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Aussie STEM Stars Junior Fiction series

Wild Dingo Press have created three great books as part of a new series called Aussie STEM stars. The three first scientists in these books are Fiona Wood, Munjed Al Muderis and Georgia Ward Fear. Each book has also been written by a different Australian author.

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These books are an excellent addition to the literacy classroom and many gifted students will devour these books – not only because they are reading about scientists, they are reading about people who have had to show grit and determination to get where they are today.

With simple illustrations scattered throughout these book (maps & diagrams) alongside short facts or word definitions, this book is a great read for those aged 8-12.

There are some concise teacher notes on Aussie STEM stars Website

 Aussie STEM Stars is a fresh and unique series for children and young teens aged 10-13 years that focuses on our Australian STEM heroes. Each book is written by an award-winning children’s author and follows the real-life stories of Australia’s top scientists and inventors, chosen on the basis of their pioneering work. Themes explored in the series include childhood, school, family and formative experiences, what inspired them to pursue their chosen path, how they persevered in the face of challenges and what they have contributed to science in Australia.

Reason for studying this book

Wild Dingo Press publisher Catherine Lewis is excited about their publication. “These disciplines are more important than ever as we look to our inventors and innovators to solve contemporary problems facing humanity and the planet. Our Aussie STEM Stars series uses narrative non-fiction as a tool for educating children – making it as fun and interesting as fiction books in this market. Our writers are passionate about doing justice to their chosen subjects – and their lives – providing teachers, parents and librarians a wonderful series aimed at encouraging children to develop an interest in STEM at a young age.”

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Higher Order Thinking: Changing perspective

You may have heard of the Kaplan model and possibly used it in the classroom so in this blog today I am going to outline a way I have easily used ‘Multiple perspectives’

Multiple Perspectives encourages students to think about a topic from various, specific points of view. This aspect of the Kaplan model adds complexity by asking students to look widely at how others may see a topic/question/issue rather than just depending their knowledge in one particular area.

In this task I asked a group of Year 2 students to show me the books they like to borrow from the library. After an enthusastic discussion we then looked at the front cover of these books and compared the types of books the boys and then the girls had borrowed.

We discovered that there were certain covers that boys would never borrow as was the same for girls.

So it was time to encourage the thinking tool of multiple perspectives.

Each child was asked to take home a book that they would have never picked up before – think a Rainbow Magic fairy book for a boy and a Zac Power for a girl – both covers are very stereotypical female/male.

At first all of the students protested and begrudgingly placed them in their bags but after a week there were some great responses:

  • Some enjoyed the experience and actually enjoyed the books
  • Others had better insight into why boys/girls read these types of books and why
  • Discussion of how the publishers play a huge role in what we borrow
  • Many would read that book series again
  • Insight into what stereotypically boys and girls like to read as the discussion was together so children were able to discuss why they like these types of books.

Overall this was an excellent literacy activity to view writing and books from different perspectives, step outside of comfort zones and of course to have a robust and meaningful conversation.

Let me know if you give this a go!

Gifted Education, literacy

Adding Depth and Complexity to your writing program

Asking open ended questions-2

Many teachers often look at this concept and worry that they will have to overhaul their whole program to make this happen – but never fear! You do not!

As you peruse over the writing program you have, consider how:

  •  You can vary the types of text you expose the students to according to their talents and needs.
  •  Make the lessons link to real life
  •  Group students so they can work with like minded peers
  • Make time so that they are supported by the teacher on a regular basis, not just left for independent work because they are more able.

I have included some further explanation below with examples and ideas. As always, if you are keen for further support please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Vanessaryanrendall@gmail.com

Expose students to more texts of different complexity, different topics and different formats.

  • Look for patterns within these different texts. Explore how they are engaging, how the language assists the text.
  • Compare the voice of the authors.
  • Critique these – do they really convince you? Engage you?
  • Find what students like about the different texts and how they can use some of the language to improve their writing.

Peer mentoring

  • Work with like minded students to read over each other’s work.

Teacher mentoring

  • Set aside time to support your bright and gifted students to work through raising the bar in their writings

Make it real

  • Find a way to make this text type real. What sort of audience could the students write for?
  • Narrative – writing competition, school newsletter, convert into a performance or picture book
  • Exposition/Discussion – send the letter to local MP, council, PM, class debate
  • Poetry – writing competitions, slam poetry competition in school, newsletter, christmas card insert 
  • Information report – write and then change into a documentary, present to class or leadership, assembly, school newsletter.
  • Explanation – Create a documentary, present to class
  • Recount – Artwork could be created from this and displayed
  • Review – create a blog where books/products are regularly reviewed by the class. 

