“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Friday, 31 August 2012

Problem Solving Strategies Posters

Well it has been a day or so since I was inspired to create something or post something.   Even after I said I was done,I actually went to school again on Thursday. My hubby really helped me out by drilling a hole in my desk and creating a hole for all my computer cords to come up through rather than get twisted around my feet.  I also learned the value of zip ties from him.  I got a package at Dollar Tree and used them to tie all the cords together.  He put a "desk grommet" (found it at Lowe's) into the hole and now my desk is much neater!  I love it!  He also got up on the ladder for me and hung these really cute gold star cut outs I also found at Dollar Tree the other day.  He put up 9 of them and they really add some extra "je ne sais quoi" to the room.  Even he liked them, and he thinks my room is "overstimulating". 

Anyhow, how does this relate to Problem Solving Strategies?  Well he had to solve a couple of problems which cropped up during the "hole installation" and I thought to myself, where are my problem solving strategy posters?  I don't have ANY problem solving strategy posters!  I bought one a few years ago to go with the "Problem Solver" binder I had purchased (but didn't use).  I really didn't like it, so I gave it to the grade 4 teacher down the hall.

I wanted some really simple posters which would remind my students that there are a variety of different strategies they can use to solve problems.  I have found with gifted students that they tend to feel they cannot "use concrete materials" or "act it out".  When they are asked on standardized tests "How did you solve the problem?" Or "How do you know your answer is correct?", I often see the answer "I just know." 

Each year my students make a "Math Survival Guide" (I will write a post about this in the next few weeks while the kids are creating them and I take some pics).  I have the students record information (words, definitions, pictures, examples) from each of the 5 strands in the survival guide during the year.  Last year I asked them to also create a section for problem solving strategies. Most of the students copied down the list of strategies I gave them, and a few added some of their own.

If you look at the pictures of my classroom you will see I have a LOT of mathematics posters in my room.  I actually have several hundred (yes, I said hundred) more new ones I have made and laminated.  I need to find a place to put them up.  For now, I will use them as I introduce and teach a strand. 


I plan to print these posters I made today and put them up (somewhere) in my classroom for reference and to remind my students that there are a variety of strategies which they are encouraged to use.  Please feel free to download a FREE copy for your own use.  I hope that you find them useful!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Monday, 27 August 2012

Top 10 Myths About Gifted Learners

Everyone Gifted image

 As back to school approaches, I think it is a good time to review the myths and misconceptions about what a gifted student is. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are teaching gifted learners or if you are a parent of a gifted learner.

Myth #1: They are aloof, proud of their own abilities, and care little for others.

Reality: Just like their non-gifted peers, some gifted children display these characteristics and some do not. Delisle and Galbraith (2000, p. 24) quote Linda Silverman who writes, “contrary to public opinion, when the gifted are placed in classes together, they do not come to the conclusion that they are ‘better than everyone else.’ Rather, they are humbled by finding peers who know more than they do.”

In addition, the trait of sensitivity is one of the five primary social/emotional characteristics of gifted students described by Lovecky (1992). These students tend to display highly altruistic behaviours, doing things for other people simply because they care. This heightened degree of sensitivity, coupled with early moral concern for global and societal issues, often galvanizes these gifted students to initiate altruistic and other-centered projects such as community charitable and volunteer programs to benefit others (Lovecky, 1993). These students are the future Florence Nightengales and Nelson Mandelas.

Myth #2: They are good at everything and should be reminded of that when they fail to perform at high levels.

Reality: Gifted students vary in their abilities to perform just like any other group of students. While it is true that some students may be good a wide variety of things and some are truly exceptional in some areas, all students have different learning styles, performance abilities, production rates and quality of work (Delisle & Galbraith, 2002).

The implicit internalized belief that a gifted student should “be good at everything” and is guaranteed success can create enormous feelings of personal failure, self-doubt and distress when the student encounters his or her first experience with struggle and failure (Cross, 2002). Cross (2002) uses the illustration of Thomas Edison as an example of how “being good” even at one thing, such as the light bulb, took years of experiments, trial and error and perseverance.

Myth #3: They do not need special programs as they will be able to perform at high levels regardless.

