K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

March 2021

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Prompting Creativity In Students

How can creativity benefit your class? Creativity is the ability to think outside of the box and develop original ideas. Many people believe that creativity is focused on the arts; while it is cultivated in the arts, it can be fostered in any class!

Typical arts teachers will tell you that they feel pressured to focus their instruction on “the end product.” However, the truth is that focusing on the process over the product will aid in developing a creative mindset. When discussing creativity, ensure that students understand that it has nothing to do with their artistic abilities, but instead how well they can do the following:

Think of Multiple Solutions: Pushing a student beyond one idea can be challenging, but we must encourage them to brainstorm multiple solutions to a problem. Start with something easy and progress towards more complex problem-solving.

Develop Original Ideas: Encourage students to look beyond the obvious and develop unique ideas. When presenting students with a problem, have them start by responding with the most obvious or cliché ideas. Then, have them develop ideas beyond those typical responses.

Make Connections: Use divergent questions to help students look for and make connections.

Encouraging students to utilize methods like Design Thinking and Mind Mapping will aid in the creative process. Additionally, developing activities that vary in theme and subject matter will show students that creative thinking can be applied universally—not only in the arts. Presenting students with problems to solve from other content areas can create interdisciplinary connections and opportunities.

Building Fluency in Subtraction

Ask any educator what their students struggle with the most and they will probably tell you math facts. Fact fluency is a struggle for many students and, with remote learning and the learning loss associated with the pandemic, the gaps continue to grow.

Now is the time to examine practices and refocus our instruction. In an article entitled “Fluency in Subtraction Compared with Addition,” it is noted “that we need to deemphasize fluency in subtraction in the primary grades and emphasize addition. Our reason for saying this is that if children become fluent in addition, they will later become fluent in subtraction. However, we recommend giving plenty of word problems involving subtraction (as well as ‘‘multiplication’’ and ‘‘division’’). The reason for this statement is that first and second graders (as well as many kindergartners) are perfectly capable of developing the logic of subtraction, multiplication, and division (Kamii, 2000).”

Educators jump so quickly into trying to develop fact fluency that kids don’t have a true understanding of what subtraction, or any operation really means. Students need to be given the time to explore operations through contextual math problems as a path toward fluency.

The three key strategies for making subtraction easier for students are to de-emphasize subtraction fluency, spend more time building addition fluency (true fluency, not memorization), and emphasize the relationship between addition and subtraction. By using these strategies, students will become more proficient with subtraction over time. Luckily, these strategies can also be translated to multiplication and division.

Ideas for Virtual Community-Building

A major foundation to building on engagement is building or sustaining that community, whether it is in person or remotely. In the spirit of the HTSD Engagement Challenge, here are pointers on how to assist students in getting more involved in a lesson, not only with their teachers but also with their peers. Although today’s classroom may look a little different than the traditional classroom we are accustomed to, there are still many ways to assist in building or sustaining your virtual/in-person classroom community.

Mutual Sharing

Short Check-ins: At the start of each session, each student can verbally respond to a specific question.

Masked Selfie Activity: Students can prepare their selfies prior to the meeting and share. "Reveal" what lies behind the mask, literally and figuratively!

  • Health/ PE Example- This can be done with the Google Meet chatbox or polling and Pear Deck to name a few;

  • World Language Example- This would be done in the target language in writing or verbally.


Autobiographical writing: Provide opportunities for students to write in ways that are meaningful, personal, and creative. Create a space for students to share with one another.

  • Health/ PE Example- One can focus on the SEL Competencies, especially Self Awareness and Self Management.

  • World Language Example- One can work on a presentational writing activity that may also have a focus on cultural components.


Background Music: Play music as students log onto Google Meet and begin class routines. This can assist in breaking the ice during an awkward first couple of minutes of silence. You may even allow DJ Requests. Allow students to provide song requests via Google Classroom or Google Forms.

  • Health/ PE Example- Tempo is everything. Do you want it to be an upbeat song that works with your warm-up or a lighter song to calm and focus the students towards a specific task?

  • World Language Example- Music is a staple in culture! Allow the music to relate to your thematic units. Students may also be challenged to translate or express the wording and meaning of a song in the target language.

Differentiation vs Scaffolding

Although complementary, scaffolding and differentiating are unique in their meaning and in teaching. Both are important in teaching and both are needed when teaching ELs. When deciding which to use with which student or groups of students, it is important to understand what each means and how they can be used to benefit students in either the whole group or in their individual needs.

