K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

March 2019


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This newsletter is provided to you on behalf of the entire curriculum department. The curriculum department provides you with many avenues for professional development including twitter chats, on site help sessions, PD days, after school training, etc.

March Madness in the Classroom

College basketball takes over the country whether you are a basketball fan or not, which must be the reason they call it March Madness! Why not embrace it and bring it into your classroom to enhance your classroom engagement? Check out these few activities and classroom gaming practices you might want to use with your students to wrap up the March Madness tournament.

  • Create your own bracket (Click Link)- This alone can take multiple avenues of activities. Use this link to create multiple engaging activities.

    • Fill out the bracket with multiple universities from around the country for a geography lesson.

    • Battle of the books- students can vote for their favorite books

    • Motivate students with a friendly competition- choose your class challenge.

  • Basketball Review Game- Have a mini basket, bucket, or use the waste basket in your class for this activity. Allow your students to answer review questions in teams or small groups. They receive a point for getting their question correct and a bonus point for making the shot! This is a simple activity to modify to your liking.

  • Figure the Winner- Students will predict winners of the NCAA basketball tournament. They will calculate percentage, average, mean, median, and more!

  • Madness Scavenger Hunt (The history)

  • March Basketball Fun Worksheet

  • Recreate team banners or mascots for an art project. You can also use this to build class morale.


Self reflection is the intentional analysis of one’s instructional choices. It should be a standard practice for all educators because it encourages consciousness of both successful and unsuccessful practices and decisions. Teaching involves making a myriad of daily choices that can result in both successes or failures. Therefore, practicing self reflection can help to identify successes and consider options for change that can impact student learning. There are many ways to accomplish this, keep a journal, write anecdotal notes, seek feedback from students, or invite a colleague to observe your teaching.

It’s difficult to self-reflect on teaching as it’s happening because there are many other things going on in the classroom at the same time; therefore, you should wait for a quiet time to reflect. During that time, consider what you’re trying to accomplish, what actually occurred, and how to bridge the gap between them. No one likes to revisit areas of failure, but you cannot identify areas for improvement without closely analyzing weaknesses. Ask yourself, what does this experience say to me and how can I learn from it?

In order to make the necessary adjustments to improve your practices, analyze your results. Look for recurring patterns, analyze your students’ and colleagues’ feedback, read up on effective techniques that can help remedy your situation, interact with other teachers on social media sites.

Finally, devise a specific plan based on your reflection. Be sure to set measurable goals and track improvements. Most importantly, never stop self-reflecting!

Three Dimensional Learning in Science Unpacked-Part 2

As discussed in “Three Dimensional Learning in Science Unpacked-Part 1,” the Next Generation Science Standards call for science instruction to be three dimensional. The three dimensions of instruction are: 1 -Science and Engineering Practices, 2- Disciplinary Core Ideas, and 3 -Cross-Cutting concepts.

The second dimension of the NGSS are the disciplinary core ideas are the content standards or the “what” students should be learning in each grade level. The disciplinary core ideas (DCIs) are thematic and broken into four categories that run throughout the K-12 continuum: Life Science (LS), Earth and Space Science (ESSA), Physical Science (PS), and Engineering, Technology and the Application of Science (ETS).

The DCIs focus science content across the grade levels to a limited number of core ideas both within and across the disciplines with increasing sophistication of student thinking. The grade bands are broken into K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The DCIs in each grade band focus on the same big ideas, although each big idea may not show up in each grade level but rather at one grade level in each grade band.

For example, ESS1.A the overarching concept is “The universe and its stars.” In the K-2 grade band ESS1.A states students should understand “Patterns of movement of the sun, moon, and stars as seen from Earth can be observed described, and predicted.” In the grade 3-5 grade band this concept increases in complexity stating that students should understand, “Stars range in distance from Earth and this can explain their relative brightness.” This concept continues to build through the 6-8 and 9-12 grade bands. ESS1.A is found in the NJSLS-science in grades one and five.

By building a coherent framework of big ideas students are able to have a deep understanding of each concept. This also helps students make connections across grade levels. Students need to be exposed to real-life phenomenon and hands-on experiences focusing on all three dimensions of the NGSS.

Express Yourself!

Teaching our Students Speaking Skills

Being able to clearly express your thoughts and feelings is an important skill necessary in every area of life. As adults, we use communication skills every day and in every career field. It’s important for students to learn how to speak clearly and persuasively–no matter what career field they eventually enter. Our students need to know how to talk. They need to be able to talk about what they’re learning, what they’re reading, what they don’t understand, how they feel, and what they’re thinking.

