month. Most parents and teachers do not know that illnesses are counted against attendance even with a doctor’s note. There are only two types of absences that are excused by the state:

  • religious holidays
  • college visits (2 days in a student’s junior and senior year)

Yes, your students' absenteeism data is located in the Linkit! Dashboard (attendance level). This data is color coded for you; red denotes chronic absenteeism. Student absences can also be found in PowerSchool under attendance info.

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Curricular Initiatives

  • Imagine Learning for Mathematics (6-12)
  • Newsela (Grades 6-12)
  • Connected Action Roadmap (6-12 Mathematics)
  • Noodle Tools & Turn It In
  • Development of Writing Benchmarks (6-12)
  • NGSS (Grades 6-8)
  • EPBL Revisions (Grade 6)
  • Computer Classes focusing on G-Suite (6-12)
  • Teacher Leadership (9-12)

Notes from Mr. Scotto

If feels like only yesterday we opened school (and now it is almost the beginning of November). On Monday, November 5th, we will have our 2nd district in-service of the 18/19 School Year.

Many staff members enjoyed having "choice" last March; as a result, we have decided to offer choice again. Once the agenda is released, you'll see a variety of choice sessions facilitated by our talented staff. Please take the time to read over the session descriptions/outcomes. I think you'll be very impressed with our offerings.

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL K-12, Title I Pre-K, ESSA Title Grants, & Family Engagement

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics and STEAM

Joanne Long, Science and Applied Technology

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Danielle Tan, Visual and Performing Arts