Category Archives: Language Arts

The Giver

from Lois Lowry's Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver
from Lois Lowry’s Newbery Acceptance Speech for The Giver

If you visit my Pinterest Board of Books for Gifted Students, you will see The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is prominently featured.  I read this dystopian novel along with my 5th grade Gifted and Talented students every year, and those of you who know me are aware that I don’t often do the same thing more than once.  However, this book seems brand new with every group of students.  The discussions are rich and we are always able to find many connections to current events and their own lives.

The Giver is coming to theaters this August.  It will be interesting to see how the book transfers to the big screen.  You can see how Lois Lowry feels about the movie in this recent Twitter chat in which she participated that is posted on Walden Media.  More resources from Walden Media, including educational materials, are available here.  I highly recommend Lois Lowry’s Newbery acceptance speech – which gives incredible insight into the formation of the book.

In the interest of full disclosure, I recently participated in Walden Media’s “Teachers are Givers” contest, and was one of the 4 winners.  They chose a teacher each week for four weeks, based on technology lesson plans we submitted.  I didn’t expect to win, as my amazing colleague, LeAnne Hernandez, won the first week.  However, I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the second winner.  I recommend you take a look at the winning entries, as there are some fabulous ideas for integrating this amazing novel with technology in the classroom.  I was truly impressed with the other 3 teachers’ submissions, and can’t wait to try them!  If you feel so inclined, you may want to vote for your favorite lesson plan.  The overall winner will receive a hometown screening of The Giver.

If you are looking for some other resources to support The Giver, you should definitely take a look at Teachers Pay Teachers.  I have a “Depth and Complexity with The Giver” product available for $1.00, but there are tons of other related products on the site – many of them free.

Also, here is a post I did awhile ago on Book Trailers for The Giver.

Read Write Think has a lesson called, “Memories Matter: The Giver and Descriptive Writing Memoirs.”

For older students, you can find some interesting resources on Schmoop (“We Speak Student”).

Whatever you do, if you choose to use this book with your class, be sure to leave lots of time for discussion.  This is a book that demands conversation.  Thoughtful dialogues will help your students to become much more reflective about its themes and implications.  You could probably spend a year on this book, and never fully explore some of the topics it suggests.  It will definitely make an impact, and will be a piece of literature that your students will never forget.

What Makes a Hero

From "What Makes a Hero" by Matthew Winkler
From “What Makes a Hero” by Matthew Winkler

I found this video through Kuriositas, an awesome resource, but it is also available through TED-Ed.  As we spend today, Memorial Day, in the United States, honoring our own fallen heroes, I thought this video might resonate with you as it does with me.  Freedom is a treasure, and I am so thankful for the heroes who accepted the challenge to claim it for us.

Last Letter by ThinkFun

image from: Last Letter game on Amazon.com
image from: Last Letter game by ThinkFun on Amazon.com

Note: ThinkFun gave a copy of Last Letter to my GT class to review.  However all opinions are my own – and those of my daughter and students ;)

ThinkFun always lives up to its name with its products.  Over my 14 years of teaching elementary GT students, we have enjoyed and learned from a lot of ThinkFun games.  As a mother of a daughter who is now 11, I can say that our family has found them to be equally educational and entertaining.

Last Letter is one of the newest games from ThinkFun, and I thought it would make a great Phun Phriday post.  This simple card game can appeal to all age levels that know how to spell – or at least can identify the first and last letter of words.  The rules are easy.  Everyone gets 5 cards.  The dealer puts down a card face-up and names something on that card.  The first person to find something on one of their own cards that starts with the last letter of the word the dealer gave puts his or her card down, and the game continues in that vein until someone is out of cards.

On a day when the majority of my class was missing due to a threat to San Antonio area schools, I decided to lighten the mood by trying the game with some of my 5th graders.  They loved it!  They enjoyed the unique illustrations on the cards and loved the challenge of searching their vocabulary for synonyms to help them put down a card.  I was vastly over-matched.  While I was quite literal (if someone said, “boy” for one card, I would say, “yellow” for the next) my students were much more creative.  We had a few challenges to words where students would have to explain the connection of the word to a card.  For example, for the 2nd picture below, one of my students would probably have said something like, “starvation” to describe the plight of the man on the island – while I probably would have said, “shark.”

Last Letter is a great game to play as a family as it definitely broadens everyone’s vocabulary.  Young and not-so-young can easily play together and learn from each other.  You can also change the rules to make it more challenging for some or all of the players.  For example, “no colors” or “no emotions” are two good parameters to set for older players.  There are so many images packed into each card that you can play the game repeatedly and never be bored.

Last Letter can currently be purchased from Amazon.com for $12.99.  I am adding it to my Pinterest Board of Games and Toys for Gifted Students – but it is fun for all to play! You don’t have to be gifted or a student to enjoy it!

image from: amazon.com
image from: Last Letter game on Amazon.com

 

What Would Socrates Do?

socrates-education

In past posts, I’ve mentioned using “Socratic Dialogue” with my students.  Sometimes this is referred to as “Socratic Method”, “Socratic Seminar”, or “Socratic Circles.”  You can learn more about this teaching technique here and in my post on “Socratic Questions.”

