Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

November 2019


Building a Better Tomorrow ... Together

The Power of Current Events

“Why do we need to learn this?” This is a question that students bring up time and time again in the classroom. Why should students care about what’s going on in the classroom? How does it impact them personally in their homes, communities, and/or nation? How can they use this information beyond the test? Answering these questions is a great way to get student buy-in and increase engagement.

There is a wide range of subjects that can connect to all areas of the curriculum.There are current events that are prime examples of classroom concepts in the real world. By incorporating current events in all classrooms, teachers can challenge students to make connections to past events.

In addition to making history more relatable and meaningful to their everyday lives, using current events in the classroom offers many benefits to students, including:

  • Building language, vocabulary, reading comprehension, critical thinking, problem solving, oral expression, and listening skills;

  • Incorporating a wide range of subjects that connect to other curricular areas;

  • Allotting time for students to debate, hold an open discussion, and participate in follow-up writing activities on a particular topic;

  • Allowing students to explore biases and develop their own critical lens;

  • Providing a “writing model” for clear and concise news writing;

  • Increasing awareness of the news seen and heard outside of school.

Here are some links to help you as you navigate the vast network of current events resources:

  • News Article Analysis: Strategy to help students identify and analyze the key characteristics of the three most common types of news articles: straight news, feature, and opinion.

  • PBS Learning Media: This site has a vast database of lesson plans that explicitly incorporate news stories. These often use clips from PBS shows, such as POV and Newshour. Resources can be filtered by content area.

For additional current event resources, click here.

'One-Pager' at a Time!

Looking for an alternative summative assignment? Look no further than a ‘one-pager,’ which is a single page response to a text. Students take what they’ve learned—from a novel, poem, history textbook, podcast, Ted Talk, article, or film—and put the highlights onto a single piece of paper. One-pagers provide a way for students to creatively show what they know beyond the usual written options.

One-pagers can include important quotes, key names and dates, symbolism, figurative language, character development, themes, images, and even connections to students’ own lives, art, pop culture, or what they’re learning in other classes.

Teachers can offer as many or as few guidelines as they wish when using one-pagers, although most agree that offering students a clear list of what should be included makes the assignment work well. Knowing they need two quotations, several symbolic images, one key theme, etc., helps guide students in their work.


  • Complete one yourself. By doing so, you may uncover some needed adjustments to directions.
  • Show students plenty of examples. By studying the images, students will begin to see how different one-pagers can be.
  • Create an optional template for students to use. Not only will this provide structure, it will ease any potential anxiety for those students who don’t think they’re ‘creative.’ (For example, the border could showcase a key quotation, a center circle could feature the title and author or an important symbol, and the top left quadrant might include an illustration of the setting.)
  • Rather than focusing on the artistic ability of your students, grade the one-pagers on content, analysis, and critical thinking.

Apps and Citizen Science in the Classroom

  1. GLOBE - The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is an international science and education program that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment.

  2. Google Science Journal - Science Journal transforms your device into a pocket-size science tool that encourages students to explore their world. Students can record observations as they conduct experiments. The app also allows learning to move outside, and can also be integrated with data collection technology, including Vernier.

  3. Merlin ID - Use this app to answer 3 simple questions about a bird you’d like to identify and Merlin will provide a list of possible matches. Alternatively you can upload a picture for identification.

  4. iNaturalist - similar to Merlin, every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. Findings are shared with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data.

SLIFES/SIFES in the Classroom

Do you know the educational backgrounds of your ELLs? Do you know their past experiences and how it may have affected their formal schooling and/or present and future schooling?

SLIFES/SIFES are students who come from their native countries with an interruption in their formal education. As the ELL population continues to grow, researchers and school districts are looking for new ways to help identify and teach students who come from countries where they may have experienced an interruption in their formal schooling. This can happen for a number of reasons, which may include, but is not limited to, civil unrest, poverty, natural disasters, and/or persecution.

In order to ease the teaching and filling in of educational gaps for SLIFEs/SIFEs, research is being done to help aid in the process. However, just as it is essential to build relationships with all ELLs, getting to know students’ past formal education is part of getting to know an ELL’s process. Here are some things that can be done to ease language and content acquisitions for these students:

1. Activate prior knowledge – this will help in making connections, stimulate motivation, and help design independent learning plans for SLIFE/SIFE students.

2. Provide lots of visuals – the key to learning any language at any age is to make associations. In order for anyone to make a visual connection to new language, visuals are essential!!

