Final 2018-2019 Update

Parents,

I am about to begin my maternity leave, so I wanted to give you one final update for this school year.  One of the most recent activities that students across all grade levels participated in with me was called the “Snowflake Activity,” although at the start, the students did not exactly know that the task had anything to do with a snowflake!  Students were given a number of VAGUE instructions on how to fold and cut a piece of paper.  They were not allowed to ask clarifying questions, so students were forced to interpret the instructions in their own way.  Consequently, the result was a wide variety of different variations of the final outcome (the “snowflake”).  As we reflected on this activity together, we discussed that not only is careful listening necessary when completing a directed task, but also clear and specific communication on the part of the speaker.  When given a leadership role, it is vital that we be aware of our own communication if we want the group we are leading to be successful.  The students enjoyed the interesting products that were created through this activity, and they served as a tangible example of why being clear and specific is so vital.

The months of March and April have been unlike previous months in that I did not meet with students as frequently.  This is because of other responsibilities involved in my role as a Gifted Consultative Teacher.  At this time of year, we work on identifying newly qualified students into the gifted program, specifically those who had passed the 2nd grade screener and subsequent evaluations this year.  For each newly qualified student across the county, there is a series of paperwork that must be completed and a meeting that must be hosted with parents in order to begin gifted services.  On top of this, we are also currently working on getting our 5th grade gifted students prepared to transition their services over to middle school, and similarly, our 8th grade students to high school.  As you can imagine, a great deal of time and attention is required to ensure that all of this is completed properly and that all of these students have their new or continuing services set in place for next school year.  While I do miss the regular interaction with the students during this time, it is also fulfilling to have the opportunity to focus on the progress of these individual students and to communicate that information to the parents.  If you have participated in an EP meeting with us recently, thank you for your time.  It was much appreciated.

As the year winds down and comes to a close for students on May 24, you can expect to see a progress report addressing the goals on your child’s gifted Educational Plan.  This report will likely be sent home with the final report card of the year, although certain schools sent theirs home at the midpoint of the year instead.  Please remember that these goals are broad, long-term goals.  While they represent an overarching focus of your child’s gifted education, they certainly do not reflect every single way in which your child’s gifted needs were met throughout this school year.  If you have any questions about specific projects, assignments, tasks, etc. please be sure to communicate directly with your child’s teacher.

Thank you for a wonderful year!  It has been my pleasure to work with your children.  I look forward to communicating with you again in the fall.

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February Updates

Parents,

Yet another month has flown by!  I can hardly believe it!  I’m feeling good in my 30th week of pregnancy, and my jury duty got cancelled this week, so I’d say life is pretty great right now.  Here are a few quick updates of what the students and I have done this month:

February 4-8:

K-2 students addressed the topic of Community Service by learning a big, fancy word: philanthropy.  We talked about ways to make the world a better place and what it means to be a philanthropist by giving of your time, your talent, or your treasure.  You don’t have to be someone special or powerful to change the world.  Each student illustrated one way they are able to make the world a better place.

3-5 students worked on specific stress-management techniques that they may wish to utilize during upcoming standardized testing.  We reviewed a deep breathing exercise, worked on physical stretches to use during the mid-test stretch-break, and learned ways to relax our hands and eyes from writing and reading fatigue.

February 11-15:

Sickness hit my household this week, so I missed several days of school.  Students who were able to meet with me worked on their engineering skills by using KEVA Planks to construct 3-D models based off of 2-D blueprints.

February 18-22:

K-3 students had requested that we revisit one of their favorite visual dexterity games, so we worked with Q-Bitz again.  It is amazing to watch how quickly students improve their skills at pattern recognition and recreation when working on this activity!

4-5 students completed a fun Cup Stacking Challenge in which they worked on teamwork skills, verbal and nonverbal communication, and problem-solving strategies.  If you haven’t heard all about this activity yet, be sure to ask your student.  It is both VERY challenging and tons of fun!

February 25-March 1:

*Some students completed the previous week’s activities due to a few interruptions in schedule.  Others completed the activities below:

k-3 students read and discussed the book What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick.  This book serves as a great conversation starter about what it means to take responsibility, even in the seemingly small details of life.

