K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

January 2019


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This newsletter is provided to you on behalf of the entire curriculum department. The curriculum department provides you with many avenues for professional development including twitter chats, on site help sessions, PD days, after school training, etc.

In order to make professional development more meaningful, it is important for practitioners to engage other practitioners in their building in dialogue around the professional development topics. One way is through the discussion methods you have learned the CAR model (Connected Action Roadmap). A researcher named John Hattie identified "collective teacher efficacy" as the #1 effect on student learning. Our definition of this is teachers collectively working together to improve student outcomes. After you read the articles or attend a PD, share what you learned and engage other practitioners in the content. #OneHamilton

Enjoy the newsletter. Happy New Year!

Don’t miss a beat for Healthy Heart Month

February is around the corner and a great time to recognized as American Healthy Heart Month — a time to remember our commitment to ourselves to stay heart healthy. This upcoming month is a reminder to build awareness of the importance of cardiovascular health and disease prevention.

Here are some healthy heart ideas you can bring into your school and classrooms:

  • Give heart healthy facts over during morning announcements.

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

  • Just Dance!

  • Teach a lesson about heart health and ways to keep a healthy heart and body.

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

  • Coordinate a day in February where your entire school wears red to promote a healthy heart (National Wear Red Day is the first Friday of the month).

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

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

  • Teach students, staff and families how to manage stress. Offer a stress management workshop or meditation or yoga class.

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

Three Dimensional Learning in Science Unpacked-Part 1

The Next Generation Science Standards calls for science instruction to be three dimensional. These three dimensions include: Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Cross-Cutting concepts. Along with a shift in content, the NGSS has shifted the way students learn the practice of science inquiry. No longer do we teach science inquiry using a linear progression such as the scientific method, we are teaching students that science is a cyclical process of asking questions, collecting data, testing their ideas, adjusting as necessary and testing again.

As the Next Generation Science standards continue to be implemented, assessing the NGSS will also be shifting. Students will be assessed not only on their content knowledge (the disciplinary core ideas) but will also incorporate the science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts. Students will be assessed on not only “knowing” science content but also their ability to apply their understanding to investigate the world around them.

The science and engineering practices are a set of eight practices that develop from kindergarten through high school. Each practice is designed to guide science instruction and builds in complexity from the early elementary years to high school and are intentionally designed to overlap and connect with each other. The practices are also designed to engage students in inquiry based science instruction and build a language rich learning environment.

The order of the practices is also important to note. The science and engineer practices are written in the order they normally arise when students are engaging in scientific inquiry, however they may arise and connect throughout students’ investigations. The eight science and engineering practices are:

  1. Asking questions and defining problems

  2. Developing and using models

  3. Planning and carrying out investigations

  4. Analyzing and interpreting data

  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

  6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions

  7. Engaging in argument from evidence

  8. Obtain, evaluating, and communicating information

When designing science lessons it is important to keep these eight concepts at the center of your planning along with the content standards (disciplinary core ideas). Students need to have explicit instruction on the practices so they can be engaging in these ideas with intent and focus. In addition, when designing science assessments, it is important to assess all dimensions of the NGSS including the science and engineering practices. Students need to be thinking about how they apply the content we are teaching them to real life situations and phenomenon.

Just the Facts!

~Non-fiction writing with your students~

Nonfiction writing is a huge area that includes not only the writing done for language arts, but social studies, science, math and so much more. Teaching nonfiction writing can be an overwhelming task, but it’s undoubtedly an important one. Our students need to be armed with the ability to write about the things out in the world around them. Here are some tips that you can incorporate in your teaching to get more powerful writing from your students.

  • Find the Right Topic: the best nonfiction writing starts with what the writer is curious or interested in. Let students choose their own topics to write about.

  • Use Freewriting to Develop Expertise: Allow students to free write about their topic to uncover what they already know. By sketching out their ideas they are able to learn more about their topics.

  • Gather A Wide Range of Resources: By having lots of books and periodicals about the topics our students are interested in they are able to really dive deep into the subject.

  • Teach the Features of Nonfiction Texts: Nonfiction texts are different from picture books and novels. Be sure to explicitly teach about features such as; the table of contents, subtitles, picture captions, charts, graphs, and the glossary.

