Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

January 2022

Hamilton Township School District

What is Right About Wrong Answers?

Too many students view mistakes as a bad thing to be avoided. In reality, mistakes are inevitable and are opportunities to learn instead of something to be ashamed of. In mathematics, there is so much room for error. Some possibilities are: recording the numbers for the answer backward, using the exponent inappropriately, forgetting to distribute the negative, etc. These mistakes are common, endless and easy to make. It’s powerful for students to practice recognizing errors. Below are some options to try in order to normalize mistakes as something to learn from as opposed to a shameful occurrence:

  • Provide an error analysis problem occasionally in your daily do now. Error analysis ties application and assessment of mathematics together. Having students explain math to one another in their own words is absolutely essential to deepen their understanding.

  • Encourage students to circle their mistakes and explain what they did wrong as opposed to erasing errors. The practice of allowing students to identify errors and think critically about what led to those errors can help them avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

  • Challenge the students to really think critically by providing seven or eight problems that each contain an error or multiple errors. The students are responsible for identifying and describing the errors, then they make the necessary corrections. The errors can range from calculation based mistakes to using the wrong formula. This can be an independent or partner activity.

Introduction: Strategies for Engaging ELL Families

A strong parental involvement is not only important for the success of all students but also plays a key role in the culture of a school and district. As far as ELLs, strong parental involvement can help in acclimating students to the school and culture quicker. Engaged families will often contribute key information that is useful to helping educate their students. The involvement of ELL families depends on what the schools do but the engagement depends on what the parents’ interests are. One way to engage parents more is getting to know their needs which can be done by building relationships with families and/or surveying current needs and interests. Make sure to build on the families’ strengths to make them feel valued and connected to the school community.

Using the target language in the majority of your World Language classes

One of the ACTFL core practices recommends that World Language classes be taught 90%+ in the target language. It is recommended that both the teacher and student listen, read, write, and speak in the majority of the lesson in the target language for effective learning in that language. This allows students to have output with the language and produce in the language. This provides constant formative information on where our students are in regards to the language.

Here are some questions that will assist in revisiting, reviewing, and reflecting on what we are currently doing and things we can do moving forward to assist in raising the amount of target language spoken in our World Language classes:

Are prompts and tasks at the appropriate proficiency level?

If they are not, it is okay to move down the proficiency ladder to encourage students to work more in the target language. Assess the students to see where they fall on the proficiency ladder. What are they listening to, reading, producing, etc?

Do students have the tools/knowledge they need to communicate?

Do the students have the vocabulary, phrases, or responses to assist in basic functional conversations. For example, Functional chucks (Novice level) - Memorized language that students can use in certain situations.

Are students accountable for using the target language?

Utilize Can-Do statements to allow the students to set goals and hold themselves accountable to work towards these goals they are moving towards throughout the course. Use positive reinforcement and praise students for maximizing their use of the language.

Are the students actively engaged and interested?

Provide activities that gain students’ attention and interest in things they would participate in their everyday life? For example, students comprehending and responding to a social media post or students having a review about a movie or show in the target language.

Word Talks

You’ve probably heard of a book talk, an activity in which librarians, teachers, or students give a brief presentation about a book they recommend for independent reading. The same activity can be applied to vocabulary. In a word talk, a student gives a brief presentation on one or several words that they feel are important for their peers to know. Word talks can be scheduled on a certain day each week (or month) where several students present their word talks. Google slides can also be incorporated for a greater visual effect.

What kind of words should students share in word talks? Many students share words from their independent reading and/or their media and technology use. Teachers can ask students to provide a rationale for each word chosen (words can be connected in some way or simply just words that piqued their interest). Additionally, students should create a sentence for each word to establish context. When applicable, students should complete some advanced analysis of the word to prepare for questions that might be asked by their classmates.

For example, in a high school class, a student might select the following words to share: ascent, descent, decompression, and recompression. As you may have figured out, this student was learning about scuba diving outside of school. She was studying for her initial scuba certification and thought these words would be good to share because of her interest in scuba diving as well as their application to non-scuba situations.

Word talks are great opportunities for students to showcase their interests and expertise, but most importantly, they make clear that continual word learning is important. As with all activities, teacher modeling is key to its success! What words would you share?

Celebrating Black History

Every February, people in the United States celebrate Black History Month. During Black History Month, Black History and the wonderful achievements of African Americans are highlighted in a variety of ways. Black History Month was started to raise awareness and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the United States. Each year educators continue to highlight Black History from the early 17th century to present day. Some of the notable figures students explore in many classrooms are Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement, Thurgood Marshall being the first African-American justice appointed to the Supreme Court, Mae Jemison who was the first African American astronaut to travel to space, as well as Barack Obama, our first African American President. Black History Month is not only an opportunity to help students explore the past, but also a way to assist them in imagining the possibilities that lie ahead.

Here are some resources and best practices to consider when teaching Black History:

Making Sense of the Crosscutting Concepts

Check this out!!! Beals Science, Disappearing Water Trick - Science or Magic?

Research shows that participation improves for middle school girls, urban high school students of color, and elementary students from immigrant families when the learning leverages students’ experiences, questions, and concerns. While a phenomenon like an extremely cool magic trick makes for an engaging experience and lesson, how else might teachers engage students in scientific learning that may last a lifetime? One answer lies in the crosscutting concepts.

The crosscutting concepts provide students with an “organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world,” (National Research Council, 2012). In short, it can allow for students to make connections to various disciplines of science. The crosscutting concepts are:

  1. Patterns

  2. Cause and effect

  3. Scale, proportion, and quantity

  4. Systems and system models

  5. Energy and matter

  6. Structure and function

  7. Stability and change

These concepts can be used throughout K–12, and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) breaks them down by grade in their crosscutting concepts matrix to help you get an idea of what they might look like in your classroom.

Data Guy

I have a student who is a great student. She does all her homework, raises her hand in class to answer questions, and always knows the material. The problem is when she takes tests, she doesn’t do very well. What can I do to help my student?

Test anxiety can happen with any student. To help your student, here are a couple of tips.

  1. Set up a time for the student to check in with you to review his/her notes or study guide before the assessment/test.

  2. Praise the student for his/her successes during class.

  3. Contact the parents to ensure that they are reassuring their child prior to the assessment.

  4. If appropriate, allow for a retake of the portions of the assessment the student got incorrect for partial credit.

  5. Refer the student to the guidance counselor to discuss specific strategies to help calm the student before the assessment.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Our department recently launched a Sheltered English Instruction (SEI) Mini Series. The goal of this mini-series is to provide classroom teachers with additional tools when designing lessons, instructing, and grading English Language Learners.

Specific topics are as follows:

  • What Is SEI? Why Is It Important?
  • Lesson Preparation Using SEI Strategies
  • Strategies to Strengthen Interactions w/ ELLs
  • Strategies to Build Background w/ ELLs
  • Practice & Application of Strategies
  • Strategies Using Comprehensible Input w/ ELLs
  • Lesson Delivery Using SEI
  • Strategies Using Review & Assessment
  • Additional SEI Strategies
  • Cross Curricular Implementation, Reflection, & Sharing

All sessions are voluntary and are virtual; feel free to join a cohort even if you cannot attend all 10 sessions.

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 K-12, ESSER III Pre-K

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