Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

November 2021

Hamilton Township School District

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Incorporating SEL into your Everyday Classroom

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is more than a trend, it is something that all schools are striving to tackle as we continue to come back to in-school norms. Many educators may not know this, but they may already be incorporating the 5 SEL competencies into their everyday lessons (Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social-Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making ).


Self-Awareness and Self-Management are skills that assist in the growth and improvement of oneself (ie- self-reflection and goal setting). Social-Awareness and Relationship Skills are skills that students need to have successful relationships with one other (ie- group work and communication). Responsible Decision-Making allows students to identify, analyze, and solve a problem).


Activities that relate to SEL Competencies

Self-Awareness

  • Google Form or Pear Deck check-in on student emotions or even students’ feelings about a lesson/activity and their understanding of the content.

    • World Language Example- Can be completed in the target language

Self-Management

  • Mindfulness activities. Self-management has a lot to do with impulse control, stress management, and self-motivation.

    • Health/PE Example- Allow a mindful minute for your students each and every day. It can be at the start, middle, or end of a lesson depending on what the class and teacher feel they need. Allow the students to stand and stretch or sit, close their eyes, and breathe for a minute. Also, ask them to set a goal for the end of the day before they reset to the day’s lesson.

Social-Awareness

  • Give opportunity for students to learn about and celebrate their own and other cultures.

    • World Language Example- Projects on Spanish speaking countries

Relationship Skills

  • Team Building Activities. Give the students a chance to showcase the ability to get along and make meaningful connections with others.

    • World Language Example- After a reading activity, pose questions that will all students to discuss conflict and resolutions from the reading. See examples questions below:

      • What is this story’s main conflict?

      • What do the main characters want to happen?

      • How can the characters work together to make everyone happy?

Responsible Decision-Making

  • “What Would You Do” Activity? Educators try to provide students with skills that will help them out of school in the future. This activity provides students with an opportunity to problem-solve regarding scenarios that a teacher provides them.

    • Health Example- Students reflect on putting themselves in a scenario regarding peer pressure and how they may feel and handle that situation.


Culturally Responsive Arts Education

During our November in-service our presenter spoke to us about Culturally Responsive Arts Education. We know that the arts are an excellent vehicle to incorporate students' cultural background knowledge to build new knowledge and skills.


As we continue to develop our lessons, consider the following reflective questions:


Do my lessons...


  • include student-created questions and consider students' background knowledge (of the lesson/current unit)?
  • integrate opportunities for student reflection?
  • allow learning experiences to be customized in connection with the students' homes/communities?
  • encourage students' perspective-taking and empathy toward people from backgrounds, cultures, and contexts different from their own?
  • promote high expectations for all students based on the 2020 Visual & Performing Arts Standards?
  • use materials reflective of diverse cultures?



As our presenter shared with us....."The student artists we serve bring the legacy of their race, culture, and perspectives of the world into our classrooms. In what ways do we leverage their knowledge and passion throughout their learning journey?"

Current Events: The Importance of Teaching All Sides

Current events are a great way to elevate our students' awareness of the local and global issues that are occurring in the world today. Bringing current events into the classroom gives students a real-world context for their experiences; therefore, making curriculum more relevant. However, when utilizing current events from different news sources, there is the potential risk of providing a biased view of a particular event or topic.


Everyone has biases and that is what makes it almost impossible to curate perfectly objective news. As educators, it is imperative that we are not imparting any of our own personal biases on our students. Instead, we should be helping our students discover the facts, acknowledge all sides of a topic, and develop their own personal opinion based on factual evidence. One way we can do this is by providing students with articles offering various perspectives on the same topic or event.


Finding these various sources can seem overwhelming. AllSides is a great resource you can utilize to accomplish this task and to provide students with a more balanced view on today’s top stories. In addition to providing multiple perspectives of today’s news, AllSides also offers resources like a Media Bias Chart, Rate Your Bias Tool, and more. These tools, resources, and access to multiple views on the current events enable teachers to assist students in exploring digital news, analyzing media bias, and learning how to appreciate diverse perspectives. This, in turn, will develop individuals who can critically analyze information and become more well rounded consumers of the news.

Sentence Expansion Activity Suitable for ANY Classroom!

Are you looking to build your students’ literacy and thinking skills? Would you like to find a way for students to better show their understanding of content? If you said yes to either question (or both), try using a sentence expansion activity called Because - But - So.


The Because - But - So activity allows writers to connect ideas in sentences as well as help them write more complex sentences. It is best used when applied to content already being taught in class … and can be used across the curriculum!


To utilize this strategy, ask students to take a short independent clause* and expand upon it using each of these three conjunctions (because, but, and so). At the close of the activity, students will have written three separate sentences; one will provide a reason (because), one will provide an exception or contradictory idea (but), and the other will provide an effect or consequence (so).


*An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone as a simple sentence; it contains a subject and a predicate and makes sense by itself.


Here is an example using the independent clause: A solid melts to form a liquid.

  • A solid melts to form a liquid, but it can also sometimes sublimate to form a gas.

  • A solid melts to form a liquid because heat or pressure causes the ordering of molecules to break down.

  • A solid melts to form a liquid, so a glacier is really water waiting to happen.


Here is an example using the independent clause: Salvador Dali created images that were distorted from reality.

  • Salvador Dali created images that were distorted from reality because he wanted to create a dreamlike quality in his work.

  • Salvador Dali created images that were distorted from reality, so they can be interpreted in many different ways.

  • Salvador Dali created images that were distorted from reality but was influenced by Impressionism and the Renaissance masters.


By adding a conjunction and expanding on an original thought, sentences become much more complex and interesting. Additionally, by asking students to write three new sentences from the one clause, they are reflecting on and processing the original idea in a multitude of ways. This low-prep activity would be a great Do Now, Exit Ticket, or short answer question on an assessment!

