Ten Things I Wish People Would Stop Saying About Gifted Students: Common Misconceptions about Gifted Learners Illustrated by Harry Potter and Friends



Having spent 10 years in the classroom, and six of those ten years in gifted education, I've heard many people--both parents and teachers--say things (whether they were 100% serious or not) about the gifted population that are just so untrue! My goal today is most certainly not to offend anyone in the education field, or any parents. I know for sure that for the vast majority of teachers and parents, we all want to do what is best for all children. Our intentions are innately positive. I also know that there is a huge lack of training in teacher education programs on how to meet the needs of gifted learners. And for parents, unless you seek out information from reputable institutions or gifted advocacy groups, you don't always hear this information, either. I hope that by writing this post today, with the help of some tongue-in-cheek memes of the archetypal gifted characters from one of my favorite book series, I can in some small way, help educate people about some of the most common myths that seem to come up over and over again. 

1. They'll be FINE in the regular classroom. 



The truth is simple here. According to a national study conducted by The National Research Center on Gifted and Talented indicated that your highly gifted student comes to you knowing up to 80% of the material you plan to teach them this year. EIGHTY.PERCENT. There is a disturbing lack of urgency surrounding the need to provide gifted learners with NEW material! Think about this for a minute. You KNOW you've been to a professional development day or a staff meeting in which you already knew most of the material being presented. Lucky for you, the meeting or PD usually lasts for only a few hours, possibly up to maybe a few days. Were you bored? Did you benefit from sitting through those meetings? How did you feel? Bored. Frustrated. Despondent. You probably found other ways to entertain your self, right? Maybe you're reading my blog during one of those meetings. (If that's the case, don't stop--you'll probably learn something here today! Wink, Wink!) Now, multiply that feeling of boredom or frustration times 180 DAYS. The average school day for a child is somewhere between six and seven hours. Let's be realistic and say that you have only moderately gifted students in your classroom and they only know 50% of your curriculum. 180 days times 6.5 hours is 1,170 hours spent with you in a year. If they come in knowing 50% of the material, that means they're spending 585 HOURS just this year NOT LEARNING.  I don't know about you--but seeing these statistics in black and white makes them even more stark. That's nearly FIFTEEN 40-hour work weeks! Imagine! We've GOT to work hard meeting these students where they are in their knowledge and move them forward. There's a chance that little gifted Joe will seem fine, because he's learned to be complacent, well-behaved, and respectful. Please believe me when I say that he will most certainly be worlds better if he's actually given the opportunity to learn something new. 

2. They didn't get 100% on that test, so why should I give him special treatment? Or, geez, they bombed that assignment. I thought they were"gifted." Or, how can she be gifted? She's never had straight A's. 

                                     

First of all, using specific interventions to meet the needs of ANY learner isn't giving special treatment. It's best practice. Second, gifted students are human beings--prone to imperfection since the inception of our existence (even Wizards make mistakes). Third, gifted students can be underachievers. If they've been identified as gifted, it means that they have been identified as having a higher than average potential for learning. If they're not meeting their potential, that's a problem. There are many reasons why a gifted student may be underperforming in school, ranging from a loss of interest from being under-challenged for a period of time, to a child trying to fit in socially who masks his or her giftedness by making mistakes on purpose. Perhaps the child is finally being presented with complex information that he doesn't already know, and hasn't learned effective strategies for working toward understanding yet because it wasn't necessary.  It could also be that the child has a learning disability that is impairing their ability to meet their potential. It's important to investigate which of these issues is at the root of the underachievement so that steps can be taken to fix the issue(s). 


3. Their parents are SUCH a pain. Why won't they just leave me alone? Ugh. Helicopter parents. 



Ok, to be fair, if you've been teaching for a while more than five minutes, you know that there are a certain group of parents who can seem a little...more challenging. Sometimes, you truly do have a set of parents that seem to hover a little more closely to their child than what you'd prefer--you know them when you see them. They seem overprotective, perhaps sometimes preventing their child from feeling the sting of failure or cushioning their fall a little too much. They may even blame circumstances or other people for their child's missteps, and bail them out a little too quickly. (If you're one of these parents, STOP IT! You're not helping your child!) However, most of the time, the parent that wants to talk to you about their child is living out what's become their "normal." They know that they have an exceptional child, and they have learned early on that teachers sometimes have a lack of understanding of giftedness, and as a result, have a hard time meeting their child's needs. And because they don't want their child to sit through 585 hours of class this year not learning,  or because they need to communicate that their child has some intensities that you should know about, they've learned that they need to stay in close contact with the teachers responsible for spending 1,170 hours with their child this year. The best thing you can do is listen, be patient, be calm, and remind yourself that with great (proactive) communication, you can work together with parents to make this year a success!


