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Archive for the ‘Gifted Education’ Category

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Poetry Friday is with Catherine at Reading to the Core

Happy Birthday, Billy Collins!  His 76th birthday was on March 22nd.  

I introduced my students to the poetry of Billy Collins with this poem, The Trouble with Poetry.  The poem gives good advice about writing poems.

“The trouble with poetry is…
it encourages the writing of more poetry…
the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.”

I asked my students to steal a line and write their own poem.

The trouble with reading poetry is
that it’s so fun to read you can’t stop.

The trouble with poetry is
that you are to sit in the dark room
and wait for a flame of idea to pop up.

The trouble with poetry is
that Mrs. Simon makes us look for
what the poem means which is super hard.

The trouble with poetry is
thinking about ideas which is like hitting
yourself in the head with a rock.

The trouble with poetry is
that sometimes people steal ideas
and don’t give credit.

The trouble with poetry is
that you think your idea is bad
when it is really good.

The  trouble with poetry is
that you can have a writer’s block.

The trouble with poetry is
that you have to read it out loud to find mistakes.

by Andrew, 4th grade

 

Poetry Fills Me With Joy
Making me Float Above The Clouds
Like A Hot Air Balloon Soaring Above
After Being Filled With Hot Air
Like A Plane Being Filled With Fuel
And Taking Off
Like The First Letter Of Each Of These Words
Trying To Soar Off of The Screen

poetry fills me with sorrow
making me sink below the ground
like a balloon being popped
and crashing in the sea
like a plane crashing and burning
like the letters of this poem
trying to sink off the screen

By Kaiden, 6th grade

Billy Collins sarcastically expresses the feeling I get when I read poetry, and the reason I read poetry with my students.  Poetry breeds more poetry.  And I can’t think of anything better that a poem might do.  Thanks, Billy Collins, for encouraging my students to steal a line and try their own hands at writing poems.  

“ And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.”

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Some weeks a word will pop into my head for a DigiLit topic. Then I’ll mull over it and wonder why.  This is how it’s been with Innovation. Like Blended Learning last week, I am wondering if innovation is happening in my classroom.

I think of my young students who are writing for the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge every day.  Last year I put together a treasure box of writing prompts.  I decorated it and filled it with little odds and ends I found around my house.  One of these was a wishing rock.  Andrew put his hand into the box and came out with this rock.  I immediately thought of this Harris Burdick image.

“Maybe you could write a story to go with this image?”

“I’ve never written a story before.”

Andrew proceeded to type furiously into his Kidblog post.  The next day when he came in, he said “I can’t stop thinking about my wishing rock story.”

This is creativity working hand in hand with innovation.  You can read Andrew’s story here (part 1) and here (part 2).

My student, Noah, created a list post of “Things I Trust.”  Two of the curators of the Two Writing Teachers blog read his post.  They wanted to publish it to give other students ideas for writing.

Creativity and innovation happen in a classroom that is open to new ideas.  The let-me-try-this-out attitude.  I believe in my students.  They are more capable than I am when it comes to creativity.  Just look at Lynzee’s word cloud she created using the root word color.  She went on to write her post and change each word into a different font color.

 

Sometimes I feel like I just stand by and watch the brilliance of my students shine.  They are gifted kids, but more than that, they are open to the ideas floating around in the universe.  This openness will lead them on to produce wonderful innovations in the future, but for now, they are my little wonders.

To link up your own DigiLit post today, use this button.

 

 

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

I was just informed that March is SOL challenge month. It’s a cruel, cruel world. We have to make SOL every single day. I don’t know if I will survive this deadly month. Okay, that was a little ( lot ) over the top of the ice cream cone. Yeah, that was a metaphor.

That’s kind of like saying over the mountain but in your mind picture a mountain sized ice cream cone with a ton of chocolate going right on the top and turning it into a chocolate avalanche. Did you do that? Good for you. Now I will grant you as many wishes as you want. NOT!! I am not a genie. But if I had one wish it would be not doing any Slice of Life challenge posts ever again. That is how bad I don’t want to do the Slice of Life challenge.

by Andrew, Feb. 21, 2017

“Andrew, the Slice of Life Challenge is voluntary. Are you saying you don’t want to try it this year? Should I make you a sticker chart?”

“I’m not making any promises. Yeah, go ahead, make me a chart.”

I teach my gifted students year to year throughout their elementary schooling. This is a blessing and a curse. I am blessed to know my students really well. I don’t have to pretest to find their reading levels. I don’t have to do writing prompts to see how well they write. I know all this.  They also know that when March rolls around it’s torture time. Time to write a Slice of Life every day!

