Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

September 2018


Welcome back to the 2018-2019 school year! For the second year, the Curriculum and Instruction team is excited to produce a newsletter exclusively for secondary teachers. We all know that September is a busy month as we return to our school schedules and tend to all of our responsibilities. Read on for some tips and strategies to make your transition to the classroom seamless! And remember .... Today is Your Day to Make a Difference.

Using Current Events to Make Class More Meaningful

The teaching of history is often filled with dates, places, and miscellaneous facts, many of which mean very little to the average middle or high school student. In fact, this barrage of historical information may often be considered very “boring” for a student, leading him or her to ask, “Why do I need to learn this?”

By incorporating current events in history classrooms, teachers can challenge students to make connections to past events. In addition to making history more relatable and meaningful to their everyday lives, using current events in the classroom offers many benefits to students, including:

  • Building language, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills

  • Incorporating a wide range of subjects that connect to other curricular areas

  • Allotting time for student to debate, hold an open discussion, and participate in follow-up writing activities on a particular topic

  • Providing a “writing model” for clear and concise news writing

  • Increasing awareness of the news seen and heard outside of school

When using current events, teachers are able to ensure their students are aware of what is going on in the world around them and can safely guide them through these complex topics. If teachers continue to expose students to various types of texts, including current events, students will be better informed and more prepared to become contributing members of society.

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Making Time for Collaboration

“You will never “find” time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” - Charles Bruxton

How do you improve student learning? Many would answer that teacher collaboration is a key factor. A few advantages of collaborative planning are:

  • Increased Academic Effort - When you make time to review and discuss curriculum, you will build a common expectation of student learning objectives. You can also create opportunities to challenge students to perform at higher levels of learning.

  • Increased Understanding of Student Data - Common planning naturally leads to common assessments. Using these will allow you to celebrate student successes and analyze common errors.

  • More Creative Lesson Plans - With increased articulation, you will build your teacher toolkit adding creative ways to tackle your content, and may be more apt to try different approaches.

  • Less Teacher Isolation - When given the opportunity to share ideas, goals and information, any feelings of loneliness and frustration will decrease while morale and professional satisfaction will increase.

You may be wondering how to make this happen given some of the scheduling constraints that are a part of your daily routine. Just as you encourage your students to use Google Suite, take advantage of this resource to collaborate with your colleagues. You just might learn something new!

Leading by Example

As teachers, it is very important to remember that students are impressionable. Your students will emulate you, so use it to your advantage! Teachers set the standard for their classrooms and should be positive role models in and out of school. Excellent teachers organically lead by example and teach right from wrong because those values are an important part of a good education.

If you want your students to use advanced vocabulary, then you need to use advanced vocabulary. If you want your students to show tolerance, then you need to show tolerance. If you want your students to be risk takers, you must be a risk taker. Modeling affects behavior far greater than telling students what to do. Always remember that your students are our future leaders. When leading them, have a positive attitude and be good role models!

Incorporating Exit Tickets to Check for Understanding

Exit tickets, a popular assessment tool, give teachers a way to gauge how well students understand the material they are learning in class. These checks-for-understanding can be incorporated into any classroom … at any grade level … even at any time during the lesson. If administered mid-lesson, use the results to determine how to group students for the day’s centers/small group instruction.

Here are a few examples of questions and/or prompts:

  • What gave you the most difficulty today? Why?

  • Describe a connection between what you’ve learned today and your life.

  • What do you think you need to study for our upcoming test? (This would give you insight on reteaching opportunities.)

  • Summarize what you learned about _______ in 10-15 words (or 25-30, 40-45, etc.)

  • Place today’s learning in sequential order (plot or historical events; steps in process; etc.)

  • Was today’s gallery walk a useful learning activity for you? Why or why not?

It’s always a great idea to offer choice, so consider having students answer one question from a list of three. Or, set up the next day’s learning by asking a strategic question that will help you put students in groups based on interest. And, aside from the formative assessment value, exit tickets provide all students the opportunity to formulate their thoughts -- and put them in writing -- in a safe and non-threatening way.

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Setting Goals in World Languages

As the school year begins, it is important to think about the big picture and how to best assess our students. In World Languages, the ACTFL Can-Do statements can be used to:

  1. describe what students are doing consistently over time.

  2. help students set goals in moving through the language proficiency continuum.

  3. set a starting point for setting goals and for creating rubrics for performance-based grading.

  4. act as a model, or starting point, to match the district’s curriculum as well as state standards.

Program goals should be clear and allow everyone to understand what students are anticipated to learn. When doing this at multiple levels after specific periods of time, both students and teachers can plan accordingly for the course. Students can accomplish at high levels and pursue a number of astonishing and challenging academic and career pathways. Their knowledge, skills, and cultural understanding will become critical assets for them to live productively in our interconnected society.

The Importance of Getting Students’ Names Right


Poem by Jane Medina


George, please call me “Mrs. Roberts.”

Yes, Teacher.

George, Please don’t call me “teacher.”

Yes, T__, I mean, Mrs. Roberts

You see, George, it’s a sign of respect to call me by my last name.

Yes,….Mrs. Roberts.

Besides, when you say it, It sounds like “t-shirt.” I don’t want to turn into a t-shirt!

Mrs. Roberts?

Yes, George?

Please, call me Jorge.

As an English Language Learner myself, I remember feeling embarrassed when teachers called on me, but didn’t say my name correctly. I was never mad at them, I just wish someone would have taken the time to ask. Do the same for your students and their parents. During the month of September, it is essential for us to spend time getting to know each student and his (or her) background while building relationships. One quick and simple way to do so is by getting a student’s name right. Before saying his name for the first time, ask him how to pronounce it. Once he shares, have the class repeat it aloud with you.

Feel free to explore the recommended resources below for additional information on the importance of getting students' names right and how to go about doing this.

By May Fermin-Cannon

Dear Data Guy

What is Linkit? Can I see my students' assessment scores?

Linkit! is our district’s student data warehouse. The “warehouse” contains multiple measures of student data, including PARCC scores, i-Ready scores, attendance data, as well as many other data points.

Yes, teachers can view student data under the reporting dashboard under the student history tab. Teachers can also view multiple data sets side by side and even compare growth.

This is a great time of year to review a year over year comparison (2017 vs. 2018) of PARCC performance, i-Ready performance, and student attendance. This information could be quite useful as you prepare your SGOs and daily lesson plans.

Before you decide to dig into the warehouse for data, it's always a good idea to write down what you want to find. You should also use a data protocol to investigate the results.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

The Danielson Framework focuses on "knowledge of students" in Domain I. During the month of September, have you taken the time to learn about:

  • what interests each student?
  • cultural background?
  • special needs?
  • academic performance?
  • home situation?
  • other.

It's not too late to find out this information; if anything, it will certainly help you with planning your lessons and making connections with your students.

6-12 District Initiatives

  • Implementation of NGSS (Grades 6-8)
  • Imagine Learning for Mathematics (6-12)
  • iReady Diagnostics - ELA (Grades 6-8)
  • Newsela (Grades 6-12)

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Danielle Tan, Visual and Performing Arts