Affinity Groups

Surfacing innovative ideas with like-minded peers


Now in their fourth year,  iZone Affinity Groups (AGs) are small groups of NYC educators and DOE staff members who meet monthly around an innovative practice or idea. AGs offer participants a chance to collaborate around common professional interests, share success and challenges, surface promising practices, and connect with like-minded educators. Join us to connect with other educators, get inspired, and share your impact!

Often what do exists in the vacuum of our school, but being in an Affinity Group was a great way to get outside input as well as hear outside critique.

– Computer Teacher/Tech Coordinator

 application icon Register to participate in an Affinity Group here. 

 We received 18 Affinity Group proposals for school year 2014-15. Check out the submissions below and register to participate by Wednesday, November 5th (space is limited!).

Affinity Group Offerings SY 2014-15

Group Name
Group Focus
Group Details
Target Audience
Group Co-Leaders
With Goal in Hand and Purpose in HeartIncorporating opportunities for students to build personal relevance out of a Common Core-aligned Curriculum.

In order to successfully support student literacy and implement a curriculum that encourages fascination, all students—voracious and skeptical readers alike—need to find personal relevance in reading. This group will address a workplace goal we all share: the desire to provide an authentic reason for struggling. It provides an answer as to why students should work hard. Namely, working hard helps you reach your own goals and satisfy your own curiosity. We will collegially support each other as we build a curriculum that is rigorous and relevant.Our target audience includes Teachers, Parent Coordinators, and Assistant Teachers (Para-professionals).Adam Kinory (10th Grade English Teacher at School of the Future) and Diana Sierra (HS Spanish Teacher School of the Future)
Coding Across ContentIncorporating coding into the content areas to better teach each subject.Up to now coding has always been conceptualized as part of Math, Science, and Technology. Unfortunately, these are fields that present barriers for many students. They also are fields in which African-American, Hispanic, and Female, students are under-represented. It is perhaps for this reason that these groups are similarly under-represented in the field of coding. By embracing coding in The Social Sciences, we provide students with an opportunity to see the use of technology in a way that goes beyond the areas it is usually presented in: Math and Science. This should energize those students who enjoy English, History, and Language and to see relevancy in fields that they might otherwise avoid studying. Our goal is to explore how coding can be used toward enriching instruction in the Social Sciences.Teachers, Parent Coordinators, and Assistant Teachers (Para-professionals).Adam Kinory (10th Grade English Teacher at School of the Future) and Catherine Thompson (11th/12th Grade History Teacher School of the Future)
Social Emotional Learning: the Heart of the MatterSEL in practice in diverse secondary school settings.A fierce commitment to SEL is the lynchpin to support our students' growth: academically and otherwise. It is essential to student achievement and wellness, and to healthy learning organizations. We Believe! And we need all minds at the table. This will be our 4th year meeting as an Affinity Group. We blend theory, practice, and the restorative practices of reflecting and breaking bread together. This group will meet from 5-7pm at NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies. Meeting dates are: Tuesday 11/25, Thursday 1/8, Tuesday 2/24, Thursday 3/19, and Tuesday 5/12.
We value all perspectives and need participants from a range of entry points. All are welcome! We have a particular strength is helping APs, counselors, and teacher leaders grow these practices in classrooms adn throughout school settings.Brooke Jackson (Principal at NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies) and William Frackelton (Principal at Soundview Academy)
iLeaders: An iZone Leadership Affinity GroupEmpowering teacher-leaders to drive instructional change by modeling facilitation skills discovered in affinity group meetings, current literature, looking at research and monitoring successful practices.iLeaders empowers teacher-leaders by modeling facilitation skills in current literature and research, and monitoring successful practices. Asking teachers to be leaders among their peers can only be accomplished when we give them a safe space to practice. We hope to create a safe space to learn and practice peer facilitation skills.Principals, School Leaders, Teacher LeadersWalter Brown (AP/IA at Hudson HS of Learning Technologies) and Anne Tailaferro (11th Grade Team Leader at Hudson HS of Learning Technologies)
Systematizing Mastery: Now You Are the MasterSystematizing mastery.Our schools have worked together on this topic before and we are excited to work with other educators on this. We would like to create a digital library of mastery-based projects that for schools doing this work.Schools that have worked with both project based learning and mastery based systems for a number of years and feel comfortable and competent with this work. Teachers across subjects, grades and schools are invited!Ethan Knecht (Lead Teacher at Bronx Compass) and Christy Kingham (Lead Teacher at TYWLS Astoria)
