Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

May - June 2022


Maintaining English Language Learners' Academic Growth during the Summer Months

English Language Learners rely on school to help them acquire more social and academic language throughout the school year more so than the native speaker. When summer comes, this key piece of school infused English is tucked away for a few months. As you prepare your students to leave the classroom for the summer, offer ESL students a few activities to take with them that will provide tremendous payoff when they return to school in the fall. The following activities will help your students know that learning their second language does not get a summer vacation.

  • Provide parents with lists of free and or inexpensive other “learning” resources in the community, such as zoos, museums, restaurants, and other public places. Have students post selfies or blog about these activities.

  • Utilize printable books that students may take home during the summer. Hamilton has subscriptions to multiple resources, such as BrainPop and Raz Kids

  • Consider having a place on your Google Classroom with a blog or have students post to a district approved social media outlet, for your students to interact with each other and post about their summer learning.

Problems That Unlock Student Thinking

Imagine that you assign a math problem and your students, instead of getting discouraged after not solving it on the first attempt, start working harder—as if on a quest to figure out the answer. They talk to each other and enthusiastically share their discoveries. What could possibly make this fantastic scenario come true? The answer is: the Open Middle math problems and strategies in this book.

Open Middle Math by Robert Kaplinsky gives you the problems and planning guidance that will encourage students to see mathematics in an entirely different light. These challenging and rewarding Open Middle math problems will help you see your students build genuine conceptual understanding, perseverance, and creativity.

Learn how to:

  • implement Open Middle math problems that are simultaneously accessible for both students who are struggling and those looking for more challenges.

  • select and create Open Middle math problems that will help you detect students' misconceptions and strengthen their conceptual understanding.

  • prepare for and facilitate powerful classroom conversations using Open Middle math problems.

With these practical and intuitive strategies, extensive resources, and Mr. Kaplinsky’s own stories about his journey learning to use Open Middle math problems successfully, you will be able to support, challenge, and motivate all your students.

Finish the Year on a #HTSDSTRONG Note

It’s that time of year when most of us start thinking about summer vacation. It is significantly important to end the year on a positive note with students. If students leave for the summer having had a great end of the year experience, it is likely that they will quickly look forward to their return in the fall. This is a great time to try new things!

Even though you may not want to plan an all school event, I encourage you to think about what you might do differently during those last couple of weeks of physical education classes to make sure your students are not only excited about coming back to school in the fall, but also are excited about staying active over the summer. The list is endless but here are a few ideas to get you started!

  • Get out some of equipment that you don’t use often but are things students love to use. Let your students just have fun using the equipment! (The activity can assist in your inventory process).

  • Teach a few games/activities that students can do during the summer (ie- Spikeball or Boccee ball on the beach; fitness goals (Flexibility-Yoga, Cardio endurance- Running, Muscular Strength Power- Cross Fit)

  • Have students brainstorm a list of summer activities and see how that can transition into a Physical Education class.

The end of the year can present unique challenges but I encourage you to do a few different and unique activities with your students. Have the goals of the lessons embrace having fun and promoting a summer of staying active!

Try something new! Links below:

Learning History Through Podcasts

As you begin to wrap up the remaining weeks of the school year and begin to reflect on how the year went as well as what you may want to change for next year, it is important to consider exploring various tools that can be used to capture student engagement, incorporate various perspectives and provide an enriching educational experience.

One tool that could be utilized in the social studies classroom is a podcast. Podcasts can enrich student learning while being entertaining and informative. Podcasts are a hit with students in middle school and high school. They are convenient and easy for students to consume information or gather additional information that supports what they read in a text or from a class discussion. In addition to using podcasts to present information and perspectives to students, podcasts can also be used as an outlet for students to demonstrate their learning by creating a podcast of their own. Here are three popular social studies podcasts that are worth exploring further for middle and high school students:

  • Stuff You Missed in History Class- This bi-weekly podcast explores a variety of events in history and takes listeners beyond the facts to focus on the people and the stories behind the events.

  • History Unplugged- This podcast allows students to learn from a combination of experts and audience questions as this podcast takes a look at the story behind the main story.

  • Witness History- With episodes only ranging around 10 minutes each, this BBC podcast focuses on a single event in a different part of the world, with actual eyewitness accounts embedded into the content.

End of the Year Reflection: The Arts

Teaching can be challenging at times; and without deliberate reflection and adaption, it can impact one's wellbeing. Awareness that supports resilience can help to improve wellbeing and overcome burnout. At the end of each school year, teachers should engage in a thorough reflection process because it encourages consciousness of both successful and unsuccessful practices and decisions. This process should set out to reflect upon important moments, difficult times, and accomplishments. No one likes to revisit areas of failure, but you cannot identify areas for improvement without closely analyzing weaknesses.

Through the reflection process, consider the following questions pertaining to your teaching:

  • Who am I as a teacher of the arts, and how does this shape my classroom and curricular decisions?

