Sunday, December 11, 2011

Skype in the Gifted Classroom Presentation

I was given the amazing opportunity to present Skype in the Gifted Classroom at this year’s National Association for Gifted Children’s Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was thrilled to attend my first national conference and meet up with fellow tweechers. I also soaked up as much as I could at the sessions and panel discussions. It was no surprise that that majority of sessions I chose to attend focused on technology, literacy, and project-based learning.

Using Skype has been something I am truly passionate about. Skype is a tool that has transformed my classroom. It’s our window to the world, connections, and a real audience. Instead of looking something up about a country or culture, we can now directly ask our friends about it in person. To apply math skills, we play a game with our Math Skype Buddies. To learn what other gifted programs are doing around the globe, we listen to our partner class present projects they have completed. We learn. We connect. We share. That is what Skype has done for us.

I would like to take this opportunity to share my presentation and accompanying handout. I hope that you will find use in them and that they provide you direction in starting your own journey with Skype. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have questions or would like to further discuss ways to incorporate Skype into your gifted program or class.

Click here to view the Resource Handout.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Talking with Olivia Holt from Kickin' It

Last week my 2nd-4th grade students participated in a very special call with actress Olivia Holt from Disney XD's Kickin' It. Throughout her call, Olivia encouraged students to plan for the future and follow their dreams. She also told students to work hard and reach for their goals, even when they face challenges. This call was a very enriching experience for my students because they got to hear about the struggles and effort it takes to accomplish goals from someone who has a successful career at a young age. This call could not come at a better time, especially since my students are exploring future career paths this semester. I was proud to see my students ask some insightful questions about acting to find more about the entertainment industry. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with Olivia and learn about her experiences!

Have a look at our call below.

We even tweeted about our call and were very excited that Olivia tweet us back!


This call was made possible by Jeff Rivera (@gatekeeperspost), Partner and Editor in Chief of The GateKeepers Post. Through his OpenEdu Talk Program, he arranges Skype calls with celebrities in entertainment and sports to talk to schools around the globe about issues that are relevant in today's society. This fall's program included an impressive line-up of celebrities and focused on achieving goals. To learn more about this program and how to participate, click here.

I think what Jeff is doing is absolutely wonderful! The topics discussed in The OpenEdu Talk Program are ones that today's youth can relate to. I also think it is important for students to discuss issues such as personal struggles, challenges, and future goals with individuals who have been down that same path.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Virtual Career Skype Tour: Our Talk with Dr. Lora Wilson

As part of our Virtual Career Skype Tour, my fourth graders had the opportunity to connect with Dr. Lora Wilson. Lora is a scientist and post doctoral fellow who works and leads a lab in The University of Colorado's Health Sciences Center. She conducts research related to treating and curing pulmonary cancer.

After briefly introducing herself, Lora showed us around the lab where she spends most of her days. She described a typical day at her job and showed us other parts of the lab. We even had the chance to meet other scientists who answered some questions we had.

Have a look at a clip from her tour.

After the tour, my fourth graders interviewed Lora to learn more about her work and how she came into the field of science. Here are some clips of the interview.

We thank Lora for taking the time to talk to us about her career. She is a great role model for girls who are interested in science and we respect her dedication and work in finding a cure for cancer. I know that this call has influenced my girls and has made them think differently about science.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Connecting with the Global Read Aloud

This was our first year participating in the Global Read Aloud. I decided to have my 5th grade students take part in this project because I felt that it would complement our novel studies unit and saw it as an excellent opportunity to connect with other classes around the globe who were also reading the same novel. When I first introduced the concept of the Global Read Aloud, I don’t think my students quite grasped what it involved. It was not until I showed them the Participant Map on the Global Read Aloud Wiki that they realized how large this project was! At this point, they were excited to connect with other classes and this is how we did it:

Edmodo- Throughout the Global Read Aloud we used this secure networking site to post the journal prompt in our Tuck Everlasting Group.Our journals revolved around themes for each section in the book and had students relate and make personal connections with the novel. Our partner classes in Delaware and South Korea were also part of this group and posed questions and polls that our students responded to. It was nice to see students and teachers responding to each other. Edmodo has allowed us to share and reflect in ways we have never imagined.

