K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

February 2019


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This newsletter is provided to you on behalf of the entire curriculum department. The curriculum department provides you with many avenues for professional development including twitter chats, on site help sessions, PD days, after school training, etc.

What does group talk sound like?

Educators are always looking for new ways and strategies to further engage their students and encourage group talk. The fact of the matter is that many students WANT help but don’t know how to ask for it and many students are willing to OFFER help but don’t know what to say. Here are a few prompts for leaders and for those who may struggle or might need some guidance to help promote more authentic classroom conversations.

Phrases for Leaders

  • Maybe you can try…

  • What worked for me was…

  • Can I show you my steps?

  • I see your stuck, do you need help?

  • Did you try doing_______?

  • Where are you stuck?

  • How can I help you?

  • The first step I did was…

Phrases When Struggling

  • How did you?

  • Why did you__?

  • I am not sure why you______.

  • Can you slow down please?

  • Can you explain to me why/how?

  • The part I’m stuck on is__.

Why Arts Integration?

Arts integration has become common practice in many classrooms across the country, but many teachers still don’t understand the concept. New Jersey defines arts integration as an interdisciplinary teaching practice through which non-arts and arts content is taught and assessed equitably in order to deepen students’ understanding of both. Research studies have revealed the benefits of arts integration, including: improved academic achievement, student social emotional development, teacher practice, and classroom culture.

Successfully implementing arts integration does not require artistic talent from teachers or students; after all, the practice isn’t meant to create artists, it’s about nurturing a whole individual. Teachers are encouraged to innovatively merge art concepts with other contents and engage students in authentic, hands-on, real-world experiences that demonstrate understanding in ways such as dancing, painting, or dramatization. Emotional safety is key to the process, and everyone's voice must be welcomed and valued. Teachers should model vulnerability, the willingness to take creative risks, and also be prepared to shift their expectations of what an orderly, productive space might look like.

To get started, follow the steps below:

  • Select one arts standard and one of anther content area

  • Explore essential questions and big ideas that are common between the standards

  • Develop a project that investigates the standards while incorporating critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity

  • Consider the outcomes:

    • what are the end goals and objectives?

    • what data collection methods will analyze student comprehension?


Guided Math Workshop Model: Part 1- What It Is?

As our district continues its transformation from traditional math instruction to the guided math workshop model it is important to understand why math workshop is an educational best practice. As educators, we need to reflect on what good math instruction looks like. In order for the math instruction to be strong, we need to develop ways to reach all levels of learners, ensure that students are engaged in daily, rich mathematical discussions and that we allow ample time for students to grapple with mathematical ideas. Guided math workshop model is a way to ensure students are engaged in mathematics.

According to Jennifer Lempp, author of the book Math Workshop: Five Steps to Implementing Guided Math, Learning Stations, Reflection, and More, there are seven characteristics of math workshop.

Math workshop is not...

  • Teachers doing most of the math.
  • Teachers assigning worksheets.
  • Students quietly listening to only the teacher.
  • Students working in isolation.
  • Teachers rescuing students when they struggle with challenging mathematics.
  • Teachers showing and telling students how to solve problems.
  • Teachers solely presenting to the whole class.

Math workshop is...

  • Students doing most of the math.
  • Students making choices.
  • Students enthusiastically talking about their mathematical thinking and reasoning with each other.
  • Students working collaboratively.
  • Teachers allowing students to struggle with challenging mathematics.
  • Teachers facilitating, clarifying, connecting, monitoring, and collecting data as students solve problems.
  • Teachers working with small groups and/or individual students.

Math workshop is more than just an outline of math instruction, it is an educational philosophy. This model creates a mathematical community of learning where students are expected to share responsibility for their own learning. This includes opportunities for students to be exposed to accessible mathematical tasks, open-ended problem solving, small group instruction, student choice, and time for practice of important concepts throughout the year. In short, math workshop is simply good math instruction.

Knowing = Growing

~Giving Meaningful Feedback to Students~

Who would disagree with the idea that feedback is a good thing? Both common sense and research make it clear: lots of feedback and opportunities to use that feedback enhance performance and achievement. BUT here’s the most important thing to keep in mind...the feedback must be meaningful, specific, and timely. For feedback to have a positive impact it needs to explicitly tell the learner if what they are doing is right or wrong. The feedback also needs to provide useful suggestions on how to improve their work. When providing feedback to students, keep these things in mind to ensure that your feedback helps students reflect on what they have done and develop a plan to make improvements:

  • Be as specific as possible: An example of specific feedback would be, “I liked the way you used your opening paragraph to draw in the reader. Continue to use strong adjectives to keep the reader engaged”. Feedback like "Great job!" does not tell the learner what they did right, and likewise, a statement such as "Not quite there yet" doesn't give any insight into what they did wrong or how they can do better the next time around.

