Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Learning with Technology in the 21st Century

    Since many of the links we used for homework for our Connectivity Class suggest starting a Blog, I decided to use one I already have (but haven't been using much lately) as a forum for my assignment.  We are supposed to create a technological wonder that shows what we've learned so far.
    One of my goals this year is to use more technology with my students.  I am ever amazed at the motivation it creates.  I try to get some form of technology into the classroom a few times a week, either our computer carts or our iPad cart.  We started out Blogging on  Amazing!  I have 2nd and 3rd grade gifted students, and they took off with Blogging.  I like Kidblog because the setting I use allows me to have to "approve" any posts or comments, including those from parents or outside sources.  The other "new" thing I've been trying is using Edmodo.  I'm not good at putting videos on - still working on that.  My first thought was to "Flip" our science unit on Matter.  Once I get the video thing ironed out, I plan to continue with this.  We are also doing some of our Book Club thinking on Edmodo.  I put prompts there, and the students reply to the prompts and also to each other.  Then when we chat about the book we already have ideas to share and develop.
   Technology can be overwhelming, but it's well worth the time and effort in the motivation and quality work I get from my students!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Last of the Book Recommendations!

   Wow, now that our new year is about to start, it's time to finish our book recommendations.  I'm going to leave off the pictures this time.
   Boone's favorite was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Boone says, "I liked it because J. K. Rowling made it seem as if it was really happening.  I recommend this book to you if you like magic and scary things.  My favorite character is Harry."
   Katelyn recommends How Puppies Grow by Millicent Ellis Selsam and Neil Johnson.   She says, "You will like this book if you like dogs.  I picked this book because I know I love dogs."
   Corey's pick is Mister Monday.  He says it's "Because it has lots of adventure.  What got me hooked on this book was when a boy named Arthur was in P.E. and on a run when asthma strikes him!  There is only 1 thing that can save him... A key... to the kingdom..."
   Max liked Nancy, You Call This Wasting Time?  A comic book by Jerry Scott.  Max says, "I would recommend this book for those who like comics and things that are hilarious.  The author really got a picture in my mind when I was reading this book.  But it only has an O.K. vocabulary.  Why don't you try it out?"  (p.s. from me - not sure if this book is still in print - it belonged to my own children who are grown now.)
   Summer recommends Rent a Third Grader by B. B. Hiller, "because it has a happy ending and nobody dies!  It's a good book for people that like horses and lots of different settings.  I also think this is a good book for boys or girls.  I encourage you to try this book!"
   Gregory liked The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon.  He says, "I recommend this book to readers who like strange mysteries.  It's about two kids who get into a mess with two cases:  the counterfeit case and the sabuting(?) case.  They get in and out of trouble.  What kind of trouble?  How?  To answer these questions you will have to read the book."
   Luke recommends Titanic by Anna Claybourne and Katie Daynes "because it tells the exciting story of how this "unsinkable" ship had such a tragic end.  The book lets you discover the luxury and greatness of the ship, as if you were actually there.  From and Irish shipyard to the North Atlantic Ocean, this book follows the ship's story."
  Cooper liked Weird But True 2.  "I recommend this book because, I learned 10 new things from it.  And it has 300 facts, like:  Your eyes produce a teaspoon of tears every hour.  It's on page 127."
   Garret's love all year has been the R.L. Stine books.  This time he recommends Weirdo Halloween.  "I like this book because it is scary and that it is set on Halloween.  My favorite character is the orange alien."
  Sorry Savannah - you didn't put the book title on yours, and I didn't catch it before you left for the summer.
This has been a rather eclectic collection, determined by our classroom library and their home libraries, and also, I suspect, by their latest read.  This was a great authentic writing assignment, and the students did it with relish.  I can "hear" our mini lessons and book talks in their writing.  We'll definitely do this again!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

More Book Recommendations

Bree recommends A Spell Behind Bars.  She says, "I like this book because it's a mixture between mystery and scaryness.  It is the second book of the series.  It's by Bovayne.  The first book in the series is A Turn in the Grave.  p.s. from me:  These books are a little hard to find, but worth it.  They are written in Roald Dahl style.

Finn recommends Swindle.  He says, "I recommend it because it is about some kids who have a valuable baseball card and someone stole it.  They try to get it back.  You will like this book if you like suspense and adventure.

Aiden says, "I recommend the Boxcar Children.  I like the whole series because they are mysteries and I like mysteries.  The books have very good details and I can visualize it perfectly."

