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!

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.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Telling Our Stories with Social Media

Just recently I attended MECA, our state educational technology conference. I always enjoy attending, but more so presenting. This year I presented: Getting Organized with Diigo. I find this social bookmarking tool to be helpful in organizing my life, so I figured it would be fitting to share its many features with fellow educators. To access my list of bookmarks for Diigo resources, click here.
Eric, my husband (@peoplegogy), and me at MECA 2013. 
This year's keynote for the conference was led by my social media hero, Eric Sheninger. Eric not only delivered on his message, but also in his passion. His love for his school, community, and students was evident in his work. He is the example of how school leaders can utilize social media to tell our stories and implement effective change within schools. Instead of preaching about integrating technology, Eric is leaps ahead by embracing it and living it. As I sat and listened to his message, I reflected on ways we use social media in my own school and classroom. My goal as an educator of the gifted is to not only showcase and capture those moments of learning and achievement for my students, but also to show what we do in gifted education. On a school level, social media is our window for parents and the community to see what our children are learning and capable of. I have always been a advocate of showcasing and telling our stories, which many times can be the greatest stories ever told. Thank you, Eric for sharing your story.