4. Well, if they'd stop acting up in class, I would give them their different/special/whatever work. 



Yes, you'd prefer that your students behave properly at all times. Who doesn't?! Here's the thing. If you consider the information above about how much time a child is potentially spending in your classroom NOT LEARNING, then it makes sense that you might have a problem with the student losing interest, and eventually finding ways to entertain themselves. I know I did this (and sometimes still do). I was a gifted high achiever. I wanted to please my parents and teachers and I definitely wanted to avoid getting into trouble. BUT, I also lost interest sometimes, because I already knew the answers to all of the teachers questions. So, I found quiet and creative ways to entertain myself during school. I organized my desk, and doodled on the borders of my papers, I even partnered with another gifted student in my class to make up our own alphabet so that we could write notes to each other in a "different language." You know when I wasn't doing these inventive  little  things? When the teacher gained my attention with new information in class, when they created projects for me to work on independently so I didn't have to read or listen to the content in the next chapter of the science textbook, when I got to choose a new topic to pursue on my own or with that gifted peer of mine. I know it may seem as thought you're "rewarding" their poor behavior choices. But you're not. You are, in fact, providing for them what they NEED. You are recognizing that behavioral problems they're exhibiting are likely CAUSED by the fact that you weren't giving them what they NEED. In the end, you, your class, and especially your gifted student will all be much happier once you start providing for the learning needs of your gifted student. 

5.  I wish they'd stop being so know-it-all and correcting me all the time!


                           

Well, this one is a little sticky. Of course your gifted student should learn to be respectful, try not to interrupt you, and definitely refrain from correcting you in front of the whole class, right? The thing that makes this a little trickier for gifted learners goes back to the nature of the gifted child in general. The traits that make them who they are, can sometimes interfere with the expectations for how you'd like to run things in your classroom. One of the traits of giftedness is that gifted children can be perfectionists. They have extremely high expectations for themselves and others when it comes to accuracy. Further, their little gifted brains have such a high capacity for learning and remembering things, and making rapid connections to previous knowledge, it may just be that they've had an epiphany of sorts and their excitement precludes their manners. Finally, it may be that your gifted student has psychomotor overexcitabilty, and they have a hard time controlling their energy/impulses. In my classroom, we had many conversations about productive and appropriate ways to communicate with teachers (or others in general) when they disagree with what's being said. We took time to model how to address disagreements without being rude. Quite honestly, it never bothered me when a student pointed out mistakes to me, as long as they weren't rude about it (which we also rehearsed frequently at first).  I am the first to admit that despite my own perfectionistic tendencies, I do sometimes make mistakes (I know--it's a shocker!),  and with each mistake comes an opportunity for learning. 

6. They just need to stop complaining about things not being fair! 



The ability to recognize social injustice or inequity is another gifted trait. It relates back to Dabrowski's Emotional Overexcitability. These children are exceptionally perceptive. They experience the world differently than a typically developing child. They are sensitive to injustice, and just as they called you out for making a mistake in your math equation five minutes ago, they will note any perceived injustice or imbalance in your classroom. Again, as teachers or parents, it's important that we step back and think for a minute--is this perception of what's happening something truly unfair? Is there an imbalance that needs adjusting? Or is it time to have a talk about what fairness truly means? One thing I really felt proud about as a teacher is that I felt like my students walked away with an honest-to-goodness sense of understanding that fair does not mean equal. It took lots of class meetings, modeling, and open discussions, but I do feel that students understood that fairness can take on different appearances, depending on the circumstances. 


7. That kid is gifted? Well, not in my class, he's not. 


Asynchronicity is one of the hallmark characteristics of gifted children. In a nutshell, being asynchronous in your development means that parts of you grow or develop unevenly, or out of "sync" with other parts of your development. The resulting issue is that you may have a gifted child who can hold his own in an AP calculus class, but has a hard time writing a coherent paragraph. The child may not be able to complete simple computations yet, but has the emotional maturity to be able to keep up with adult conversations (and he probably prefers those conversations to those of his peers). The point is, you may have gifted students who are developing evenly all the way around--they're rockstars in every sense of the word. But more likely than not, you're going to see discrepancies, sometimes significant, between different aspects of the child's development. It's okay. It's normal. It's time to meet them where they are, and push them forward, no matter where the starting point.