Skype- This project has also granted us the privilege of meeting our Delaware friends through Skype! Thanks to Lisa Mims in Delaware, we were able to arrange a call and participate in Literature Circles virtually. Students from both classes were responsible for sharing their assigned jobs and discussing the novel. Lisa and I were impressed by the how much thought and effort our students put into their Literature Circle jobs and discussion.

Here is a clip of our call. Watch as our Delaware friends guess an illustration for a scene in the book.

Overall, I am very pleased with the whole experience and for what it has done for my students. Reading alongside other classes made learning much more authentic for my students. The technology tools also engaged my students throughout the unit. I plan to continue using these tools and hope to connect my other classes for Skype Book Clubs later on in the year. To read more about these, click here. I welcome you to join us!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Virtual Career Skype Tour: Talking with Kristan Cunningham

This week we kick started our Virtual Career Skype Tour with the very own HGTV star, Kristan Cunningham. Kristan is the former host of Design on a Dime and is now working on a new show that will air on the OWN Network.

Our call started with a brief introduction, where Kristan outlined her educational background and work experiences. The remainder of the call was dedicated to student-led interviews, which covered a variety of questions from what skills and preparation are necessary for a career in interior design to what are the challenges and perks of your job. Before the call, my students researched the different expectations for careers in the arts field and compiled questions that related specifically to the field of interior design.

Throughout the call, students also had assigned Skype jobs. Because this was our first call of the school year with this particular group, I chose to keep my jobs simple and to a minimum so that students can focus on our guest speaker. The three main jobs were super stars, question keepers, and blog writers. The super stars were in charge of answering the call and interviewing our guest speaker while the question keepers kept track of the questions being asked and noted any additional questions that came up during the call. The remaining students were blog writers and took notes on key points that could be mentioned on a blog post about this event.

Our call was a success thanks to Kristan's insight and honest perspective on working in the field of interior design and television. She offered some great advice for students who are interested in this career path. We were glad she took the time to talk to us and were thrilled about being featured in the local news!

Have a look at the interview below.

Here is a video of our media coverage.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Math Skype Buddies

Last week we had our first Skype call of the school year with our friends in Nebraska as part of our Teaching Enrichment Activities Time. During this part of the day, we focus on reviewing and applying different math skills in a fun way. And what a better way to review place value than by playing a guessing game!

I choose the game 0-99 Guess from the book, Mega-Fun Math Games: 70 Quick and Easy Games to Build Math Skills by Dr. Michael Schiro and Anna Walker. This book contains many hands-on and engaging activities that are well suited for our TEA Time. First, each team had to select a number from 0-99 and the objective was to have each team ask a series of yes or no questions to guess the opposing team’s number.

I added an extra component by assigning Skype jobs during the game to engage all my students. Here is a list of the jobs we had for this game:

1. Super Stars- These two students greeted our partner class and sat in front of the webcam to ask the yes/no questions.

2. Number Keeper- This student was in charge of writing our class number and referring to it when we were asked questions by our partner class.

3. Runners- I divided my class into two groups so that each group could take turns asking questions to our partner class. I assigned a runner in each group and their job was to obtain the question that was to be asked and whisper it to one of the Super Stars. Runners had to also check with question keepers and problem solvers at their table before delivering their questions to the Super Stars.

4. Question Keepers- I also had one question keeper in each group. Their job was to write down all the questions that we asked in order to ensure that we did not have any duplicate questions.

5. Problem Solvers- I assigned this job to the remaining students in my class. Each problem solver had a laminated 0-99 chart that they could mark on. Their job was to eliminate numbers throughout the game.

Overall, my students had a blast playing the game with another class. They worked well as a team and used their problem solving skills to eliminate numbers. I was also impressed by how they carried out their Skype jobs. We look forward to future calls with our Math Skype Buddies!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Invitation to Collaborate

Are you a teacher of gifted and talented students? Would you like more ideas and resource for your classroom? Are you interested in networking with others in gifted education? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should consider joining The Gifted Teachers Exchange Wiki.

I launched The Gifted Teachers Exchange Wiki in July of 2011 as an interactive space for PreK-12 gifted and talented teachers to share units, lesson ideas, best practices, and much more. Members are encouraged to upload content and contribute to the community library of resources. This fast growing wiki is an ideal a place to network with other educators. Right now, there are about 66 members who come from different parts of the United States, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. The wiki even has a Skype Contact List to connect with other GT classes or educators! The idea is to join, share, and collaborate.

