6-12 Curriculum Newsletter

April 2019


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It's never too late to try something new. Check out all the great ideas in this month's newsletter to help you spring into action in the classroom!

Earth Day 2019

April 22nd, 2019, is Earth Day. Earth Day aims to build the largest worldwide environmental movement, and more than 1 billion people take part in Earth Day activities, making it the largest civic observance in the world. Earth Day 2019 has the theme “Protect our Species” and human activity such as climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides are all contributing the fastest rate of extinctions since the time of the dinosaurs.

However, there are also positives, including the rapid rise of electric cars and clean energy, and the pledges by worldwide organizations such as Google and Ikea to be 100% clean within 5 years. Additionally, Earth Day has generated groundbreaking legislation that impacts all our lives, including:

The first Earth Day occurred on April 22nd 1970, so next year will be the organization's 50th anniversary. Use the link below to start the countdown and consider what you can do to make a difference.

Earth Day 2020

Small Group Conversation Structures For ELLs

Often times, students are strategically asked to work with partners or groups. As academic conversations are taking place, the teacher circulates in hopes of assessing learning and addressing misconceptions. However, how can each student be held accountable for their contributions? How do we ensure each member of the group completed the task and actively participated?

Listed below are some structures beneficial for ELLs, and all students, when engaging in group work.

  • Numbered Heads: Once in groups, have students at each table count up so that each of them has a number (1, 2, 3, etc.). Ask a question and provide a few minutes for group discussion. When time is up, call a number and the student from each group with that number reports to the class.

  • Talking Chips: Distribute the same number of chips to students in a group (pennies, plastic markers, etc.). Each time a student provides a contribution they give up one chip. Once a student is out of chips they no longer speak.

  • Pass the Stick: Each group receives a stick (popsicle stick, straw, etc.). After contributing to the group discussion, students pass the “talking stick” to each other. This will ensure everyone has a turn.

Don't Waste A Minute!

The ‘Do Now,’ a common classroom practice, is a quick, independent activity that is used to begin a lesson. Especially helpful in secondary classrooms, Do Nows activate students’ thinking and, when used effectively, result in less wasted time, more student engagement, and set the tone for the rest of the class (think classroom management).

Components of an Effective Do Now

  • Brief (3 -10 minutes)

  • Consistently assigned

  • Readily available to students (directions/materials placed in basket near door and/or written/projected on board)

  • Minimal/no verbal instructions from the teacher

  • Requires a written response

Do Now Examples for any Content Area

  • Respond to a journal prompt

  • Respond to a critical thinking question (“What if …?”)

  • Make a prediction

  • Reinforce a skill/strategy previously taught (ex: complete a math problem / edit a paragraph)

  • Complete an Anticipation Guide

  • Recall 3 key facts from a previously read primary or secondary source

  • Write a pargraph with 3-5 vocabulary words

Starting with a Do Now

Click on title to watch a brief video.

Mistakes Are A Learning Opportunity

Are mistakes a sign of failure or an opportunity to learn something? Truth be told, a number of great inventions and discoveries were accidental, unplanned or unintentional. Velcro, post-it notes, penicillin, potato chips, and the microwave oven are a few examples of accidental inventions. Where would we be today without these positive mistakes?

Answers in mathematics are often considered to be right or wrong. While this is technically true, creating this mindset can be counterproductive in the learning process causing students to feel frustrated or believe they are a failure. Making a mistake is a large part of learning, and students should be encouraged to see mistakes as opportunities to learn more deeply.

The strategy of “My Favorite No” began with Leah Alcala, a middle school math teacher in Berkeley, California, who uses student errors as a learning opportunity. "My Favorite No" is a great way to look at student mistakes without shame – it is an empowering thing to tell your class, “This is a really great mistake.” During the discussion that ensues, students are encouraged to identify what was done well, indicate where the mistake occurred, explain the mistake, and justify their thinking.

What happens in your classroom? Do you tend to see mistakes as a sign of failure or as an opportunity to learn something? What kind of message do you want to send to your students?

Harness The Power of YouTube In The Classroom

It’s no secret that YouTube, a video hosting website created in 2005, remains popular today with students of all ages. With a wide variety of content that is always evolving and changing with the times, YouTube continues to be a go-to resource for both entertainment and educational purposes. Here are some basic ways educators can harness the power of YouTube in the classroom.

  • Enhance a Topic Being Taught: Sometimes videos can illustrate ideas and engage students more effectively than textbooks and teacher lectures. Here’s one YouTube channel worth exploring: Crash Course. These videos present a variety of information in a fast paced format and is a great way to enhance any lesson. These videos can also be downloaded by visiting https://thecrashcourse.com/.

  • Flip the Classroom: Teachers can assign video content to view and allow students to begin the learning process outside of the classroom. This now enables the teacher to decrease lecture time and utilize more active learning techniques during the class period. Edpuzzle is a great resource to enhance the use of these videos.

