Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Experience with ROW InTOONational

We in Oneco's Gifted Program are preparing for ROW InTOONational Family Night and I am starting to reflect just a bit. "ROW InTOONational" is Round #13 of an International Collaboration entitled "Rock Our World", which is founded by Carol Anne McGuire who is a Technology Integration Specialist, Vision Specialist, STAR Discovery Educator, Apple Distinguished Educator, ISTE Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Top Online Educator, Disney Teacher, SMARTBoard Exemplary Educator, Google Certified Teacher and American Film Institute Screen Educator. This project has a several components GarageBand Tracks, Geography , Challenge Based Learning Project on Peace, and Video Conferencing. These components covered a multitude of Standards , which include Florida's Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners, Grade Level Sunshine State Standards, Manatee County Strategic Objectives and National Educational Technology Standards. With my reflections, I want to focus on the principles behind Oneco’s Gifted motto “We are a Laboratory and Not a Factory” and how they fit in with a few components of ROW InTOONational.

I thought I would start with video conferencing, which at their very nature are conversations. Throughout this round we have spoken to many places South Africa, Israel and different states throughout the US. At first, I felt the need to prepare what we would chat about and at times over prepared my students. Then I realized over preparing my students really was not how real conversations were going to take place. So in class we have spent time discussing good conversation skills: the importance to not speak when others are speaking, respond when spoke to and how to ask good questions. Truth is when students were allowed to ask their questions and to lead conversations things became more natural. Thanks to the students, we learned about things that I would have never thought to bring up. Sure there are moments of silliness like when my students performed “The McDonald’s Rap” during a video chat with Tel Aviv, Israel or having my boss participate with us as we did the"Chicken Dance" for students in South Africa. However, isn’t silliness part of establishing relationships and I think some times we forget that learning should be fun (and that it is okay to laugh). We have truly enjoyed laughing and learning with all the ROW classes we have had the pleasure of meeting.

Another ROW component, I really saw our motto come to life in was our animation piece on this round theme, which was Peace. We were generously given a copy of the Animation-ish software by Peter Reynolds’ Company Fablevision, which we have enjoyed very much. However, since this software was relatively new to me and completely new to my students we all just learned it together. Putting myself in the learning process really does change the dynamics in my classroom. All of sudden, students weren’t coming to me for all the answers. Instead, students were forced to do the reading, go through the tutorials and experiment more then if they had just waited for me to walk them through each step. Truth is, many times my students find better ways to do things then if I had been involved with their solution. It was my students that figured out that using a photograph would help cut down on our time needed for the animation and also help to make our project look neater. I believe in giving my students choices, options and some controls. Basically, I give them the guidelines and expectations of what needs to be done, but not a manual. Our ROW InTOONational animation piece is just one more example of how our laboratory works.

Before I close this post, I want to send out a BIG thank you to Carol Anne McGuire, Peter Reynolds and all the other Rockers.
We have had a blast!! Rock Our World has truly been a program where we have been given room to explore, discover and learn from each other. It has kind of been one big global laboratory that we have felt lucky to be a part of.

To see more on Oneco Gifted Program's experiences check out Oneco's- ROW InTOONational Wiki.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Noticing and Questioning

October 20th was National Day of Writing and that day all I wrote was a four page newsletter. After seeing a few others' posted writing, I jokingly tweeted to ask if my newsletter would count for my writing for the day. I did get a gracious reply that my newsletter would in deed count, but it came with a hint that maybe I could write a blog post about something that was going on in my classroom. Honestly, my first response to this request related to my very long To Do List. My thought was I would love to, but when. I feel like I have been running a marathon since walking on campus this year, which I am sure is a feeling many educators can relate to. This is not meant to be a complaint, I love my job and feel lucky to do what I do. However, it just seems like things have been coming at me so quickly lately that I am barely having time to process them. Then I thought, that might be a problem. Maybe this little hint could be used as a wonderful reminder to me to slow down and take that needed time process what is going on. Not just for myself, but for my students as well.

This past summer some of my colleagues and I participated in an online book study for the book
Nonfiction Mentoring Text by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli. Which is is wonderful book about using mentoring text to teach nonfiction writing. It was through these online conversations that I was able to really reflect on not just what I had read, but also on the writing instruction in my classroom. However, there was one question during this study that seemed to relate not just to writing, but to so much of what I try to encourage in my classroom.

