Archive for the ‘Gifted Education’ Category

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge

March is coming soon.  And you know what that means, a month of slices every day.  The Two Writing Teachers has been hosting the yearly Slice of Life Challenge for 10 years. 2018 will be the 11th Annual Slice of Life Challenge. This is my 7th year to participate.  About 4 years ago I got my students involved in this challenge.  When I bring it up, many of my students who have been in my class for more than a year groan, then smile.  They say, “It’s terrible. It’s horrible.  I’ll never do it again.”  and then “But this year I’m going to try to get all 31 slices done.  Just watch me!”

One thing I can count on is their competitive spirit.  I do offer a prize of a free book if they write all 31 days.  I only require (for a grade) 3 slices a week.  So this week we are getting ready.  Noah already has 3 slices drafted.  He is in the warm up position, revving his engine.

We started a padlet for writing ideas and will add to it as the month goes on.  You can view our idea padlet here. We talked about a class hashtag and decided on #GTSOLC18. I set up a category in our kidblog site just for the challenge.  I will be putting up sticker charts and a space for badges.  A few years ago, Kathleen Sokolowski made badges and shared them in this Google Doc.

Kathleen set up a padlet this year for the classroom challenge.  If you click here, you can see all the classes participating.

I am looking forward to joining my students on a monthlong writing journey.  It will take us to places we are not expecting.  Would you like to come along?  You can view my students’ writing at Mrs. Simon’s Sea.

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Click over to Buffy’s Blog for more Poetry Friday.


I know the importance of reading nonfiction texts with my students; however, I am not a fan of assigning an essay after every reading, especially in December.  I wanted my students to think critically about the text, to absorb it fully, and to demonstrate comprehension.  So I turned to the found poem.

To write a found poem, the writer must make decisions about which text to keep and connect to.  This requires critical thinking skills. For a found poem to work, the words and phrases need to be placed creatively.

We read “Shattered Sky”, a narrative nonfiction story in the November issue of Scope magazine published by Scholastic.  In this story, my students read about a little known disaster in Halifax Harbor in 1917, one hundred years ago.  They were fascinated.  The author of the text, Kristin Lewis used craft moves to heighten the emotions of the story.  I instructed my students to underline phrases and words that brought about an emotional response.

When we had written and were sharing our writing, Faith said, “I am amazed at how different everyone’s poem is.”  And she was right.  Each one was different.  Each student had found a unique voice.  Each poem reflected a different aspect of the article.

When Andrew posted his poem on our blog, he titled it “I like this poem, so you should.”  Mason thought it was the best poem he’d ever written.

This exercise of finding a poem gave my students confidence to recognize craft moves as well as create a unique piece of nonfiction poetry.


Poem for Halifax

December 6th
They ring a bell
The image they see
They want to repel

Children getting ready, grabbing their schoolbooks,
Fathers, ready to work, grab their coats, off the hook.
Dartmouth and Halifax, buzzing with activity,
while mothers make oatmeal, hot and ready.

Two boats, Mont-Blanc and the Imo
With explosives and munitions, ready to blow.
There was no saving them, as far as we know.
Neither ship changed course and tore into the other and
put on a dangerous light show

Orange and blue fire ignited the boats
People rushed to rescue, thought they could help.
They succeeded but some retreated up.

Andrew, 5th grade


The water had a thin mist of terror of WWI

The chimney swirled of smoke and ash

The people of Halifax were doing their everyday things

From eating to cooking and going to work

Then a sudden rumble and crackle of the two ships of cargo collide

They rush outside as every thing burst into flames and then boom

A sad tragedy will forever live in our hearts.

Mason, 5th grade

See more found poems at our Kidblog site.

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

Not every student is made to be a mentor.  A common thought about gifted kids is to encourage them to mentor other students.  As a teacher of gifted, I’ve seen students who work well with other students and I’ve seen those who don’t.  I feel it is important to know a student well before pushing him/her to help other students.

