Tag Archives: Resources

What I Am Learning

Hey friends!

I recently got a piece of feedback from one of our awesome Content Leaders that reminded me of the importance of sharing the learning I am doing in order to continuously improve in my work. I believe that this is a key practice for all of us to maintain, both because I hope you will learn alongside me and discuss these with me, but also because it’s important for us to always be honest: none of us have ever “arrived” and finished our development.

In fact, that’s really valuable for you to share with your students: have you ever considered letting them know what you have learned at a PD, or something you are trying to work on? I feel honesty and openness about development is always key to building trust and understanding among us all.

So, for this week, I am sharing with you all some of the development opportunities I am taking advantage of, as well as some of the articles and books that have been particularly impactful to me recently.

Books and Articles:

The most consistent way that I seek development is through articles and books. Often, these will come my way through colleagues, but a lot of the time they also surface as specific issues arise, or as I recognize I need to inform myself for a session.

  • A Conversation with Linda Christiansen on Social Justice Education (Golden) – Sarah Franzen introduced this one to me because we are both working on designing a Unit Planning Series around Multicultural and Social Justice Unit Plans. Christiansen, who is interviewed here, is an amazing teacher and the author of Teaching For Joy and Justice and her perspectives on what Social Justice teaching should look like, and how to embrace it, and how to tackle its challenges is acute and inspiring. She keeps it concrete, too, which is often rare.
  • Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces (Arao & Clemens) – I read this article a while ago thanks to Sam Crenshaw, who presented it to a group of us after he had undergone a national DEI training with TFA. It’s been kind of an earth-shattering article for me because it has completely shifted the way I want to facilitate and be a part of challenging conversations about race, privilege, class, etc. This article is the foundation of many of my upcoming sessions.
  • Curriculum as Window and Mirror (Style) – Again, Sarah Franzen shared this one with me since we are planning a session together. It’s one that I have seen referenced in other sources, but there is nothing like reading the source itself. The article argues for a deeper caution in selecting texts and curriculum for students – one that goes beyond just selecting works that include identities that resemble our students’. Style argues that, instead, we must present students with a wide diversity of texts and perspectives, challenging them to not only analyze different viewpoints, but also to recon with their own. She calls these Texts “Windows and Mirrors” because they both reflect students back on themselves, and challenge them to look through to another world. Once you start reading, it just gets better and more on-point.
  • The DreamKeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Students (Landson-Billings) – We read this book recently as part of a Specialist Team book club. If you don’t know it, it is THE seminal text on Culturally Responsive Teaching. Gloria Landson-Billings focuses in on a selection of teachers whom she followed and supported in the effort to learn what it is that makes teachers (from any walk of life) effective with what has traditionally been considered the most challenging demographic to educate. Through this book, she not only demonstrates that African American students can learn, but also that at the end of the day it’s not about a one-size-fist-all strategy, but rather about some key dispositions towards teaching. While I was seeking something more in-depth, it was amazing to read the book that gave origin to the educational philosophy I feel most aligned to.
  • A People’s History of the United States (Zinn) – I have read many excerpts of this before, but the book is huge so reading it cover to cover is still a goal of mine. Especially as we have had more U.S. History teachers this year, I have wanted to increase my knowledge (and creative thinking) around the content. I have been jumping to it and reading a chapter here and there whenever I can. It is without a doubt the best account of American History I have laid my hands on, and it does an incredible job of keeping it engaging and focused on the history of the minority groups and people who actually made history happen. His retelling puts the power back in the hands of those who have always appeared most powerless. He has a student version of the book, which is A Young People’s History of the United States, for those interested in bringing it to the classroom.
  • The New Jim Crow (Alexander) – I read this book for the first time last year, and am re-reading it again now for another iteration of the book club this year. This is hands down the most important book I have read in five years, and one that has completely re-shaped my motivation for this work, and my commitment to it. It helped me learn a lot more about my privilege as well. This year, I am also pairing it with some of the awesome lesson plans that Teaching Tolerance created in collaboration with Michelle Alexander.

