K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

January 2021

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Using Questioning to Create Inquiry

Creating an inquiry-based environment is difficult under normal circumstances, and doing so during remote/hybrid learning models can be even more challenging. Inquiry-based learning lessons have many components including exploration, asking questions, and building understanding of concepts. However, the key to engaging students in inquiry-based learning is asking good, effective questions. So what makes an effective question?

Make sure your questions are clear. Plan/write a few questions prior to the lesson and share them with a colleague. When questions are clear, students can focus on the answer instead of interpreting the question.

Plan specific learning objectives. By choosing one clear learning objective, all questions can be centered around that topic.

Ask open-ended questions (those that have more than one answer). Rather than asking students “What color is the bug?”, frame it as “What are your observations of the bug?”. Small changes can have a powerful effect.

Ask higher-level questions and ask follow up questions. While asking lower-level questions is easy, asking higher-level questions require students to analyze or evaluate. Plan a few of these questions ahead of time. Asking a follow-up question like, “Can you tell me why you chose that answer?” can help turn a lower level question into an opportunity for students to analyze their own answers or those of their peers.

Include everyone when you ask questions and give students time to think. During remote/hybrid learning, use strategies such as writing answers down, drawing pictures, using PearDeck or other online response systems, or using the chat feature; this will ensure all students have a voice throughout the lesson. Give students a chance to work out their thoughts before asking for responses.

As you continue to work on building your questioning skills, set small goals. Don’t try to accomplish everything at once. Try one new strategy at a time; add another once you’re comfortable. By asking the right questions, students will have a deeper understanding of the content and be more engaged.

The Life of a Reader

Reading is essential to our everyday lives from reading labels of food, street signs, social media, etc. Reading extensively and frequently helps students spark lasting connections for life long learning. With our students, it is essential we develop their reading life in and out of the classroom. As teachers, we want to help foster and grow a student’s reading life. Creating conversations about reading preferences, information gathered while reading, and enjoyable reading experiences will help students learn about their reading lives. Conversations about who students are as readers need to be at the forefront of our classrooms.

Here are some ways to foster your students’ reading lives:

  • Student Recommendations: Have your students recommend books that they love reading. Teachers can read an excerpt and ask the student to share why they liked the book. A digital anchor chart could be created with a list of the book titles and the reasons the students enjoyed reading it.

  • Independent Reading Library: Students can keep a log of books they have read in their notebooks. Once students finish a book, ask them to share why they did or did not like the book in their notebook. Discuss with students what patterns they see emerging from their preferences.

  • Opportunities for Choice: Give students a choice of text to read and ask the students to share why they picked that book. This provides insight not only to the teachers but the students as well.

  • New Genre Challenge: Host a reading challenge where students choose to read a text that is different than what they normally read. Ask the students to reflect on what they enjoyed and/or disliked about the genre. Share with your students a new genre you are reading and reflect with your students.

  • Reading Buddy: Put students into partnerships or groups who have the same reading preferences. Provide the students a chance to talk about what they are reading.

It is essential that teachers talk with students about their own reading life. By modeling your reading life, you are showcasing the value and importance of reading. February 3rd is World Read Aloud Day which is a great opportunity for teachers to read one of their favorite books to their students. Share your book with your class and highlight why this book is meaningful to you. By showcasing a book you love and stating why it is your favorite, you are teaching students what it means to be a reader.

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 of 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. The 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.

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. In 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:

    • Google Meet breakout rooms are a perfect layout to group students regardless if they are in person or at home;

  • Group Jobs:

    • Is there a job or responsibility for each student in each group (ie- Facilitator, Recorder, Reporter, etc);

  • Brain Breaks:

    • 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 task and provide challenges along with modifications

      • World Language Example- Assess students in an 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.

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).

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