Social Media Guidelines for Elementary School StudentsDeveloping, refining, and testing guidelines and supporting materials.Elementary school teachers and their students want support and guidance with social media use. We will provide guidance for using social media in a student-friendly format. Lisa is an expert in digital engagement for educators and Allison is a former elementary school teacher. In other words, you'll be in good hands! You should join if you want to be part the pioneering work of having educators and their students be involved in the development of the guidelines that affect them. Our group will meet monthly on Wednesdays (dates to be determined at the first meeting) from 4-6 PM at Harlem Renaissance Training Center (425 W. 123rd Street).
NYC DOE Staff, K-8 teachers, tech coordinators, and any interested partiesLisa Nielsen (Director of Digital Engagement + Professional Learning at NYCDOE) and Allison Lavey (iZone staff)
School of OneBlended Learning, innovation, math instruction, and School of One best practices.Our mission is to collaborate with like-minded educators to better implement personalized math solutions and the School of One program. The School of One community has a lot to share and learn from each other both about So1 and more broadly around math instruction and innovative practices in schools. You should join if you want to improve their So1 teaching practice by learning from peers, share best practices and resources, see what other teachers are doing.School of One teachers, Coaches, and other innovative math teachers who are trying to flip their classroomsYaron Bohbot (Math Coach at MS 88) and Emily Reisman (SO1 Math Teacher at MS 88)
Middle School Blended LearnersMiddle School models present and future.We seek to promote academic enrichment and acceleration in middle school blended learning environments. In our experience, middle school students are eager to earn high school credit while in grades 6,7 and 8. There are many High School users, but few groups focused on the middle school level. NYC public school students, staff and parentsPatrick Lawler (School of One Coordinator at MS 381) and John Norton (AP at MS 381)
The New Book ClubReading for the interdisciplinary classroom.The New Book Group will read non-fiction books with topics that make us better citizens and teachers. This is an off-shoot from last year's affinity book group and that was a great experience. We are always looking for good non-fiction topics and reading excerpts for our differentiated classrooms. You should join the group if you want to read and discuss good books, and want to see things from other's point of view. Teachers, readers and anybody who is interested in discussionKaty Bolger (Humanities Teacher at City-As-School) and Jamie WIlber (English Teacher at City-As-School)
Blended Learning CafeA book group where we will read and study text based on Blended Learning topics of interest.We are interested in increasing our knowledge of this topic and hearing other educators’ views and experiences. You will get to socialize and discuss books related to the field of education with other teachers. We are open to discussion on what books we would read (ideas include: The Flipped Classroom or The Differentiated Classroom). We are open to ideas of the members of the group.Teachers, everyoneRachel Tsivitis (Library Media Specialists at Lower East Side Prep) and Addie Watson (Teacher at Lower East Side Prep)
Hook, Align, and Sinker: Fishing for Increased Literacy Levels for All StudentsHow to increase student literacy levels by designing and implementing lessons that are rigorous and Common Core aligned.Teachers understand the importance of developing students’ literacy skills, however, struggle with creating lessons that are engaging, rigorous and aligned to the Common Core; particularly for students with disabilities and English Language Learners. We will provide a supportive and engaging environment for teachers to collaboratively develop lessons based on literacy skills. At the end of the year, members will have a collection of literacy-based activities and lessons from different subjects that are Common Core aligned. It’s not often you get to tap into the collective brain power of educators across the city to develop rigorous and engaging literacy units. Seize this opportunity to do so—your students will thank you!If you teach—and love—literacy, curriculum, ELL students, and special education students, this is the group for you. But we never exclude; all are welcome to join!Allison Lavey (iZone staff), Heather Portnoy (English Teacher at NYC iSchool), and Amy DeMarco (Special Education Teacher at Energy Tech HS)
Oh the Places We'll Go: International Models of Effective Teaching and LearningInternational models of effective pedagogy.We want to learn about, practice, and evaluate methods developed elsewhere that meets students' needs in ways that traditional American classrooms (even the innovative ones) might not. You may have heard about school culture in Finland or Japanese lesson study and want to explore new teaching ideas through personal classroom practice. We will bias towards research and reflective practice and are most interested in how teacher teams effectively collaborate. Our mission is to go global, build professional capital, develop global teaching competency, and share our insights along the way. Teachers/everybodyDaniel Babauta (Teacher at Sunset Park HS) and Stacey Ward (Teacher at Sunset Park HS)