Reality: “Gifted learners must be given stimulating educational experiences appropriate to their level of ability if they are to realize their potential” (Delisle & Galbraith, 2002, p. 91). “Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach?” (NAGC, 2006). Because gifted students are gifted, and hence different in their intellectual, affective and educational needs, they require programs which meet those needs in order to capitalize on their abilities and support them in their continuance of high levels of performance.

Lack of appropriate challenge and rigor in either traditional educational classrooms or in specialized gifted programming results in students feeling frustrated, bored, and isolated. Many choose to underachieve, negating the belief that left to their own devices in traditional educational settings they will undoubtedly succeed. Delisle and Galbraith (2002, p. 91) write that each person, including each gifted child, has the right to learn and be challenged in that learning at the level most appropriate to their growth and which proceeds most effectively from their level of development. Michael Jordan required hours of practice and coaching to hone his jump-shots; Virginia Woolf needed years to cultivate her written work and neither experienced being perfect at basketball or writing from birth, both needed an environment which educated, challenged and supported them in order to refine their talent.

Myth #4: They have even profiles in respect to intellectual ability, academic aptitude, and social emotional development.

Reality: Gifted students develop at different rates from their non-gifted peers and at different rates in developmental areas. One of the most fascinating traits of gifted individuals is “asynchronous development.” The Columbus Group (1991) described asynchronous development as gifted individual’s “advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm” (Silverman, 2002, p. 32). Hence, gifted students’ cognitive development is typically more advanced than their same-age, non-gifted peers. (Silverman, 2002). Asychronous development is used to describe the mind of 16-year-old adolescent in the body of a 10-year-old child, along with the stress, struggle and excitement which comes from that disparity.

Myth #5: They benefit from being the second teacher in the room, tutoring others in greater need than themselves.


Myth #6: They work well in randomly assigned groups to ensure that the work gets done correctly.

Reality: Gifted students benefit from working with others of their ability level. Requiring gifted students to act as a second teacher to those students who do not understand a concept of an assignment is inappropriate for several reasons. First, non-gifted students do not consider gifted students as role models, and many resent having someone who appears to always be successful trying to teach them (Delisle & Galbraith, 2003). Winebrenner and Devlin (2001), citing Shunk in 1998, state that in order to be a positive role model the discrepancy in ability levels cannot be too high between the role model and the audience the role model is intended to motivate.

Second, gifted students are not always challenged by or have the desire to teach others below their ability level. Fiedler, Lange and Winebrenner (2002, p. 110) state that the students who learn the least in any given class are actually the gifted students. By attempting to utilize gifted students as teachers and helpers, they can inadvertently rob the gifted students of “consistent opportunities to learn through real struggle” and learn the necessary study skills and adaptation to challenging work (Fiedler, et.al. 2002).

Third, randomly assigned groups or groups in which the gifted student is the teacher or leader may lead to the other students “opting out” of the required work or passing the bulk of the assignment to the gifted student (Winebrenner & Devlin, 2001) simply because they know the gifted student can do it and may even feel pressured to do a good job for the teacher or to please the group. Gifted students have the right to an appropriate education which challenges them and provides them an environment in which they can achieve and succeed.

Myth #7: They all enjoy independent work and are motivated to complete projects.

Reality: Just like their non-gifted peers, gifted students are not always motivated or enjoy doing independent work. Gifted students can become unmotivated to do any academic work, especially that which they have already mastered or which seems irrelevant. Independent learning projects should be comprehensive, reflective, and fulfill the district’s and state’s requirements for student learning along with providing for the student’s ability and need for advanced levels of analysis and synthesis. The teacher should be involved at all times in independent work, helping them make meaning of the material, analyzing the cognitive strategies used to master it, applying of the material to other areas and facilitating continued discovery of their talent with relation to the project.

Even the most productive and learning-oriented gifted student given the most challenging of independent projects needs help sustaining motivation. Teachers may need to encourage, discuss with and model successful motivational strategies if these are not already in the gifted student’s repertoire. Would an Olympic tri-athlete be given a road map, a bike, and swim gear and sent on their way? No, they, like gifted students, require careful coaching, motivation, training and challenge to complete their difficult and exciting journey.

