SBG in My History Classroom Part 0: How I Got Here

When I decided to start blogging and reading teaching blogs again, Jason Buell, who luckily was still subscribed to my RSS feed despite three years of silence, was kind enough to leave me a comment on my first post. I immediately checked out his blog where I found a whole slew of posts on Standards Based Grading (SBG). I had never heard the term before, so I read through his posts, along with those he recommended from Shawn and Matt. What I found was that they had formalized and expanded on a lot of things I have been doing and experimenting with in my history classes over the past four years. It’s always nice to find our that something I thought on my own is actually a good idea shared by others! [That’s actually why I became a teacher in the first place – it was reading Ted Sizer’s Horace’s Compromise and thinking, “this is pretty much every complaint I had about high school.”] Unfortunately, it seemed like I the discussion I soon found myself observing was about SBG in Science and Math classes, so I did not jump in.

Luckily, I believe thanks to Jason again, I came across Liz Becker’s post on SBG and the History Classroom, so I realized I was not alone on my island of social studies SBGers. Her post captured a lot of my thoughts and concerns:

  • There are lots of great examples of this in math and science, but not in humanities
  • Math and science standards tend to be more concrete than social studies standards
  • History standards are often broad and not something that can be graded in a gradebook

I promised Liz a post about what I’ve done, so here we go. In the past couple days, I was also pointed in the direction of Shawn’s post on SBG in History, and @BrklynSurfer’s list of the skills he’s planning on using for SBG in his classroom this fall. I’m happy to be joining the conversation, and looking forward to working with people online to get a viable plan in place for Social Studies SBG. (I teach English now too, but I think it’s one step at a time).

I’m also in the process of planning two new courses for next year with two different, but overlapping, teaching teams. I’m planning an 11th Grade Global History Course that will cover all history through the 19th Century, and an aligned 11th Grade Global Literature course. This will be helpful so I can explain my “crazy grading system” to my team, and hopefully bring them on board.   

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3 thoughts on “SBG in My History Classroom Part 0: How I Got Here

  1. Alright! Glad my inability to clean out and maintain my Google Reader had a positive effect. I’m definitely interested in following this. I’ve been dying to find a good group of social studies teachers to look into sbg. I think science and social studies teachers (my class not excepted) have a tendency to lose the big ideas while dealing with the minutiae of vocabulary, identifying parts of the cell, or dates and people. SBG helps me refocus on the big picture and Liz and BrklynSurfer’s lists are both great examples of staying zoomed out. I’ll be watching with interest.

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  2. Good luck! Remember, it’s only crazy to not switch to SBG. You don’t really have to do that much different form an instruction stand point, just from the assessment vantage. This helps brings new people on board easier, if you’re looking to evangelize at your school. Have fun!

    =shawn

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  3. Thanks for the compliment Jason. I too am very excited about the growing network of humanities teachers applying SBG to Social Studies and ELA.

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