Tiernan recommends The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  He says, "It is about a boy named Greg who has a no-so-good life with his bully-brother Roderick, his little brother Manny, and his mom and dad.  He goes to school with his best friend Rowley.  It is a series of books about this boy.  I recommend these books to people who like humor."

Kaytee recommends Dork Diaries.  She says, "I recommend this book to people who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid,  and humor.  This book is about a girl in Middle School name Nikki and she thinks her life absolutely STINKS!  Read this book and find out if she keeps her boring old life or dies trying to change it.

Cole recommends Goddess Girls:  Athena the Wise.  He says, "At the beginning Athena finds out that she is a goddess, not a human and has to leave her best friend.  You will like it if you like Greek Mythology."  Bre also recommends this book.  "I like this book because it gives a little bit of facts about Greek Mythology.  I like the main character because her dad is Zeus.  I like to laugh about this book, because her mom is a fly.  I recommend this book to readers who would like to learn some Greek Mythology."

Me again.  Wow, this turned into quite a blog post.  I still have 10 more to go.  So the rest I'll intersperse with other ideas.  I'm excited that I've figured out more about how to place the book covers and even make them smaller.  I'm learning right along with my Schmardies!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Recommendations from Schmardies!

Thanks to Mr. Schu Reads on Twitter for the great idea:  One of our final assignments for the year was to recommend a favorite book for next year's Schmardies.  I did ask that they mostly stick to books in our classroom library to make it easier for new students to find them right away.  Here are a few.  More to follow on future blogs:

Sarah says "the book I recommend is Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  I recommend it to people who love dogs.  This book is about a girl named Opal.  She finds a dog in the middle of a Winn Dixie grocery store.  The ultra-shaggy dog would have been sent to the pound if Opal didn't think of something quick.  So, she claimed the dog was hers and gave it the name Winn Dixie.  The two of them have lots of fun.  Until a big thunderstorm, and Winn Dixie runs away.  You'll have to read the book to find out if Winn Dixie ever comes back.  You will love this funny story about Winn Dixie and Opal." Eliza also recommends this book.  She says, "I like this book because it has humor, excitement, and a little sadness.  Kate DiCamillo - I think she is a VERY good author.  She is actually my favorite author!  I KNOW you'll like this book if you like clever dogs, humor and great stories.  :)"

Connor S. recommends Warriors, Into the Wild by  Erin Hunter.  "I think it's a good book because the author helps me visualize.  The book is about when Rusty, a house cat, meets a wild cat and has a decision to join the wild or not.  You can get it at the school library.  If you like this book by Erin Hunter, then you will like more books by her."  Lucas also recommends this book.  He says, "I like this book because it has lots of action and adventure.  The book is about a cat named Rusty that walks into the forest and finds a clan.  He enters it and gets his clan name.  What is it?  You ask.  Well, you will have to read the book to find out.  I love this whole series.  This book was also a favorite of Conner C.'s.  He says, "I like this book because it is about a lot of clan fighting for food and survival.  You will like this book if you like adventure and a different point of view than people.  Look for it in our classroom book club books."

Alex recommends another book from the Warriors series, Warriors:  Forest of Secrets by Erin Hunter.  Alex says, "I recommend it because it has a lot of adventure in it.  I recommend this book to people who like adventure."

Jack recommends Franny K. Stein Mad Scientist by Jim Benton.  Jack didn't specify which one, but the above is in our classroom library, along with a few others.  Here are Jack's comments:  "I recommend this book because it is funny.  It also is kind of weird.  I would recommend this book to people who like weird inventions and humor.

I am so impressed by these 2nd and 3rd graders book reviews, especially when we didn't really talk about reviewing books much.  (It would be a great genre study!).  Just goes to show what an authentic writing assignment can generate!  :)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Outside our Comfort Zone

 "Solo" - we enjoy the woods, write about our experiences, ponder our existence.
 A team building activity - how many nails can you pile on the one sticking up?  Winner was 13!
Rock climbing takes us outside our comfort zone.

