Daniel SanGiacomo

aka Daniel Aktas

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Let’s make the rules together

I am a strong advocate of making rubrics and class rules with the students instead of for the students. Working with students through discussion to define what is appropriate in class or what a successful project looks like gives students agency and ownership over their behavior and work in class. I find this to be most important working with high school students.

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What Do You Say to ‘That’s So Gay’ & Other Anti-LGBTQ* Comments?

This website provides lots of ways for adults to answer challenging questions that come up in class to promote a safer school environment.

What Do You Say to ‘That’s So Gay’ & Other Anti-LGBTQ* Comments?

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a first grader who might not know what the word “gay” means, a sixth grader trying to sound cool, or a tenth grader “teasing” a friend.  All of these have the potential of creating an unsafe classroom or school environment and must be addressed.  So, what can caring adults do?”


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i wish my teacher knew

“One day, third-grade teacher Kyle Schwartz asked her students to fill–in–the–blank in this sentence: “I wish my teacher knew _____.” The results astounded her. Some answers were humorous, others were heartbreaking–all were profoundly moving and enlightening. The results opened her eyes to the need for educators to understand the unique realities their students face in order to create an open, safe and supportive place in the classroom. When Schwartz shared her experience online, #IWishMyTeacherKnew became an immediate worldwide viral phenomenon. Schwartz’s book tells the story of #IWishMyTeacherKnew, including many students’ emotional and insightful responses, and ultimately provides an invaluable guide for teachers, parents, and communities.”



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Trading Card Icebreakers

As a high school student, I found the most annoying first-day procedure to be introducing 24 plus students with their name and a token item about themselves. I was never ready to open up to a class on the first day, I could never remember all the names, my token line was always some throw away generic thing. There are other formats to introduce students. One of my favorite icebreakers is trading cards! With this activity, each student starts by making their own trading card with their name, a drawing, their favorite movie, and any other information about themselves. Then the students get up and circulate around the room in 2-minute intervals to trade cards and get to know their classmates.pokemon-cards-worth-00.jpg

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Cork Board Community

What is a classroom and who does it belong to? The students or the teachers? Teachers by nature of being the teacher of a classroom have all the opportunity to customize, organize, color, add, subtract, and change their classroom but students do not. In some capacity, teachers share this personalization when placing student work on the wall but I think this can be taken further. A great activity to initiate the student personalization of their classroom is a cork board. I use this for younger students by asking them to bring in and pin up a picture of something or someone they like from outside of school. I start the activity by pinning up a picture of my cat Donut and telling a story about her. Using a cork board with upper school I use this activity for students to brainstorm how their lives intersect with a topic of the curriculum.


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What is exploratory talk?

Outlined by Douglas Barnes in Cycles of meaning: Exploring the potential of talk in learning, Exploratory talk is the opposite of everything I had expected students to say when answering a question in class. Exploratory talk aka seminary talk topples the notion that responses have to be perfectly correct vocal answers. Using exploratory talk students can talk through their ideas and are given the space to verbally re-experience and sort their thoughts where they may or may not form a conclusion. Working in this format is ideal for my classrooms where I encourage a community that actively listens and responds to each other. Here is an artifact from a high school lesson introducing exploratory talk. With the categories of talk omitted my students were asked to name this kind of open discussion we would be using during discussions.