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Archive for the ‘Gifted Education’ Category

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

 

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

On Saturday night, storms ravaged through our area.  I was up for at least an hour comforting my dog Charlie who is afraid of thunderstorms.  I admit, though, I wasn’t sleeping anyway.  Word has it we had some tornado activity.  One school had a small electric fire that caused some smoke damage in their library.

When we arrived at school Monday morning, the internet was out.  For my first group, it was back to the basics of paper and pencil writing.  We read together at school two. But at school #3, where I am teaching 4th grade science, I had planned a video about roller coasters to show force and motion.  When the internet was still not up and running, I had to think creatively.  I grabbed some Jenga blocks and Dominoes.

We reviewed the idea of force and motion.  I sent them off to work on a chain reaction while I worked with a second grader on writing a story.  The two 4th graders were speaking in whispers and didn’t want me to see what they were building.  I promised not to look.  When they were ready, I found that they had been creative themselves and built the blocks in the shape of my name.  Of course, I had to smile and take a video.

This experience made me realize how dependent I have become on technology.  I expect it to work.  I plan for it to work.  I think I should plan for at least one day a week that we unplug and get back to the basics of writing with pencils, reading with each other, and playing with blocks.

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Poetry Friday posts are over at The Poem Farm with Amy.

Thursday, Sept. 21st was International Peace Day.  I don’t think I would have known this without the intentional movement by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.  Her efforts to promote Peace Day resulted in this padlet of wonderful resources.

I wish I could’ve taught Peace Day all week, but I reserved it for Thursday.  My students explored peace poems, made peace heart maps, and wrote poems of their own.  We had a wonderful celebration of peace.

Peace Heart Map by Jacob

Peace and Harmony
by Jacob

I am a seed
spreading across the world
filling the world
with peace and harmony.
Leaves shaped of hearts
making everyone
feel happiness.  

Peace Heart Map by Madison

On the Wings of a Butterfly
By Madison

Peace to come
on the wings
of a butterfly.

Peace to come
to silent wars
with melodies of peace.

Peace to come
in the purr
of a cat.

Peace to come
in your heart.
Let it spread.

Over at Today’s Little Ditty, Carole Boston Weatherford created a challenge to write an abecedarian poem.  I wrote one for peace and added it to Michelle’s padlet here.

Abecedarian Peace Poem

A peaceful world can
Be–
Caring will make it so.

Dance with
Each other
Face to face; Don’t
Give in to
Hate

Inch by inch we
Join our
Kindred hearts with
Love
Made
Noticeable
Only when
Peace is our
Quest

Resist a hateful
Stance
Tap-tap
Unified
Variations
With
X-steps–
Your own
Zydeco two-step of Peace!

–Margaret Simon, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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

 

Madison came into my gifted class when she was in second grade.  On day one, she wrote 3 blog posts and was hooked on writing.  Now in 4th grade, she came up with an idea for a story writing club.  This was a result of problem solving.  She loves writing stories, particularly fan fiction to Warrior Cats, but she didn’t think many people were reading her blog posts.  She thought if we had a blog that was specific to writing stories, maybe those kids who are interested in writing as well as reading stories could join.

 

With a new subscription to Kidblog from my district’s gifted program, we teachers are able to have multiple sites with the same students.  Story Writing Club was born. The day after I set up the blog was a Saturday, but Madison checked in and wrote this post.

Hello. This was originally my idea, so.. I guess I’ll make the Welcome – To – This – Blog – Post. 

This is a blog where you make your stories- nonfiction, fiction, or any genre. Chapter by chapter, or just a normal picture book.

Word, by word, by word, we are changing ourselves into authors. Word. By word. By. Word.

Think of your ideas as silk or cotton. Weave them together- make cloth. Now it’s time to put the cloth together to make a wonderful story.

I hope you enjoy making wonderful stories out of many ideas.

Buh-bye!

I introduced the idea to all my classes (I teach 3 groups of gifted students at 3 different schools).  To date, eleven kids have signed on.  And they can’t wait to write.  This is an highly motivating free time activity.  Madison created a story about cats, of course.  She is also very talented at digital art.  This is an image of one of her story characters.

When students writing stories they want to write, they learn the stuff of writers that I could never teach them.  Jacob was writing his second chapter today, and he exclaimed, “You know the berries from chapter one? Well, turns out he needed them in chapter two.  I didn’t know that would happen.”

Jacob wrote, “He took out the berries that Triton saved in his booksack. The creature seemed to love them. Triton tossed the creature a berry, in a second it gobbled up the berry.”

Sometimes writers follow the story and find their way.

I love that my students are experiencing the joy of writing with little direction from me.  We often talk about student-driven learning but rarely do we really have the opportunity to make it happen.  I applaud Madison’s resourcefulness in building a community that would support her passion.  These are lessons that don’t make it into the standards but will support my students in being the best they can be.

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

 

New York, NY, September 13, 2001 — Urban Search and Rescue specialists continue to search for survivors amongst the wreckage at the World Trade Center.
Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo

I never know if it’s the right thing to do.  I didn’t write it into my lesson plans.  I hesitate every year about teaching 9/11 to my gifted students.  But there’s a part of me that thinks they need to know the truth.  The need to have some seed of understanding about the meaning of that tragic day.

In my email on Monday morning, I read “Teach this Poem” from the Academy of American Poets. I forgot that I had signed up for this email, but I was glad it came.  The lesson gave me strong footing for talking about the unspeakable tragedy of 16 years ago.

First we looked at a photo of the destruction, writing down things we saw.

Some words collected from the image

dust
ash
destruction
devastation
war
dark
despair
collapsed
ruined lives

Then we read Lucille Clifton’s poem Tuesday, 9/11/01.  We noticed in the structure of the poem spaces, no capital letters.  This structure, someone said, expressed how raw and true her response was.  One student read it aloud.  The others hummed at the end, that hum when words hit you right in the gut.

I looked at their faces, the faces of my students who were innocent of terror and fear, but they heard it, they saw it, they got it.  And this understanding made me so extremely sad.

At the end of class, Faith came to me and said, “I need a hug.”

She knew it was me who needed the hug.

How do we best teach this history that is still so new and raw?  Pictures, poems, words, talk, tears.  That’s how.

My students wrote their poetic responses. Some wrote the facts they learned.  Some wrote their own feelings.  Some wrote through the eyes of the helpers.

I wish I didn’t have to teach this day.  I wish this day never happened.  I hope my students walked away with not only the details of the tragedy, but also a heart of kindness, hopefulness, and (please God) peace!

 

Madison’s journal page

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