    My Schmardies are so lucky - we are an Expeditionary Learning, Outward Bound School.  The pictures above were taking during our "Winter Voyage."  We went overnight to a camp for some winter team building and learning.  You can see that we didn't have a whole lot of snow (February in Colorado!), but some great learning took place anyway.
     Gifted kids generally do pretty well academically.  They know the "answers."  They don't always shine at physical activities, and once they figure that out, they quit trying.  That's their perfectionism at work.
     When our "Discovery" classrooms were placed at our school, it was supposed to be temporary, to fill this school as it grew, waiting while another school was being built.  We were supposed to stay for 3 years, and then move on to the new location.  So our students at first didn't go on the "Voyages."  (Our Adventure Ed overnight trips are called Voyages.)  But many of them had siblings who were not in the Discovery classrooms, and they did go on the Voyages.  Soon our students were wanting to go too.  Our 5/6 Discovery teacher and I got together to compare notes.  We liked this school!  It was challenging our gifted students in a way that a "regular" curriculum could not.  The Adventure Ed piece not only includes Voyages, but also rock climbing in the gym, and survival studies and techniques, among other things.  Our students did the rock climbing during PE, and what we noticed were students going outside their comfort zone.  One day the first year I heard one of my students say, "My goal was to get to the top of the rock wall.  At first I couldn't do it, but today I did!"  My 5/6 colleague and I kept hearing things like this over and over from our students.  We both had experience with gifted kids, and this was new.  Perseverance is a character trait for our school, and we were seeing it with our students!  In spite of their perfectionism, they were willing to keep trying.  The spirit of the school promotes personal best over competition.  And our students were thriving.
     We put it to our Administration, and then our SAC (School Advisory) committee.  Could we stay?  Could we have a home here?  We really felt like we belonged.  That was new too - in my previous experiences, we were considered an oddity, something to be "put up with," or at worst, laughed at or scorned.  I often heard from other teachers that I had the easiest job, because my kids were smart.  But that wasn't happening here!  The school motto is, "We are Crew, not passengers."  We were definitely part of the crew!  SAC agreed with us, and had to put on a presentation for the district.  The district officials were amazed.  Generally schools were happy to pass the gifted kids on, for a variety of reasons.  In fact, our 6th graders had been at 3 different sites in just a few years!    It was unprecedented, but the district approved it.  And here we are, 5 years later.  Still growing (including me!)  Still thriving.  Always Crew.  Happy to be outside our comfort zone.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

That Ugly Word, "Boring!"

     I hate that word, boring.  When I taught regular ed, I always cringed when families explained their child's behavior by telling me the child was bored.  I took it as a personal blow, like I wasn't doing my job.  I realized how silly that was when I had to call a parent in for his son's behavior.  He immediately started with the "B" word.  (His son was a very bright first grader).  But the behaviors were happening when we lined up!  So I was able to say, "Mr. J., that may very well be, but C. needs to keep his hands to himself when we are lining up!"  Mr. J. got it.  He never brought the "B word up again.  
     Below is a quote from Dr. Sylvia Rimm, a Child Psychologist who specializes in need of gifted children:  

     10. "The word “boring” can be a descriptor of a variety of problems, including lack of challenge, fear of challenge, insecurity that others are doing better, thoughts that their teacher doesn’t likes them, or half a dozen other problems."

     This comes from a Duke Digest where Dr. Rimm discusses how we should listen to what gifted children DON'T say.  The URL is below and was Tweeted by Byrdseed Gifted:
  (Thanks for the Blog idea!)  

     I was glad to read this.  Ironically, now that I teach only gifted kids, the "B" word comes up way less often.  But occasionally I have a student, especially at the beginning of the year, who complains of being bored to his or her family.  It usually turns out to be bravado, the 'ole syndrome of feeling inadequate and knowing that using that dreaded word "Bored" will get the families' attention.  And it really does!  The family usually thinks, WOW, my child is in Gifted and STILL bored!  Now what do we do!!!!  And what they do is come to me, of course.  This is a good thing, as I can show them what the problem might be - whether it's math or reading.  It's almost always not really a problem - it's the student's worry that they aren't matching up to their peers.  
     Another quote from Dr. Rimm's article states, "In order for gifted children to build the resilience required for leading fulfilling adult lives, they will have to learn to cope with some less successful experiences. Because they have often been extraordinarily successful, coping will not always be easy for them. Parents and teachers who listen to what children say, as well as to what they give clues about but avoid saying, are better able to guide and support them as they develop confidence and resilience."  

     If you're the parent of a gifted student, don't always believe the "B" word.  Do some detective work.  I find that almost all of my students lead such a rich "inner life" and love to read so much, that they really don't get bored.  Something else is at work.  As Dr. Rimm said, we need to listen harder to them.