Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

March 2023


Spring Has Sprung!

New Jersey's spring season offers a great opportunity for middle school and high school science teachers to incorporate the observation of scientific phenomena into their learning environments. By connecting classroom learning with real-world observations, teachers can enhance their students' understanding of scientific concepts while fostering a love for nature.

One way to incorporate this practice in the classroom is to encourage students to keep a journal of their observations throughout the spring season. Students can document their observations of flowering plants, migratory birds, and weather patterns in their journal. They can also take photos or draw pictures of what they see to enhance their records.

Students can incorporate websites and apps that allow students to identify and track various phenomena and document the occurrences as they arise. Activities such as these allow students across the world the opportunity contribute to the NASA's GLOBE Observer program.

This program is a citizen science app that allows volunteers in GLOBE countries to take observations and contribute to the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) community; A way to collect data to track changes in the environment in support of Earth system science research, and interpret NASA and other satellite data; and provides an open data set available to scientists, and supporting students of all ages in doing real scientific research through the GLOBE Program.

Scientific observation of phenomena in the spring season in New Jersey provides an excellent opportunity for middle school and high school science teachers to foster interaction among the students. By encouraging students to observe and record their findings in a journal and using technology to enhance their learning environments, teachers can help students to develop their observation skills, gain a deeper understanding of scientific concepts, and develop a lifelong love for science and nature.

Please don’t forget to HAVE FUN!

Effective Questioning for ELLs

When working with ESL (English as a Second Language) students, effective questioning is important to encourage them to participate in class and help them develop their language skills. Here are some tips for effective questioning for ESL students:

  • Use simple, clear language: Use language that is appropriate for the student's language proficiency level. Avoid using complex vocabulary or idiomatic expressions that may be unfamiliar to the student.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Ask questions that require more than a simple yes or no answer. Open-ended questions encourage students to think critically and express their opinions.
  • Repeat and rephrase: Repeat the question and rephrase it if necessary to help students understand what is being asked of them.
  • Use wait time: Allow students enough time to process the question and formulate their response. Use wait time to give students an opportunity to think and organize their thoughts.
  • Use scaffolding: Provide support for students who may be struggling with the language by breaking down the question into smaller parts or using sentence starters.

Remember that effective questioning is not just about getting the right answer but also

about developing language skills and encouraging critical thinking. By using these tips, you can create an inclusive and supportive learning environment for ESL students.

Spring Into Being Active!

With the arrival of spring, it's a great time to start thinking about new and exciting activities to incorporate into your physical education classes. For non Physical Education teachers, there is nothing wrong with trying some of the ideas listed below during recess or even during a brain break. Regardless of the grade level, think about what works best for your space and your students to take advantage of this beautiful part of the year.

Outdoor Activities: Take in the warmer weather and fresh air by planning outdoor activities such as soccer, ultimate frisbee, and capture the flag for example. These activities not only provide a fun way to get exercise, but they also promote teamwork and cooperation among your students.

Yoga and Mindfulness: With testing and with the school year starting to wind down, it's important to help your students relax and de-stress. Incorporating yoga and mindfulness activities into your classes so they can provide students with valuable techniques for managing stress and anxiety. These activities can be done both indoors and outdoors, making them a great option for any weather.

Dance party: Dancing is a fun and engaging way to get exercise and promote cardiovascular health. This can be an entire lesson or even an instant activity with students warming up to popular line dances in their squad spots or having them create their own dance routines.

Fitness challenges: Challenge your students with fun fitness challenges such as a plank challenge, a jump rope challenge, or a wall-sit challenge. These activities can be done individually or in teams, and can be adjusted to fit different skill levels.

Spring into action and add these fun and engaging activities into your physical education classes this Spring. Remember to always prioritize safety and make adjustments to activities as necessary to accommodate different skill levels and abilities.

Celebrate Pi Day!

Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi (π), which is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. The holiday is celebrated on March 14th (3/14 in the month/day format) because the first three digits of pi are 3.14.

There are many ways to celebrate Pi Day in a math classroom or at home. Some popular activities include:

  • Eating pie: One of the most popular ways to celebrate Pi Day is by eating pie! This can be a fun and tasty way to celebrate the holiday.

  • Pi Recitation: Have students try to memorize as many digits of pi as they can and recite them in front of the class. You can also have a contest to see who can recite the most digits.

  • Pi Day Puzzles and Games: Create puzzles and games that incorporate pi, such as crossword puzzles, word searches, and math problems that use pi.

  • Pi Day Art Projects: Have students create art projects that incorporate pi, such as drawing a circle and labeling its circumference and diameter, or creating a pi-themed poster.

  • Pi Day Quiz: Create a Pi Day quiz, which includes questions about the history of pi, its uses and properties, and famous mathematicians who have studied pi.

  • Pi day Movie/video: Show a movie or video that relates to pi, such as the film "Life of Pi" or a video about the history of pi.

  • Pi Day Research: Assign students to research the history of pi and famous mathematicians who have studied it, and have them present their findings to the class.

Pi Day is a fun and engaging way to celebrate math and to help students learn more about the fascinating mathematical constant pi. Some fun Pi Day activities, resources, & videos are linked here.

