K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

October 2022

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Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions

Facilitating productive discussions about mathematics is very challenging for any teacher. Some lessons can end effectively with a “share and summarize.” At other times, a more purposeful discussion is needed to bring out the key mathematics of a lesson. A key component of productive discussion is teacher facilitation.

Below are 5 concrete steps that can help improve the quality of mathematics discussion in your class:

1. Anticipating likely student responses to mathematical tasks.

  • Involves envisioning potential student responses, strategies (correct or incorrect), representations, procedures, and interpretations.

2. Monitoring students’ actual responses to the tasks.

  • Involves paying close attention to students’ mathematical thinking as they work on a problem.

3. Selecting student response to feature during the discussions.

  • Involves choosing particular students to present their work because of the mathematical responses whether correct or incorrect.

4. Sequencing student responses during the discussions.

  • Involves purposeful ordering of the featured student responses in order to make the mathematics accessible to all students.

5. Connecting student responses during the discussions.

  • Involves encouraging students to make mathematical connections between different student responses ensuring that key mathematical ideas remain the focus of the lesson debrief.

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Incorporating Choice Into Literacy Centers

An essential component of the literacy block are centers due to the endless opportunities they provide for students and teachers. Through centers teachers can differentiate instruction, provide targeted instruction to small groups of students, and promote high levels of engagement amongst learners. Centers can focus on a variety of topics including vocabulary practice, independent reading, writing about reading, partner activities, etc. One way to transfer the ownership of the activities from the teacher to the students, is to incorporate choice into the centers and empower the students to become leaders in their own learning.

In order for choice within centers to be successful, it is essential that the students are familiar with the different centers and materials needed for all of the options. Teachers can have consistent centers throughout the month, and then incorporate one new center for the week. Once students have arrived at their center, choice activities can be incorporated to support student ownership in their learning. For example at a word work center, students could build words with letter tiles, stamps, or write with colored pencils. Students can select the method that supports their individual learning style.

Another way to incorporate choice is to allow students to pick when they complete the specific centers. At the beginning of the week, present the students with a choice board of all the options they will complete throughout the week. Teachers can provide the students with “must do” activities that are required and optional activities the students select from. If the teacher will be meeting with them for guided reading, they will complete their center another day. When students are provided this opportunity, guidelines should be in place to help this run successfully. For example once the max number of students have selected a center, then they should move on to the next option.

When providing students with choice, self evaluation and reflection can also be incorporated to evaluate the success of the choices they made at the center. Students can be presented with reflection questions like: “How did you select what center to complete?”, or “What is something new you tried during center time?” Conversations about student choice can not only provide the teacher with knowledge about the students, but also give the students insight into their own learning strengths.

X + Y = ? ~ Challenges for ELLs in Math Class ~

All teachers know that math is not numbers. There are considerable challenges for English language learners in math. In addition, there are challenges for teachers of mathematics, too. Many ELLs use different processes to arrive at answers or do not have a background in numerical literacy. Problem-solving is not just language and literacy but a thought process. Students from other cultures may be more concerned with getting the correct response than with the process. They may not be able to justify their answers. The problem may not always be language but cultural funds of knowledge with regard to the process of learning math in a different way.

Oftentimes ELLs may have challenges understanding the following: formation of numbers, use of decimal points and commas vary from measurement system, estimating, rounding, algebra, and geometry. Certain concepts are not often taught as early in other cultures and be mindful that mathematical terms do not always translate well. Subsequently, mental math may be the norm; therefore, students may not show work in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division or they may show work in a different way.

If you are struggling with your ELLs and math learning, try some of these techniques when it comes to math and ELLs: Discuss the student's goals with him/her before getting started; ask students to repeat what you have just said to show understanding; use of manipulatives; if a student has trouble understanding you; use lots of repetition; use plenty of examples; finally, develop peer study groups or tutoring sessions after class.

Chat Stations for Class Discussions

Looking for ways to increase class discussion and student engagement? Use chat stations! Chat stations are a simpler approach to stations/centers with less prep and possible complication.

Here is how to get started:

  • Write questions down and place them around the room

    • (ie- breakup a possible worksheet you were planning to work on in a lesson)

  • Group students in small groups (2-4)

  • Give each group a worksheet that is aligned with the questions to the activity (This can assist in student accountability).

  • Groups will rotate from station to station to discuss questions and record their answers.

    • The teacher can decide to time stations or add additional stations so groups may work at their own pace

  • Students will return to their seats for whole class discussion.

  • Call on each group to discuss their findings.

Advantages of chat stations:

  • Improvement of whole class discussions

  • Gets students up and moving

  • Allows students to be better prepared to discuss topics in class because they have had an opportunity to delve into the topics beforehand

  • Increases more peer to peer discussion

  • Less time consuming for teachers, as little prep work is involved

Dear Data Guy

What do the numbers mean on the NJSLA Content Standard Roster Reports?

I recently attended a data meeting at one of our schools. They were having a little confused by the scoring on the content standard roster reports (Principals have access to them in the NJSLA Spring 2022 Data and Reports folder).

The light blue score represent the “NJ State Average Percent Points Achieved” whereas the dark blue score represent the “Student Percent Points Achieved”. Scores range from n/a or 0 to 100. If a student receives an n/a for a score, this means the standard was not assessed. A score of 100 means the student scored 100%.

The NJSLA had two different forms and the form type is located on the “Core Form” column. The report is further divided into subscores and standards.

I would suggest using this report in a data meeting to pick out a low, mid, and high score and to talk about the students in the context of the student’s classroom performance and the depth of the instructional units. For example, here are some questions to ask in a grade level meeting or through vertical articulation:

What was the student’s level of understanding when I taught the units?

How would I plan and teach the unit/lesson differently next time?

Should I spend more or less time on this unit/standard?

Notes from Mr. Scotto

As you know, we have a four year New Teacher Induction Program. This year, we are running four cohorts within the program.

Staff that are enrolled in Cohorts II, III, and IV are working on an Action Research/Passion Project. These staff members have selected (or are about to select) a professional topic to strengthen their practice and positively impact students.

If you are not currently enrolled in the program, I encourage you to touch base with our new hires. Ask them about their topic; perhaps you have a wealth of knowledge (linked to the topic) and would be willing to share some information and/or resources.


Domain IV (Component 4D) focuses on Participating in the Professional Community.

The highest rating in this area is defined as:

"The teacher’s relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation, with the teacher taking initiative in assuming leadership among the faculty. The teacher takes a leadership role in promoting a culture of professional inquiry. The teacher volunteers to participate in school events and district projects, making a substantial contribution and assuming a leadership role in at least one aspect of school or district life."

HTSD Curriculum Department

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Supervisors of K-5 Staff

Alejandro Batlle, K-12 Health/PE & World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing, Data, and Staff Evaluation

Michelle Griffith, K-12 ESL

Karen Gronikowski, K-5 Math/Science

Danielle Tan, K-12 Library, 9-12 Tech/Business Education, and ESSA & Perkins Grants

Laura Leidy, K-5 ELA/SS