“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Remembering Sandy Hook

As educators around the world, we remember and honour our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School.  
We honour them each day in our classrooms where we continue their dream of educating our children.  
We honour their memory with our service.
Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Currently and Introducing a fellow Canadian blogger...

Photo of December Currently from Teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I am usually late linking up with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade...so this month I am trying to get this posted on time and it
allows me to introduce you to a fellow Canadian Teacher Blogger and all round great person. I hope you will take the time to support Krystal's amazing project...imagine what a great holiday gift THIS would be for the kids!

I feel so privileged to be writing a guest blog post here at Teachingisagift for you today. My name is Krystal Mills and I'm a grade 7 teacher-blogger from Souris, Prince Edward Island. I'll waste no time getting to the point: My school needs your help!
We are in the semi-final round in a contest to win up to $140 000 for a new, inclusive playground for our school. As with many schools, students who are in wheelchairs have limited to no access to our playground equipment and recess time is not a time where they are physically able to interact with their peers. However, this social interaction is so important to their development and they deserve it!
Due to age, and health concerns our current school building will be demolished at the end of this school year. We will be moving into a renovated high school building in the fall of 2014, becoming the first K-12 facility on PEI. Of course, playground equipment is not part of the budget and not covered by the government. So, my community applied for the Aviva Community Fund to help us out and we are SO CLOSE we can taste it! That's where you come in!
To get into the final round (and be one of the projects in front of a panel of judges) we need votes and lots of 'em. It takes just a moment to register your email (or you can log in using your Facebook account). After you have registered, voting takes just a second. You can vote once a day from December 2nd to the 11th. Some incredible teachers have actually taken this on as a "Random Acts of Kindness" project and their whole class has registered and is voting for us every day! I'd like to thank those teachers again! If you feel that this is something you could do - it would be absolutely amazing!
Also, we'd love your shares via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blog posts etc. Any and all exposure is WELCOME and APPRECIATED!
We WILL do this. I know we will. And we need people like you, to help get us there.

PLEASE Feel Free to Pin!
Thank you so much and I hope to send you an update in a month or two saying," WE WON!"
Lessons From The Middle
Lesson From The Middle

Sunday, 3 November 2013

How Did It Get to be NOVEMBER???

It is November right?  How did THAT happen?Honestly, I think I will take a few weeks off of blogging to deal with LIFE...and whammo! Months go by!  I survived beginning of the year, district review, writing fall progress reports, and the infamous annual Halloween game arcade!  
I keep looking over my shoulder to see what is creeping up on me next!

Right now I am sitting in my favourite chair, looking at a beautiful sky as the sun finally comes up (oh yeah, I forgot to set the clocks back!) I guess my "better half" did it for me, because the only clock which is wrong is on my phone...I guess I better power if off and on again!  Oh, well now I see it's actually only 7:10 a.m., I have some extra time.  I am LISTENING to the dish washer. In order to save on my electricity bill, I only run it during the "off peak hours" because it seems to run for such a long time!  Does your dishwasher seem to run for HOURS?

Can't say I am LOVING much right now, but I did realize on Friday that I was really happy that I didn't have any marking or report cards to bring home this weekend.  Who doesn't LOVE that? Under the present circumstances in my life, I have to keep reminding myself that there are things which I love.  Of course, I always LOVE J and Maddie, they are my whole reason for existing...

I am sure I am not alone in WANTING to have a real vacation.  I have not been able to travel for any great length of time for almost 10 years due to being the caretaker for my mother and brother. Now that Mom has passed, I feel the need to get away, to relax, to unwind.  I used to love travelling to Mexico or the Caribbean and finding some great resort where I could lie on the beach, have something cold to drink and read novels all day. Maybe once the estate is settled, I will be able to book a holiday for my family and we can all finally breathe a sigh of relief. 

I know I have shared a lot about my personal situation on my blog.  Sometimes I think I shouldn't have, but on the other hand, it is part of who I am, just as this blog is.  I find myself NEEDING time to process everything that has happened and is still happening to my family.  I have decided to hold off on selling my mom's house until I feel more secure in my decision making.  That decision has actually made me feel more calm.  After making that difficult decision, I found out that my brother has been given less than a year to live.  He moved to a special group home after Mom died. He was only there for a few weeks, when he was transferred to hospital. His cancer is no longer in remission.  I feel like a wound has been opened again!  Cancer took Mom in July, and now it will take my brother too. I know he has had a long battle, but I guess I am not mentally prepared to hear that he too is in the final stages of this horrid disease.  I am trying to face the challenges of life head on, but I feel like burying my head under the covers!  