8.  You're a GENIUS! You just like, know stuff without even TRYING! 



Ugh. This. It happens all the time, and with the most positive intentions. You're trying to compliment a child you notice has a penchant for achieving. To the observer, the gifted brain can be like a sponge--rapidly soaking in all sorts of information. It looks like they don't even have to work hard at learning (and they don't always need to!). Even the term gifted, has connotations that this intelligence was a present from above, right?

There is truth to thought that gifted children are born with innate talents, but it's risky to focus so much on this inborn ability because it can undermine the child's motivation, and lead to Dweck's "Fixed Mindset," or the belief that their intelligence is set. So, if a child perceives herself as having this gift of intelligence, she thinks she won't ever have to work at learning. And if this same person fails at something, then she starts to question whether she truly is as smart as they she thought she was. Eventually, this could lead to the child taking fewer risks because he doesn't want to endure the experience of failing, they don't want to put in the work it takes to learn something they don't already know, and they may even start questioning their own self-worth. Not good, right?

Experts in the field, such as renown psychologist Carol Dweck, suggest that we praise students for their effort as opposed to their achievements. Others, like Alfie Kohn even suggest that we remove praise altogether, as it can be intrusive, manipulative, and ultimately take away from a child's intrinsic satisfaction.  I think a middle ground is probably best. When you see a gifted child doing well, watch them. Really watch. Watch closely enough that you can provide specific feedback about that you see them working hard at improving. Don't overpraise, and try not to use praise as a form of manipulation, or create a situation in which complacency is rewarded too frequently.

9. Kids need to learn to be bored. It's a life skill.



Bored feels like a swear word, doesn't it? The mention of the word can raise the hackles of even the most talented teacher. I don't encourage the use of the term, but if you hear it, despite how angry it makes you, you need to listen and reflect on what could be happening in your home or classroom.

There are many reasons for which a child may determine that they feel "bored," including feelings of sadness or anger, experiencing work that is too difficult, or perhaps they're overstimulated. What your gifted child could be expressing though, is their frustration at the lack of learning or progress toward learning. Which should lead you into a thought process that includes reflecting on why this child is frustrated at the lack of progress. Gifted children, pretty much by definition, learn faster than the average learner, needing only 1-3 repetitions of new material, instead of the typical 6-8. Not to mention (again) that this child came to you already knowing much of the content you were planning to present. It's important to consider all this when the dreaded B-word is uttered in your presence. Are you giving this child new material to master? Are you wasting their time by having them repeatedly "learn" material they've known for years? Perhaps they really are getting overstimulated, or maybe they're frustrated about something that's too difficult for them. Either way, we shouldn't be okay with kids being bored and we need to work understanding the cause, and working toward fixing the problem.


10. Acceleration? You mean like, grade-skipping? No way. He needs to be with his age-mates. Don't you think this will be bad for their social-emotional growth? 


Acceleration is the single most researched intervention for gifted students. It has been found time and again to be the BEST way to help  highly gifted children grow towards reaching their potential. There is virtually no evidence that acceleration has a negative impact on a child's social or emotional growth. It's cost effective, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. In fact, when comparing the achievement levels of an accelerated child to the same grade-peers, the accelerated child's scores are in the average range in their first year of acceleration, and among the highest in the grade in all the subsequent years of their education, including college. Further, acceleration doesn't always mean grade-skipping! There are actually 18 different forms of acceleration. To name a few, there is subject-area acceleration, whole grade acceleration (or grade skipping), early entrance to kindergarten, telescoping (in which more than one year's worth of curriculum is learned in a single year), and radical acceleration (skipping more than one grade, or advancing at a very rapid pace through the curriculum). 

Of course, acceleration is not a magic bullet. It needs to be carefully considered for each child. Using the IOWA acceleration scale is a good practice, as it quantifies factors in the child's life other than the child's academic achievement. 


To be sure, this list is NOT exhaustive. Leave me a comment below with something you've heard about gifted kids which you know (or suspect) to be untrue! I'm curious!

Thanks so much for reading!
~Jen







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Gifted Overexcitabilities: Intellectual Intensity


Deeply curious, avid reader, loves problem solving, insatiable desire for knowledge, ability to concentrate for extended periods of time on one task, not satisfied with surface-level answers to questions, analytical, able to synthesize information readily, asks a seemingly infinite amount of questions.

Sound familiar? Then perhaps you've met a gifted child with Intellectual Intensity.

This is the fifth and final part of my overexcitabilities series. You can read an overview here, and you can find out more about the other four intensities (sensual, emotional, imaginational, and psychomotor) in earlier blog posts as well.

If you consider the intellectual intensity, you may think that this OE is fairly obvious, right? If a child has been identified as cognitively gifted, it would make sense that they have intellectual needs beyond their typically developing peers. As with the other overexcitabilites, though, this intellectual intensity is a marked departure from a child who is bright or gifted without this particular OE taking the spotlight. 

