K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

October 2017

~Building Literacy-Rich Environments~

Our goal as educators is to foster the love of reading in each child, knowing that books can open up new worlds through imagination. We are excited to share the October newsletter with a focus on Literacy, to help develop the life-long reader in each child.

The Quick Write Initiative

The ability to express your thoughts, ideas, and feelings in writing is key to being literate. Writing doesn’t always have to mean using the more traditional writing styles that we are familiar with. Quick Writing is an effective instructional tool to get our students to strengthen their writing skills throughout the day in several fast and creative ways. By using Quick Writing in all subject areas throughout the day, we are deepening our students understanding of the content while building up their writing muscles.

Quick Write

Writing has long been recognized as a powerful tool for learning (Rivard, 1994). While traditional writing focuses on students’ abilities to express ideas with correct language usage, the “Quick Write” is an instructional approach that activates students’ knowledge and presents new material. It can be used in a broader range of disciplines (Fisher & Frey, 2008).

A quick write is a “brief written response to a question or probe” that requires students to rapidly explain or comment on an assigned topic (Green, Smith & Brown, 2007; Nunan, 2003). Quick Write can be used at the beginning, middle, or end of the class (Mason, Benedek-Wood & Valasa, 2009). Instructors may give a prompt or pose a question and give students several minutes to form a written response, either as a review or synthesis of learned materials or as preparation for new content. If placed at the end of class, Quick Writes may involve students writing about what they learned, what problems they encountered, what they liked or disliked about the lesson, and whether they understood the concepts (Literacy & Learning, n.d.).

Excerpted from:

Written by Danxi Shen, Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education

Characteristics of Literacy-Rich Content-Area Classrooms

by Vicki Urquhart and Dana Frazee

In literacy-rich mathematics classrooms, language processes support students while they are learning new content and help them demonstrate what they have learned.

  • The teacher models problem-solving techniques such as think alouds, and students talk and write about how they solve problems.
  • Students actively develop concepts with their teacher.
  • The teacher helps students make connections to real-life applications.
  • Students actively construct mathematics-specific vocabulary and explicitly use reader aids to enhance their understanding of mathematics texts.
  • Students work in varied, flexible groupings to present mathematical solutions to problematic scenarios.

In literacy-rich science classrooms, reading, writing, and discussion are a daily occurrence.

  • Students use a variety of texts, including academic journal articles, scientific websites, science fiction, and essays.
  • Students have access to electronic media, film, visuals, and lab experiences, which further support reading comprehension.
  • Students actively construct science-specific vocabulary and explicitly use reader aids to enhance their understanding of science texts.
  • Students frequently discuss, present, and write about possible hypotheses, predictions, analyses, findings, and ideas.
  • Students include elements of the writing process in their lab reports, solutions to problem sets, and research findings.

In literacy-rich social studies classrooms, students' interests are taken into account, and students work in various groupings on different kinds of assignments.

  • Students use various resources, including reproductions of primary sources such as diary entries, maps, film, historical fiction, and newspaper accounts.
  • Students explicitly call out reader aids, use specialized vocabulary in spoken and written communications, and investigate the thinking and approaches of anthropologists, archaeologists, economists, sociologists, and social historians.
  • Students actively explore essential questions and make frequent connections between and among eras, people, and events from the past and present.
  • Students use research skills and examine how languages develop and how various cultures use them.

We don't mean to imply that content-area teachers should become reading and writing teachers. Rather, they should emphasize the reading and writing practices that are specific to their disciplines. All teachers should use the tools (e.g., graphic organizers, outlines, guided discussions) that research shows support all students—those who are experiencing success and those who are struggling.

Excerpted from:

Teaching Reading in the Content Areas (pp. 48–51), by Vicki Urquhart and Dana Frazee, 2012, Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Copyright: 2012 by ASCD.


Studies indicate that Integrating the arts into the core curriculum improves reading, writing, and general academic achievement. Toward this goal, Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education developed The Artful Thinking Program – used in the regular classroom to help deepen student learning by teaching high-level thinking dispositions in and through the arts.

Harvard University Project Zero: Artful Thinking Project

Big image

What do you see in this painting?

What do you think about this painting?

What does this painting make you wonder?

This routine helps students connect to prior knowledge, stimulate curiosity, and lays the groundwork for students to develop their own questions of investigation.


"My daughter speaks English. She doesn't need extra help. I hear her speaking with her cousins at home all of the time." How many times has a parent shared a similar message? Often times, many fail to realize the differences between social and academic language. Jim Cummings has contributed greatly to the principles of second language acquisition. He explains that language used in social situations or BICS, basic interpersonal communication skills, develops with 1-3 years. As a teacher, I often times worked with students who started the year using phrases such as "water" or "bathroom" to ask for permission. Towards the end of the school year, the same students would then use sentences such as "May I use the bathroom?" or "May I get a water drink?"

