Willingboro Public Schools
From the WPS Office of Curriculum & Instruction
CURRICULUM MATTERS - MONTHLY NEWSLETTER (FEBRUARY 2020)
WPS has a never-ending commitment to creating and maintaining a guaranteed and viable curriculum that will ensure the academic success of our students. This newsletter is a part of this equation, helping to communicate our curricular happenings and instructional activities across grade levels and content areas to district educators, parents and students.
While all of our curriculum guides are available through an online database called edConnect, this newsletter is intended to provide a closer look at the some of the learning experiences and outcomes that our students undertake.
Please feel free to browse through the curriculum updates provided by our talented team.
WPS Curriculum Night
On Thursday February 20th, the Willingboro Public Schools Office of Curriculum and Instruction hosted a district-wide Curriculum Night at Willingboro High School. The evening began with an introduction to the district curriculum guides and a brief discussion on state learning standards and public school curricular requirements. Shortly thereafter, participants engaged in a mini-version of school, traveling from one classroom to the next. They listened to presentations and participated in discussions led by the district's content-area supervisors. Mr. Braverman led the session on Mathematics, followed by Ms. Brandon on the area of Science, Ms. Williams on Language Arts and finally Mr. Zalika on Social Studies. Afterwards, the group came together to conclude the evening and answer any remaining questions.
All information presented at our Curriculum Night has been posted on the WPS district website under the Curriculum section. You can access it by clicking HERE as well.
The WPS Office of Curriculum and Instruction will continue to host these kinds of events to increase parental engagement and knowledge throughout the community. This in turn will propel student achievement forward. Please stay tuned for future announcements!
WPS Science Corner
In February, WPS students had opportunities to learn first hand about the importance of Science in the world.
Students from Memorial Middle School were invited to attend Lockheed Martin’s Annual Engineer’s Week. Students participated in an assembly line that produced Lego planes and learned the importance of production and lead time. They also constructed aluminum foil boats and were in a competition to see whose boats could hold more pennies. A fantastic activity to learn about problem solving and design. The fun didn’t stop there, students were able to see a real robot in action! Kudos to Mrs. Blatchley and Mrs. Jackson for leading a fabulous opportunity for students!!
4th grade students from Twin Hills Elementary School honored legends in the field of Science among other African American heroes at the Black Wax Museum presentation at the courthouse in Mt Holly. Scientists like Mae Jemison and Percy Julian were featured. Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel into space when she served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Percy Lavon Julian was a research Chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He is credited with assistance in the creation of medicine to treat glaucoma and arthritis.
Let's give a round of applause for the 4th grade teachers that curated this wonderful opportunity for our students! These experiences and many more that happen in the District’s classrooms are extremely important for scientific thinking, a skill that is taught in Pre-K all the way through 12th grade. “When encountered with a problem, knowing which skills to utilize, the manner in which to use them and how to work through a process in a logical fashion are essential to growth in understanding.”
An article entitled The art of scientific thinking: Why science is important for early childhood development, discusses the skills necessary for Scientific thinking and the impact it has on a child's academic life. Check it out to read about some ways to assist your child in the development of this skill.
WPS Literacy Corner
Willingboro Teachers Continue to Seek Growth!
Willingboro Literacy teachers - Karen Marks (Memorial Middle School) and Rachael McQuillen, (WHS) - attended the Columbia University Teachers College Book Clubs Institute in January. This institute is for middle and high school teachers that want their students to be more powerful readers and lovers of literature, as well as adept researchers. At this 3-day institute, the staff had the opportunity to explore historical fiction and nonfiction research along with teachers from across the country. They had the opportunity to experience a book club for themselves to practice the ways to lift the level of students’ reading practices, and rehearse instruction to take back to the classroom.
Here’s what Karen Marks said after Day 2:
"After the first whole group session at the Book Club Institute, I came away with a great idea on how to launch a book club unit. The presenter modeled how to launch a unit with a read aloud picture book that was written for middle and high school students. Once the students listen to the read aloud, with strategic interruptions they would then choose a book for the unit. For day two the presenter modeled using a digital read aloud on the topic. Both are great ways to get the students interested in the particular book club genre."
Here’s what Rachael McQuillen said after Day 3:
“My experience at Columbia University has been an enriching one. The strategic read alouds were intriguing and I look forward to implementing this strategy in my classroom. I am excited to bring the resources and knowledge I have gained from all the esteemed presenters back to the high school.”
The benefits of Book Clubs in the classroom are plentiful.
Promote a love for literature and a positive attitude towards reading;
Reflect a student-centered model of literacy (Gradual Release of Responsibility);
Encourage extensive and intensive reading;
Invite natural discussions that lead to student inquiry and critical thinking;
Support diverse responses to text;
Foster interaction, cooperation and collaboration;
Provide choice and encourage responsibility;
Expose students to literature from multiple perspectives; and
Nurture reflection and self-evaluation.
Thoughtfully planned book clubs position learning in the hands of the students and provide discussion tools students can use as they work out their responses to a book. Managing Book Clubs is not always easy but when they go well there is no better way to get students vested in reading! Below are some great Book Club resources worth checking out:
WPS Mathematics Corner
In all schools and all grade levels, it can be common to hear expressions of frustration when it comes to Math homework. Let's take some time to address this topic below.
