Posts Tagged ‘gifted education’

Slice of Life Tuesday: On Sunsets

November 30, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Yesterday was a bingbangboom kind of a day. One of those days where I rely on to-do lists and razor-sharp logistics. Drop the dog off, take care of Chanukah packages, make it to my meeting, squeeze my plans in, teach, meet, shovel down food, teach, meet, run the errands, skip the workout, go to get the dog and…

Empty parking lot be darned. Just look at those COLORS!

WOW. The sky. The sky, as I was driving. I kept hoping I would make it to my destination in time to snap a picture or two or three or four. The above and below pics. They’re testaments to the power of dusk. Really, the right dose of sunlight is like a dandelion. It has the power to bloom and brighten and beautify whatever surroundings you might discover it in.

That LIGHT. The reflection. The beauty amidst concrete and steel. Perhaps there’s a metaphor for resilience to be had somewhere here.

Skies like this…I can’t NOT look at them.

More sky pictures from today. I also have to confess that my camera roll is chockablock with sky pictures. Pretty please tell me I’m not alone in this.

And clearly, there is something to be said for a late November sky, because this was a Facebook post of mine from ten years ago yesterday.

Talk about serendipity.

I’ll close out with one of my very favorite book excerpts of all time:

“The sky was a ragged blaze of red and pink and orange, and its double trembled on the    surface of the pond like color spilled from a paintbox. The sun was dropping fast now, a  soft red sliding egg yolk, and already to the east there was a darkening to purple. “

-Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Slice of Life Tuesday: On Do-Overs

November 16, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


My fourth-grade class today started out with a confession and an apology.

Let me explain.

Last week, I had an AMAZING lesson plan all ready for my kids. We had been examining art, pinpointing interesting details, and articulating the emotions art brought us. The next step was to introduce a simplified guide to art concepts. The vision was clear and simple: bring things together in a way that kids see for themselves that:
1) art makes us feel things
2) that’s not by accident
3) artists make craft moves on purpose
4) knowing those craft moves helps us talk about art
5) and create it
6) and we can transfer that idea to our WRITING

These are big ideas, and they are thought-provoking and exciting.

Unless I ruin things.

Which I did.

Because all of the above things do NOT fit into a single lesson. And somehow, I had it in my brain that my lesson was so well-designed and efficient that I could.

Nope.

Those poor kids. They were bored to tears and I felt so sorry for them, having to sit through that grind. They really did try so very hard, but it was just way too much to try and put together in one go. Really, they were such good sports.

I went home that day feeling small, swearing that I’d redesign the lesson in a way that brought both the fun and enthusiasm back.

So today, I started class with a confession. I fully admitted that last week’s lesson didn’t go the way I saw it, that I felt terrible for them, having to sit through such an experience, and that I was hoping to try again if they were up for the challenge.

You know, I think my kids appreciated the apology. I think they appreciated my acknowledgement of their experience, and the fact that I wanted to do better by them. So they gave it another go.

We examined Morgan Russell’s “Synchromy,” art concept guides in hand.

Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

I decided to just let the kids talk to each other about what they were seeing. And they dug it!

At one point in the lesson, the kids accidentally zoomed in too closely on the painting. True to Bob Ross’s “happy accident” wisdom, we discovered how much skill went into these seemingly simple shapes:

Are you catching those brush strokes? What order do you think Russell painted these shapes in?

Friends, they did BEAUTIFULLY. Would you believe this one piece held their attention for over a half an hour? They couldn’t believe it, and neither could I. It was just what my teacher soul needed.

And in the coming weeks, there will be more to learn and more big concepts to connect. We’ll just…try to enjoy the journey just a little bit more thoughtfully…

Slice of Life Tuesday: Learning to Unlearn

November 9, 2021

his post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today was another good day.

I had lots of favorite parts, but my favorite favorite might be from first grade.

We had an inquiry lesson about fiction and nonfiction. My challenge to them: sort a group of picture books into categories fiction and nonfiction. My job was to stay out of their way while they worked. And then, they’d call me over to investigate the piles. I didn’t tell them which of their books were correct or incorrect, I just told them the number of incorrect books in the pile and let them try again.

Calder’s Circus: now THAT’s a tricky one!

I. LOVED. This activity. How cool it was to watch the conversation, taking notes of the knowledge and misconceptions as the evidence surfaced.

I also loved introducing the kids to a new concept: UNLEARNING. Yes, unlearning. Friends, I will tell you that it blew my six-year-old students’ MINDS to know that there are times where we have to take a fact or an idea and UNLEARN it. “Wait, Mrs. Levin. I thought we came to school to LEARN things, not UNLEARN them!” Yes, buddy. You’re right. But sometimes what we learn is not correct, and we need to replace it. That’s where the magic happens!

