Suffield Public Schools

Curriculum Newsletter

March 2014

350 Mountain Road | Suffield, CT 06078 | 860-668-3800 |


Curriculum and Instruction

Dr. James Collin
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum &
Special Services

Ms. Sophia Gintoff
Supervisor of
English language arts
PreK - 12

Ms. Kimberly Loveland
Supervisor of
Mathematics PreK - 12

Dr. Matthew Wlodarczyk
Supervisor of
Science PreK - 12



District Calendar

LMS Parent Login

Virtual Backpacks


Grade Five Digital Learning Pilot

Excitement abounds in our fifth grade classrooms!  In conjunction with our efforts to develop learning experiences that align with the Common Core anchor standards and the district's strategic goal to create a digital learning environment, two of our fifth grade classrooms have been participating in a digital pilot since mid-November.  Through the integration of technology into our classroom learning experiences, our students are working to effectively demonstrate and document both the Common Core State Standards and Suffield’s Desired Learning Outcomes. 

In participating in the fifth grade digital pilot, the students have been using Chromebook computers throughout their day and across multiple content areas.   Chromebooks are laptops that use Chrome as their operating system and are designed to be used while connected to the Internet. Additionally, all of the applications used, as well as the data created on the Chromebooks, reside in the “cloud” instead of directly on the computer. 

Grade 5 pilot

In both of our grade five digital pilot classrooms, the students use Google Apps for Education, the Learning Management System, as well as many other web-based applications in order to create, collaborate, and access the curriculum. Some of the many activities in which the students have participated include the following:

LMSStudents explore the blog feature of the Learning Management System.  Lessons include having students experience a video or other media presentation, and then use the blog feature to respond to a question posed by the teacher.  Once the students write their responses, they can read each other’s responses and reply to one another.  Additionally, the teacher has access to the students’ work all along the way.

Google DocsStudents use Googledocs to create, store, and access all of their writing pieces.  Googledocs is a free app that allows students to access their writing from any computer connected to the Internet.  Students can work on a piece at school, and then continue at home without any worries about whether school and home have the same software.  More importantly, Googledocs allows students to digitally share their work with their teachers and their classmates in order to collaborate and provide feedback.

typingAll students use their Chromebooks to access two or three times a week. is a web-based application that teaches keyboarding, conducts keyboarding proficiency assessments, and tracks students’ progress as they build their keyboarding skills. Having proficient keyboarding skills makes accessing our Learning Management System, as well as completing everyday tasks, much easier for the students.

khanIn mathematics, students use their Chromebooks to individually reinforce their classroom learning.  Students access lessons on both Khan Academy and Learnzillion in order to revisit topics presented in class and to increase and deepen their understanding.


Students routinely conduct research using online databases on a variety of topics to build their background knowledge, enhance their fiction and nonfiction writing pieces, and explore areas of interest.

Throughout all of these experiences, students are engaged in authentic tasks that enrich their classroom experiences.  Their work is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and helps to build their independence and ability to collaborate using online platforms.  As we continue to explore and build upon these experiences we look forward to bringing this type of learning to all our students.


Ask the Teacher - First Grade Team
(Jessica Lyver, Heather Goldstein, and Erin Grasso)


What has been your experience with writing math curriculum and how has it been different this year than in previous years?


Common Core MathOur experience with writing math curriculum this year has been different from math curriculum writing in previous years.  This year, three First Grade Teachers were invited to collaborate in writing the curriculum.  In addition, the entire First Grade Team helped to create supporting materials for each lesson planner.  In the past, only two teachers wrote the curriculum as well as created supporting materials.  Overall this process has been more of a team effort. 

This past summer the curriculum writers were guided by Kim Loveland, the K-12 Math Supervisor.  She assisted in incorporating the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into the curriculum as well as reorganizing the sequence of units.  This reorganization was based on the First Grade Team’s reflection of their previous year of teaching the CCSS.

Throughout the 2013-2014 school year the three teachers were given significant periods of time to create the curriculum.  This past summer they worked for three consecutive days in addition to three days throughout the 2013-2014 school year.  Each day, they were given specific expectations of materials that were to be completed.  Having the opportunity to explore and implement the CCSS throughout the previous school year helped teachers to fully utilize the standards within their classroom for this current school year. 



How has your math classroom environment changed?


Each lesson planner begins with an activating strategy or “hook.”  It provides a “hook” to motivate the students and also a “link” to their prior knowledge.  The “hooks” have been planned with the children’s interests in mind in order to capture their attention and build excitement around learning. 

Each lesson planner supports essential questions that match the units of study in Math.  All first grade students are being held accountable for demonstrating an understanding of the same Common Core State Standards.  However, the teaching methods that bring them to understanding are varied. The lesson planners allow for small group instruction where instructional strategies are differentiated to meet the needs of every learner. 

In addition, at the close of each lesson, there is an attempt to incorporate more authentic learning opportunities in which the skills students have learned can be applied.   An example of this type of closing was when students were collecting data on the most popular meal that is served in our cafeteria.   Class specific data was analyzed and compared to the results of other first grade classrooms.  After compiling and organizing the data in graph form, the students were able to discover the most popular first grade lunch choice and share this information with the cafeteria staff. 

