Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

November 2020


Building a Better Tomorrow ... Together

Learning From Mistakes

Helping students learn from their mathematical mistakes provides insight into their misconceptions and can enable them to develop a deeper understanding of the mathematics they are learning. How we respond to errors affects student thinking and learning. As you reflect on your own instructional practice, which of the following describes your response to errors?

Do you—

  • assign a smaller number of carefully selected problems, with the expectation of having students devote more time to reasoning and making sense, rather than requiring them to go through the full litany of exercises found in the text?

  • ask students to explain their reasoning about whether an answer is correct or incorrect?

  • take the time to analyze students’ errors to determine misconceptions that students might have and how you can address those misconceptions?

  • follow productive errors with probing questions that offer students different approaches for reflecting on their thinking, or do you simply mark errors as wrong and demonstrate the “right way” to do the tasks?

  • provide sufficient class time to discuss students’ strategies and thinking?

  • work to persuade students that mathematics is more than getting the correct answers?

Remember ... your response to “good” mistakes has the potential to discourage students or to help them become more confident in their ability to do mathematics.


SLIFES/SIFES are students who come from their native countries with an interruption in their formal education. As the ELL population continues to grow across the US in US Schools, researchers and school districts are looking for new ways to help identify and teach students who come from countries where they may have experienced an interruption in their formal schooling for a number of reasons. These reasons may include but are not limited to civil unrest, poverty, natural disasters, and/or persecution.

Part of being culturally responsive educators, it is crucial to get to know your students’ educational backgrounds. More often than not, this is done through informal interviews with the students and/or family members. When getting to know your students and their past educational backgrounds, you are trying to piece together an educational timeline that will essentially help you fill in the gaps for formal schooling.

Literacy in Science

Our students are fluent digital natives. They know how to text, tweet, blog, snapchat, and use Instagram and Facebook. It is routine for them to use a smartphone to search for answers, or even just ask Google when they need to know something. They are the most digital literate generation, yet according to research they are lacking in one fundamental skill: distinguishing fact from fiction.

Researchers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education asked middle school, high school, and college students in 12 states to evaluate information presented in online tweets, comments, advertisements, and articles. After more than a year collecting and evaluating almost 8,000 student responses, the researchers found that many students—over 80% in some cases—couldn’t tell the difference between an advertisement and a news story, distinguish between a real and fake news source, identify bias in a tweet, or determine if a website could be trusted.

With the current proliferation of fake news on the web and in social media, it is more important now than ever that students learn to engage in argument based on evidence and to think critically. Engaging in argument from evidence is one of the eight science and engineering practices identified in the NGSS. In the science class we can incorporate literacy strategies and engage in argument from evidence in a variety of ways, two of which are outlined here:

  • Short-form science - uses close reading strategies of investigating a short piece of high quality text. Students should read, annotate, answer questions and write and discuss the text.

  • Long-form science - this is the incorporation of an extended text into a course. Examples in science include The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Martian or the Poisoner’s Handbook. Incorporating non-fiction text or a novel may provide deep immersion in science content and the opportunity for in-depth discussion.

Increasing Digital Engagement

As we get into the holiday seasons and the weather changes, there is usually a new recharge that is needed to keep students engaged. This can be more of a challenge in a hybrid/remote setting. Whether it is asking students to turn on their web cameras or participate in a virtual activity, the challenge of keeping students engaged is the same.

While get-to-know-you activities are normally used for the first weeks of school, they shouldn’t stop there. Continuing to know what is going on in their daily lives and celebrating your students’ experiences and uniqueness can reinforce or boost connections that keep them engaged and performing better in school.

Below are a range of strategies to assist in increasing digital engagement:

  • Student Inventories

Student inventories can help educators distinguish particulars and facts about students that can be used to plan future activities. Earlier in the year, you may have asked your students to name their favorite musicians, sports, games, or food. Now you can go deeper with questions about their culture, memories, family, etc. You can use this in Google Forms and share the data, you can use a prompted question via Pear Deck and share the answers, and you can also ask a student to create a Google Slide and present. Activities like this can transition to the next bullet.

  • Student Reflection and Share

Give students an opportunity to complete a writing prompt to answer a variety of questions that can answer: Who are they? What are their hopes and dreams? What are some things that bother them in general or in society? What can they do about it? What are they planning to do after high school? The list goes on! An activity like this can be used in World Language allowing the students to write and speak in the target language. This can also be used in a Health lesson, where a student is completing a personality or personal goal setting assignment, for example. Students can share this information via Screencastify, Google Meet, or even EdPuzzle.

  • Icebreakers are not just for the start of the year

There are many things that we can continue to learn about our students as the year progresses. There were some fun activities you used to engage your students to start the school year. Once your procedures and routines were set, you may have felt that it was time to jump into the content and you never looked back. There is no reason you cannot combine the two and involve the format of one of your icebreaker activities from a Jam Board or Pear Deck activity and match it with a current lesson. New lessons can also have a type of gamification or friendly competition to motivate student engagement.

