Willingboro Public Schools

Dr. Ronald Taylor - Superintendent of Schools

CURRICULUM MATTERS - MONTHLY NEWSLETTER (FEBRUARY 2019)

Introduction


WPS has a never-ending commitment to creating and maintaining a guaranteed and viable curriculum that will ensure the academic success of our students. This newsletter is a part of this equation, helping to communicate our curricular happenings and instructional activities across grade levels and content areas to district educators, parents and students.


While all of our curriculum guides are available through an online database called edConnect, this newsletter is intended to provide a closer look at the some of the learning experiences and outcomes that our students undertake.


Please feel free to browse through the curriculum updates provided by our talented team.

WPS Mathematics Corner

Competencies!

Students in Grades 1-4 should all have completed their Unit 2 Competencies (assessments) and are now working towards their Unit 3 goals. Please encourage them to practice their skills and fluencies, as these form the foundations to future learning. Students in Grades 5-12 have two Competencies: a summative assessment (test) and a performance task.


Our district competencies complete two objectives simultaneously. First, they properly assess student learning in relation to the appropriate grade-level learning standards. Second, they help prepare our students for the type of rigor they will see on the upcoming NJ Student Learning Assessments (NJSLA). These standardized tests have replaced PARCC and will be administered in Grades 3-11 in late April and May. More information about the NJSLA will be released shortly.


Understanding the NJ Student Learning Standards in Math

You may see posts on social/mainstream media critical of the NJ Student Learning Standards in Mathematics. They claim the standards are inefficient and convoluted in comparison to the more traditional math methods and algorithms. The revised standards stress real conceptual understanding. When students do not understand the meaning of the underlying mathematics, they can either get the answers correct or not, depending upon how well they follow the procedures, BUT they are unable to apply or interpret the results because they do not understand the concepts. The NJ Student Learning Standards go beyond procedural understanding, and that's a good thing for everyone involved.


STEM Conference!

Please keep your eyes out for paperwork coming home with your child from their science teacher regarding the STEM Conference. Since mathematics is the language of science, most projects will have a mathematical component to them. Feel free to have your child seek assistance from their Math teachers in finding, calculating, measuring, and presenting their data. This is a great opportunity to explore the mathematical relationships that present themselves in science, technology, and engineering (as well as math).


Check us out on the Web!


Student Work (see the gallery below):

In order for students to be successful with mathematics beyond school, they need to be able to use it and apply it...not just calculate it. This particular problem talked about 4 groups of 6 copies. Each group of 6 copies represented ¼ of the total number of copies. The relationships between parts of the whole, repeated addition, multiplication, whole numbers, and fractions all come into play here. In Grade 5, students learn more about fractions, building upon this knowledge. In Grade 6, students will learn more about ratios to be applied to the Grade 7 standard of proportions and Grade 8 percentages, moving on to algebraic relationships between variables.

WPS Science Corner

Elementary Spotlight on Science Learning


Young children are “super curious,” said Matt Krehbiel, Director of Science for Achieve, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students graduate from high school ready to start college or to pursue a career. “We want them to be able to harness that curiosity to help them make sense of the world around them.” That is one of the reasons WPS decided to update our existing science resources in all grade levels.


FOSS (Full Option Science System), a new adoption this year in Grades 1-5, has opened our elementary students’ eyes to the wonderment of science. This resource allows students to have a more hands-on approach to learning. One of the things that FOSS stresses in elementary science is “Active Investigation”.


Active investigation contains:


Context: questioning and planning. The context of an inquiry can be established with a focus question or challenge from the teacher or in some cases, from students. This might start with a teacher demonstration or presentation. Then students are challenged to plan an investigation. This clarification of context and purpose results in a more productive investigation.


Activity: doing and observing. In the practice of science, scientists put things together and take things apart, observe systems and interactions, and conduct experiments. This is the core of science—active, firsthand experience with objects, organisms, materials, and systems in the natural and designed worlds. In the FOSS program, students engage in the same processes as scientists. Students often conduct investigations in collaborative groups of four, with each student taking a role and contributing to the effort. The active investigations in FOSS are cohesive and build on each other and the readings to lead students to a comprehensive understanding of concepts. Through the investigations, students gather meaningful data.