Myth #8: They all have pushy parents who expect the school to do more than is possible or reasonable for their children.

Reality: Gifted students, like all students, come from a wide variety of familial, cultural, racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds; however, the majority of the parents and guardians of these students are concerned with their gifted student’s achievement and academic success. Often, families of gifted students come to their child’s school frustrated, worried, fearful and angry which can come across to educators as “pushy” or even aggressive.

“Pushy-ness” can be diminished by active support, reassurance, information, and plenty of active listening on behalf of educators. Simply listening to determine where the conflict in values or expectations lie between the school and the parent can help both parties better serve the gifted student.

Myth #9: They are good students, rarely causing behavioural problems of any kind in class.

Reality: Gifted students, like all students, are diverse in their behaviours and attitudes. Many people conceptualize “gifted” as a well-behaved, high-achieving white female, sitting up straight in her seat, ready to learn and succeed. Consider the following children: the child who seems to come up with the right answer to a math question without ever documenting the steps, the student who seems to know more about the Civil War than the teacher, the first-grader who can never seem to stop asking questions, or the adolescent who refuses to turn in his science homework unless every formula is absolutely perfect, the high-schooler who would rather paint than talk on the phone or go to the mall with other teens, or the sarcastic joker who sits in the back of the class with a nearly-perfect SAT scores but who chooses never to turn in assignments. Would these students be considered well-behaved or even normal? Perhaps not, but they are gifted.

Gifted students who are introverts require time alone to think and process what they have learned and experienced, which can appear to other, more extraverted, adults as displaying antisocial behaviour (Silverman, 1993). The class clown may be gifted but bored and unchallenged, hence her homework scores average zero but she can take social studies tests and make the highest grade in the class. The sixth-grade joker may be able to understand and participate in advanced levels of wit, satire and sarcasm yet can’t see the point of dissembling for other people’s benefit (Silverman, 1993). Non-conformity, questioning of rules, and a keen sense of justice, all of which are gifted traits, may appear to be a student who, while obviously intelligent, is rebellious, anti-social, and maddening.

Often, what educators see as behavioural problems or pathologies, may simply be the manifestations of giftedness. Likewise, not all gifted students are perfectly behaved or desire to learn in the traditional classroom setting. It must be emphasized that no two gifted children “look” the same. Many are completely invested in their academic success and are well-behaved and some are not. Albert Einstein was non-traditional in the way he dressed and behaved and refused to do any school work that didn’t interested him, yet most consider to be one of the most eminent men of the last century, if not all time.

Myth #10: They are rarely at risk for educational achievement or attainment beyond high school.

Reality: Gifted students are at risk for educational achievement beyond high school if their intellectual and affective needs are not met and/or if their community, home or school environments are not supportive. One of concern which may prevent gifted students from achieving include experiences with classrooms and educational environments which are anti-intellectual, consider gifted programming to be elitist, have a rigid adherence to lock-step learning which cultivates boredom, foster cultural/racial prejudice or power struggles and which allow learning disabilities to go unidentified (Rimm, 2003).

Another area of concern is that of the societal or communal context of the gifted students. Sternberg (2003), in his explication of giftedness, sites the importance of environments in the development of intelligence. Environments which are not resource-rich or which do not provide for opportunities can impact a gifted individual’s current and future success (Sternberg, 2003).

A last area which impacts current and future achievement is intrapersonal factors such as temperament, commitment to a task or project, will-power, motivation, intrinsic rewards for learning, self-management, and capitalization on strengths and compensation or correction for individual areas of weakness (Gagné, 2003; Sternberg, 2003). These individual factors are vital in the pursuit of higher education and success in those environments.

 Content has been modified from an excerpt from - http://cfge.wm.edu/conference%20documents/Myths%20about%20Gifted%20Students.pdf

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Classroom Setup

Well, I did it! I got the room set up, the photocopying and laminating done and the first day planned and ready to go. I wasn't planning on spending another day in the school but in the end my "to do" list was too long to ignore. I thought I would share some pictures of how the room looks now.

Outside the door to my room.  See my little "Tiffany" blue black boards?  Made those for $1~  Got the table from the garbage and a lace tablecloth for $1 too.  Laminated some old calendar pages and put up a new poster in a frame.  My daughter added the flowers in the vase.  I think it's a homey touch!  I posted my thought for the week on the black board after I took these photos.