Every year I try something new to motivate my students. Last year it was these buttons designed by Stacey Shubitz of the Two Writing Teachers. My students proudly collected badges until about March 15th when the newness wore off.

I also use incentives. One day of the month I hold a commenting challenge. The reward, one Skittle a comment. I soon ran out of Skittles.  I buy a book for each child who completes the challenge.  I usually buy 3-5 books.

Another thing we’ve done is connected with other classes doing the challenge. I’d like to do that again this year.  If your class is using Kidblogs, please request to follow by signing in to Kidblog and posting my URL, http://kidblog.org/class/mrs-simons-sea/. Click on the Follow button. Once I approve, I can follow you back. It’s fun and motivating to connect kids across the globe.

After seeing Holly Mueller’s students’ long slices, I implemented a word count rule. This has been both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is found when my students elaborate and expand their thoughts like you see in Andrew’s post above. The curse happens when they ramble on and type things like, “I’m up to 198 words, just 2 more to go!”

This is the nature of the beast that is SOLC! Blessings and curses! We are going to jump in despite the deep waters. Tomorrow we return from a break. Our challenge will begin. I wonder where this journey will take us.

I wrote a blog post for Kidblogs about the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge here.
If you wrote a DigiLit post, please link up with this button.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

critical-thinking-digilit-sunday

Last week as I was reading DigiLitSunday posts, I found these questions on Fran McVeigh’s post.

Do we REALLY want students to be critical thinkers?

Then how are we encouraging “critical thinking” every day in our classrooms?

How are we REALLY encouraging independent thinkers and workers?

Tough questions that I contemplated all week.  Am I really encouraging critical thinking in my classroom every day?  To answer this question, I looked at my various assignments during the week.  On Monday, we watched a Flocabulary video on The Voting Rights Act and answered these questions:

1. Connection to other movements: Think of a historical event or movement that is similar to the Selma marches. How are these events similar?

2. Connection to current events: Are racial equality and voting rights still issues in the US today? How have these issues changed since 1965? In what ways are they the same?

3. Connection to civic participation: Why is the right to vote an important right to protect?

I have to credit Flocabulary because not one of these questions elicits the exact same answer from every student.  When we look for questions that encourage critical thinking, we must wonder if the answer will be the same for every student.  Granted these questions also depend on quite a bit of prior knowledge.  Not all of my students have a clear understanding of voting rights or what race relations are like today.  Some of them are quite sheltered from the news and that’s OK with me.  They’re young.  But my older students, those in 5th and 6th grade, really thought deeply about these questions and offered some thoughtful responses.

What is important to me as a teacher of gifted students is to open up the door for communication and for critical thinking.  I have to be willing to hear different responses, and not always ones I agree with.  Critical thinkers are active, and our challenge as their teachers is to keep them thinking and questioning and wondering.

One way I do this is assigning reader responses.  There is no one right way to respond to a book for my students.  We have a chart on the wall that lists multiple options.  These options include: write about the theme, relate to a character, connect the book to the larger world, etc.

This week a few of my students are reading Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels, Smile, Sisters, and Drama.  One student was appalled that Drama was placed on the second grade shelf because it is at a second grade AR level.  “This book is not appropriate for second graders!”  She explained that the book deals with the sensitive subject of sexuality.  A selection from her reader response:

“This book can relate to the world because just like Jesse people know their sexuality, but can’t tell their friends or family because they’ll be teased or judged. In Jesse’s case his father doesn’t accept his older brother Justin because he’s gay, so Jesse is afraid to tell anyone because they might not accept him.”

She went on to rant about the recent controversy over transgender students and bathroom use.  Reading with a critical eye as well as having an open policy for student responses helped this student not only relate to the book, but also to express her own opinions about the subject.

My students are not just writing for an audience of one.  They write on a blog we share with other gifted classes.  When they write about their own thoughts, they trust that others will read them with the understanding that we are all trying to write in a way that best expresses our own thoughts.  A blog space is just right for experimenting with thinking and writing.    A critical thinker understands that others have different assumptions and different perspectives, so in the blog space, we must make it safe for those expressions.

Thanks, Fran, for posing those questions and for helping me realize that critical thinking is purposeful and intentional every day.

I am off to New Orleans Mardi Gras on Sunday, so I am posting early.  Please link up when you can.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Years ago, my colleagues and I created a monthly enrichment day for our gifted 6th graders to combat underachievement. This year we selected the theme of Communication. Each student or group of students were charged with asking a question about something they were interested in communicating. Emily asked if elderly in resident homes are lonely. She assumed the answer was yes and followed her research to discover that loneliness can actually lead to death. She was moved to do something about it.

