“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, 19 July 2014

Keeping it Class*y!

Picture of The 6 Essential Questions for Back to School from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

What are the essential questions you ask?  Good question!  
The thought of BTS sends shivers down my spine.  I have been on vacation for three weeks now (two of them spent at the beach) but I have been seeing a lot of back to school posts on Facebook and Pinterest.  

I had the itch to redo some of my products this week.  I recently bought some super cute clip art and wanted to use it. While the weather was rainy I worked on redoing my APEC posters and my Back to School Essential Questions.  These are two of my most popular freebies.
Picture of APEC (Answer, Proof, Explain, Connect) Teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
To download your own copy just click on the image above.
A few years ago I saw a pin on Pinterest which caught my eye.  It was a picture of 6 pieces of chart paper, each with a question on the heading and numerous post-it notes on each.  I thought the idea was brilliant and I immediately decided I needed to make my own list of essential questions for my students to answer on the first day.

6 Essential Back to School Questions http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

6 Essential Back to School Questions http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I posted the chart papers around the room with the headings taped to the top. To make the activity run smoothly, I put the students into groups (I divided by 6) and then had them start at one specific question.  I gave them a few minutes to write and post their sticky note. If students finished quickly they could read the other responses, or wait quietly.  When I gave the signal, the students rotated to the next question.

After the students completed all of questions, I gave them time to revisit the sheets and read what their classmates had written.  I made sure I circulated with the class so I could assess what the students were saying.  I was amazed at how many students told me they wanted a "strict" teacher under the heading "characteristics your teacher should possess".  You never know what students are going to say, unless you give them a chance to voice themselves.

This was hands down one of the best first day activities I have ever used!  The students were shocked that I wanted their feedback and they enjoyed reflecting on what they would write on the post-it.  They also loved that they could comment anonymously.

If you would like to try this activity with your class you can download the NEW, updated version by clicking on the image at the top of this post.  You can also find the new updated version in my TpT store. 

Let's share some great BTS ideas.  Please leave a comment telling what your FAVOURITE first day of school activity is...

Sunday, 13 July 2014

What works in upper elementary? APEC

In Ontario, students write the EQAO assessments of mathematics and language in grades three and six. I have been a grade six teacher for the majority of my career and have been through many, many years of student testing. One thing I noticed over the years was that students did not come to me in sixth grade knowing how to answer open ended, extended response questions. Students find questions like this on the CASI reading assessments as well.

I started looking for ways to help increase student understanding of how to structure a good response.  A "mentor" for responding to open ended, extended response questions.  Students will find these types of questions in both language and mathematics.  For example, from the 2013 EQAO reading test "Explain why the narrator states that “The only ice cube I want to see again is the one in my glass of juice.” Use specific details from the text to support your answer." and from the mathematics test "A store has 11.2 kg of potatoes. Maria buys 572 g of potatoes from the store and Colin buys 1.42 kg of potatoes from the store. 
After these two purchases, how many grams of potatoes does the store have left? Show your work."

After introducing APEC at my school, many of the teachers in my school have started teaching it.  Even though most of the students coming to me are familiar with this structure, I still spend time each year modelling how to use APEC as an effective method for responding to open ended, extended response questions (including problem solving in mathematics).

Picture of APEC Answer Proof Explain Connect @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of APEC Answer Proof Explain Connect @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of APEC Answer Proof Explain Connect @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of APEC Answer Proof Explain Connect @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Recently someone on Facebook commented that they were marking EQAO and that the coordinators of the marking told them that the "connection" part some students were including was "irrelevant" and that student should NOT be taught to respond by making connections.  I went on record stating that I did not agree with this stance.  If you look at the reading curriculum in Ontario, you will see "making connections" is a HUGE part of the reading expectation 1.6 "extending understanding".  I agree that students need to master how to "make inferences about text using stated and implied ideas from the text" but they also need to EXTEND their thinking, and this is what expectation 1.6 asks them to do. 

I model how to write effective responses all year long.  Whether it is as descriptive feedback after students write CASI in the fall, or during literature response groups, I make sure that we look at how to "show what we know" by constructing strong responses.

I have written about how I use APEC in mathematics before. If you would like to read more about it you can view it at this post.

When I was reading the Facebook posts about using APE (or ACE, or APEC) I started looking for my APEC freebie I had posted a few years ago.  I could NOT find it anywhere, so I decided to make some new cute posters for my classroom.  If you have read my profile, you will know I am the proud owner of two beautiful Boston Terriers, so I included the adorable Boston Terrier clip art created by Scrappin Doodles on my new posters.

If you would like a copy of this FOREVER FREEBIE just click on the image below.

Picture of APEC Answer Proof Explain Connect @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca 

How do you teach students to improve their responses in math and language?  I am always looking for fresh, new and effective ideas.