Among the ideas we had to unlearn:

Drawings go in fiction, photos go in nonfiction
Fiction reads like a story and nonfiction doesn’t
Nonfiction could happen, fiction couldn’t

At the heart of our discoveries today?

Sometimes the difference between fiction and nonfiction is messy. And the only way we can REALLY tell is to look at the text itself: titles, pages, back matter, dust jackets. 

We’re on to something, people. I’m excited to see where they go. And what’s even better? I get to do this same activity with my first-grade loveys at another school on Friday. 

Shhhh. Don’t give it away!

Slice of Life Tuesday: Gamifying Reading

November 2, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


It’s been two weeks since I first got my students. Yes, it’s a late start. I’m a gifted-talented enrichment teacher, so I have to wait on instruction until after our identification process.

Yes, there’s probably another soapbox waiting to happen about identification. But even with the struggles and challenges, I can tell you two things without a doubt:
1. Gifted kids NEED one another.
2. The fact that my job even exists is a miracle in and of itself.

One thing I’m excited about is a reading activity that I introduced a long while ago, but put away because…well, I don’t really know. As a teacher, I think we all have great activities that we shove under the proverbial bed and forget about sometimes, then take out and dust off, only to wonder why we ever put it away to begin with.

Let’s start at the beginning. Some time ago, I noticed that kids, especially when reading in a group, almost NEVER stop reading to ask about an unfamiliar word or pose a question they don’t understand, let alone marvel at fabulous language. Yet that’s exactly what I NEED them to do when they’re together.

I know I’m not alone in this.

So, I developed a reading activity that I’ve used with kids to “gamify” the group reading experience. I call it the “Speed Bump Game.”

Basically, when we’re driving, we know that speed bumps are there to slow us down. If we don’t, we’ll do damage, both to our car and perhaps ourselves! Well, if we don’t slow down for a challenge in our reading, we do damage – to our learning.

Right??

The Speed Bump Game treats us readers like we’re all just passengers in a car. The person reading aloud is our “driver.” Anyone can stop and say “Speed Bump!” any time they have a question that needs answering. The group then talks through or researches the question. If they can answer it, they’ve safely navigated the speed bump. If not, they report it as a “road hazard,” and I’ll help them out later on.

I’ve also started asking the groups to reread sentences or paragraphs after a stoppage so they can hear the word and understand it in context.

Here was a class example from today.

We didn’t have any “road hazards” here, but that’s because I was part of the discussion. These are, however, all their own answers after discussion. It’s all about the gradual release, friends…

I’m hoping this game accomplishes a lot of things:
1. Convinces kids what a relief and joy it is to admit when they don’t know something
2. Gives kids the confidence to work through difficult text together
3. Builds to text-based conversations about wonderings, reactions, thoughts
4. Transfers to independent reading
5. Transfers to instruction in the regular classroom

A girl can dream!

Interested in giving this a try in your classroom? I’d love to hear how it goes. You can make a copy and personalize the rules by clicking this link.

Slice of Life Tuesday: All of the Things

October 26, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Today is a day
where I consider
all of the things I might blog about,
the many marbles rolling, clicking, bumping
around the ring of my brain:

1.
The to-do lists
and to-do lists
and to-do lists
that rack up in notebooks
and sticky notes
and phone reminders

2.
Children who discover,
quite accidentally,
that the right question opens us up
to big ideas, philosophy
our premise for life
THE premise for life

3.
The need to tell certain children
that there is such a thing
as a hypothetical question –
one that neither requires
nor desires
an answer

4.
The kids who complain
through smiles
that interaction with big ideas
breaks their brains
as I smile and offer up
another idea
to deepen the fracture

5.
The assurance that
getting stuck in our writing
is just more proof that we’re
real writers,
and the people who insist that
we should always have fluent ideas
might do well to
put a sock in it

6.
The power of persimmons
to reinstill gratitude
for simple delights and kindnesses,
for a calling that
twines my life with others

Perhaps each of these ideas
will find its own way,
asserting itself as a longer entry:
a poem, perhaps, a journal
or photo essay

Until then,
I’ll listen to the rolls,
the clicks,
the clacks
and wait
for my brain
to just
settle

down.

Slice of Life Tuesday: An Ode to the Sticky Note

October 19, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. I’m so grateful for the community and support I find in this group. Check them out!


Oh, sticky notes.

You’re quite possibly one of my very favorite school supplies, and I’ve always reveled in the many ways you support instruction and keep me organized. Granted, I have a tendency to sometimes write student names on a sticky assuming I’ll remember why, and then promptly forget what the list is for, but let’s not think about that now.

Instead, I’d like to thank you for all the things you’ve helped me do this week, all of the bright moments you’ve brought me.

