Posts Tagged ‘gifted classroom’

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“You created a group of kids who advocate for themselves.” My supervisor called me on my way to school.

“I didn’t create them.  They came to me like that. I just encouraged it.”

“Yes, but so often that spirit is crushed by teachers.”

B. called me to tell me good news.  That’s the kind of supervisor she is.  A group of gifted seventh graders had summoned her to come to answer questions they have about their next steps in math.  It’s a pivotal decision that will put them on a certain math track.

These were my kids in 6th grade.  One of them was in my class from 1st through 6th.  They are my heart.  I’ve come to understand how to best respond to these moments of affirmation.  I just say, “Thanks.”

On deeper reflection, however, I think back to how these kids were with me during a vulnerable time.  Their education involved very little choice.  They often came to my class frustrated over one constraint or another.  What I gave them in the safe space of our gifted classroom was freedom.  They could be themselves.  They had choice over what they read, what they wrote, and who they wanted to be.  Acceptance and love permeated the room.

I miss these kids.  They stretched me to be the best teacher I could be.  They trusted me as I trusted them.  They taught me to embrace them as unique individuals, to respect each one’s dignity and voice.  They demanded it.  We made a difference together.  I’m happy to know their wings are soaring.

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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

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!”

― Lewis Carroll

Welcome back to DigiLitSunday. Believe it or not school has started for me. Summer break flew by, and my focus has quickly changed to being prepared for my students. I have not prepared as much as I would have wanted to. I have read some professional books. I’ve had conversations with my colleagues. I’ve been reading blog posts from #cyberPD.

When kids come into my classroom, however, who they are is the most important thing.

I am lucky that I teach my students year after year. Once they’ve been identified as gifted, they become mine for one academic subject every year while they are in elementary school. My relationship with them is most important to me. It matters. It endures.

Last week teachers sat together to review policies and learn about new curriculum initiatives. We decorated bulletin boards. We arranged desks, prepared supplies. I enjoy this part of the process. Like cleaning your house for guests, the tasks have a purpose.

When the guests arrive, the preparation stops and you spend time together telling stories and making connections.

When my students start coming to me this week, I’ll be ready. I’ll talk to them about their summers, the books they’ve read, the places they’ve been.

I’ll also leave space for believing the impossible.
A new year.
A new notebook.
Clear pages ready to be written.
We are still becoming our best selves.
Leave room for who you want to be.

For the first day of school, there was a rainbow in the sky.  Not kidding!

For the first day of school, there was a rainbow in the sky. Not kidding!

I invite you to jump into this journey with me and join our DigiLitSunday community. You can join the Google+ community here. Put your information into the shared Google doc. Link to this post weekly and Tweet using #DigiLitSunday. We are a community of educators who support each other. Please visit at least 3 blogs and leave a comment.

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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

wonderopolis logo

Wonderopolis is a wonderful site for nonfiction reading. Last year I used the site once a week with my students. I picked out the “Wonder,” and created a Wonder worksheet for the week that included other language activities. While this method worked well for me as a teacher, it wasn’t so great for my students. They enjoyed the site, but they hated the other activities. And why not, they were teacher-created. They became a burden to them rather than a learning tool.

This summer I was thinking about how to change this plan and still take advantage of the Wonderopolis site. I read this post by Tara Smith. She talked about choice. She gave her students a form to fill in with a Wonder of their own choice. What a great idea!

Last week I started classes with my gifted students. I introduced the idea of Wonder Wednesday and choosing their own Wonders. For my birthday (on Tuesday), Lani had given me a small rubik’s cube. One of my boys, Tobie, couldn’t stop playing with it. He decided his Wonder would be about how to do a rubik’s cube. He found the question on Wonderopolis! Then he watched a video. He got other students excited about learning. (I could say he distracted others with his enthusiasm.)


After watching the excitement spread, I decided to give my students the option to present their Wonder learning using technology. I will present different tools in the coming weeks: Piktochart, Canva, Emaze, Powtoon, Animoto. One presentation each nine weeks will be required.

Teaching a variety of grade levels has its challenges. Wonderopolis has given me a way to differentiate nonfiction reading, empower students through presentation, and generate enthusiasm for learning. Here is a link to my student form.

Please join the DigiLit Sunday Round-up with your link.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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Button created by Leigh Anne Eck for sharing Digital Poetry.

Button created by Leigh Anne Eck for sharing Digital Poetry.


For the month of April, National Poetry Month, my students were totally absorbed in poetry, reading and writing poems, even singing poems. As a second grader, Andrew needed more support for his poetry project. He had never made a video before. I sat with him as he produced an Animoto video of his original two voice poem after the book Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More. But hands off. I never touched the keyboard. He expertly traveled from one tab to another, choosing images, downloading to the computer, and uploading into Animoto. Sometimes I marvel at how adept students can be at the computer.

