K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

March 2023

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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.

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.

Nix the Tricks

In mathematics, it's important to avoid using tricks that rely on memorization or patterns rather than understanding the underlying mathematical concepts. Some common "tricks" to avoid in elementary math include:

  • rounding numbers without understanding the rules for rounding;

  • memorizing multiplication tables without understanding how to multiply numbers;

  • using shortcuts to solve problems without understanding the process;

  • using estimation without understanding how to calculate an exact answer;

  • using formulas without understanding the underlying concepts and principles.

Instead, it's important to focus on understanding mathematical concepts and applying problem-solving strategies in a systematic and logical way. Doing so will help students build a strong foundation in mathematics and develop the ability to solve a variety of mathematical problems. Here are a few effective strategies to improve problem solving skills:

  • Visualization: Encourage students to use visual aids such as drawings, graphs, or models to help them understand the problem and find a solution.

  • Breaking Down Complex Problems: Encourage students to break down complex problems into smaller, more manageable parts, and solve each part separately.

  • Reasoning and Critical Thinking: Teach students to analyze problems, make predictions, and test their solutions to see if they are reasonable. This can help students develop their critical thinking skills and improve their problem-solving abilities.

  • Real-World Context: Present problems that have real-world relevance, as this can help students see the practical application of the math they are learning, and motivate them to solve problems.

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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Use visuals: Visual aids such as pictures, diagrams, or videos can help students understand the question better and provide a context for their response.

4. Repeat and rephrase: Repeat the question and rephrase it if necessary to help students understand what is being asked of them.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Encourage participation: Encourage all students to participate, but be sensitive to their language proficiency level. Provide positive feedback and praise for their efforts.

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.

Dynamic Feedback for Learning

Feedback is a term we hear and use frequently. It is also a concept that lacks clarity. Advice, evaluation, and feedback are often used synonymously, but they mean different things and play different roles in learning. Feedback is descriptive information that helps us reach a goal. Feedback can be verbal or nonverbal, explicit or implicit. Feedback helps students understand their strengths and areas for improvement. It also helps them to become leaders of their learning by setting goals and monitoring their learning progress. 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.

Bridge a Connection Between Reading & Writing

Reading and writing are connected on a variety of levels providing teachers multiple opportunities for teachers to build connections between the two. By developing strong reading skills, students become better writers, and vice versa. As students are developing strong literacy skills, it is essential to teach reading and writing congruently because they rely heavily on each other for their success. Reading presents students with new perspectives, content, and ideas about the world around them. Writing is how students share their opinions, voice and knowledge with the world. Both skills serve an essential purpose in the students' lives. When students are reading, they see firsthand how authors use different writing techniques to convey their messages, literary techniques are utilized and how word choice impacts the meaning of the text. As they read, they are absorbing all of these skills and techniques, which they can then apply to their own writing.

The following are elements of literacy instruction where teachers can connect reading and writing:

  • Mentor Texts:Utilize a mentor text to model the skill in reading and writing. Students can view a text through a different lens depending on their purpose. For example, teachers can utilize the same text to show how readers analyze a literary element like setting, and then use the same example to showcase how to develop a setting in your writing.

  • Mini Lesson Connection: Use mini-lessons to teach specific reading and writing skills. For example, you could teach students how to effectively utilize dialogue in their writing or discuss what they learn about the character through the dialogue while reading. This can help students see the connections between reading and writing in a more focused way because the same skill is taught through both lenses.

  • Writing About Reading: Provide students the opportunity to write about what they are reading. This could include summarizing or analyzing a literary element. Writing about reading can help students develop comprehension skills and improve their writing. Students can also respond to what they read through a reflection. This can help students develop their own voice and build critical thinking skills.

Overall, teachers should encourage our students to read widely and often. Exposing them to a variety of genres and authors will help them develop a broad understanding of language and writing techniques. In the same vein, students should be encouraged to write frequently, allowing them to practice the skills they have learned through reading. By fostering a strong connection between reading and writing, we can help our students become confident and proficient in both skills

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 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 struggle 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.

HTSD Curriculum Department

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Supervisors of K-5 Staff

Alejandro Batlle, K-12 Health/PE & World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing, Data, and Staff Evaluation

Michelle Griffith, K-12 ESL

Karen Gronikowski, K-5 Math/Science

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

Laura Leidy-Stauffer, K-5 ELA/SS

Kerri Sullivan, K-12 District Supervisor of Art and Music