Online Resources:

  • Teaching Tolerance – This website is simply incredible, and it features everything from Lesson Plans to Curricula to Articles to Primary Resources and more! They created the Anti-Bias Framework as well, which has taught me so much about age-appropriate learning outcomes when it comes to the four domains they have outlined: identity, diversity, justice and action. Spend a few hours on here and you are sure to leave with more than you can handle.
    • In addition, they recently released the Perspectives for a Diverse America website, which allows you to find lesson plans and Primary Sources aligned to an essential question and one of the above domains. It’s a constant source of inspiration when I am planning example lesson plans, etc.
  • Zinn Education Program: Yep, it’s the same guy who wrote A People’s History of the United States but this time it’s a website chalk-full of lesson plans and resources and ideas for teaching students about the less canonical aspects of history. They always encourage exploration and inquiry rather than teachers telling students what’s right. Their lessons focus on everything from the Civil Rights movement to Art, to Music, and more.
  • Teaching Channel: Whenever I am seeking to re-align myself with what the best classrooms in America look like, I turn to the Teaching Channel to gather ideas. Their videos are simply awesome, and they share tons of great approaches to supporting learners, inquiry-based classrooms, and more.

Experiences and Opportunities:

  • Our most recent Whole Team Meeting, which was held on Wednesday, March 25th, was really incredible. We have recently hired someone to lead us in thinking about local issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness while keeping a focus and clear lens on students. They have been outstanding experiences. This time, we all traveled to the small town of Monsanto to visit the DELTAPINE seed company, a huge business and employer here in Mississippi. We started the day by looking at some of the highly technical jobs they have on offer but which they are struggling to find local Mississippians to fill. We asked ourselves the question: How are we preparing our students for these jobs, or any real-life opportunities? In what ways can we ensure that we are supporting them and our teachers to practice situations that are rigorous not because they are abstract, but because they are applicable and interesting? We then got a tour of the processing plant, and learned some interesting facts:
    • 30% of Mississippi works in Agriculture
    • 86% of farmers are White
    • 13.2% of farmers are African American
    • The average age of Mississippi farmers is 60.4

With this information in mind, we considered what the future will look like for Mississippi, as well as what the opportunities could look like for our students. It was a huge window into a part of our State that I so often see, but very seldom think about.

In the afternoon, we met with participants in a Greenville non-profit called Youth Builds. It’s an organization that works with high-school dropouts aged 16-22 to help them get their GEDs and into jobs around their community. They work with Habitat for Humanity on projects, have physical education aspects, and an incredibly strong culture of positivity, perseverance, and high expectations. We had the privilege of hearing the stories of the people whose lives had been changed by this program, as well as the vision of the woman who started it all. Needless to say, it was an incredible opportunity to expand our understanding of our communities and the assets within them.

  • Human-Centered Design Course – I am currently in a TFA-led course on Human-Centered Designing, which is completely online. Besides learning a TON about what a full-scale, semester-long course can look like (without too many webinars and mostly independent or small group learning), I heave been focusing on a set of actions that basically ensure that, as you design experiences and structures for others, you are listening to their feedback consistently while still keeping a disposition towards action – prototyping, testing, etc. It has been really cool to come up with crazy ideas and share them with partners (and some of you!).
  • Rural School Leadership Academy – While this hasn’t started yet, I am proud to have been accepted to the 2015 RSLA cohort. I am hoping to learn a lot from this experience, starting with examining and developing my leadership in Rural areas, and what it might look like for me to become more deeply involved in the communities I care most about here. I am also always wavering on whether or not I want to be a principal or school administrator one day, and I hope this program will give me clarity on what that might look like, and whether or not I would enjoy and have the impact I want to have in that role.

Okay, that is likely WAY more than you all wanted to hear, but I hope that sharing this illuminates some of the areas in which I am constantly seeking to grow and learn so that I can better serve you and your students. In addition, I hope this creates some touch-points for us: read an article or check out a resource, and let me know what you think!


Teaching Resources for Black History Month


Hello All!

A wonderful opportunity:

It’s Black History Month! A really exciting time to explicitly connect our contents to Social Justice, Civil Rights, and African American History (past, present, and future). While I know that we have been proactively including questions of social justice and a diversity of people, themes, and ideas in our unit plans, this is an incredible opportunity for us to collaborate school-wide on building student leadership, cultural competence, and critical consciousness through focusing on African American heritage and culture.

Indeed, I think this is a powerful chance for us to really live up to our Humanities Vision for Content fully.

We believe that the Humanities are critical contents in the actualization of Social Justice and Equity in students’ lives. We thus move students towards Humanities Achievement, Leadership, Critical Consciousness, and Cultural Competence.