After reading all that, I am sure a YUMMY PIN seems like an oxymoron, but truly there are things in life to keep smiling about.  I have great friends, an awesome man, a fantastic daughter and the love of cooking.  Recently I discovered that I LOVE salted caramel...ANYTHING!  It started with a salted caramel mocha at Starbucks and has blossomed from there.  Have a look at this fantastic recipe I pinned not too long ago...

You can find it on my Pinterest recipe board here. I have not had the time to make them yet, but they seem to be calling to me!

Leave me a comment, letting me know what you favourite food/recipe pin is right now.  I have been on the lookout for awesome crock pot soup ideas!

As always, thanks for taking the time to read and to respond.  I hope all of you are finding time to take care of yourselves and your families.  I am ever so thankful for mine.

Friday, 11 October 2013

I'm hanging in there...and a FREEBIE for reporting!

This is how I have been feeling lately, 
a little scary and little zany.
I hope people think I am a little cute too! 

I feel badly that I have not written a post in over a month. I have to say I am exhausted!  I am tired in a way I have never experienced.   I have already had to use sick days this year, and tonight I feel kind of achy and yucky too!  Why did I come out of hiding you ask?  Well, someone left me some lovely feedback on TpT and it reminded me that I might not be the only person who is writing progress reports in Ontario.  

Last year, right before the first reporting period (progress reports) I realized that my students did NOT understand what they were being evaluated on in the area of Learning Skills and Work Habits.  They had seen the words, responsibility, initiative, independent work, organization, collaboration and self-regulation, but it was crystal clear to me that they did not understand what those words meant.  I created a checklist of the learning skills and work habits in kid friendly language and started teaching my students what each of the skills/habits meant.  They gave me feedback and helped to refine the final checklist.  My students used it weekly to measure their own growth and set their own goals.  Although it was sometimes time consuming (we did it each Friday afternoon), I didn't regret using it, and the students would comment that they needed it to help guiding their goal setting.
I was thinking about writing progress reports today and had looked to see if there was anything new posted for learning skills and work habits, but when I googled it I found my own work!  Not even two hours later I received some lovely feedback from a Teachers Pay Teachers buyer (but the checklist is FREE) and thought, well there, I could post that in case someone else can use it...and thus my blogging block has been broken...at least for now.

Click on any image to go to TpT to
 download the checklist for FREE!

Wish me luck, I am off for a long weekend with my significant other for the first time in 8 years.  I am still trying to process all the events following my mom's death and my brother's cancer relapse but hopefully I'll find continued motivation to blog comes from the people who make it all worth it...the readers like you!

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers and Happy Columbus day to my American readers.  I am thankful for another year with my daughter and the love of my life.  I am also thankful for the new friends I have made through blogging.  I am going to have dinner with one of my new friends tomorrow!  I hope your weekend is equally blessed.

Awesome Jack O'Lantern clipart from the super talented Krista Walden!

Freebie Fridays

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Gifted Education 101: Differentiated Programming

This is a repeat of a post I did as a guest post this past July on a blog called "A Special Sparkle".  In case you did not get to read it, I thought I would repost it here.  Hope you are all having a great back to school!  I am super swamped with 25 IEPS to write and a new class to get to know!  It's fun but exhausting!

Gifted students are as diversified and individual as any other group of students. As discussed in a previous post, the gifted students in my district have been identified through psycho educational testing. On the overall scoring a student needs to be in the 98th percentile in one area - either perceptual or reasoning.  The student is then offered placement at a local school within their home school area. In my school, the gifted intensive support program begins in fourth grade. Often when I am talking with other teachers or parents, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, "How is teaching gifted students different?".  We have a parent evening each year for the incoming students and this is some of  the information my team shares with the parents about delivery of program for gifted students.

As you can see in the graphics above, there is a lot teachers can do to differentiate content. One thing teachers in my school board cannot do is teach curriculum material which is not within the scope of our grade level (advanced acceleration). In the Toronto District School board, we have been instructed to teach the content which has been mandated by the Ministry of Education for Ontario. A lot of parents and teachers assume that teachers are going to teach expectations from the grade(s) ahead but we are not permitted to do so. Assessment and evaluation of student progress must be based on the expectations in the Ontario Curriculum. This may differ where you teach or where your child attends school.