The Benefits of Reading Aloud

Reading aloud conjures up images of young students sitting on a carpet; however, older students can also reap many benefits (even from the comfort of their socially-distanced desks or homes). Whether you’re thinking about incorporating First Chapter Fridays or simply reading short, engaging sections of texts (nonfiction or fiction), older students are sure to be engaged and attentive.

Research supports many benefits of reading aloud, including:

  • providing a positive, enjoyable experience for students

  • aiding auditory learners process the material

  • exposing students to new genres, topics, and authors

  • enticing students to read (the rest of) a book or continue to read the rest of a series

  • providing students the opportunity to discuss life concerns and/or consider a different perspective

  • building vocabulary

  • helping all students hear tone and inflection, purposeful pauses, and emotion in the printed word

Emotional Intelligence: The New Soft Skill of 2020

Soft Skills are essential interpersonal skills that can help or hinder a person’s ability to get a job done. Each year, LinkedIn shares the latest results from their annual Workplace Learning Survey. These results provide an insight into what in demand skills companies value most in the candidates they are hiring. Although the majority of soft skills valued in 2019 remain the same for 2020, new to the list is emotional intelligence.

Top Soft Skills of 2020

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion

  • Collaboration

  • Adaptability

  • Emotional Intelligence (new)

In school, emotional intelligence allows students to have meaningful experiences with others, predict their emotions and experience acceptable levels of compassion. People who have high emotional intelligence in the workforce are capable of channeling emotions and behaviors in order to be productive and effectively engage with others.

Here are some strategies that can be utilized in the classroom to assist in strengthening a student’s emotional intelligence:

  • Integrate social emotional learning into your lessons: In a science lesson where you are discussing molecules, you could ask students what forms good partnerships. Another example, is If you are reading a book or discussing a lesson on history about a socially challenging situation, you can facilitate a class discussion on how these problems were handled and how they might be handled today

  • Engage students with problem solving: Whether you are creating classroom rules or solving a difficult math problem, it’s important to challenge your students to come up with solutions to the problems in front of them. Group activities/projects are also a great way to prepare students to work together as a collaborative group with various people in a productive and civil manner. Questions to Improve Metacognition

  • Teach your students to be “gritty”: A person with true grit has the passion and perseverance to keep trying even if he/she faces obstacles. It’s important to remind students in order to meet success, they must put forth effort and perseverance. If a student is putting forth strong effort, but still falling short, be sure to praise them for their effort and encourage them to keep trying. Being able to bounce back when things do not go as planned is a valuable life skill.

  • Stress empathy: It’s imperative that we are developing students who possess empathy and caring behavior. One way to do this is frequently challenge your students to explore things from a different perspective. Questions like “What do you think he was thinking? or “How do you think she was feeling?” are great starter questions to have students explore someone else’s perspective.

Teaching Resilience

Resilience is essential to the healthy development of our students, especially during a pandemic. Students who develop resilience are better able to tackle challenges, persevere, and learn from failure. As educators, we are particularly responsible to support our students during stressful situations and guide them in seeing obstacles as a critical part of their success. Good student-teacher relationships strengthen resilience because students feel appreciated and understood by their teachers.

Listed below are a few ways to foster resilience:

Build supportive relationships with students:

  • Foster an environment where setbacks and disappointment are an expected part of learning.

  • Praise students for their hard work and perseverance- not just for grades.

Have discussions about resilience:

  • Have students reflect upon a famous person, literary character, or even cartoon character who faced a dilemma, and then discuss how they overcame the challenge. What choices did he or she have to make? How were other people supportive? What was learned?

  • Have students write about a time in their life when they had to cope with a difficult situation and explain how they overcame the challenge and what they learned about themselves.

Help students learn from failures:

  • Give students an opportunity to “brag” about their mistakes

  • Ask students what they learned from their mistakes and what they will do differently next time.

Dear Data Guy

Explaining Data to Parents/Students

I am often asked to explain charts and graphs in a simple way. The term we use nowadays is called Storytelling with Data. As practitioners in the classroom, I would like you to rethink the way you interact with data when working with students and parents. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Whenever possible, have students create a graph of his/her performance.

  2. Have the student explain to you how they feel about the data.

  3. When presenting data to parent(s)/guardian, show the parents a companion/correlation chart so the parent(s)/guardian has a reference point.

  4. Use the rule of two. For every two positive data points, show one data point to work on.

  5. Explain the data in a way that shows a growth mindset. For example, your son/daughter is just not getting algebra right now but with the way he/she is growing we expect your child to get it by the end of the year.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Now that we have "officially" started observations for the 20/21 SY, the Office of Curriculum & Instruction will be offering (voluntary) after-school workshops to help staff review the components within each domain with a focus on hybrid/remote instruction. Look for dates/times in our Fall/Winter PD Catalogue.

In addition, please take some time to review the interim pre-conference and post-conference forms. These documents have been created to "guide the conversations" between teacher and administrator.

Best wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics and STEM/STEAM

Sandra Jacome, ESL

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