Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

April 2020


Building a Better Tomorrow ... Together

Pseudoscience & Fake News

A recent study of students’ online reasoning skills found that “96 percent of students did not consider why ties between a climate change website and the fossil fuel industry might lessen that website’s credibility. Instead of investigating who was behind the site, students focused on superficial markers of credibility, such the site’s aesthetics, its top-level domain, or how it portrayed itself on the About page” (Breakstone et al. 2019).

Another study (Education Week 2019) found that students could not separate fact from fiction in scientific posts on social media. And in December 2019, Ohio House Bill 164 was passed allowing students the right to answer scientific questions based on religious beliefs and not be penalized. This bill has far reaching consequences for science teaching and students’ understanding of what science is and is not.

Our students are consumers of information. They are future voters on vital issues, such as climate change, bioengineering, and other scientific phenomena. It is paramount that they understand the science behind these issues. If our students graduate knowing the steps of the Krebs cycle but cannot read and interpret scientific reports and social media

posts, then we have failed.

With mistrust in the media at an all time high, and with the huge amounts of new scientific information surfacing daily, we must move media literacy to the top of what we do as science educators. Factoids come and go, but scientific literacy is a lifelong skill we must help our students master.

Remote Learning and English Language Learners

This past month, all educators have risen to the initiative of having to teach remotely. Students, like teachers, also have had to make major adjustments to how and when learning would take place. In addition, an emphasis was now placed on technology as a basis to relay and receive information. These factors however, can add additional stress to English Language Learners who, up until recently, were learning verbal and nonverbal language as a way to communicate with their peers.

In addition, many of these students may not have been familiar with the different tools they are being asked to use in order to communicate in a possibly new way with their teachers. Visual supports as well as social supports are not the same as they were in the classroom. Therefore, modifications via remote learning when it comes to teaching English Langauge Learners are key to their success as students in remote learning.

Modifications can include short videos that are filled with pictorial supports and simplified language. Additionally, setting time aside to teach these students in a more individualized and guided instruction is very valuable. During this time, getting to know your English Language Learners and the possible hindrances and/or supports they may have at home will help in deciding what scaffolds are needed to support these students.

Remote Learning & The Arts

As educators, we are well aware that schools sometimes must enforce temporary closures; snowy days can result in a day or week closure, for instance. Most recently, schools across the globe have resorted to long term closures to stop the spread of COVID19. Whatever the reason, educators are often only given short notice when asked to prepare lessons for remote learning, which is especially tricky for arts teachers, who must get creative when teaching students who do not have adequate supplies at home. Just keep in mind that, when planned carefully, online lessons work and help students to maintain a sense of normalcy.

Encourage your students to get creative within the constraints of quarantine, and use anything around their home as creative media- as long as their parents approve! The assignments shouldn’t simply keep students’ skills sharp, but should provide an opportunity to express themselves and the emotions they’re feeling during this unprecedented time. As artists, they have developed the skills to embrace those feelings and create something fantastic! For art teachers, this might be a good time to teach for artistic behavior (TAB). TAB is a community of educator mentors advancing the creative confidence of all learners through choice and student agency: Click Here for more information.

Exhibit your students’ creative work in your Google Classroom or platform of choice, and encourage students to critique- just as they would in the classroom! Peer critique will not only trigger the growth mindset, but provides access to their peers- helping to maintain social wellness. Afterall, the arts are communicative, powerful, and healing!

Here are a few tips:

  • Encourage expression, creativity, and outside-the-box thinking.

  • Don’t overload students with work - quality over quantity.

  • Check in on your students social and emotional wellbeing.

  • Ask students how they’d like to creatively experiment and give them the opportunity!

Teaching and Learning with The New York Times

The Learning Network (TLN) publishes approximately 1,000 teaching resources across subject areas each school year, all based on content from The New York Times (NYT). Resources include articles, essays, images, videos, graphics, and even podcasts. Their intended audience is middle and high school teachers and students 13 and up.

Some highlights of the resources include:

  • Current Events Lessons: Each day, TLN selects one current NYT article and provides a warm-up, discussion questions, and an extension activity.

  • Student Opinion Questions: To help students practice writing for an authentic audience, a new question is posted daily that invites students to read an article and respond with their own ideas.

  • Picture Prompts: On Tuesdays through Fridays, TLN posts image-driven prompts (photographs and illustrations) and invites students to respond to a prompt. For example, a recent photo (see photo included in this article) is entitled Carrying the Weight and asks students, “What do you think this image is saying?”

  • Film Club: Every Thursday, a short (less than 10 minutes) documentary film is featured; students are asked to think about themes like race and gender identity, technology and society, civil rights, artistic expression, and more.

You can follow TLN on Facebook or Twitter and/or subscribe to their free weekly newsletter. The Learning Network is now facilitating webinars weekly. Archived webinars can be found on the Learning Network's YouTube channel.

