Tuesday, February 6, 2018

4th Grade Cinematographers

Here's a snapshot from a happy crew of screenwriters, character designers, spoofers, set designers, cinematographers, and (eventually) editors....
Stay tuned for a spirited, somewhat irreverent take on Star Wars (gone wrong)....

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

From the 4th Grade Group

Snapshot from January 16th, 2018:

We begin with warm-ups. Today was Scattegories which lead to the vocab words QUAINT and BAMBOOZLING.

Next up was an introduction to the story of Maine's own Samantha Smith and the impact that a fifth grader cab have through the power of writing. Her letter to Yuri Andropov and his response were meaningful actions that ripple beyond the mid 80's. We all agreed that the pen IS mightier than the sword and that kids can make BIG differences.
This mini lesson ties in to the Opinion Piece writing that is going on in the regular classrooms.

During Choice Time, all of the kids worked on the "Star Wars Gone Wrong" movie. Note the authentic(ish) movie clapper above! They are responsible for all of it: script/set/shooting/editing. This project, given our short time together, may well last a while. There is a google.doc shared amongst the students upon which they might work during free time at home, IF they are so motivated. They seem to be headed deep into SPOOF territory.

Please note the Open House: Thursday, Jan. 25th, 6-7 at the HMS Library. This event is for parents and guardians, not the students themselves. Come if you can, or visit our district Instructional Support website (find us right in the middle!).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Dangerous Book

Snapshot from Grade 4 on an Ordinary Tuesday:

We came in to brainstorm how many words we could make from the letters in Thanksgiving and Gratitude....eggs, tides, grit, and kin. And more.

Alexander's NQQ (Notes, Quotes, Questions) question about seeds and trees lead to some deep philosophizing, so this took us to A Crash Course in Philosophy: Love of Wisdom and Questions are our thing, too!

We then explored the Thesaurus.
Yes, it is a DANGEROUS BOOK.
What started as a follow up to having read Melissa Sweet's gorgeous illustrated The Right Word (by Jen Bryant), about Roget and the invention of the thesaurus, veered away from rewriting sentences into genuine astonishment (theirs) at ... what one can find in this book.
YES, "bad" words, too. Merriam Webster put them there.
We had a fine discussion on how WORDS are POWERFUL and must, like magic, be wielded responsibly.
We then had some free choice time.
Some worked on a movie idea that spontaneous erupted. Obi Wan Kenobi (although I tend to think it's Han Solo) lives on our pipes, after all:
The movie is in progress and may debut later!

As often happens, two students played chess. Another read the New York Times "for kids" issue.

I send this into circulation just before our Thanksgiving Break.
I am thankful for so much!

HOLD THE DATE: Bob Gross and I will offer a GT Open House (parents/guardians only) on Thursday January 25th. We'll probably begin at six. Stay tuned for further details. The topic will be The GT Kids Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Snapshot from Grades 5-8

As we hurtle into November, here come a few snapshots from the GT English Language Arts instructional support groups:

We often lead with synectics - synectics |səˈnektiks|

pl.noun [ treated as sing. ] trademark
a problem-solving technique that seeks to promote creative thinking, typically among small groups of people of diverse experience and expertise

For example: Which is more fragile, diameter or circumference? Take 5-10 minutes to write an argument for your position.

We augment the classroom Wordly Wise 7 work here in our group, with many words ending up in the Word Jar. We've visited the site of the inimitable Grant Snider, whose Incidental Comics are pure poetry. Some students are working on their own versions. We've tried our hand at 100 word Scary Stories and will soon begin reading Something About America, an immigrant story in verse by Portland's own Maria Testa. This will surely inspire much thinking and writing.

How does language evolve? Why?
This unit has sixth graders "translating" Lewis Carroll's classic Jabberwocky, and marveling at how the human brain can categorize nonsense sentences into their grammatical units. What IS language, anyway? We'll traverse a wide region, with focus statements such as "Poetry is what's lost in translation" (Frost). A highlight is a (partial) reading aloud of Hamlet, both in the original and in a modern day translation.
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week.
Why are shipwright being conscripted to work strenuous seven-day weeks?

Ask your seventh grader about LEMON! (That's all I will say. It has us all engrossed.)
We are writing (and about to read) short stories. This echoes their "upstairs" unit. 
The goal will be to submit these stories ... somewhere.

Eighth graders are just finishing up their memoir unit. Students who came to my room for this have experimented with a variety of extensions, many inspired by Maine's very own Monica Wood's book, DESCRIPTION.

HMS Students may be submitting to the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, and/or to Letters About Literature.
The literary magazine, Legenda (open to all submission, run by 8th grade staff) has kicked off its 22nd anniversary year.

