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!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Talking About College with Gifted Kids

This past month, I have had the privilege of teaching an enrichment course for middle and high school gifted learners. This course was offered on Saturdays and focused on all things related to getting ready for college. We covered topics from career exploration, academic preparation, choosing the right school, to tips for writing successful college essays. As we explored topics through discussions, role play, and creative production, I also found ways to integrate artistic expression. The samples below illustrate our Text Self Portraits and Career Trees.

Text Self Portraits
Students were challenged to draw a portrait of themselves using words that describe their personal qualities, aspirations, interests, talents, and career goals. The idea for these was inspired by Ian Byrdseed, who originally used poetry as the basis for the text. However, these can be adapted to illustrate multiple intelligences and social/emotional topics, which are also suitable topics for gifted learners.

Career Trees
The concept for career trees is very similar to text self portraits, with the only difference being that students decide to use a tree or other image to display their message. If students chose a career tree, I encouraged them to list their personal qualities along with traits, qualifications, and skills/background needed for a specific career path or track.

Talking about College with Podcast Interviews 
To recap key points, I decided to utilize podcasts.  It was surprised yet excited that my creative tech savvy students were not as familiar with podcasts.  I had them create a fictional talk show to review and inform listeners on a topic that stuck out most to them or that they found to be most important.  So with just a few clicks and guidelines, here is what they came up with.