Friday, November 16, 2018


We've had a busy past two weeks.  I had the opportunity to attend the Gifted and Talented Symposium hosted by Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction last Thursday and Friday (11/8-11/9).  It was such a great experience to be in a room with over 100 other educators that focus on the needs and education of gifted students.  We discussed identification of different populations of students, family engagement, assessment, programming, ideas, and had countless speakers and seminars from experts in the field.

Thanks to all students and families for your willingness to work with a flexible schedule this fall.  I am grateful to have been able to attend both the PBL (Project Based Learning) Virginia conference as well as this Gifted and Talented symposium.  I am a perpetual learner and love adding new strategies, skills, and ideas to my teaching toolbox.  That being said I do not have any more out of district events for the year so scheduling will remain consistent other than scheduled district breaks.  Thank you everyone for your flexibility.

Here are some highlights from the past two weeks.  Projects are underway and students are applying the skills they are learning to their PBL units.  It is great to see so many a-ha moments when students are able to answer the questions or complete the tasks being asked because they have those skills ready to go!

Aidan is diligently tracking the companies that he bought shares from. He is determining losses and gains using addition and subtraction of integers.  He is looking forward to finishing this round of tracking, applying his new knowledge, and determining what he will do differently in the next round.

Audrey is also tracking her company's performance.  She is planning to reinvest when the required tracking session is complete.

Autumn and Vienna are reading different versions of Beauty and the Beast.  This week their group came together and created a triple Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting all of the versions they read.  They were engaged and identified many similarities and differences. 

Amanda is working to identify seeing details in her version of Beauty and the Beast.  She worked with her partners Autumn and Vienna on the triple Venn Diagram this week.

Brady, Jason, and Seraphina are compelling their set design ideas into one.  They are labeling the sketches with possible materials and dimensions. 

Brady, Jason, and Seraphina have decided to create a model to represent their set design.  They felt they would have more freedom of choice with materials working on that scale. 

Stuti and Ireland are comparing and contrasting different versions of Beauty and the Beast.  Next session they will begin sketching the ideas for their theatric design.

If I do not have the chance to see your family prior to break, have a GREAT Thanksgiving.  I am truly grateful to have the opportunity to work with your children. This is an incredible bunch and they amaze me everyday.   Thanks for sharing them with me :)

As always reach out with questions for items to discuss!

Friday, November 2, 2018


We've had a great week across all three schools.  Students are mastering challenging skills and really getting underway with projects.

I have invited all 4th and 5th grade students to apply for the Young Authors Conference which takes place on December 3rd.  Google Forms go out for applicants Monday and are due Friday 8/9.

Next week I am attending a Gifted and Talented symposium hosted by the Department of Public Instruction.  This takes place next Thursday and Friday 11/8 and 11/9.  I will be at Jefferson Wednesday and have shifted my schedule so I will be able to meet with all students there.

4th Grade readers at Irving are identifying different types of foreshadowing (concrete, abstract, prominent, evocative, and fallacy) in the short story, "The Dinner Party'.

Charlie is sharing the Kahoot (quiz game) he created to help his group review operations with integers and absolute value. 

Joey, Brady, and Henry are desigingin their obstacle course.  Next they will write questions to guide data collection.  Examples include how fast did each participant travel the balance beam or what was the average speed for the entire course for all participants?  For these questions they would need to calculate speed using the formula S=D/T. 

Gianna and Anveesha are finalizing the components that they'll include in their obstacle course.  Next they will create a visual representation of their course and write questions to guide data collection.

3rd Grade Travel Agents at Franklin are hard at work.  Now that they have interviewed their clients they are working to  design the best vacation proposal possible.  Tuesday they found flights for their clients.  They considered time of flight, number of stops, and price.  They then used multiplication strategies (standard algorithm and lattice approach) to calculate airfare and baggage costs.
Lotus is determine which flight will be best for her client, her brother, from Milwaukee to Pittsburg.  She found that most flights to Pittsburg have one stop so considered that.  She found reasonable tickets with one stop in Chicago.

Swikruti had 230.00 worth of gains from her stock market investments.
 She reinvested once and is now using her gains to purchase prize items.

Autumn and Lilith are looking for lodging options for their clients.  They are calculating the number of people, rooms needed, room price/night and how many nights.  They are using multiplication strategies they have been working on for the past two weeks to complete these tasks. 

Lilith is planning a vacation to Egypt for Ms. Bergmann.  She took into consideration arrival time requests and the  number of people traveling.  She is looking to find the best flight option, with the fewest stops.  