As such, we act with the knowledge that every Humanities classroom must aggressively pursue the dismantling of systems of oppression through the provision of rigorous Humanities content and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

A significant challenge:

That said, we often face a real challenge when we start to plan for this month. Mainly, we risk compartmentalizing Black History to a “February thing” rather than an always thing. In addition, since many of us do not share all of the same background – racial, cultural, economic, educational – of all our students, we often also run the risk of telling students their own history, acting like the experts, or, perhaps worse, simply making a cursory attempt at focusing on some key African American role models. This, and more, can be part of the challenge. But it’s an important challenge to meet head-on.

What we hope to accomplish:

I would hope that all of us, ultimately, want to build student leadership this month. At the end of the day, we want our students feeling proud of who they are (whether they are Black or not), critical of current injustices, and united in their creative voice to take action: whether that be a celebration of African American heritage and history, or some other kind of civic engagement. We want to make sure we are learning about Black History alongside our students, in partnership with them and the community. We want to make sure to show that Black History is alive, powerful, and beautiful.

To that end…

Over the past couple years, I have worked with people on our TFA Team and among our Humanities teachers to compile resources for Black History Month that would provide (a) guidance on best approaches, and (b) examples of strong lesson plans and resources for us to use.

How it works:

  1. Read Teaching Tolerance’s “Do’s and Dont’s of Teaching Black History
  2. Go to this spreadsheet.
  3. Check out all the amazing resources!
  4. Have a resource worth sharing? Include it in the spreadsheet for others to use!
  5. Pair up with a buddy to share ideas and get feedback.
  6. Ask Jacob and/or your TLD Coach to see the awesome stuff you are working on.
  7. Teach your heart out 🙂

Have an amazing February!

Summative Drafts Thus Far!

Hello again folks! Well, we have been back for a couple of weeks now, and hard at work bringing our students to not only depth but also breadth of content, pushed forward by a real investment and love for the Humanities.

In the background of all this, many of you have done incredible work to start thinking about the end of the year, and how you will measure your students’ progress in a capstone, celebratory, and rigorous final assessment!

As you all know, I have already written one blog post about Summatives, and connecting you with various resources! So I thought for this one, I would share how far we’ve come!

Thus far, 75% of our Humanities classrooms have at least a draft summative they are working towards!!!

This is very exciting, as it shows direct progress towards our Priority #1 this quarter:

Students are engaged in the content because it is rigorous, compelling, and focused around essential questions that bring to light social justice issues because teachers are planning units and lessons that have strong visions of mastery, and that are propelled by essential questions and meaningful texts.

As such, I thought it would be a helpful for all of us to learn a little from one another as we push towards this effort. I have thus collected all of the most complete drafts we have created thus far in one folder! This should be an opportunity for you to explore and learn from what others are doing in their classrooms, connect with each other to find out more, and save precious time and energy rather than inventing the wheel from scratch!

Thus, I present to you, the 2014-2015 Summative Drafts Folder!

Here is a list of the awesome people whose work it contains:

  • Art: Cat Johnston
  • Music: Amelia Kundel, Tina Goodwillie, James Mitaritonna, Alice Hasen, Gabriella Sharpe, Heather Todd
  • Social Studies: Connor Bergen, Ali Hager, Chelsea Lewis, Stephen Fritz, Patrick Newton

World Languages – you guys have it easy! Just make sure you send me the date you plan on administering the 2009 Regents, and I will make sure to send it your way!

Keep up the awesome work guys! Let’s strive for 100% complete drafts by the end of the quarter!

Summatives in the Humanities


Click on the image above to hear Claire Wandro’s students talk about why the Regents Summative Assessment mattered to them!

Check out the quick video above of some of Claire Wandro’s students reflecting on why the Regents final assessment matters to them.

As the frost starts to harden over our Mississippi fields, and plans start to emerge for the winter break, it’s yet again time to start thinking WAY ahead so that it doesn’t rush up on us: it’s time to start thinking about Summatives in the Humanities!

All DRAFTS of Humanities Summatives (unless they are directly the SATP2 or the Regents) need to be submitted to Jacob and your TLD Coach by January 2nd!

To help you with this, this blog post contains:

  1. Why summatives? Why now?
  2. Requirements for your Summatives (with links and resources!)
  3. Links to Teacher-Made Summatives
  4. FAQ and Other Guidelines
  5. Need Additional Support?

