“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

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

They say it's your birthday? It's my birthday too! Party in Your Pyjamas with 31 Gifts

They say it's your birthday?  It's my birthday too!  

Party in Your Pyjamas with 31 Gifts

Photo of They say it's your birthday?  It's my birthday too!  Party in Your Pyjamas with 31 Gifts

My bloggy buddy Krystal from Lessons in the Middle is hosting a party in your pyjamas with 31 gifts in honour of my birthday!  Well, actually it's not in honour of my birthday, even though tomorrow IS my birthday.  BUT there is a party so why don't you join in?  

You might remember my last party for 31 Gifts, I gave away a fantastic tote just in time for report card writing.  This time there will be lots of fun to be had, and giveaways during the party.

If you don't know 31 Gifts, here is a sample of what I LOVE LOVE LOVE about them.

Photo of They say it's your birthday?  It's my birthday too!  Party in Your Pyjamas with 31 Gifts Inside Out Bag

I have the first bag shown.  I cannot tell you how awesome it is. Jen Bellinger who is a fantastic teacher and a 31 Gifts consultant sent me one of these after the last party!  BEST. BAG. EVER.  It has tons of pockets, inside and out, it's reversible and it's washable.  You can tote around anything in that bag and I DO!  It can even be worn cross body.  I cannot wait to order another one for the fall!

What will you be on the look out for? The perfect school bag…a hot purse…a new lunch bag…a tote.. Don’t miss out on the fun! Join in the Party in Your Pyjamas with 31 Gifts on Krystal's Facebook page tommorow, Thursday, August 1st at 9pm AT (8ET)!  Don't forget your pyjamas!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Gifted Education 101: Program Differentiation through Product

Gifted Education 101:  Program Differentiation through Product

Photo of Gifted Education 101 Differentiation through product Teachingisagift

"Differentiation means tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Whether teachers differentiate content, process, products, or the learning environment, the use of ongoing 
assessment and flexible grouping makes this a successful approach to instruction."*  
Carol Ann Tomlinson

In previous posts I have begun to explore program differentiation through content, process and product and environment.  Today's post will examine the many ways teachers and students can differentiate final products to allow students to demonstrate their learning.

The following examples can be used in Intensive Support Programs (congregated classrooms such as the one I teach), in withdrawal programs or a regular classroom.  Teachers can differentiate based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile.

Gifted Education 101:  Program Differentiation through Product

Some examples of differentiated products at the primary and junior level can include the following:

  • Provide students with CHOICES of how to express required learning (e.g., create a puppet show, write a letter, or develop a mural with labels); ( click here to read about CHOICE menus as well as Extension Menus) which offer a variety of ways for students to show their understanding;

  • Use rubrics that match and extend students' varied skills levels;

  • Allow students to work alone or in small groups on their products; 

  • Encourage students to create their own product assignments as long as the assignments contain required elements;

  • Use Bloom's Taxonomy of Thinking Skills to create higher level thinking challenges within any given unit or topic of study; 

Photo of Blooms Revised Taxonomy
  • Encourage student leadership opportunities which could include opportunities for peer-tutoring, coaching and teaching;

  • Encourage use of independent learning centres within your class;

  • Provide an interesting selection of texts, reference, science experiment books, novels, non-fiction texts, etc. which challenge higher level thinking;

  • Offer students the chance to be news editors for newsletters, etc. ( My former principal used to have my students be the official editors of the school newsletters);

  • Provide opportunities for Independent Study Projects (ISP) - topic, format, plans, assessment, etc. negotiated between student and teacher - there are many ways these can be used in the classroom - as an alternate activity while the class is done something else, as an ongoing project to be worked on when other work is completed, etc.

*Excerpted from: Tomlinson, C. A. (August, 2000). Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary Grades. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Gifted Education 101: Differentiation Through Process

Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process

Photo of Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process

Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process

In the second post in this series, I wrote about how teachers of gifted students can differentiate programming through content. Content differentiation is often the most common form of differentiation.  It along with product differentiation are also the most obvious and visible forms of differentiation.  These forms of differentiation are things which observers might SEE if they were examining the differences between a gifted and "regular" program.   Another very important part of planning for teaching gifted students is differentiation through process.

Process is defined as: 
  • cognitive and affective thinking skills, 
  • learning how to learn, 
  • research and reference skills, 
  • written, oral and visual communications skills.
The Toronto District School board Special Education Department created a flow chart to demonstrate how its teachers could differentiate the program for gifted students through process.

Photo of Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process Flow Chart
Click on image above to view larger PDF version of flowchart.

The first part of the flow chart looks at RESEARCH SKILLS.