The teachers in the gifted program at my school use the strategies listed above for content differentiation to assist in meeting the student needs as identified in their IEP (Individual Education Plan).   Being the sixth grade teacher (our school has a gifted program for grades four to six), it seems to make the most sense that if the students come to me with mastery of some concepts, I would compact the curriculum for them to avoid reviewing basic expectations which can lead to boredom for many students. To compact more effectively I use diagnostic tests and assessments to determine what students know before I begin to do any in depth planning for units of instruction. In some areas such as mathematics (where my students tend to get extra tutoring, belong to math clubs, compete in math competitions, etc.), I do a fair amount of compacting to meet the needs of my students. Some groups of student possess a lot of content knowledge and others need some review. Once I have conducted appropriate diagnostic assessments, I create units based on the curriculum expectations for the grade and what the needs of the students are. 

When students demonstrate a high level of mastery I need to plan a program which will stimulate and help them expand their thinking.   I am fortunate to have 7 laptops in my classroom, and access to a full computer lab.  This access to technology has allowed me to introduce computer programs such as Geometer's Sketchpad to keep students engaged. Programs like GSP allow students to explore typical textbooks concepts in a more hands-on and engaging fashion.  The Geometer’s Sketchpad® is dynamic software created for the  teaching of mathematics. It can be used by students from as young as third grade right up to college aged.  It provides students with a highly visual way to learn about new concept, and reinforce previously taught materials.  In my experience students have been highly engaged using this software.  Students can manipulate the software to explore a wide variety of mathematical topics which cover numerous strands in the curriculum.

Another technology resource I use for content differentiation in math and science is called Gizmos from Explore Learning.  ExploreLearning.com offers the world's largest library of interactive online simulations for math and science education in grades 3-12.
Gizmos are:
  • fun, easy to use, and help students develop a deep understanding of challenging concepts through inquiry and exploration 
  • research-based, flexible tools used by teachers in a wide variety of ways 
  • are ideal for small group work, individual exploration, and whole class instruction using a data projector or interactive whiteboard. 
  • designed to supplement your existing curriculum (Canadian and American)
  • correlated to provincial curriculum standards, and over 300 textbooks, making them easy to integrate into your instructional program
Another way I differentiate content is through the use of CHOICE boards which can help students focus on seeing content in a different and novel way. I have used choice boards with success for several years now. One note of caution though. I have found that you need to clearly explain to students what the criteria for success will be before you allow them to begin to work. The books by Laurie Westphal which I referenced in my choice boards post (click on link above) are a great resource for this.

These are just a few of the many ways I modify curriculum content in my program to meet the needs of my gifted students. I assure you there are many more techniques and strategies which work well. You can read more about my work with students on my blog. The next post in my Gifted Education 101 series on Teachingisagift will focus on program differentiation through process. I hope you will join me!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Post It Holders for Back to School

Post It Holders for Back to School

Guess what I got?

I finally took the plunge and bought a smartphone!  I am currently sitting here learning how to use this little beauty!  Right now I am listening to music on Siren (Macklemore and Ryan: Same Love~Awesome song!  Love that Mary Lambert).  I am sure it will take me weeks to learn how to use all the features but so far I think I am going to LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

Anyhow, one of the first things I did was sign up for Instagram and then snap some photos!  I have to admit I am NOT a good photographer at all.  I am working on it though.  I love that I can send my photos directly to Picasa and then use them on the blog!  I plan to take a lot of pictures in my classroom again this year.  I hope the phone comes in handy for this...I don't always have my Canon with me when I need it.

So back to the photos I took this morning.  Here is what I have made for my colleagues at school as a back to school present.
Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

In June I had purchased some photo holders with the intent of making post-it note holders as a thank you gift for some of the teachers on staff. Well, life got in the way, and I didn't make them. Fast forward to last Monday.  I was prepping my classroom for next Tuesday, when low and behold, I came across the frames and the post-its I had bought.  I decided I would give a sticky note holder to each of my colleagues as a little back to school gift.

I realized that I would need more frames, so I headed out to my nearest dollar store and purchased more frames, sticky notes, double faced tape and some scrapbook decorations.  The store didn't have the same sized frames as I had purchased back in June, but hey, go with the flow right?  I decided to personalize the frames for each staff member using the scrapbooking decorations I had purchased.  I think they are super cute and turned out great.  What do you think?
Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Post It Holders for Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I apologize that the pictures are not high quality. I am still getting the hang of the camera on the phone. 

Do you do anything for your colleagues for back to school?

Monday, 26 August 2013

Welcome to the world of Great Canadian Bloggers

Welcome to the world of Great Canadian Bloggers

I have made some awesome friends through blogging.  One of them is Jen Bellinger of 31 Gifts of Teaching.  Jen is a wonderful teacher and mother living in Niagara Falls.  She is super talented and willing to support anyone.  

Back a few months ago, you might remember that Jen sponsored a Report Card survival package giveaway on my blog.  You have to love her 31 Gifts bags, I know I do.  