The Gifted Teachers Exchange also has an accompanying group on Diigo, a popular social bookmarking site. With this group, members are able to browse and add their favorite bookmarks that pertain to gifted education, learning, and teaching. To browse and join the Diigo Group, click here.

Interested in joining? Follow these steps:

1. Click here to request access.

2. Include your email address (preferably from your school or district).

3. In the Message box, tell me: a) where and what grade levels you teach, b) your Twitter handle (if applicable), and c) how you heard about this wiki.

4. Enter the letter in the box at the bottom and hit the “send to administrator” button.

5. Next Steps: You will be notified by email when your request is approved for the wiki and also receive an email invitation to the Diigo group once you’re approved.

I hope that you consider joining and look forward to sharing.


I would like to thank @KTVee for creating our snazzy banner. I would also like to thank @KTvee, @edu_ms_pagano, @ColoradoGKN, @ljconrad, @ladyhello, and @rondmac for spreading the word on Twitter about the Gifted Teachers Exchange Wiki. Feel free to follow and use the #gtew hash tag on Twitter for updates and to spread the word!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Gifted 2.0: Skype

What is Skype?

Skype is a video chat tool that connects people worldwide by allowing users to make video calls and voice calls to other users for free. Other features such as instant chat, to type messages to those on your contact list, and screen sharing, where users can share their desktop during chats, are also included. And for a small monthly fee, you can make a group video call with up to 10 people at a time.


Skype has the capacity to connect gifted learners with the world and to offer enriching, real-life learning experiences. Some ways to use Skype in the gifted classroom include:

1. Bringing in Expert Voices
2. Cultural Exchange
3. Sharing and Collaborating

Here is a video of my, Skype in the Classroom session at the Reform Symposium Global E-Conference in July. I outline how to get started, places to find partners, and project ideas.


To accompany my presentation, I have included a Resource Handout that includes my favorite resources for Skype.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gifted 2.0: Social Bookmarking

What is Social Bookmarking?

Social bookmarking involves saving bookmarks on a site rather than a web browser and sharing these publicly online. This is done by setting up an account with an existing social bookmarking site such as, Diigo, Google Bookmarks, Livebinders, ZooTool, and Symbaloo. With most of these sites, users are able to:

1. Create bookmark lists, which can be sorted by category or topic. This makes it easier to retrieve or find them later on.

2. Import existing bookmarks from one’s web browser. This is a good strategy to back up all your bookmarks and to have access to them from any computer.

3. Export bookmarks saved on one bookmarking site to another (i.e. From to Google Bookmarks or Diigo). This is recommended as backup because there’s no guarantee that a site will be around forever.

4. Cross-post between two sites (i.e. between Diigo and Again, it is recommended to back up any bookmarks across sites just to be sure.

5. Set up a free educator account, where teachers are able to set up student accounts.

Just as blogs connect people to what others write, social bookmarking allows for people to see what others read (Richardson, 2006). Social bookmarking is very collaborative in nature. Its labeling and tagging features offer a convenient way to keep track, organize, retrieve, and share bookmarks with others (Eckstein, 2009; Witt, 2009). Also, several social bookmarking sites have groups that one can join to connect with other users on that site. If you come across a link that you like, you have the option of connecting with the user who posted that link by joining their group or adding their bookmark lists or links to your own lists. In this context, social bookmarking creates a community of researchers (Richardson, 2006).


Social bookmarking can be a valuable tool for the gifted classroom. The most common use of social bookmarking can be found in research type projects, where students can gather, label, and organize links that they come across during their research. However, there is much more to social bookmarking. In order to push students to higher order thinking, particularly in evaluating, teachers can have students compare and contrast links that were bookmarked by different groups or individuals on any given topic. Students can explain their reasoning for saving that bookmark and why they felt those were important resources.

Here are other project ideas that incorporate social bookmarking:

1. Service Learning Projects- Students can compile a list of community resources to help plan or organize a service learning project.

2. Career Exploration- In researching a profession or career students can gather sites that outline career options and schools, universities, or resources pages that outline the preparation required for these.

3. Independent Research Projects- Students can gather their own resources for a particular topic and share or compare bookmarks with other students with similar interests.

4. Favorite Classroom Sites- As a class, students can collect bookmarks to gaming, puzzles, or other favorite sites that they visit during class. This list can be embedded on a class blog or site to share with parents and the global community. This list also provides access to the sites when students are not in school.


