Day 167: The One With Presentation Norms

In the end, we do stand up presentations. They go pretty well and I like to think that the good presenters/good audience Norms setting that we did helped. In other news, my mom really likes Kahoot (this online quiz type game that kiddos used during their presentation).


Also, one of the kiddos did this:


Totally by accident, they’re totally fine and they used the “I’m authentically sorry” tone that is oh-so-rare from March onwards. So I’ma call us good on this one.

The One With the Fall Semester Lists

Did I fall off the blog again?

Hard to believe it’s December already. Hard to believe Portfolios have come and gone (though I need to remind myself that fall semester is shorter and goes faster than spring semester).

Photo: State of My Room Before Break

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Note to self: request to get the light in the back corner fixed. This was after I did intense post-portfolio cleaning (but not as much as I usually do).

Fall Semester By The Numbers

I always mean to publish a “by the numbers” (math teacher and all). So here’s where we are:

  • Our team currently teaches 80 students, divided more or less evenly among 4 sections. (In contrast, we had about 60 students between 4 sections at the beginning of the year).
  • Our team teaches students who speak 8 different languages (not counting Mam, an indigenous language from Guatemala, counting “Chinese” rather than “Cantonese” or “Mandarin”, which I’ll be the first to admit is not right, and not counting the Mayan language Tzetal or Portuguese, as the students who speak these languages also speak Spanish)
  • My advisory is currently 16 students, including 2 students who came during our last week of portfolios. I started with 12 and lost 2 during the year (one transferred, one dropped out).

This Break

I like to tell people who ask that I am planning to spend this break being a real, live adult.

Current plans include:

  • Plug drafts in the apartment (somewhat successful; rain two days ago meant the temperature in general was warmer…darn you, confounding variables!)
  • Read through Common Core Progressions. The Common Core Progressions tell you what you should learn K-high school in Common Core. A big take-away from a recent conference is that when students struggle or have gaps in their learning, looking back at the progressions should help you fill in the gaps. Pretty obvious in retrospect, but it was good to hear.
  • Write a couple grants for materials and professional development (NCTM, chromebooks and Cantonese conversation classes through City College)
  • Read. Goal is 3 books, but I’ll be lucky to get through the one I have to give my mom for Christmas on Friday.
  • I am planning to go back and at least post a picture and a sentence for every day this year. We’ll see how this goes.

Day 82: The One With the Awards


Portfolios AwardLast day of school for the semester. Students present about their content area one last time. We do some advisory things (which I did a horrible job of structuring this year) and then students actually go up on stage in front of the entire 9/10 class and present the awards to other groups. Assemblies always give me the heeby-jeebies (so much classroom management, so little structure), but it felt like this one went OK. Part of the jobs of urban schools and portfolios is that students often arrive late or miss school if they are sick (which a bunch of my advisory was this year). This award went to a student who had to do a whole presentation, in English, by himself before another group member arrived. Keep in mind this kiddo has a sixth grade education level. He did pretty good.

Day 81: The One With the Portfolio Binders


Portfolio binders

Portfolios means grading portfolios. Which means hauling all the binders somewhere to read over them, usually with the rest of our team. This year, I was better about grading some (but not all) of the writing beforehand and grading some (but not all) of the presentation beforehand. We started at about 3pm and finished at 7pm, when the janitor starts to close up the building.

(Apologies to those of you who read this blog by email – I can’t figure out how to not email you every time I backpost something. If anyone knows, I’m all ears)

Day 80: The One With the Portfolios Rubric


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Portfolios are starting to wind down. This means that the kiddos have written some (most? some…) of their essays. This also means that I can start grading things. While I usually like to grade in green pen (mostly because it’s not red), this year, I’m grading in pencil. So much of portfolios is practice and revision that being able to change grades is a necessary part of the process.

The former Operations Manager in me went and did some visual reformatting of the rubric (mostly moving the “things you did well” and “things to improve” to the top).

(I’m also going rogue and using my own version of the rubric which I updated over the summer while stuck on a plane flight. Don’t tell anyone. (he said on social media))

Day 79: The One With the Essay Draft


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Each round of portfolios brings new ideas and new growth. I feel like I pushed students to do more brainstorming with scaffolds (though there’s a TON of growth I want to do in that area next round). I feel like the support I was able to offer fell off as the week went on. This student had some decent ideas. I definitely didn’t push them as much as I wanted to on formatting or translating those ideas into English (which is a common theme that I saw during this round).

(My favorite quote was this essay is “Last years soso speak  in English this year is Amazing.” I can absolutely hear this kiddo saying this and it’s pretty spot on)

Day 169: The One With the Cold Pupusa

Believe it or don’t, portfolios are over. Two weeks left, during which I’ll be co-teaching an elective class on healthy cooking and eating.

Photo: The One With the Cold PupusasCold PupusaPortfolios means, among other things, having the same group of (generally awesome) advisees in the same room for the whole day. We let them listen to music, we let them eat (if they bring food).

One group of advisees has twice signed up to bring food the last day and has twice brought pupusas, a Salvadoreña food that the kiddos seem to enjoy. Alas, snack break always seems to happen in the eye of the storm. Once again, I am left with a cold pupusa to eat at the end of the day. (They’re still just as good)

Incidentally, I’m hoping this photo will shame me into cleaning my desk.

Two to Go

As I mentioned, I spend the last two weeks of school co-teaching an elective course on healthy eating. Our kiddos often come missing several credits (especially electives, such as art and PE), so we have a 2 week credit recovery elective class at the end of the year. We call it School Without Walls, other schools call it “intersession electives” and many of our Spanish speakers simply call it “paseos” (vacations). The idea is to do some hands-on learning and explore the city. I guess I’ll take “vacations”.

We who are about to School Without Walls salute you.

(Full confession: I mostly wrote this post so I could add that tag. #IRegretNothing)

Day 161: The One With the Zombie Apocalypse

Content is over. Portfolios are here.

Because our kiddos are all English Language Learners, our summative assessments look a little different. Content ends two weeks early and the kiddos spend the majority of their day with their advisor, writing and reflecting on what they’ve learned during the semester.

Photo 1: Target Notes and Post-itsTarget notes with post-itsTo help the kiddos organize their thinking, we have them complete a graphic organized called a target note (because it’s shaped like a target). They fill out their thesis, make 3 claims and support those claims with evidence and analysis. (Some of our awesome teachers revamped them this year so that the format is easier to follow and has the kiddos talk more about what they’ve learned and the projects they’ve done).

One kiddo had another teacher proofread their target notes after school. The teacher had some great ideas and rather than having the kiddo write them into the target notes, had them write their revisions on post-its.

I find that some kiddos are resistant to revising their writing since it means “more work”. The post-it note reduces some of that “work” and also helps them see the changes they’ve made. (I suspect most kiddos aren’t used to doing multiple drafts or the idea of reading something to make it better).

Photo 2: The Zombie Apocalypse

Zombie Apocalypse Target NotesOur amazing biology teachers did a unit on eco-systems which prominently features the zombie apocalypse. During portfolios, we ask our students to provide evidence and analysis as part of their essays about what they learned. One of the kiddos did a decent job providing evidence from what they learned…and then justified it using their ability to survive the zombie apocalypse. I tried to figure out if this was a content issue or a language issue, but when I mentioned it to the student, they groaned and rolled their eyes, so…