A child with the intellectual OE has a mind that is constantly working. They not only enjoy thinking and learning, but they also love thinking about their thinking (metacognition). They also spend a lot of time thinking about moral and ethical issues, which is why it's not uncommon for children with this intensity to be the justice-seekers in your classroom. It can be truly amazing to observe these minds in action.

It can be difficult to keep with the intellectual needs of a child with this OE. They can absorb new information faster than you can get it in their hands. They can test your patience as a teacher with the sheer volume of questions they have. They will question choices you make in your classroom or home if they feel you've made a decision that doesn't align with their own moral compass. They can also be critical of people who can't keep up with their rapid thinking. (Ahem...sorry mom and dad!)

There are some important things you can (and should) do in your classroom or home to help these children thrive.
  • Show them that you understand! Acknowledge their intensity--validate this very real thirst for knowledge, and help them focus on the positive aspects of this OE
  • Help them answer their own questions when you can't. Teach intellectual OE kids how to research, and then provide time for them to do it. In the classroom, it can be as simple as setting aside 10 minutes of time (especially when you're introducing something new) to allow the child access to a computer or book on the topic. 
  • Help them use their precepts to make a difference! In my classroom, we did a variation of the popular 20% time that Google had once offered it's employees. Children were provided time in class each week to work on a project of their choice. I looped with my students, so in the second year of doing this in my classroom, I changed it slightly--kids could still work on a passion project, sometimes referred to as "Genius Hour" (I didn't call it that because of my feelings on growth mindset and praise--to be covered in a future post!), but this time they had to learn something that could have a positive impact on someone. Maybe it was just one person, maybe it was our gifted classroom, perhaps it would be something to impact the entire school, community, or the world. The projects were wildly engaging, motivating, and awesome, if I don't say so myself! I used Kid President's videos as motivation to launch our projects. Here are a couple:


  • Help kids to monitor and filter their reactions towards other people when they find others' ideas frustrating or silly. 
  • Help the child set up a system of setting and tracking progress toward learning goals. I did this in my classroom on a small scale, by graphing pre- and post- assessment data with students. They really loved seeing their progress in a visual representation. 
Here are some great resources for further viewing:
Please check out my other posts, linked above, for more information and resources about the gifted child and Dabrowski's Overexcitabilities. 

Here is a handout I created to give to parents or other teachers--a cheatsheet with info from all my posts on Gifted OEs. Click on the image to download your free copy!



Thanks so much for reading! 
~Jen
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Five for Friday


Happy Friday! I don't know about you, but I'm so glad the weekend is here! It's almost Valentine's Day, and I'm looking forward to celebrating with my children! I'm linking up with Doodle Bug's Teaching today for her weekly linky Five for Friday! Be sure to hop over to her blog, and check out the other bloggers who are linking up! 
Five for Friday is really just about five random things from my blog or life that I want to share with you today. I'm using my Instagram pictures from this week as the inspiration for my post today--I had lots to be thankful for this week, and Instagram is the place I usually share positivity in my life. ;)

Number one random thing? I got my first AWESOME feedback in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. What a joy! I've only been selling for three weeks now, and I've actually sold a handful of things, which is so very encouraging for what's to come! So exciting! 


Next up--seeing my daughter and her friend work on their science fair project! They did SO well with this. I really think the Science Notebook I made for them helped the two of them understand each of the steps in the scientific method. I made a square version for them, which I'll be adding to an updated version of the product in the next few days! *Confession: It was (and still is) taking every.bit. of strength in my perfectionist body not to fix those letters on the top of the board! I know. Let it gooooooo...
The third thing I'm writing about today is the Valentine's party that I have the privilege of hosting in my daughter's classroom this afternoon! If you've read some of my earlier posts, you know that I'm taking a year off of teaching right now since our family moved to a new state and I wanted to get everyone settled in without the stress of having a new job myself. I'm loving being able to volunteer in my daughters' classrooms. I'm the head room mom for my eldest, which is not a position I ever really pictured myself to be in, but it's so fun! Of course I've been planning fun games and crafts for each party, but it's also been a chance for me to sneak in a STEM lesson or two! I'm such a geek. It's fine. #perfectlynormal 
 Number four in my random string of thoughts and pictures is Instagram and my newfound appreciation for motivational quotes. To be completely honest, I didn't always like seeing these types of things pop up in my feed. I don't know why, but they always felt a little...I don't know...contrived? Too perfect to be true? I don't know why I've recently warmed to the quotes, but I have. And I'm glad I have, because I've found myself pausing to reflect more on certain quotes, maybe even feeling a little meditative over the really good ones. Maybe it's a fad, but I'm okay with that. Even if it's temporary, I'll take the whatever solace I can find, wherever that may be. 
Ok, last one! This picture is just something that struck me funny. It just so happened the other day that my EC planner and iPad matched my binder, the Dr. Seuss book, my clipboard, my pens...my CURTAINS, my COUCH (don't think I'm weird--it's the sea blue/green color that can be found in my curtains and couch, LOL). I guess when you are drawn to certain colors, you're really drawn to them! What more can I say? 
Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate you reading my post! 
~Jen
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Gifted Overexcitabilities: Psychomotor Intensity

