Curriculum Update

Springfield Township School District ~ February 2016

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Putting the Practices into Action

K-6 teachers have been participating in a weekly book club on Putting the Practices into Action by Susan O'Connell. This book helps teachers implement Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice. The explanations, examples, activities, and suggestions guide them to a deeper understanding of the Practice Standards. As a result, students are able to reason, apply, and truly understand mathematics.

During our weekly PLCs, teachers collaborate and discuss specific best practices and strategies from the book. Teachers are intrinsically motivated to use new strategies and share their successes. Some examples can viewed below.

Teacher-Created Anchor Charts

Videos from Susan O'Connell

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Pinch Cards

Many teachers are utilizing Pinch Cards to actively engage and assess students during their math lessons.

Photos from our classrooms.

NGSS Overview

Sixth Grade- Mrs. Sepessy and Mrs. Supple

Next Generation Science is a way of teaching our students to approach science with the ability to think “deeply and richly” about our world in this field. Currently, we teachers are being trained in the NGSS model using Scientific and Engineering Practices, Cross Cutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. What does all of this mean for our students? Well, we are rigorously teaching them to “think outside of the box” when it comes to our science topics. We present them with a “phenomenon” that in turn drives them to cooperatively work as a team to wonder, explore, experiment and research to find the answers to the “BIG question”. Students ask questions (for science) and define problems (for engineering) that lead them to plan and carry out investigations. The students have to keep clear and concise science journals to record their data, so that they can analyze and interpret it to provide an understanding and evidence of their work. All of their work and research involves using patterns, cause and effect, systems and system models, structure and function, as well as, stability and change. Our students are lead to use previous knowledge and build upon ideas so that they can arrive at a better understanding of the content that is presented to them. Through this new model of student lead teaching, our students are gaining the necessary skills and knowledge that will allow them to compete in the real world of science, technology, engineering and math. As teachers, our biggest struggle all year is the lack of a curriculum that correlates with the NGSS. However, we have a plethora of materials and supplies that allow our students to explore and learn under this new method.

Fifth Grade- Mrs. Palazzi and Mrs. McIntyre

The Fifth Graders at Springfield Township School have been busy diving deeply into the Next Generation Science Standards. We are using the 5 E’s model to prepare our lesson plans. The 5 E’s include: Engage, Explore, Explain, Expand/Elaborate, and Evaluate. During the Engage component, we are using a Natural Phenomenon to open each new topic. We are hoping the Natural Phenomenon will grab the interests of our students and have them think deeply about something in our world with which they have experience. After students discuss everything the know about the phenomenon presented, they are given an opportunity to generate questions and explore through investigations. Many of our investigations have been through hands-on activities, such as: building terrariums, creating shadows, measuring sun shadows, developing graphs to represent seasonal changes over a course of time, developing planispheres, and tracking stars in our night sky. Students are then asked to explain what they learned through a variety of assessments such as a development of a Prezi, CER (Claim, Explain, Reasoning), developing a hypothesis, exit cards, and presentations with partners or science teams. Once we evaluate how well students understand the information, we take it one step further by applying our knowledge to another phenomenon. For example, we asked students to recently apply what they learned about shadows to the apparent path of the Sun in the sky in each season. Students were allowed to refer to all the data collected over the past three weeks to answer this question. Before moving on to our next lesson, we evaluate what information students grasped and what information must still be explored again through a different activity, reading, or model.

Rider University Partnership

Over the past year, our fifth and fifth grade teachers continued our partnership with Rider University by participating in their Lesson Development Workshops.

This year-long project involves three major components:

  1. facilitating lesson revisions and providing feedback to participating elementary, middle, and high teachers
  2. supporting the development of teacher leaders in district
  3. continuing our professional learning community of district administrators to further our collective NGSS implementation planning across districts.

Over the course of four visits, teachers will have the opportunity to:

  • consider best practices on how to integrate the three dimensions of the NGSS into lessons and units,
  • complete a revised lesson/unit that addresses key components of the NGSS,
  • use protocols to review lessons and receive constructive feedback
  • teach revised lessons to their students, collect student work, and reflect on the outcome
  • take part in a forum to share final lesson designs with other participants as well as invited guests from their home districts
  • continue to build the capacity of our professional development consortia across districts to further our collective work in preparing for NGSS implementation.

Currently for Rider University, our teachers are working on submitting a completed lesson template, which could take up to 3-6 days. At our next session, the teachers will evaluate the lesson with other teacher from around the state.

The goal is to take a lesson we taught in previous years and do the following:

  1. Describe the Natural Phenomenon
  2. Identify the Disciplinary Core Ideas
  3. Identify the NGSS Performance Expectations associated with the Disciplinary Core Ideas
  4. Develop the performance tasks
  5. Identify the Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts
  6. Describe Student Science Performances for each performance task
  7. Evidence for Student Proficiency with the performance tasks -The work that we are completing will then be added to our latest curriculum for Science

We are looking forward to working the science experts at Rider to further evaluate the effectiveness of our lesson.

*This opportunity was fully-funded by a grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb's Rider Select Program.

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Fifth and Sixth Grade teachers working together observe phenomena and discover how and why it occurs.

NGSS Showcase

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Springfield and Mansfield teachers practicing NGSS through modeling the phases of the moon.

