Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

April 2023


Holding Students Accountable For Their Learning

All educators encounter students who make excuses and fail to assume responsibility for their actions. Teachers must ensure their students are accountable for their learning and success. Holding students accountable doesn’t make the teacher “mean.”

It is about teaching life lessons and helping students understand

responsibility. Teachers give students the tools to better themselves

for their future by holding students accountable.

CTE education is an important component of helping students become more accountable. CTE education provides students with the skills and knowledge to be successful in the ever-changing world of technology and career paths. CTE classes provide hands-on learning that allows students to apply the knowledge and skills they learn in the classroom to real-world settings. This allows students to become more self-reliant and responsible for their actions. Furthermore, CTE classes help to develop soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking, which are essential for success in college and career.

Here are some tips:

  1. Allow students to take the lead: Students should be allowed to take responsibility for their academic success by formulating a plan and identifying the steps needed to meet their goals. The teacher should assist, monitor, and provide feedback. By assuming responsibility for their plan and their mistakes, they learn accountability.

  2. Create a positive classroom atmosphere where students feel respected: Treat students how you would want to be treated, and remember that demeanor and tone will send a message to students. Communicate goals and objectives frequently, and remind students they are responsible for their behavior and success.

  3. Make time for a reflective process: Students should be given adequate time to assess how well they meet their responsibilities. Rubrics are a helpful tool that enables students to grade themselves. Another helpful tool is the student portfolio, a compilation of academic work to evaluate quality, progress, and academic achievement. Students can also engage in reflective practices with their peers.

Get Your Students Talking In World Language

There are many challenges in education to get our students speaking to classmates that are not their friends, collaborating verbally in groups, or speaking in front of an entire class. This can be an even bigger challenge in a World Language classroom where a student is speaking another language that is not their native tongue.

The following are some playful learning strategies that can help

students overcome language anxiety while having fun.

Draw it out:

In this activity, students get to play a fun game of Pictionary while learning new vocabulary. Students draw a representation of a vocabulary term, and a partner tries to guess the word they've drawn. Organize students into small groups and give them a list of challenging vocabulary words and phrases that relate to the lesson's topic. Students explain their vocabulary terms to their partners and discuss their illustrations in the target language.

Inner circle, outer circle:

This exercise is great for getting students to interact with each other and share their thoughts on various topics. Students choose a partner and form two concentric circles, with one student in the inner circle and the other in the outer circle. Present a question to the class and have pairs discuss it for a set amount of time. Then, the outer circle of students rotates, allowing each student to speak with a new classmate.

Fortune teller:

Repurpose a childhood favorite and use paper fortune tellers to get students talking. Students choose a color and a number to determine the question they'll discuss in the target language. In pairs, one student operates the fortune teller while the other student chooses a color and spells it aloud, then selects a number to determine the flap to lift and reveal the question.

Role-play as influencers:

This activity allows students to practice their language skills by role-playing as influencers. Students work in small groups to create fake TikTok videos based on prompts provided. Each student plays several roles within the group, such as writing the script, operating the phone camera to record, and directing the student who would play the influencer. At the end of class, students submit their videos to the teacher for viewing. This can be completed on flipgrid.

Successfully Facilitating Controversial Topics

When facilitating discussions on controversial topics in secondary classrooms, it's important for teachers to create a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students. Here are some tips for handling controversial topics in the classroom:

  • Encourage open-mindedness: Foster an atmosphere of respect where all students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

  • Establish ground rules: Some examples might include: listen respectfully; avoid inflammatory language; allow everyone the chance to speak, etc.

  • Be aware of biases: Be mindful of your own biases and beliefs and strive to present information in an objective and neutral manner.

  • Be inclusive: Ensure that a diverse range of perspectives is represented in the classroom and that all students feel valued and heard.

  • Promote critical thinking: Encourage students to evaluate different sources of information, think critically about the issues, and form their own opinions.

  • Address potential conflict: Be prepared to address any tension that may arise during discussions. Encourage students to listen to each other, respect different perspectives, and find common ground.

  • Summarize discussion and gather feedback: Ask students to write a ‘minute paper,’ noting the three most important points learned and any important questions that remain unanswered.

How to Include ESL Parents in our Schools

It is no surprise to educators or school administrators that parental involvement is crucial to all students' success. However, overcoming language barriers with ESL (English as a Second Language) parents in the school can be a challenging task, but there are some strategies that our buildings can use if

not using already to improve communication and ensure

that the parents are involved in their child's education. Check

out the tips below to see if you there are any they may help to

get parents more involved.

  • Use a bilingual staff member or interpreter: Having a staff member who speaks the parents' native language or an interpreter can be very helpful. This person can help with translation and ensure that the parents understand what is being discussed.
  • Use visual aids: Using pictures, diagrams, and other visual aids can help you convey information more easily to parents who are not fluent in English.
  • Simplify your language: Use simple and straightforward language, avoiding jargon or complex words that may be difficult for non-native speakers to understand.
  • Provide translated materials: Provide translated materials such as handouts, letters, and notices in the parents' native language.
  • Use technology: Technology can be an effective tool for overcoming language barriers. Consider using online translation services, language learning apps, or video conferencing tools to communicate with parents who do not speak English fluently.
  • Be patient and understanding: Remember that communicating with ESL parents can take more time and effort. Be patient and understanding, and try to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.

By implementing these strategies, you can overcome language barriers with ESL parents in the school and ensure that they are involved in their child's education.

Higher Order Thinking Questions

Higher order thinking (HOT) questions are designed to challenge students to think critically and apply their knowledge in new and complex ways. In a secondary math classroom, these types of questions can be used to help students deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts and develop important problem-solving skills.

