Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

May 2020


Building a Better Tomorrow ... Together

Assessing Student Learning Using Screencastify

During remote learning, educators continue to explore the technology available to more effectively instruct and assess student learning. Screencastify, a Google Extension, has already been shared by educators globally as a great way to create a screencast for students.

For those of you who want to learn more about creating a screencast using Screencastify, here are two HTSD PD links that will help:

HTSD PD Screencastify for Remote Learning and Flipped Classrooms Part 1

HTSD PD Screencastify for Remote Learning and Flipped Classrooms Part 2

Screencastify can also be used to assess student learning. Once the student has added the Screencastify extension, they can now record their desktop, microphone, webcam, etc. Students can then submit this screencast to the teacher via a platform like Google Classroom. Once submitted, the teacher can view the recording with different playback speeds available and assess a student’s proficiency of specific knowledge or a particular skill.

For additional ways to assess student learning using Screencastify, click HERE.

Math Teachers Make a Difference

Math teachers love math. A major goal of educators across the country is to improve math education by changing the way both students and teachers think about math. So how can teachers help students learn to love math?

Here are some research based tips on how teachers can help to instill a joy of mathematics in students:

  • Emphasize growth instead of being right or wrong

  • View students as unique individuals with strengths and abilities

  • Celebrate students as they develop their mathematical thinking

  • Incorporate engaging music, games and interactive digital programs into instruction

  • Encourage students to share accomplishments with peers

  • Relate math to the world around them

  • Utilize motivational strategies

Math doesn’t have to be tedious. Take some time to reflect on your choice to become a math teacher and allow students to be a part of your passion for math. Who knows, it might just be the ticket to helping them find the love and beauty in mathematics.

Having a Meaningful End of the Year ... Remotely

As we get closer to the end of the school year, it is typically a time to think of how to academically finish strong. It is also a time to reflect on the memories that were built, relationships that were cemented, and memorable learning experiences. With remote learning making up the latter half of the school year, this is going to look different, but it can still be a time to bring closure to the school year in a fun and engaging way. Below, you can find a list of ideas to close out the school year:

End of Year Celebration:

Have a GOOGLE MEET celebration and invite students to give a toast to the end of the school year. They can share their favorite memory of the school year, or something that they are looking forward to next year.

Personalized Letter:

Write a letter to each of your students and send it to your students (Google Classroom, email). This is a very sentimental way to say good-bye and they will surely be happy to receive something from their teachers.

Digital Spirit Days:

Have fun themes for the last week of school! Have students wear their gear during their video chats or have them send them to you to post on your school site or Twitter.

Virtual Memory Book:

Have students create a digital memory book via google slides. Students can work on their own memory books to reflect on their learning through the year. There are various templates already created for students to simply fill out.

Virtual Award Ceremony:

Host a virtual award ceremony, where students are recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. An option is to create a Google form and have students vote on each award. Afterward, you can post the certificates on Google classroom or email them directly.

Virtual Field Trips:

Since the school year ended before most field trips took place, many students were unable to take part in this experience this year. Many zoos, museums, and aquariums have virtual field trips FOR FREE!

The Arts: Overcoming the End of the Year Slump

At the end of the school year, many arts teachers experience “the end of the year slump.” If you find yourself becoming easily irritated, overwhelmed, and lethargic, you could be falling down the slippery slope of teacher burnout. Recognizing the early signs is essential because clouded thinking often leads to emotional reactions and poor decisions.

Becoming self aware, practicing resilience, and taking time for one's own creativity is critical to overcoming teacher burnout -- especially right now, in the middle of a national crisis. Being resilient does not mean things don’t bother you. It means you recognize the problems and understand that growth is possible through introspection and progressive growth. Take some time each day for objective self reflection. Reflect upon your emotions and “default” responses to those feelings, and then consider if alternative practices and behaviors might improve your mental health and well-being.

Below are some tips to help you through your journey:

  • Rather than criticizing yourself for practices gone wrong, reflect upon advice you would give to a friend, and use those kind and encouraging words on yourself. Ruminating on regretful moments will not help you move forward toward healing and growth.

  • Reflect on the positive ways in which you are making a difference.