Instruction and Assessment During Remote Learning

Remote learning has taken teaching to a new level, but as educators, assessments should still continue to drive our instruction and be an essential part of our learning environments. The question then becomes, how do we, as educators, properly assess our students without the in person interactions we are so accustomed to? Below you will find a list of suggestions that can be implemented throughout a wide range of grade levels.

  • Presentations

Students can create presentations on topics being learned. These presentations can be created for teachers and sent directly to them. They can even be presented in front of classmates via video chats, for instance, or recorded previously and then shared with the group (i.e., Screencast a google slide or record and share a flipgrid presentation).

  • Online discussions

Teachers can pose a question(s) to be discussed by the class. Participation can be easily tracked by teachers and credit assigned. Online tools that can make this possible are: Insert Learning, NowComment, or Kialo.

  • Written assignments

These assignments are no different than what has been used in a traditional learning environment. Students can continue to write essays, journal entries, research papers, etc. to demonstrate content retention.

  • Formative Assessments

Bell ringers, comprehension checks, and exit tickets are vital to helping educators determine if the students are comprehending the new content or not. No matter the online tools that are used, the focus should be on keeping the students engaged and responding with something meaningful. There are many tools to use in this area (Padlet, Formative, Poll Everywhere, Google Forms).

Conquering Math Anxiety

Math anxiety is defined as “the panic, helplessness, paralysis, and mental disorganization that arises among some people when they are required to solve a mathematical problem.” Current research is finding that math anxiety is not just a response to poor math performance—in fact, 4 out of 5 students with math anxiety are average-to-high math performers (Education Week 2020). On the contrary, math anxiety is linked to higher activity in areas of the brain that relate to fear of failure before a math task, not during it. For instance, feeling suddenly blank and unable to think. This type of discomfort tends to make those with math anxiety more reluctant to practice math, which then lessens confidence and skill. It is important to note that children aren’t born fearing math. Their anxiety tends to rise as they age, as they confront more challenging content and exposure to other people’s negative attitudes regarding mathematics.

What can you do to help?

  • Implement a growth mindset classroom environment

  • Address incorrect answers in a positive manner

  • Let students know that mistakes are okay

  • Reward individual effort instead of praising only math achievement

  • Encourage students to share thinking and process with less emphasis on right or wrong

Remote Learning with Newsela

Remote learning is an unprecedented event that will be marked in history. As educators navigate this unique learning environment, Newsela continues to be a valuable resource that can be used in multiple content areas.

Newsela continually evolves to grow and provide new resources that can be used in the classroom. Below you will find the most recent highlights that were recently added to Newsela to assist in Social Studies, Science, and/or ELA.

Newsela Social Studies

Distance Learning Collection

Cornerstone Activities

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals with Google Earth Voyager

Virtual Museum Tours Collection

Daily Lessons

Newsela Science

Resources for Distance Learning

Daily Lessons

Easy Experiments For Students

Science Word of the Day

Think Like a Scientist

Newsela ELA

ELA Distance Learning Activities

Cross Curricular Daily Lessons

Just For Students

In order to use the links, be sure to sign in to your Newsela PRO account. For a list of other quick links for more ELA, Science, and Social Studies resources click HERE

Dear Data Guy

When I assign lessons in i-Ready, I usually prefer to assign specific lessons to my students versus having them follow their individual pathways. Is there a correct or incorrect way of utilizing the system?

Good question!

I am glad you are utilizing i-Ready with your students. There is no right or wrong way to utilize i-Ready. You may assign lessons that correlate with the work you are doing for the week or you may utilize the system to auto-assign lessons based on the student’s strengths/weaknesses. i-Ready assigns lessons based on the student’s performance on the last diagnostic assessment. Please remember to monitor the instruction weekly because students who do not get a passing score (70%) in a domain will have that domain shut off. You will then need to turn the domain back on.

Please go to htpps://, click on the 'plus sign,' and use the code 6xondhi for more information about how to turn back on a domain and other information about the system.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

It's hard to believe that Friday, April 23rd was our twenty-fifth day of remote learning. Within this remote period of learning, we are implementing Danielson's Domain IV - Professional Responsibilities on a daily basis. This domain focuses on:

  • Reflecting on Teaching (4A);
  • Maintaining Accurate Records (4B);
  • Communicating With Families (4C);
  • Participating in the Professional Community (4D);
  • Growing and Developing Professionally (4E);
  • Showing Professionalism (4F).

As we begin this next cycle of remote learning (teaching), I encourage you to think about the components where you have been "the strongest" and which components where you know you need to "focus a little further."

Keep up the good work, HTSD!

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 STEM/STEAM

Sandra Jacome, ESL

Joanne Long, Science and Applied Technology

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Danielle Tan, Visual and Performing Arts