“ What does noticing and questioning look like in your classroom?” Which I responded:

Honestly, student questioning and observation is what we do on a regular bases in the gifted program. It is really just in their nature to question. Big part of my job it to help channel this energy by providing and guiding student in the use of graphic organizers and formats like Big 6 (, Super 3 (, Challenge Based Learning ( so that they learn to take their essential questions and do something with them. It is not enough for my students to ask questions, finish projects or piece of writing if it isn't also about what did that child learned that can be apply to the next time he/she has a question or a real world problem. The ultimate goal is to lead students into thinking for themselves and owning their own learning.

As I reread my response this week, it got me thinking again about what are the things that our students are going to need to know to go forth into their futures. Is it really going to be about memorizing information that can be found with a Google Search or is it going to be more about their ability to apply strategies and solve problems? Maybe when it comes to curriculum we need to not look for scripted programs. Rather ideas, activities and frameworks that teach students to research, investigate and problem solve. I have heard several times in the last couple of weeks about the importance of staying in the question and I feel this is so important. However, this is going to mean that we, as educators, need to be willing to step out of the way to allow our students time to explore and come up with their own answers. It means that we don’t begin our lessons and/or projects with an idea of what the end product will look like. It is an uncomfortable, but necessary place for us to be. Truth is, I want to have students that grow up to be adults who ask questions, research problems before jumping to solutions and this must start with me. Over the last couple of years, I have begun to see my role, as an educator, change from being
The Expert (using the term loosely) in the classroom to becoming more of a Guide. I am still in the learning process, but I feel there are a few essential things necessary for me to be an effective a Guide. To be a Guide I must: give my students room to explore, provide a framework to help guide student thinking and exploration (ex. CBL, Big6), be in the question myself, ask questions that promote students to reflect on their process, remember that the real learning is in the process and to encourage my students along the way.

In a nutshell, these principles really bring me back to Oneco's Gifted Program's motto (which I stole from a tweet) and what I hope the program represents “WE ARE A LABORATORY, NOT A FACTORY”.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Visit to Fablevision-Thanks Discovery Education

This trip to Fablevision truly was a highlight of Day 1 of The Discovery Education's Summer Institute 2010. Thank you to Lance, the DEN crew, Peter Reynolds, family and staff. We had a great time and thanks for inspiring us!!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rock Our World-Oneco's Experiences

Since school has let out I have spent a little time looking through pictures and video footage I have collected through out the year. It has really has been fun to look back on where we have been. Honestly, it was an amazing year and time really does go so quickly with kids. One highlight of our year would have to be the global collaboration project we participated in this spring entitled Rock Our World . At one point, I thought I would spend some time reflecting on our participation in ROW, but in reality that job had been done already. With that said, I thought I would included the link to a write up in the Bradenton Herald, our wiki, Rock Our World Website and a few short student video reflections then allow everyone to explore.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dear Parents,

What a wonderful year we have had and I can not believe it is almost over. We have all learned a lot this year and yes I did mean WE. Some say that an educator’s biggest job is to promote life long learning in our students and the only way I know how to do that is to model it. Honestly, your children have inspired me on a daily basis to explore, to question, to discover and push my boundaries just a little bit further, which I truly thank them for. This spring I began using this quote to sum up the general philosophy for Oneco’s Gifted Program We are a laboratory, NOT a factory. Let me explain, laboratories are places of exploration, questioning, discovery and the focus is on the learning process. In factories the focus is usually about the outcome or products. Those in factories are taught to do something one way and never expected to ask why or to try to find a better way of completing the task. With those principles in mind, we do what we can to construct projects in such a way that a multitude of cross curriculum skills are covered. These skills include: Grade Level Sunshine State Standards, The State of Florida’s Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners and National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students. I have done what I can to include the standards covered with most of our projects we have placed on the website, but in the future if you have any questions please just let me know. Again, it has been a wonderful year, and your children continue to amaze me. They have been a true joy, and I would like to thank you for sharing them with me. It is my hope that each family has a wonderful and safe summer.
This is our fourth quarter newsletter and I thought it might share it here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Challenge Based Learning and Florida's Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners

A couple of weeks ago, someone put this quote out on Twitter , “Our classroom should be laboratories, NOT factories.” This is a statement that I personally think is brilliant and I instantly fell in love with. Actually, I have to admit I stole it, reworded it and have been using is as sort of a slogan, Oneco’s Gifted Program-We are a laboratory, NOT a factory! I have used it for our handouts on Digital Literacy and Technology Night , a presentation the third grade girls did for District of Manatee County School Board and our final newsletters for the year. It is my hope that it truly does represent what goes on in our classroom. However, we are living in a world of No Child Left Behind, Core Curriculums and high stakes state testing. Due to these things many educators out there feel that their hands are tied, and that may or may not be the case. However, as educators, we are called not only to be responsible for selecting quality projects, but also we must be prepared to justify those choices. For my personal situation, there is a need to show a direct alignment and correlation with Florida’s Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners. With that said, through out the year, it has become obvious to me that there is a strong connection between the seven goals in Florida’s Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners and Challenge Based Learning.

For those familiar with both CBL and Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners you are most likely nodding your head in agreement with the correlation. However, for those of you unfamiliar with CBL and/or Florida Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners I will do my best to explain. I felt the easiest way to do this was to walk through CBL Key Components to show these correlations.

Starting with what the authors of CBL call the Big Idea, which is a broad concept that can serve as a CBL Projects starting point. This Big Idea needs to be explored and looked at in multiple ways. In my opinion, by guiding students through exploration of a CBL- Big Idea, students have the opportunity to practice all the objectives covered by Florida’s Framework for Gifted Learners-Goal 1.

Goal 1: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to critically examine the complexity of knowledge: the location, definition, and organization of a variety of fields of knowledge.
-Locate, define, and organize a field of study as it relates to the broad spectrum of knowledge.
-Identify and illustrate basic principles and the foundational concepts that are central to understanding the essence of a field of study.
-Identify and apply investigative methodologies that are followed in a selected field of knowledge.

Continuing to move through the CBL Key Components to The Essential Question. Essential Questions should be related to the students and their community. In this component students are asked, encouraged and expected to ask a variety of questions that will lead their group in defining a real world problem. I have found that this portion of the project has been both the most difficult and rewarding for my students. They seemed happy to wait for me to ask the questions (or give a problem to solve) and became frustrated when I left that task to them. I am not sure why, but I have my theories. It might be we are concerned with our outcomes therefore, we don’t slow down enough to listen to our students. Students become so use to filling in our boxes (or bubbles) that they never stop to ask any questions of their own. Still once on the right track with CBL Projects my students were able to have the opportunity to work and thrive on the objectives of Goal 2 of Florida’s Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners.

Goal 2: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to create, adapt, and assess multifaceted questions in a variety of fields/disciplines.
-Identify significant questions within and across disciplines.
Generate significant questions within and across disciplines.
Evaluate and refine significant questions within and across disciplines

After students have come up with their Essential Questions, they then generate a Challenge which is based on a real world problem. Defining a Challenge in the CBL process could have been taken directly from the text of Florida’s Framework for K-12 Gifted Learners: Goal 4. Yet, the objectives under Goal 4 seem to be better related to what the authors of CBL call Guided Questions and Guided Activities. Guided Questions are used to help define each students' role in the task as well as guiding their research. Guided Activities are completed so that the Guided Questions are answered and students are able to form a Solution. Guided Activities may include research, interviews, surveys and any other activity that will lead to a Solution.

Goal 4: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to think creatively and critically to identify and solve real world problems.
- Identify and investigate a problem and generate supportive arguments from multiple perspectives of a complex issue.
- Analyze the relevance, reliability, and usefulness of data to draw conclusions and forecast effective problem solutions.
- Use and evaluate various problem-solving methods to determine effectiveness in solving real-world problems.

Guided Questions and Guided Activities also give students the opportunity to practice

Goal 3: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to conduct thoughtful research/exploration in multiple fields.
- Use a variety of research tools and methodologies.
- Use and manipulate information sources.
Detect bias and reliability in the process of research.
-Apply ethical standards to research and analyses

Goal 5 By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to assume leadership and participatory roles in both gifted and heterogeneous group learning situations.
-Accept divergent views to positively effect change.
- Identify leadership traits and qualities as they appear in different individuals and situations.
-Manifest significant leadership skills and organize group(s) to achieve project goals

Goal 6: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to set and achieve personal, academic,and career goals.
- Identify personal strengths and weaknesses and accept challenges in both areas to maximize learning.
- Assume primary responsibility for learning, including identifying needs and setting reasonable goals.
- Design plans of action to address benefits and obstacles in achieving goals of personal interest.