At the end of July (just in time for my birthday on August 1st) I ordered an organizer tote in black and pink and the fold 'n file to go inside.  They look very much like the ones you see above.  They are one of the best things about going back to school, if you ask me.  I am going to look stylish, and be organized.  What could be better?

Well, really, the Inside Out bag is pretty awesome!  I got this one in the spring and I have LOVED it all summer.  It may just look like a bag, but for a teacher who has to have everything organized, and have something stylish that is WASHABLE?  SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  Love all the pockets and the ease of carrying this bag.  Everything has a place in this bag, and did I mention it's reversible? 

I loved this bag so much that my lovely daughter bought me this one for my birthday!  I'm in love! My daughter has made me promise to give her my bags when I am done.  I don't have the heart to tell her that is not going to happen!

Jen is hosting her very first raffle and online Thirty-one Back to School Party!! If would like to enter to win the giveaway, please complete the rafflecopter below! There will be one $25 gift certificate for the lucky winner! This gift certificate must be used during Jen's back to school party during the first week of September 2013 and it can only be used through the issuing consultant, Jen Bellinger.

The Draw will be held in the a.m. of September 1st! On September 1st, the party begins!!!

The new fall catalogue will be available for you to drool over and to purchase from! If you would like to shop online with Jen during her party, here is the link: www.mythirtyone.ca/jenbellinger . Click on the link and then go to "my parties" and click on Jen's Back to School Party! If you live in Ontario, you can have your items shipped to your home directly. If you live outside of Ontario, please contact Jen personally at jens31canada@gmail.com and she will discuss your options for ordering!! (Thirty-one does not ship outside of Ontario yet! It is coming though!) If you are American, Jen will give you her friend, Michelle's information for ordering. She is an American consultant!

The party will remain open until Friday, September 6th so people can shop when they are recovering from that lovely first week of school! 

Are you interested in hosting a party online? How about a home party in Ontario? How about becoming a consultant? Contact Jen at her e-mail to Get the Party Started!

It is Double Hostess Credit month in September. To qualify for double hostess credit, your party has to have over $600 in sales! Yahoo! That is easy to do, since the average party is usually over $600! Who couldn't use over $200 in free products?

September Special:

For every $40 you spend in September, get an
Organizing Utility Tote for $18 or a Super Organizing Tote for $30!
Talk about an AWESOME way to start school!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If a back to school purchase is just not in the cards, still stop by Jen's new blog and show her some bloggy loving!  I am linking up this Back To School FREEBIE for those of you who read this post to the end!  

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Friday, 23 August 2013

Back to School Freebie from Teachingisagift at Tools for Schools

Back to School Freebie from Teachingisagift at Tools for Schools

Well it's Friday my bloggy buddies!  Some of you have been back to school for a week or more now.  I am finally facing the reality that next week is my last week of freedom for the summer. I am going into my classroom on Monday to try and get it put back together and looking fantastic for the first day of school, September 3rd.  

My summer has been unsettling to say the least. The sudden death of my mother and the subsequent chaos surrounding it has left me feeling drained and depleted.  Not the best way to feel when you are about to face a room full of energetic 6th graders!  I have kept myself "distracted" this summer with blogging a little, playing games on FB a LOT, and opening a new store on the ePals site Tools for Schools.  

I have uploaded a few things into my my new store and if you would like to check it out and download a NEW FREEBIE then click on the image below.

Photo of Back to School Freebie from Teachingisagift at Tools for Schools PDF FREEBIE
{click on image above}

My new Freebie is a pencil holder...yes, you read that right, you can turn a lovely piece of paper into a pencil holder for the first day of school. I explain in the instructions that come with this freebie that you copy it onto heavy paper, card stock works best, and then you make a slits in each little yellow star for the pencil to slide through. You cut around the top of the stars and then fold the page in three.  This makes a standing card. Slide the pencil through the slots and VOILA a cute little card to welcome your students back to class!  

I had to experiment a little with the first one I made, but once I had it, it was super easy to assemble and it looked great, even when I printed it in black and white (I don't have a colour printer at home).  Hope you LOVE it and that you have a fantastic first day, or continue to have a fantastic first month!  

Photo of Back to School Freebie from Teachingisagift at Tools for Schools Freebie Fridays
{Click on image to visit Freebie Friday}

Be sure to stop by Freebie Friday from TBA and pick up more back to school goodies.  My bloggy buddy Kristy from 2PeasandaDog has a great Back to School Bingo product featured today!

It's also Share the Wealth Saturday at An Educator's Life so hop on over there and check out more great freebies!