4-5 students read and discussed the book The Grudge Keeper by Mara Rockliff.  In the town of Bonnyripple, one man was responsible for holding onto all of the grudges that the townspeople came up with.  Everything changed one day when a windstorm swept through the town, scattering and mixing up all the grudges.  In the end, the townspeople realize what is truly important and what should be forgotten.  As we look at this overly-literal interpretation of “keeping a grudge,” we are able to discuss emotional well-being and what sorts of emotions are beneficial or harmful to us when we hold onto them for too long.

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Upcoming Parent Events

This is just a quick announcement about two upcoming parent events.

1. GPAC (Gifted Parent Advisory Council) is meeting this Thursday, February 28, from 6:30 to 8:00 at Freedom Crossing Academy in the media center.  The topic of the evening will be “Diamonds in the Rough: The Atypical Gifted Child.”

2. The ESE Parent Advisory Council is also hosting an upcoming meeting.  It will take place next Tuesday, March 5, from 6:00-7:30 at the Fullerwood Training Center.  The topic of this meeting will be “Raising Struggling Learners to be Successful, Durable, and Resilient.”

Here is the ESE PAC Flyer for more details.

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January Updates

We’ve made it through the first month of 2019!  It’s been a whirlwind on my end, which is why you haven’t heard from me in a while.  On a personal note, I’m 27 weeks pregnant with my third child (students are just now starting to notice!), so between that and recovering from the holidays and getting back into the swing of things in the new year, it’s been a fun adventure!  The students and I have been able to accomplish a lot of great things this month.  Here’s a recap of what we’ve been up to:

January 7-11: To get us back in the groove, we exercised our brains with some fun logic puzzles.  Through the process of following clues and eliminating possibilities, students worked to solve a variety of mystery-style puzzles.  I love the opportunity to get kids thinking in ways they are not necessarily used to.

January 14-18: This week’s focus was Group Dynamics and Organizational Skills.  K-2 discussed the topic of sharing and the different ways that can look, depending on the circumstance.  Third grade took some time to reflect on their time management skills by analyzing their weekday-afternoon schedule and comparing what they DO with their time to what they would LIKE to do with their time.  Fourth and Fifth grade worked on their verbal and nonverbal communication skills through a fun activity that I just call “The Puzzle.”  In this activity, two partners must sit back-to-back while one explains to the other how to put together a nontraditional puzzle.  We quickly discover that something that is clear in our own minds is often difficult to explain clearly to someone who does not have the same knowledge or experience that we have.

January 21-25: K-2 students discussed the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and related his famous “dream” to the topic of goal setting.  Students worked to develop their own “dreams” in relation to themselves, their families, and the world.  Third grade students dipped their toes in the water of “career exploration” by completing a fun personality profile quiz that helps identify personal strengths.  These strength areas were correlated with possible careers, but we were quick to point out that just because you have a particular set of skills, that does not lock you into limited career options.  You are still free to pursue whatever career you wish, armed with the knowledge of your own personal skills.  Fourth and Fifth grade students began a two-week series on the topic of Problem Solving using the picture book What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada.  We followed up the book with a fun game show activity to help us discuss healthy ways of facing our problems and turning them into opportunities.

January 28-February 1: K-2 students enjoyed some time playing brain games that help us increase our awareness of various characteristics of objects while focusing on quick decision making.  The games we used were Blink and Last Letter, if you’re interested in checking those out for yourself.  Third grade had a book chat this week on the story Better Than You by Trudy Ludwig.  We discussed the ways that bragging affects not only the people around us, but also ourselves.  Fourth and Fifth grade students continued last week’s theme of Problem Solving.  We studied the pattern of thought that our brains USUALLY follow when faced with a problem and the ways in which we can take control of that process before it spirals out of control.

 

Thank you for your continued support of gifted education in St. Johns County!  I am so blessed to be able to work with your students on a weekly basis.

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Notes from Anxiety Meeting

The ESE department hosted a parent informational meeting on the topic of anxiety last night.  The presenters from U.F. were kind enough to share their presentation PowerPoint with us.  You can locate it here.  It contains some very useful information, and I would encourage you to look through it if your child has ever exhibited symptoms that you think might be associated with anxiety.