This is the view of my classroom from the blackboard.  I have 28 students in my class this year.  And yes, what you see is what you get...there is no other space.

View of my cupboards, shelves and book display.  You can see the "back to school survival kits" and letters from last years students on each desk.  I also included a little "Daily Math" bell work so "we start as we intend to go on..."

Opposite side of the classroom.  I love this HUGE board!

I finally changed this board from the back of my classroom.  It has been lime green corrugated fadeless for the past 2 years.  My daughter convinced me to spice it up.  I put up colour blocking using turquoise and black.  I added some great borders I found for 99 cents and some posters I found on line.  I am introducing Thinking Skills and Blooms Taxonomy to my class of gifted grade sixes right at the beginning of the year.
This is my teacher area.  It actually looks MUCH bigger than it really is.  I had to try to downsize...lol...so that I could add an extra 6 student desks this year.  I am finding it hard to move around when I am behind the desk...so I guess I will have to avoid sitting down!

I added some extra touches this year~
I got some cute files in my fave colour, added some chalkboard labels I made with my Xyron label maker (LOVE IT) and then laminated the folders and put them in a 9 slot filing rack on the side of my desk.  In addition to Monday-Friday files I also included "To Mark" "To File" and "To Copy".  I have used them already!  It is so nice to be organized!

I saw this idea somewhere on Pinterest so I decided to make my own. I hope that the kids will actually read the sign and make sure they have put their names on their work.  In case they don't...see below

Here is one of my projects!  I love the "Tiffany" blue and the cute ribbons.  I got the board and the clips at Dollarama.  I only included two clips because honestly, they are big enough to hold several sheets...and they better NOT be used very often!  More of a visual reminder I am hoping!
Here is my teacher organizer that I wrote about in an earlier post. If you want to know how to do this, or how to download the labels for free check that post out!

I made little apples with numbers on them and laminated them.  I also got these cute frames for 99cents at Ikea.  I printed out signs on borders and put them in several key locations around the room.  You can also see my Gumball/Eraser dispenser that I made for $2.25.  I think it is SO cute!

I hope you enjoyed the little tour of my classroom.  I mailed my back to school letters to my students and their families on Monday so they should be getting them this week.  I hope all the students are as excited as I am to be going back!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Back to School Madness!

Well I did it, I made it into my classroom this week.  In fact I spent 3 entire days there and I am not finished yet!  I took my hubby on the first day and he put together a new bookshelf for me.  I was then faced with the problem of where to put said bookshelf!  I had to rearrange the entire classroom.  In the end it was a good thing, but at the time I was really vexed with all the changes I had to make.  For the next two days my fantastic daughter went into the school with me and helped me with all the laminating, printing, rearranging and getting organized.  The room looks great!  I forced myself to change up my bulletin board paper...I rarely do this as I usually reuse corrugated fadeless paper.  I put up a fantastic turquoise and black board with "Thinking Skills" relating to Blooms Taxonomy on it.  I have to say I am really happy.  I also put up my back to school bulletin board that looks like this:

I saw a post on Pinterest and I thought I want that board!  I clicked on the link but it took me to an American supply store.  I looked up the items and found them at my local teacher supply store here in Toronto (Sonsuh Educational on McNicoll Avenue).  I was able to get the barn board paper and the "Welcome Back to School" apple bulletin board set.  I was not able to find the border you see in this picture but I did find a cute black and red apple one that works really well too!  I put the board up pretty much like the picture you see here...but I kept more of the apple together.  I LOVE the way it looks.  My only negative comment is that it took forever to get a dry erase marker to write on the apple pieces.  All the markers I tried would "bubble up" when I wrote the kids names on the pieces.  I tried half a dozen different types of dry erase and regular markers until I found how to work around the problem.  If you write the name on, wipe it off vigorously when it bubbles up and then rewrite it (with a LIQUID based dry erase marker) the name stays.

I printed out my "Last Minute Dismissal" checklist on the colour printer, laminated the pages onto brightly coloured cards and put them on the doors of one of my cabinets.  A former teacher from the school popped in to visit and it was the first thing she commented on. 