One example of a HOT question in a secondary math classroom might be, "How can you use the Pythagorean theorem to determine the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle if you know the lengths of the other two sides?" This question requires students to not only recall the definition of the Pythagorean theorem, but also to apply it in a new and unfamiliar situation.

Another example of a HOT question might be, "How can you use algebraic equations to model and solve real-world problems?" This question requires students to think about how mathematical concepts can be used to understand and analyze real-world situations.

HOT questions can also be used to encourage students to make connections between different mathematical concepts. For example, a teacher might ask, "How is the concept of a function related to the concept of a linear equation?" This question requires students to think about the similarities and differences between these two mathematical concepts, and how they can be used together to solve problems.

Incorporating HOT questions into a secondary math classroom can be an effective way to help students develop critical thinking skills and deepen their understanding of mathematical concepts. Teachers should provide ample time for students to work on these questions individually or in small groups, and should be prepared to provide guidance and support as needed.

Here are some ways of Developing Mathematics Thinking with HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) Questions.

Science of Learning

Learning can be a challenge for students of all ages, but understanding the Science of Learning can help create more effective environments for students. For children in grades 6-12, understanding how they learn best is essential for helping them reach their academic goals.

So, what is the Science of Learning? It’s a constantly evolving field of study that focuses on how we learn and remember things. Here are some tips that can guide teachers in creating more effective learning environments for their students:

  • Make Learning Fun: Engage your students with interactive activities, games, and group discussions.

  • Recall, Recall, Recall: Studies have shown that this is more effective than simply re-reading information. Use short quizzes, brief summaries, or classroom discussions to demonstrate what they know..

  • Use Spaced Repetition: Review information over a period of time, with longer intervals between reviews. This has been proven to be more effective for retaining information than massed repetition (reviewing all at once).

  • Feedback is Key: Essential for helping students understand how they're progressing and what they need to improve. Use specific, timely, and focused feedback with assessments and one-on-one meetings.

  • Be Positive: Emotions and motivation can play a significant role in how well students learn. Encourage positive emotions like curiosity, interest, and enjoyment in the classroom. Set challenging but achievable goals, and create a sense of community in the classroom.

Use these and innumerable other ideas, teachers can create a fun and engaging learning environment that helps students achieve their academic goals. Remember, learning isn’t a chore!

Have fun! Be engaging! Your students will remember more and they will thank you for it!

The Importance of Closure

Incorporating closure at the end of a lesson is an important part of teaching in the arts. Closure helps artists organize and retain their learning; connect the current learning objective to their overall understanding of the content; prepare for the next lesson; and it provides a sense of completion. Closure should be a part of every lesson. Here are some practical tips for incorporating closure into your lessons:

  • Review the main points: At the end of the lesson, review the main points that were covered. This helps students to organize the information and to identify the most important takeaways from the lesson.

  • Reflect on the learning: Using targeted prompts, encourage students to reflect on what they have learned and think about how it connects to their prior knowledge and understanding. This helps them to make connections and see the relevance of the content.

  • Connect to future learning: Tease the next lesson and provide students with an idea of what they will be learning. This helps them to see the connection between the current lesson and the next one, and to better understand the overall content.

  • Apply the learning: Give students an opportunity to apply what they have learned. For example, in a visual art class, have students create a piece of art that incorporates the concepts or techniques they have learned. In a music class, have students perform a piece of music that demonstrates their understanding of the concepts or techniques.

  • Summarize the learning: Provide a summary of the key concepts and skills that were covered in the lesson. This helps students to recall the information and to retain it for future reference.

  • Use assessment: Closure assessment is an effective way of determining a student's understanding and retention of the information covered in class, it could be a quick quiz, a discussion, or an open-ended question to respond to verbally or in writing.

To close, intentionally incorporating closure at the end of every lesson helps students organize and retain information, connect their understanding to the overall content, and prepare for the next lesson. It’s also a nice way to end your time with your students.

Dear Data Guy

Dear Data Guy-

Are we no longer administering the Start Strong Assessments this Fall 2023?

That is correct. As per the NJ Department of Education, School Districts in New Jersey are no longer required to administer the Start Strong Assessments. I see this change as a great opportunity to place a great emphasis on analyzing our own data that we collect and also ensuring we administer our fall benchmarks/assessments with fidelity. We have a treasure trove of valuable data on student performance in our multiple data systems. One of the key systems is our Linkit! Data Warehouse and test administration tool. Every district teacher has an account for Linkit! And the account is Linked to each teacher’s roster. School leaders and counselors as well as teacher leaders also have access to school level data. If you would like to learn more about Linkit! Or receive additional training, contact your building principal.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Our Spring PD Mini Series was very successful. We certainly hope that you were able to attend one (or more) of the sessions.

We are in the planning stages of our very popular, Summer Institute for Professional Learning. Once again, we will be looking for teacher presenters.

Perhaps you...

  • have a specialized educational talent or skill;
  • are willing to turnkey a strategy that you learned from an out-of-district workshop;
  • recently completed a graduate course and would like to share a best practice or recent educational research;
  • are looking to develop your PD training experience for your resume;
  • know of a fellow colleague who would be an excellent presenter.

Look for our presenter application packet in the coming days.

Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Michelle Griffith, ESL K-12, ESSER Pre-K

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Social Studies

Tracy Schwartz, Mathematics and STEM/STEAM

Matthew Sisk, Science and Applied Technology

Kerri Sullivan, K-12 Visual & Performing Arts

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