7 Things You Should Know about Social Bookmarking (PDF Document)

Webtools4u2use: Social Bookmarking

Livebinder on Social Bookmarking in the Classroom

How to Share Links with Students
Cybraryman’s Social Bookmarking Page

Educational Origami Starter Sheets (For Diigo and Delicious)

Using Social Bookmarking for Differentiation

Social Bookmarking Roles (Shared by @tcash on Twitter)

Educational Origami: Social Bookmarking Rubric


Eckstein, M. (2009). The Gifted Kids Network: 2008 Pilot. Gifted Child Today, 32(2), 20-28.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Witt, D. (2009). Strategies for the tech-savvy classroom. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Your Invitation to Reform Symposium's E-Conference

In a few days, nearly 8000 educators from over 40 different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON3. This free award-nominated e-conference is going to take place on July 29-31st, 2011. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide. With over 12 Keynotes, 80 presenters, and 3 keynote panel discussions you are bound to be inspired!

View the schedule to plan which presentations you will attend!
Download the flyer to share with your school!
Watch this Youtube video of January 2011's conference!
See if your school will count this as continuing education credit!
Consider hosting a viewing party!

We would like to thank the incredible organizers- Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Lisa Dabbs, Melissa Tran, Clive Elsmore, Mark Barnes, Ian Chia, Cecilia Lemos, Jerry Blumengarten, and Kyle Pace- and Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 and The Future of Education online communities for making this incredible conference possible.

We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!

Here is a preview of my presentation, Using Skype in the Classroom.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gifted 2.0: Wikis

What is a wiki?

Wikis are another excellent tool to collaborate online. Wikis were named after the Hawaiian word wiki-wiki, which means fast (Fitzgibbon, 2010; Richardson, 2006; Witt, 2009). Wikis are public forums where individuals and groups of individuals publish content online. Wikis have many uses across fields. Some corporations have used wikis to manage business documents, information, and team projects, while universities have been found to use wikis for learning and collaboration among their faculty and students (Richardson, 2006). The idea is to create a space where anyone can post, edit, or publish content on a wiki at anytime (Richardson, 2006). Wikis are participatory in nature and offer a non-linear approach to sharing and retrieving information (Fitzgibbon, 2010).While the most people are familiar with Wikipedia, two of the most commonly used wikis in education are wikispaces and PB works.


Wikis provide an ideal platform for online enrichment learning opportunities. They can be created in place of a class website, with pages including assignments, videos, and links to pertinent websites on specific topics (Eckstein, 2009). Teachers can also create student accounts which allow users to add, edit, and share content on the wiki.

Here are some ways to use wikis in the gifted classroom:

1. Publishing Student Work-Wikis can be also used as a virtual space where students both gather information and post products. If a teacher is exploring a specific topic, she can post information on that topic on a page and then designate another page where students can publish or post a research project or findings on a specific topic(Eckstein, 2009). Some examples of products that can be uploaded or included on a wiki include 1) a research report, that was edited and written by a group, 2) a presentation, which can include an Animoto slideshow, PowerPoint Presentation, glog, or 3) a podcast, where students audio record their findings. Google docs can also be embedded on a wiki.

2. Global Collaboration Projects-Several teachers have started projects to connect with other schools globally. The idea behind many of these projects is to have partner schools post information pertaining to their target culture, country, or a specific topic. See the Resources section for some sample projects.

3. More Project Ideas

*Write a book as a class, where each group is responsible for a chapter, and embed it as an e-book

*Create an “All About Me” wiki page where students can include information such as favorites (music, food, book, etc) along with hobbies and interests. This would be excellent for the beginning of the year.

*Participate in a collaborative writing project with a partner class from a different state or another country.

*Create a wiki on a topic of interest which was researched independently. Students can include favorite links, pictures, and (how to) videos.

*Share the findings to an experiment. Upload observations and have partner class try the same experiment to share and compare findings.

*Use the wiki as an online portfolio where students can store and share work samples and reflections.

These project ideas have been modified from Diane Witt (2009).


Getting Started:

Technology 4 Kids: Wikis- A great collection of resources and video tutorials.

Teaching Tips: Wikis in the Classroom

Cybraryman’s List of Educational Wikis

Wikis in the Classroom- An introduction to wiki uses in the classroom and some class examples

How to Guide for Wikis

Wikispaces Starter Sheet

Wikis in the K-5 Classroom- Examples of elementary classroom PBworks wikis & ideas.