Why Summatives? Why Now?

  • Students deserve to reliably know where they stand at the end of the year: After a year of work and growth in your classroom, students deserve to know where they stand compared to their peers across the nation. Summatives are the most reliable way of comparing how our students are doing in relation to other students within TFA, or against a national bar for rigor. Communicating this progress to our students helps them celebrate, reflect on their work this year, and grow as life-long learners.
  • Summatives help YOU plan: Having a summative at this point in the year helps you get concrete on what your students still need to learn, believe, and be able to do between now and the day you administer it. You shouldn’t be teaching to the test: instead, you should be teaching beyond it. A summative will help you clarify the basics of what your students need, and help you develop plans to teach beyond those basics.
  • Summatives are different from normal tests and quizzes: Unlike tests and quizzes, summatives often contain information that students may not have seen before (think about how the AP or the ACT or the SAT work… they test you on a national bar for how you use skills and solve problems rather than for what you already know). This is a chance for students to show their resilience and confidence in potentially unknown territory. And that’s EXCITING, not defeating.
  • Summatives help us advocate for the Humanities: Once we have the data and we can compare it to national standards, often we can apply for grants, advocate for more funding and attention in our schools, etc. Being able to have reliable proof of our students’ progress is the best way to do this.
  • Sometimes we need to give summatives early: due to testing, test-prep, etc. we often don’t have the opportunity to prepare our students for summatives and administer them part-way through the second semester. Having them handy gives us the chance to be flexible with this schedule, and still guarantee our students the right to know where they stand.
  • Summatives take time, feedback, and sharing: Besides all of the above, your summatives need to be vetted by me and your TLD Coach before they are valid, and the whole process is more enjoyable if we have an environment of sharing and collaboration! If we get that going, it will just be simpler in future years when people can pull summatives straight from a resource bank!

Requirements for your Summatives.

  • What should a summative look like?
    • For the most part, a summative assessment should look like a “traditional” assessment, plus any performance tasks or additional projects that would better help you measure your students’ progress towards your holistic vision.
    • It should be a final assessment, so it should be cumulative and cover the information, skills, and progress towards vision you should have mastered this year.
    • It should usually be given in the final weeks of school. However, you should check with your administrator, since often this is not the best time for Humanities classes that become test-prep part way through the second semester.
    • It should be subdivided by standard and/or skill, should be easily trackable by those skills, and should have rubrics or student responses for any open-response questions.
  • What is my summative assessment?
    • This differs a little, depending on your specific content. Any additional performance tasks are welcome, but optional. In the table below, you will see the basic requirements.
    • PLEASE NOTE: None of what is contained in the grid below is optional! In order to have valid measurements of how your students progressed (and to be in good standing with TFA), you MUST execute these full criteria.
    • Click on the links in this table to get access to the rubrics and assessments you need!
Content Level Assessment Type Additional Academic Prompt
Art Lower Elementary A Regents-aligned  assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the ECE Rubric
Upper Elementary A Regents-aligned  assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the Mississippi Art Creation Rubric
Secondary A Regents-aligned  assessment (or the Regents itself!) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Artwork assessed according to the Mississippi Art Creation Rubric
Music & Dance Elementary A Regents-aligned assessment (Dance, Music) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Performance assessed according to the Dance or Music Performance Rubrics
Secondary A Regents-aligned assessment (Dance, Music) (or the Regents itself!) pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD Performance assessed according to the Dance or Music Performance Rubrics
World Languages Elementary A Regents-aligned  (Spanish, French) assessment that covers:

–          Reading

–          Writing

–          Speaking

–          Listening

–          Culture

This should be age-appropriate and pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD.

Level 1 The Regents Second Language Proficiency Exam (Spanish, French) N/A
Level 2 EITHER:

–          The Regents 1.5 that we designed for you (Spanish, French)


–          A blind assessment on the Regents Second Language Proficiency (PLEASE EMAIL JACOB IMMEDIATELY IF THIS IS YOUR PREFERENCE!!!)

Social Studies 5th Grade Social Studies EITHER:

–          A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD/



–          The 5th Grade Regents assessment

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
8th Grade Social Studies EITHER:

–          A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD.



