The Internet is Real Life

One of the things that felt exciting about the internet (before Facebook and a twitter president) was the fact that it felt like a place people were trying things out, like a classroom or a sandbox.  People making things in the internet felt free to try things because it wasn’t real life.  The term IRL ( In Real Life )makes the internet feel safe to try things our, make social networks  and collect user data.

One of the worst days to go on the Internet is April 1st. Large Fortune 500 companies make off beat practical jokes. It’s the one time that trust is truly broken. Maybe that is a good reminder that anyone can create anything in the Internet.

Fuck Grades or how I fell in love with authentic feedback loop.

Kasper Helping Dad Grade QuizzesGrading is hard.  I think is especially true of the humanities classrooms because there are so many things you can grade.  If a student writes an essay on the rise of River Valley civilizations do I give a B for their understanding of the factors and outcomes of the Neolithic Era, or a C for their ability to write a four paragraph essay?  So much grading, so little time.

Grades, whether their letters or numbers do not contribute to students learning.  Grades only communicate a students’ ranking in the class.  There is no value in ranking students.  Does the boss at the job come out and dole out rankings of the employees on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis? Nobody wants that job. In fact the one large company, Microsoft, that did this went from dominating the P.C. business to becoming the a shadow of its former self. Microsoft eventually dropped the ranking system.

So I am interested in creating a grading system that has a few features.

  1. It must communicate the goals and standards for the student and class up front.  Language must be clear and students must be able to internalize the goal for themselves.
  2. It must communicate how students will achieve these goals.  A rubric is a start to how students can visualize how to achieve their goals.
  3. Feedback from teachers and peers must be clear, concrete and something the student can control or change.
  4. Students must be given time to reflect on their work and goals. This is also a time to celebrate their accomplishments.

As I develop this grading system, I will share aspects processes that I will use in the classroom this Fall. I want to be reflective of they grading system just as I want the students to become reflective of their work.




A fresh start in the Bronx.


Over the summer I transferred from Arts & Media Prep Academy to Bronx Design and Construction Academy.

Arts & Media, or AMP as it is know, will always have a special place in my heart. I could not have asked for a better start to my career as a teacher. The Administration and staff created a truly magical experience. I have made connections and friendships at AMP that will last forever. I learned so much about education in my 6 years at AMP.

I am very excited to be teaching at Bronx Design and Construction Academy. The team at BxDCA is amazing and have developed an amazing culture in the last 5 years. The mission of BxDCA is to provide quality liberal arts education and a C.T.E. program.  C.T.E. stands for Career and Technical Education. John Dewy said that “children learn by doing”. That is the core of what BxDCA is doing.

Goals for Teaching Fall 2012

1. BLOG- I would like to write regularly . I would like to write about my classroom and share the challenges and success of my students. I would like to write about my teaching experience. I would like my students to blog, and my writing would be a way to lead by example.
2. FEEDBACK- Feedback is the most important aspect of my job. Giving students timely and constructive feedback is essential for students to learn and feel challenged. I would like to improve the feedback I give students. This goal is the most challenging. It requires me to be absolutely clear as to my expectations of my students. It requires me to establish the standards for feedback at the onset of the school year. I would like to develop a way to check in with the students often that would be feasible. This would put more responsibility on students to be prepared to share with me where they are in a project and they could voice their concerns, challenges and questions.
3. A BETTER CLASSROOM-Moving to a Project Based Learning environment has been wonderful. It has also been challenging to create an efficient classroom environment. There are times I would like groups working on one thing while another group works with me on something else (a discussion as an example). But the acoustics in my room do not allow for this. The discussion echoes too much. I need to find ways to dampen the echo in my room. I also would like to improve the efficiency and the group collaboration.

Update on Standard Based Grading in US History

I should update my Standards Based Grading.  My school has broken up the standards into two types, School Wide Standards and Content Mastery Standards. Both of these are listed below.

