Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

February 2020


Building a Better Tomorrow ... Together

HTSD Health Night

Click here for more information about HTSD Health Night taking place at Nottingham High School on March 30, 2020.

Science in the News

Scientists like to measure progress and track where we fall short. As part of that dual approach, here are some of the highs and lows of science news from the last year …

High Points:

  1. The Event Horizon Telescope captured the first image of a black hole, confirming a fundamental theory of how the universe works. Check out the Link for the full story.

  2. Seven years after its development, CRISPR, the gene editing tool moved into clinical trials in the USA to see if the approach can be used to treat cancer, blood disorders, and some forms of inherited blindness. Link

Low Points:

  1. Many countries lost in the battle to eliminate measles, and the US had the most recorded cases since achieving elimination in 2000. Vaccines story

  2. 2019 was also a year for another less impressive record - temperatures spiking to all-time highs in the Northern hemisphere, leading to heat waves, fires, droughts, and other weather extremes. Teen activists led the charge in protesting climate change and its impacts, most notably Greta Thunberg.

  3. The first reported lung injuries and deaths linked to vaping were reported, after E- cigarettes had enjoyed a reputation with the public of being relatively harmless. Vaping

Social Emotional Learning and the Power of the Arts

At one time, arts subjects were used to improve school engagement and academic performance, but arts education has also become instrumental to fostering social-emotional development in our students. Developmental experiences are at the core of social-emotional learning. Trials and tribulations that are an inherent part of the creative process help students learn to manage frustration. While the arts tend to lead in this regard, teachers must develop activities which promote positive interactions and enable students to effectively process challenges and disappointments in a beneficial way, rather than feeling embarrassed by their experiences. Here are some tips on ways to foster social-emotional learning:

  • Give students freedom to interpret artistic content through their own experiences and perspectives

  • Lead by example- model empathy. Be committed to kindness and expect students to care about one another. Don’t just post rules – talk about it, model it, praise it, and hold students to it.

  • Share your own artistic failures and ways in which you prevailed.

  • Create safe spaces in which students feel comfortable taking creative risks, exposing vulnerabilities, and being challenged.

  • Provide opportunities for students to engage in cycles of creative practice, coupled with self and peer reflection.

Let’s Celebrate CTE Month

Career and Technical Education Month®, or CTE Month®, takes place each February to celebrate the value, achievements and accomplishments of CTE programs across the country. According to the NJDOE, Career and Technical Education (CTE) gives students the academic, technical, and employability skills needed for post secondary and/or workplace success.

With all of the technological developments and the rapid pace of changes in society, business courses remain an important part of a students education. Along with the various business elective courses, HTSD also offers business courses that are a part of CTE Pathways. HTSD currently offers three CTE pathways: An Accounting Pathway; A Marketing Pathway; and a Business Management Administration Pathway.

CTE gives purpose to learning by emphasizing real-world skills and practical knowledge within a selected career focus. It is important to recognize the importance of CTE education and the associated experiences (DECA, FBLA, etc…). So be sure to do your part and get the word out there of the importance of CTE in preparing our students for college and/or a career.

The Office of Career Readiness (division of the NJDOE) is responsible for the statewide implementation of secondary and postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) programs. Click here if you want to learn more.

Celebrating Healthy Heart Month

Cardiovascular disease is so prominent in the United States that it is the leading cause of death in men and women. It is so crucial that we teach students about healthy hearts, and with February being National Healthy Heart Month, it is the perfect opportunity to emphasize its importance and teach them ways that they can integrate healthy heart habits into their lives. Here is a list of activities and simple tasks that can be done in your classrooms:

  • Teach students about healthy vs unhealthy food choices.

  • Start every day of your class off by doing a simple activity that can promote healthy heart habits (ie- fitness brain breaks).

  • Offer stress management techniques, such as yoga and meditation.

  • Give heart healthy facts over during morning announcements.

  • Do daily classroom physical activity breaks. Start small and work your way up (minutes).

  • Host a month-long writing or art contest where students compose poems, letters, stories, artwork, etc. about healthy hearts.

  • Post photos on social media celebrating Healthy Heart Month: #HTSDstrong

  • Host a Family Fitness Night and share literature about the importance of physical activity in preventing heart disease.

This Heart Month, you are encouraged to connect with the students in your life and your school community to help ensure heart health remains a priority, not just in February, but all year long!

