Curriculum Newsletter 6-12

February 2022


First Chapter Fridays

Looking to spark your students’ interest in reading? Try First Chapter Fridays! As the title implies, First Chapter Fridays involve providing a sneak-peek of a novel (the first chapter) to entice your students to want to read the rest of the book. By carefully choosing titles, you can introduce new genres, authors, and writing styles to your students; additionally, you can expose your students to meaningful topics and provide windows and mirrors for every student.

As you choose books, always consider your goals. Keeping a running list of the books you’ve read will help you to ensure you offer a wide variety of genres, authors, and topics.

Tips and Suggestions

  • Let the students know in advance what you’ll be reading on Friday

  • Research the book and author; if possible, show students a quick introductory video

  • Invite other members of your building’s staff to read to your students

  • Ask your librarian and colleagues for book suggestions

  • Do not attach any work to First Chapter Fridays

  • Search for video clips of actual authors reading aloud (for example: listen to Jason Reynolds read his first chapter of Ghost here)

Additional Benefits

  • Better relationships with students (and therefore better classroom management)

  • A plethora of mentor sentences at your disposal for use in writing lessons

  • Book recommendations from students will pile up!

Of course, your school librarian is a great resource if you need assistance choosing titles (especially from genres that are not your favorite). Before you know it, students will be asking to borrow your books or stopping by the library to grab a copy and/or see what other titles by the same author are available!

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A Little Calm

Each of us is feeling it this time of year. Too much to do, not enough time, and not particularly feeling appreciated. Especially, this time…this year…these circumstances. It is all overwhelming. It isn’t too late to take time to practice mindfulness and there is SO MUCH THAT WE CAN DO!

Begin by slowing down and leaving your work at work. Instead, switch on some mellow lights and put on your favorite music to settle your mind. What are you having for dinner? Are you cooking or are you ordering out? Read a fantastic book. What are you reading? Is it fiction or nonfiction? Watch your favorite Netflix series…I LOVE SCI-FI! Maybe you can get to sleep early. Catch some zzz’s!

The Science of Mindfulness is backed by abundant scientific research. presents “11 research-backed ways mindfulness meditation may improve your health and well-being.”

When you think about slowing down, here are a few zenful, and reflective tools/apps to help you on your path to calming your mind.

  • Simple Habit - app with simple five-minute meditations

  • Insight Timer - free app for sleep, anxiety, and stress

  • Calm - app for meditation, relaxation, and getting some much-needed shut-eye

    • Calm for Schools - Through the Calm Students Initiative teachers can also opt-in to receive best practices to introduce mindfulness to the classroom.

  • Stop Breathe Think - app for self-care, mindfulness, and the prevention of burn-out, free for educators

  • Headspace - sit back and relax with a short undaunting meditation, free for educators

We all get busy, and it’s so easy to forget to focus on our well-being. When you feel your self-care resolve slipping away, gently remind yourself that you are a light in the lives of your students, your family, and your friends. In order to shine for others, you must invest in your own wellness. Try putting up a self-care reminder so that you’re actively thinking about and working toward a more holistic approach to your health and well-being each day.

Supporting Immigrant Families in the Schools

Students from immigrant families with issues that may not sometimes may deal with issues that are not always visible. It is crucial for educators to look for clues that may point to issues that may be due to an interruption in having their basic needs met. These factors can play key roles in a student’s attendance, attention, and school responsibilities.

For example, an immigrant family’s economic situation may change quickly due to a variety of reasons; such as loss of employment, transportation limitations and/or housing issues. In addition, immigrant families may need help in finding resources to help with food, transportation, and/or living costs. Immigrant families may not register for services that are available to help them because of a lack of knowledge or even a hesitation to draw attention to their immigrant status.

Important medical care is an area that immigrant families may not know how to access due to the lack of resources and knowledge of what is available to them. Especially with the pandemic, this is a key factor that may play a role in helping immigrant students both mentally and physically succeed in school. As educators, more importantly now during COVID-19, staying abreast with what is available to help support immigrant families, will help when a child’s lack of educational success may be due in part to having his/her basic needs met.

Teaching Women's History

Studying history allows us to access a window into the past in order to deepen our understanding of the world we live in. March marks Women’s History Month. “Recognizing the achievements of women in all facets of life – science, community, government, literature, art, sports, medicine – has a huge impact on the development of self-respect and new opportunities for girls and young women.” (National Women’s History Alliance)

By studying history we discover how our country came to be, as well as, recognize and appreciate the legacies that have been inherited from the past. As we enter the month of March, it is important that we prepare to acknowledge the wonderful contributions of women throughout history. All educators are encouraged to celebrate the many contributions of women throughout history. Here are some great resources to assist students in exploring the many great accomplishments of women of our past and today.

