K-5 Curriculum Newsletter

December 2020

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Using Reading Strategies to Teach Math

Teaching reading and teaching math to young students can seem like it requires two completely different styles of instruction. In some ways, literacy instruction can seem much more linear and methodical. There are key skills students must unlock to become proficient readers including the gatekeeper skill of decoding. While decoding isn’t the only skill required for reading proficiency, once students learn to decode words, they gain access to the entire world of printed material.


Unfortunately, there is not one gatekeeper skill that students must master in order to be successful at all mathematical concepts, but there is a progression of skills that must be mastered before moving on to the next. In early math there is a set progression of skills students must learn.


Once children begin to talk, verbal counting soon follows. At first, this counting is not very precise and the words may not match the number of objects. By about age, 3 to 4 children begin to count objects and this verbal counting becomes more accurate. Students will be able to begin developing one to one correspondence and touch objects as he or she says each number name. When asked how many objects the child has counted, the child may have to recount the objects.


The next stage in building early number sense is cardinality. Cardinality is the ability to answer the question “how many?”. When children understand that the last number they said when counting a group of objects without having to recount the group, they have developed cardinality. A child can not skip through any of these stages and they must be developed in order.


Once a child has mastered the first three stages of early number sense, they can begin to develop the skill of subitizing. Subitizing is the ability to immediately and accurately tell how many objects are in a group without having to actually count them. Think about configurations of dice. They are grouped in such a way that the quantities are easily identified without having to count each and every dot. Even for the average adult, the maximum number of items that can be recognized is six.


Not enough time is spent developing the skill of subitizing, however, this skill is vital to children developing flexibility and understanding of numbers. By focusing on subitizing skills, children can gain a deeper understanding of place value, multiplication, and a wealth of other mathematical skills as they progress in their mathematical learning. Subitizing is time well spent in the early math classroom.

Ways to Enhance Vocabulary Instruction

Vocabulary development is an essential part of reading and writing instruction. A robust vocabulary elevates a student’s speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Teachers must provide students with opportunities to explore new vocabulary and equip them with strategies to determine the meaning of new words. The goal is that students are recognizing the words while they read and use them when they speak and write. Vocabulary instruction needs to build meaningful connections to ensure our students utilize a strong vocabulary.


Teachers provide vocabulary instruction through explicit teaching (context clues, sight words, domain-specific vocabulary). Naturally, teachers provide spontaneous vocabulary instruction through the words they use and words found in the texts the class reads. Teachers can enhance their vocabulary instruction by providing students opportunities to learn, apply, and share new words.


Here are some ideas on how to improve vocabulary instruction in your classroom:

  • Vocabulary Sketch Notes- When students learn a new word, they draw an image that represents the word. Students can share their drawings with the class and explain how the image represents the definition of the word.

  • Flip Grid Dictionary- Give students a word that they will teach the class. Students will create a Flip Grid where they state the word, the meaning of the word, and the word in a sentence. Then teachers can share the videos making a video dictionary.

  • Word Wall Challenge- At the beginning of the week, have the students select a word they want to try to use in their communication with others. Ask the student to keep track of a post when they use the word. The teacher can keep track of the words the students are using from the word wall.

  • Shades of Meaning- In their notebook, the students will write a word and list their synonyms. Have a discussion about the “shade of meaning” the magnitude of the word. This activity has been done on paint strips to show the progression of the color matches the meaning progression.

  • Color Your Writing - When students are writing and use a vocabulary word, they can highlight the word in color. Each time they use a different word, they use a different color. Challenge students to make their writing colorful by including a variety of vocabulary words.

Remote Learning: Assessment in the Arts

Assessment is an integral part of the artistic process that has the power to increase teacher effectiveness and improve student achievement. Creating authentic assessments is an extensive job that requires in-depth content knowledge, alignment, and reflection. Moreover, assessments must be considerate of inequities related to achievement! During remote learning circumstances, teachers are finding that assessment may come with additional challenges relating to equity for all students.

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Decide which state standards are essential and develop methods to cover those standards successfully, no matter what the students’ home situations are. Ensuring your lessons align with the standards will help focus your assessments.