I haven’t taught Chloe long, but I knew she would make a great mentor. She is confident without being condescending.  She’s enthusiastic about whatever we are doing in class and spreads that enthusiasm.  So when I asked her if she wanted to teach her regular class about color poems, she literally jumped up and down.

At NCTE I grabbed an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers and Diana Toledano. I also picked up a teacher’s guide which led me to the color poem pattern from Read, Write, Think.  (Polly writes a color poem that her teacher loves.) Chloe wanted to write a color poem like Polly.

First she chose her favorite color, pink, and made a list of pink things.  We talked about figurative language and how she could use it in her poem.  Chloe wrote this poem:

Pink is cotton candy.

Pink is a horn of a unicorn.

Pink is my blanket.

Pink is a flower.

Pink tastes like bubble gum.

Pink smells like a rose.

Pink sounds like a violin.

Pink feels like a pillow.

Pink looks like my mom’s lips.

Pink makes me beautiful.

Pink is magnificent!

When Chloe shared her poem with her classmates, they were ready to write their own.  Having a form helped.  Her friends selected their own favorite colors and used the form to guide their writing in their writing notebooks.  As she walked from group to group, Chloe checked in to see what they needed help with.  She was patient and helpful.  Her classmates were focused and serious about their writing.  Chloe was a proud teacher.

Writing is hard work!


by second grader Kelsie.




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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Ruth Ayres invites bloggers to celebrate every Saturday.  I don’t always post, but today I wanted to celebrate our field trip this week.  My students are practicing for a play they will perform next week for first graders at the Shadows, a local plantation home.  Wednesday was the day we signed up for rehearsal, so my students were able to try on the costumes and see where each scene would be in the house.  They were excited and nervous.

After the rehearsal, we walked to an iconic cafeteria on Main Street, Victor’s, where Dave Robichaux eats. I had to give them a speech before we went in about how their eyes would be bigger than their stomachs.  The first thing on the shelves are delicious looking desserts.  My experience has taught me that young children left on their own to choose their food rarely pass up desserts.  Victor’s offers home-cooked meals like rice and gravy, smothered pork chops, fired chicken, and the Wednesday special was a stuffed catfish.  Yum!

But the highlight of the trip was the movie Wonder.  I’ve read the book a few times.  Some of my students have read it at least once.  Some had not read it but now want to.  I asked them to write a blog post about the field trip and gather here some of their quotes about the movie.

I was crying through out the whole movie. This movie made me realize that I am very fortunate and that I should never ever bully. Bullying can be horrible. Auggie had many problems but he knew he would get bullied and he knew that there will be issues caused because of him. This is one of the only movies that touched me emotionally. I really recommend this to you, but you all saw it so just watch it again. Faith, 6th grade

 Auggie’s mom decided that Auggie would begin Beecher Preparatory School in the fifth grade, so he would not be the only new kid. And the day before he started, he met Julian, Jack, and Charlotte. The whole time Charlotte was talking about Broadway, and Julian goes out of his way to be rude. When they get to the science room, Julian says, “This is the science room. It’s supposably hard.” And Auggie says, “It’s not supposably. It’s supposedly. Maybe my mom needs to homeschool you, too.”, which made us all laugh. And at the end, Auggie got the Henry Ward Beecher medal. If I could give Wonder a grade, it would be an A+. Lynzee, 3rd grade

That was such a “wonder“ful movie. That was probably the saddest and most heart-warming movie I ever saw in my life. It almost made me cry and that is a hard thing to do but I didn’t. (Surprisingly).  Andrew, 5th grade


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We’ve been talking about mood lately, in reading and in writing. I pre-ordered a box of mindfulness cards, Mindful Kids by Whitney Stewart. They arrived last week.  I started to use them along with meditation first thing in the morning.  I wasn’t sure how a group of various ages would respond to the concept of meditation.  So far, I’ve been pleased.

