Classroom Policies for Social Studies Class with Mr. Jones

[Updated August 2017]

As a secondary level content area class, “content is king”. The degree of success in the class is to a large degree dependent on the quantity of content the student retains in his or her memory by the end of the lessons. Consequently, every task and its assessment is geared in some way toward promoting memory of the material.

The Web Site

My web site is All students have a free account there. Almost all class materials are there, testing is done there, and work is turned in there. Parents who wish to are welcome to have their own accounts.

Planning Meetings Start Each Topic

Each topic begins with a planning meeting where students update their planners with the due dates for tasks in the topic. The lesson plan calendar is public and online for everyone to see. There is also a planning meeting whenever the calendar changes. Student planners should have entries for: (1) "capstone task" (2) monthly exams and essay tasks; (3) "Student Presentations and Debates Day", when those who choose to may participate in debate or give a 5 minute class presentation. Optional entries in planners would include: (1) scheduled teacher whole-class presentation days; (2) planned "working periods" during which students complete tasks and quizzes.

Assignment "Tasks"

There are two difficulty levels from which students may choose when completing a topic: basic and standard (for gifted-talented students, I will happily create “advanced” work).

Students may choose the basic curriculum if they meet one or more of three criteria:

  • has an IEP
  • has a 504 plan
  • is enrolled in AIS (Academic INtervention Services)

The basic plan teaches students just enough to pass. Standard plan teaches students the NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum. The advanced plan provides students with work that is of greater complexity and workload than the standard fare. Students choose the difficulty level at the start of a topic and may change throughout the year.

Video Describing the Basic Plan

The tasks on the basic plan are as follows: summary, basic multiple-choice quiz, vocabulary quiz, argument quiz, primary source analysis, reading task, choice of final topic task (variable time, depending on task). Students have class time that totals around 11 hours to work on these tasks, which should be plenty of time. The basic plan has one less assignment and there is less information to learn. The multiple-choice quiz has a maximum score of 71 because around a third of the questions have been omitted from the regular quiz. This plan is designed to teach students "just enough to pass" and to give them the training to perhaps be able to handle the standard curriculum one day. Students on this plan usually maintain GPA in the mid- to low 70s. Selection of content to teach is based on "just what was tested" on standard state tests such as the old NYS Intermediate Social Studies Test and the NYS US History Regents Exam.


The paper: Comparing Workload of Social Studies Class Textbooks

Starting 1st April 2017, there will be changes made to grading policy for topic reading tasks in high school courses.

Students choosing the Basic Proficiency curriculum must use the lower level textbook offering. Students choosing the regular curriculum must use the grade level standard textbook.

The maximum score available for the lower level reading task will be 76. This reduced maximum is also in effect for alternative homework readings at a lower level.

The reasons for the change are outlined in the paper linked above, but a short version of the explanation runs thus: The fifth grade level text is 53% shorter than the ninth grade level text. Average sentence length is 61% shorter in the fifth grade textbook. The number of pages to read is 55% fewer. In sum, the workload (disregarding the reader’s ability and cognitive load) is about half. Anyone would agree that I cannot in good conscience offer full credit for something that has half the value.

The hill to climb should be about as steep for all hikers even if there are many different trails.

The runner who completes a marathon in decent time has done something of greater value than the runner of a half marathon who ran the same time.

The tasks on the standard and advanced plan are as follows: one or two multiple-choice quizzes, one or two argument composition quizzes, one or two informational composition quizzes, primary source analysis, reading task, choice of final topic task. There is always at least one additional task on the standard list compared to basic. This plan delivers the NYS curriculum for social studies as defined in the Frameworks and at the Common Core State Standards level of difficulty. See

Almost everything in grades 6-10 social studies, including study for quizzes, is done in class. Mostly. This is why I use the word "task" instead of "assignment". When you see work missing from your son/daughter's progress report, it is only "homework" if it has the code HW in the description. Work that is "missing" in a progress report is almost never an "assignment" in the homework sense.

Work that students complete with the help of an adult is never eligible for credit.


In grade 7, there is no homework and credit cannot be earned outside class without special arrangements. Students wishing to do some work at home can prepare study guides or flashcards for quizzes. Formal assignment of homework begins in the final topic of the year and is limited to a single summary per week.

In grade 8 there is one summary task per week for much of the year, but some topics have no homework.

In grade 9 there is a summary task once a week and study for some tests is required outside class instead of during class time.

In grade 10 students are expected to complete two tasks per week outside class time. There is some flexibility in which tasks they choose to do as homework.

Please note that I cannot grant credit for written tasks on which students got help from someone. Homework assignments are for the student to do. Assistance from adults, including other teachers, is generally not invited.