Content Specific Outcomes

1. Historiography Why : Why study History? Students demonstrate understanding of the role of history and its effect on today. (NYS 1.4 1.3 ) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
2. Historiography How : Student demonstrates how history changes over time. Student proves that history is different than the past. (NYS 1.4 1.3) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
3. Written History as Evidence: Student demonstrates how written History can be used as evidence of who we are today. ( NYS 1.4 1.3) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
4. Truthiness and the Use of Evidence : Students the use of evidence in a historical document. Student critiques and uses evidence in discussions and writings.( NYS 1.4, 1.3, 2.4) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
5. Americans use of Space: Student analyses the use of space in Brooklyn, New York and The United States of America.( NYS 3.1 3.2) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
6. Using Maps Charts and Graphs; Student critiques and uses graphical information in a historical discussions and writings.(NYS 3.1 3.2) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
7. Developing America: Student traces the stages of development in American history and its changing geography ( NYS 3.1 3.2 ) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
8. Manifest Destiny: Student argues about the historical significance of Manifest Destiny in American History. ( NYS 3.1 3.2 ) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
9. Origins of Independence: Student discusses the ideas and events that led to the American Revolution (NYS 1.2 1.3 5.1 5.2) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
10. Compare American Revolution: Student makes connection and compares the American Revolution and other Revolutions around the world. ( NYS 5.1 5.2) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
11. New American Government: Student uses the Constitution as a primary source to determine the goals, motivations and practical results of writing the document (NYS 5.2 ) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
12. Constitutional Amendments: Student trace the history of the Amendments, describe the process and determine the values of Americans writing these Amendments. ( NYS 5.1 5.2 ) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
13. Civil War: Student discuss the origins of the conflict, the ability of Government to take action and the results of the outcomes.( NYS 5.2 ) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
14, Civil Rights: Students investigate the expanding inclusiveness of American Society and democracy. (NYS 5.3 ) (CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)
15. Federalist vs. Anti-federalist Debate Students debate and research the struggle for power between the states and the students. ( NYS 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 )(CC RH 1 -10 WHST 1 a-e WHST 2 a-e WHST 3 WHST 4-10)

School Wide Outcomes

1. Critical Thinking

2. Presentation

3. Collaboration

4. Self Direction

5. Work Ethic

Every teacher in my school is doing Standards Based Grading, so talking with parents is easier because the grading system is consistent.  As a rule students need to complete 70% of their Outcomes to pass a class with a 70. School Wide Outcomes are worth 25% of the grade. I give students multiple opportunities to show they meet or exceed the Standards. There are no late assignments in my class. It doesn’t matter how many edits it takes for the student to meet the standard.  The only date that matters is the end of the Semester in    January.

I grade on a binary system.  The student has either shown to meet or exceed the Standard or has not.  I always give the students feedback as to how they can revise their assignments to meet the Standard.

The only problem I have encountered is that students do not hand in work.  I try to avoid external motivators.  I talk to students. I try calling parents. Its the one thing I struggle with.

Let me know what you think.

Using Standards Based Grading in Social Studies

Here is a draft of how I am going to split the skills from the content in Social Studies this year.  I call the skills, “Thinking like a Historian”.  I will spend the fiirst month building the language of these skills in my classroom. Please comment on what might or might not work.

I still have to create rubrics and models ( examples) of what is Excellent, Satisfactory and Not Yet for these skills.
Goals: Students will have the skills and the practice to “Think like a Historian”.  Students will understand that History is a construct.  Students will construct their own personal histories.  Students will construct the History of the US.  Students will make connections between their history and US History. Students will identify the values of the events of American History.  Students will take issues and questions they see in their own lives / world and use “thinking like a Historian” skills to investigate these issues.  (e.g. police harassment of them- racism in police forces- ethnic groups that traditionally control police political positions – role of the police officer in society)

What are the skills the students need to develop in order to “Think like a Historian”?

These skills are to be honed, improved, pushed forward all year long.
Students will complete these Outcomes:

A.  Reading: Students need to be able to read primary and secondary sources.
  1. Primary Source:
    • Who created this document?
    • Why did they create this document?
    • When did they create this document?
    • What is this document trying to say?
  2. Secondary Source:
    1. Who created this document?
    2. When did they create this document?
    3. Why did they create this document?
    4. What is the author trying to say?
    5. What evidence does the author use to prove their idea?

B. Writing: Students need to be able to write like a Historian.  This requires them to write  a well organized essay that constructs the how and or why of history using primary and secondary evidence.

1.  What Connections are there

2. What evidence is relevant?

C. Listening: Students need to develop skills to listen to each other and engage

in constructive conversations.
2.  Note taking strategies and skills.
D. Speaking: During discussions and oral presentation. 
E. Questioning: Students use prior knowledge to create questions that will help find a deeper more complex understanding of the historical event, artifact, person, era, or source.
What are the Themes that the students will investigate during US History and Government?
These have to be constructed by the students.  With guidance and coaching to support their understanding
  1. Geography: humans relationship to physical environment
  2. Civics: forms of government
  3. Technology
  4. Change
  5. Culture