Photo of Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process Flow Chart
Research consists of the following skills and competencies:
Organizational Skills: Time Management, Personal Work Space, Planning and Task Completion
Experiential Learning Skills: Hypothesize, Validate, Observe, Big Idea, Assess
Inquiry Skills: Sources of Information, Referencing Information, Selecting/Categorizing Information, Point form notes, Communication, Use of Graphs/Charts
Independent Study Skills:  Organization/Time Management, Problem Solving, Research, Presentation, Independence/Motivation

The second part examines AWARENESS OF SELF & OTHERS.
Photo of Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process Flow Chart
Awareness of Self & Others consists of the following skills and competencies:
Interpersonal Learning Skills: Contribution, Tolerance/Accepting of Differences, Listening, Working with others, Problem Solving
Self-Directed Learning Skills: Goal Setting, Self-Regulation, Strategic Planning, Engagement, Motivation, Self-Direction
Leadership: Role Model, Responsibility, Goal Setting, Communication, Student Led Participation, Activities
Intrapersonal Skills: Reflection, Self-Knowledge, Self-Discovery, Self-Esteem, Metacognition

The final section of the flow chart focuses on THINKING SKILLS.
Photo of Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process Flow Chart

Thinking consists of the following skills and competencies:
Critical Thinking Skills: Gather information, Evaluate Evidence, Consider Alternatives/Implications, Choose/Implement best alternative
Creative Thinking Skills: Generation of Ideas, Combining of Ideas, Analysis of Ideas, Evaluating Ideas
Problem Solving Skills:  Developing Solutions, Creativity, Persistence Organization, Analysis and Applications
Creativity: Fluency, Flexibility, Elaboration, Originality, Application 

I don't know about you, but when I first encountered this flow chart I was TOTALLY OVERWHELMED!  There are 3 areas, 12 skills and a GAZILLION competencies (61 actually)!  The good news is that there is a lot of overlap within each of these areas, and if you start to think about it, the skills outlined can also be effectively integrated with the content and product part of the program.

In Toronto, we are into the second year of implementation of the areas outlined in the flow chart above. At our school we are continuing to explore how to best use this information to program for the gifted students in the intensive support program.  I am by no means an expert at any of the areas listed, but I have learned a lot as I continue to work my way through it.  In our school we focus on all the three areas each year, but we have a specific concentration on ONE area in each of the three grades.  The grade fours concentrate on RESEARCH, the grade fives concentrate on THINKING and the grade sixes concentrate on AWARENESS OF SELF & OTHERS.

As a starting point for the upcoming year, teachers of gifted may want to focus on organization skills with their students.  Most students need help with organization skills to one extent or another and the beginning of the year is a great time to set expectations and goals.

Please download a copy of this Organization Rubric as a FREEBIE.   You can use it to demonstrate the criteria for your students and then help them work towards success.

Photo of Organization Rubric Gifted Education 101:  Differentiation Through Process Flow Chart PDF

In upcoming posts in this series I will focus on each of the areas outlined above and explore some ways you can design a program to help meet the needs of the gifted students you teach.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Dollar Days Linky

A Teacher without a Class
Click on the image above to visit A Teacher Without a Class
I am linking up again with A Teacher Without A Class for Teacher $ days.  I live in Canada so really NOTHING here is a dollar.  All our dollar stores are now $1.25 stores including Dollar Tree.  I love me some Dollar Tree though.  There are not a lot of them in the Toronto area yet, but I am lucky to live near one.  I love to roam around and get ideas for school.  I never leave without spending at least $20 on something for my classroom.  

Although I am no way close to being in "back to school" mode, I have not totally forsaken my teacher shopping habit.  In fact, in the two weeks since my mother passed away, one of the ways I have sought shelter from the chaos of the aftermath of the funeral, and the ongoing saga of being the executor of the estate, has been to indulge in a little "retail therapy".  I tell you I am going to need REAL therapy at the rate all of this legal, financial stuff is going.  But that is NOT for this blog post!

As I have posted about before on my blog, I like to create Back to School Survival Kits for my students.  I put them together during the week leading up to school starting up again, and then put them on the student desks the night before school starts.  I used to create them using paper bags, then I moved up to using pencil boxes, and then I went to using pencil pouches.  The students seem to like the pouches.  The other day when I was making my bi-weekly pilgrimage to Dollar Tree I spotted these

This is the closet picture I could find to the actual pouches I got from Dollar Tree.  I will NOT be putting scissors in the pouches for my students.  Last year I pre-ordered these from For Teachers Only.

I loved that they came with the pencils, the ruler, the two cap erasers and the sharpener.  They were actually LESS than a dollar a piece.  You can click on the image to see them online.  Well guess what?  This year, with all the chaos surrounding my mother's illness and palliative care, I was not able to order them in time and they are SOLD OUT!