  • Organized Note Taking: There are lots of ways to organize the information students gather, it’s about finding the right one for that particular student. A few examples are; writing folders, journals, learning logs, graphic organizers, sticky notes or a writer’s notebook. This helps students make sense of what they are learning.

  • Let Students Talk About Their Topic: When a student can tell their peers about their topic, they are actually rehearsing for what they will write. Allow students to talk to each other about their topics as a way to deepen their own understanding.

Fletcher, Ralph & Joann Portalupi, NonFiction Craft Lessons. Portland, Maine, Stenhouse Publishers, 2001.

Find more tips for your students to use here.

The Importance of Assessment in Instruction

Assessment is an integral part of instruction because the teacher is able to evaluate an ongoing process with the aim to provide feedback for developing better instruction. Teachers should be continually assessing their students and transforming their practices; yet oftentimes, teachers assess their students by asking them to bubble, circle, or fill in the blank. These types of activities can be torture for right-brain personalities! Below are some engaging, challenging, and fun assessments that help students demonstrate their knowledge in an innovative way!

  • Advertisement: Create an ad. with visuals and text to convey a new concept

  • Poem: Write a poem to summarize a new concept

  • Drawing: Create a drawing to summarize a new concept

  • Venn Diagram: Have the students compare and contrast a topic using a venn diagram

  • Illustrate: Read a story and allow the students to illustrate/ create a visualization.

  • 3-2-1 Exit Tickets: 3 things I learned, 2 things I found interesting, 1 question I still have.

  • Jigsaw Groups: Students work in groups to complete one piece of a bigger assignment and then share out what they learned.

  • Graphic Organizer: Have students use a graphic organizer to demonstrate relationships between facts, concepts or ideas.

If you have access to the appropriate technologies, try these assessment tools: Kahoot, Quizziz,

Flipgrid, Google Forms.

Hopefully, these assessments have inspired you to devise your own engaging assessment tools. Also, don’t forget to provide rubrics with clear expectations, descriptive feedback, and plenty of opportunities for students to self-assess!

Dear Data Guy

How can I tell if my students are showing any growth in their learning?

At the elementary level, we have a variety of comparison data including Data Locker data, iReady, PARCC, Access for ELL's, and Attendance to name a few. You can view the data in the reporting dashboard by selecting multiple administrations, and then selecting the show growth button.

Here is the LINK to use Dashboard Reports.

Additionally, we are just finishing our second iReady administration. The iReady software has a built in growth report. Click on the Diagnostic Results tab, and then select the test you want to analyze. Next select the prior diagnostic under the drop down and you will see your results.

Accommodations & Modifications for ELLs

On any given day one, two, three, or five English Language Learners (ELLs) enroll in our school district. Some ELLs are newcomers who speak zero to very little English while others are well on their way to develop language skills. Regardless of an ELL’s English language proficiency level, grade level content must be taught without watering down the curriculum.

Many teachers and administrators ask me , how do we teach grade level content to students who do not speak English? One of the best strategies is to integrate accommodations and modifications during instruction. Accomodations impact how a student learns while modifications take into consideration what is being taught and expected. To get started, implement some of the strategies listed below.

Accommodations for ELLs

  • use visuals, graphic organizers, charts, props

  • consider preferential seating

  • print clearly

  • speak clearly, avoid complex structures, be mindful of your rate of speech

  • avoid “do you understand”

  • allow students to use a word-to-word dictionary

Modifications for ELLs

  • reduce the length of assignments, homework, and tests

  • provide extra time

  • teach vocabulary words

  • plan instruction using the “WIDA Can Do Descriptors”

  • use an asset-based mindset when differentiating.

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

As we approach mid-year review for SGOs, consider the following reflective questions:

  • Which students are below expectations?
  • Which students are approaching expectations?
  • What obstacles are limiting their progress?
  • What action(s) are needed to address the issue(s)?
  • Which students are meeting expectations?
  • Which students are exceeding expectations?

Having strong "progress monitoring" data (linked to your SGO goals) will assist with answering the aforementioned questions.

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

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL K-12, Title I Pre-K, ESSA Title Grants, & Family Engagement

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

Heather Lieberman, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science