  • Take the necessary time to develop equitable assessments. Plan activities that all students can achieve with the materials at hand and levels of support available. There are many ways to differentiate lessons, from choice boards to writing and research prompts, to creative processes!

* A word to the wise, assessments that are put together hastily may affect the fairness, accuracy, and usefulness of the resulting evidence.

  • As much as possible, prompt creative-thinking skills. You can use the creative process to both formatively and summatively assess your students remotely by producing rubrics that outline clear expectations for students.

    • Formative- Creating a rubric focused on planning helps identify the expectations for brainstorming, researching, sketching, and collecting materials in preparation for creating. When you see students planning, you will be able to support their needs more quickly.

    • Summative- Students can identify their process through documentation, which supports their learning and risk-taking instead of solely rewarding the end result.

  • Consistently provide descriptive feedback

Importance in Language Testing in ELLs

English Learners, like all second language learners, need time to acquire language. However, being able to decipher whether or not progress made is typical of most ELs similar to a student in grade, age, level, and background may help to determine whether or not the student may or may not have a disability. The ability to recognize whether or not an English Learner is having difficulty with language or whether or it is a disability is growing. Language consortiums such as WIDA are putting particular emphasis on how to decide the difference between language and disability, particularly under ESSA and new guidelines set forth with the Less than Four Policy.


One of the ways to determine the difference between language and disability is to test the student in their dominant language. If a child is not tested in their dominant language, then what is actually being tested is language proficiency and not academic ability. This is why it is important when it comes to language testing in determining what is the child’s dominant language.


If a child is classified as an ELL student, it is expected that the child will make a typical progression in language acquisition as measured by an annual language test. WIDA’s ACCESS 2.0 is the test chosen by the NJDOE to determine the progression ELLs make each year in 4 language domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. If there isn’t typical progression being made, then other factors should be considered to determine why. It is important to monitor the progress of each language domain so that if disabilities are present, they can be caught early.

Let’s Reboot into 2021

December is an interesting month for everyone in education. That is an understatement for 2020. With a much-deserved winter break around the corner, there can be various distractions for students. Let us make the road to 2021 a meaningful one, with great tasks (for the teacher) and activities (for the class) that lead into the new year. Here are a few ideas:

Health and Physical Education Teachers

  • Set personal, educational, and group goals for 2021. Involve your students in the process as well. It is nice for them to have some accountability for their own learning and where they would like to improve as well. This strategy works well when covering lessons that focus on health-related fitness skills (Cardio-respiratory endurance; Muscular strength; Muscular endurance; Flexibility; and Body composition). Students, and teachers as well, can set a group goal on improving one of these areas by tracking the progress of any of the Health-Related Fitness skills via their PE Fitness or activities charts. This practice is not only good to start off the new year but to carry over into their everyday lives.

World Language Teachers

  • Allow everyone to re-introduce themselves in the target language. With so much to do during the school year, it is easy to forget those meaningful moments of learning the finer details about your students. Utilize Google Meet breakout rooms to allow students to communicate in smaller groups and then share out to the whole group the new fun facts about their peers. For students that may be uncomfortable presenting live, they can share and respond to peers via Flipgrid.

Dear Data Guy

How can I improve my students’ attendance?


As we near the middle of the year, it is time to look at attendance data. First, check PowerSchool to identify your students’ current attendance data. Then check Linkit! for last year’s attendance data. If students are absent 18 or more days in a year, they are considered chronically absent. If students are absent more than anticipated, conference with the student to determine “why”. Come up with a plan to get on track such as contracting with the student/family. Talk to them before the break to start the New Year on a good note!

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Notes from Mr. Scotto

Our District Book Study has begun!


Over 30 staff members (ranging from support to administrative staff) participated in our first discussion session on December 16th. Participants discussed Chapters 1 and 2 - "Building Awareness and Knowledge." Our next (voluntary) discussion session will take place on Wednesday, January 13th @ 3:45 PM. Continue to look for the book study link in our PD emails; the chapters, themes, and focus questions will always be noted in the digital notebook.


If you want to read/reflect on your own.....that is fine too. We just wanted to make sure that every HTSD employee received a copy.


Enjoy your holidays, rest over break, and have a Happy New Year.

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