–          The 8th Grade Regents assessment

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
US History The MS State Assessment


(OPTIONAL ADDITION: The Regents US History assessment)

A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (preferably directly from the aligned Regents exam)
All other Social Studies A self-created Regents-aligned assessment pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD. A DBQ pre-approved by Jacob and your MTLD (aligned to the Regents assessment that closest fits your grade-level)


Links to Teacher Made Summatives

Check out some of the summatives that teachers have administered in the past!

Featured at the above link are:

  • MUSIC: Alice Hasen’s General Music Summative and Project
  • DANCE: Kasey Wooten’s Dance Summative and Project
  • SOCIAL STUDIES: Patrick Newton’s Summatives, as well as many others!

FAQ and Other Guidelines

Check out this Humanities Summative FAQs for further guidelines, answers, and resources!

Need Additional Support?

  1. Sign up for “Knowing Where You Are Going: Summatives in the Humanities” now!
    1. Wednesday, December 3rd in Greenwood (RSVP here)
    2. Tuesday, December 9th on WebEx (RSVP here)
    3. Wednesday, December 10th in Jackson (RSVP here)
  2. Talk to Jacob, your TLD Coach, and/or your Humanities Content Leaders!
  3. Reach out to your peers!

Resource Dump #1

Don’t become a nugget. Equip yourself with some awesome resources from your fellow teachers!

Our recent discussions as a team during the Humanities leader summit have spurred an awesome flurry of sharing and caring! Is there a better time than THANKSGIVING to share that awesome teamwork that we have started to establish, and say THANK YOU for it?!?!

Indeed, for this blog post, I have compiled some of those resources (as well as some extras!) in a manner that may be useful to you and your fellow teachers.

Find a resource you really love in this blog-post? Shout out the teacher who made it!

Updated Resource Sharing Drives!!!!

  • Art Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans, Unit Assessments, and Project Plans!
      • Main Contributors: Amanda Welch, Mary King, Cat Johnston, Salma Akhtar!
  • Music Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans and Unit Assessments
      • Main Contributors: Alice Hasen, Camille Loomis, Gabriella Sharpe
  • Social Studies Google Drive
    • Featuring NEW Unit Plans, Unit Assessments, and MUCH MORE!!!
      • Main Contributors: Ali Hager, Stephen Fritz, Brandon Rauch, Julia Braunreiter, Dan Clason, Tim Abram, and Laura Butler
  • World Languages DropBox
    • Featuring NEW Culture Plans, Unit Assessments, and more!
      • Main Contributors: Nels Akerson.

Resources from photos Jacob took in classrooms!

Other Fun Resources!

Some content on this page was disabled on November 7, 2016 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from The DBQ Project. You can learn more about the DMCA here:


TPR(S) Resources


Bryce Henderson – Check out his amazing blog, resources and example student work here


Websites full of videos!

Denver Public Schools TPR(S) videos – Awesome teachers in action!

Learner.org TPR videos – Especially strong for linking culture with TPR


Individual videos worth checking out!

Ben Slavic – From PQA to TPRS: Moving from PQA to Storytelling…complete with video!  There is commentary so it is relevant for all languages, but bonus for French teachers, it’s Ben Slavic!




Music Articles, Books, Videos, and more!


Rocking it Out: Exploring Music Teaching Methods – Check out this fun and engaging activity on the NYTimes blog (and many more)!


Our Mississippi Humanities Community


If you have found this page, it means you are a part of TFA Mississippi’s Humanities Community!

As we continue to collectively contribute to this website, you will find all the information and resources you need – from articles to inform your vision to sample lesson plans – to ensure that you and your fellow Humanities teachers are dropping some knowledge in the classroom.

You can start by diving into your content pages listed in the menus above! Our main features right now will help you prepare  and plan your First 9 Weeks back in the classroom.

Here is a quote that should stick with us all as we consider the importance of what we do as Humanities teachers:

Children … come into the world … mindless. I know that must sound a bit strange to you. They do not come in without brains. Brains are biological; minds are cultural. Minds are a form of cultural achievement. And the kinds of minds children come to own is in the large measure influenced by the kinds of opportunities they have in their lives. And the kind of opportunities … is largely influenced by the kinds of programs and options that are made available to them in the course of their childhood. 

– Elliot Eisner, Professor of Art and Education at Stanford University

Also, since many of us communicate in different ways, here is where you can find updates on and reach out to our Humanities Community:

Our Facebook Group


And, as always, feel free to reach out to your Director of Humanities, Jacob Carroll, by email or phone!

Much love,