Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

October 2019


Building a Better Tomorrow ... Together

Highlights from PD Day ... October 2019

Click on the title to view the video.

Taking a Risk in Your Math Class

You know that activity that you’ve always wanted to try? Now is the time to put it into practice. Growing as an educator sometimes means pushing your limits.

If you expect your students to be fearless in learning and to use their mistakes as opportunities for growth, then you should expect the same of yourself.

How do you find new ideas to try? Consider following other mathematics teachers on Twitter, listening to a podcast or reading blogs of mathematics teachers. Some of your best activities can be borrowed from those who have worked through them before you. Here are a few teachers to get you started, Dan Meyer, Kate Nowak, Cathy Yenca, Fawn Nguyen, Andrew Stadel, and Robert Kaplinsky.

Allow your students to know that you are experimenting with something new and are looking for feedback. You'll be surprised how willing they are to participate when they know that their input will affect other students in the future.

Remember, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” –Albert Einstein

Assessing 3D Learning in Science

Achieve recently released three new assessment frameworks for math, reading, and science. The frameworks have been developed by content experts and practitioners, and can be used to evaluate the cognitive complexity of assessment items, using discipline-specific criteria.

The science framework can be used to assess the degree to which an assessment task meets 3D learning. For example, does it ask students to intellectually engage in and make use of disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and cross-cutting concepts in service of sense-making?

Click here for a link to the science framework and download the frameworks themselves here.

Building Relationships with English Language Learners

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.

Big picture

Teaching Vocabulary in Secondary Classrooms

Teacher: Who can tell me what the word commodity means? How about propensity?

Students: No response

Teacher: Doesn’t anyone remember? I introduced these words to you yesterday.

Sound familiar? How do we make vocabulary instruction more meaningful? How do we help our students retain what they’ve learned?

Try these strategies:

  1. Introduce words gradually, no more than five per week. Introduce each word with a definition, example sentence, and an image (or better yet, have students draw an image)

  2. Have students brainstorm and come up with antonyms and synonyms.

  3. Have students use a Frayer Model graphic organizer.

  4. Provide time for students to practice writing sentences with context clues

  5. Incorporate practice activities on a choice board

  6. Create a word wall. Write words big enough for all students in the classroom to see. You’ll be surprised to see how many students look up at the wall when writing.

  7. Pepper your speech with the vocabulary. Repeated exposure helps students to learn

  8. Ask students to use the words in their journals, open ended responses, and Do Now activities.

Making Your Own Instructional Videos for the Business Classroom

Making your own instructional video, also known as a screencast, is a great approach to meet the diverse learning abilities in the business classroom. Edutopia has just published a great article on “A 5-Step Guide to Making Your Own Instructional Videos.” By making your own instructional videos, you can empower your business students to take ownership of their learning and to allow them to learn at their own pace. By using these instructional videos to replace the ordinary lecture on a business related topic, you can increase student engagement and free up time to work with students in a more differentiated approach. There are five main steps to creating an instructional video:

  1. Break up (Chunk) the Content: Keep your videos 6 minutes or less. Students tend to lose focus and become less engaged as the length of the clip increases. Instead of creating one long video, consider creating multiple shorter ones.

  2. Use Video Ready Slides: Google Slides that are suited for a lecture may not be best suited for an instructional video. Here is a sample of a video-ready slide template.

  3. Record Your Video: The Chrome Tablets and/or Chromebooks, which have been provided to the Business Department, are great tools to use when creating an instructional video. Here is a list of free screen recorders when using a Chromebook. Chrome extensions for screen recording

  4. Enhance Student Engagement: Just like when providing direct instruction or watching a video clip during class, it’s important to have students take notes and/or answer guided questions to better retain the material. Edpuzzle, which has been provided to every high school business teacher, can assist with adding questions and prompts to the instructional videos that have been created.

  5. Be Yourself: It’s okay to make mistakes and if the video is not perfect. You have built a rapport with your students and your personality should also shine through in the videos that are created.

So whether you are looking for ways to enhance student engagement, provide more opportunities for students to interact with technology, or free yourself up to assist students in your business classes with something like Project Based Learning, creating an educational video would be an effective instructional method to try.

Routines that Build Community

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 who 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!

Dear Data Guy

Am I able to view my current and past students' 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 systems have lots of reports built into them. Take some time during a grade level PLC or attend a PD event to learn more.

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).

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 Applied Technology

Sandra Jacome, ESL

Jeffrey Lesser, Visual and Performing Arts (Interim)

Joanne Long, Science and Applied Technology

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business