50 Ways to Use Wikis for a More Collaborative and Interactive Classroom


Animals Wiki- Join this wiki to share information on different animals in various languages.

Global Hello Project-Create a page about your school and say hello in your own special way!

Greetings from the World-Create a glog showcasing your city or country and share it here!

Green School Project- Students from around the world are welcome to share their environmental activities in their schools. This wiki explores the impact of global warming and sustainability.

Monster Project- This wiki is a continuation of a collaborative project with several schools, where each school describes one part of the overall monster, and then all schools use the combined descriptions to create monsters to display at their sites. The project aims at building communication skills, creativity, collaborative skills, and writing skills.

Class Wiki Examples:

Grade Two Class Wiki

Mr. Tillman’s Class Wiki- Great example of upper grade class wiki that includes assignments, class updates, and projects.


Eckstein, M. (2009). Enrichment 2.0: Gifted and talented education for the 21st century. Gifted Child Today, 32(1), 59-63.

Fitzgibbon, K. (2010). Teaching with wikis, blogs, podcasts & more. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Witt, D. (2009). Strategies for the tech-savvy classroom. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gifted 2.0: Blogs

What is a blog?

Blogs have grown in popularity over the past few years. Blogs, also known as weblogs are sites where individuals post ideas, articles, or resources on a given topic (Fitzgibbon, 2010; Richardson, 2006; Witt, 2009). Blogs are started by a blogger, the person who writes and manages the blog. While blogs are usually reflective in nature, they also offer the option of sharing links or other resources on a topic. Nowadays, blogs are accessible and fairly simple to start and manage. There are several places to host a blog which include templates and gadgets that can easily be embedded. Some popular platforms include KidBlog, EduBlogs, Blogger, Word Press, and Posterous.

Types of Blogs

There are several uses for blogs in the gifted classroom. Blogs can be used as a reflective learning tool. Here are some examples of blogs that students can post:

Academic Blogs- Students can reflect on topics or strategies that were learned in class. With these types of academic blogs, students can discuss their reactions to a literary text or character, solutions to problems in the environment, or even alternate approaches or solutions to equations in mathematics.

Reflective Blogs- Students can treat their blogs as an online journal. With this approach, students can choose their own topic to blog about, such as their favorite day of the week, or write about a preselected topic. Teachers may also allow gifted students to write their stance on controversial issues or current events that deal with the environment, politics, or society, all of which are topics that can be of interest to gifted learners (Witt, 2009). Blogging about these topics gives gifted learners the chance to develop voice and take a stand on an issue.

Classroom Blogs- This type of blog showcases what students have accomplished in the classroom. Pictures, videos, and other technology projects can be embedded and uploaded on the blog for parents, families, the community, and even the world to see! To engage students in this process, they can be in charge of writing and publishing the content of the class blog.

Issues to Consider

Parental/Guardian Consent- Before setting up any kind of blog, it is recommended to obtain parental/guardian consent for uploading student posts, work, pictures, or other media. Many school districts issue and require this consent through publicity and technology use forms, but it is wise to double check with your school district or create another permission form specifically for your class.

Internet Safety-Before your students start to blog, it is important to review some guidelines to protect their identities. Personal information such as full names, age, home or school addresses, phone numbers, and email should not be shared on blogs. Many class blogs I have come across only allow students to use their first names or create a pseudonym.

Netiquette- Before students begin to blog, rules of netiquette (internet etiquette) along with certain academic standards and guidelines should be discussed and set. This is especially important if you plan on creating an academic or reflective blog. Other issues such as cyberbullying and appropriate content should also be discussed.

Interactive Features- Widgets like cluster and revolver maps show where readers are from while other gadgets like Shelfari (virtual bookshelf) allow for teachers to add books that students are reading or have studied. Links to other class blogs and favorite learning websites can also be added. By adding these widgets and gadgets, the classroom blog can act as an interactive classroom site for students, parents, and the audience.

Group vs. Individual Blogs- If you opt for an academic/reflective type blog, another issue to consider is whether to create a group blog or have students create their own individual blogs. I have come across examples of both and it is ultimately up to the teacher to decide which type will best meet the needs of her students and be more manageable. It is recommended to use blogging platforms where the teacher manages and approves all student posts before they are published and have settings to monitor comments as well.