In addition, if you would like further resources specific to gifted students and anxiety/worry or intense emotions in general, please feel free to view this list of Book Suggestions for Parents that I have put together.  I have found many of these resources to be quite helpful, both in my parenting and my teaching.

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December 17-21: Brain Games

The final week of school in December is a busy one, filled with fun and excitement.  Students have a lot going on, so some of them are busy with other activities that take priority this week.  Any students who are available to meet with me are working on one of two possible activities:

  1. KEVA Planks (Brain Builders)Player uses 20 wooden planks in an attempt to build a structure in accordance with 2-D “blueprints” that give three different perspectives of the structure.  Strengthens “STEM” skills, involving problem solving, balance, proportion, composition, and geometry.  Patience and confidence result from the trial and error of this game.  This week was just a basic introduction to the materials.  We may revisit these again later in the year with an added level of challenge thrown into the mix!

  2. IOTALike a visual pattern version of Scrabble, players attempt to build sets of cards according to certain guidelines, connecting those patterns to others that are already in play.  This game helps strengthen students’ ability to consider multiple factors or characteristics at one time.

Best wishes to all of you over the winter break!  I trust that you will enjoy time with family and friends, relax a little, and take stock of all of the things we have to be grateful for in 2018.  Happy New Year!

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December 10-13: STEM

All students who were able to meet with me this week worked on a short STEM project.  We discussed how Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are the necessary skills used not only in STEM projects, but also in many real-life tasks, such as construction.  This week’s challenge was for individual students to design and build a free-standing “tree” using only two sheets of construction paper and about 1.5′ of masking tape as their building materials.  They were also permitted to use scissors and a pencil as their tools.  I alerted them that I would be checking to see who was able to construct the tallest tree, and whether or not their tree was sturdy (did not fall over when blown on).  While these were the parameters of the task, the real skills that we focused on were: 1. create original products; 2. use failures as a learning tool and alter plans; 3. follow directions to complete a task; 4. demonstrate persistence and overcome obstacles; 5. create a product to solve the given problem.  If a student was successful in these areas, I was not very concerned with the ultimate outcome of the “tree.”

At the conclusion of our construction time, we made observations of all of the structures.  We compared for height and tested for stability.  Students noted that they gained new ideas from viewing the creations of others that would help them adjust their own plans in future attempts.  Students self-assessed their level of success based on the five standards mentioned above.  I was thoroughly impressed with the level of persistence students demonstrated in this activity.  Overall, it was a fun success!

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December 3-7: Interpersonal Relationships

k-2nd grade: Family Relationships  We read and discussed the book My Family, Your Family by Lisa Bullard.  In the story, a little girl named Mikayla meets with all different types of families, and she identifies what is special about each one.  After reading, each student began creating a booklet about their own family and what makes it special.  Students completed specific pages during our group time and then took home the booklet to finish as they please.  This was a nice opportunity for each of us to reflect on who we have in our lives and what makes us thankful for them.

3rd grade: Worry  While worry isn’t as directly related to relationships as the other topics covered this week, it can certainly have an impact.  We read and discussed the book Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook.  In the story, Wilma Jean’s teacher helps her identify all of her school-related worries, and then they discuss aspects of each worry where Wilma Jean is able to take some control.  In the end, she had a plan of how to control each of her worries, leaving her feeling very relieved.  After reading the story, the students and I brainstormed our own list of possible school-related worries, and we identified ways in which we can control each of those issues.  We realized that we are not merely a victim of our circumstances, but rather we have quite a bit of control over most circumstances that can cause us worry.

4th grade: Peer Relationships  Students participated in an activity that required them to experience a speaking and listening task the way that a hard-of-hearing person or a non-English speaking person would experience it.  Through this activity, we were able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and recognize some of the frustrations they may encounter in their day to day life.  This practice in empathy helps students to step outside of their own perspectives and consider ways in which they can care for others and help to ease frustrating moments when they occur.

5th grade: School Relationships  Besides peers, another valuable relationship that students experience at school is with their teachers.  Because of this, it is beneficial for students to put their best foot forward when interacting with the adults in the building.  The 5th graders brainstormed a list of DOs and DON’Ts regarding how to communicate with teachers.  Then, we briefly role-played some judgmental v non-judgmental ways of communicating that can be applied to communication with both peers and teachers.  With middle school fast approaching (7 or more teachers each day), we agreed that now is a great time to hone our communication skills so that we make a great first impression.