The Topic Reading Task

At the start of each topic are class periods dedicated to reading. This is the "Reading Task". Students select any one from two difficulties of text readability for their notes. The task may be to summarize a target text or apply the Cornell note taking technique, depending on the requirements of the topic of study. This is intended to provide the general background of the topic.

The reading periods alternate with classes consisting of a series of teacher presentations and whole group teaching, usually focused on the most difficult concepts or things not covered in the readings. The schedule of these is set out in advance, though changes in scheduling are made depending on the necessity of the moment. The topic reading task is of considerable importance and effort, so is graded as a high order task.

Students are assigned to take notes in the Cornell note taking format. (This video describes how that is done).

The reading task cannot be done outside class time without special permission. Here's why.

Turning in Work and Getting Credit

Students may earn digital "badges". A Badge can be awarded for mastering a complex skill or for special permission. For example, students who earn the qualification may have permission to complete the topic primary source analysis outside class time by earning the badge.

To look up the badges your son/daughter has earned, obtain their page code or email me for the code and look up the badges here.


On average, it takes 3 days for student work to be reviewed, graded, recorded, and returned.

More and more work is turned in electronically. All tasks turned in for this course must be in PDF format and uploaded to the student's account at this web site. Tasks "shared" through Google are not generally accepted.

Sometimes I cannot know an assignment is missing for several days past the due date. I cannot contact parents and tell them an assignment is missing. All papers are stamped with the date received. It is the student's responsibility to keep track of tasks completed. There is a chart on the bulletin board in the classroom where students check off tasks as they complete them.

If a student believes I have made an error and not credited him/her for a paper turned it, I will require the graded paper as evidence. Having "remembered doing it" or "remembered turning it in" do not count as evidence of error.

A student may have handed in a task and it is awaiting scoring at the time teachers or parents print out the grade book looking for missing work. I do not search the pile of papers awaiting correction to check to see if a paper has been turned in.


The late fee is 10 points per school day deducted from any type of task.

Each  marking  period  is  22.2%  of  a  student’s  GPA  and  the  Regents or final  examination  is  11.1% of  the  GPA.  The  tasks  within  each  marking  period  are  also  weighted:  65%  of  a  marking  period  grade is  the  “high  order  task”  category,  25%  consists  of  those  tasks  identified  as  “low  order  tasks”,  and  10% is  the  knowledge  test  given  at  the  end  of  each  marking  period.  This  test  covers  everything  since  the start  of  the  year

In cases where a student's quarter average falls below 50, I will consider permitting "do-over" of enough tasks to bring that average to 65 if the quarter average in the following quarter is 70 or above. This is a safety net offered only to special situations where a quarter average is below 50 and where the following quarter is >=70 and where in my judgment the second chance is warranted. Generally speaking, however, students will get the grade they first earn permanently.

In cases where a final year GPA is 63 or 64, the grade will be inflated to 65 if the student passes the fourth quarter interim exam with a 65 or over. Otherwise, a 64 is deflated to 63.


No single textbook resource is used in this course and unless requested by parents, students are not issued textbooks. There are many texts available in class at reading levels ranging from grade 4 to college level. There are also recorded lectures at college level, teacher-made video lessons at middle school level, several formal teacher presentations in each cycle of lessons, some commercially-made videos, and texts in audio format. Textbooks are signed in and out using inventory software at this web site.

Audio-Video Recording

The classroom is a public venue and I will record what goes on there in video and/or audio from time to time.

Students are welcome, in fact encouraged, to bring their own audio or video recording devices to lessons for later study. This can be particularly effective for people who learn well from listening: they can record class presentations and discussions.


This course is designed in a way that makes it impossible to pass without maintaining good attendance.

Students have five (5) school days to make up tasks missed due to absence. The extra time is for the task they would have done on the day they were absent. Students do not get extra days for the whole topic of study. Students who return on the day of a summative test are required to take that test.

When students miss a task due to absence, a zero is temporarily recorded in the grade book for that task until such time as it is made up.

Tasks missed due to absence are not accepted past the five day grace period.

Most work cannot be done independently without my supervision. Students who are absent a lot will always struggle to pass. Students who have an irregular pattern of attendance will not pass this class. There is no remedy for this, very little work can be done at home, and there is a 5 day limit on making up work missed due to absence. Assignments are not available for "take out" when students are absent.

After school private lessons are regrettably not available. Tutors can often be arranged through the district office or National Honor Society.

What can parents and other teachers do to help students in social studies outside class?

Students having difficulty in the class should first try reading texts at lower grade level, taking the course on a basic proficiency basis, and joining the AIS class. I do not advocate for homework very much for people under age 14.

Parents can arrange to visit class and work with their child. If anyone (parents, teachers) wants to know what they can do outside class to help these students, it is only this: work with them and drill them on the content. Students who know lots of history will get high marks.