You've seen these kids before. Children with psychomotor intensity have a an overabundance of energy--constant movement, anxiety, difficulty with impulse control, high energy, rapid speech. They need action.

They can become workaholics. They can be competitive. They can have nervous tics, even trouble sleeping. It seems like they have an internal motor that is constantly running. On high. All. the. time. Chances are, if you have had a child like this in your classroom, you've also seen them labeled "ADHD." And while there are some children who most definitely have attention problems, there is this other group of people with the psychomotor OE who have been misdiagnosed. It's important to understand the differences and seek out which of these is most fitting for the child in your life with psychomotor intensity.

The ramifications of having a child with psychomotor intensity in the classroom can be quite challenging, as you can imagine. After all, a typical classroom with 20, 30, even 40 students in it relies on kids' ability to be quiet, sit still, and listen. Having a child with psychomotor OE can prove disruptive, distracting, and downright frustrating at times. Conversely, it important that we remember that having an intensity like the psychomotor overexcitability can also be a good thing! These people have drive. They have a competitive spirit. They have so much energy that can be channeled into GREAT things!

There are many children in my teaching experiences who most certainly fit these descriptions. They were my wiggle worms, my passionately outspoken, energetic worker bees! They expressed their emotions with their bodies--literally jumping for joy! Positive or negative--there wasn't much guessing needing to be done when they were experiencing their feelings! Having children with psychomotor intensities in the classroom can test even the most tolerant teacher's patience at times.  However, once some simple modifications are made in the classroom working space to accommodate childrens' needs for movement and expression, these children can be happy, productive members of any classroom community!

Here are some things to consider implementing:


  • Let them fidget with something. Let's face it, they're probably going to be doing it anyways, so why not acknowledge their needs, and give them permission to do it? 
  • Allow them to stand and work. In my classroom, I had a rule that anyone could stand, as long as they weren't blocking another student from seeing. This applied for our group instruction time, independent work time, you name it.  The benefit of allowing all of the students to do it meant removing any stigma that could be attached to these kiddos who need more movement. Plus, don't all of our students need a little more movement in their daily school lives?
  • Provide opportunities for breaks and serious movement, if needed. Gonoodle.com was my go-to website for "Brain Breaks."*  I was also fortunate enough to work in a school that had a kind of par course set up at different intervals around the school. So if I had a child who needed more action than what a classroom brain break would provide, I would send him or her out to do a lap or two through the course. 
  • Consider allowing students to chew gum. We had school rules against gum chewing, but there were some students with whom I made special arrangements (I got permission first, of course). There was a culture of fairness in my classroom (in the truest meaning of the word--my students understood deeply that different learners need different things in order to make them successful), so I never had issues with jealousy regarding using the gum chewing as a tool, or any other intervention for that matter.  
  • Try to build in some time for spontaneity in your classroom. This is something that will not only benefit your psychomotor OE kid, but the rest of the students in your classroom as well.
*If you haven't checked that website out yet, I urge you--DO IT! It's great for energizing activities, but it also has activities meant to calm kids down as well. My students loved it. They loved it so much that we had to come up with a strategy for determining which students could be the "DJ" each day. I'll have to write about that on another day.

Thanks for reading~
Jen

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February Currently!

Quick post today! I'm linking up with Farley from Oh Boy It's Farley for her ever popular "Currently" series! Today is Saturday, my kids and husband are home, so I want to get out of my office and back to playing with my family! 



