Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

September 2020


Building a Better Tomorrow ... Together

The Power of Social Emotional Learning During Times of Crisis: The Arts

During this pandemic, we’ve come to understand that time away from school is not a vacation for teachers and students alike. Not everyone has a positive home life, and school may be the one place where some people feel safe. Some of your students may be experiencing high anxiety, depression, and fear. Some may have been alone for long periods of time- without any human interaction at all. Additionally, they miss seeing their friends and teachers regularly. Online learning is not only difficult to manage academically but is also a challenge for students’ social and emotional needs.

The arts have the unique capability of allowing students to express themselves creatively, and can have a positive effect on their attitudes and emotional state. When students engage in creative thinking, they switch into their imagination, problem-solving, and producing modes. As educators, we have the responsibility to provide social emotional learning opportunities.

Here are a few tips on ways to foster social-emotional learning:

  • Teach self awareness by encouraging students to think about their feelings and experiences and apply them in their art. When listening to music to regulate our emotions, we are practicing self-management. When engaging in drama-inspired activities with others, it promotes the use of social-awareness. When we move and dance with one another, we build relationship skills.

  • Dispel negative emotions and build resilience by asking students to identify and list things in their life they are grateful for, and then illustrate each item on their list through art.

  • Ask your students to reflect on their own experiences- the pandemic, social distancing, school closure, online learning, etc, and then illustrate their reflections through art. Give students freedom to interpret artistic content through their own experiences and perspectives. Activities such as these will provide an opportunity for students to be heard and/or seen.

  • Exhibit your students’ creative work in your classroom, Google Classroom, or platform of choice, and encourage students to critique- just as they would in the classroom! Peer critique will provide access to peers, helping to maintain social wellness.

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Advocator for Equality

With the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment (granting women the right to vote) recently passing on August 18, 2020, it is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 87), who died on September 18, 2020. Ruth Ginsburg spent much of her career fighting for gender equality. In the 1970’s Ginsburg litigated a variety of discrimination cases for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

Ginsburg was later appointed as the 107th Supreme Court justice in 1993. It was here where Ruth Ginsburg served on the Supreme Court for twenty-seven years and continued her fight against discrimination. Through her actions on several key landmark cases, Justice Ginsburg continued to work to bring about better equality for women, secure rights for the disabled, and continue to pave the way for future generations.

Whether we are utilizing tools like Newsela, conducting socratic discussions, and/or covering sub-topics in a curricular unit, it’s imperative that educators incorporate the great contributions of people like Ruth Ginsburg, who have helped shape the world we live in today.

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the great contributions of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and reflect on a statement Ginsburg shared during a 2015 speech at Harvard University:

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

We've Got eBooks!

Sora, an ebook reading platform, is now available to all secondary staff and students. The Sora icon can be found on the district’s Clever page. Students and staff can now enjoy ebooks and audio titles from any device, whether at school or at home. Over 300 titles were automatically uploaded with the service, and our secondary librarians have worked collaboratively to curate and add hundreds of titles to the district’s collection. Our Sora account will also be linked to the Hamilton Public Library; readers will be able to access the public library’s ebook / audiobook collection using their school credentials (no library card needed)!

Readers can customize their reading experience with the following settings:

  • Text size options

  • Lighting (bright, sepia, dark, high contrast)

  • Number of columns (one or two)

  • Book design (the way the font appears) including an OpenDyslexic font

  • A choice of seven different languages with which to review general settings

Librarians are creating ‘how to’ videos for logging in, searching the platform, and more. To acquaint everyone to the site, librarians will be reaching out shortly to schedule ELA class visits. In the meanwhile, feel free to log on using the setup code: HTSDNJ. Happy reading!

Remote Learning: Science Lessons Learned

As we start the new school year with a mix of online, remote, and hybrid instruction, we can look back at some of the lessons learned from the rapid transition to remote learning last spring.

To truly engage in Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), students must learn to collaborate and share their thoughts and ideas. This is typically achieved by using whiteboards, grouping students, and student talk strategies such as partner talk, and “add on” or “say more.” In remote instruction collaboration becomes more difficult, so how do we promote sense-making when students aren’t in the same room? Here are a few ideas that you may try:

  1. Use Google sites to create websites for each unit. Start the unit with a visual phenomenon and a “big question” such as a picture of Giant Sequoia trees, with the question “Where does the mass of these giant trees come from?”

  2. Use Jamboard or Padlet as a platform to share models and to ask questions.

  3. Use Google Meet sessions to reach a consensus about what we know, to develop class models, and compile a list of questions that need to be answered. Use breakout sessions between student groups and instructor-supported groups to facilitate discourse and sense-making.

  4. Use students’ questions to guide daily lessons. Have a submission of work for each lesson for formative assessment of what students understand and where they need more support.

  5. Use Google Questions within Google Classroom to encourage students to comment on one another’s thoughts and questions.

