K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

April 2020


The Power of Poems: Using Poetry to Express Feelings

Poetry is an effective and safe way for students to explore topics they might not otherwise feel comfortable talking about. In schools all over the country, students are experiencing a disruption in their daily lives. School is now at home and students are missing their teachers and friends. In addition to being fun, poetry can be used to give students a safe and creative way to express their thoughts and feelings.

This form of writing naturally focuses on sentence-level skills with its purposeful selection of adjectives, adverbs, powerful verbs, specific nouns, etc, and can be incorporated into most any content area. Poetry is a fabulous way for elementary students to find and express their creativity, but it’s also a fantastic way for students to navigate difficult feelings.

Many children find that they can express themselves on paper better than they can verbally. Poems are a place for children to write down the overflow of feelings that they are experiencing. Poetry can be written about any subject (imaginary or factual), personal experiences, concepts, or emotions.

Here are some tips that can help you get kids excited and invested in reading and writing poetry so that they can express their inner thoughts and navigate their feelings:

  • Introduce poetry with poems that your students can relate to - This is huge. You have to hook students on poetry from the get go. “Sick” by Shel Silverstein is silly, fun & kids love to hear it read!

  • Read each poem aloud to students more than once - Often on the first reading, because students are so engrossed in the story the poem is trying to tell, they miss all the poetry elements. By reading a poem a second time, students can start to listen for the important components and discover things not seen before.

  • Get excited when you teach poetry, let loose - When you really enjoy reading and responding to poetry, your students will pick up on your excitement. Use funny voices when you read aloud. Laugh at the funny parts or even cry if that’s how the poem makes you feel. The important point is to show that poems express and evoke all sorts of feelings, and that’s a good thing.

  • Encourage students to share their poetry - Once students have written some poetry of their own, let them show it off! A great way to share their creation with you is by using Flipgrid.

Using the Science and Engineering Practices

As many teachers are well aware by now, the Next Generation Science Standards are broken into three dimensions. The Disciplinary Core Ideas, the Cross-Cutting Concepts, and the Science and Engineering Practices. The shift has been to develop lessons that are three dimensional and include all three parts of the standards. Arguably the most important dimension is the science and engineering practices. These eight practice standards are the same from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Many teachers find it overwhelming to focus on eight individual practice standards while also incorporating the disciplinary core ideas (the content standards) and the cross-cutting concepts (the overarching main ideas). It is easier to think of the eight standards in three categories: Investigating Practices, Sensemaking Practices, and Critiquing Practices. The practices are all linked to nature and the idea that science is fundamentally about making sense of the natural world.

It is important for students (and teachers) to understand that scientific thinking is not linear and is not restricted to a single “scientific method” as was taught prior to the roll-out of the NGSS. Students should be encouraged to think about scientific thinking as a cycle of collecting data, making conclusions, testing their ideas, making changes and starting the process over again. The model below outlines this cycle of thinking and how the eight practices can be categorized. When designing lessons and assessments of scientific thinking, focus on the eight practices to help design well rounded open-ended assessments and thinking for students.

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Remote Learning & The Arts

As educators, we are well aware that schools sometimes must enforce temporary closures; snowy days can result in a day or week closure, for instance. Most recently, schools across the globe have resorted to long term closures to stop the spread of COVID19. Whatever the reason, educators are often only given short notice when asked to prepare lessons for remote learning, which is especially tricky for art teachers, who must get creative when teaching students who do not have adequate supplies at home. Just keep in mind that, when planned carefully, online lessons work and help students to maintain a sense of normalcy.

Encourage your students to get creative within the constraints of quarantine, and use anything around their home as creative media- as long as their parents approve! The assignments shouldn’t simply keep students’ skills sharp but should provide an opportunity to express themselves and the emotions they’re feeling during this unprecedented time. As artists, they have developed the skills to embrace those feelings and create something fantastic! For art teachers, this might be a good time to teach for artistic behavior (TAB). TAB is a community of educator mentors advancing the creative confidence of all learners through choice and student agency: Click Here for more information.

Exhibit your students’ creative work in your Google Classroom or platform of choice, and encourage students to critique- just as they would in the classroom! Peer critique will not only trigger the growth mindset but provides access to their peers- helping to maintain social wellness. After all, the arts are communicative, powerful, and healing!