 If you would still like to download a copy of it you can do that HERE for FREE.

I put up my "NO NAME" sign I made using Dollarama materials and I think it will work great.
I also printed out some other posters from the Internet, framed them in dollar store frames and put them up.  I have to say the room looks great.  I plan on taking some pictures when I go in again next week and I will share them here.

I hope everyone is having fun getting ready to go back.  Even with the situation here in Ontario (the Premier recalling the gov't on Monday to legislate away our rights) I am optimistic about my upcoming year.  Have a great weekend!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Back to School Question Activity Using Post-Its

I have seen several versions of this first day activity on teacher blogs such as Mrs.Robinson's Classroom Blog and Pinterest.  Each of the examples I have seen have featured teachers writing out the questions on chart paper.
Mrs.Robinson's Blog

 Students then use Post-Its to write their answers and place their replies on each sheet under the appropriate question.  I think this is a great idea to build rapport and get to know more about the students in your class.  I decided that this is one of the things I am going to do this year, BUT I hate writing out headings on chart paper...I have OK printing but really it does not look as professional as I would like.

So...I made a list of the questions on ...wait for it...POLKA DOT frames!  I know, I know...but I like them and this is kind of the theme I am going to go with this year.

I plan to print these on card stock, laminate them and use them year after year...I left the grade level blank on the black frame so you can enter the grade you are teaching...or change it when your grade assignment changes.  If you think you would like to grab an UPDATED, EDITABLE copy just click on the image below.

Be sure to come back and share with me how this first day of school activity worked in your classroom!

Update:  This activity worked really well.  The students rotated around the classroom in small groups.  I used LARGE post-it paper which will stick anywhere you put it, and small coloured post-its for the students.  I had printed out the posters above and laminated them so I could use them again each year.  See some NEW photos below.

Back To School Quiz

I went to my school yesterday and arrived to find out that I am not allowed into my classroom until Monday!  I had emailed and called the custodian...let's just say that didn't work out so well.   I was frustrated at not being able to get into my classroom to start my set up.  I also really need to figure out what I still have left to do before I can take a "rest" the last week of August.  On the positive side, I did unload all my "stuff" and leave it in the custodian's office...hope it's all still there on Monday!

Anyhow, sitting at my computer I decided to make a LIST of things I want to do the first week of school.  This is what I have so far (in no specific order...yet...):
  • Put a letter from last year's students on each student desk (I have the students write a personalized "letter to the future" at the end of the year each June and I keep them to put out on the first day of school)
  • Give each student the "Back to School Survival Kit" I have made for them (I still need to assemble these but I have all the materials)
  • Put the "Back to School Activity Guide" I have created on their desk for the first day
  • Have students complete the "Classroom Scavenger Hunt"
  • Do the "Find Someone Who" bingo game
  • Have students complete the "6 Questions for the Beginning of the Year" activity with post-its (saw this on Pinterest)
  • Review my "Back to School" Powerpoint with the whole class
  • Do a KWL activity about Ms. McKay (I read a post about this idea on TeacherHub.com and decided to adapt it) using the Show What You Know quiz I made up
  • Give each student a math pre-assessment test
  • Have students play a math  matching game I found online (going to use this as an icebreaker for the students and a diagnostic tool for me)
  • Show students how to organize their binders
I know I have even more things to add to this list, but I took everything to school...so I'll have to wait until Monday!
In the meantime, I made up a Show What You Know quiz to go along with a "KWL about your teacher" activity I'm going to try this year. 

I always do the traditional "getting to know you" activities with my students but I have stopped doing the "get to know your teacher" activities I used to love.  I'm not sure why I stopped doing these.  I had a great "All About Me" book I created when I first started teaching. I used to share it with my class each year.  It was always a HUGE hit with my students and they loved to look at the pictures of my family and read about my life.  I never did update that book...I used it for a few years and then it was out of date.  I still have it, and I sometimes pull it out to show the students what I used to look like (now that is depressing...was I EVER that young?).