 

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Parent Informational Meeting: Anxiety

Parents,

In an effort to provide parents of 504, Gifted, and ESE students with strategies to assist their children to cope with anxiety, Marlena Jenkins, Lead Clinician from UF Jacksonville FDLRS-MDC, will disseminate information and resources at our next Parent Advisory Committee meeting.

TopicStrategies to Assist Children to Cope with Anxiety

Date/Time1/8/19 from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Location:  Fullerwood Training Center – 10 Hildreth, St. Augustine, FL 32084

Please open this attachment to view full details: ESE PAC 1-8-19 Flyer

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Holiday Gift Guide for Gifted Students

Parents, are you tired of your child spending countless hours in front of a screen?  Would you rather the toys and gifts of this holiday season be somewhat educational in nature?  Here are a few suggestions to help you get started!  I often shop from Amazon, but you can find a good selection of these types of activities in the game section of Target’s toy department, or in a well-stocked local toy store.

Here’s my top 10 list, in no particular order:

1. On The Dot  A game for 1-4 players.  Each player has a set of four transparent cards with colored dots scattered on each.  The cards can be flipped, turned, or rotated, and then STACKED together in an attempt to recreate the given pattern (shown on a non-transparent card in the center of the play area).  Great for visual dexterity, trial and error experimentation, and manipulation of patterns.

2. Brain Builders Designed for a single player, but you can get creative in how you use it.  Comes with a set of 20 identical wooden planks.  Player uses these planks in an attempt to build a structure in accordance with 2-D “blueprints” that give three different perspectives of the structure.  Upon completion, players can check their own work by flipping over the blueprint card to reveal a photo of the completed structure.  Strengthens “STEM” skills, involving problem solving, balance, proportion, composition, and geometry.  Patience and confidence result from the trial and error of this game.

3. Q-bitz  If you’ve read my recent updates or spoken with your child in recent weeks, you’ve likely heard all about this one!  A great visual dexterity game for 1-4 players (using the original set shown here).  Other sets are also available, such as the one-player Q-bitz Solo, or the more challenging Q-bitz Extreme.

4. Brainspin  Throw this one in your travel bag for when your family is stuck in “boring” situations.  It’s literally a deck of cards with a different basic line image drawn on each card.  The idea is to brainstorm as many different things as possible that the particular shape could be.  You can decide how to play: just for fun, most creative wins, longest list of ideas wins, etc.

5. Set Game  One of my personal favorites!  Rather than explain all of the rules, I’ll just say that this game requires you to consider MULTIPLE characteristics of shapes AT THE SAME TIME in order to create “sets.”  Check out a free digital version at www.setgame.com to read the full rules and get the experience yourself.  Warning: it’s NOT easy, but it IS addictive!  More appropriate for upper elementary through adult.  There are several different varieties of this game (pocket card game, full size card game, board game, maybe even a dice version).

6. Logic Links  A pattern creation game that is set up like a logic problem.  Great for critical thinking skills.  Designed for a single player, but you may be able to stretch the materials to work for two at a time.

7. Iota  Like a visual pattern version of Scrabble.  Comes in a TINY (fits in your pocket) tin, so it’s great for taking with you on vacation or to Grandma’s house.

8. Quirkle  Very similar in a lot of ways to Iota (mentioned above)… like a visual pattern version of Scrabble.  This one is more of a full-sized game with bigger, easier to handle pieces, rather than tiny cards.

9. Blink  Similar to Uno, but without the numerical digits.  The game is intended to be played fast!

10. Swish  Okay, full disclosure… this game is HARD for me!  If you have a kid that is just CRAZY GOOD at pattern recognition and visual skills, this would be a great challenge for them!  Definitely better suited for upper elementary to adult.  The gist of the game is that patterns must be recognized/identified by MENTALLY manipulating and combining multiple transparent cards on the table WITHOUT the benefit of actually physically picking them up and combining them to see if what you are thinking will really work.  I would love to tell you I’ve mastered this one, but that just isn’t true!

 

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