Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

January 2021

Making Everyday Phenomena Phenonmenal

Central to the vision in the Framework and the NGSS are three instructional shifts:

  • explain phenomena and design solutions to problems,

  • engage in three-dimensional learning, and

  • build coherent learning progressions over time.

These instructional shifts highlight the differences between traditional and contemporary science learning:

  • Traditional approaches focus on individuals mastery of discrete elements of science content (what knowledge is). This approach typically presents information from science textbooks, and the result was often that some students learned science, but science did not make sense to many students.

  • Contemporary approaches emphasize making sense of phenomena and problems (what knowledge does), just as scientists and engineers do in their work.

Use of local phenomena helps to promote both equity and science with students applying science and engineering to their daily lives in the context of their home and community. All students bring with them a vast array of cultural and community resources that help them make sense of phenomena and problems. From a science perspective, through project-based learning, students integrate science disciplines as they investigate a driving question to explain a phenomenon and use engineering to design solutions to a problem.

As student diversity continues to grow and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shape the education system, the role of phenomena will continue to be refined for all students, especially those students who did not see science as relevant to their everyday lives or future careers

Disinformation is Out There: Here’s How Teachers Can Help

Disinformation (n): false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth (Merriam-Webster). The news can be a great tool to assist students make sense of the world. However, as students continue to scan the web for news, they are constantly being bombarded by various sources of information, some of which provide disinformation. Fact-checkers and news outlets frequently debunk things like conspiracy theories, distorted photos, and misleading reports. However, some students who are still unaware may bring this disinformation into the classroom.

In the October edition of the 6-12 C&I Newsletter, an article discussed the importance of educators staying neutral, encouraging their students to see both sides of an issue and to provide evidence to back up claims. In a world where information is at our students’ fingertips, it is also imperative that we as educators foster students who are critical thinkers and question the world around them.

Here are two ways teachers can assist students in becoming better informed and savvy consumers of the news around:

Encourage Students to Think and Become More Aware: Using resources like Checkology, encourage your students to become more aware of the news and gain some critical tools to evaluate the credibility of information they come across and determine where it's from.

Empower Students to Make Choices: At times, a news source tends to have biases when sharing information and students must learn how to become an educated consumer of the news they encounter. Using a source like Allsides, which analyzes and provides news from various media outlets may assist in wading through some of the political biases that are present in different media.

Facilitating Classroom Discussions Using the Art of Critique

What might a teacher need to do in order to facilitate a good classroom discussion? In the arts, self and peer critique is a common practice that plays an integral role in igniting discussion; but teachers of all content areas can utilize the art of critique to engage the students in a detailed analysis and assessment of a literary, philosophical, artistic, or political theory.

First, identify and develop an age-appropriate topic that is relevant to their curriculum and interesting to the students. The theme should be broad enough to invite multiple perspectives and encourage diverse viewpoints. Educators should also consider how the activity will deepen or expand their students’ understanding about the topic.

Next, allow time for students to look carefully at an art piece, prototype, passage, or model before beginning discussions. Once they’ve had adequate time for evaluation, ask them to list words, ideas, interests, or initial observations that come to mind when they look at a work of art, prototype, passage, or model. Be sure to have students use specific visual evidence found in the work to support their thoughts and opinions, and encourage them to compare and make connections to previous work.

Once the discussion has taken off, be sure to keep it flowing by asking students to add to their friends’ observations, or using follow-up questions such as “How do you know that?" “What clues do you see that give you that idea?” or “What do you see that makes you say that?”

Learning the best practices for a critique can take time, but when done properly, this process can fuel your students’ growth!

Language, Time, or Something Else

Whether or not an English Language Learner is struggling due to language or due to other factors is something that may be overlooked. This is why it is very important to get to know the student, his educational background, family life, and anything else that may help to decipher whether or not a child’s struggles are due to language, time, or possible disability.

If a disability is present then it will be present in their dominant language. Dominant language is assessed through language screening. However, sometimes screening alone will not pick up on other factors that are truly affecting the child’s ability to learn. Careful assessment via time and ongoing observations along with anecdotal evidence will help give a better idea as to what may be going on. In doing so, it is very important to make sure that cultural differences are taken into account as well.

Notice and Wonder

When students become active doers rather than passive consumers of mathematics greater gains in mathematical thinking can be realized. Many students don’t know how to begin solving word problems. They don’t trust or make use of their own thinking. They freeze up or do any calculation that pops into their head, without thinking, “does this make sense?” They don’t have ways to check their work, test assumptions and may miss key information in the problem. You can help by creating a safe environment where students focus on sharing their thoughts without any pressure to answer or solve a problem.

Here is an example of a notice/wonder protocol:

  • Display a problem scenario or complete problem.

  • Ask students, “What do you notice?”

  • Provide time for students to share and you record results.

  • Ask students, “What are you wondering?”

  • Provide time for students to share and you record results.

  • Ask students, “Is there anything listed that you are wondering about? Anything you need clarified?” If you or the students have questions about any items, ask the students who shared them to clarify them further.

By asking What do you notice? What do you wonder? you give students opportunities to see problems in big-picture ways and discover multiple strategies for tackling a problem. Self-confidence, reflective skills, and engagement soar, and students discover that the goal is not to be "over and done," but to realize the many different ways to approach problems.