I was reflecting this summer on what has made for a "good year" in my teaching career.  What made a year feel special?  What made a year "magical"?  I realized those years have been the years I have really bonded with my students and developed strong rapport

They were NOT the years I felt pressured to deal with "behaviour issues" or to focus right away on assessing and testing.  NOT the years when the first thing I did was LAY DOWN THE LAW and get down to work.

It is tempting with a jam packed curriculum and EQAO testing in May/June to try to spend each and every minute teaching.  I think I have fallen prey to the "we have to get it done" mentality the past few years.  In my heart though, I know that I can get it done and also establish stronger rapport with my students.  In fact, "it" gets done BETTER when you the time to develop that rapport, to let the students know who you are and to find out who they are.  To that end, I am going to try a few "new" ideas this year and spend more time getting to know my class and letting them get to know a little bit more about me. 

One idea I read on TeacherHub.com was to conduct a KWL activity with the class making YOURSELF  the topic.  I have used the KWL (and KWHL) format for many years in a variety of situations.  I am a firm believer in activating prior knowledge and uncovering misconceptions when teaching.  It really helps guide where I am going to go with my lessons and my planning.   I realize that over the last couple of years that I didn't really take the time to let my students learn about me as a person, to ask questions about me and perhaps expose some misconceptions.  Today I created a little "fun" Show What You Know quiz to go with the KWL activity.  This will give the students a guided way to think about the K part of the activity.  Hopefully, it will illicit positive responses.  I am willing to deal with the "misconceptions" that are uncovered as well.  Please feel free to download a copy from my TPT store by clicking on the links above. 

Another reason I want to try this is that as part of my board's Gifted Programming we need to address the skills and knowledge of "Awareness of Self and Others". One subsection of this area is "interactive skills" and another is "interpersonal skills". I think using this type of activity will set the stage for later work I will do in this area as part of the gifted program in grade six.

If you try this activity with your class let me know how it goes for you!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Back To School Survival Kit

I know I am not the only person who uses the "Back to School Survival Kit" idea each September.  In fact, when I went back into the classroom from being a consultant many years ago, I found the idea on the Internet.  I was surprised by the reception this little gift garnered at my school the first fall I was teaching there.  My colleagues thought the idea was very creative and new!  I guess I thought the idea was pretty obscure too, until I went on Pinterest this year!  There are LOTS of versions of this, what I would now call, a "back to school classic".  I still LOVE to do this each year, and I change it up from year to year, depending on what materials I have available.

Get your own copy of the NEW UPDATED printable list by clicking this link and download from my TPT store.
 Some years I have used coloured paper bags, like the one pictured above.  I have found the best selection at back to school time.  When I DO find them I try to stock up and keep them for future years.  You can also just use a "brown paper bag", I have done this and the kids love it all the same. 
I have also used plastic pencil boxes (when I used to be able to get them from Costco for less than a $1 each.)  Those days are gone, but you can still sometimes find boxes like this on sale at back to school time.  I have seen other pencil box type containers at dollar stores that would work well.

  This year I decided to do something different.  I ordered these neat pouches from ForTeachersOnly.com.  Why?  Well if you have read my earlier posts, you know I love to order personalized pens from this company as and end of year gift for each student.  I have never been disappointed in their products.  I have also ordered their personalized pencil sets.  The quality and service is awesome!  This year when I was ordering my pens, I looked at the pricing for the pouches and thought to myself "This could be a neat container for my back to school survival kit, it has multiple items included already and it's less than $1 each!"  I ordered them at the same time as my pens in order to have them ready for final assembly in August.  I intend to put the final items from my printable list in each pouch and then print, label, sign and attach one copy to each pouch. 
I put these "survival kits" out on the student desks the night before school starts...(along with some BELL work....I'll save that for another post.)  The students love them, the parents love them and I find this is an essential part of how I build rapport with my class at the beginning of the school year.

P.S.  I also make one for my student teacher each year.  The teacher candidates I host start the first day with the students, so I like to include them in my yearly ritual too (but I usually use a MUG and put some different items in their own "survival kit").

What are your favourite back to school classics?