Here is a list of resources that can help you get started and offer ideas for classroom or student blogs:

Blogging with Elementary Students-Look under the “Downloads” section for units and tips on how to start and manage student blogs as well as prepare students for blogging and commenting.

Blogging LiveBinder-Compiles several resources on how to get started, tips, along with student samples and projects.

Blog4 Edu-This wiki offers a great collection of resources like video tutorials for getting started, sample permission forms, and internet safety tips.

Cybraryman's Blog Site--Another excellent collection of resources for student, class, and teacher blogs.

Teacher's First Blog Basics--This site introduces blogs and offers ideas for the classroom.

Creating Effective Blogs-This is an excellent blog that provides a collection of video tutorials and resources on how to create a blog.

Blog Soup Ideas-Great prompts for Gifted learners!

58 Interesting Ideas for Class Blogs

Student Blogging Challenge


Fitzgibbon, K. (2010). Teaching with wikis, blogs, podcasts & more. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Witt, D. (2009). Strategies for the tech-savvy classroom. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gifted 2.0: An Exploration of Web 2.0 Tools & Their Place in the Gifted Classroom

With the push to integrate more technology in the classroom, many educators are starting to take notice of different tools to use with their students. As we start integrating more tools, we also introduce students to different learning environments and 21st century learning skills. Further, these tools fit perfectly into the gifted curriculum, where project-based learning, collaboration, and creativity (among other skills) are encouraged. For the next few weeks I will share several tools that I have researched and utilized in my own classroom. In addition, I will offer some project ideas in hopes of starting a dialogue of how you are using Web 2.0 or other technologies in your own classroom.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Skype Jobs in the Gifted Classroom

I finally took the leap this semester and assigned Skype jobs. I came across the concept of Skype jobs through Silvia Tolisano’s Langwitches blog. With Skype jobs, all students have a role. Whether it’s being a greeter, summarizing the chat, or recording the session, every student has his/her own responsibility. This concept inspired me so much that I decided to try it with my fourth graders. And let me say, it was an awesome experience.

The mere mention of having a job was something that immediately sparked interest in my students. They were thrilled at the thought of being in charge of something and knowing that they contributed to the chat. Instead of sitting back and waiting for me to tell them when to talk or waiting to talk at all, they now had a roadmap of what was expected.

The topic of our chat was very unique for gifted learners as well. Both classes were responsible for sharing and solving Rebus Puzzles that we researched prior to our chat. Here is a snapshot of the jobs and sequence of events for this particular chat:
1.Greeter- Responsible for answering the call, greeting our partner class, and having our class introduce themselves.
2.Speaker A- This student introduced how to solve our Rebus puzzles, which were picture based. This student also had to give a few simple examples of these and had the partner class solve them. As the partner class gave guesses, all our students provide clues.
3.Speaker B- This student reminded our partner class of the rules for solving and introduced new elements to the more advanced puzzles. Next, he presented several more difficult puzzles to solve.
4.Closer- After our Q & A session, this student thanked our partner class, said goodbye, and ended the call.

Before the closing, our partner class presented Rebus puzzles for us to solve. These puzzles were very different to the ones we had because they reflected Think-o-Grams, where words are used to show different expressions. My students enjoyed solving these and even appreciated the challenging ones!

Reflecting on the experience, I noticed that we had two students who did not get an opportunity to share their puzzles or complete their job. I did not anticipate this and will plan to have a back-up job for instances like this. Some jobs I am considering adding are having a student take pictures with a digital camera while the other records the session on a flip camera or camcorder.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Culture Day Celebration

I am super thrilled to have had the opportunity to organize our very first Annual Cultural Day Celebration. I have been wanting to put together an event like this for years but never quite got around to it. Thankfully, I teamed up with our Spanish teacher who was willing to help execute our vision. We also had the advantage of collaborating with several contacts at our local university and teachers at our school who were willing to perform.

Culture Day Celebration: The Event

Our Culture Day Celebration involved two parts. The first was to have students research and create a board to reflect a country of their choice. Some students chose their native countries, while others choose countries or cultures that interested them. The goal was to have students share what they have learned or know with their peers and the community. We displayed these boards in the office foyer so that guests, visitors, and the school community can enjoy. On the day of the celebration, we had student volunteers from our local university assist in our board exhibit and had our own students dress up in clothing to reflect their assigned country.