Seraphina is working on her set sketch.  Her group has spend their past sessions delving into different versions of "Little Red Riding Hood".  Last week they used a triple Venn diagram to compare and contrast.  They will each create their vision then compile their ideas to create one design sketch before beginning to build. 

Brady is also working on his set sketch.  He created context for the woods scene by also sketching the events prior to and after this event in the story. 

Jason is also working to create a visual representation of his set design.  He will share this with his group so they can create a final design using all of their ideas. 

Enjoy your weekend!  Let me know if you have any questions!  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

10/15-10/25: Content, Skill Development, and Project Work Updates

This post will include a bit about where each project group is as far as the content they are learning, how they are developing skills, project work, and what they'll be doing next.

3rd Grade Reading Groups
PBL Unit: Spectacular Story Sets

Content: Students working on the PBL Unit "Spectacular Story Sets" are focusing on reading deeply into fiction texts to determine setting elements.  They are looking for elements such as: location (specific and general), time period, sights, sounds, colors, tastes, textures, smells, weather, sources of light, as well as creating their own drawings of location maps, and pictures of backgrounds/foregrounds.  We are also beginning to think about the impact that setting can have on character traits and character development. 

Skill Development: We have been reading books by Chris Van Allsburg to practice digging for these setting details.  I find his stories to be magical, whimsical, and feel they provide unique settings for students to explore.  Groups have read The Garden of Abdul Gasazi (a Caledcott Honor Book) as well as The Wreck of the Zephyr.  Other classics by Van Allsburg include Jumangi and The Polar Express.  This practice in identifying setting elements is preparing students to do the same for their selected Fairy/Folk Tales.

Project: Collaborative groups had the chance to explore an extensive list of classic Fairy and Folk Tales from  As a group they have identified which story they will focus on.  Most groups had the opportunity to visit the library and choose at least three versions of their story to explore.  They will be comparing and contrasting setting within the versions then compiling details to create a set (either model or large scale) based on those details. 

Next: Next week groups will continue reading their versions and create a triple Venn Diagram to help visualize their comparing and contrasting discussions. 

Autumn, Amanda, and Vienna chose to study versions of Beauty and the Beast.

Stuti, Alana, and Ireland chose to base their set around versions of Sleeping Beauty. 

Seraphina is reading a version of Little Red Riding Hood to compare with her group members' versions.

Brady is reading a different version of Little Red Riding Hood.
Seraphina and Jason are recording details after our read aloud, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi. 

3rd Grade Math Groups
PBL Unit: Award Winning Travel Agents

Content: Students in these groups are working on developing multiplication skills.  We've talked about strategies introduced in the past (arrays, equal grouping, repeated addition) and how those may not be as efficient when applied to larger numbers (ex. buying plane tickets for a family of four).  In the past two weeks I have introduced students to both the standard algorithm and the Lattice approach.  In both strategies we continue to talk about place value and how we are essentially breaking the numbers into ones, tens, and hundreds to multiply.  

Skill Development: Students partnered up to play a game where they rolled dice to determine the digits in their one, two, and three digit numbers.  They had to decide how to arrange the numbers to get the largest product.  They used lattice approach to evaluate the expression.  The partner with the largest product was awarded a point. Many students in these groups expressed that they felt they had "gotten the hang" of the lattice approach through practice this week. We'll continue to practice expanding to 1x3 and 2x2 digit multiplication. 

Project Work: Students brainstormed questions as a group that they could ask their clients to gather information about the vacation they will be planning and proposing to their clients (members of the school community).  Each student then created their own list, adding or editing from the group list of questions.  This week students in a number of groups had the opportunity to interview their clients.  The rest will be doing this in coming sessions.  Prior to interviews we brainstormed ways to be the best interviewers we could be.  Students came up with: being attentive listeners, looking at your client, not being silly, using a loud voice, using a clear voice, and much more.  They practiced with partners, received feedback, then got to do their actual interviews.  I was proud of each student, they did a great job.  

Next:  Students will take the information they found out from their interview and begin researching and calculating.  They'll determine airfare, hotel/lodging, food (by finding average cost for different meals), souvenirs, activities, and a grand total.  They will then propose the vacation and budget to their client and receive feedback, making revisions where needed.  Students will eventually move into whole number division as well as concepts such as mean, median, and mode.

Lotus is interviewing her client,  Tevin (her big brother)!  He shared with her that he would like to visit Philadelphia.  