Use Pre-reading Strategies to Increase Comprehension

Pre-reading strategies can help students activate prior knowledge, practice strategies such as predicting and sequencing, and construct meaning. They can also help to capture students’ attention which will lead to increased motivation to read.

Mind’s Eye: Ask students to create a mental picture while the teacher slowly recites 10-20 words from a text. Students will then do one of the following: draw a picture based on the mental image, ask questions they hope the text will answer, make a prediction about the text, or describe the feelings the words evoke.

Anticipation Guide: Before reading a text, ask students to respond to several statements that challenge or support their preconceived ideas about key concepts in the passage.

Open Sort: Provide students with 15-20 words that are found in the text. Ask students to sort the words into any categories that make sense to them. This involves both creative and critical thinking.

4 Corners: Ask students to make a decision about a question or problem. Label the four corners of the room with a different response (e.g., strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree) and ask students to move to the corner that best matches their thinking.

Identify Text Structure: Prior to reading, ask students to skim the text and try to identify the text structure (compare and contrast, description, problem-solution, cause and effect, or sequence of events). Students can then complete a graphic organizer while reading and fill in the components as they go.

Brainstorm: Have students brainstorm what they already know and/or complete a KWL chart. This can be done independently, with partners/small groups, or as a whole class.

Accommodations versus Modifications with English Language Learners

Accommodations and modifications are necessary when it comes to teaching English Language Learners. However, sometimes it is difficult to decide what is considered an accommodation and what is considered a modification, especially when it comes to differentiating lessons for English Language Learners. A great tool to use to design accommodations and modifications for ELs is WIDA’s Can Do Descriptors.

When a teacher changes how a student is taught, they are using accommodations to teach the student. In ESL, for example, accomodations can be through the use of visuals, peer tutors, pre taught vocabulary, manipulatives, and small group instruction. Modifications on the other hand, are changes on what the child is expected to learn. In ESL, modifications can include being able to copy or complete work that is differentiated for each English Language Learner such as shortened reading passages.

WIDA’s Can Do Descriptors is a great tool to use to differentiate instruction for English Language Learners since it identifies what a student can do at each English Language Proficiency level. The WIDA Can Do Descriptors can also help teachers come up with accommodations and modifications that are tailored to each English Language Learner.

Strengthening Mathematical Thinking

What is required to foster mathematical thinking and problem solving in our students?

Consider the following two similar problems about the same given pattern:

  • Problem A: How many tiles are in the 25th figure of this pattern?
  • Problem B: Investigate and report all you can about this pattern and its 25th figure.

Follow-up questions for problem A might be: What is the question asking us to do? or How are we going to find out? or Identify the strategy. Teachers will hear responses that simply answer the question asked and offer little in terms of how the student decided on the solution.

Follow-up questions for problem B might be: What do you notice about this pattern? or Would you come to the board and show how you see that? or Did anyone see it in a different way?The teacher is emphasizing the value in both the process and the product and inviting all students to engage in the conversation. Additionally, as students share their reasoning, build on others’ ideas, consider multiple approaches, and make sense of other approaches, the eight mathematical practices are put into practice.

It is important that teachers carefully choose tasks that require students to engage in mathematical reasoning and problem solving. This approach fosters student thinking through questioning, reflection, and sense making, thereby allowing students to make significant gains in mathematical understanding and attain higher levels of achievement.

Dear Data Guy

I am beginning to prepare my students for the NJSLA assessments in April/May. What is the difference between an Accessibility Feature and an Accommodation for the assessment?

Good Question:

Accessibility features are tools or preferences that are either built into the assessment system or provided externally by Test Administrators and are available to all students. Accommodations are adjustments to the test format and presentation, timing, or the method in which students respond to test questions that provide equitable access for students with disabilities, students who are English learners, and students with disabilities who are also English learners. Accommodations must be listed in a student’s IEP, 504 plan, or an EL plan. For more information on selecting, administering, and monitoring accessibility features and accommodations, refer to the Accessibility Features and Accommodations Manual available on the resource support site.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Our 2020 Winter/Spring PD offerings are up and running. Over the next few weeks, we will be offering another round of great sessions. Topics will focus on:

  • Questioning & Discussion Techniques;
  • Virtual Field Trips;
  • Mathematics;
  • Trauma;
  • Art of Comprehension;
  • Mindful Movement;
  • ESL;
  • Kahoot;
  • Hands-On Science;
  • Technology;
  • And even an online mini-course for Google.

Remember to use the single sign on feature when registering; feel free to contact the Curriculum Office if you have any questions.

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