Author Archives: wordsarestrong

About wordsarestrong

I teach history at an independent school in California.

Thinking about oral exams

The best assessment I ever gave was an oral exam. It was a small AP Art History class, and I needed to come up with a creative solution to the fact that our assigned 3-hour final slot was after the … Continue reading

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Why doesn’t she just do the work?

The student who doesn’t understand why she didn’t get an A on a test she thinks she studied well for is not that different from the student who doesn’t understand mercantilism–we just forget, sometimes, that we need to teach that, too. Continue reading

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Assessing student discussions

A couple of years ago, a thoughtful colleague challenged our faculty to think more systematically about how we assess class discussions. (Thanks, Jeff!) I’ve been puzzling over it ever since, and this is where I’ve gotten so far. For most … Continue reading

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Standards-based grading, pt. 5: the words we use matter

As we introduce a standards-based system, we have an opportunity to change the mental language our school uses for grades. One of the most important differences between a standards-based approach and traditional letter grades is that we are naming the … Continue reading

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Standards-Based Grading, Pt. 4: from standards to grades

Here is another page in my attempt to record what I have learned from a semester and a half of playing around with standards-based grading in my 9th-grade history class, this one focused on how standards change the nitty-gritty of … Continue reading

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Standards-Based Grading, Pt. 3: What to do about homework

One of the aspects of standards-based grading that seems to engender the most resistance from teachers is the idea of not grading homework. I get both sides of this debate, and, honestly, I’m splitting the difference, at least for now. … Continue reading

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Standards-Based Grading in History, Pt. 2: What standards?

This is the second in a series of posts about testing a standards-based approach in my 9th-grade classroom. I’ve described the project here. Any thinking about standards-based grading has to start with the standards themselves. My basic assumption in putting … Continue reading

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A Few of My Favorite Things

One of the things I sometimes think I’d like this blog to be is a sort of crib sheet for new teachers. I spent a lot of time flailing around when I first got serious about my education as a … Continue reading

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Who Owns Your Assessments?

I had the privilege of spending a whole day last week with a room full of smart, creative teachers thanks to Common Sense Ed’s 2017 Teacher Institute, “Assessment Beyond the Gradebook.” This conference covered a lot of ground, but at the … Continue reading

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What Can History Teachers Do in the Face of Trumpism?

I’ve been thinking all week about justice. Over and over, I keep having one conversation in the faculty room:  as teachers who believe deeply in respecting every student’s individual beliefs, as teachers with students in our classrooms who come from … Continue reading

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