After completing this process students should have enough information to begin working on their Solution. The Solution must be concrete, actionable and a publishable product. Solutions can take on many forms and should be student generated. Again, in this process Goals 5 and Goal 6 are addressed. However, I believe the real Framework focus in this stage of process is Goal 7.

Goal 7: By graduation, the student identified as gifted will be able to develop and deliver a variety of authentic products/performances that demonstrate understanding in multiple fields/disciplines.
-Develop products that communicate expertise in multiple fields and disciplines to a variety of authentic audiences.
-Create products that synthesize information from diverse sources illustrating divergent solutions or perspectives.

As I stated earlier, I do believe educators have a responsibility to pick quality projects and be able to justify those choices. Thanks to Challenge Based Learning that part of my job has been made easier. Truth is, CBL also covers a multitude of Grade Level Sunshine State Standards and The National Educational Technology Standards as well, but that is information for possibly another post. Until then, if you would like to check out some of the other standards covered in Oneco’s Gifted Programs CBL Projects feel free to check out the following Standards Pages on these wikis: Stop Girl Bullying, Navigate Your World and Walk Our World-Oneco 2010.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Green Screen-It takes a Village

In attempt to introduce my students to what winter is like in other parts of the country we read books and reached out to ask for help. That help came from a student in O’Neill, Nebraska, Emily Morrow. She, with her family’s help, took the time to create a podcast that showed us what a winter in Nebraska was really like. For her podcast she used a green screen effect and it inspired us to attempt to do the exact same thing. I had played a little bit with the green screen feature in PhotoBooth, but had never spent any real time creating anything with it. My thoughts entering this project were a bit naive and I realized about five minutes into it that I should have done a little bit of research before starting. After attempting the effect in different places in the room and different random lighting set ups I realized I needed serious help. Which meant it was time to throw the questions out on Twitter. There I received (as I have several times before) some much needed guidance from Michelle Bourgeois in Colorado and she sent me to Wonder How Website. She and that website really got me headed in the right direction. After that, I head to a local hardware store for some inexpensive lighting equipment. I hit the jackpot at the hardware store too, Greg, who waited on me was a photographer and Mac user. Which was wonderful, because he not only understood what we were trying to do he knew how to do it. So based on all the advice I had received, I bought three clamp lamps and three true color-light bulbs. From there, all that was left for us to do was set things up and we were good to go.

Overall, the activity was a big success with my students and got great reviews from parents. In fact, several of the parents sent our link to relatives around the country, which of course made the kids feel like they were celebrities. I have heard it said,"that it takes a village to raise a child," and that statement is most likely true. However, through this experience, I was once again reminded, that it takes a village to educate the students that enter my classroom.
So thanks again Emily Morrow (and family), Michelle Bourgeois, Wonder How Website, Greg- from the hardware store and of course Apple.

Students' Project
Winter In Florida 2010

Letter to Colleagues

Dear Colleagues,

When I taught general education (which I did for thirteen years) I often wondered what my students worked on when they left my class for different pull out programs. With that in mind, I wanted to take a few minutes to touch base with both schools to update you on the first half of the school year. What we do in the Gifted Program is mainly geared around project based learning or constructivism, which basically means that the students generate knowledge and understanding from their experiences. With those principles in mind, I do what I can to construct projects in such away that a multitude of cross curriculum skills are covered. Many of these skills exceed The State of Florida’s Framework for the K-12 Gifted Learners and National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and Performance Indicators for Students. To paint a better picture of this concept, I took the time to briefly describe each project and include a list those grade level standards worked on during your students time in Gifted.

Primary Students (1st/2nd Grade)-"Germs Make Us Sick"
In our unit “Germs Make Us Sick” and did some reading about the things that make us sick. During this time we, also conducted a science experiment in which we followed the scientific process. This process is followed by scientists and students while they work on their science projects. Our question was: We WONDER which would cause bacteria to grow less quickly, the medium of chicken broth, salt, or vinegar. Please feel free to check out our website for pictures and results from this experiment.

Throughout this project these student covered a multitude of reading, writing and listening,viewing and speaking skills as they conducted research on the subject.

