Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Byrdseed TV: A Digital Hub for Teaching Ideas

Just recently I have been asked to contribute to Byrdseed TV by the ever amazing, Ian Byrd. I had the opportunity to meet Ian in person at the last National Association for Gifted Children Convention in Indianapolis after being a huge fan of his work for several years. I have also followed him on Twitter and love his approach to inserting rigor and relevance into core subjects, especially in writing. So I was very pleased when I came across his newest venture, Byrdseed TV.

Much like his original website, ByrdSeed TV offers a variety of lesson ideas and tips for a wide range of topics such as Writing, Creativity, Technology, Careers, and more. Along the way, he has enlisted the help of several teachers of the gifted who are willing (and not to mention brave) to share their favorite and successful lessons. This sharing is what makes this site so dynamic for me. But perhaps the most helpful aspects are the explanations of how one goes about preparing/planning for several products as well as the different perspectives offered. As I watch lessons under each category, I find myself taking notes for future lessons that can either be inserted or modified into my own curriculum.

Here is an excerpt of my contribution on Research Podcasts:

I encourage you to check out this site because I genuinely feel that it is an excellent resource for educators of the gifted. Whether you are a newbie teacher looking for ways to challenge your students or a veteran teacher searching for fresh ideas, this is a great place to start. Or if you are an Ian fan like myself, I promise this site delivers! Make sure to type in “elle” at checkout for a free month on monthly plans, or a month off of annual plans. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

DIY is Right on Time

I'm back! And this time, I bring with me some fresh experiences with the Maker Movement. All this talk on Twitter about letting our students become "makers" has definitely sparked my curiosity. The Maker Movement (a.k.a. Maker Spaces) promotes the idea that students learn by doing. It puts students in an active role when it comes to their learning because they are in charge of selecting, planning, and the actual creating or building of whatever it is they are making.

Exploring DIY
Our main source in our journey has been I learned about this amazing site from Dr. Brian Housand at the National Association for Gifted Children Convention in November. Apart from being one of my top take aways, the site provides a wide selection of challenges, or tasks, that students can complete on their own time and share within the community (if you register). Another great feature about this site is that skills are divided by categories that reflect interests or professions such as linguist, architect, and interior designer (to name a few). This complements the notion of multiple intelligences since students are able to select skills that tap into their strengths and interests. Under each category or skill, you will find the accompanying challenges along with examples of finished products for inspiration. The page alone excites my students, especially when they run into interesting skills such as cardboarder and Minecrafter! Below is how we have implemented DIY Challenges in our classroom:

Independent Projects 
For my upper level group, I have had a couple students select their own skill/profession. They then selected a challenge to complete. This has worked out great, especially since these students are normally early finishers and self-directed learners. They have worked independently on the planning and actual making. As they are working, I guide them in their problem-solving and brainstorming as needed. These two have loved the project so much that they beg to stay with me during their Activity time (P.E., Music, etc.) to finish their projects. Both students have also thought or worked on their projects from home, which is not a requirement. One student mentioned that he started to build his helmet at home but was disappointed when it was misplaced. The other actually brought some patterns from a craft store to add to her final project. When they shared these stories, I have to admit my heart smiled.
Cardboarder: Design a Suit!

To Enhance Reading Projects
For my intermediate group, I modified one of the challenges and offered this as an option for a final project. This group has recently completed reading the novel, Tuck Everlasting, and were to re-create a scene from the story using cardboard and other items. With this group, I also provided guidance as needed. We also reflected on and discussed some recommendations for staying organized and building things. This group offered some great tips and were very engaged and helpful towards each other throughout their projects.
Recreating a scene from a novel.
So far, the process of making is a messy one but so well worth it! My greatest challenge is staying organized and finding storage for all projects. Right now, I am using these storage bins and placing them under tables and on top of file cabinets. For this reason, I had to start with two groups; a larger one and a smaller one. As soon as I can find a solution for storage or as students complete their projects, I will offer more DIY challenges to different grade level groups. If you have a storage solution or tip, please leave me a comment!
My storage solution for the moment.
 Are you interested in joining the Maker Movement? Some great starting points are @cybraryman1's Page on Maker Spaces. You can also check out the hashtag #MakerEd on Twitter to follow some folks who are sharing and using Maker Spaces in their classes. Finally, for the tech savvy, check out @TeachThought's post on 39 Tools to Turn Your Students into Makers By Edshelf. So what are you waiting for, let's MAKE it happen!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Greatest Stories Never Told: Showcasing Our Gifted Classrooms Through Social Media & WebTools

