Spotlight on Teaching

Excerpts from the Teaching & Learning Blog

Since 2017, the Teaching and Learning blog has provided a venue for Grace teachers and administrators to share an in-depth look at the classes they teach, the extracurricular programs they organize and the traditions they help keep alive. Each post offers some insight not only into how a project or a curricular unit takes shape, but also shines a light on how the students engage in their work.

This year, the Teaching and Learning blog, like many things, adapted, becoming a bridge between our families and daily life at school. Read on for excerpts from three highlight posts from the year.

“Learning Isn’t Linear: Desmos Final Projects”

by Morika Tsujimura and Sonia von Gutfeld, Math

The last few weeks of eighth grade bring a familiar chorus every year—grumbles about the workload when summer feels so close, joyous celebrations of milestones and accomplishments and a rollercoaster of emotions as classmates reflect on their time together in anticipation of the changes high school will bring. The Desmos project is a culminating math assignment that brings out all three motifs in raucous harmony, a melding of adolescence and algebra.

Desmos is an approachable, web-based graphing program we use throughout the year. With this project, students find new, creative ways to apply this tool. First, students draw a Grace-themed design on graph paper that they then convert into equations and inequalities in order to reproduce the image on Desmos. Utilizing various types of functions learned over the year, students write equations for straight lines and curves and restrict them to the segments they need for their drawing. They also shade sections by using inequalities instead of equations

Desmos graph sketch
Anna L. ’25‘s Grace griffin original sketch
Griffin Graph
Anna L. ’25‘s Grace final griffin graph

“The Magic of Popcorn Words”

by Kate Patton, Early Childhood

What is a Popcorn Word? Any current or former Grace Kindergartener will know. Teaching reading readiness as we do in Kindergarten is all at once complex, exciting, and fun. Learning sight words is an important part of this process. We use the term Popcorn Word to mean frequently occurring sight words, those words you will likely read countless times as a reader.  

…Popcorn Words are taught to be so easily recognizable that they pop out from the page much like a freshly popped kernel of popcorn! The children know you need only your eyes to read these words. No sounding out necessary. And, of course, when you spot a popcorn word, buttering it is a must. We encourage children to look for popcorn words everywhere, and when appropriate, they can use a butter marker (a.k.a. a yellow highlighter) to mark any popcorn words they see. (In the absence of yellow, popcorn words can be highlighted with cheese or jelly!) In the classrooms, we create Popcorn Word walls as a reference to be used daily.

A popcorn wall in Ms. Patton’s classroom
A popcorn wall in Ms. Patton’s classroom
Jackson G. ‘22 poses for a selfie with Katz’s Delicatessen owner Jake Dell
Jackson G. ’22 poses for a selfie with Katz’s Delicatessen owner Jake Dell

“High School Students Share NYC History Through Podcasts”

by Jason McDonald, History (and Grace parent)

In the Spring 2021 semester, students in New York History were tasked with creating a podcast about a New York City history topic of their choice. Several students chose to study segregation in public schools; two chose the history of Central Park. From Washington Irving to the 2021 election, the topics represented deep interest in the history of our city. I was impressed with the depth and breadth of their interests.

A key part of each student’s production process was interviewing an expert in their chosen field. These experts, ranging from politicians and historians to reporters and civil servants, reflected the variety of the students’ podcasts. Many of them were also connected to our community. Tia Biasi, Grace’s [alumni director], secured Andrea Marpillero-Colomina ’99, who advised a student interested in urban planning. Parent and 2021 Comptroller candidate Zach Iscol was another interviewee. Arthur Platt, architect and the uncle of two Grace students, was another expert we interviewed. Hugo Mahabir, head of the high school, helped us secure an interview with his former student Jake Dell of Katz’s Delicatessen.