With the exception of two math courses at the high school, all WPS mathematics classes use Eureka Mathematics as the main instructional resource. The lesson plan structure of most Eureka lessons ends with a “Debrief” session. Prior to the debriefing, students should have had an opportunity to work out a few problems with a peer, discussing the possible methods of solutions. During the “debrief” with the teacher, misconceptions should be addressed, and the lesson summarized so that it makes sense. This is the opportunity for the students to ask questions to help clarify their learning. This immediate feedback session should help to crystallize their understanding of the concepts and procedures.
Following that, students should complete an exit ticket independently, which the teacher then uses to determine what (if any) corrective action should be taken the following day. The assigned homework should be reflective of the problem set (and exit ticket) so that the students can practice what they have learned.
Therefore, homework should be done at home with the least amount of parent supervision possible - it is essential that the students do the work themselves. Productive struggle is helpful. Students should reflect on the day’s lesson, refer to their notes, and use that information to complete their homework. In some cases, parents sit beside the student to work out the homework problem, and the parent writes it down for them, all of which is perfectly acceptable. In other cases, however, the parent completes the homework for the student. This is counterproductive for several reasons. The only thing gained from this experience is “credit” for work that actually not done. The wrong message is sent about the importance and validity of teacher-assigned work. It also creates invalid data for the teacher, who examines the assignment data as one piece of evidence of understanding.
Homework should consist of a few problems, depending upon the course and specific topic. These problems should require a sketch or explanation (or at least multiple steps for older students). The goal is for an understanding of the process and concept.
To help your child with homework, please provide an area that is:
access to materials
access to help
electronic access when necessary (and possible)
If a student struggles with a homework assignment, please refer to these recommendations:
Read the Eureka Parent Tip Sheets (see access details below).
Examine the Class Notes your child took. Are the notes of quality? Has information on the lesson been recorded? Can your child explain his/her notes to you?
If the child does not understand what the question is asking, have your child read the pages carefully both before/after that particular question. Sometimes, other questions may offer hints for how to solve a particular problem (or what the question is asking).
One of the biggest sources of frustration when parents help students is the “method” that students use to solve problems. Often, parents know the “traditional algorithm” but not the different ways we use to help students conceptualize math, and the students complain “That’s not the way we’re supposed to do it.” While we prefer that students not learn these methods until we present them in class, we understand that parents are trying to help.
In order for the students to process the information, they will need to determine both how and why the parent’s “way” works, and will need to justify it with the method that they learned in class. We suggest that once students find the answer using the parent’s method, they use that answer to work backwards and construct the model or method that they used in class to arrive at the same answer. In this manner, both the student and parent will be able to see the relationship between the two methods.
Eureka Mathematics: Parent Tip Sheets: Parent Tip Sheets were designed to help parents address questions children may have about Eureka math at home. Tip sheets provide an overview of each topic and include suggested strategies and models, key vocabulary, connections to previous learning, and tips for how parents can support their child’s learning at home. Tip Sheets are arranged in the same sequence as the student homework, making it easy for parents to follow along with their child’s progress. To access the Parent Tip Sheets:
Log into greatminds.org (working email and internet-accessible device required)
Then click on the following tabs/links:
Parent Tip Sheets (Math)
Grade Level desired
Add to Dashboard
Parent Tip Sheets (grade level specified)
Specific module desired
Specific topic desired
As always, thank you for supporting your child's education. If you have questions or would like additional information, please visit the Willingboro Parents Math Page.
WPS Curricula: Unit Competencies
As part of the district's curriculum writing initiative in Grades 1-12, unit competencies were embedded into every unit of study within every curriculum guide. These unit competencies are summative assessments that measure mastery of the knowledge and skills as laid out in the NJ Student Learning Standards.
Students in Grades 1-4 take one competency at the end of each module or unit of study in their major content areas while students in Grades 5-12 take two competencies at the middle and end of each module or unit of study in their major content areas.
As the district focuses on fewer overall summative assessments that more accurately measure what a student knows and is able to do, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Every unit of study in every content area does not start and end at the same time - a student may be in Unit 2 in Math but in Unit 3 in Science
- Each Marking Period or Trimester start and end date does not necessarily coincide with the start and end dates of any particular unit of study in any course
- The Report Card Grade represents the student's progress in each course at that exact moment in time. The student will continue to be formatively and summatively assessed and graded and as such, his/her overall grade in the course will remain in a state of flux up until the end of the course.
The video below, from the Wisconsin Department of Public Education, does a great job of explaining the important role summative assessments play in the evaluation of student learning. Take a look!
Curriculum Writing & UbD
All of our curriculum guides in Willingboro Public Schools utilize the Understanding by Design (UbD) methodology, written by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, that offers a framework for designing courses and content units called “Backward Design.”
The backward design approach has instructors consider the learning goals of the course first. These learning goals embody the knowledge and skills instructors want their students to have learned when they leave the course. Once the learning goals have been established, the second stage involves consideration of assessment. The backward design framework suggests that instructors should consider these overarching learning goals and how students will be assessed prior to consideration of how to teach the content. For this reason, backward design is considered a much more intentional approach to course design than traditional methods.
Willingboro Public Schools Board of Education
Carlos Worthy - President
Debra Williams - Vice President
WPS Office of Curriculum & Instruction
Director of Curriculum & Instruction
Supervisor of Instruction - Science
Supervisor of Instruction - Math
Supervisor of Instruction - Literacy