K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

March 2020


Artistic and Visual Thinking Practices to Teach Culture

As educators, we are responsible for providing engaging activities which foster empathy and compassion, teach the value of multiple perspectives, and encourage respect for differences. The arts are a leading resource and strong foundation on which to nurture empathy and emotional intelligence. Vast possibilities to intensify learning exist by integrating the arts into lesson planning and teaching.

Artistic practices can be utilized to help students navigate social relations and connect to people with cultural differences. The artworks seen below are often referenced to teach close reading and visual thinking skills.

Similar to close reading literature, close reading artwork involves a critical analysis that focuses on significant details and develops a deeper understanding. Students should pay close attention to the values and beliefs of the culture when close reading, comparing and contrasting, discussing, writing, etc.. The following questions are meant to foster empathy and acceptance, and break down cliques and intolerance.

What do you see in the artwork?

At first, students should withhold interpretations and focus solely on their observations. This strengthens their ability to reason through practice making sustained observations before jumping into judgment.

What do you think is happening? If this artwork is the middle of the story, what might have happened before? What do you think is about to happen? What do you wonder?

This routine will stimulate curiosity, help students discover complexity, and encourage multiple points of view- with no wrong answers.

What could have been happening in history when this artwork was made? Does that change your understanding of the artwork? The artworks above might include the Mughal Empire and/or the Harlem Renaissance, African American culture, and identity. When students investigate and discuss work from diverse cultures, they may begin to comprehend ambiguity and appreciate differing perspectives.

Choose a person in the artwork and step into their point of view. How might they feel? What might they know? How might your interpretation be different from someone of another culture? This routine encourages perspective-taking, projection, and empathic thinking. Use it when you want students to see beyond the surface, make personal connections, and explore different viewpoints.

Awesome Read Alouds for Helping Students Manage their Feelings!

More and more research has shown that our children are experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than in past generations. The daily factors contributing to this sharp rise are not going away any time soon. Because it is almost impossible to control every factor creating increased distress, we can help our children by teaching them about their emotions and how to cope with them in healthy and safe ways.

We use read aloud in school to teach children how to follow rules in class, use comprehension strategies, and become better writers. We can also use read-aloud texts to teach children about their feelings and how to manage those feelings in a healthy way. Books are a great resource to start discussions with students about all kinds of difficult situations, emotions, feelings, and problems.

Here are a few read-aloud books to help children understand, manage, and cope with anxiety, worry, and stress. Be sure to preview the books to decide if they are suitable for the lesson you want to teach and for your students.

  • Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes - Poor Wemberley Worries About Everything. Grades K-2

  • Wilma Jean The Worry Machine by Julia Cook - Wilma and her teacher work on conquering her worries together. Grades 2-5

  • David And The Worry Beast by Anne Marie Guanci - David’s anxiety is a beast, and the more anxious he gets, the bigger it grows. David learns to control his thoughts, and his beast shrinks. Grades K-4

  • What To Do When You’re Scared And Worried by James J. Crist - The book covers the basics of what anxiety is and how to help manage with coping skills. Grades 4-5

  • Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst - Helps children to understand that our feelings are not always rational, and sometimes everything just feels bad. Grades K-3

Using Mistakes to Drive Instruction

Math is often viewed as the subject of perfection by parents, students, and teachers alike. Teachers often check off the correct steps and answers and then try to fix the student’s mistakes. Rather than seeing mistakes as a negative part of the learning, teachers should be viewing mistakes as the most important key to improving math instruction. Mistakes can be celebrated and used as a vehicle to move students toward a deeper mathematical understanding.

So, how do teachers use mistakes to drive instruction for students? The questions to focus on are, “Why did the student make the mistake?” and “How would you help this student?” Looking at why students are making this mistake will help teachers determine what gaps the students have in understanding. Once teachers understand why the student made the mistake, teachers can begin to plan how to help students.

One of the best activities to engage students in beginning to celebrate mistakes is using the strategy of My Favorite No. This is a great assessment activity that turns students’ mistakes into learning opportunities for students. My Favorite No is a great way to turn mistakes into celebrations. Saying things like, “This is my favorite mistake of the day!” and “This is a really great mistake!”

So, how does it work? First, ask the students to solve a math problem on an index card and then turn it in. After all the work has been collected, sort the cards into piles for correct and incorrect answers. Look through the pile of incorrect answers, choose an especially good mistake. This can be one that many students make or one that highlights something you want the kids to notice. You can then recopy the student’s work onto another card so the student’s handwriting can’t be recognized.

The next step is to share the work with the students. Ask the students to identify what was done well and then ask them to find where the mistake occurred. Have students explain and justify their thinking.