Sometimes when creating the video, my students will let the image and sound lead to revision. I know this is true for me, too. I’ll write a rough draft and when I get to the movie making stage, I revise and adjust to create a visual as well as a written poem. Emily did this with her poem “Cammy, the Elderly Camera” which she wrote after a poem in Cat Talk by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily Maclachlan Charist.

Jacob wanted to write a poem after God got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant. He wrote that God got a genie. He chose the video of a surfer crashing into the waves from the Animoto video files to show that the genie lost his powers. To me, that is creative thinking.

Animoto is really easy to use. The videos look professional when they are complete. I encourage you to give Animoto a try.

Link up your Digital Literacy posts. Read and comment.

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It’s National Poetry Month and I am posting poems using forms, styles, and tools in alphabetical order. (For as long as it works. I may take some poetic license for this.) Jama has graciously gathered all the wonderful poetry blogs at her site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

One of my students named this month of writing “April ABCs.”

A is for anaphora. Have you heard of this before? I love it when my gifted kids say “I’ve never heard of that before.” A true teachable moment.

I have written a blog post for Caroline Starr Rose that speaks more about this writing technique, so stay tuned for the publication date for that post.

Anaphora is the repetition of a word or group of words at the beginning of successive phrases. Politicians use it for emphasis. “I Have a Dream” being the most famous. Poets use it to create memorable images and details. When writing with my students, I realized that anaphora can lead to powerful metaphor. If I teach this technique again, I think I would ask the students to include all the senses as well.

Henri-Francois Riesener

Henri-Francois Riesener

I am a Mother

I am the small gold locket you wear on your neck.
I am the scented perfume on your skin.
I am the taste of sweet milk on your tongue.
I am the curl of hair you place behind your ear.
I am the voice that sings a soft lullaby.
I am the warm tender finger wiping away a tear.
I am the earth under your feet, the heart that beats
in time with yours, reminding you each day
you are loved.
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

Poetry writing has a way of getting to the core. When the quiet student reads aloud, we realize he’s not only a poet inside, but a real thinking feeling human being. I’m afraid gifted kids, especially the boys, often become a subject of bullying. Sadly, I think K had experienced bullying, and he expressed it in his poem.

This is the quiet kid sitting in the corner.
This is the annoying kid sitting on the porch.
This is the little kid sitting on the lonely swing sets.
This is the lonely kid sitting at the table with no friends.
This is the unnoticeable kid sitting while being bullied.
This is the “weird” kid, a victim with memories and scars

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See more Poetry Friday at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

See more Poetry Friday at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Most students in the middle grades know the name Lemony Snicket, so when I introduced his article from Poetry magazine, they were primed to listen. In this article, Lemony Snicket introduced adult poetry to children. He says, “Poetry is like a curvy slide in a playground — an odd object, available to the public — and, as I keep explaining to my local police force, everyone should be able to use it, not just those of a certain age.”

We read aloud the whole article. My instructions for writing were simple, “Steal a line that you like and write from there.”

The poem I wrote is a Cento, in which I took a line from each of the poems in the article.

An open door says, “Come in.”
The room I entered was a dream of this room.
I’m in the house.
I’m still here?
There is no need for you to come and visit me.
You are food. You are here for me to eat.
There will never be enough.
Nothing anyone could do to stop it coming.
The next obvious question:
“Does anyone want to be my sack of potatoes?”
Think of a big pink horse.
There are monsters everywhere.
What is it the sign of?
It is what it is.
That’s Poetry to me.
Thank you, I have enjoyed imagining all this.

Some student samples:

If I would be walking
down the road that
you told me to imagine,
would it be full of gumdrops,
and rainbows covered
in sprinkles and chocolate
fudge on a marshmallow
cloud that tastes like
strawberry icing or maybe
chocolate ice cream on the
hottest day of the year,
or would the road be
full of dark nights, but no stars
and gravestones, with lost kids,
and a grey, lonely path with
cracks in the middle
that can swallow
me up in one bite, with
eyes looking at me in
every direction?

If I would be walking
down the road you told
me to imagine,
which road would I be walking?
If I would be walking
the road you told me
to imagine, would my road
include you?


Electric green and red tears
reflected like rainbows over water in the daylight
right before rain
a warning of good fortune
telling us it’s okay

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In my classroom, Friday is Game Day. I love to watch my gifted kids go after a strategic game. I encourage friendly competition and actually join in. I beat the pants off a second grader today at Mancala, but got whooped by another second grader and a third grader at Set. I thought I was the master of Mastermind until first grader Emily learned to play.

As in writing workshop when I write with my students: They see me writing. They hear my struggles. (The other day, my fifth grader told me, “Mrs. Simon, you really should add some rhyme to that poem.”
I said, “But I am no good at rhyming.”
“Just try it,” she replied.)

Playing strategic games with my students is also a way to build a community. Today, some of my students started a running chart on the board of everyone’s Mastermind scores. I was quickly at the bottom with 5 tries.

Who said learning can’t be fun? Together on game day, we play, we laugh, and we learn. I can’t wait for next Friday!

Link to my students’ Slices of today.

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