Vlad is interviewing Daniel, a 5th grader at Franklin.  He will be proposing a trip and budget to Montana for Daniel. 

Holly is interviewing Ms. Crotteau.  She will be planning a trip to Texas.  

Donovan interviewed Mrs. Connors, Principal at Franklin, as his client.  He learned that she would like to travel to Colorado.  He will bring back a vacation proposal and budget for their next meeting. 

Nolan learned that Ms. K, Innovation coach at Franklin, would like to travel to Montana.  She is hoping to truly plan a trip there this year and let Nolan know she may take him up on his suggestions!

Majerle interviewed Tristan, a fellow Irving student who is in 5th Grade.  

Grant learned about his client Charlie's dream vacation to Disney.  He will do his best to meet Charlie's requests, such as staying at one of the resort inside Disney World!

Lilith's client, Ms. Bergamann would like to travel to Egypt.  Lilith is ready to take on the challenge of designing an enjoyable and budget friendly vacation that includes her clients wishes.

4th/5th Grade Reading Groups
PBL Unit: Next Best Seller

Content/Project Work: Students participating in the unit are focusing on foreshadowing, flashback, and dramatic irony.  We are learning to identify these elements and understand why an author uses them.  We will also be exploring the use of figurative phrases and how we can incorporate those as we move to writing our own fiction pieces. In addition many groups this week took their topic brainstorms and begin stretching those ideas into story outlines that include: setting, characters, events, problem/conflict, resolution, and climax.  Students are also being asked to consider how they could use foreshadowing in their own stories. Students at Irving had a visit from our own resident author, Erin Dreske.   Students developed questions to ask and will utilize those answers as they begin their own pieces. She shared her writing process and the work and steps that it took to publish a children's book, Dog's Don't Have Pockets.

Students are interviewing Ms. Dreske, published author, with questions they developed. 

Skill Development: Groups have been looking at well known examples of foreshadowing to familiarize themselves with the device.  We explored how Maurice Sendak used this literary device in the familiar story, Where the Wild Things Are.  We also looked at film references such as a clip from "The Lion King".  This week a number of groups had the opportunity to explore short stories from the Burton Goodman series.  Today students were introduced to specific types of foreshadowing.
  • Concrete: objects, people, places or events
  • Abstract: Thoughts/feelings a character has or the way a character acts.  Even music playing in a movie that hints at an upcoming event.
  • Prominent: The story starts out at the end and then goes back to the beginning, so you are already aware of some of what will happen.
  • Evocative: This kind of foreshadowing leads the reader on "Little did I know...", "It all would not have happened if..."
  • Fallacy: When the author intentionally lies to the reader, a surprise twist

We focused on the book, "Sudden Twists", to try to identify foreshadowing and clues that the author left throughout the story.  Groups that did not get to this this week will be exploring these short stories next week.  Students love this compilation that includes classic short stories such as "The Right Kind of House" by Henry Sleasar, "The Open Window" by Saki, and "The Immortal Bard" by Isaac Asimov.  We read "The Dinner Party" by Mona Gardner which was great example of subtle foreshadowing. We will continue using these pieces to strengthen our understanding of foreshadowing. 

Next: Students will continue developing their story outline.  They have been given the option to work on this outside of GCT if they wish.  From there we will start our first drafts.  Students will have the opportunity to give and receive peer feedback and revise their piece repeatedly throughout the writing and publishing process.
Andrew and Jace are reading to find out how the story, The Dinner Party, will end in a sudden twist.

4th Grade Math Group
PBL Unit: Obstacle Course Data

Content: Students have been focusing on developing strategies for multiplication and division of whole numbers using strategies like standard algorithm, lattice, partial product, and partial quotient.  We will be moving into interpreting remainders as decimals.  We also look at division that includes decimal dividends and divisors. 

Skill Development:  Students played a game where they rolled dice to determine the digits in their one, two, and three digit numbers.  They had to decide how to arrange the numbers to get the largest product.  They used lattice approach to evaluate the expression.  The partner with the largest product was awarded a point. Many students felt comfortable challenging themselves to approach 2x2, 2x3, and even 3x3 digit multiplication problems using the lattice approach. 

Project Work: Students are collaborating with their groups to determine the elements that their obstacle course will include.  They are figuring out the materials they will use with a focus on found and recycled objects.  Groups have come up with ideas like a laser maze from string, balance beam, box maze,and pool noodle tunnels. Students are starting to think about the questions they will pose in order to gather data for different parts of their course.  They will be using the formula for calculating speed (S=D/T) for many of these calculations.