Let’s start with the exit slip board I’ve put up at the entrances to each of my classrooms. Every day, I’ll be offering a prompt for an exit slip. Kids will slap a sticky up on the board in reflection at the end of class. For what it’s worth, I’ve already learned to post the exit slip prompt by the start of class so my more deliberate thinkers have time to consider it.

And boy, is there gold in these here responses! I can see myself learning a LOT about my students and how they perceive the world. My guess is I’ll also be in better touch with what they’re learning and what parts of my message get through to them.

I’ve also given the option for students to write me a private note on the back of a sticky note, if they feel the desire. One student wrote, “I was thinking about for a long time how many friends will I make?” Hopefully many in here, buddy. Hopefully many.

Then there was the kid who is clearly getting a check in the mail:

That’s opposed to the kid who posted a sticky note with a question for me: “How many children or grandchildren do you have?”
Umm.
I don’t mind kids asking or knowing my age.
But this one maybe stung a little.
Maybe because it means I’m turning a corner, like how the day I brought a student teacher into my classroom was the same day I realized that no, I was NOT “just out of college” anymore…

Yes, I could do this all online. But there’s also something wonderful about holding these slips of paper in my hands, these pieces of themselves the kids have plunked up on my wall.

I’m also looking forward to the learning I get to do with these. Maybe I’ll find ways to organize them, to use them as assessment pieces somehow. Maybe I can use them as artifacts to show them their growth. Maybe I’ll be better connected to my kids because they’re simply going to be telling me more. Who knows?

I’m excited to see!

Do you have clever ways you’ve used sticky notes in your instruction? I’m all ears!

Slice of Life: Love Those Writers

May 25, 2021

Yesterday.

Yesterday was a pretty good day.

It was the day my first article as a contributing author got published on my very favorite teacher site, Two Writing Teachers.

And it was also the day that I asked my students to reflect on their experiences in writing workshop this year. I told them of my respect and admiration for them as humans, as writers. I told them how amazing it was to enjoy the process of writing alongside them this year. I told them that we’re going to have the chance to continue this work together next year, and I want their experience next year to honor their strengths and needs.

Here are the questions I asked:

How did you grow as a writer this year?
What did you learn from reading one another’s writing?
Describe your ideal writing workshop.
Looking ahead to next year, how would YOU like to grow as a writer?

I first used breakout rooms on Zoom (sigh. Always ZOOM) to let the kids discuss answers to these questions, to gather ideas and perspectives. I then gave kids a solid 20 minutes to complete the questions on Google Forms. And by 20 minutes, I MEANT 20 minutes. I told students they were not allowed to submit their survey before I gave the OK. If they reached a stopping point, they could stop, or think, or daydream, but I wanted the survey open for other thoughts that “trickled in” over the course of that 20 minutes.

I’m glad I did.*

My students brought it. And why shouldn’t they have? They’ve been bringing it every day we’ve been together.

As I read through their responses, I saw so many common threads, so many take-aways. I’m sharing a couple of highlights because they make me so happy.

On what we want writing workshop to look like, kids envisioned:
-Calm. Quiet. Peace.
-Solitude when needed.
-Collaboration when needed.
-Pens and paper and clipboards and fuzzy pillows and seating options.
-Freedom.

Word cloud showing how we envision writing workshop. Thanks, edwordle, for the resource!

On what we learned from sharing our work:
-We never gave enough credit to the skills of other writers.
-Other people have very different writing styles.
-Reading other people’s work made us want to write better.
-We’re better at giving and receiving feedback

Word cloud showing what we’ve gotten out of the experience.

On how I can help them learn and grow, students envision that I’ll be:
-Teaching specific writing skills
-Offering feedback
-Giving them the “push” they want and need in zones of discomfort
-Showing them text that mirrors the aspects they want to use in writing

This is just the tip of the iceberg, friends. I asked my kids to stop, to imagine, to dream about what writing workshop could be. They’ve given me so much to think about over the summer. And while summer canNOT come fast enough, I’m already looking forward to next year.

*(If we’re being 100% real, YES. There were plenty of kids who probably filled out the survey in four minutes and pretended to work longer. This is a COVID year. And it’s June. And Zoom. I’ll take what I can get.)


Today’s post is part of the weekly Slice of Life Challenge. Check them out!

“I Feel Like a Real Writer” – Guest Post

May 24, 2021

Friends, I’m so excited to tell you that I am now a contributing author on the Two Writing Teachers website. This community has helped me grow so much as a writer, a teacher and as a person. Honestly, I could gush for quite a while about how transformative the experience has been. Suffice it to say, I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it.

So, here’s a teaser for my first article:

Teaching writing to gifted students isn’t the smooth, easy path some might suppose. Gifted kids often present a range of academic and affective needs. How can we encourage joyful and confident writing in this special population?