The Restorative Justice Affinity GroupThe Restorative Justice Affinity Group will focus on finding ways to incorporate Restorative Justice Practices into your school—with or without buy-in from other faculty and administrators.Most school-based disciplinary systems are punitive. They demean the youth they are meant to serve and teach. Restorative Justice, we believe, is the milieu for providing youth with dignified, humane and teachable pathways through behavior and fairness issues. We will strive to incorporate at least one quirky and delightful (or otherwise fun) activity into each meeting. This will be a solution-oriented, negativity-minimal zone. Folks should join our group because they will have an opportunity to learn more about Restorative Justice amongst a group of motivated, like-minded individuals who understand the real issues faced by the most punished students in the NYC Public School System. Also, there will be snacks.Our target audience is teachers and administrators who feel that the discipline approaches at their schools negatively impact teachers, students, and parents, and the school culture as a whole.Al Sylvia (AP at Bronx Compass HS) and Nkomo Morris (Special Education Teacher at Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School)
Peer Observation as Professional DevelopmentClassroom visits as a way of sharing and promoting best instructional practice.Isolation Sucks. Community Rules. In our experience, teachers practice in isolation. Sometimes the best PD is available in the classroom next door. We will explore the building of professional communities through observation. Bonus: the co-leaders are a hilarious team.Administrators and Teachers who want to learn from each otherJeff Palladino (Principal at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom HS) and Al Sylvia (AP at Bronx Compass HS)
Advisory as a Social Emotional Learning GymAdvisory. What is it? Why do some advisories fail and what makes them succeed? What does it mean to do it well? What gets in the way of our best intentions? We will work together to explore all aspects of what makes effective advisory group leadership.With training and support, advisory can become a social microcosm and holding environment that supports the development of advisors in addition to students. The work of advisory group leadership can be truly rewarding and have a positive ripple effect in participants lives, both in and out of school. You want to work on your own group leadership—whether you lead an advisory group, a classroom group, or staff meeting. You are interested in helping your group members to communicate effectively with one another, as well as how to understand and work with what gets in the way. You are eager to understand how to engage a group in a process of mutual development, whatever the group’s task. This group is 80% experiential and 20% didactic/theoretical. This group meets five times, on Fridays from 5-7pm. Meeting dates are: 11/14, 12/5, 1/9, 1/30, 2/13Administrators, teachers, counselors, and anyone involved with and/or interested in leading advisory groups and/or other group-oriented programsDavid Rothauser (Instructional Specialist for Social Emotional Learning at New Visions Charter High Schools) and Angelina Lopez (iZone staff)
Blended Real World LearningInfusing blended learning into real world learning.We believe that many of our Real World projects and curricula could be enriched by blended learning. Real world curricula and internships are often seen as separate from "school." Here is an opportunity to design and build the bridge connections to academic work and student advancement. We will use all learning experiences to blend school, virtual learning and the real world. It will be fun!Teachers (and administrators) who are interested in engaging students in ALL learning environmentsNoel Parish (AP at Bronx Compass HS) and Jeremy Mellema (Global Teacher at Bronx Compass HS)
Student VoiceThe development of student voice elements leading to school improvement.This is the fifth year of the Student Voice Collaborative and we are eager to share our work and support others who are interested in strengthening student voice in their schools. This is an excellent opportunity to network and learn with enthusiastic and like-minded educators who are determined to build student leadership and voice leading to action. Principals, COSAs, Middle and High School TeachersBetty Feibusch (Youth Development at CFN107) and Ari Sussman (Achievement Coach at Network 102)
Pedagogue MakersIntegrating and developing maker practices into our pedagogue.The maker movement offers teachers and students the opportunity to explore innovations, creativity and entrepreneurship in the classroom setting. Educators should join this group if they want to build, make, and teach others to do the same. Our mission is to educate, learn, and explore the practice of making.Administrators, Teachers, and StudentsJeffrey Stephens-Prince (Teacher at George Westinghouse) , Dara Ross (Teacher at Brooklyn International HS), Brad Ashley (Teacher/Tech Coordinator at NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies)

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Check out the Affinity Group FAQ.

Have more questions about Affinity Groups? Contact Allison, she’s got the scoop!