3. Provide lots of collaborative/cooperative learning – students learn a lot from each other and for ELLs particularly SLIFE/SIFE students, they often are less intimidated and more apt to learn from students that are closer in age, interests, and language. Allowing students to work with each other using these markers as a premise for trust building will facilitate the acquisition of new material.

Out of the Box Ideas for Teaching Mathematics

Have you struggled to keep your students’ attention during your mathematics class? If so, you know how important it is to enhance your lessons with creative teaching ideas. Not sure where to start? Consider any one of the following to take your lesson to the next level:

Use engaging videos - Here’s a great example of how a video can make a concept such as slope make sense and come to life.

Add art for a STEAM approach - Your artistic and visually minded students will appreciate math lessons that allow their creativity to play a colorful role.

Make it a game - Competitive game formats can be a great way to help students review their understanding of concepts, formulas, math vocabulary, and more. Check out this low-tech dice game that is a great way for pairs of students to practice calculating area.

Use real-world examples - If your students dare to question the purpose of all those figures and formulas, take a look at this site, filled with practical math problems for all grades based on real-world examples.

Use humor - A math joke at the beginning of class can go a long way toward keeping your students engaged and learning. Try some of these math memes and cartoons to post at the beginning of every lesson.

Use word walls - Word walls are not just for elementary school. These examples are the perfect, aged-up versions of those learning aids from younger years and as a bonus can brighten up your classroom.

Engaging the Whole Class Using Total Participation Techniques

Often as educators, we find ourselves posing questions and having a few students raise their hands to share their responses. What happens to the students who never raise their hands, or the ones who are not selected? Sometimes students give up thinking because they know someone will give them the answer. We want all of our students to think for themselves, and using Total Participation Techniques (TPTs) can engage the entire class in your questioning! Persida and William Himmele co authored the book Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner. Their focus was towards building cognitively engaging learning practices. They explain how educators can provide higher-order thinking opportunities for an entire class. Here are some strategies you can use right away!

  1. Chalkboard Splash Strategy: This is a no prep strategy where a question is posed by the teacher. Give students a few minutes to answer the question at their desks, be it in their notebooks or on a piece of paper. This gives them time to reflect and prepare. Then, as they finish, they go up to the board and write their responses down. Once finished, the class can reflect on the student answers. What commonalities do they see?

  2. Appointment Agendas: The teacher hands out a copy of the appointment agenda. Students are to walk around and fill the agenda time slots up with their peers. Both of the students’ names must be in the same slot, like 8 am for instance. When working on tasks, the teacher will call out: “Meet with your 8 am slot and discuss the topic.”

  3. Pause, Star, Rank: After an-depth unit of study, students will pause to reflect on their learning. They will go through their notes and star the notes they feel are most important. Then, they will rank those stars to see which they feel are most important. The teacher can then select a method of sharing: chalkboard splash, appointment agenda, etc.

  4. Feature Walk: This technique is especially beneficial when you have a concept with many features (diagrams, maps, tables, pictures). Place each one of the features in an area of the classroom. Pose questions for students to analyze/think about. Students are divided into groups and go through the stations to analyze them. You can have students respond to the prompts on sticky notes and leave them on a poster set at each station, or take it with them on their individual papers.

  5. Hold-ups: This technique can be used with pre-printed cards for early learners (such as true/not true) or students can write their responses on dry erase boards. The teacher poses a question and students write/choose their responses. When they hear hold-up, they will hold their answers up for the teacher to see. This is a great way to see if everyone is understanding the concepts and it engages every student in the classroom.

Dear Data Guy

I am a little overwhelmed when setting goals for my classroom. The student reports for my benchmarks indicate that the students are mostly one grade level below.

Thanks for the question.

Students who are one grade level below at the start of the year are about where they should be because they haven’t learned the grade level material yet. When looking at the data, it is important to dig deeper into your data to determine where the student lies in the performance range. For example, a student who is at the top end of the range of one-grade level below will need less growth in order to reach his/her target than a student who is at the bottom end of the performance range. Furthermore, students already on grade level should continue to grow and start the next school year on level or mid-grade level.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Interested In Learning About Teacher Leadership???

The College of New Jersey has reached out to HTSD to consider a partnership for the new Teacher Leader Endorsement. Information sessions have been scheduled for after school on Wednesday, December 4th.

During this session, attendees will learn more about the coursework, anticipated HTSD partnership, and Teacher Leader Model Standards. In the coming days, a detailed flyer will be sent to all staff regarding specific session times, location, RSVP information, etc.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics and STEM/STEAM

Sandra Jacome, ESL

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