Listening: My children giggling! So cute until I remembered that they're supposed to be tidying up their room! Oops. Distracted mom problems. 
Loving: My new gig as a teacherpreneur! I just started this journey a few weeks ago, but it's been awesome so far! I had an awesome chat (or epic three-and-a-half-hour extended it's-been-way-too-long-since-we-talked conversation) with my dear friend, former colleague, and superstar teacher entrepreneur, Ashley from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd! I  hung up feeling so energized and ready to put the pedal to the metal today! I literally can't WAIT to get working each day, and THAT is an incredible feeling. Thanks, friend! <3
Thinking: About working!? What? I literally can't wait to get back to work creating, blogging, and sharing new work! It's crazy how much I love it. 
Wanting: to head out to the Natural History Museum. We only moved to the Pittsburgh area this past summer and haven't yet had a chance to explore all the great things this town has to offer. I'm looking forward to acting like a tourist as we explore our new surroundings!
Needing: To help my girls make their Valentine's Day boxes for school. This was always one of my favorite things to do as a child!  We're all ready to go with stickers and glitter and paper galore! It was always fun at school and at home to have a day (or month!) set aside to focus on the people and things we love! <3 I created a product recently to help our family focus on sharing the love this month. You can pick up a free copy here.
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Swooning: The SUN is out! Hooray! Sunshine makes me feel happy, hopeful, and excited to enjoy what's sure to be a wonderful day! It's time for me to get out of this office and into the sunshine!

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you have a fantastic day! 
~Jen
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Celebrate Pi Day! Getting Kids Engaged in Math


Nerd alert: I LOVE celebrating Pi Day! It is quite literally one of my favorite "holidays" to celebrate with my students. Yes. I consider it a holiday. It's that important. My students LOVE celebrating this day as well--sometimes questioning me as early as the first week of school about how we were going to celebrate it this year. 

So today, I'm dedicating a blog post to this most exciting day, since it's right around the corner. I hope you'll start getting into the excitement, too! 

For students, sometimes even mentioning the word math makes them get a little anxious and jittery. Even in my gifted math classes, there were always a handful of students who didn't love math, despite the fact that they were able to score in the 95th percentile (or higher) on nationally-normed achievement tests. This makes sense, really. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you enjoy doing it. For me, I am pretty skilled at folding laundry. I mean, I can fold a MEAN fitted sheet with the best of them. Buuuut I don't love it.  

Not even  a little. 

That's why making learning FUN is so important for the students in your classroom. They don't all walk through those classroom doors of yours with the same bubbling-over passion that you have for the subject.  Fortunately for us teachers, though, with the right combination of joy, resources, comedic timing, and great teaching, they can walk out of your classroom with an increased appreciation for the subject at the very least. And for some students, the way you engage them can mean the difference between them feeling ho-hum about your subject, and them turning your area of expertise into something they end up wanting to pursue down the road as their own lifelong passion. 

We have so much power, teachers! Our motivation needs to come from this place of our profound ability to make a difference in children's lives every.single.day. 

Okay, stepping down from the soapbox. 

Back to PI DAYYYY! 

I was fortunate enough to be able loop with my students. I got to teach them math and/or language arts for three years in a row, which was incredible.  One side effect, though, of having students year after year is that you can't really reuse the same activities over and over again. So, after a while I began to amass a pretty decent repertoire of activities to use on days like Pi Day. So today, I'll explain a bit about some of my favorite activities for the nerdiest of celebrations. 

My students loved all things pi. They especially loved eating it, so I did make it a point to indulge them each year. I even had an awesome parent who volunteered to send in the pies, which was so great because it saved me a few dollars. If you celebrate Pi Day in your classroom, I would suggest reaching out to the families of your students. I always found that parents were always more than willing to donate things when I asked. 

My students also loved this simple beading activity. I heard of the idea from a fellow teacher at a math conference a few years ago, and I marveled at the 
simplicity. All you have to do is assign a color of bead to each of the digits from 0-9, then string the beads in the order of their corresponding appearance in the digits of pi. We saved black beads for the decimal. I found that buying the Perler Beads from a craft store or Wal-Mart was the most inexpensive way to get LOTS of beads in a variety of colors. I had kite string left over from another fun math activity, and it worked well for stringing, plus it's strong, so I didn't worry about them stretching and/or breaking the string while they worked. 

Another really great activity I did was an experiment with blowing and measuring bubbles. I had seen my daughter's preschool teacher using bubbles with soap and paint to make artwork, and it got me thinking about using that same technique with bubbles in math. Only, I just needed the bubbles to be temporary (and easier to clean up!). For this activity, students blew bubbles on a cookie sheet that we wet with the bubble solution. Make sure you don't skip this step, because the bubbles pop too quickly if you don't.  Students could just do this right on the top of their desks (hello, clean desks!), but we used cookie sheets because I thought the clean up would be quicker. It's a good idea to let your students play around a little with the whole, "I get to blow bubbles in math" novelty for a few minutes before they start working on the real activity. They WILL play, so why not give them permission? 