Joey, Henry, and Brady, are working on a shared Google Doc to brainstorm the elements that their obstacle course will include. 

4th/5th Grade Math 
PBL Unit: Stock Market Savvy

Content: In this unit students begin with understanding what an integer is and how to place integers on a number line.  We used an elevator model.  We developed this understanding to adding and subtracting with integers.  Students have been focusing on the strategy of looking at consecutive operators and signs to determine the new operator.  Consecutive signs/operators that are the same become addition.  Consecutive sign/operators that are different become subtraction.  The expression is then re-written and the elevator model can be applied more easily.  Some groups have moved on to multiplying and dividing integers.  They extended the rules for addition/subtraction recalling that two same signs become addition (positive) while two different signs become subtraction (negative) for the product or quotient. 

Skill Development: Students have been using online platforms such as Khan Academy and IXL to work on mastery of these skills.

Project Work:  Students continue to track the shares in companies that they purchased.  We discussed how the market took a significant hit two weeks ago and how increased interest rates were one theory in why many company's share prices decreased.  Some groups have begun to think about the platform they will use to present their portfolio performance (KeyNote, Google, Tri-Fold, etc).  Students are interested each day to see the status of their current share prices.  

Next: Continued stock tracking, portfolio presentations, Kahoot creation for practice and review. 

John is checking the current price of shares he has "purchased".  He is finding the difference between the current price and the share price, determining if it is a loss (-)  or gain (+).  He will then multiply his loos or gain by the number of shares he holds.

Aidan is checking the current price of his shares as well.  He will track for a total of 10 days then determine if his had an overall loss or gain.  He will have the opportunity to reinvest using what he learned if he chooses.

Thanks for reading!  Please reach our with any questions or items to discuss.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Highlights 9/25-10/3

Below you will find photos and captions highlighting some of the work happening both in GCT/Enrichment groups and within the classroom environment.  Posts typically are not this long, but I wanted to include all of the great things happening over the past two weeks.

Brady is generating "Need to Know Questions" for the project, Spectacular Story Sets.  His group will collaborate to create  a set design that reflects the setting elements from multiple versions of the same fairy/folk tale.  

Aiden and Charlie and determining how many shares of Apple and Boeing they will be able to buy with their "$1000.00".  They explored the data for multiline publicly traded companies and selected these two.  

Jason and Seraphina are generating project "Need to Know Questions" after watching a video highlighting the work of two prolific scenic designers. 

3rd Graders in Ms. Rapp's class at Franklin are working in groups to provide feedback to one another.  They are working on an "Awesome Moment" narrative to add to the class Awesome Journal.  Students use PQP (Praise-Question-Polish) to guide feedback session).  Prior to this activity students watched the video "Austin's Butterfly" to see and example of how powerful critique and revision can be.  I will post video below if you would like to watch!

Student's at Franklin are developing their skills in both giving and receiving and utilizing feedback.  

Feedback session.

Feedback session.

Nolan and his group are exploring travel destinations as part of our project launch.  They will play the role of travel agents using multiplication and division strategies to a propose a vacation plan to their identified "client" (an older student, teacher, or parent).  

3rd Grade Math group creating their project "Need to Know Questions" .  See below!

Creating "Need to Know Questions"

Sharing "Need to Know Questions"

Kayla, Andrew, Jeremy, and Levi are watching a BizKids video about the Stock Market.  They have begun exploring possible companies to invest in by exploring share prices and data on market

3rd Grade reading group Jefferson creating need to know questions for "Spectacular Story Sets".

Generating "Need to Know Questions".

Maggie, Willa, and Abby had a busy session.  They explored their project, "Next Best Seller", created "Need to Know" Questions, and began brainstorming story ideas!

Maggie is excited about her story brainstorm.  A girl raised by wild animals grows to find that she has magical powers allowing her to communicate with animals.  

4th Graders at Irving generate Need to Know Questions for their "Next Best Seller" project.

4th Grade math students at Irving will be designing an obstacle course.  They will use the course and invited participants to collect data that will help with calculations such as speed.  They are going to focus on both whole number and decimal multiplication and division.  Here they are watching an extreme obstacle course to amp up enthusiasm and start generating ideas.  

3rd Graders at Irving will be acting as travel agents for their math project by proposing a vacation budget to their identified client (student, teacher, or parent).  To dig into the project they are exploring around the world with Google Earth.

Grant is creating his project "Need to Know" questions.

Majerle is creating "Need to Know" Questions for his project, Award Winning Travel Agent.