  • Encourage Self Directed Learning: Students can utilize YouTube to locate videos to further expand their knowledge of curriculum topics, topics that they are passionate about, or topics that they are curious about and just want to learn more about it.

  • Provide Supplemental Information: YouTube is an excellent source for information that you would love students to have access to but you did not have time to share during the class periods. Another option to supplement a lesson is through the use of screen recording tools like Screencast-o-Matic (web based) or Screencastify (Chrome addon). Once a video is created, users can then upload the video to their YouTube Channel for students to view at a later time.

  • Enhance Professional Growth: With YouTube offering millions of videos, it’s no surprise that YouTube can also be used by teachers to learn new instructional strategies and grow professionally. Here are a few YouTube Channels that could be useful to explore further: Cult of Pedagogy; Ditch That Textbook; Teachings in Education

30+ YouTube Channels for Teachers

Click on title to view list.

#MoveInMay 2019

It’s that time of year again! There are things that we should be doing in our regular routine, but it somehow gets away from us. May is the month to remind us to spread the word about national physical fitness and sports month and practice what we preach! See below to see what you and your students can move on after Spring Break!

  • Jumping Jacks & Bouncy Chairs

This can be completed with any age or subject. As you review concepts, have students stand next to their desks. Instead of raising their hands to volunteer, students will do a jumping jack.

  • Act Out Stories

Reading a story in class? Before you begin the story, explain to students that they are going to act out the movements in the story. Practice the movements prior to the start of the story. As you read, students will have to pay close attention to catch the actions and then demonstrate the movements practiced.

  • Classroom Warm-ups & Fitness Breaks

Establish a routine between activities in which you do something physical. Whether it’s a quick classroom stretch, walking around the room or even a few jumping jacks, this can be a great way to start the class off right or pump some energy into dozing students. Check out this list of fitness break ideas.

  • SMART Board Fitness Games

The SMART board is a perfect resource to integrate physical activity into your lessons. On the most basic level, SMART boards can get students up, walking to the board and stretching as they move elements around the board. This SMART board activity. In this example, there are also physical activity examples that students can mimic as a classroom warm up or fitness break.

  • Subject-specific Charades

Review vocabulary or curriculum concepts by assigning students concepts/vocab to act out for the class. It’s all about getting students up and moving.

  • Acting Out Scientific Concepts

There is endless potential to have students demonstrate scientific concepts or vocabulary through movement. For example, have students:

  • act as electrons doing different kinds of bonding or breaking off as chemical reactions take place

  • imitate animals within different species as they identify the species, class, etc.

  • play science charades with your latest vocabulary terms (tons of possibilities for animals, plants, weather, etc)

  • Teach Measurement Through Jumping

Jumping can add activity to the study of measurements, data collection and number order. Students first mark the measurements on the ground either with yard sticks or masking tape. Then, they’ll take turns jumping and recording their jump distances on the board. Students can compare jumps between students, compare a standing jump to a running jump or any other variation of ideas to practice comparing numbers. More advanced students can then used the collected units to create graphs or equations.

  • Historical & Cultural Movement

Each culture and historical period has different dances, popular sports/games or even day-to-day activities to survive. Try these out as a class. As you compare different countries, regions or time periods, you can try out their different dances, from Spain’s flamenco to Hawaii’s hula to the 1920’s swing.

Dear Data Guy

What are some test taking strategies I can tell my students to use on the NJSLA assessment?

Great question.

I think it is important that kids have strategies before they enter the test environment. While we don’t teach to the test, students should be aware of the format of the test so make sure students understand how many questions they have to answer, the format of the test, and the tools available to them. This information can be found in the NJSLA resource center located HERE.

Some teachers use the COPS strategy during writing instruction. COPS stands for Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling. Acronyms are easy to remember for our younger and older students. Before they take the assessments, remind students to use the strategies taught in the classroom.

When students take the Math or ELA assessment, teachers should encourage students to live in both the paper and the electronic world. Students should use their scrap paper during the assessment. Students who are successful on the state assessments gather their thoughts on scrap paper, and then work off their notes to complete their answer in the online platform.

Lastly, remind your students they can skip questions and come back to them. For some of our struggling students, you could tell them to take a look at the questions and pick out an easy question to do first. While observing many students, I’ve seen kids stop testing after only 5 minutes. I think it is because they became overwhelmed by the first question. There is no penalty for guessing on the NJSLA assessment.

Practice the strategies each week leading up to the assessment.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

I hope all staff enjoyed a well-deserved Spring Recess.

Last month readers were provided with some reflective questions regarding Domain IV (particularly 4A).

Here are some reflective questions to assist with Component 4D - Participating in the Professional Community:

  • What committees, meetings, and other professional groups have I been a part of? How have I taken a leadership role (within these groups)?
  • What professional resources have I shared with my colleagues?
  • What did I participate in to promote positive, school morale and school spirit beyond the scope of my assignment? (ie: before school, after school, evening activities, etc).

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction


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

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics and STEAM

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