K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

October 2019

Big picture


Routines to Start & End Your Day

Creating an inviting classroom community is just as important as the academics that you are teaching your students. As teachers, it can be easy to get wrapped up in the many to-dos of everyday. Incorporating small moments for sharing and reflection can help educators check in with their students, create a smooth learning environment, and offer opportunities for individuals and educators to connect with one another.

These tasks do not have to be time consuming at all. Below, find a list of activities that can be utilized for opening and closing routines.

Opening Routines

As the students walk in, set the tone for the day.

  1. Share a word: Ask students to share a word about how they are feeling today. What are they excited or anxious about? Are there any topics in school that are causing them stress? Try to steer students away from using the basic words (good, okay, fine) and really dig deep into how they are feeling!

  2. Quote of the day: Find quotes from celebrities, singers, actors, book characters- anyone that the students can relate to. Have them reflect on that quote and share what it means to them/how it connects to their lives.

  3. Joke of the day: Find a joke/riddle that provokes thinking. How many students are able to understand them? Humor always goes a long way with students!

Closing Routines

Before the students rush off, take some time to reflect on the day.

  1. Rate the lesson exit slip: On this exit slip, you aren’t necessarily assessing how well your students understood the concepts. Rather, you want to see how well they liked/understood the day’s lessons. Using a scale of 1-10, they can rate how well they felt they did today. If their rating is low, have students elaborate on how you can better help them. Do they need more 1:1 help? Do they need graphic organizers to help?

  2. Turn and talk: Have students turn and talk to a partner and discuss their day’s learning. Use a question to help focus them if they are not able to independently have conversations with their peers. What was something you learned today? What did you struggle with today? What is something you want to know more about?

  3. Setting goals: Have students set goals. This can be for new units of study, math milestones they want to reach, reading fluency, etc.

Is Creating With Technology Art?

With the advent of technology and a variety of programs available to users of all ages, the question of whether the use of a computer program or an app is legitimately creation or just manipulation is a relevant issue in our society. Should our children draw with pencil on paper, or just use digital technology to create. Should students of music learn to write music through the study of music theory, or should they use a music notation program which generates sounds and corrects the scoring of instruments?

While the answer is probably still changing as does the technology, it is true that we all need to go through the same process as the masters. The pencil to paper is not technology of the past, it is a current and relevant way to learn and create art and music. Technology is an aide that allows us to shortcut the process, but those shortcuts are best left to those who already have learned the necessary techniques. Once a student understand the elements and principles of design; once they understand the theory behind composition of music, then the technology allows us a shortcut. We learn from our mistakes and miscues. When technology corrects it for us, it is not the same effect as the repetition of practice!

Teaching Students to be Better Writers!

Being able to communicate is an important skill for our students, not only in school but in their everyday lives. We encourage students to practice public speaking so they can better articulate their thoughts. Just as important is that they are able to express themselves in writing. Putting ideas and thoughts into words is challenging for many adults, as is teaching others how to. Here are some strategies that you can incorporate in your teaching to help students become more powerful writers.

  • Use Mentor Texts - Mentor texts are pieces that serve as a good example of the type of writing you’re helping your students to produce. Mentor texts serve as a guide for your students as they begin to write their own pieces.

  • Model and Demonstrate - Write in front of your students and think aloud as you’re doing it. You are the proficient writer in the room and you want your students to begin modeling their thinking processes after yours.

  • Balance Prompt Writing and Free Choice Writing - It’s important to have students practice writing to answer a prompt as well as writing on free choice topics.

  • Integrate Vocabulary - Writing is a great place to incorporate vocabulary instruction. Choose two or three words that might be useful to students for the topic they are writing about. Teach these words, give example sentences, and share sentences where students were able to work them in.

  • Peer Conferencing - Many students find working with a partner to be motivating. Set a specific goal such as helping each other check for capital letters at the beginning of every sentence, rereading to make sure each sentence makes sense, or looking for words that could be traded out for something more interesting.

  • Provide a Rubric- When students have criteria against which to judge their writing and other writing samples, they begin to internalize that criteria and use it when they write new pieces.

Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math

One of the biggest struggles in the classroom is deciding how to address unfinished math learning. Teachers want nothing more than to help all kids learn, however, they are often faced with students who are just not getting the content. They then work to figure out how to fill in holes and catch kids up who are demonstrating understanding two to three years below their current grade level. So the question arises, “How do we address unfinished learning in math and fill gaps in student understanding?”