Want to read the rest? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers. Enjoy, and keep on visiting that site. There’s a lot to learn, and amazing folks to learn from!

Assigned Work: One (Big) Word

May 11, 2021

This May, I’m committing myself to writing student-assigned topics. Some of them might be cut-and-dried, some of them might be bears. And some of them will reveal themselves in the writing. Today is also the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life challenge. Check ’em out!

Today’s assignment: What is the most important word?


So wait. I’m a lover of words, a depender-onner of words, a clinger-with-a-white-knuckled-grasper of words, and I’m supposed to choose…ONE?

This strikes me as an assignment similar to choosing “One Little Word” for the Slice of Life challenge. I chose one word in January, and yet another in February. (I’m still living that second one, waiting patiently for a transition.)

But the most important word?

I guess I’d have to think about what’s important to me, and the first word that comes to mind is love. It’s my north star, my moral compass. I try and lead with love in everything I do. I fall short, and often. Still, I try.

And yet, I feel like “love” doesn’t always sum up what I’m getting at. It’s not just that feeling of love, it’s a desire to understand. So perhaps…compassion? That gets a little bit closer. Love is a start. Compassion requires us to meet people where they are, to show empathy, to say over and over to the people around us in ways big and small that they – that none of us – are alone.

So compassion brings me closer to that guiding principle of that most important word. Still, though, I can’t help but think it falls short. Because a “most important word” to me needs to be universal. Sure, compassion is at the heart of my relationships with other people.

But what about nature?
What about this earth?
What about our universe, and our place within it?

I need something bigger.

And where I think I’m landing is connection to the beauty and wonder and awe everywhere around me.

Compassion, I think, is built on connection. It’s an acknowledgement of beauty and awe within people. Connection is even bigger, even deeper. It extends beyond human relationships and roots me, grounds me.

Connection is spring grass on my bare feet.
It’s stroking the fur of a dog that’s finally plopped down to rest.
It’s a recipe passed down through generations.
It’s the wonder of looking into a starry sky.
It’s the feel of your father’s watch on your wrist.
It’s a text message that says nothing but a heart emoji.
It’s the power of a strong, solid hug.
It’s the smell of earth after a rain.

Will I think on this some more? Probably.

Might I further whittle this idea down to a sharper point? Stranger things have happened.

But for now, it’s where I’ve landed.

And you? What do YOU suppose is the most important word?

Assigned Work: Growing Up

May 10, 2021

This May, I’m committing myself to writing student-assigned topics. Some of them might be cut-and-dried, some of them might be bears. And some of them will reveal themselves in the writing.

Today’s assignment: What does it mean to grow up?


What does it mean to grow up? Of course, I could joke around about the answer to this question and simply remark, “I never have!”

But I have grown up. Despite wanting to stay child-like in my awe and idealism, I have officially become a grown-up. And I have a few things to say about being a grown-up: we can pinpoint moments of transition, there are things we lose in being a grown-up, and there are things we gain.

First, I can pinpoint moments when I had to transition into grown-up-ness. All of them, unfortunately, circle around times of grief and loss. There was the time I had to go with my mom to tell my grandmother that my grandpa had just passed away. That’s a moment kids are shielded from, ordinarily. Being a part of that moment was the first time I realized I was no longer a kid. I’ve also experienced the loss of my brother, my father, my niece, a friend. All of these losses gave me a different understanding and wisdom about this world that I can only describe as a growing-up.

Growing up also means that there are things from childhood that I lose. Being a kid means getting to jump full-on into play and creativity. As much as I love to create and play, there is now a certain part of me that doesn’t let it happen with reckless abandon. I have one foot planted in joy and fun, and one foot planted in the idea that I’m going to have to stop at some point because I’ve got stuff to do. I also miss the deep feelings and thoughts I had as a kid. Being a kid is really hard sometimes. As a kid, you take a lot of hurt and pain and you have to figure out what to do with it, and there isn’t always someone to tell you how. And I remember how hard that was, and I remember the memories of those feelings, but it isn’t the same as experiencing them in real time. I can empathize, but I no longer feel and experience things in the same way. I can’t completely identify or understand any more, even though I would love to.

Growing up doesn’t mean that you’re all of a sudden better at organizing things, at making friends, or paying attention, or managing difficult feelings, or cleaning your room, or eating better, or doing homework, or staying out of trouble, or that you like doing chores. But it does mean that you’re coming to things with a deeper perspective, a bit more patience, and a LOT more experience (often gotten the hard way). Growing up means giving up some things, but it’s possible to hold on to a strong moral compass, a love of creativity, a sense of awe and wonder. Growing up means forgetting some of the feelings of childhood, but having more wisdom, more compassion, more patience. I don’t think, at this point in my life, that I’d trade any of it back.