How Public School Science Standards Address Climate Change

Late in 2019, more than 11,000 scientists endorsed a report stating “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” In fact, virtually all climate scientists say overwhelming evidence shows that human-caused climate change is real.

We can already see the effects of climate change today, including more extreme weather events such as severe droughts and destructive storms. Such weather extremes are putting increasing pressure on water supplies and on the farmers and ranchers who supply our food. Rising temperatures also lead to more heat stress and other health challenges, including poor air quality and more infectious disease. Rising ocean levels threaten coastal populations, and more acidic ocean waters threaten marine life. And the negative impacts of climate change are severe for especially vulnerable communities — including low-income communities, rural communities, and people of color — that lack the resources to recover and adapt and already experience disparate challenges in health and health care.

The political debate over the reality of climate change and human responsibility for it rages on, and is shaping public policies. But to what extent are public schools helping students understand what is happening and preparing them to responsibly engage in civic deliberation on the problem and possible solutions? To help answer this question, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (TFNEF) engaged in a comparative study of how each state's science standards for public schools address climate change.

See the report from the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund here.


Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions

Facilitating productive discussions about mathematics is very challenging for any teacher. Some lessons can end effectively with a “share and summarize.” At other times, a more purposeful discussion is needed to bring out the key mathematics of a lesson. A key component of productive discussion is teacher facilitation. This facilitation is not accidental and cannot, generally, happen on the fly.

Below are 5 concrete steps that can help improve the quality of mathematics discussion in your class:

1. Anticipating likely student responses to mathematical tasks.

  • Involves envisioning potential student responses, strategies (correct or incorrect), representations, procedures, and interpretations.

2. Monitoring students’ actual responses to the tasks.

  • Involves paying close attention to students’ mathematical thinking as they work on a problem.

3. Selecting student response to feature during the discussions.

  • Involves choosing particular students to present their work because of the mathematical responses whether correct or incorrect.

4. Sequencing student responses during the discussions.

  • Involves purposeful ordering of the featured student responses in order to make the mathematics accessible to all students.

5. Connecting student responses during the discussions.

  • Involves encouraging students to make mathematical connections between different student responses ensuring that key mathematical ideas remain the focus of the lesson debrief.

The Importance of Teaching Academic Language Through Context

Social language and academic language are equally important for the success of ELLs in school. Social language is often learned first and is used most often by ELLs. It is the language learned in everyday social conversations with peers, family, friends, and colleagues. It isn’t as complex as academic language, but it still can take some time to master. Academic language, however, is more complex and is constantly changing depending on the theme and context needed within each discipline. Academic language is the language learned in each content area, theme, and even trade. It is the language specific to making sourdough bread for example, or the language specific to playing hockey, or even the language needed to talk about Romeo and Juliet. Each context has specific academic language that is necessary for comprehension of that particular skill, book, or trade.


One of the more useful scaffolds when teaching ELLs is to pre-teach new vocabulary. Pre-teaching vocabulary is more effective when tapping into a student’s prior knowledge. When prior knowledge is accessed, a student can make connections that are important in understanding the meaning of new vocabulary. This is more useful than giving students a list of words to memorize.Vocabulary becomes more meaningful, hence more comprehensible.


An important scaffold to use when teaching academic language is to use the new vocabulary in context. When teaching vocabulary through context, a student creates meaningful connections in addition to accessing prior knowledge. A student is able to not only hear the word but also use the actions associated with certain words. For example, when making bread, the student gains understanding of the academic language associated with the bread-making process such as letting the dough “rest” or “proofing” the dough. Teaching academic vocabulary through context helps students to not only gain new words but also gain new meanings to words as well.

Data Guy

Most of us have applied for a loan during our lifetime. The first step in the process for applying for a loan is to check your credit score. Some people are shocked when they check their credit score because they thought their score would be higher. I mean we all pay our bills on time, and the mail always gets there on time for payment. It takes endless calls to try to fix a bad credit score. I write about this because I have seen K-12 students get a lower score on a state assessment or local assessment and then the student is subsequently put into a special program that she or he might not need. I bring this up to emphasize the importance of gathering good data (fidelity), and exercising your professional judgement to dig deeper when making placement decisions. Just as we can be financially impacted by a bad credit score, we don’t want our students educationally impacted by one score. As we learned during our RTI training this month, we must also consider a student’s executive functioning (performance in the classroom), multiple measures, and curricular gaps before making decisions on student placement or programming.


Notes from Mr. Scotto

Earlier this month I had the privilege of facilitating a panel discussion for one of my professional organizations. The topic was Cultivating Educator Efficacy. During the session, panelists were able to share their own experiences about positively impacting student learning and supporting teacher leadership.


The final portion of the panel referenced the November 2021 edition of ASCD's Educational Leadership. The edition reminds us of the many ways educators can become involved and/or empower others. Initiatives such as (but not limited to):

  • Instructional Improvement;
  • Coaching/Mentoring;
  • Collaborative Professional Learning Approaches;
  • Data Collection;
  • Cultural Competence;
  • Culture-Building Strategies.

Which of the aforementioned initiatives resonates most with you? Why?


Perhaps you are already doing this work and do not realize it; perhaps there is a colleague in your school/department that does this work and you need to take a moment to thank them/recognize them for their efforts.


If you are interested in reading further about the information noted, click here to access ASCD's monthly publication.


Hamilton Township School District

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum & Instruction

Supervisors

Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Karen Gronikowski, Mathematics and STEM/STEAM

Sandra Jacome, ESL K-12, ESSER III Pre-K

Joanne Long, Science and Applied Technology

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Robert Pispecky (Interim), Visual and Performing Arts