I had wanted to go into school today, but the air conditioning repair guy was supposed to come...yes, you know what happened...he didn't show...sigh:(  Anyhow, I thought to myself, why don't you do some of the things you wanted to do at school here at home.  So, I started to go through all the files I needed for the beginning of the school year and printed them out.  I had just bought a $100 printer cartridge for my laser printer (OUCH!) so I went ahead and did some printing.  I have most of my new teacher binder complete, and I have a nice package of materials for students for the first couple of weeks ready to be (I know, I know...) photocopied.
While I was working away, I kept looking at my "pink slip" form I have used when homework is not completed.  Luckily, I don't have to use it very often, but when I do the kids know they are in BIG trouble with Ms. M (or so I like them to think).  The form has always been pretty simple, and I have traditionally printed it out on hot pink paper.  I knew this way the parents would see it stapled into the student's agenda/planner right away.  It has worked well for me over the past few years, BUT I wanted to do something a little different.  I looked at other teacher forms/slips for incomplete homework but none of them worked for me.  I decided to make my own.  I seem to have gravitated towards polka dots this year for my classroom and lots of black, white and red (also some Tiffany blue for me).  I made my Homework Not Completed form on a red and white polka dot paper.  

I figure I can either print it as black and white and photocopy onto the HOT PINK paper OR I can print it in colour (at school) and the red will be eye catching too.
If you would like a FREE copy of this form just click HERE and download a copy.  Let me know if it works for you, I am going to try it out starting in September.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Favourite Read Alouds

Ashley over at Teaching Happily Ever After has created a linky party for read alouds.  There has been a lot of debate over the past few years at my school about the actual benefit of read alouds.  Some teachers LOVE them and do them all the time, others think we don't have enough time to have students engaged in this practice.

I have ALWAYS made time for read alouds, in fact, I would rather make time for this than for DEAR or silent reading.  Why?  Because the students I teach DO read A LOT.  They are gifted students and most of the them read at home every day.  Ideally the students in my class get time to do both, but if I had to choose, I would not give up my read alouds.  

When I read aloud to my students it "stimulates their imaginations and emotions; models good reading behaviour; exposes them to a range of literature; enriches their vocabularies and understanding of sophisticated language patterns; makes difficult text understandable; models the fact that different genres are read differently; supports independent reading; and can encourage a lifelong enjoyment of reading."Annenberg Foundation

I have SUCH vivid memories of Mrs.Cash my fourth grade  teacher reading aloud each day.  In winter, she would make us hot chocolate, (Tang in the warmer months) give us all our own cup and she would read aloud while we had our special treat!  I distinctly remember "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and "Voyage of the Dawntreader" by C.S. Lewis. 

My fantastic, passionate teacher brought the characters to life and sparked my imagination by exposing me to books my parents would never have thought of buying for me.  I lived in a house where both my parents read a lot, but they did not think about what to give to young readers. I was left to my own devices while they devoured adult novels and Time magazine! Many of my teachers, but especially Mrs. Cash, did an awesome job of steering me in the right direction.

Having taught junior grades for over 20 years, I still have my old favourites, but I have collected some new ones along the way too.  I try to choose a novel which matches the "theme" in my classroom.  If I am teaching about Space I try to choose a novel such as "A Wrinkle In Time" to encourage the students to think beyond the science, and to use their imaginations as we read about the mysterious "tesseract" and ponder what will become of Meg's father.

When I am teaching about  Canada's Links to the World, I often read aloud the story "The Breadwinner", part of a trilogy (followed by Parvana's Journey and Mud City) by Deborah Ellis.  The story of an 11 year old girl dealing with the Taliban and the effects of the war in Afghanistan open my students eyes to possibilities of a life they could never begin to imagine.

When I finished the read aloud, I make sure I have copies of the other books in the trilogy to "hook" students who are interested in following up the emerging saga on their own.

I always begin the year with reading Norton Juster's classic "The Phantom Tollbooth". It tells the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one day when he arrives home from school, "bored as usual".

This tollbooth takes Milo on a journey to a land called the Kingdom of Wisdom. Milo meets many interesting characters along the way and acquires a few special companions. He has many adventures, and eventually sets off on a quest to rescue some very special princesses. The novel is filled with figurative language, and puns. Some parts of the story, including Milo's jump to the Island of Conclusions, give excellent literal meanings of idiomatic language.  I find that I can refer to the book throughout the year and the students find the references to Milo's misfortunes to be very funny and memorable!