* Benchmark LA.A.1.1.1. The student predicts what a passage is about based on its title and illustrations.
* Benchmark LA.A.1.1.2. The student identifies words and constructs meaning from text, illustrations, graphics, and charts using the strategies of phonics, word structure, and context clues.
* Benchmark LA.A.1.1.3. The student uses knowledge of appropriate grade-, age-, and developmental-level vocabulary in reading.
* Benchmark LA.A.1.1.4. The student increases comprehension by rereading, retelling, and discussion.
* Benchmark LA.A.2.1.1. The student determines the main idea or essential message from text and identifies supporting information.
* Benchmark LA.A.2.1.2. The student selects material to read for pleasure.
* Benchmark LA.A.2.1.3. The student reads for information to use in performing a task and learning a new task.
* Benchmark LA.A.2.1.4. The student knows strategies to use to discover whether information presented in a text is true, including asking others and checking another source.
* Benchmark LA.A.2.1.5. The student uses simple materials of the reference system to obtain information.

* Benchmark LA.B.1.1.1. The student makes a plan for writing that includes a central idea and related ideas.
* Benchmark LA.B.1.1.2. The student drafts and revises simple sentences and passages, stories, letters, and simple explanations that: express ideas clearly; show an awareness of topic and audience; have a beginning, middle, and ending; effectively use common words; have supporting detail; and are in legible printing.
Benchmark LA.B.1.1.3. The student produces final simple documents that have been edited for: correct spelling; appropriate end punctuation; correct capitalization of initial words, “I,” and names of people; correct sentence structure; and correct usage of age-appropriate verb/subject and noun/pronoun agreement.
* Benchmark LA.B.2.1.1. The student writes questions and observations about familiar topics, stories, or new experiences.
* Benchmark LA.B.2.1.2. The student uses knowledge and experience to tell about experiences or to write for familiar occasions, audiences, and purposes.
* Benchmark LA.B.2.1.3. The student uses basic computer skills for writing, such as basic word-processing techniques such as keying words, copying, cutting, and pasting; using e-mail; accessing and using basic educational software for writing.
* Benchmark LA.B.2.1.4. The student composes simple sets of instructions for simple tasks using logical sequencing of steps.

Listening/ Reading and Viewing:
* Benchmark LA.C.1.1.1. The student listens for a variety of informational purposes, including curiosity, pleasure, getting directions, performing tasks, solving problems, and following rules.
* Benchmark LA.C.1.1.2. The student recognizes personal preferences in listening to literature and other material.
* Benchmark LA.C.1.1.3. The student carries on a conversation with another person, seeking answers and further explanations of the other’s ideas through questioning and answering.
* Benchmark LA.C.1.1.4. The student retells specific details of information heard, including sequence of events.
* Benchmark LA.C.3.1.1. The student speaks clearly and at a volume audible in large- or small-group settings.
* Benchmark LA.C.3.1.2. The student asks questions to seek answers and further explanation of other people’s ideas.
* Benchmark LA.C.3.1.3. The student speaks effectively in conversations with others.
* Benchmark LA.C.3.1.4. The student uses eye contact and simple gestures to enhance delivery.

3rd Grade Stop Girl Bullying Project
The students completed their Challenge Based Learning and
Help Stop Girl Bullying Project. These girls collected data for their project by first creating a survey for our fourth and fifth grade all girl classes to complete. Then, they wrote questions and used the iPods to conduct interviews with adult women on campus about the subject of girl bullying. Along with those things, they also did some research online about what others were doing to help solve the
problem. Finally, for their solution, the girls decided to write The Stop Girl Bullying Pledge for girls on Oneco's Campus to take and sign. Then, the girls decided to take that pledge and turn it into a Public Service Announcement and invitation for more girls to take the pledge. We have plans to burn this and send it to EDTV, which is District of Manatee Schools Education Channel.