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Students working collaboratively to research and model why the Earth has seasons.

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Crosscutting concepts have application across all domains of science. As such, they are a way of linking the different domains of science.

Regional Sending Districts Professional Development

Literacy Coaching

Kindergarten through Second Grade

The year 2015-2016 professional development is being implemented as phase two of the teacher learning. The professional development sessions or grades kindergarten through second, consists of short workshops, pulling grade level teachers together to gain new understanding of current literacy practices, as well as classroom demonstration lessons within the different grade levels.

The concentration for grades kindergarten through second, was in depth and purposeful with a focus on the current curriculum in reading and writing. Curriculum was revisited, and in many areas was redeveloped or rewritten to make sure the content was grade level appropriate and standards aligned.


Both for the reading and writing curriculum, much concentration was placed on the instructional components of effective literacy teaching. Work was done in the curriculum to be sure that the lesson supported the gradual release model within a mini lesson structure, which includes the use of a mentor text as a visual to show what real readers and writers do.

Grade 1

This year's professional development concentration focused on best practices of literacy instruction during independent reading time. Much work was developed around teacher instruction as a way to differentiate instruction for the individual learners in the classroom. Through workshop sessions and classroom demonstration lessons, teachers gained meaningful insight to ways to support individual readers through one-on-one conferences, leveled guided reading groups, and structured strategy reading groups.

Grade 2

This year's professional development focused on summative assessments as a way to evaluate teaching and teaching the learner. Implementation of readers’ and writers’ notebooks, with the development of students’ written responses and using a rubric to provide pertinent formative assessments. These assessments are just one of the many formative pieces used to gauge instructional practices and individualize future goals for readers and writers.

Third through Sixth Grade

Over the course of the year, the following were areas of focus for grades 3-6:

  • Updating the literacy curriculum to address increased knowledge of the reading and writing workshop model and meet the demands of rigorous standards

    • including close reading in units of study

    • increased emphasis on multiple genre studies of fiction, nonfiction and poetry

    • incorporation of the read-aloud during reading and writing workshop to develop a repertoire with mentor texts so they can be used across both disciplines for modeling and guided practice

    • evaluating curriculum across grade levels to ensure variety and scaffolding of standards from one grade level to the next

  • assessing student writing using Lucy Calkins progressions and using the data to make decisions about instruction. These yielded conferences, strategy groups and incorporation of “quick-publish” units of study for the purpose of reviewing necessary teaching points

  • Establishing close reading and analytical writing units that closely connect reading and writing instruction to meet the demands of the PARCC assessment format

  • Review of formative and summative assessment strategies in literacy (The Literacy Teachers Playbook, J. Serravallo)

  • Qualities of Writing -(Schoolwide Writing Fundamentals)

Introduction of Nonfiction comprehension strategies, through the work of K. Beers and B. Probst, Nonfiction Notice and Note Strategies
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Nicole Pepe working with grades 3-6 to explore nonfiction close reading strategies.

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Darlene Prott working with K-2 to effectively develop reading strategy groups

Into Our Classrooms...

Basic Skills Articulation

Ms. Pestridge, Mrs. Browning, and Mrs. Weir met with the basic skills teachers from Mansfield and Hainesport School Districts to discuss small-group instructional protocols, procedures, and best practice. Teachers explored research-based instructional routines to better develop our basic skills criteria and programming.
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February In-Service Day with Mansfield School District

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Presenter Information:

Darlene Prott,literacy consultant, provided two sessions to teachers in grades K-2. The first session explored how reading and writing are mutually supportive processes and instruction can be easily flipped to support one another. Additionally, teachers investigated a set of selected texts and examined the role of close reading in the development of a focused writer. The second session examined types of formative assessments, their purpose in a literacy-rich classroom, and how to use the data to inform future instruction.

Nicole Pepe, literacy consultant, worked with teachers in grades 3-6 to explore the "steps" of the writing process and help them become comfortable with the qualities of good writing (purpose/meaning, structure/organization, craft/style, and conventions). In this session participants developed an understanding of how to evaluate writing and showed them how to meet individual and whole-class needs by weaving the qualities of writing into responsive mini-lessons.

Catherine Kovarcik, mathematics consultant, presented various math workshops for K-6 teachers. Topics will include: differentiation, small-group instruction, co-teaching, and assessments.

Rene Schillinger, educational consultant and PARCC specialist, worked with teachers in grades 3-6. Teachers had the opportunity to explore the PARCC release test to analyze the features of the assessment and “reverse engineer” them into classroom experiences that support student achievement. In addition, Rene worked with the teachers to connect practice to district curriculum and revisit the PARCC assessment structure.

Mike Kuczala is a leading authority on using movement and understanding the brain/body connection in both educational and corporate settings. In the Kinesthetic Classroom, participants discovered the connection between movement, the brain, and learning to use movement and kinesthetic activity to enliven the classroom. Participants explored class cohesion activities, content-based kinesthetic activities, brain breaks and energizers that use movement to meet standards, improve test scores and develop life skills.

National Association for Mental Illness (N.A.M.I.) explored the difference between “bad behavior” and symptoms of a mental health condition. This workshop also helped professionals better identify the warning signs, communicate effectively with families, and link to community services quickly. The goal of this workshop was to create a supportive learning environment for all students.

From the Heart of our School...