Here are a few tips::

  • Encourage expression, creativity, and outside of the box thinking.

  • Don’t overload students with work- quality over quantity.

  • Check-in on your students' social and emotional wellbeing.

  • Ask students how they’d like to creatively experiment, and give them the opportunity!

Remote Learning & ELLs

This past month, all educators have risen to the initiative of having to teach remotely. Students, like teachers, also have had to make major adjustments to how and when learning would take place. In addition, the emphasis was now placed on technology as a basis to relay and receive information. These factors, however, can add additional stress to English Language Learners who, up until recently, were learning the verbal and nonverbal language as a way to communicate with their peers.

In addition, many of these students may not have been familiar with the different tools they are being asked to use in order to communicate in a possibly new way with their teachers. Visual supports, as well as social supports, are not the same as they were in the classroom. Therefore, modifications via remote learning when it comes to teaching English Langauge Learners are key to their success as students in remote learning.

Modifications can include short videos that are filled with pictorial supports and simplified language. Additionally, setting time aside to teach these students in a more individualized and guided instruction is very valuable. During this time, getting to know your English Language Learners and the possible hindrances and/or supports they may have at home will help in deciding what scaffolds are needed to support these students.

Instruction & Assessment During Remote Learning

Remote learning has taken teaching to a new level, but as educators, assessments should still continue to drive our instruction and be an essential part of our learning environments. The question then becomes, how do we, as educators, properly assess our students without the in-person interactions we are so accustomed to? Below you will find a list of suggestions that can be implemented throughout a wide range of grade levels.

1. Presentations

Students can create presentations on topics being learned. These presentations can be created for teachers and sent directly to them. They can even be presented in front of classmates via video chats, for instance, or recorded previously and then shared with the group (ie- Screencast a google slide or record and share a flipgrid presentation).

2. Online discussions

Teachers can pose a question(s) to be discussed by the class. Participation can be easily tracked by teachers and credit assigned. Online tools that can make this possible are: Insert Learning, NowComment, or Kialo.

3. Written assignments

These assignments are no different than what has been used in a traditional learning environment. Students can continue to write essays, journal entries, research papers, etc. to demonstrate content retention.

4. Formative Assessments

Bell Ringers, Comprehension Check-Ins, and Exit Tickets are vital to helping educators determine if the students are comprehending the new content or not. No matter the online tools that are used, the focus should be on keeping the students engaged and responding with something meaningful. There are many tools to use in this area (Padlet, Formative, Poll Everywhere, Google Forms..)

Dear Data Guy

When I assign lessons in i-Ready, I usually prefer to assign specific lessons to my students versus having them follow their individual pathways. Is there a correct or incorrect way of utilizing the system?

Good question!

I am glad you are utilizing i-Ready with your students. There is no right or wrong way to utilize i-Ready. You may assign lessons that correlate with the work you are doing for the week or if you may utilize the system to auto-assign lessons based on the student’s strengths/weaknesses. i-Ready assigns lessons based on the student’s performance on the last diagnostic assessment. Please remember to monitor the instruction weekly because students who do not get a passing score (70%) in a domain will have that domain shut off. You will then need to turn the domain back on.

Please go to https://classroom.google.com, click on the plus sign, and use the code 6xondhi for more information about how to turn back on a domain and other information about the system.

Have a good week.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

It's hard to believe that Friday, April 23rd was our twenty-fifth day of remote learning. Within this remote period of learning, we are implementing Danielson's Domain IV - Professional Responsibilities on a daily basis. This domain focuses on:

  • Reflecting on Teaching (4A);
  • Maintaining Accurate Records (4B);
  • Communicating With Families (4C);
  • Participating in the Professional Community (4D):
  • Growing and Developing Professionally (4E);
  • Showing Professionalism (4F).

As we begin this next cycle of remote learning (teaching), I encourage you to think about the components where you have been "the strongest" and which components where you know you need to "focus a little further."

Keep up the good work, HTSD!

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

Sandra Jacome, ESL K-12, Title I Pre-K, & Family Engagement

Heather Lieberman, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science

Danielle Tan, Fine Arts