Eventually, the bubble pops, and lucky for us, it leaves a ring behind. I had students measure the diameter of the circle with a ruler. Then they used a sentence strip or string to measure the circumference of the circle. They recorded the measurements for each bubble on a recording sheet. Once their sheet was filled with data from their bubble-blowing extravaganza, I had them find the ratio between the measurements of the circumference to the measurements of the diameter (otherwise known as PI). If they were accurate with their measurements, their ratios usually turned out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.14. It's an awesome experience to see their faces light up with the realization that they found pi, and for us math teachers, it was the kind of authentic learning experience that led them to a deeper understanding of what pi really means, instead of just tossing out a formula to them and hoping they could plug in all the right numbers and 'get it.' If you'd like a free copy of the recording sheet we used, email me at jen@soaringwithsnyder.com and I'll send you a copy. I promise I'll keep your contact information private. 

Other activities we did included listening to music that was composed based on the digits in pi. I read to them Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander, which you can buy here or listen to a free read aloud here. We composed poetry about our love of pi, had a pi memorization challenge, and so many other fun things. The best part of the celebration is that everyone had FUN. They were engaged, they were challenged, and if only for a brief time, they liked MATH! 

If you're as excited about celebrating Pi Day as I am, you should check out this Pi Day Tic-Tac-Toe Menu Board that I made. There are NINE of my favorite activities in the packet, including recording sheets with detailed directions for each activity, an answer key and rubric, a list of needed supplies, and a bonus memorization challenge class roster sheet. 


Maybe if someone had taught me to fold fitted sheets with activities like this, I'd be a Folding-Sheet Grand Champion, orrrr something like that. 

If you're looking to just tiptoe into Pi Day this year, maybe you'd prefer one of these other products instead...*Note, these are PARTS of the NINE PRODUCT Bundle. They're not different activities. Just providing options! Lots of options!  
Here's a mini-bundle of just three activities.👇🏻



Or you may like this this one, based on the bubble activity I mentioned above. It is always a hit. 


And here is a problem solving activity. If you're short on time, or want to assess the quality of my work, this is the way to go. 


Let me know if you have any questions! I'd be happy to help you make this day SO much fun for your students! 










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These are a few of my FAVORITE things

I hope you heard the Sound of Music tune when you read the title for this post. I know I did! 

Today, I'm stepping (tumbling?) out of the proverbial BOX as I join a dear friend and former colleague extraordinaire, Ashley Schroeder from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd  and her friend Angie from Lucky Little Learners for their monthly linky called #2getherwearebetter, a link-up party for teacher bloggers that is light hearted, fun, and FULL of helpful tips for teachers.




This month's topic is things I love, and I AM an expert in things I love, after all, so why not dive on in? Plus, I'm feeling especially appreciative as a new blogger and TpT seller, so the timing on Ashley and Angie's linky is per.fect. 

My "Things I Love" are not material things--I'm going a little cerebral here today, because when I reflected on all I'm thankful for right now, these non-material things are topping the list. 

Creating things to use in my classroom was something I really started loving waaaaay back in college. (In the 90s. Yep. I started college in the 90s, and I'm totally cool with it old.) Anyways, I LOVE everything about creating little curricular pieces of art. I love picking the fonts and images, I love dreaming up ways to make teaching things more FUN and creative, I love thinking of ways to give students choices and AUTONOMY in their learning. 
Ok, so pushing boundaries is NOT easy. Whether they are personal or not, it can be difficult to step beyond the confines of whatever real or imaginary issues are holding you back. However, what I've been learning in the past few weeks, as I've started up my blog, TpT store, and allllllllll the social media accounts that accompany a new business, is that once you CAN push yourself beyond your old "normal," it feels really good (and scary, and frustrating, and scary, and rewarding, and did I mention scary?!). I'm loving pushing the boundaries because I am now challenging mySELF to do things I never would have dreamed of doing. (And thank you, Ashley, for your enduring words of encouragement <3). 
I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but I'm pretty sure that for about 34.89% (okay, probably more like 52.123%, but who's counting?) of each of my work days, I'm spending time LEARNING new things. My google searches are centered on making my blog look better, connecting with other bloggers, making things stand out on TpT, researching what's new in gifted education, I could go on and on. And PERISCOPE. Oh man. WHY?!WHY?! Must I have another place to spend hours on end?! Seriously though, it's a treasure trove of so many great things, and it's such a cool way to get to know the people behind the blogs and the products you see. So much learning, and it makes my heart (and my brain) so very happy.
 