Not to be deterred, I decided to make my own using items from Dollar Tree.  Now I do have to admit that it will cost more in the end, but I can tailor what goes into each pouch right?  I am going to put in one regular eraser, one pencil, one sharpener and the other things I list on here: 

While I was there, I got some more composition notebooks.  I started WHOLE CLASS JOURNALS last year and the kids loved it.  I really just wanted the students to be WRITING more often, and to be reading each others work.  The WHOLE CLASS JOURNAL idea worked really well with the group I had.  I am hoping it is as successful this year.

You can find lots of free WHOLE CLASS JOURNAL covers for your notebooks here Teachers Pay Teachers.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

New Teacher Survival Kit

Each year at back to school time I make my students "Back to School Survival Kits".  You can read more about how I create those HERE.  For the past few years I have also had a student teacher begin the first week of school as well.  I want this person to feel as welcome to my room as all my students do on their first day.  

Photo of New Teacher Back to School Survival Kit

This past year I found these adorable empty small paint cans at Dollar Tree and I knew I would find a use for them. You can use almost anything as a container for the survival kit, but I like the "cute factor" of these cans. I decided to use one to make my Teacher Survival Kit for my student teacher. You could also make these kits for new team members at your school or just as a great back to school gift for your colleagues.

Photo of New Teacher Back to School Survival Kit

Inside this can I put jumbo crayons, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, starburst candies, animal crackers, paper clips and rubber bands.

If you would like to get your own super cute 
label like this one click on the image below:

I created a label, printed it my colour printer and then made a sticker using my Zyron Create a Sticker maker.  I got this puppy last summer at Walmart and found a million and one uses for it. You can print out almost anything, run it through the sticker maker and voila, create a great sticker you can use immediately.  I made cute chalkboard labels for all my school supply bins last year using this machine.  LOVE IT!

Photo of New Teacher Back to School Survival Kit Sticker Maker

I found the adorable ribbon I tied to the side of the survival kit at Walmart too!

I hope this post has inspired you to make your own "Teacher Survival Kit" for a student teacher, a colleague or a teacher's aide.  

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If you are THANKS A MILLION!  
If not, just click on the image below!

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Friday, 19 July 2013

Gifted Education 101 Differentiated Programming

Gifted Education 101 Differentiated Programming

Photo of Gifted Education 101 Differentiated Programming

Gifted Education 101 Differentiated Programming

For the second instalment in my Gifted 101 series I am excited to tell you that today I am a guest blogger over at  A Special Sparkle.  This blog was designed to be the best of special education blogs all in one place.  The authors have a wide variety of experience in special education and are excited to share their knowledge. They have experts in many areas such as autism, learning disabilities, and so much more! 

Photo of Gifted Education 101 Differentiated Programming

To read more about how I differentiate my program for gifted students click on the image above.   You can read about a variety of strategies I use in my classroom.  I hope you get lots of ideas to take back to school with you and use with the gifted students in your class.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Math Must Read Mentor Texts

Teachingisagift is again linking up with Stacia and Amanda at Collaboration Cuties for Must Read Mentor Texts.  I love how writing these posts makes me think about my favourite books and then write about how I use them in my classroom!

Many years ago I came across the book "A Grain of Rice" by Helena Clare-Pittman.  I was intrigued by the story and I loved that it linked to mathematics.  

The book is a simple variation on the old grains on a chessboard example of exponential growth.  As a reward for concocting a potion which saved the life of the princess, humble farmer Pong Lo asks for the Emperor's daughter's hand in marriage.  The Emperor is willing to offer Pong Lo anything he wishes, except for the hand of his daughter, the princess.  

Pong Lo then surprises the Emperor by making a basic request. He asks for a single grain of rice doubled every day for 100 days. The Emperor is baffled, yet he complies.  He soon discovers that Pong Lo uses his math skills and ingenuity to make all his wishes come true.

From Helena Clare Pittman's website:
"The peasant, Pong Lo, falls in love with the princess, Chang Wu, presenting, of course, the problem of class, for starters. But this peasant is "more than a little" clever, gifted and determined. With the conviction of love in his heart he defies tradition and common sense, becoming indispensable to the workings of the emperor's palace, and dear to emperor's love of good food and to his daughter's heart. The story unfolds from there and rests on Pong Lo's wit, and knowledge of arithmetic progression. This book has been in print since 1986, used in school curriculums since 1994, and is a love story on a royal scale."

This story is a great introductory lesson to the patterning and algebra strand in the Ontario Curriculum for mathematics.  I also like to use it prior to this lesson I wrote about INTERACTIVE MATH NOTEBOOKS.  The mathematical focus for this lesson the exponential growth of the powers of 2.

Prior to reading the story, I ask the students to consider this question: "Would you rather have $0.10 each day for 10 days or would you rather receive a penny on the first day and double that amount everyday for 10 days?   I allow students to think about the question but not give me any responses at this point.

