6-12 Curriculum Newsletter

S'MORE Resources OCTOBER 2017


"The Future is Ours to Build Together"

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While it's hard to believe the first marking period is coming to a close, and everyone is busy finalizing SGOs and grades, we hope you'll take a few minutes to read the second edition of the 6-12 Curriculum Newsletter. This month's theme, Literacy Across the Content Areas, challenges us to provide our students with engaging, interesting, and thought-provoking texts and teach them active reading strategies.

"It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own." -- Katherine Paterson, author of The Bridge to Terabithia

Close Reading 101

While there are many ways to “close read” a piece of text, here are five simple strategies to help teach students how to critically read and annotate texts in every classroom. Close reading is an effective strategy to use when students are faced with complex text and they need more guidance than “be sure to underline the important stuff” or “summarize this article.”

1. Number the paragraphs

State standards note that students need to be able to cite and refer to text. By numbering each paragraph, section, or stanza in the left hand margin, you and your students will quickly be able to find the line(s) being referred to.

2. Chunk the text

When faced with a full page of text, reading can quickly become overwhelming for students. Breaking up the text into smaller sections makes the page much more manageable. Simply have students draw a horizontal line between paragraphs to divide the page into smaller sections.

Group the paragraphs into chunks that make sense based on the lesson’s objectives. For example, chunk paragraphs 1-2 together because they contain the hook and thesis statement, and group paragraphs 6-7 together because this is where the author addresses opposing views.

3. Underline and circle… with a purpose

Direct students to underline and circle very specific things. For example, when studying an argument, ask students to underline the author’s claims. Or, ask students to circle key terms. If a student only circled five key terms in the entire text, he/she would have a pretty good idea what the entire text is about. Students could also circle vocabulary they don’t know, transition words,or figurative language.

4. Left margin: What is the author SAYING?

In the left margin, ask students to summarize each chunk. Model this by demonstrating how to write summaries in 10 words or less.

5. Right margin: Dig deeper into the text

In the right margin, ask students to complete a specific task for each chunk. This could include:

  • Using a strong verb/phrase to describe what the author is DOING. For example: describing steps of photosynthesis or arguing what would have happened if Lincoln hadn’t won the election of 1860.

  • Representing the information with a picture.

  • Asking questions. Students often say they don’t have any questions. Model, model, model, so students can begin to learn how to ask questions that dig deeper into the text.

To ensure our students are college and career ready, it is so important they learn critical reading strategies that will allow them to independently attack a text. This is a much different experience than skimming through a text one time with a highlighter in hand!

Utilizing Literacy Strategies in the Math Classroom

-Students might be able to do the math, but they don't understand what the question is asking.

-I don't like the way the problems are stated in the textbook; students don't get what to do.

-If I simplify and reword questions for my students, then they can do them.

Sound familiar?

Since most mathematics teachers do not see themselves as reading teachers, how can they help students interpret problems? First and foremost, reading a math problem is very different from other types of reading. For example:

  • mathematics texts are written very compactly, containing lots of information and very little redundancy
  • texts can contain both numeric and non-numeric symbols that must be decoded
  • the reader's eye may need to travel in a different pattern than used while reading (left to right, top to bottom)
  • the basic structure may differ from that of most informational writing: the key idea often comes at the end of the paragraph (rather than in the first sentence)
  • many mathematical terms have different meanings in everyday use (examples: similar, operation, difference, prime)

Teachers can help students interpret mathematics problems by using strategic reading strategies, such as:

  • 'Thinking Aloud.' Share your thinking as you 'figure out' what a problem is actually asking students to do
  • Using context clues to figure out mathematics vocabulary
  • Paraphrasing the problem
  • Connecting problems to students' lives and previous math experiences
  • Using graphic organizers, such as the Frayer Model, Venn Diagrams and the Semantic Feature Analysis Grid, to help students organize mathematics meanings and concepts

ESL Connection

"My daughter speaks English. She doesn't need extra help. I hear her speaking with her cousins at home all of the time." How many times has a parent shared a similar message? Often times, many fail to realize the differences between social and academic language. Jim Cummings has contributed greatly to the principles of second language acquisition. He explains that language used in social situations or BICS, basic interpersonal communication skills, develops with 1-3 years. As a teacher, I often times worked with students who started the year using phrases such as "water" or "bathroom" to ask for permission. Towards the end of the school year, the same students would then use sentences such as "May I use the bathroom?" or "May I get a water drink?"