I'm loving small accomplishments. These small accomplishments also manage to simultaneously feel like BIG accomplishments, because they are, for me. In the past three weeks, I started blogging, created my TpT store, created and added 7 products, and I started Instagramming, Facebooking, and Pinteresting. I've started getting (just a few!) followers in each of those arenas, I've sold a few products, and it feels SO good. In the grand scheme of things, my numbers don't even hit the radar of people who have been doing this longer, have bigger networks, and have simply put in more work than me, and I'm OKAY with that. Because I'm celebrating my own little milestones, and putting enough faith in myself to know that with perseverance, I'll get to celebrate many more milestones as they come along. 
 
I'm sure I don't have to elaborate much here, but gosh I love my family. ALL of them. My beautiful daughters, my caring, kind, supportive husband, my grandparents, parents and parents-in-law, my sisters, sisters-in-law, and my brothers-in-law, and all my nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, cousins far and near. They've all been cheering me on for my whole life, and especially now as I enter this new arena. They mean the whole world to me. <3

Thanks so much for reading. If you're interested in seeing some other GREAT teacher bloggers, be sure to click on the picture below to hop back over to Schroeder Shenanigans and check out her site, as well the other great links!
 
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Gifted Overexcitabilities: Imaginational Intensity

"Hey Lexi, can we talk for a minute?"
<stares in puzzlement>
"Lexi?"
"Huh? Did you need me, Mrs. Snyder?"
"Yep, I sure did, little one. Can we talk a minute?"
"Sure."
"Lexi, I noticed that sometimes when it's time to do independent work in the classroom, or when it's time to listen to our read aloud, or even sometimes when other students or I are trying to talk to you, sometimes it can be hard to get your attention. Can you talk to me me about that? Are you having a hard time concentrating? What do you think is going on?"
"Well..." <long pause>
"Well...what?"
"It's just that sometimes I watch cartoons in the morning before school."
"Okay, sounds pretty normal, kiddo. Do you think that's having an impact on your listening and focus skills at school?'
"Well, it's just that, sometimes when I'm here, I can see the cartoons playing in my head, and I can hear the music. It's like I'm watching the show again, and it's fun!"

Okay. Yep. That's a completely true story. I changed the name of the student, of course, but everything else about that conversation is completely and utterly true. It's a conversation that happened in my classroom probably five year ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday.

This is a prime example of another gifted overexcitability-- Imaginational OE. According to an article at SENG, this OE,  "...reflects a heightened play of the imagination with rich association of images and impressions, frequent use of image and metaphor, facility for invention and fantasy, detailed visualization, and elaborate dreams (Dabrowski & Piechowski, 1977; Piechowski, 1979, 1991)."
Students with Imaginational intensity can often be found daydreaming, doodling, and engaging in dramatic play, sometimes creating entire imaginary worlds and living in them for long periods of time. As you can imagine, people with a strong Imaginational OE can grow to become some of the most prolific creative minds of humanity. 

There is a downside, though. It can be difficult for children to distinguish the difference between reality and fantasy, no matter how illogical it may seem to others. A strong Imaginational OE can lead a child to believe strongly in their nightmares or other scary situations they've imagined up. Sometimes the imagination can be so strong that the child can begin to combine reality and their fantasies into one "memory," and they can end up mixing the two so much that they can no longer distinguish between which parts of the story are real and which are embellished. And of course, in the classroom, teachers need their students to be engaged listeners! It's important to help a child with this intensity gain focus, and learn when and how to channel this creative energy. 

Here are some ways you can help the child in your life to deal with Imaginational OE

  • Help the child to see that the Imaginational intensity is not a negative thing! It's amazing that they have such a dynamic and vivid imagination! They can go on to create incredible stories, movies, songs, you name it. 
  • Provide opportunities in your home or classroom for which the child to USE their Imaginational OE in a meaningful and productive way.
  • Help children understand when it's okay to daydream and imagine, and when there are times they need to focus on educational and other tasks. With the approval of her parents, "Lexi" and I came up with a signal that I would use when I noticed her tuning out during a time when I needed her to tune in. 
  • Use the strength of their imagination to help them help themselves. 
  • Additionally, an article found on the Davidson Gifted website suggests, "Sometimes imaginational people confuse reality and fiction because their memories and new ideas become blended in their mind. Help individuals to differentiate between their imagination and the real world by having them place a stop sign in their mental videotape, or write down or draw the factual account before they embellish it. 
  • And, "Help people use their imagination to function in the real world. Often those who do not want to follow the paths of others are expected to just fit in. Instead, encourage them to use their path to promote learning and productivity-instead of the conventional school organized notebook, have children create their own organizational system."
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment or ask a question below. I'm happy to help!
~Jen
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