Give structure so they understand what is expected. 

  • Gifted and bright students still need to understand how they set out different text types but offer them more advanced options through extra paragraphs, comparisons within their text, catchy starts and finishes through rhetorical questions etc.
  • Word banks that are at their stage level and then at their ability level.
  • Brainstorm various themes they could write about
Gifted Education, mathematics, Parenting, teaching

Asking open ended questions

Open ended questions and activities are what gets kids moving, excited and engaged.

Asking open ended questions

What are open ended questions?

Open ended questions are those that have a myriad of responses. Open ended questions allow us to embrace different ways of thinking and responding and can often, at times, waken our own thinking up as we learn to see how others think.

For example – in maths lessons at home or at school show them some triangles and ask them: Is it a triangle or not? Why? What is our fixed definition of triangle and is this always correct?

This can then lead into what triangles can and cannot be through seeing what is in real life.

Another open ended task could be as simple as run your own ‘lemonade and cupcake stall’. For younger students they may simply work out prices and how many they need to cook/make. Older students will need to work out the cost of making these things to factor into the cost along with their own labour fees! Through this activity the students are learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

So do we need to do away with drill and practise? 

Not necessarily  but we MUST cut down on it. Worksheets for every child in the class are not supporting anyone as the only sense of value children will see is if they can finish the task.

Drill and practise can be done in open ended ways – not just worksheets of the same addition style problem. Play games, make a maze with the answers, talk about the best solutions, link to real world activities – go beyond silence and repetition just for the sake of it.

Children do need to practise to get better at things BUT they need to see value also.

How does this support Gifted students? 

Many gifted students, although they will need support when a new concept is given to them, will pick it up quickly so there is not point asking for repetition.

Gifted students see more value in those open ended tasks as they can see where it applies in their own lives, they can add their own twist to it and they can be challenged.

Check in with your own classroom teaching or your students teachers and ask how they are allowing bright and gifted students to shine. How are they adding excitement to learning? How are they engaging and growing young minds.

What are your thoughts? 

Gifted Education, mathematics, numeracy

Ease off the drill and practice

In this time of remote learning I have noticed one of my children has been set a lot of drill and practice activities for mathematics.

Drill and practice has a place, even for our bright and gifted students – but not an overload.

help-your-gifted-child-reach-their-potential

Once a person has understood the concept, drill and practice is no longer necessary –  as they understand!

Teachers need to move these students onto using these skills in real world situations, problem solve with them, see how they work in our every day lives.

Children can be accelerated through the grades in one subject such as mathematics, and this may involve some more drill and practice so they understand the topic further, but it still needs to be minimal.

For bright and gifted students, all drill and practise does is demotivate them. Anything we understand well becomes repetitive and boring, even as adults.

We switch off, we no longer enjoy the topic and that’s when mistakes happen.

Mistakes in drill and practice activities should not be penalised unless it is obvious the student has misunderstood something.

Too often teachers seek perfection and this is something we cannot ask of our students who clearly understand what is being asked of them. Mistakes are a normal part of learning.

So what should schools and teachers be doing whilst remote learning?

  • Give students real world activities. This way they can apply the basic skills that have been mastered on the worksheet or in the computer game.

Here are some great links for you to give to your children so they are engaged and are learning.

  • National Geographic at home

https://www.natgeokids.com/au/teacher-category/maths/

  • Taronga Zoo

https://taronga.org.au/education/digital-programs-online-resources/zoo-mathematics

  • Nrich Mathematics

https://nrich.maths.org/9993

  • Edutopia

https://www.edutopia.org/article/7-real-world-math-strategies

  • Scholastic Maths magazine

https://math.scholastic.com

 

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Mathematics and Gifted Education

little girl with clock

Many educators and parents are often quick to jump onto online games, free worksheets and you tube tutorials to help support mathematics.

But what about gifted students?

At times, most gifted students do need support from a teacher  in the classroom – even if it is a quick five minute lesson.

But do they need online games at harder levels or harder worksheets as homework or as a fast finisher activity?

The answer is mostly, no.

Any gifted mathematician, once they understand the topic or new skill only need a small amount of drill and practice to master and from there it is up to the educators to give them tasks that allow them to use this new knowledge.