The second component of our celebration included two variety shows. For these shows we enlisted the help of more volunteers to perform either a song or dance from a different country or culture. Our performances included a bagpipe player, an Andean Colombian song played on a traditional flute, and a sing along to Japanese and French children’s songs. The shows also included student performances. Our 6th grade strings students played folk songs from India, Israel, and Jamaica, our Pre-K class danced to La Raspa, a folkloric Mexican song, and our music students led a sing along to the song, Funga a la feeya (in Swahili).

Student Participation

I involved my own gifted students in the planning and execution of the actual event. While the majority of my students completed boards as a group, I selected a few students to assist me in several tasks. My 4th and 5th grade students researched and created a slide show to present each performer. Introductions included a brief country description, which was read, and a slide show that projected a map, pictures of famous monuments or landscapes, and people. My students rehearsed their introductions diligently and made the necessary revisions for these. My 3rd graders assisted in distributing programs to guests and also served as ushers during the event. I had one of my 5th graders record the shows on a camcorder, while my presenters took turns taking pictures of the performances. Throughout the show, I also had my presenters take charge of my laptop, where they changed slides, played music, and lowered and raised the screen. I even noticed one of my students take initiative by adjusting the microphone for another student presenter.

Involving my students served as a valuable lesson for them. It gave them the chance to see how much preparation, work, and collaboration it takes to organize a school-wide event. More importantly, their work was showcased to an authentic audience, which I think was the most valuable lesson of all. Although we ran into some technical difficulties during our show, this helped them handle and solve problems. I was very impressed by their focus and enthusiasm and hope to include this student participation in future events.


Overall, the process of planning this event was as much a learning experience for me as it was for my students. I am thankful for having teachers at my school who were willing to participate in the event along with community contacts who also supported our event. My vision to expose our children to different cultures was a success. Several teachers and community members have already approached me about how much their students enjoyed the shows and how excited their children were about completing their boards.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Skyping with Experts: Robin Roffer & Branding

Our Skyping with Experts Business Series ended with a chat with the one and only, Robin Roffer. Let me preface by saying that I have read and thoroughly benefited from Mrs. Roffer’s, Make a Name for Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success. I initially used this book to research branding for my entrepreneurship unit and realized that it applied to my own career path . As I developed my lessons, I modified her exercises to give my students the opportunity to reflect on their interests and strengths as they developed a business.

My sixth grade class had the opportunity to chat with Mrs. Roffer about branding. During her presentation, Mrs. Roffer explained branding and stressed the importance of taking control of your brand. The message: If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will. This was a powerful message, especially for my preteens who have shown concern about what others think of them.

Next, Mrs. Roffer presented some celebrities and how their actions affected their brands. She also mentioned how companies develop brands and had students describe several companies’ brands. My students seemed interested in the marketing aspect of branding- particularly jingles. Mrs. Roffer further explained how jingles include short phrases or catchy tunes. This got my students thinking about a different approach to their marketing strategy for their business.

As I reflect on our Skyping with Experts Series, I am very pleased with the experiences that our guest speakers have created for my students. Their presentations have offered an authentic and rich perspective to our learning of entrepreneurship. The tips and concepts were also very practical, which made the whole experience so much more real. My classes and I would like to thank all of our speakers and hope that we can connect in the near future. I would also like to thank my husband, Will Deyamport, for arranging these events.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Skyping with Experts: Ingrid Stabb and Career Types

An important component that I wanted to include in my Entrepreneurship Unit was self exploration because part of being a successful entrepreneur is knowing your strengths and maximizing on these. When I decide to teach a concept like this, my first instinct is to find materials used and designed by professionals in a specific field. As a result, I chose to have my students take The Enneagram Quiz developed by Ingrid Stabb and Elizabeth Wagele in The Career Within You. This quiz centers on an individual’s strengths and outlines 9 EnneaTypes (career types) that best suit certain personality types. As my students took this quiz, I had them think of examples from their own lives. Next, I had them read about each career type and determine whether their “type” was accurate for them. All of my students agreed with the descriptions and even cited examples in their lives that reflected each type.

As a culminating activity, I was very pleased to have Ingrid Stabb as our guest speaker for my fourth grade class. Mrs. Stabb began her chat with a presentation on each type and gave examples of celebrities and historical figures who represented each type. She also asked students to share their type and any experiences that illustrated their type. Students enjoyed sharing their stories and I even noticed some students referring back to their quiz during the presentation. A final thought that Mrs. Stabb offered was telling students that it was important for them, their parents, and even their teachers to know their types because these help in identifying how they think and work best.