While social language develops much faster, the development of academic language or CALP, cognitive academic language proficiency, is more abstract and takes 5-7 years. In essence, students have to develop communicative skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in the content areas (math, science, and social studies). The following article will address the difference between social and academic language, the importance of looking beyond vocabulary, and how academic language will be used in your classroom.


Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know

by Lydia Breiseth



Dear Data Guy,

How do I see my students' i-Ready results from the prior school year?

Thank you!

To locate this information in i-Ready, go to Reports, Class Reports, and select Previous Academic Year, Select School, and Select Class.

Click HERE to submit your question for Dear Data Guy to answer next month!




NEW PARCC Website - The Next Generation of Assessment

DOGO News - DOGO News has fun articles for kids on current events, science, sports, and more!

Fact Sumo: ASL Video Learning Decks

  • Download some decks and have students practice in the classroom and at home. There are a variety of decks that cover everything from letters, numbers, and more. The decks are also organized by topic and level so you can choose your class's learning path. Have fun!

EPIC! Books for Kids - Instantly access 25,000 of the best books, learning videos, quizzes & more.

DOCSTeach - Bring history alive for students! The online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.


(Global Connections will provide resources to build your students' schema by developing background knowledge through connections outside of your classroom.)




No, this isn’t the Muppets song (although it’s probably stuck in your head now!). Science phenomena are observable real-world events that get people thinking. We use our knowledge of science to explain or predict these events. Phenomena gets students intrigued and engaged in their learning, and gives context to what they are learning. And phenomena does not need to be phenomenal! It can be something as common as tree roots pushing up a sidewalk, as rare as last summer’s solar eclipse, or a puzzle such as “If most of the water on Earth is in the oceans, why isn’t rainwater salty?”. Need some ideas to get started?

Here are some resources to get you started:




(Danielson Connections will provide specific strategies related to the Danielson Framework.)

As teachers we enfuse the love of learning into our classrooms. We develop rich classroom libraries, show students how to choose books that are 'just right', and develop strategies for finding books outside of the classroom to develop knowledge on a given topic. As educators of the 21st Century, it's imperative that we embrace multimedia resources. There are a variety of online and multimedia resources available to educators to help motivate and reach various learners.

Strategies for developing your practice:



  • 3a - Use creative ways to draw your students into the lesson
  • 3b - Use socratic seminars and/or fishbowl discussions to highlight student voice
  • 3c - Give students choice with book selection; Provide daily time for independent reading
  • 3d - Assess with anecdotal notes, student-led conferring; checks for understanding, running records
  • 3e - Adjust and modify as needed


  • The ELA Help Desk will be taking place at Lalor Elementary School, November 2nd from 4:00pm - 5:00pm in the library. Stop by for support from the K-5 ELA Supervisor!

  • Be a part of our first ever HTSD K-5 ELA Twitter Chat, on November 16th from 7:00pm - 7:30pm. Be part of this great professional development learning opportunity! Moderated by Heather Lieberman, @HeatherLieberm2 & Dr. Scott Rocco, @ScottRRocco.


As of the writing of this newsletter information, I have been able to present to every elementary school in the District.

Since your building's PARCC Data Presentation, I hope that you have continued the conversation (with your colleagues) and begun to recognize that all staff (regardless of role) are key to the academic success of students. Your responses during (and after) the presentations have sent me a message of support and a desire to improve.

Keep up the good work!

Hamilton Township School District

Department of Curriculum & Instruction

Alejandro Battle
Supervisor of K - 12 World Language
Health and Physical Education

Kevin Bobetich
Testing Evaluation Specialist and Data Systems

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon
Supervisor of ESL/Bilingual K - 12, Family Engagement, Title I Preschool, Title III, Title III-Immigrant

Heather Lieberman
Supervisor of K - 5 English / Language Arts Literacy
Library and Media Services K - 12, ALPS, BSI, Title I & II

Jennifer Marinello
Supervisor of K - 5 Mathematics & K - 5 Technology (STEM)
BSI, Title I & Title II

Kirsten Pendleton
Supervisor of K - 12, Science, and 6 - 12 Technology (STEM)

Anthony Scotto

Director of Curriculum & Instruction

Erick Shio
Supervisor of K - 12 Social Studies, Business,
Family and Consumer Science

Danielle Tan
Supervisor of K - 12 Fine and Performing Arts