I pulled a card from the Mindful Kids box and the instructions were to draw a picture of your mood.  I asked my students to select a color that depicted their mood. I talked about the importance of being in touch with what you are feeling.  Each response was as different as the kids in the room.

Dawson, 4th grade, said the picture on the right is how he felt when he came to school. On the left is how he feels in our class.


Austin, 6th grade, wrote a key to his color and image choices.

We turned off the overhead lights and sat in a comfortable position. I turned on the Insight Timer app, and we were silent together.

This was a beautiful and thoughtful way to begin a Monday morning, a Monday after another mass shooting, a Monday of a soft lockdown, a Monday in new time.  I am coming to believe more and more in the face of these troubling times, I need to create a safe place.  A safe place for expressing your mood, speaking your truth, and creating peace.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.


Collaboration was the name of the game at all three schools this week.  At each school, I was working with my gifted students on projects that required cooperation, communication, creativity, and critical thinking, the 4 C’s of 21st Century education.

At school #1, students were working on “Mood” stories.  With the celebration of Halloween, most stories took on a scary mood.  Some of my students asked if they could work together.  I considered it and decided to let them, but I was skeptical about whether they could truly collaborate.  I was pleasantly surprised.  They gathered together and used a story board to plan their stories.  They talked and wrote, wrote and talked.  The class was buzzing with the sound of collaboration.

Dawson was writing on his own.  He asked for big paper to use for his story board.  He wrote his “longest story ever!”  I enjoyed his use of text features to create the mood.  This was his favorite part to read aloud.

They all sat down and chanted,”Oh Ouija Board, oh how do you do, show us the spirit that lives here too.” Their hands moved and spelled L I G H T S O U T. At that exact moment the lights went out and the tv came on with static.

In the static they could make out a man that said,” III WWW III LLL LLL KKK III LL LL YYY OOO UUU!!!

At school #2, we are working on podcasts about endangered animals.  Each student chose an animal to research.  One of the best things was when we were able to talk on the phone with a local bird expert.  My students are powering through the steep technology learning curve.  I am hoping we’ll be ready to publish them next week.  We are looking forward to a call with a marine biologist this Monday.

At school #3, we worked with Mystery Science lessons and made a chain reaction machine.  After many tries, I was sure it was going to work for this video.  I ended up giving a little hand in the chain.


I am a strong believer in project-based learning experiences.  My students become motivated and engaged, and they own their learning.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

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

In September I received an invitation from Paul Allison of the New York Writing Project to participate in a discussion about a new website for publishing student work.  In 2010, we worked together to create a platform around the Gulf oil spill called “Voices on the Gulf.”  From this experience, Paul created Youth Voices.  My students participated for a little while, but eventually the content became inappropriate for my young students.  I moved away from using this site because it did not meet the needs of my students as younger voices.

When Paul contacted me that he was ready to open a new site for elementary students, I was thrilled.  An authentic audience is extremely valuable in teaching writing.  Many of my students are isolated as one of few gifted students in their class.  When they write, they want people to read it.  They crave a wider audience.

Kidvoices.live is now live! Some of my students have begun posting their creative poetry there.  The platform is similar to blogging at Kidblogs, but different enough to serve a slightly more sophisticated purpose.

Kidvoices.live is open to other elementary classrooms as well.  If you want to join and get your students involved, you can.  You have to provide a unique email for each student.  You can use a gmail + account or a parent’s email address.  Once they sign up, each student will have a user name and password for future log-ins.  I recommend sending home a parent permission letter.  Paul plans to post it on the site, but you can also contact me for a copy.

Last week we read a story from Scholastic’s Scope magazine that was very close to us. The Great Flood of 2016 occurred in our area as well as in the setting of the article, Baton Rouge.  We then read from Here We Go about helpers and volunteering. (PowerPack #8 on page 65)   My students wrote response poems about the flood, and the larger topics of fear and hope.

When students have the opportunity to share writing online, they grow as writers, as digital citizens, and as people navigating this world.

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