Even more exciting was the fact that this experience was featured on the To see the full article, click here.

Skyping with Experts: Pam Slim on Starting a Business

To jump start our Entrepreneurship Unit this semester, I have had the pleasure of connecting my classes with several experts in the business world. With the help of my husband @peoplegogy, I was fortunate enough to have Mrs. Pam Slim as a guest speaker for my fifth grade class.

Mrs. Slim led a very engaging discussion of how to start a business and offered some practical tips that kids can use to start their own business. She did a wonderful job of having my students brainstorm ways to advertise and bringing attention to the financial considerations. Mrs. Slim even surprised us with an offer to buy handmade Valentine cards! Of course, my students were up for the challenge and got to work immediately after our chat. The goal was to make and have the cards sent to Mrs. Slim by Valentine’s Day. But the biggest surprise was discovering that my students’ cards were featured on her daily blog. To see the blog post, click here.

I must say this chat was a very enriching lesson for my students. They loved connecting with an expert and creating the cards. But most of all, they loved seeing their final product on display.

Friday, January 7, 2011

This Is Why I Teach

I received this letter from a student after Winter Break. As I read it, it reminded me of why I chose this profession. As elementary teachers, most of us don’t get to see long term outcomes with our students. We don’t often get to celebrate with our students as they receive their high school diplomas or their college acceptance letters. What we do see is their growth from a wide eyed kindergartner to a precocious preteen. As elementary teachers we try to nurture their dreams and point to the path towards a promising future. But most of the time, we never know that we have succeeded in doing so. That’s why this letter means so much to me. And that’s why I chose to teach.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Skyping with Experts: The Stock Market with Tisa Silver, MBA

In my previous post I discussed ways that I used Skype to connect my classes with other gifted/talented learners across the nation. I also use Skype to provide my students with the experience of speaking directly with experts across different fields. This gives them first hand insight into their professions as well as encourages students to start thinking about their own future careers. For the next few months, I will be documenting our chats with experts. This series will outline activities done during our chats to engage students in discussions related to our current unit. Our journey begins with the stock market. . .

As part of our money unit, my objective was to cover the Stock Market and investing options. I was surprised to discover that my students’ thought that the Stock Market was another form of bartering. Like most of the country, they didn’t know how Wall Street applied to their lives. That’s where our expert came in. Thanks to my husband, I was able to contact Tisa Silver, MBA, founder of the non-profit Good Works Coalition, author of The Time Value of Life: Why Time is More Valuable than Money, and professor at the University of Delaware’s Alfred E. Lerner College of Business & Economics, to speak to my class.

Tisa presented the Stock Market in very kid friendly terms. She started her presentation by showing my students products that they see every day and had them think about the companies that make those products. This activity showed my students that stocks were found in their daily lives and in the items that they purchase. I really liked how Tisa had students think about what items or services they use on a daily basis before considering buying stock from those companies.

Next, Tisa asked for a volunteer. She greeted our student and created a fictional business for him. She told the story of how he opened his own pizza parlor and how business was going great for him. Next, she asked for another volunteer. After greeting the next student, she explained how this student visited Student A’s Pizza Parlor and saw a rat. She asked Student B how this experience influenced her decision to return or buy pizza from Student A’s Parlor. Of course, Student B was disgusted by the experience and did not think it was a good idea to get more pizza from there. After explaining this scenario, Tisa discussed examples of how bad news can have a negative effect on stock prices. This activity was a wonderful way to illustrate how current events or the news and media can affect stock prices.

The remainder of the chat was spent on discussing why some stock prices were worth more than others and where to buy stock. Tisa offered some tips on buying stock and basic terms to know. Students also had the opportunity to ask questions about the Stock Market at the end of the presentation.

My students gained a lot from this experience. Tisa did a wonderful job of explaining the purpose behind the stock market and how stocks are present in students’ lives. After this activity, my students were eager to research companies and some even mentioned their interest in buying stock.

Skyping with experts will be a regular occurrence in my classroom. After every experience, I will share what we have done on this blog. In January, I will start my Business Leaders unit and have some exciting experts scheduled to talk about starting a business, personal branding, and assessing one's individual strengths. Please feel free to stop by and see what surprises I have for my students!