Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Literacy and Humanities
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November 2020 Newsletter

What is evidence-based literacy?
Watch this video, and then head to the Mass Literacy site to learn more!
Have a highlight you would like to share? Please email We would love to feature the work that you, your school, and your students are doing!

Monthly Subject Spotlight

The Department is pleased to announce the launch of Mass Literacy, a statewide effort to promote evidence-based literacy instruction in grades preK-3. This new guide contains resources that outline the instructional practices proven to work best for the most students.

Developed by local educators and literacy experts, Mass Literacy is a bold, important step toward ensuring all Massachusetts students become strong readers and writers. View the resources and learn more about Mass Literacy

Planning for student-led civics projects this year? The Civics Projects: Implementation 101 Network can help you get started. This network will support teachers in understanding the characteristics of high-quality, aligned civics projects and planning for implementation. It includes two virtual, regional meetings in the fall and optional virtual support forums throughout the year. Register here!

Do you want to learn more about the Arts Curriculum Framework? A two-hour online course provides a basic overview of the major shifts in the 2019 Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework. It consists of four self-paced, unlocking topic sections with embedded assessments at the conclusion of each to check for understanding. Learn more by viewing this short video overview (transcript).

Enroll in the course here, or by going to this website and using join code EH8KFA.



Share-a-thons are back!
The Department’s Center for Instructional Support invites teachers of all grade levels and subject areas to a November Share-a-Thon. This is a chance to share and learn strategies, resources, and best practices for remote and hybrid instruction and learning with a particular focus on student feedback strategies. The event will start by taking a glimpse into the classrooms of two featured teachers in different content areas. This will be followed by a chance to discuss those ideas. Finally, participants will have a chance to join content-alike colleagues for a broader discussion of feedback strategies.

We encourage you to come ready to share your resources and strategies for giving student feedback! Please register online by November 16.

Educators of color: You're invited to a Statewide Affinity Network!
The InSPIRED initiative is excited to offer access to a virtual Statewide Affinity Network for educators of color in MA. The year-long network aims to create a safe space for educators of color to network, engage in dialogue about their authentic experiences, explore professional development opportunities, and/or consider action that would make for a more equitable experience and help their schools retain a diverse workforce.

This opportunity is open to any and all educators of color (e.g., aspiring educators, paraprofessionals, current teachers, school counselors, and school administrators). The deadline to register is by midnight on Monday, November 23rd.  For more information and to register, please click here or reach out to

Looking for ways to engage students in deeper learning?
The Department’s Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning is pleased to announce two professional learning opportunities—Transforming Instruction Through the Lens of Authentic Work (November 18, 3:45-5:00) and Engaging Students as Complex Thinkers (December 15 or January 14, 3:45-5:00). In these sessions, teachers will explore instructional practices that leverage using authentic work to build and sustain student engagement in and across remote, hybrid, and in-person learning. Educators will engage with colleagues from across the Commonwealth to strategize ways to apply these practices and mindsets in their own virtual or in-person classrooms. Register here!


New resources to support equity in history instruction!
Our History, Social Science, and Civics webpage has just been updated with a collection of resources to help teachers apply Guiding Principle 2, which prompts inclusive, critical, and responsive teaching. They include a quick reference guide explaining how Guiding Principle 2 relates to the rest of the Framework, as well as questions that teachers can use to reflect upon and adjust their practice as they approach their planning. We also have three examples illustrating how the questions might be answered about specific topics from the History and Social Science Framework, complete with linked resources for teachers.
If you’re curious to learn more, join us for a live webinar introducing the resources on November 12 at 3:30 PM. Register here!   

Got questions about the student-led civics projects this year?
DESE’s got answers! Check out our updated Civics Project Guidebook (download) with new sections about facilitating the projects remotely and incorporating race, identity, and lived experience. It also has a description of various project models to provide ideas of how educators might incorporate the projects into the year.

Updated information (download) is also available about History, Social Science, and Civics education in the 2020-2021 school year. The update includes key expectations about the non-partisan, student-led civics projects this year and answers to common questions from schools and districts about civics project reporting in SIMS.

Resources for teaching Thanksgiving
As Thanksgiving approaches, we know that this holiday can often be taught in a way that is inaccurate, oversimplified, and perpetuates stereotypes about Native Peoples. As educators select resources to teach students about Thanksgiving in a way that is thoughtful, honest, and culturally responsive, Dr. Debbie Reese, member of Nambé Pueblo and founder of the organization American Indians in Children's Literature, suggests that they ask critical questions of the materials they use about Thanksgiving, such as:
  • Are they tribally specific?
  • Do they suggest a peaceful co-existence or "sharing" of land and resources?
  • Do they depict Native peoples as simplistic, uncivilized, or primitive?
  • Do they suggest Native peoples are not part of the present day?
The Center for Racial Justice in Education has also compiled a list of more inclusive resources, lesson plans, and teaching approaches about Thanksgiving, available here; Teaching Tolerance also has a list of resources for "Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way."
On the Calendar...
Thursday, November 12, 3:30-4:30: Introduction to History/Social Science Guiding Principle 2 Resources Webinar (Register or Questions)

Week of November 16th: Civics Projects: Implementation 101 Network meetings begin (Register or Questions)

Tuesday, November 17 or Thursday, November 19, 3:30-4:30 (choose either session): Fall Share-a-Thon (Register or Questions)

Wednesday, November 18, 3-5:  History/Social Science Leaders Network Working Groups (Email Reuben Henriques for more information)

Tuesday, December 1, 9-12: Elementary Literacy Leaders Network Meeting (Email Susan Kazeroid for more information)
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Literacy and Humanities