It has been quite a November! This year I was fortunate enough to attend the 60th National Association for Gifted Children Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana to share my love and passion for technology. It all started with our little class blog that was created to share projects with parents and community members. However, it grew to be a space where we were able to showcase our learning as well as collaborate with other classes around the globe! If you would like to check us out, click here.  And in case you missed it, I have included a recording of my presentation. Thanks to Quicktime, I was able to record a screencast.

 It was an exhilarating experience to be among the brightest minds in gifted education! What was most exciting was actually meeting folks I have been in communication with on Twitter. So it was no surprise that there was to be a #gtchat TweetUp during the conference. Here are some pictures of this event.
Left: Group Picture, Right: With Lisa Conrad, #gtchat moderator extraordinaire! 
Tremendous Trio!: With Ginger Lewman & Lisa Conrad. 
And who could forget, Ian Byrd! He was our Twilebrity at the conference! 

Animal Research Poems

It has been a busy Fall! It was time for a recap of what we have been up to in my classroom. Last term we have been working on research and organizational skills. As part of our district-wide themes, we focused on endangered animals, however I felt that my students needed a creative way to showcase their learning. Instead of settling for the typical report, I wanted my students to write poems. I provided several templates to get them started. The poems challenged my students to be flexible and figure out ways to incorporate different information about their animals in new and interesting ways. Some students struggled with the open nature of the poems, especially with poems that required them to think from the perspective of their chosen animal. As a final step, I had some students use Pages to showcase their poems. I taught them to use the poster templates and modify those for their  poems. Overall, I am very delighted by their final products!

Friday, August 30, 2013

All the Pieces Fit

Happy New (School) Year! We are off to a great start and I am thrilled to be back for another year to co-teach in an area I absolutely love. We started our school year with our typical All About Me Unit, only this time I wanted to add a new spin.  Every year we are expected to keep records of inventories our students take, which include interest, multiple intelligences, as well as expression style inventories. I make sure to explain the purpose of these inventories and their role in learning in our classroom. However, I felt that over the years we normally complete them, discuss the results, and then store them away (usually to collect dust). This year I would like to use this information as a reference point for my students as I prepare them to individualize their learning.  As an activity, I had my students to either complete a puzzle piece or their own puzzle to show how all the pieces fit for them. Here is what the puzzle pieces included:

For 2nd and 3rd Grades:
1. Preferred Multiple Intelligence(s)
2. Interests
3. Goals for the class

For  the large puzzle piece template, click here.

For 4th-6th Grades: 
1. Preferred Multiple Intelligence(s)
2. Preferred Expression Style(s)
3. Interests
4. Goals for the class
5. Career Goal(s)

For the individual puzzle template, click here.

I think these will make a great display and later serve as a reminder for the remainder of the school year. To view other creative puzzle pieces, click here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Research Meets Podcasts

It has been a while since I have blogged! A little too long if you ask me. But my absence is not a reflection of what I have not been doing but rather all that I have! With the close of the school year, comes state testing and evaluation of our gifted ed program- so to say the least it's been a busy Spring. Then to top it off, I had to teach for our district's enrichment program. (I couldn't help myself.) I love teaching this program because it gives me a time to test out some methods and projects that I normally don't get to try during the school year or like in this case, haven't tried in a while. Last year, I touched on some podcasts with some of my students but didn't get a chance to fully integrate them due to my lack of experience with them. I admit, I am a little weary of throwing tools at my students without trying them out myself, but this summer has taught me to do the opposite. This time around I took a leap with my basic skills and knowledge and jumped right in. And let me say, I am not at all disappointed!