While social language develops much faster, the development of academic language or CALP, cognitive academic language proficiency, is more abstract and takes 5-7 years. In essence, students have to develop communicative skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in the content areas (math, science, and social studies). The following article will address the difference between social and academic language, the importance of looking beyond vocabulary, and how academic language will be used in your classroom.

Danielson Do

3C: Engagement vs. Compliance

“They were filling in their worksheets; no one was talking.” Students ‘doing’ something is not the same as being engaged in the material. Are they immersed in work that has meaning and value to them? Are they relating the material to something within their community or their lives? If not, chances are the students are merely being compliant, looking to get a good grade or avoid a consequence.

Here are some quick ways to get students more engaged in your lessons:

  • Use the 10:2 method. For every ten minutes of instruction, allow students two minutes to process and respond to the new material. Ask students to summarize what they have learned in 30 words or less, organize their thoughts in a graphic organizer, create "quiz" questions on the material, or discuss the content in a turn-and-talk.

  • Incorporate movement. Change your lesson from sedentary to active by asking students to 'choose a corner' to show their position on a debate/question, utilize whiteboards for small group responses, participate in a gallery walk, or stand (or sit) when ready to share their thoughts.

  • Pick up the pace. It's a misconception that teachers must go slowly for students to really understand and engage in a lesson. Evidence shows that teaching at a brisk instructional pace provides students have more opportunities to engage, respond, and move on to the next concept.

  • Provide frequent and effective feedback.

Social Media Spotlight

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National Writing Project

The National Writing Project (NWP) is a United States professional development network that serves teachers of writing at all grade levels, primary through university, and in all subjects.

Tech Tips

CNN 10: On-demand digital news ideal for the classroom

Increase listening comprehension skills with relevant and timely news broadcasts. The site also provides written transcripts and quiz questions. Teachers, please be sure to preview videos before utilizing in lessons.

5 Strategies for teaching close reading with tech

Check out several digital tools that may streamline -- or even enhance -- the close reading process.

Video Views



How do I see my students' i-Ready results from last year?

To view the prior year performance of all students in your class, go to Reports, Class Reports, and select Previous Academic Year (Student Performance). Select School and select Class.

To view a student's prior year performance, go to Reports, Student Reports, and select Previous Academic Year (Student Performance). Select School, select Class, then select the Student.


6-12 Business: Literacy Skills in Career and Technical Education Classes

6-12 English: Instructional Strategies that Facilitate Learning Across Content Areas

6-12 Math: 10 Ways Literacy Can Promote a Deeper Understanding of Math

6-12 Social Studies: Archive of Resources in American History

6-12 Science: Q & A on Unpacking Three Dimensional Standards

6-12 Industrial Arts: Teacher-Created Design Challenges

6-12 Art Education: Scholastic Art and Writing

6-12 Music Education: The Beauty of Beethoven

6-12 World Language: Literacy Methods in the Foreign Language Classroom

6-12 Health and Physical Education: Physical Education and Literacy-The Odd Couple or a Match Made in Heaven?

Testing: NEW PARCC Website. Use this for obtaining resources, such as PARCC released items, practice tests, performance level descriptors, and more.

Notes from Mr. Scotto...

As of the writing of this newsletter information, I have been able to present to almost every school in the District.

Since your building's PARCC Data Presentation, I hope that you have continued the conversation (with your colleagues) and begun to recognize that all staff (regardless of role) are key to the academic success of students. Your responses during (and after) the presentations have sent me a message of support and a desire to improve.

Keep up the good work!

HTSD 6-12 Curriculum Department

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction


Alejandro Battle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts

Kirsten Pendleton, Science and Technology

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Danielle Tan, Art and Music