Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wonderful Art 2.0 Sites

There are some amazing art tools, from the Chicago Art Institute you can make your own art portfolio . You can also design your own medievel tapastry here.

Here are other neat art options:
Google Sketchup (download)
Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station
Flash Paint

Here are some neat digital imaging options:
PhotoStory (download)
Mix book
Making Panorama Pictures
Photoshop Express Online
Huge Labs

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gifted Kids Can't Research and Write

Here is my response to Not So Master Teacher John Spencer's blog "I Feel Like Giving Up".

Funny you should post about this. I know where you are coming from. I teach gifted kids (top 1%) and yesterday we started a curriculum on inventors. After an introduction 6th grade students were to pick an obscure inventor, research by reading three websites, writing two paragraphs and including 2 pictures. It took some of them over 2 and a half hours!! Remember these are the brightest kids in their schools! I couldn't believe it, my co-teacher and I brainstormed the problem and came up with some possible reasons.

1. Scripted reading and math programs (preparing for high stakes testing and state assessments) have turned kids brains to mush.
2. Kids cannot think for themselves because they have not been given opportunities in the classroom.
3. They can't think in higher levels synthesis, analysis and evaluation-- aren't given enough practice in earlier grades.
4. They can't type, keyboarding time has gone out of favor since so much reading and math is being taught. Many do not know how to save an image, and wrap text around it.
5. Student assignments are formulatic with everybody doing the exact same things.
6. They can't focus--this is part of our classes' problem. When given the freedom to explore on their own they have no skills to get down to work.

That's all we came up with but I'm sure you are seeing the same thing. I didn't mean to imply that this is the situation in your classroom but that you are feeling the past "mistakes".

Self contained at 5th and 6th is good, you'd like it. Read Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith. It will make you realize what is possible.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Google Lit Trips

Have you ever seen this site? I am very picky about websites these days, after 25 years of looking at the web it takes a lot to make me go "wow"! I like the idea of Google Lit Trips. The site is being developed as part of the Google Certifed Teachers Program. The activities take travel tales, stories, novels, etc and superimpose them on Google Earth. What a cool idea.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Amazing Books for Kids

Cross Posted from Fireside Learning

Here is a list of books I've used over the last few years with my gifted elementary students. Also, I will give you the titles of "upcoming" books, these I have either read and not used yet or not read but have read good reviews. All students have a copy of the book to follow along while I read aloud. I get the books from district ILL or the parents buy them, each kid having their own book keeps them totally engaged. We use Moodle for online book discussions for some of the books.

Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett (new one Calder Game) I wrote curriculum for the first two, you can see the curriculum here. The plots are a bit weak, but they lend themselves to great curriculum connections. I love books with clues!!

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (Skybreaker-sequel and the new Starclimber) I have read Airborn out loud five times and the kids have LOVED it. It is brilliantly written with meaty characters and plot.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick. This book has to be seen to be believed, it's a beauty. A kid favorite with historical connections.

City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau (prequel and sequel People of Sparks and Prophet of Yonwood). Great intro to science fiction. Movie coming out in October.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is the best full length science fiction we've ever read (we read a lot of sci fi short stories) but we needed parent permission for that one, 6th grade only.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (sequel Perilous Journey). I had a group of fourth graders that absolutely loved this book. Some reviewers say it's draggy, but we didn't find it so at all.

These I have not used but I have them stored on my secret book shelf and NO student is allowed to read them until we read them in class. (I have the kids for 3-5 years, so we have time.)

Endymoin Spring by Matthew Skelton has the history of books as its back plot. The end is a little weak, but I'm going to use it eventually. I haven't read Valley of Secrets by Charmain Hussey yet--but plan to. It is wrapped up in the rain forest fauna and flora. Another book I haven't read that seems to have some potential is Avi's Book Without Words. I read a review last night for a book that is on my must read list, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

You might enjoy some blog posts on books, online book discussions and historical connections at one of my two blogs, A Not So Different Place and A Very Old Place. There was a lengthy discussion on books for gifted readers at GiftedEducation.ning

There are some student favorites that we haven't read out loud that I haven't listed here, but I will if you want. Keep your nose in a book....N.

image from picasa: 1907Normal School Library 2nd floor of Old Main Arizona State University