Teachers are charged with helping students develop their speaking and listening skills (New Jersey Student Learning Standards). When children build up their speaking and communication skills they are improving their social skills as well as their academic skills. Children are naturally social beings; why not take their love of social interaction and talking to each other and put it to use to increase academics? Here are some ways to provide students opportunities to practice their speaking on a regular basis:

  • Turn and Talks - This strategy allows all students to participate in the discussion, rather than only a few students participating in a class-wide discussion. All students are able to process new learning while engaging in meaningful conversation with a classmate. Teacher Toolkit - Turn & Talks

  • Book Clubs - Have students read the same book or about the same topic. You can give students guided questions before they begin reading and set aside time for students to get into groups to discuss what they have read. Questions can range from “What is your favorite part of the book?” to “How does the character change throughout the story?”.

  • Socratic Seminar - Socratic seminar teaches by asking questions. This is a collaborative dialogue facilitated with open-ended questions about a text. The teacher acts as the facilitator and the students get to generate and express their own ideas. About Socratic Seminar

  • Podcasting - Students can practice reading fluency, produce book reviews, or reflect on assignments. Teachers and students could begin by using Google Voice to leave voicemail messages for one another.

  • Flipgrid - Students can record short, authentic videos and then reply to each other’s videos creating a “web” of discussion. Teachers can ask a question, and the students respond in a video. https://flipgrid.com/

  • Morning Meeting - Morning Meeting is an engaging way to start each day and build a strong sense of community. Each morning, students and teachers gather together in a circle for twenty to thirty minutes and interact with one another during four components:

  1. Greeting: Students and teachers greet one other by name.
  2. Sharing: Students share information about important events in their lives. Listeners often offer comments or ask clarifying questions.
  3. Group Activity: Everyone participates in a brief activity that fosters group cohesion and helps students practice social and academic skills
  4. Morning Message: Students read and interact with a short message written by their teacher. The message is crafted to help students focus on the work they’ll do in school that day. Morning Meeting.

Dear Data Guy

How can I help my students prepare for the upcoming NJSLA Assessment’s this spring?

Great question. While we don’t want our teachers to teach to the test, it is important for our learners to get a feel for the material on any assessment they are given. I would suggest making the students aware of the content of the assessments, units, and unit times.

-The ELA Blueprints define the total number of tasks and/or items for any given grade or course assessment. The ELA companion guide has the unit times.

-The Math Blueprints define the total number of tasks and/or items for any given grade or course assessment, the types of items on the assessment, and the point values for each item. The Math companion guide has the unit times.

Additionally, as Mr. Scotto mentioned during the roadshow this fall, we should also offer students time to utilize the practice tools because after all we wouldn’t take a driver’s test in a different car than we practiced on. In the tech world, it would be like switching your phone from an iphone to an android device.

The tutorials can be found HERE.

  1. Use the Equation Editor tool to familiarize students with the math tools available to them.

  2. Using the Test Nav tutorial will enable students to be comfortable moving through the test and using the toolbar, as well as using the embedded tools.

  3. Students with accommodations must practice using the accommodations tutorials before they are offered to them as an option.

Finally, students should try the practice tests in their classroom or at home. Best practice would be to embed test items throughout the school year or make your own assessment questions more like next generation assessments.

Expect Excellence From Every English Learner

Recently, I attended a conference in which Principal Kafele was the keynote speaker. Throughout the presentation, he engaged the audience in a self-reflection activity around equity. By the end of the session, he reminded me that equity is not what I do, it’s who I am. Likewise, equity is not what we do, it’s who we are.

Singer 2018 agreed that when teaching students, expect excellence from every learner. Keep in mind that if we don’t expect much, then that’s exactly what we will get. In other words, students will rise or fail to our expectations. In theory this sounds great, but in practice it can be challenging. Below are a few tips on getting started!

  • Be specific about your goals for student learning

    • make goals clear instead of posting and saying them

    • provide examples of what success looks like

    • model and demonstrate how the examples meet the learning objectives

  • Prioritize high-level thinking tasks

    • remember, perfect English use is not a prerequisite for high-level academic tasks

    • encourage the imperfections that are a natural part of building cognitive and communicative skills

    • when English is used imperfectly, focus on the context of a high-level task and what the student is trying to convey

Works Cited

Singer, Tonya Ward. EL Excellence Every Day: the Flip-to Guide for Differentiating Academic Literacy / Tonya Ward Singer ; Foreword by Jeff Zwiers. Corwin, 2018.

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

Spring is finally here....and it's not too early to start thinking your Domain IV Preparation.

In an effort to assist staff with preparation for Component 4A - Reflection on Teaching, consider the following reflective questions:

  • How did I reflect to adjust my lesson plans to improve future lessons?
  • What were the results of adjustments made?
  • What record keeping steps and documentation have I utilized or created this year to continuously reflect and improve my skills?

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

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL K-12, Title I Pre-K, ESSA Title Grants, & Family Engagement

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

Heather Lieberman, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science