K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

September 2020


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What’s Math Got To Do With It?

I’m not a math person but…

This is a phrase commonly used by parents, teachers, and students alike when preparing to have a conversation about math teaching and learning. This phrase indicates that there are people who can do the math and those who can’t. This phrase and idea that some can do mathematics and some cannot can be detrimental to a student’s success in the math classroom. We must begin to think about what does it mean to be “good at math”?

Rather than promoting the idea that some are “not a math person” which further perpetuates negative feelings about math instruction ” we need to promote two ideas: We are better together and we can all do hard things! As we all begin to navigate the beginning of the school year and find our footing in all environments, positivity and working together need to be at the forefront of every conversation.

As we all face many challenges this fall returning to school in a virtual/hybrid setting we are also tasked with addressing unfinished learning without unintentionally exacerbating inequities among groups of students. While addressing unfinished learning in math is not something new, with school closures the amount of students with unfinished learning from the end of last year is greater than ever before. All students will have some degree of unfinished learning and all students deserve access to grade-level content. To achieve this teachers will need to manage this balancing act in any environment: virtual, hybrid, or in-person. In order to do this consider the guiding principles below:

  • All students need access grade-level content.

  • Teachers should address unfinished learning in service of grade-level content.
  • Teachers should check for understanding and misconceptions.
  • Students need to receive feedback on their work.
  • Students must own their learning.
  • Tier 2 intervention supports Tier 1 instruction

While everyone continues to face many challenges this fall, continue to work together, support each other, and use the available resources. When everyone works together amazing things can be accomplished!

“I Don’t Know What to Write About” - Topic Generation in the Virtual Classroom

“I don’t know what to write about.” This is a common phrase heard in every classroom from students. All writers, professional or student, experience “writer’s block” from time to time. So, teachers want to teach students a variety of strategies to brainstorm ideas. Previously, in the physical classroom, students were surrounded by peers, teachers, and physical resources when they were completing the writing process - all of which provide inspiration. In the virtual classroom, a student may be starting to write alone and not have access to peers or the tools they previously did. It is essential to provide support for students to help spur the writing process. Below are some activities for idea generation that you can use with your students to support their writing in the virtual classroom.

Small-Group Google Meet

  • Host a small group Google Meet where students talk through what they are going to write about, solidifying their thinking and utilizing peers to brainstorm ideas.

Picture Collage

  • Create a digital picture collage that students could use as inspiration. This can be posted on Seesaw or Google classroom so students can refer to it later.

  • Whole-Class: Teachers present the students with a topic (a day at the beach). Then, as a class, work together to make a list of images that connect to the topic (ice cream, a towel, etc).

  • Individual: Teachers model creating a digital picture board. Then students create their own image board on a specific topic or create an image board that they can refer to throughout the year.

Jamboard Discussion

  • Create a Jamboard where students in partnerships can post ideas for their writing. Encourage the students to create at least 4 ideas and choose the one that is best for them.

Padlet Writing Toolkit

  • In your physical classroom, students had access to anchor charts and tools to support their writing. Create a Padlet for students with topic ideas, pictures of anchor charts, word lists, or anything that will enhance their writing. This not only helps students determine a topic but will continue to support them throughout the writing process.

The Power of Social Emotional Learning During Times of Crisis: The Arts

During this pandemic, we’ve come to understand that time away from school is not a vacation for teachers and students alike. Not everyone has a positive home life, and school may be the one place where some people feel safe. Some of your students may be experiencing high anxiety, depression, and fear. Some may have been alone for long periods of time- without any human interaction at all. Additionally, they miss seeing their friends and teachers regularly. Online learning is not only difficult to manage academically but is also a challenge for students’ social and emotional needs.

The arts have the unique capability of allowing students to express themselves creatively and can have a positive effect on their attitudes and emotional state. When students engage in creative thinking, they switch into their imagination, problem-solving, and producing modes. As educators, we have the responsibility to provide social-emotional learning opportunities.

Here are a few tips on ways to foster social-emotional learning:

  • Teach self-awareness by encouraging students to think about their feelings and experiences and apply them in their art. When listening to music to regulate our emotions, we are practicing self-management. When engaging in drama-inspired activities with others, it promotes the use of social awareness. When we move and dance with one another, we build relationship skills.

  • Dispel negative emotions and build resilience by asking students to identify and list things in their life they are grateful for, and then illustrate each item on their list through art.

  • Ask your students to reflect on their own experiences- the pandemic, social distancing, school closure, online learning, etc, and then illustrate their reflections through art. Give students the freedom to interpret artistic content through their own experiences and perspectives. Activities such as these will provide an opportunity for students to be heard and/or seen.

  • Exhibit your students’ creative work in your classroom, Google Classroom, or platform of choice, and encourage students to critique- just as they would in the classroom! Peer critique will provide access to peers, helping to maintain social wellness.

How COVID is impacting ELLs and their Families

In order to service our ELL students during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is helpful to understand how the pandemic is affecting our ELL students and their families. Some of the impacts include, but are not limited to high COVID-19 rates in their communities, increased exposure risks as many work in industries where they are considered essential workers, loss of income, limited access to medical care, insurance, or even sick leave as well as other factors. In addition, many of our ELL students and families may be impacted by grief, stress, and depression. Some of our ELL students may live in multigenerational homes along with multiple children playing different roles that are essential to their immediate family. As a result, the combined pressures of the pandemic and heightened immigration enforcement has put a significant strain on ELLs and their families when it comes to learning support at home.

Dear Data Guy

Welcome back educators! As we begin a new school year, many of you have started the process of logging onto Linkit!, PowerSchool, and other data platforms to figure out the skills students learned during remote learning. Great job! It is important to look for data to help you find a starting point. Don’t forget that your fellow teachers, your own observations, and formative assessments are powerful tools to learn more information about your students. I refuse to believe in the Covid slide. I believe our kids are resilient, and that all of you are masterful magicians at teaching our students under any circumstances. Have a great year!

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

It seems like only yesterday we had our virtual Opening Week PD. Now that we are a few weeks into the school year, I'm sure you have begun to implement some of the instructional platforms that have been purchased for the District.

Before we transition into hybrid (in mid-October), I encourage you to reflect on your implementation (to date) with the platforms. In addition to your own "new user" reflection, how have students utilized the platform? Are there other features that you would like to explore?

Many of us (me included) are still new to remote learning. Do not hesitate to ask a colleague for assistance. In addition, the links (in the shared drive) are still live; feel to re-visit them at any time.

Keep up the good work, HTSD!

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, ESSA Title Grants, & Family Engagement

Danielle Tan, Art and Music

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

Katie Mallon, K-5 Math and Science