Data management: recording and organizing. Data is accrued from observation, both of the direct (through the senses) and indirect (mediated by instrumentation) variety. During and after work with materials, students record data in their notebooks. Data recording is the first of several kinds of student writing. Students then organize their data so that the data will be easier to think about.


Analysis: discussing and writing explanations. The most important part of an active investigation is extracting its meaning. This constructive process involves logic, discourse, and existing knowledge. Students share their explanations for phenomena, using evidence generated during the investigation to support their ideas. They conclude the active investigation by writing a summary in their science notebooks of their learning as well as questions raised during the activity.


But how do the students like it?

They love it!! There have been rave reviews from many students. Take a look at some students as they participate in an active investigation with meal worms in Ms. Marcucci’s Science class!

WPS Literacy Corner

IMPORTANCE OF READING ALOUD


Giving ALL children a foundation for success!


Reading aloud is not only a great way of engaging with young children, but it promotes language development and early literacy skills. Reading aloud is one of the most important things parents and teachers can do with children. Reading aloud builds many important foundational skills, introduces vocabulary, provides a model of fluent, expressive reading, and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about. Find great tips for reading aloud here.


Reading aloud should not end when our children leave elementary school. Older children benefit from read alouds too! Audible books are a great option for struggling readers or for anyone who enjoys hearing stories.


Looking for great read aloud titles? Start here, NEA Read Across America Collection, 2018-19. Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and National Education Association (NEA) partnered to promote Read Across America with a selection of titles and activities for each month of the year. The books drive home the message that diversity in our communities make us special and strong. Each month’s book features activities and resources to build on the theme of neighborhood and community.

WPS Curricula: Unit Competencies

As part of the district's curriculum writing initiative in Grades 1-12, unit competencies were embedded into every unit of study within every curriculum guide. These unit competencies are summative assessments that measure mastery of the knowledge and skills as laid out in the NJ Student Learning Standards.


Students in Grades 1-4 take one competency at the end of each unit of study in their major content areas while students in Grades 5-12 take two competencies at the middle and end of each unit of study in their major content areas.


As the district focuses on fewer overall summative assessments that more accurately measure what a student knows and is able to do, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:


  1. Every unit of study in every content area does not start and end at the same time - a student may be in Unit 2 in Math but in Unit 3 in Science
  2. Each Marking Period's start and end dates do not necessarily coincide with the start and end dates of any particular unit of study in any course
  3. The Report Card Grade represents the student's grade in each course at that exact moment in time. The student will continue to be formatively and summatively assessed and graded and as such, his/her overall grade in the course will remain in a state of flux up until the end of the course.

The video below, from the Wisconsin Department of Public Education, does a great job of explaining the important role summative assessments play in the evaluation of student learning. Take a look!

https://youtu.be/ySYFrQDRZHQ

Curriculum Writing & UbD

This past spring and summer, the Willingboro Board of Education approved a massive revision to over 85 of our courses in preparation for the 2018-19 school year. All of our curriculum guides utilize the Understanding by Design (UbD) methodology, written by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, that offers a framework for designing courses and content units called “Backward Design.”


The backward design approach has instructors consider the learning goals of the course first. These learning goals embody the knowledge and skills instructors want their students to have learned when they leave the course. Once the learning goals have been established, the second stage involves consideration of assessment. The backward design framework suggests that instructors should consider these overarching learning goals and how students will be assessed prior to consideration of how to teach the content. For this reason, backward design is considered a much more intentional approach to course design than traditional methods of design.

https://youtu.be/4isSHf3SBuQ

Willingboro Public Schools Board of Education

Dennis Tunstall - President

Grover McKenzie - Vice President

Tonya Brown

Gary Johnson

Kimbrali Davis

Debra Williams

Laurie Gibson-Parker

Carlos Worthy

Alexis Harkley

WPS Office of Curriculum & Instruction

Ron Zalika

Director of Curriculum & Instruction

rzalika@wboe.net


Marti Hill

Associate Director of Instruction & Programs

mhill@wboe.net


Jennifer Brandon

Supervisor of Instruction - Science

jbrandon@wboe.net


Michael Braverman

Supervisor of Instruction - Math

mbraverman@wboe.net


Sharon Williams

Supervisor of Instruction - Literacy

swilliams@wboe.net