If you have questions about our GT Instructional Support or are looking for resources, please do visit our WEBSITE, handily tucked under the district Instructional Support site.

As always, please be in touch with questions and comments. I do check my school email frequently and am always happy to talk on the phone or to meet with you in person.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Pacing Matters

Here is a quick snapshot of our 4th grade table, including the venerable typewriter, The Phantom Tollbooth, some thesauruses (not to be confused with Rarrosaur, which entered through a group story), and the amazing Melissa Sweet illustrated The Right Word (Roget and his Thesaurus) by Jen Bryant, a Caldecott Honor book. Also, a rolodex for collecting hard words and a jar for collecting newly invented ones.....

Today's agenda stalled at the mental calisthenics (ask your child!) stage, when we wrote group "pass around stories." That is the beauty of this work. We can (mostly) take the time needed. We'll turn to the thesaurus soon!

This pacing opportunity afforded to us reminds me of a great article, What It Means to Teach Gifted Learners Well, by renowned GT pedagogue, Carol Ann Tomlinson. The entire article is good (and short) but here's the quote that sticks out to me today, delivered courtesy of Ian Byrd, and Byrdseed. (Note: He'll be at the MEGAT, Maine Educators of the Gifted and Talented New England Conference next week. There may still be room! It's not just for teachers. Follow the link for more information.)

Dr. Tomlinson on how accelerated content isn’t really “fast” to a gifted kid, it’s comfortable:
Often, highly able students learn more quickly than others their age. As a result, they typically need a more rapid instructional pace than do many of their peers. Educators sometimes call that “acceleration,” which makes the pace sound risky. For many gifted learners, however, it’s the comfortable pace-like walking “quickly” suits someone with very long legs. It’s only “fast” for someone with shorter legs.
But here’s the best part, the opposite is also true! Gifted kids can also benefit from a slower pace:
On the other hand, it’s often the case that advanced learners need a slower pace of instruction than many other students their age, so they can achieve a depth or breadth of understanding needed to satisfy a big appetite for knowing.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

4th Grade Communications Sets Sail!

My new crop of 4th graders and I met this morning.
We'll meet weekly, on Tuesdays, first thing. Here is a snapshot of what we did today and a bit about what lies ahead. After all, not only the students are new to this, but parents and some teachers are, too!

We always open with calisthenics ... but in this case, for the brain not the body (although we'll occasionally dance the polka, perhaps). These warm-ups are teamwork, although we make sure to make room for solo THINKING before sharing. This morning, for example, we played around with Runny Babbit phrases (you know, that billy sook by Shel Silverstein) as well as with solving some anagrams.

After that, I introduced them to their NQQ notebooks. This stands for Nibbling, Quarreling, and Quantum physics. Just kidding! Notes, Quotes, and Questions. Each week, I ask that each student bring a note or a quote or a question. This can be ANYthing at all, even a favorite word. This sets the table with contributions from our many voices. This is the only "official homework," and, as I explained to the kids, it might take you half an hour a week, or two minutes!

We then watched a short video: Wind and Mr. Ug.
What sort of world is this?
It's life ... on a Möbius Strip!
Next week, we'll create our own Infinity Worlds and story go-rounds.

Which reminds me: we're conducting an ongoing investigation into the nature of time. This should take us a while! Maybe you will have some dinner table conversations?

I had a quote up on the board from Kierkegaard: The moment is not properly an atom of time, but an atom of eternity." As a student exclaimed, "This makes so much sense!"
Quotes from this morning's discussion with kids include:

  • A moment is an atom of now. (Antonio)
  • Time is a rhythm with no beat. (Jay)
  • Time is a song with no melody. (Emma)
How fortunate I am to spend time with such philosophers.

Up ahead lies so much. I think of it as an archipelago of possibility, for I do like to tailor these meetings to what the students seem to be most excited about. We will probably read that classic wordplay book, The Phantom Tollbooth
We'll write, think, and read every week. Sometimes, the work will be related to classroom activities. Much of the time, we'll exist in a separate but related universe.

I hope to blog about us with relative frequency, but please feel free to be in touch if you have questions or comments, ANY time. (I will often email when a new blogpost is up, but feel free to subscribe, esp. if you do not mind viewing what other grades are doing.)

If you wish to visit GT Instructional Support, click here.
Ms. Agell's teacher page is here.
My author/illustrator site is here. I'm always working on something or other, and am happy to report that Scholastic will release a picture book of mine in 2019.

For now, best wishes for a happy early fall!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Altered Books from 7th Grade!

The 7th Graders altered some books....can you detect some themes? A book might stab you in the heart, it might fill you with music, it might make a movie in your brain. Our final unit was very conceptual! Please scroll through.
Note: All books were destined for the dump. They were RESCUED for the purposes of becoming art.