One of the biggest pitfalls teachers often face is denying access to grade-level content in an effort to fill the holes. All students need to be given access to rich mathematical instruction at their grade level regardless of their missing understanding. Teachers need to take the appropriate action to address the unfinished learning that does not solely mean relying on materials and content from previous grades.

One of the recommendations found on Achieve the Core for determining how to address unfinished learning in math classes is to trace the learning progressions, diagnose where the unfinished learning is, and go back just far enough to allow students access to grade-level material. The learning progressions are an essential tool for teachers to use to know where and how to provide interventions. Strategic interventions that lead right toward the grade-level content is imperative for helping students to succeed.

Another recommendation is to focus on the major work of the grade level. The New Jersey Student Learning Standards outline the major work of each grade level. This is the content students must have a solid understanding of prior to exiting the grade level. This is important to know and understand as teachers determine what content to spend additional class time on and when to move on. For example, if a grade 3 student shows a weakness in rounding strategies and understanding fractions, focus on the fraction content first, as fractions are part of the major focus of third grade. Students will continue to work on rounding strategies in fourth and fifth grade, however, if a student does not have a solid understanding of fraction concepts in third grade, they will continue to struggle throughout fourth and fifth grade.

Teachers never have enough time to address every single gap in student understanding. It is important to know what unfinished learning to address first and how far back to go. For more recommendations and pitfalls to avoid when addressing unfinished learning see the chart below.

Big picture

Building Relationships With Your ELLs

Teachers connect what they are teaching to a child’s past experiences in order to ease the acquisition of vocabulary, objectives, and complex skills. ESL teachers often find that one of the best ways to ease the acquisition of new vocabulary is by helping children build self-confidence where they are more willing to take risks and have a desire to explore and learn. In order to do this, relationship building is crucial!

In order to build relationships with students, a secure place for children to feel confident enough to express themselves needs to be in place. Risk taking is crucial for ELLs because they need to feel secure enough to speak, listen, read, and write as well make new friends in places they are still unsure about. ELLs thrive in places where they feel comfortable enough to take these risks. Therefore, it is essential for any teacher to get to know their students if they want to help their children learn beyond the academic part.

These are a few ways to build relationships with ELLs that teachers can apply in their everyday teaching:

1. Learn to pronounce and spell their name correctly! This is the first and foremost crucial part of getting to know an ELL. Taking the time to get to know how to say an ELL’s name and spell it correctly is often the first step in showing an ELL that their identity matters.

2. Home Language is another important factor for getting to know students. Too often students from one country are grouped together in speaking the same language but realistically may come from parts of the country that have different dialects and indigenous languages.

3. Student interests is another essential thing to learn about students. Even when I taught adults, I would take the time to get to know my students’ daily lives and interests. First it helped to facilitate language acquisition since some of the terms were already known to them and secondly it was high interest learning since it was something they had some familiarity in.

Dear Data Guy

Am I able to view my current and past student’s performance on district assessments and NJSLA Assessments?

Yes! We have multiple ways for our district teachers to view student performance on assessments.

  1. Teachers can view current and past students in Linkit!. Ensure you uncheck the “Restrict to tests taken in this class” on the class dashboard to see the results. You must also change the date period field back to view prior years. Make sure you choose the right class.

  2. Ask to view the Linkit! Navigator Reports associated with your grade(s) for your ELA/Math diagnostic assessments.

  3. Contact your building principal or test coordinator to view the NJSLA reports from this past spring if they have not been shared with you.

  4. Your benchmark system(s) have lots of reports built into them. Take some time during a grade level plc or attend an a pd event to learn more.

Big picture

Notes from Mr. Scotto

All new hires are currently participating in the HTSD New Teacher Induction Program. The goal of this program is to provide our new hires with additional support/guidance in the first few years of their employment. The staff meet (monthly) for one hour after school to "go deeper" with topics that are essential to working in the field of education.

To date, the new hires have attended sessions focusing on:

  • Classroom Management (September)
  • Legal (October)

Future topics include Communication (for November), Technology (for December), Special Education (for January), State Assessments (for February), Working with Guidance (for March), Assessment Design & Implementation (for April), Professional Responsibilities (for May), and Reflections/Goal Setting (for June).

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

Jeffrey Lesser, Art and Music (Interim)

Heather Lieberman, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science