  • Timing is everything: Feedback is most effective when it is given immediately, rather than a few days, weeks, or months down the line.Of course, it's not always easy to provide students with feedback right on the spot, but sooner is definitely better than later. An excellent opportunity to provide feedback is during student conferencing.

  • Present the feedback with care: The way feedback is presented can have an impact on how it is received, which means that sometimes even the most well-meaning feedback can come across the wrong way and reduce a learner's motivation. Be sure to fully explain the purpose of the feedback, and ensure that the learner understands how the feedback is meant to help them.

  • Involve the learner in the process: When students have access to this information, they develop an awareness of their learning, and are more easily able to recognize mistakes and eventually develop strategies for tackling weak points themselves.

Watch this great Edutopia Video on students giving each other feedback!

And for more information check out Seven Keys to Effective Feedback.

1 Wiggins, G. 2012, Seven Keys to Effective Feedback. Educational Leadership, Vol. 70, pgs 10-16

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Dear Data Guy

How can I tell if my students are chronically absent?

Chronic Absenteeism is defined as any student who is absent for greater than 10% of the school year, or about 2 absences a month. At this point in the year, a student who has 12 or more absences is on track for labeled as chronically absent. Any student who has 8 or 9 absences right now would be considered at risk. Most parents and teachers do not know that only religious holidays do not count as absences. A doctor’s note for an illness does not excuse the absence.

Where can I find my student’s absenteeism data?

All teachers are able to see their student absences in PowerSchool. We also have the total number of absences for each student for the last two years in Linkit!. Your school’s yearly chronic absenteeism data can be found on the School Performance Reports home page.

Additionally, our school district is the beneficiary of the All Kids Thrive Grant through the Princeton Area Community Foundation to help keep kids in school. Two organizations were awarded grants to help us combat chronic absenteeism. Check with your building principal or your “Be There” team for more information.

Coming Soon!

ACCESS for ELLs 18-19

ACCESS for ELLs is a state assessment administered annually to K-12 ESL students across New Jersey. It is available for Kindergarten students in a paper-based format while Grades 1-12 complete the assessment online. This assessment measures students’ academic English language in four language domains: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. Students’ ACCESS scores reflect proficiency levels ranging from Level 1 (Entering) to Level 6 (Reaching).

Our district’s testing window is February 25 - March 15, 2019. Elementary students begin testing on February 25 while the secondary schools begin March 4.

To help prepare our ELLs for this assessment, provide as many opportunities for students to listen, speak, read, and write. Last year, we did not perform as well on the speaking test because students have to record themselves to answer question prompts. As a result, our department has increased online speaking tasks through the use of Flipgrid and Seesaw. Please join our efforts by providing similar opportunities for our ELLs. For additional support, please visit our HTSD ESL Department Google Site, WIDA’s website and contact your school’s ESL teacher.

Award and Scholarship Opportunities for Teachers

The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) is offering two opportunities for current teachers:

Chasing Rainbows Award - This award is given to a teacher who has overcome adversity in becoming a teacher. The nominee may be nominated by someone else or self nominated. Deadline is March 1st.

John Quam Scholarship - This is a $1000 scholarship to help defray the costs of attending the organization's annual conference.

Click Here for more information.

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

It is hard to believe it’s almost March…

Before you know it, we will be administering state assessments. In addition to making sure you are “on target” with the curriculum, I encourage you to also reflect on the following assessment design questions:

· Are my assessments rigorous enough?

· Will the state assessment be the first time my students see a complex question/problem?

· What assessment simulations have I put in place throughout the school year (thus far)?

· How often do my students read, write, and/or solve problems on a computer?

· What conversations do I need to have with my students (about state assessment design)?

· How have I modeled test-taking strategies for my students?

· What information do I need to share with families regarding state assessments?

· Other?

Just some food for thought…

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

Mayreni Fermin-Cannon, ESL K-12, Title I Pre-K, ESSA Title Grants, & Family Engagement

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

Heather Lieberman, K-5 ELA and Social Studies

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science