Differentiation refers to meeting the needs of individual students. When it comes to ELs, differentiation may often be based on WIDA’s Can Do Descriptors. These descriptors help to tell what a child can do in each of the four language domains. Therefore, teachers can design an individual student’s lesson around what the student can do in order for he/her to be successful.

Scaffolding are strategies teachers use to help students solve problems on their own. Unlike differentiation, scaffolding strategies can be presented to the whole class and/or to individual students. The goal of scaffolding is for the teacher to give the students tools/techniques so that they can solve problems. These may include but are not limited, mini-lessons, visual supports, sentence frames, sentence stems, graphic organizers, etc.

With ELs, scaffolding would be the initial strategy to use when presenting new material. From there, the teacher can differentiate based on the needs of individual students. In addition, some scaffolding techniques may be used to differentiate for the student. Both, however, are strategies that will help ELs achieve their individual learning goals.

Student Choice During Writing

Writing is an essential part of our world, and students need to carve out their own literary niche. Choice creates the opportunity for students to express their experiences, thoughts, and passions in their own way. When given the opportunity to own the process, students are motivated to be leaders in their writing. Choice encourages students to work harder and increases their engagement in the task. Providing students with choice makes the learning process student-centered. There are many ways that student choice can be incorporated into daily lessons and activities.

All components of the writing process support student choice and teachers can design their lessons to foster student empowerment. For example, during the pre-writing stage, students can choose from a variety of graphic organizers to organize their writing. Self-reflection is another way to incorporate student choice. Students have a chance to create goals for their writing and track their progress towards their own goals throughout the unit. Finally, during the revision stage, teachers can present a menu of revision techniques and elements that students can include in their writing.

While empowerment is important, a balance of student choice and expectations is essential for a successful writing classroom. There are times where students do need to write about a certain topic or practice a specific writing technique. For example, during narrative writing students need to showcase how moments in the story connect to one another. Teachers can present students with a list of transitional phrases where students select the ones that work best for their writing. This showcases how a teacher is able to assess the skill while still incorporating student choice.

Here are some ways to incorporate student choice into writing:

  • Free Write: During a center, provide students a chance to write about anything they would like, which grants the students creative freedom.

  • Self Assessment: Students evaluate their writing against a rubric and select an aspect to revise to elevate their writing.

  • Writing Strategy Selection: Provide a list of writing strategies that students can choose from to incorporate into their writing.

  • Sharing Final Draft: When students are finished with their work, allow the students to select how they would like to publish their writing. Ideas include: posting on a Google Classroom, recording a Flip Grid of the student reading the writing, or creating an illustration that represents their writing.

  • Weekly Tic-Tac-Toe: Present 9 writing activities in a Tic-Tac-Toe 3x3 format. By the end of the week, students are expected to complete three in a row. The activities can connect to the learning objectives of the week, and students can choose when it is best for them to utilize the strategies in their writing.

Dear Data Guy

What is a Lexile score?

That’s a great question. A Lexile score is a Framework for understanding a student’s ability level and the instructional level for a student. This score when used correctly can give the educator the ability to find materials that are appropriate for the student. Additionally, there are two kinds of Lexile measures; reader measures and text measures. The reading measure tells us about our student’s reading ability whereas the text measures tell us the difficulty of a text, such as a book, magazine article, etc. A beginning reader would be at a 0 Lexile Level, whereas an advanced reader is at a 1600 Lexile Level. Lexile.com has additional information on Lexile scores including how to measure growth with Lexile scores. Some of our assessments in Linkit! have Lexiles so you are able to measure growth through the platform.

Notes from Mr. Scotto

Notes From Mr. Scotto

We made it to Spring...

During the Fall & Winter, we offered 73 workshops and processed 616 registrations for session attendance. I thank you for your continued participation; this confirms our district's ongoing commitment to professional learning.

With Spring, comes a new "menu" of offerings. In the coming days, we will release our 20 Spring offerings that will run from April 14th - June 3rd. We anticipated opening registration (via MLP) on Wednesday, April 7th.

Hope you can join us!

HTSD Curriculum Department

Anthony Scotto, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Supervisors of K-5 Staff

Alejandro Batlle, Health/PE and World Language

Kevin Bobetich, Testing/Assessment

Sandra Jacome, ESL K-12, Title I Pre-K

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

Laura Leidy-Stauffer, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science & ESSA Grant