I then begin to read the story and stop on the page where Pong Lo asks for a grain of rice which will double every day for one hundred days.

I then revisit the question I posed about the money.   With a partner I ask the students to determine how much money they would receive, depending on which decision they made.  We debrief the strategies used, and the answers the students come up with.  I like to use this as a bit of a diagnostic assessment of strategies students use.

I then ask the students to determine how much rice Pong-Lo would have at the end of 100 days. Again they work with their partners.  I like to use the KWC (Know, Want to Know and Conditions) model to have students work on the problem in partners.  I have them go through each step included in the table you see below.

K:  What do I KNOW?  Based on the problem, I know that...
W:  What do I WANT to do, find, or figure out? I am trying to find or figure out...
C: CONDITIONS.  Are there are special conditions? (e.g. that Pong Lo requests a single of grain rice which doubles each day for 100 days)

Next I use the APEC sheet to have students work through the process to come up with a reasonable answer.  

There is no right or wrong way for the students to use the table, but they must fill out all sections.  I find that gifted students often are able to come up with the correct answer but they cannot show how they know they are correct, and they have trouble explaining their thinking and/or making connections.  Using APEC gets my students thinking about the entire problem solving process and how the concepts they have been learning about connect to other math concepts, to themselves and to the world around them.

Prior to finishing the story but after the students are finished working on the problem they share their thinking, discuss the process and the answer.

I then finish reading the story to the students and we talk about what that much rice would look like. How would Pong Lo store it all?  What could he store it in?   Exploring a variety of measurement concepts are a natural extension to these questions.

Another extension I have used with my students is to have them create their own story related to the concept, powers of 2.  This can be used as an excellent cross curricular connection to language arts, visual arts and technology.

Head over to Collaboration Cuties now to read about more great Must Have Mentor texts!

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Gifted Education 101

Let me preface this post by saying I am NOT an expert in gifted education by any means.  I do hold my three part specialist qualifications in Special Education (including the gifted elective) and I have been teaching in a gifted intensive support program for the past six (going on seven) years.  I am also the mother of a beautiful daughter who was identified as profoundly gifted by her paediatrician when she was only 16 months old.  She attends a gifted ISP class in another school in my district.  

I am learning about teaching gifted students the same way I have learned about teaching ALL students, by listening, by observing, by trying new things, by differentiating, by talking to parents, to other staff, to experts in the field, by reading about and researching best practices, and by remaining open minded to all the things I don't know.  

When I started this blog, it was my intention to blog about teaching gifted students.  And I have.  But it might not look like it to someone outside looking in.  What is it that you do that is different I am often asked?  Usually I want to say NOTHING...good teaching is good teaching...but that is too simplistic a response.  Why?  Because gifted students do have different needs, they have different strengths and they do need different programming. 

This series of posts will not about whether or not gifted programs are a good thing or a bad thing, they will not meant as debate about funding or resources.  These posts are going to be straight up about what I do in my school board, in my school working with my colleagues and in my classroom with my students.   

Well let's start off with what is a gifted child?  I am asked this all the time by other teachers and non-eductors alike.  I bet you have all seen this before:

Click on the image above to download your own copy.

As an educator of the gifted and as a parent of a gifted child, first off let me say that neither column encompasses the whole child.  Many bright children possess gifted characteristics and many gifted students possess the characteristics of bright children.  Some children are bright and gifted.  Other children have been identified as "gifted" but may not present as "bright".  Some gifted students have multiple diagnoses and can be gifted/learning disabled.  I have students in my class who run the whole gamut of the continuum.  

In the Toronto District Public School board students are "tested" for the gifted program in the third grade.  Students are usually nominated by their teachers, but they can also be nominated for screening by their parents/guardians.

I won't get into the specifics of the testing/screening.  This is formally conducted by trained psychologists. On the overall scoring a student needs to be in the 98th percentile in one area - either perceptual or reasoning.  Parent and teacher observations and checklists are taken into account and a IPRC (Individual Placement and Review Committee) meeting is called to decide what would be the best placement for the student.  

The IPRC will meet with the parents and:
  • decide whether or not the student should be identified as exceptional
  • identify the areas of the student’s exceptionality, according to the categories and definitions of exceptionalities provided by the Ministry of Education
  • decide an appropriate placement for the student
  • review the identification and placement at least once in each school year
Students traditionally start in the gifted progam in the fourth grade, although TDSB does have some gifted programs for primary students.

You can click HERE to read my earlier post about the Top 10 Myths About Gifted Learners.

In the upcoming instalments of this Gifted 101 series I will delve into how teachers in my school work to meet the identified needs of gifted students.  Stay tuned!