  • What are some of the major stressors of being a teacher of the arts, and why do these things bother me? What are some ways to overcome these challenges?

  • What were the major things I tried to accomplish? What actually occurred? How can I bridge the gap between them, moving forward?

  • How did I foster a growth mindset in my students and myself?

  • How did my lessons and daily practices teach social and emotional learning and well-being? How do my daily practices support my own well being?

In order to make the necessary adjustments to improve your practices, take a step back and think critically about your results. As you reflect and calibrate your teaching skills and lesson crafting…..

  • Put things into perspective and investigate whether your emotions alter your perspectives.

  • Brainstorm and create a mind map to draft your thoughts and possible actions.

  • Devise a specific plan for what needs to change, and set measurable goals.

  • Finally, track progress and consistently remind yourself of the bigger picture.

June Science for the Young and Graduating

Here we are at the end of the school year and what a year it has been! For all of you science teachers and anyone else (if the shoe fits…), here are some suggestions to drive the engagement as close to June 20 as possible.

  1. Do Some Dissections! If you can plan it that way do dissections in the last few weeks. There are tons of things in storage, and activities you didn’t get to. Take the time to have students engage in something that most seem to truly enjoy. The concepts they have been exposed to all year give them a more complete understanding of what they might be carefully disassembling. Don’t forget Virtual Dissections for the faint of heart or those who object to the whole idea of dissection.

  2. Design Their Own Experiments! This is especially true for younger students. Consider reintroducing how to logically “do” science. Have them design and carry out simple experiments, using simple materials/supplies and what they learned throughout the year to inform their decisions!

  3. Student Led Projects! This is especially useful for those graduating seniors. This should exclusively be “classwork.” Bail on the homework at this point. We all know how difficult it is to get seniors to do work at home or sit in front of a computer to type an essay at this point in the school year. Using fun and engaging materials, and being creative while chatting with friends is an activity seniors might be more likely to follow through on, if it’s completed in class.

  4. Let Students Do the Work! If you goal is to engage students through the entirety of June, let them do the work. Creating assessments, reviews, and grading is exhausting, especially at this point in the year. Have the students design a quiz on a different topic a few times a week. If they are getting restless, run a Quizlet Live, a Blooket, or a Kahoot to bring it home to the bell!

Create a Positive Reading Culture with Independent Reading

Whether you’re trying to incorporate independent reading into your classroom or looking for ways to freshen up your current approach, the ideas listed below may be just want you need to create a positive reading culture. As a reminder, independent reading refers to time set aside for students to read a book of their own choosing.

  • Pose a Do Now question to get students thinking and talking about their books. For example: Find the most important phrase from the last two pages you read. Why is it important to the story?

  • Ask students to apply the skills being taught in the whole-group setting to their choice novels. For example, if you’re analyzing figurative language as a class, have students extend that practice to their independent reading.

  • Ask for a couple of volunteers to share something from what they’ve read that day, whether it be a favorite line, a humorous scene, or a great example of style/voice. For those who don’t readily volunteer, gentle questions about their reading will reinforce your expectation for everyone to share at some point.

  • Ask students to answer a standards-aligned question about their book at the end of the time allotted to independent reading; responses can be jotted down on a sticky note (physical note or on a Jamboard). Students’ responses will provide teachers with insights regarding skills that have been mastered and/or need reinforcement.

  • To increase students’ interest in a variety of genres, occasionally read excerpts from books (first few pages, high-interest passages, or even the back covers). These titles will surely become fan favorites during your independent reading sessions!

Dear Data Guy

It’s been some over two years since we received NJSLA scores. When can I expect the scores for NJSLA?

Typically, the state releases the NJSLA scores to districts in the beginning to the middle of August. Once we download the scores from Pearson, we load the scores onto the Linkit! Platform. Our Linkit! partner creates custom reports for us called Navigator Reports. The reports show performance by school, and grade level. We also receive similar reports from Pearson which are also shared with the schools. Prior to looking at the reports, teachers should review the links found HERE. The links will help you interpret the reports. The best way to interpret and analyze the data is in teams, whether it be a grade level team or a building team. Every teacher took part in educating the students who took the assessments so sharing of data and discussions shouldn’t be limited to the test subject area teachers.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

We made it to June....

Thank you for the lessons you designed, the family contacts that took place, the implementation of various instructional platforms, the collaboration with colleagues, the support of district initiatives, and your commitment to student learning,

Over the next few months, take some time to relax, reflect on your instructional practices, consider participating in some summer learning, and be proud to be a member of the HTSD Family.

Enjoy your summer!

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Michelle Griffith, ESL K-12, ESSER III Pre-K

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics and STEM/STEAM

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Matthew Sisk, Science and Applied Technology

Danielle Tan, Visual and Performing Arts