I recently ran across an excellent post on the Langwitches blog called, “Socratic Seminar and the Backchannel.”  The article gives a detailed description of teacher Shannon Hancock using the fishbowl method of an inner circle and outer circle with her 8th grade students to discuss The Alchemist. What distinguishes Shannon’s lesson from others of its kind is that she allowed her students to use Today’s Meet as a backchannel to comment during the discussion.  Normally, the outer circle of students remain fairly passive, but her technique makes the discussion much more interactive and collaborative for all who are involved.  I must confess that I have used a backchannel in my class before (Socrative and Google Docs are other great alternatives to Today’s Meet), but this particular use never occurred to me.

Even if you do not have enough digital devices to exactly replicate Shannon’s lesson, I encourage you to take a look at the article, which includes a wonderful video of the class in action, as well as examples of comments made on the backchannel.  I love the way Shannon introduces the lesson, as well as her encouragement of the students to collaborate by having a short discussion with partners at the half-way mark.

Watching Shannon Hancock inspires me to work harder to make our classroom Socratic Circles more meaningful and deep, whether we use technology or not.

Augmented Reality for Visual ARts

an example from Sherri
an example from Sherri Kushner’s presentation

My favorite use of augmented reality is when it enhances student creations.  Sherri Kushner, a Media Arts Teacher at Chute Middle School recently shared a presentation she had made for NAEA 2014 that astounded me with the creative use of the Aurasma augmented reality app for many amazing student projects. I added it to my Augmented Reality in Education Flipboard magazine, and tweeted the link, but I know that many people prefer to get their information in a variety of ways.  I was so blown away by Sherri’s students and their imaginative use of augmented reality that I don’t want anyone to miss out on these fabulous examples.

For anyone not familiar with using Aurasma, Sherri gives links to the basics of viewing augmented reality with the app, as well as how to create your own auras.  If you would like more information, I also have several tutorial links, including to some great videos from Two Guys and Some iPads, on my Augmented Reality Resource Page. (You can also check out a recent episode of the Two Guys Show in which they interview Aurasma’s Head of Operations, David Stone, here.)

To view the example above, you will need the free Aurasma app.  Follow the channel for Chute Middle School, and point the app viewfinder at the picture.  Be sure to visit Sherri’s presentation to see even more amazing ways to create augmented reality art!

When Was the Last Time You Saw a Mountain Lion on YOUR Playground?

image from Alba on flickr.com
image from Alba on flickr.com

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA 2014 in Austin last week was called, “Global Collaboration in Elementary.”  It was presented by Matt Gomez (@mattBgomez), and largely featured Twitter interactions his kindergarten students had experienced with other classes around the world.

That’s right – Kindergarten.

I work with gifted students in K-5, and I have to say that it would not have occurred to me to try using Twitter with my Kinders.  But, then again, I didn’t see a use for Twitter for myself until about nine months ago.

Matt did an outstanding presentation on the value of social media tools like Twitter for students.  (Here is the link to his presentation handout.) By using a private account, and choosing other like-minded educators to follow and be followed on Twitter, Matt connects his students to children in very diverse regions.  Through regular Tweets, the students have learned about their differences and similarities.  For example, one thing that many schools have in common is recess.  And, sometimes children may suffer the crushing disappointment of being forced to endure indoor recess.  But indoor recess in Texas is generally not the result of a mountain lion being loose on the playground, as a class in Montana tweeted to Matt’s students.  Surprising tweets like these have generated interesting conversations.  The experience has promoted tolerance, geographic awareness, and research skills.

Another unexpected side-effect of the Twitter project, as Matt explained, was the development of empathy in the students.  They care about their “Twitter friends”, and are more aware of global events and their effects.  Matt’s school is in Dallas, and they received Tweets from their partners inquiring about their safety, recently, when Dallas was reported to have several tornadoes.

Matt’s class has also connected with experts through Twitter, such as astronaut Chris Hadfield and local weather reporters.  These experiences have also given the students some inside knowledge about careers that they probably would not find in library books.

The nice thing about Twitter is being able to view a stream of responses, as opposed to using e-mail or other written communication.  Also, it does not have to be “real-time”, as Skype or other types of video chats need to be.  You can set aside a time each day to check out the stream as a class and discuss the comments and questions the students may have.  It’s also a good way to summarize your day before the school day ends.

As a result of Matt’s session, I’ve decided that I definitely would like to try this with my first grade class.  In this class, my students are researching different countries, and I would love to have them connect with classes around the world.  If you are a classroom teacher reading this, are interested in joining our classes on Twitter, and live outside of the USA, please contact me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com or @terrieichholz on Twitter to see if we can connect!

UPDATE:  Here is a link from Drew Frank (@ugafrank) with over 270 classes who are active on Twitter and interested in connecting.  You can also fill out the form on this page to add your class to the list!

UPDATE 2:  Here is another link from Kathy Cassidy (via @MattBGomez) of Primary classes that tweet.  For more Twitter resources, check out her page here.