This can be done through

– Problem Solving

– Real world tasks

– Projects that embed the new skill/s

Some examples that I have used in the classroom and online

  1. Measurement: Stage 3 – Length, Area and Perimeter

My group of students had understood how to measure length, perimeter and area and from this were given the task of finding these dimensions in their own bedroom BUT – Let’s add challenge by increasing the parameters: I gave them the task to design their own tiny house. These houses have a set area of 40m2. They also had to use furniture that they had to buy from a particular homewares shop. So not only are they using their knowledge, they are also problem solving with a real world task. The students had fun and enjoyed the challenge. https://aussietinyhouses.com.au/tiny-houses/casuarina-84/

2.  Measurement – Time – Stage 2

This group of students understood how to tell the time on an analog clock. The main class were given the task of making their own clock to use the learnt skills but this group were asked to design a clock or a set of clocks that would help people to know what the time was in other countries. From here they had to decide the best time for the people in the different countries to call each other. Another additional activity is to challenge these students with elapsed time such as I started lunch at 1:27pm and ate for 1 hour and 17 minutes. What time did I finish?

There is no excuse for extra worksheets – problem solving and real world activities are the answer.

If you would like me to support you at your school or as a parent need support to talk to your school, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Vanessa

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Depth and Complexity for Gifted students

So you have a gifted child and you are remote learning?

Blue and Gray Maximalist Technology Instagram Post

The activities being provided online may not be ideal for your child as teachers juggle the new platform and catering for all students.

So what can you do with a frustrated child and perhaps worried parent?

Projects!

A great way to support your gifted child is through projects that are:

– In their area of interest

– Challenging with depth and complexity

– A new area yet challenging and through provoking.

Think Dinosaurs, space, plastic waste, favourite authors, famous scientists or even LEGO. The possibilities are endless yet the depth and complexity is what needs to remain high.

I often use Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity Model to create my projects and you can try this too.

Here is an example of my use of this model – please use and give me feedback:

Using the Kaplan model to extend and enrich

 

Here are some website links:

https://www.romoland.net/cms/lib/CA01902709/Centricity/Domain/21/Kaplan-Depth-and-Complexity-1y4xdgk.pdf

https://www.byrdseed.com/introducing-depth-and-complexity/

 

 

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Are gifted children healthy?

Interesting article about the physical and mental health of gifted children.

Studies show that our gifted children are often highly active, social and mentally healthy.

We just need to ensure the right support network is around them, like minded peers and various options for them is the key

https://www.nagc.org/blog/are-gifted-kids-healthy

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching, Underachievement

Are there underachievers in your classroom? Part 2

There is still a lot of work being done in the field of underachievement in gifted students and one area that has been looked at is building the self esteem of the student.

Different research methods have been trialled recently to see what works best to lessen the amount of students who are underachieving in our schools.

Some tools have looked at ways to:

  • enhance motivation through self interest projects with built in depth and complexity
  • Learning how to set goals and regularly check in with a mentor (trusted teacher, older student or a link with a local university or interest group)
  • Grouping with like minded individuals within and out of school.

imgbin-peer-pressure-peer-group-social-influence-adolescence-s-group-influence-exb4j7reYwKgFvtU0uM23Aidc.jpg

And although these interventions are not all boosting the academic side specifically, they do help. When a student has a good friendship group, when they believe in themselves and when they see themselves achieve goals – they will naturally perform better academically.

So where to from here?

Schools need to consider how we help students to bond with like minded individuals, to build self esteem through challenge and to understand their strengths and weaknesses in a positive way.

More must be done to help all students – not just our gifted to reach their full potential.

A great way to do this is to raise the awareness of teachers about who gifted students can be and how we can help them.

Contact me

Contact me if your school needs assistance in training your teachers in the area of Gifted Education.

Part One can be read here

Gifted Education, teaching

Are there underachievers in your classroom? Part One.

An underachiever is a student who is not achieving to their potential.

The underachieving gifted student is too common in classrooms today due to various factors , of which many we can change.

Why underachieving gifted students?

Many might think if a student is gifted then they find work easy, always want to do their best and are happy.

But this isn’t always the case.

In a school context, underachievement occurs when there is a discrepancy between expected achievement given one’s academic potential and actual performance that one demonstrates.

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Identification isn’t done well

Many teachers may not be equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to identify a gifted underachiever. Gifted underachievers often come about due to:

  • a curriculum that is not challenging enough (so what is the point in trying?)
  • they want to fit in with their peers(friends over grades)
  • Perfectionism (I’d rather get one sentence correct than a whole page of mess)
  • Lack of support at home (no one cares how well I do anyway)

So what can we do?

  • Ensure teachers have adequate support so they feel comfortable identifying gifted students and then challenging them (I can help here – educateempower1@gmail.com)
  • Ensure adequate and regular testing is done all year round from Kindergarten.
  • Ensure that the curriculum always has options for students to be challenged.
  • Ensure the curriculum is open ended, hands on and tailored to more students needs and learning styles.

Watch out for Part 2 of underachieving students soon – or sign up to my email list!