photo of lightbulb inside of a idea bubble on a chalkboard

Instructional Corner


Agile Mind is an online textbook/resource in our middle schools that engages students in authentic applications of mathematics. To access the DCPS Agile Mind website go to: Every child has an individual login that they should know. If not, please contact the Instructional Mathematics Coach at your child’s middle school.

Agile Mind’s mathematics programs for grade 6, 7, and 8 provide powerful foundations in ratios, proportionality, and algebraic and geometric thinking. Students using graphing technology, manipulatives, and other mathematics tools to develop conceptual understanding as they tackle and solve interesting problems. Students will:
• Strengthen their understanding of key mathematical operations and use equivalent fractions as a basis for understanding ratios and proportional reasoning
• Begin formal work with expressions and equations as they use variables to represent relationships and solve problems
• Develop their understanding of variables from two perspectives—as placeholders for specific values and as sets of values represented in algebraic relationships •
Gain fluency with geometric concepts, such as area, surface area, and volume


 Reading English Language Arts

If there is one activity that makes a difference in students’ ability to read complex text, it is reading more and talking about it with someone else! Students who read for at least 30 minutes a day for enjoyment or for information increase the number of vocabulary words they encounter and add to their background knowledge every day. After students read, ask them one or more questions about the reading. Begin with: What did you read? Continue with: What was something you remember and why? End with: What would you like to learn more about next time? A short, focused conversation helps students relate to and remember what they read.

Text dependent questions require students to return to the text to locate evidence and support for their answers. This type of question encourages rereading of the text and leads to a deeper understanding of the content regardless of the subject area. For more information on text dependent questions please visit this link from The Great Books Foundation:

RELA strategy:
Annotation is a strategy that includes reading a text for a purpose and then making notes directly on the page to show one’s thinking. One example of annotating a text requires using a highlighter (shown here). RELA image The highlighter helps students isolate the most important details, or text evidence, that they can use later to show their understanding of what they read. Symbols are another annotation tool. Students can use a ‘star’ for main ideas, a ‘question mark’ for questions they have during reading, and can underline or circle supporting details.
There are online annotator tools that students can use in school and at home to simulate the technology-enhanced PARCC online assessment. Maryland Public Television’s is a teaching and learning website that offers an Annotator Tool to assist students to analyze text and build writing skills. Visit it at:



Discovery Education Science Techbook™ The foundational science textbook for our elementary and middle school students is the Discovery Education Science Techbook™. The Science Techbook™ is a digital textbook allowing students to access real-world science phenomena, which serves as the foundation of their learning in the science classroom. The Discovery Education Science Techbook™ coincides with the type of instruction needed to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This digital resource is also a valuable tool to guide teachers in creating lessons that coincide with the expectations of the NGSS. All Dorchester County elementary and middle school students can access the Science Techbook™ from any digital device. The link to our Dorchester County specific Discovery Education portal is below.
Discovery Education Science Techbook

Elementary Science Vision Statement:
The vision for elementary science in the Dorchester County Public School system is to incorporate sufficient science instructional time into the elementary schedule to ensure all elementary students acquire the science and engineering skills to excel in STEM learning.

Secondary Science Vision Statement:
The vision for secondary science in the Dorchester County Public School system is to design learning opportunities where students are constantly using the Science and Engineering Practices to figure out why or how to ensure all students are prepared to excel in STEM careers.

 Social Studies

“Reading like a Historian”
Students enrolled in all Social Studies courses are expected to be reading and writing like a historian. One reading strategy that engages students with historical documents is “contextualization”. The purpose of this strategy is to have students recognize the differences between their contemporary values and attitudes and those represented in the document/text. When students read a document, they read it through the lens of their own experience. Their understanding of the words on the page and their significance is informed by what they have come to know and value from living in a particular time and place. Contextualization is placing a document in its historical, biographical, and cultural context. As students are analyzing a document, they should be asking themselves the following questions:
1. When and where was the document created?
2. What was different then vs. now?
3. What was the same?
4. How might the circumstances in which the document was created affect the content?

DCPS Social Studies Vision 2017-18
“We will know we have achieved our vision when all DCPS students can evaluate varied historical resources to understand multiple perspectives, effectively communicate and collaborate in diverse communities through various means and think critically in order to analyze the past, engage in the present and transform the future.”


 Test Taking Tip

Prepare students to deal with test anxiety.
Teach students relaxation techniques such as breathing and thinking happy thoughts. Teach them to engage in positive self-talk, such as, “I can do this” , “You got this”, “Stay focused”, or “Stay Positive.”
One of the techniques that author Tanis Bryan researched is to have the student, immediately prior to beginning the task, close his/her eyes for 45 seconds to a minute and think of something that makes them happy. The results of studies on this technique conducted with children with learning disabilities and behavior disorders and normal achieving students have shown that this technique has significant positive effects on students’ social problem-solving, performance and learning.


 Fine Arts

Practice Tip:
Family and friends are the best people to encourage young musicians to practice, especially when it becomes hard. (Few students go home and practice because their director tells them to ? ) Take some time over the Winter Break and into the New Year to listen to your young Music is FOREVER. Check out this 81  year old guitarist and 100 year old pianist

Arts Writing Connections to Common Core Standards
College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing
Anchor standard #1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Core Arts Connections Writing--
 Grades 6-8
Prepare in writing an argument about an issue or topic related to a specific arts discipline. The argument might take the form of a critique, review, letter, or petition.  It might assess the quality of a performance, media presentation, exhibition, or specific musical composition, dance, play, film/video, or visual artwork.  It might address the suitability of a performance or exhibition for a particular audience or venue.  Support the opinion with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence, using credible sources.
Grades 9-12
  Write ARGUMENT TEXT: Text that persuades or convinces.
Take a definite stand on an issue related to a specific arts discipline.  Write a persuasive argument or claim that presents and defends your point of view.  Your argument might take the form of a critique, review, letter, or petition.  It might assess the quality of a performance, media presentation, exhibition, or specific musical composition, dance, play, film/video, or visual artwork.  It might address the suitability of a performance or exhibition for a particular audience or venue. 
A sound argument:
-Clearly states the issue and your claim.
-Weighs the claims and counterclaims on both sides of the issue and points out the strong and weak points of both arguments based on accurate evidence or data from trustworthy sources. 
-Refutes the counterclaims with logical reasoning.
-Uses words and phrases such as for example, therefore, however, on the other hand, to make the relationship between claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence absolutely clear.
-Finishes with a conclusion that follows logically from your argument.