  • Have a set of achievable goals and a clear and firm schedule to achieve those goals. Be sure that the schedule is a good fit for your abilities and mental health.

  • While you are busy helping your students to be creative, don’t forget to take some time each week to work on your own art. Creativity is important for remaining healthy, connected to yourself, and the world you live in!

The Many Merits of Journaling

Journal writing is an informal type of writing -- which makes it popular with students, especially those who might not consider themselves writers. From an educational standpoint, journaling allows students to write in an authentic and descriptive manner, all from a first person point-of-view.

Journaling can also allow students to put their grammar skills to practice while engaging in low-stakes writing. Encourage students to experiment with new grammar skills in the context of their own writing. For example, if students are working on parallel structure, have them answer a journal writing prompt and, when finished, go back through their response and highlight examples.

Additionally, journaling can provide an outlet for reflection during an unsettling time. Regularly writing down what’s on our minds, no matter what it is, can help us acknowledge all that we are grateful for, release emotions, and improve overall well-being.

2020 has certainly been one for the history books, so these journals (whether written on paper or digitally) will certainly become a treasured keepsake to look back upon in the decades to come.

Using Online Games to Support English Language Learners

Games are enjoyed at any age! When used in conjunction with a purpose, games can reinforce new skills as well as language in any subject area. In addition, games are universal and can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of language and/or age. Games are one of the most useful scaffolds used by English Language Support teachers in formative and summative assessments. Teachers can use them to reinforce skills, rules, and even to find out background knowledge in any area.

Online games, such as Kahoot, are particularly useful in assessing and reinforcing newly acquired skills and language by students who are apprehensive in speaking. Quite often, English learners are in a state called the “silent period." During this period, students absorb all of the information around them, however, for whatever reason known only to them, may be apprehensive to speak. By playing a game where speaking is not essential in assessing the acquisition of newly acquired language, Kahoot can help assess whether students have acquired the particular skills. In addition, Kahoot’s multiple-choice format is also an English learner-friendly scaffold sometimes needed for them to be successful.

Developing Agricultural Literacy

Food security is a phrase we have heard far too often in recent weeks and months, and it reminds us all of the importance of farming in feeding the nation. According to the American Farm Bureau for Agriculture (AFBA), “An agriculturally literate person understands the relationship between agriculture and the environment, food, fiber and energy, animals, lifestyle, the economy and technology” (2019).

Whether our students realize it or not, agriculture is a topic that is integral to our lives, yet it is rarely addressed in schools. Many of us have misconceptions, such as the impact that farming has on the environment and the use of hormones in animals.

In reality, agriculture is a pioneering industry that uses science to make decisions. Examples include tractors that use GPS to adjust for fertilizer application, and the use of applied genetics, such as selective breeding and in vitro fertilization, to reduce the fat content in beef and increase milk production in dairy cattle.

All of these advancements help farmers to carry out the vital job of feeding a growing world population. The AFBA website has a host of resources to help develop agriculture literacy, including resources that address commonly held ideas about farming and its impact on the planet.

Dear Data Guy

When the students take the second diagnostic, do they start where they left off of from the first diagnostic? For example, if a student was 1 grade level below on the first diagnostic, does he start at the same place on the second diagnostic?

Great Question!

Yes, students will pick up where they left off from the most recent assessment they have completed.

When a student begins the assessment, the program will first check if the student has previously taken an assessment (Diagnostic or Growth Monitoring). If the student has previously taken an assessment, the assessment will begin at the student’s estimated ability from the previous assessment. If a student has not yet completed an i-Ready assessment, the assessment starts from an initial estimated ability level which is the minimum score required to be considered one grade level below the student’s chronological grade.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

During the remote period of learning/work, I have been extremely impressed with staff participation in professional learning. There have been times where enrollment of virtual PD has been higher than when we offered sessions in a traditional face-to-face session.

As we have done in the past, the Office of Curriculum & Instruction will offer high-quality professional development throughout the summer. We anticipate running the sessions in a virtual manner.

Please consider being a presenter for our summer sessions. We have a lot of talent in our district (and certainly have learned a lot during the remote period of learning/work). Be on the lookout for more information.

Thank you for all that you have been doing for our students.....remember, they deserve solid, meaningful learning experiences until the last day of school.

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