This activity can be used as a warm-up activity or an exit ticket. It provides the teacher with such valuable information about how well students understand the concepts you are teaching.

Mistakes are so important to celebrate in math. By changing the mindset from math perfection to celebrating the mistakes and the learning that is occurring, students become more engaged and willing to take risks in sharing their mathematical ideas.

Indigenous Languages

Indigenous languages are languages native to a particular region/people within a particular country. Of the twenty-one Spanish speaking countries throughout the world, indigenous languages make up about eight percent of the Hispanic population and fourteen percent of the poor population in those countries, Mexico, for example, has sixty-seven indigenous languages while Guatemala has twenty-four indigenous languages. In 2019, UNESCO launched a website specific to Indigenous Languages throughout the world to raise awareness in an effort to preserve these languages that are endangered for extinction.

Of all the indigenous languages in South America, Quechua is the most common that is still surviving. Although it is still spoken by millions of people in Latin American countries, it is still considered an endangered language as Spanish is becoming more prominent. However, it is a recognized language in these countries and speakers of Quechua may request to have government documents translated.

Most indigenous languages like Quechua are quite different from Spanish. The numbers one, two, three in Spanish are uno, dos, tres. In Quechua, they are huk, iskay, and kimsa. In the United States, most people presume that someone from a Latin American country speaks Spanish. For indigenous speakers, this is a problem when attending hospitals, courts, schools, etc. where Spanish is the predominant language besides English. As a result, indigenous languages like Quechua are becoming endangered to become extinct as more pressure is placed on people who speak it to switch to Spanish due to social, economic, and political pressures.

Managing Your Remote Learning Classes

As we move into remote learning, we are all looking for tools and strategies to assist with the current learning environment. This creates opportunities to promote new norms, set new expectations (with some flexibility of course), and build a culture within your remote learning setting.

One focus should be the ability to manage the online classroom. Some best practices in our usual environments should not be forgotten simply because we are in a remote setting. Just as in the beginning of the school year, setting expectations and routines are crucial for success. It is important to remember to also keep building on the classroom community you had when you were back in the classroom.


  • Create a fun and engaging online environment. Google Meet so students can see you and their peers, Google Hangouts or Flipgrid to chat/message you and their peers, Padlet to create a parking lot for Q&A and even exit tickets.

  • Create a way to feel present, and it does not have to be live. This can be done on a platform that allows you to give students feedback, such as Remind, Google Classroom, or Flipgrid.

  • Establish norms for office hours and video conferencing. Students can be taught how to ask questions without interrupting the current speaker. For instance, when on camera with a group of talking heads, ask students to hold up the index finger to indicate a response to what’s being discussed and two fingers to indicate they want to bring up something new.

  • Teach about plagiarism. Cheating online is easier, but it’s also easier to catch. Teach what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

  • Keep in contact. Communicate with small groups of students and also the whole class regularly. Recognize when it is time to do a one on one intervention and email a student and/or parent directly (or even call).

Dear Data Guy

Instructional Systems (ex. iReady, Study Island, Imagine Math, etc.)

In this month’s version of Dear Data Guy, I thought it would be good to go provide some suggestions about using instructional systems.


  • It is important to monitor all Instructional Systems on a daily basis. Here is a list of some important questions:

    • How long does it take for my students to complete the lessons?

    • Are my students passing the lessons?

    • Are my students completing the required number of lessons?

  • Based on the answers to these questions, the teachers should adjust/assign lessons accordingly.

Virtual Check-ins/Data Chats

  • Immediate and Timely Feedback is the key to good instruction. Think about the resources available to you to communicate with your students. It doesn’t hurt to have a good old fashioned phone call with your student, or a zoom/google hangouts check-in.

  • Here are some questions to ask?

    • How are you doing in the lessons? What do you find hard/easy?

    • Do you require any assistance or help from your parents?

    • What is your goal? 70% pass rate, 80% pass rate

Notes from Mr. Scotto

As of the writing of this newsletter, we are about to enter week three of our remote learning plan. When I entered education twenty-five years ago, I never thought schools would manage teaching and learning in a remote fashion.

Well, here we are.......trying to plan and instruct our students from home. As we continue to work through this time, I strongly encourage you to reflect on the following questions to ensure we continue to provide HTSD students with a high quality education:

  • Am I beginning to introduce new content (or am I just reviewing previously taught material)?
  • Is my webpage up-to-date and user-friendly to students and families?
  • When is the last time I reviewed the resources provided by my department supervisor?
  • How am I reaching all of my students (regardless of access)?
  • How do I know my students are understanding the material that is being covered during the remote learning period?
  • Is there a colleague I can contact who is successful with remote instruction?
  • Do I need to sign up for virtual PD?

Just some food for thought.....

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