Category Archives: Language Arts

Wrestling with Writing

It is not uncommon for GT students to dislike writing.  I was intrigued recently when I saw the article, “Why Do So Many Gifted and Talented Children Hate to Write?”  Although the article does not give any scientific evidence, it does suggest that it can sometimes be difficult for gifted students to gather thoughts that make perfect sense to them and go through the excruciatingly slow process of organizing and communicating those thoughts on paper (or screen).  I like to compare it to asking an adult to write down the instructions for tying a shoelace or walking.  Sometimes we just know things, and we don’t find it pleasant to try to tease out the details.

The above article suggests a writing exercise that turns the task into more of a challenge.  I haven’t tried it with my students, but I have learned that giving them unusual rules or restrictions often seems to motivate them more than unlimited freedom (which usually just paralyzes them).  This article from Alice Keeler also recommends adding constraints to writing, and she provides a spreadsheet template to help this process.

Unexpected topics can also stimulate ideas.  You can find some fun video writing prompts here.  “Writing Sparks” from Night Zookeeper offers random topics. (Click on “Create Spark.”) Different perspectives can also galvanize student writing.  And one of my favorite online tools that has never failed to intrigue my students with its incredible illustrations has been Storybird.

Writing can be a challenge for anyone.  Students with high I.Q.’s are not immune to academic difficulties.  What may be perceived as laziness can often be just a matter of fear of failure.  With a bit of creativity and lot of support, students who “hate” to write may discover a strength they didn’t know they possessed.

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image from USDA on Flickr
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Theme

When my students do a Hexagonal Learning activity, one of the groups of hexagons I usually use includes the themes of the story we are discussing.  However, I have always struggled with how to help students identify the themes.  It is difficult for them to discern the difference between theme and main idea.  Yesterday, I found this great free video from BrainPop (no subscription needed to watch this one) that explains “Theme” using Star Wars.  My 4th graders really enjoyed it.  When we finished watching it, they were immediately ready to call out the many themes they observe in Tuck Everlasting.  It was surprisingly easy, resulting in my lesson time being half what I had planned.  Later, I found this great free printable from Minds in Bloom to help reinforce what they have learned about themes for next week’s class.  Next topic to tackle: symbolism!

By the way, a great resource for themes, though the book selection is limited, is LitCharts‘ Theme Tracker tool.

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One of the themes from Tuck Everlasting my students quickly identified was Freedom vs. Captivity (image from Pixabay)

 

Student Crosswords from the NY Times

Did you know that the New York Times has an archive of student crosswords listed by subjects on this page?  From American History to Technology, you can find puzzles created by Frank Longo as well as the answers and suggested curriculum links.  I found this link when I discovered this page that provides a printable crossword puzzle on how people say thank you around the world.  A couple of other timely suggestions are, “Thanksgiving,” “Giving,” and “Holidays Around the World.”  These seem to be targeted at the teenage age range, though some upper elementary and middle school students can probably work on them in groups, given the proper resources.

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image from Pixabay

ELA 12 Days of Christmas

Last Thursday, Richard Byrne shared an absolute treasure trove of Google Drive templates created and shared by Darren Maltais.  You can click the link above to read Richard’s post.  One of the templates that you may want to consider using in the near future is “ELA 12 Days of Christmas,” which offers 12 different creative writing ideas, along with examples. Whether you plan to use some or all of these, you should definitely make a copy of this to help you and your students make it through this occasionally overwhelming time of year!  (I particularly like the Facebook example with comments from Buddy the Elf and Rudolph!) By the way, if you would like math activities for the 12 Days of Christmas, you can try this.

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image from Wikimedia

 

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming

If you think it’s rotten to be sad,

Here’s a book to make you glad.

Chris Harris tried to write a poem.

(It’s okay if you don’t really know him.)

In truth he wrote more than one,

(poem)

And they are more than just a little fun.

(not ho hum)

Lane Smith did every illustration,

Except maybe went on vacation

For the “Alphabet Book” portion –

Kind of a surprise distortion

Of what you might have expected,

But let’s not get redirected.

From author’s note to the last rhyme,

Read and laugh and postpone bedtime.

Your kids will love this cheerful book

More than a chef loves to bake.

I highly recommend I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith, for your child or your classroom.  It’s clever and fun, a refreshing book that will make you smile.  To hear more, you can listen to Harris’ interview with Scott Simon on NPR here.

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Purchase the book here

 

Critical Thinking Cheatsheet

The Global Digital Citizen Foundation has a page of resources on its website that includes the free Critical Thinking Cheatsheet.  The downloadable PDF has excellent question stems that students can use when trying to analyze a topic more effectively. You can see a sampling of the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How questions stems in the image below.

You will need to register on the site before you can receive your download.  However, there are several other free resources that you can also access once you login, so it is well worth taking 30 seconds to sign up.

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from Global Digital Citizen Foundation Critical Thinking Cheatsheet

I plan to give this sheet to all of my students so they can use it to understand current events better.  A great site this could be “smashed” with is Newsela.

Dot Day 2017

It’s almost September 15th-ish, which means that Dot Day is quickly approaching!  For those of you who have not encountered Dot Day before, it is an international event inspired by the Peter Reynolds book, The Dot. It’s all about celebrating creativity and “making your mark”!  In last year’s post about Dot Day, I shared a few “new to me” Dot Day ideas for the celebration.  This year, Breakout Edu has announced a brand new breakout adventure for elementary and middle school students based on The Dot. Students must solve the clues to set creativity and inspiration free. I recommend doing the breakout activity and then giving your students the opportunity to unleash their own inner artists as a follow-up!

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image from Denise Krebs on Flickr