Station Rotation During Hybrid Learning

One model that stands out in blended learning to assist in the hybrid lessons is the use of Station Rotation. This model assists in allowing teachers to divide their class into small groups and provide a variety of activities working towards the objective of the lesson. Having the class broken up into small groups allows the teacher to closely observe student progress while they are engaged in the content provided.

Another way to think of station rotation is to compare an agenda you may have in mind for a linear lesson and make it a horizontal lesson. In other words, break down all tasks you planned to complete as a class into small group stations. Once the students are set in their groups, make sure that all students know their responsibilities and expectations in each station.

It is important to know that lessons that have station rotations may take multiple lessons, and that’s okay! Once you get started with a station rotation model, it can easily transfer to any instructional environment, whether virtual, in person, or hybrid. At the end, this is a strategy that can provide more flexibility and opportunity for a teacher to differentiate instruction, build rapport and community with students in smaller groups, and allow more time to view and assist in student progress.

Some things to consider when setting up your stations:

  • Google Meet breakout rooms are a perfect layout to group students regardless if they are in person or at home.
  • Is there a job or responsibility for each student in each group (i.e., Facilitator, Recorder, Reporter, etc.)?

  • Station rotation may warrant brain breaks. Before transitioning into the next station, invite all students, whether in school or at home, to stand up, stretch, and move.

Station Examples

  • Online Learning Station

    • General example- You can use screencastify with EdPuzzle to provide students with immediate data-informed instruction.

    • Students can work on the interactive web resources introducing students to new vocabulary and concepts for a specific unit.

      • World Language Example- Student work via Conjuguemos

      • Health Example- Student work via Companion Website GW Health

  • Teacher Station

    • Rather than jump from station to station, a teacher can stay in one station with a set goal in mind for the lesson of the day. This is an opportunity for a teacher to check for understanding in real time and provide students with immediate feedback.

      • Physical Education Example- Review student form on a new fitness tasks and provide challenges along with modifications

      • World Language Example- Assess students in a Interpersonal Speaking Task

  • Collaborative Learning Station

    • This is a cooperative setting for students to build on their skills to build relationships, confidence, and trust by learning to rely on each other in group work. Prep digital resources would be needed to assist in guiding the students and what the objective is for the group and what tools they can use to complete it (ie- collaborate on a Google Slide or Jamboard).

      • Health Education Example- Students may create a nutrition based Jamboard of MyPlate describing all food groups.

      • World Language Example- Students may create as a group, a Google Slide presentation on food and culture from a specific country and have to later present it on a later date.

Reading Biographies May Inspire Your Students

An easy way to capitalize on students’ interests in other people’s lives is to have them read biographies. No matter the content area, promote good character by providing students with exemplars of those whose actions demonstrate the human capacity for integrity, courage, perseverance, and compassion. Reading biographies allows students to learn that they are not alone and recognize that others have found ways of overcoming hardship in constructive ways.

There are many reasons why biographies can and should be read across the curriculum:

  • Biography excerpts make great mentor texts. Use small sections from biographies in your classroom when you’ve assigned students a personal narrative or autobiographical essay. Authors’ writing styles vary greatly and you never know what style might resonate with a student.
  • Learning about the accomplishments of other people is inspiring and may open students’ minds to possibilities that they might not have thought of.
  • Students can learn about the world through the struggles and challenges others have faced. Learning about and understanding other peoples’ perspectives will foster our students' ability to empathize with others.
  • Reading biographies provides variety in a student’s reading ensemble since many students gravitate towards fiction. After all, the majority of what we read as adults is non-fiction, so it makes sense to teach students about the nonfiction genre.

Don’t have time for students to read an entire biography? Check out Newsela; the platform has amassed hundreds of articles that focus on notable individuals, from athletes and artists to historical figures and scientists. Reading about public figures can be enriching and inspiring at all grade levels. … after all, who doesn’t love a good story?

Dear Data Guy

I am trying to break down my i-Ready data into demographics (Race, ELL, Special Ed). Is there an easy way to do that on the i-Ready Platform?

Demographic Filters allow you to analyze student strengths and needs and identify trends for subgroups that may otherwise go unnoticed when viewing aggregate data. This allows you to better allocate resources and create interventions that will aid in closing the achievement gap and improve the educational outcomes of all students (National Forum on Education Statistics (NFES), 2016).

Good news! i-Ready now has a drop down for you to sort your students into subgroups.

Here is a LINK to use to see how to access the filters in i-Ready.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

The classroom environment is certainly different than it was prior to March of 2020.

During a recent after-school Domain II Refresher Session, participants were able to examine/discuss practical strategies to strengthen 2A (Respect & Rapport) and 2B (Culture for Learning). Please take a moment to review the information noted below:

  • Implement virtual morning meetings (strengthen community, trust, sense of belonging, student wellness);
  • Define active listening (non-verbal cues);
  • Review norms for engagement (before formal instruction begins);
  • What does speaking, recording, and writing look like/sound like on your preferred instructional platform?
  • Send a pre-lesson message to help students transition to a school mindset;
  • Offer sentence stems/starters to set students up for success (no matter the grade level/subject).

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 & Title I Pre-K

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