Emily decided to set up a field trip to a local retirement home. With a little direction, she called the retirement home activity director, contacted our gifted supervisor for permission, and created a Valentine’s Day activity. I have never seen her so empowered and so excited. The night before the field trip, she hand made 34 Valentines to give to the residents.

My colleagues were more than cooperative in getting their students to the retirement home. The students quickly found an elderly resident to spend time with. As I circled around taking pictures, I was pleased to see these young kids talking freely with their new friends.

garden-view-1

jaci-and-junie

On Wednesday at our monthly Wow (Way Out Wednesday) meeting, Emily compiled the surveys. She also put together a video of one of the residents talking about her life and how she liked living at Garden View. Emily’s presentation about this experience is coming together, but it’s taken on a new direction. She discovered that the elderly at Garden View are not lonely. They live in a community there. Activities are planned for them. People visit often. They are well cared for.

Beyond the original intent of Emily’s project, she has discovered that relationships at any age are important. She discovered that she can influence others and spread kindness. When we as teachers take the lessons out of our hands and put it into those of our students, they can be difference-makers.

If you are joining the DigiLit conversation today, please leave your link below.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

This week the flu made its way through my students.  I, thankfully, have remained healthy.  Today, I want to celebrate my student Andrew and his initiatives.  Before Christmas he became interested in the plight of orphaned elephants.  We read a Scholastic Scope magazine article that pointed to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Preserve.  Andrew wanted to raise funds to adopt an orphaned elephant at the preserve.  The adoption fee is $50 a year.  He decided to sell posters to classmates. I ordered Vista Print posters of a baby elephant picture from my trip to Tanzania, Africa.

baby-elephant-poster

Before the Christmas break, Andrew presented to his fourth grade classmates.  He raised about $32.  After Christmas break, he decided to present to third grade classes.  He raised the remaining funds he needed.  He crafted a letter to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Preserve explaining the project and selecting Malima as the baby elephant he wants to sponsor.  This video broke our hearts.  Andrew and I both already feel and love and affection for Malima.

Andrew is one of those rare kids who wants to inspire and make a difference.  In January when preparing to choose our One Little Word, I read aloud the book Beautiful Hands.  The production of this book has a heartwarming story.  Kathryn Otoshi worked with Bret Baumgarten who was diagnosed with cancer to design this book from something he would say to his own children, “What will you do with your beautiful hands today?”

beautiful-hands

 

The artwork was created all with handprints and fingerprints, even a dog print from Bret’s dog.

“My hope that this story empowers love, creativity, compassion, and a 

connection to you and yours, in the fulfilling and remarkable way it has for me” 

~ Bret Baumgarten, 1970–2014

I think Bret would be proud to know what Andrew did with his inspiring words.  Andrew wanted to read the book to his sister’s first grade class and do a hand printing activity with them.  Some of Andrew’s gifted classmates helped him.  I was impressed with how smoothly the whole activity went.  I was not sure because we had to paint all the kids’ hands and help them print.  Andrew had selected some Valentine quotes for the kids to copy into their hand painted cards.  This creative service activity was a positive experience for all of us.

 

handprint

 

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Digitally enhanced iPhone image

Digitally enhanced iPhone image

A few weeks ago, I set up a plan for the month of January DigiLit posts. I promised to tweet the topic on Thursdays. I have not fulfilled that plan. I have been barely making it with a tweet on Saturday. Forgive me. I’m adjusting the plan somewhat. I’ll place the topic for next week in the current DigiLit Sunday post and tweet a reminder on Saturday. If you are writing posts, or want to join us, please go to the Google doc to add your information and your topic ides.

I enjoy playing with photographs on my phone using various photo-enhancing apps. The technology available to us today allows for regular people like me to make cool, professional looking photos with a click.

My students have discovered that in their Kidblog, they can change, manipulate, add features, etc. to their avatars. While this is fun, it can take away time from focusing on the real stuff of blogging, the writing. What place does digital design have in our classrooms, if any?

I struggle with this question. I think it is important to encourage creativity in the classroom, but where does creativity end and just fooling around begin?

My answer has been in setting purposes for digital design and creativity. When my students work on blogging, the design for their posts must serve a purpose. The design should communicate. Setting backgrounds, changing fonts and font size, manipulating images should communicate a tone or theme.

What are some ways you encourage digital design in your classroom? Join the conversation with the link below.

I am blogging for Kidblog. To see my latest post on Tapping into the World of Wonder, click here.

Next week’s topic comes from Maria Caplin: Increasing student vocabulary beyond definitions.

digilitsundayfebruary-5-2017-copy

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