While teaching my unit on Flight, I either have the students read or I read aloud "Airborn" by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel.  "Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies." (Amazon.com). 
I personally love all the novels by Kenneth Oppel and recommend them highly to my students.  I was fortunate enough to take my class a few years ago to the International Festival of Author's at Harbourfront Center to a live reading by Kenneth himself!  I am not sure who was more in awe, myself, or my 28 students!

I realize that this post is getting a little long winded, but I am passionate about reading aloud!  I will post pictures of my two newest favourites.  If you choose, you can do a little research of your own or take my word for it, they BOTH are excellent read alouds for the age group I teach!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Last Minute Checklist

Mr.Hughes has posted another linky for Share the Wealth Saturday.  His posts and others keep me inspired to create and share materials.  The other day on Pinterest (where else?) I saw a pin with a "one minute countdown checklist" created by Kelly on her blog Kelly's Knack.  I loved the idea, so I went to her blog to see if there was a download.  She did not have one so I decided to modify her idea to meet my own classroom needs, and make a poster version in PDF which I could share.

I plan to print this out before school starts, mount it on poster board, add some glitter (of course!), laminate it and mount it near the door (or the clock...Which do grade 6's look at more in the day?).  I am hoping that I can just POINT at the list at the end of the day, rather than asking each of the questions (and often running out of time or forgetting!)

If you would like to have your own FREE copy of this, you can find it at my TPT store HERE  for FREE (everything I have made has been free so far).  Be sure to check out Kelly's blog and Mr.Hughes' too while you are at it.  There is so much great stuff to see and share!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Educational Time Fillers

Over at 3-6 Free Resources I was reading about Ms. Fultz's educational time fillers.  We all have minutes in the day when we are finished a lesson quickly, or an assembly finishes early or we just want a change of pace.  A few years ago I discovered that having the game Mindtrap in my classroom is a lifesaver!   This game consists of over 500 classic puzzles, murder mysteries, conundrums and trick questions that will challenge the way your students think!

Here's how I use it in my classroom:
I assign the students to two (or more) relatively even teams.  (I use the old "Popsicle stick method" to do this quickly).  I allow the students to use dry erase boards (I bought at the local dollarama for $1 each!) to record information and questions they want to ask.  The questions can ONLY be answered with a YES OR NO. I read aloud the question and the students (in teams) must solve it.  I give them a few minutes in their teams to come up with ONLY questions first.  They may NOT try to solve the mystery until I decide they have explored the questioning enough.  You will be the judge of how much is "enough".

The students will encounter questions that look so easy, they will jump at the answer.  I don't let them just blurt it out!  They have to question! What they think is a clue is sometimes  really a trap. Sometimes they will confront the type of "head scratcher" that appears impossible to solve. It seems there just isn't enough information to go on -- until they hear the answer. Then they will realize they overlooked the obvious and it was easy after all. 

Students find much of the fun is watching the other team struggle with a question while they think they know the painfully obvious answer.  Each team asks questions that can be answered "yes" or "no," clearly narrowing in on the solution, until suddenly they are hit with the "aha!" as it clicks into place. 

At this point I have the team give ONE answer...they cannot shout out multiple answers.  They must come to consensus prior to answering.
Sometimes we get through a few questions in 10-15 minutes other times, we have to come back to the mystery later. 

My only caveat is to choose questions that are appropriate for your grade level.  I teach grade 6 gifted and I choose questions based on what I know my students would find interesting.  I think this game would be best for middle and high school students.  I have seen other versions for younger students in a "card deck" format. 

Sample Question: If a daddy bull weighs 1,200 pounds and eats twelve bales of hay each day, and a baby bull, who weighs 300 pounds eats three bales of hay each day, how much hay then should a mommy bull eat if she weighs 800 pounds? ANSWER: There's no such thing as a mommy bull.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Adventuresin6thgrade Giveaway

Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher is having a great giveaway to celebrate having 700 (now more) followers!  I cannot imagine getting to that point.  I really like this blog and she has linked up with lots of other great blogs and bloggers to create the ultimate giveaway.  Why don't you hop on over and enter the giveaway yourself!