Library and Student Achievement

Libraries aren’t just safe, quiet spaces for students to study, access resources, and develop their skills, they are vital to student achievement! Taking the time to use the library can make all the difference in students’ academic success and give them

the tools they need to reach their full potential. Teachers of every

content area should use the following reasons to encourage their

students to take full advantage of the resources and opportunities

that the library can provide:

  • Libraries provide a wealth of resources, from classic books to new releases, which help students develop a love of reading and literacy. These resources are especially valuable to those who may not have access to books outside of school.

  • Libraries are a portal to knowledge and information, allowing students to explore beyond the curriculum and gain a deeper understanding of the world. Students can research topics, explore new ideas, and supplement traditional classroom instruction through these materials- which helps students succeed academically!

  • Libraries can serve as a hub of connection and collaboration, an ideal space for students to exchange ideas, or a quiet environment to focus on their studies and maximize their academic potential- something especially beneficial for those without access to a quiet space at home.

Dynamic Feedback for Learning

Providing meaningful feedback to students to enhance their learning is an essential aspect of effective teaching. We are often pressed for time (particularly as concerts and showcases draw closer) and as such, we may find it easier to give advice instead of feedback. There is nothing wrong with giving advice, it can also be helpful for learning. However, jumping to advice before sharing feedback can cause students to feel insecure and dependent. So start with feedback.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind when providing feedback:

  • Specific & Targeted - Feedback should be explicit and tailored to the learning. Instead of saying “good job,” provide specific and targeted feedback such as, “we agreed that the intent of this song is to make the audience smile. How does performing this song make you feel and how might that impact the audience? When you performed this section pianissimo, it made me feel good.”

  • Actionable - Feedback should help learners move closer to their goal. Saying, “that’s incorrect” or giving a grade doesn’t help the student know what to do more of, less of, or differently. Actionable feedback should focus on what went right as well as areas for growth. For example, “I like how you used color to create mood in this painting. How might different brush strokes create a more dynamic composition?”

  • Timely & Consistent - Feedback should be as immediate as possible. This allows students to connect the feedback to their work and make adjustments (if needed) and progress with their learning. Feedback should also be provided consistently, not just at the end.

  • Use “I” Statements - Using “I” statements when providing feedback helps to avoid confusion or misinterpretation. Plus, it makes the feedback feel less judgemental and more personal.

  • Balance - Critique is good and important for growth. However, balancing constructive feedback with positive feedback helps students see how far they have come and what they should think about going forward. Remember, feedback helps us reach a goal. We want learners to know what they’re doing well in addition to areas they should revisit.

  • Self & Peer Feedback - The teacher should not be the only one giving feedback. It is important that students be afforded the time and opportunity to reflect on their goals, progress, and learning. It is also valuable for students to provide feedback to their peers.

Using Maps to Boost Critical Thinking

Using maps to teach critical thinking skills in social studies is a valuable teaching method. Maps can help students visualize and understand complex spatial relationships and historical events. Some ways to incorporate maps and promote critical thinking skills include:

1. Map analysis: Have students analyze maps to identify patterns, relationships, and changes over time.

2. Map comparisons: Have students compare and contrast maps of different time periods or regions to identify similarities and differences.

3. Map debates: Have students take different perspectives on a historical event or social issue and present arguments using maps as evidence.

4. Map activities: Use interactive map activities, such as simulations or games, to teach social studies concepts and encourage critical thinking.

For online resources, check out National Geographic Education, Esri GeoInquiries, and Seterra Geography

Dear Data Guy

Dear Data Guy-

My school is a pilot school for Response to Intervention. What is a Tier 1 support?

Response to Intervention is part of the New Jersey Tiered System of Supports. It is a framework for helping improve student achievement. The first level or Tier 1 Support is what is called a Universal Support. Universal Supports are supports administered by the teacher in the general education classroom. For example, if a whole class is having difficulty with one specific skill, we wouldn’t create groups to teach the skill, we would analyze the data and create a lesson to teach the whole class. An example of this would be if we looked at the NJSLA data and saw our students struggles with a Literary Analysis task, we could create a lesson to teach all the students in the class. As a district we utilize the Linkit! Data Warehouse to pull together all the data and analyze the data or one of the supplementary online systems we use (iReady, Textbooks, etc.).

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Spring is here and it's not too early to begin preliminary preparations for year-end evaluations. Domain IV (Professional Responsibilities) focuses on the following main components:

  • Reflection on Teaching (4A)
  • Maintaining Accurate Records (4B)
  • Communicating with Families (4C)
  • Participating in the Professional Community (4D)
  • Growing and Developing Professionally (4E)
  • Demonstrating Professionalism (4F)

What artifacts (examples) do you have that indicate successful implementation of the aforementioned components? As you locate these artifacts, place them aside for your summative evaluation conference.

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Michelle Griffith, ESL K-12, ESSER Pre-K

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Social Studies

Tracy Schwartz, Mathematics and STEM/STEAM

Matthew Sisk, Science and Applied Technology

Kerri Sullivan, K-12 Visual & Performing Arts

Danielle Tan, K-12 Library, 9-12 Tech/Business Education, ESSA & Perkins Grants