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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.”

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/