Creativity is Intelligence Having Fun

Electronic media has impacted the amount of time our students spend developing their artistic skills, fine motor skills, and their creative thinking. Children need to know facts, but once the information has been memorized, the real evidence of learning is when a student can use the knowledge effectively in a creative way. The arts foster creativity, self-expression, problem solving and the ability to think creatively; but the ability to think creatively is not only beneficial to those who want to pursue a career in the arts, but is useful to many occupational fields.

Below are some strategies to help foster creativity in your classes:

  • When discussing creativity, ensure that students understand that creativity is separate from artistic abilities.

  • Push students beyond one idea and encourage them to brainstorm multiple solutions to a problem.

  • 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.

  • Use divergent questions to help students look for and make connections.

  • Create a display for your student's creative work. Displaying their work will encourage them and show that you value their efforts.

"Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."- Albert Einstein

Strategies for Physical Education Assessment

In a class setting that is constantly in motion, it may seem difficult to find the time to perform assessments in Physical Education while attempting to maximize your lessons with movement. PE teachers need to check for student understanding and growth on a consistent basis throughout a student's K-12 Health and Physical Education experience. In order to constantly check for understanding and keep track of these skills, there are a multitude of assessments Health and PE teachers can adopt to check for student understanding.

Simple checklists: Teachers can create a checklist of skills and check off which skills are completed, in progress, or needing improvement.

Performance tasks: In this type of assessment, students will physically perform a specific skill that a teacher would like to assess. These can be used for both informal and formal assessments.

Portfolio tasks: In this assessment, teachers need to create a portfolio for each individual student. This type of assessment will track student growth over time. All student work will remain in the portfolio and is a great way to see student’s individual progress over time.

Rating scales/rubrics: Rubrics can be created for achieving certain skills, such as locomotor skills. Students are rated accordingly.

Written tests/ worksheets: Traditional pen/paper assessments can be created for skills learned at the end of units. Tests can be specific to different sports, skills, etc.

There is always a worry of losing time. The focus should be on how to assess effectively without losing physical activity time. Implementation is key and planning properly to match an assessment with your classroom routine will assist in making your assessment implementation a successful one.

Teaching Students How to Study Math

Have you gone the traditional route to help students prepare for an assessment? In many classrooms this looks like a day or two to review a worksheet that would be quite similar to the assessment. The majority of students would probably share that they have never been asked how they study math. How to study math is something that students should learn, and it’s something that needs to be taught.

Professor Rochelle Gutierrez has said, “Mathematics is not a noun, but a verb.” When we do math, we learn math. Often students make the mistake of thinking that studying math is just reviewing notes or prior work. This perpetuates the detrimental misconception that mathematics is solely something to memorize. It’s impossible to memorize each solution pathway to the infinite applicable representations of mathematical concepts.

Below are some tips for teaching students how to study math:

  • Students could look back at a similar problem they have completed to see what steps they may have missed, finish the task, and do another.

  • Students could reference their notes. This is where good note-taking is essential. It becomes a means for students to support themselves with rationale behind the concepts they are expected to know when performing the tasks.

  • Students could reach out to another student or the teacher for support.

When you provide your students with guidance in how to study, they see how they are being set up for their hard work to lead to success.

Dear Data Guy

How do I motivate struggling learners who don’t like to take tests?

1) Motivate students before they take an assessment by creating a classroom game to test their knowledge. Make it fun!

2) Pair students in your class prior to the assessment. Have the pairs explain, recall, and share out to the rest of the class.

3) Offer a mini practice quiz with questions that are similar to the test.

4) Provide direct instruction to students on good study habits.

5) Offer bonus points for the best study outline, or students who create a quizlet.

Good Luck!

Notes from Mr. Scotto

As you know, our district runs a four year New Teacher Induction Program. Currently, new hires that are in the Year II and Year III Cohorts are working on a passion project (sometimes also known as Action Research).

These new hires have selected a particular topic because it is an area of professional interest, desire to learn more about the topic, and know that is area of focus will positively impact teaching and learning.

If you know of a colleague that is in Year II or Year III, we encourage you to touch base with this staff member and ask them the following questions:

  • What is your topic? What have you learned most about this topic?
  • Is there anything that I can assist you with regarding this topic?
  • Have you ever thought about speaking with ______; they are very knowledgeable in this area.

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 K-12, ESSER III Pre-K

Francesca Miraglia, English Language Arts and Media Centers

Erick Shio, Social Studies and Business

Matthew Sisk, Science and Applied Technology

Danielle Tan, Visual and Performing Arts