When walking into a first grade math classroom, you are likely to find a teacher guiding a small group of learners, students practicing skills independently, students working with partners as they play a math game that reinforces previous concepts, and individual students writing about their learning within their math journal.  All in all, you will see students actively involved in their learning.



How has math assessment changed?


Previously, math assessments were lengthy, spanning 6 – 8 pages, and requiring at least two math periods to be administered.  Since the implementation of curriculum based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), student learning is targeted on a particular set of skills during each unit.  Teachers assess students throughout the unit to determine the level of student understanding.  This year, teachers are using a significantly higher number of formative assessments to help guide instruction.  Formative assessments allow teachers to make adjustments to instruction throughout the unit to meet the needs of students.  Some students require additional instruction, a different path to reach understanding or opportunities to extend their knowledge based on their performance.

Smart CookieStudents are provided with self-assessment measures as well.   As part of the approach to meet the CCSS regarding fluency with math facts, first grade teachers have implemented a “Smart Cookie” fact program.  It allows for weekly assessment at levels appropriate for students based on previous performance.  Once students complete a level, they color a “cookie” in the cookie jar.  This is used as a motivator for students to achieve, not for competition among students.  There are also online resources connected to this program, available on apple products.  Letters were sent home for parents to purchase this app as an optional tool.  Another web-based self-assessment tool is  Letters went home to families with log on information for this no cost program.

Teachers collect data on student understanding in a variety of ways.  These include math journals, exit slips, performance tasks or simply observation during small group instruction. The most important change is that data is collected to guide instruction and guide students to understanding, not to assign a grade. 



How do you think students have responded to these changes?


Students are responding positively to the curriculum changes in First Grade.  Teachers are noticing that their students are more engaged in the revised curriculum.  The “Hooks” of the lesson planners are grabbing student’s interest and creating the relationship between math and the real world.  As a result of the new curriculum student’s math vocabulary has increased.   In addition, students understand the meaning and explanations behind their solutions when solving problems.



In reflecting on this year, what improvements would you anticipate for next year?


The first grade team has truly valued the time we have been given to write our math units during the 2013-2014 school year.  We are looking forward to completing this work in the upcoming months.  We are also hoping to find the time to create materials that support the essential questions within each lesson planner.  Our team collaborated this year to create learning journals that asked the students to show their understanding of concepts with drawings, numbers, and words.  Another hope is to continue creating these journals as they have proven to be a valuable assessment measure.

Prior to each unit of study, we will create additional pre-assessment measures.  The pre-assessment results will allow teachers to flexibly group students for instruction.  Each lesson planner has ideas for extensions, interventions, and language development.  With our continued work around differentiation, we also hope to build onto these sections of the lesson planners in order to build a repertoire of strategies that will meet the needs of every student. 





High School Science Update


Science at the high school is responding to the instructional shifts and increased rigor demanded by Common Core State Standard (CCSS) and Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA).  Teachers across grade levels and classes have rewritten science tasks for students to develop arguments based on evidence that is embedded within multiple sources, including online text, video and audio.  Students in chemistry and physics are communicating in writing in a manner that is more aligned with the discipline of science, as they create abstracts to “sell” their research to a jury of their peers.  Teachers are building Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) experiences within their classes to connect science within the community. 

Engineering practice can be described as iterative process that includes defining problems, developing solutions, and optimizing the design, based on data and feedback.  A Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (Achieve, 2013) describe the model using the diagram below.

High School Science

Designing earthquake resistant structures and solar cookers are small examples of revised tasks that are currently incorporating engineering practices into science classes.

An excerpt of the solar cooker task for grade 9 Integrated Science follows:

Most people in the United States use an electric stove or a natural gas stove to cook their food.  This is not the case in much of the world.  Approximately 50% of the people on Earth cook using fire from burning wood.  However, due to overuse, wood is becoming a scarce commodity in many countries.  In addition, burning wood is a major source of air pollution. 

One alternative to cooking with wood is using solar cookers.  These devices use energy from the sun to cook food without producing any pollution.  While there are many designs for solar cookers, a simple solar cooker can be made from everyday materials.  There are many factors that can influence the effectiveness of a solar cooker including the size of the collector, the orientation of the panel and the color of the container.

Your Task
You and your lab partner will design and conduct an experiment to investigate one factor that contributes to the effectiveness of a solar cooker in heating water. Two factors you may want to consider are: the shape of the collector, or the surface area of the collector.
You will need to provide your materials and equipment. 

Through engaging scenarios like that from the solar cooker activity combined with authentic connections to the community help to bring STEM alive for students.  Engineering Ambassadors from UCONN are now visiting annually to connect students to college and career pathways in STEM within the high school experience.  Additional connections to pathways beyond the science experience high school classroom are being investigated and integrated into courses at Suffield High School.


Suffield Public Schools
350 Mountain Road, Suffield, CT 06078
Phone: 860-668-3800


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