This year I was assigned as the Activity teacher for our program and decided to focus on exploring one tool and creating a product with that tool. Because I only saw my students for twice a week for 30 minutes, I had to select a tool that would be fairly easy to use yet open enough to allow for creativity. I choose podcasts and narrowed their final product to a talk show where they would interview other scientists. So after a hands-on tutorial of the basic functions of a Macbook and Garageband, I had my students research some careers in Science (since the program's theme was around Science). As they researched, I had them think of their information as an interview. Instead of just locating random facts or even worse, creating questions that they could not find the answers to, they summarized their information and compiled interview questions as they were researching.

Next, they were given a storyboard to take notes on some conversational pieces to add, what questions/responses were to be used, and what media would be inserted in their final podcast (i.e. theme music, sound effects). At first, my students were not sure why they needed more than 3 questions to include in their interview, but soon realized how quickly they went through their questions once what was written was transferred into speaking. They had the most fun recording themselves and inserting their jingles and sound effects. The best part however, was seeing their reactions as they listened to their final products. Another reason why I love this tool-it captured my students' personalities the best. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as we enjoyed making them!

To create your own storyboard, click here.

For some career research resources, click here.

For free stock images go to: MorgueFile and Ookaboo

Friday, March 29, 2013

Real Life Math & Other Enrichment Activities

This year I have been struggling with ways to make Math more engaging and relevant for my gifted learners.  Each year, I am assigned an enrichment group of advanced learners and the goal is to provide practice. I have noticed that my learners struggle with several concepts in spite of being at the top of their grade level. The drill and skill approach is not sufficient and worksheets are not going to cut it either. That's when I came to the conclusion that they needed to explore concepts and apply what they have learned to real life settings. The more I looked at the situation, the more sense projects made.  Thankfully, with the help of my PLN I have come across several resources to help me transition to projects and better manage them in my class. Now instead of feeding information to my students, they are solving problems through trial and error, communicating with each other on the best strategies to reach a conclusion or solution, and most importantly, making sense of and even justifying what they are learning. Below are some projects we have completed throughout this year. I encourage you to share your best projects- I'm always open to more ideas and appreciate your feedback!

Decimal Designs 
When we looked at decimals and the relationship between fractions and decimals being part of a whole, my students created these decimal designs. While some students created a pattern, others created illustrations. I think it's important to incorporate a creative component to projects and took it a step further by having students create a title for their designs. This lesson was adapted from the Georgia Common Core Performance Standards Decimals Unit.


Math Movies 
 To demonstrate their understanding of place value, my students created these videos. They were responsible for organizing their movie using a storyboard and create their own props to convey their message. I especially like the use of videos in the classroom because students are able to apply writing and other communication skills to teach a concept. They also need to know the concept well enough to create an example to include in their explanations. From place value fortune tellers to a place value rap, my students got very creative with their videos!

It's a Math Party! 
To apply estimation and computation skills, students planned a themed party.  After selecting a theme (not associated with a particular holiday), students created an itemized list to cover food/snacks, plates, cups, other utensils as well as items for goody bags. Students were given a budget of $100 and carefully selected items that would be appropriate for their themed party. Some examples of themes that groups selected included: A Disco Party, a picnic, and a Paris Sweet Shoppe. Students found items for their goody bags from Oriental Trading Company, while food items were purchased at a local grocery store.  The group that collaborated as a team (i.e. distributed tasks evenly and were actively engaged throughout the planning) and that created the most detailed itemized list (with the closest estimations) was selected. Thanks to our school's PTA, our project was funded and students were able to see their party come to life! 

Day Out 
Sample Plan 
Another project that involves estimations and computation skills, is the Day Out Project.  This project  began with a sample problem from the Georgia Common Core Performance Standards Decimals Unit. After students figured out how to solve a word problem that involved a field trip, I had them plan their own field trips in groups. My criteria involved having them plan three types of trips: 1) a local, in-state option, 2) a moderately priced, out-of-state option, and 3) a dream trip abroad. This allowed them to explore the money and planning required for each type of trip (i.e. district bus mileage vs. charter bus prices). It was interesting to see the options they chose and figure out what information applied to each situation or trip that they were planning. As a culminating activity, students displayed their plan on posters and will record their presentations. As a class we will vote for the top three choices (we are realistic that our dream trip is not feasible for this school year) and send our videos to our principal in hopes that she will approve our trip. Wish us luck!