K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

April 2022

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Engaging Reluctant Learners in Math

Now that spring has arrived and we are approaching the last few months of school, keeping students engaged is harder than ever. Engaging students who struggle in math or not interested in the lessons is an even harder challenge. Below are some strategies for engaging reluctant math students.

  • Make the lessons fun. This may seem like an obvious suggestion but incorporating games into math lessons is a great way to engage all students, especially those who are reluctant learners. Playing games like Bingo, games with playing cards, or dice games are low prep ways to help make math fun.

  • Set attainable goals with students. When students are intellectually challenged, they often get excited about meeting their goals. It is important to set “just right” challenges for students. Students need goals that are attainable but not too easy. The problems should be challenging for the student, whatever their level of understanding is.

  • Incorporate examples of how math is involved in everyday life. Practical applications of mathematical topics is a great way to engage all learners in math. Connecting math to money, grocery shopping, baking, time, and traveling can easily give students a solid grasp of some complex math skills.

  • Incorporate patterns into your math class. Design problems that help students see patterns in their work. The central focus of math is patterns. Solving problems involving patterns can be engaging and fun for students.

Engaging students in meaningful and engaging math lessons is an important strategy for helping reluctant learners. Many of the skills students learn in math class are imperative for success in future careers. Helping them learn to love the beauty of math early in their education will help build successful students and later in life, successful adults.

Boosting Student’s Interest in Writing

Many of our students get into the habit of completing writing assignments that will only fulfill a rubric or a checklist of what their teacher is expecting from their writing. Although it is extremely important to have a structure in places such as rubrics and checklists, it could possibly create a rut when writing. Students tend to focus more on the checklist rather than the craft of writing. Writing for various audiences can really boost motivation and creativity through the writing process. Adding an outside audience such as the principal, other teachers, another class, or even their parents can enhance their craft further. Here are some ideas from various audiences to enhance our student’s interest.

  1. Teachers/Administrators - Have students write a persuasive essay that addresses a classroom and/or schoolwide solution. For example, students can attempt to convince their teacher to get a class pet or their principal to allow for outdoor activities. The request can be up to the student.

  2. Families - Have students write about school and class events to be shared with their families. Whether it be about a unit they are working on, something they learned, or an assembly they were able to participate in, having them write about it to share with families also enhances the school/home connection. A different genre of writing is a biography which works nicely with the families as an audience. Have students interview a family member about their life and use the information to write a biography. The students get practice in creating questions, recording answers, and ultimately transferring the information into a biography.

  3. Other Classes - Have students compose a story, fairy tale, or folktale that they will share with students from another class. It could be the same grade or a younger grade. Students get very excited to write when they feel like they are a true authors and their work will be shared with others, as we do with mentor text.

  4. Local Business and/or Entrepreneurs - A cross-curricular style project is to have students write a proposal for a product, idea, or invention they have discussed in science or social studies. This proposal could be a Shark Tank-style of writing with information, descriptions, and persuasive attributes. Invite community members to be the audience for these concepts, which could be done virtually as well.

With just a minor change in audience for a writing piece, the motivation and desire can be greatly increased. Good luck and happy writing!

Classroom Management in the Music Classroom

Students need to learn about proper behavior in a musical setting as well as about music itself. A music teacher’s effectiveness and level of satisfaction they achieve will depend largely on their classroom management. Effective music teachers establish rules by explaining the reasons for their implementation and the benefits for everyone involved. They will also enforce rules fairly and consistently. When a child "tests'' their disciplinary measures, they act as unemotionally and objectively as possible. Teachers should never react emotionally because some students intentionally push teachers to lose their temper just to create excitement in the class. Effective music teachers have a toolbox of strategies to enforce discipline in their classrooms.

Effective music teachers……..

  • Teach students how musicians treat one another personally, critique one another's music, rehearse, and behave at concerts.

  • Provide every child with affirmation. Each student needs to know that he or she is accepted, even if, at times, his or her behavior is not.

  • Provide consistency, routine, and high-level expectations.

  • Create a sense of individual responsibility and accountability: Give students formal assessments about the music they are rehearsing, but use words such as "game" or "challenge"

  • Reinforce good performances with a variety of reinforcements, and provide opportunities for the class to "show off" their skills by performing for another class or few teachers.

  • Be specific when explaining how to improve behavior, while leaving the students' egos intact- if students are frustrated, embarrassed, or defeated, their attitudes will reflect it.

  • Create behavior contracts to provide structure and encourage students to behave in an acceptable and appropriate manner.

  • Select reinforcement and punishment techniques that are an obtainable, normal part of the class routine.

Dear Data Guy

I’m concerned about my student’s NJSLA scores. Some of my students are behind and I want them to do well. How can I help my students do well on the NJSLA?

I am glad you care about your student’s performance. We have entered a period where students have significant gaps in their learning. The most important lesson I learned from the pandemic is to individualize instruction for students and meet the students where they are at. First, we should encourage students to have a love of learning. If we force-feed students content, they won’t want to learn it. Secondly, it’s our job as educators to make learning fun for students. I would encourage ways to think outside of the box to help students learn the curricular content. It could be in the form of guest speakers, experiments, or a tech tool or game. Lastly, we should work on building student mental models. This means unpacking NJSLA questions to help them understand how to answer the questions and the process for finding the right answer.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Notes from Mr. Scotto

In the coming weeks we will begin planning for our HTSD Summer Institute for Professional Learning.

  • Have a specialized educational talent or skill?
  • Willing to turnkey a strategy that you learned from an out-of-district workshop?
  • Looking to develop your PD training experience?
  • Do you consider yourself a "teacher leader" in a particular area of education?
  • Have you taken coursework recently and would like to share your new learning?
  • Did you master an instructional technique during COVID that would help other educators?

If so....consider presenting this summer. Presenters are compensated and are able to select their own dates/times for summer PD.

Stay tuned for more information; presenter applications will be sent out soon.

HTSD Curriculum Department

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Supervisors of K-5 Staff

Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

Dereth Sanchez-Ahmed, Interim K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science & ESSA Grant