  6. Use the NSTA Daily Do’s for inspiration for sense-making tasks that are authentic and relevant.

How COVID is Impacting ELLs and Their Families

In order to service our English Langauge Learners during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is helpful to understand how the pandemic is affecting our ESL students and their families. Some of the impacts include, but are not limited to high COVID-19 rates in their communities, increased exposure risks as many work in industries where they are considered essential workers, loss of income, limited access to medical care, insurance, or even sick leave, as well as other factors. In addition, many of our ELL students and families may be impacted by grief, stress, and depression. Some of our ELL students may live in multigenerational homes along with multiple children playing different roles that are essential to their immediate family. As a result, the combined pressures of the pandemic and heightened immigration enforcement has put a significant strain on ELLs and their families when it comes to learning support at home.

Developing Students as Powerful Mathematical Thinkers

How can you develop students as powerful mathematical thinkers and learners? Ron Ritchhart has been a researcher at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education since 1994 where his research focuses on understanding how to develop, nurture, and sustain thoughtful learning environments for both students and teachers. His work is centered around “Eight Cultural Forces” which can help you identify concrete ways to transform the culture of math teaching and learning.

Expectations: Communicate expectations that focus on deep learning, create opportunities to learn both independently and collaboratively, and promote learning from mistakes and persisting through challenges.

Language: What language would a mathematician use? Do your students have the opportunity to speak the language of math?

Time: Are your math values and beliefs reflected in the way your math class is structured? Would students be able to identify what is valued?

Modeling: Model thinking, calling attention to times that we are reflective, creative, or taking risks.

Opportunities: Plan opportunities that allow students to challenge misconceptions, build evidence to support a claim, or consider multiple strategies.

Routines: Consider the power of adding visible thinking and learning routines. Intentionally and consistently plan when and how to use these routines, and they will become a pattern of behavior.

Interactions: The most powerful learning opportunities arise when students learn from one another in a positive manner.

Environment: Learning is dynamic; create a space that is flexible and responsive to the changing needs of your learners.

If you truly want to transform the way math is taught and learned, focus on the culture first.

World Languages in a Digital World

Learning a new language or moving up the proficiency ladder can be a challenge, especially in a digital world. How does a World Language teacher know that their students are gaining in this setting? Times like this call for creative, meaningful, and immersive tasks in a remote environment. Consider these four language domains: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Below are some creative tasks to assist in these communication modes with our current technology platforms:

Interpretive Tasks (Reading and Listening Comprehension)

  • Use Screencastify to help develop listening comprehension skills. The application captures your screen (and camera if you choose) and records it. You are able to record while teaching from Google Slides and record a flipped lesson. Students can pause or replay the screencast if they need to hear something twice.

  • EdPuzzle is also good for building listening comprehension tasks. You can use a YouTube video -- or even better, upload your own screencast video of a flipped lesson -- and then use EdPuzzle to add questions for students to answer as they watch.

Interpersonal Tasks (Two-Way Speaking and Writing)

  • Texting conversation in the target language. You can utilize google hangouts, padlet, or any platform that will allow students to respond in real time.

  • Ask students to screencast a conversation with a partner in their class with a generic prompt that will spark conversation (Google Meet Breakout rooms are another great option).

  • Assign students virtual pen pals. You can assign different topics for the students to focus on in their emails, or they can freely converse. Typing an email in the target language is yet another realistic, authentic, useful task.

Presentational Tasks (One-Way Speaking and Writing)

  • Flipgrid is an ideal tool for presentational speaking tasks. Assign your students a prompt and they respond in a video via the Flipgrid website. Students can view their classmates’ videos and comment on them with video responses.

  • Pear Deck allows for interactive slideshow presentations. On an ordinary Google Slides presentation, you can add a range of question types to involve students. To create a presentational task, you can add open-ended questions. You can also have students respond with a drawing that they can later write about or explain aloud, again engaging in a presentational speaking or writing task.

Dear Data Guy

Welcome back educators! As we begin a new school year, many of you have started the process of logging onto Linkit!, PowerSchool, and other data platforms to figure out the skills students learned during remote learning. Great job! It is important to look for data to help you find a starting point. Don’t forget that your fellow teachers, your own observations, and formative assessments are powerful tools to learn more information about your students. I refuse to believe in the Covid Slide. I believe our kids are resilient, and that all of you are masterful magicians at teaching our students under any circumstances. Have a great year!

Notes from Mr. Scotto

It seems like only yesterday we had our virtual Opening Week PD. Now that we are a few weeks into the school year, I'm sure you have begun to implement some of the instructional platforms that have been purchased for the District.

Before we transition into hybrid (in mid-October), I encourage you to reflect on your implementation (to date) with the platforms. In addition to your own "new user" reflection, how have students utilized the platform? Are there other features that you would like to explore?

Many of us (me included) are still new to remote learning. Do not hesitate to ask a colleague for assistance. In addition, the links (in the shared drive) are still live; feel to re-visit them at any time.

Keep up the good work, HTSD!

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