I told the girls that we needed a way to measure if their pledge was make a
difference. So, after a long discussion, the girls came up with a brief two
question survey for each teacher to take before the pledge is presented
and again two weeks after the pledge was taken. We had a fourth grade
and a fifth grade all girls class take the surveys earlier in our project so we
decided to test our pledge out with them first. This process has not yet
begun, and please check out their wiki later for those results.
On a side note, these girls were invited to present their project to a 3rd
grade class at Braden River Elementary (another school in the District) via
video conference. So, on December 10th, we met with Connie Dixon's 3rd
graders via Connect Ed Pro and spent about thirty minutes chatting about
this project and ePortfolio. A good time was had by all! Thanks to Dawn
Howard, an Instructional Technologist, a recording was made of this chat
and that link too can be found on our wiki under solution. We would like to
apologize in advance for the poor picture quality. Due to other activities on
campus, our network was running a bit slow and caused some distortion.
Deepest thanks to Dawn Howard, Becky Phillips, Connie Dixon and her
class for making this a possibility.

For more information on Challenge Based Learning, please feel free
to check out their website at

Florida 3rd Grade Language Arts Benchmarks

* Benchmark LA.B.1.2.1. The student prepares for writing by recording thoughts, focusing on a central idea, grouping related ideas, and identifying the purpose for writing.
* Benchmark LA.B.1.2.2. The student drafts and revises writing in cursive that: focuses on the topic; has a logical organizational pattern, including a beginning, middle, conclusion, and transitional devices; has ample development of supporting ideas; demonstrates a sense of completeness or wholeness; demonstrates a command of language including precision in word choice; generally has correct subject/verb agreement; generally has correct verb and noun forms; with few exceptions, has sentences that are complete, except when fragments are used purposefully; uses a variety of sentence structures; and generally follows the conventions of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
* Benchmark LA.B.1.2.3. The student produces final documents that have been edited for: correct spelling; correct use of punctuation, including commas in series, dates, and addresses, and beginning and ending quotation marks; correct capitalization of proper nouns; correct paragraph indentation; correct usage of subject/ verb agreement, verb and noun forms, and sentence structure; and correct formatting according to instructions.
* Benchmark LA.B.2.2.1. The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of content and experiences from a variety of media.
* Benchmark LA.B.2.2.3. The student writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes.

Listening Viewing and Speaking

* Benchmark LA.C.1.2.1. The student listens and responds to a variety of oral presentations, such as stories, poems, skits, songs, personal accounts, informational speeches.
* Benchmark LA.C.1.2.3. The student carries on an extended conversation with a group of friends.
* Benchmark LA.C.1.2.5. The student responds to speakers by asking questions, making contributions, and paraphrasing what is said.


* Benchmark LA.D.1.2.2. The student understands that language formality varies according to situations and audiences.
* Benchmark LA.D.2.2.1. The student understands that word choices can shape reactions, perception, and beliefs.
* Benchmark LA.D.2.2.4. The student selects and uses appropriate technologies to enhance efficiency and effectiveness of communication.


* Benchmark LA.A.1.2.3. The student uses simple strategies to determine meaning and increase vocabulary for reading, including the use of prefixes, suffixes, root words, multiple meanings, antonyms, synonyms, and word relationships.
* Benchmark LA.A.1.2.4. The student clarifies understanding by rereading, self-correction, summarizing, checking other sources, and class or group discussion.
* Benchmark LA.A.2.2.8. The student selects and uses a variety of appropriate reference materials, including multiple representations of information, such as maps, charts and photos, to gather information for research projects.

Florida 3rd Grade Math Benchmarks

* Benchmark MA.E.1.2.1. The student solves problems by generating, collecting, organizing, displaying, and analyzing data using histograms, bar graphs, circle graphs, line graphs, pictographs, and charts.
* Benchmark MA.E.1.2.2. The student determines range, mean, median, and mode from sets of data.
* Benchmark MA.E.1.2.3. The student analyzes real-world data to recognize patterns and relationships of the measures of central tendency using tables, charts, histograms, bar graphs, line graphs, pictographs, and circle graphs generated by appropriate technology, including calculators and computers.
* Benchmark MA.E.3.2.1. The student designs experiments to answer class or personal questions, collects information, and interprets the results using statistics (range, mean, median, and mode) and pictographs, charts, bar graphs, circle graphs, and line graphs.
* Benchmark MA.E.3.2.2. The student uses statistical data about life situations to make predictions and justifies reasoning.

Grades 4th-5th/Tara Intermediate-Navigate Your World
These students have continued spent the second quarter by learning basic geography as they prepare to begin geocaching and working on their projects for “ The Navigate Your World Project”. Honestly, we had a bit more to learn than I had anticipated, but the students are doing very well. In December, we had Mac Aldrich who is an Instructional Technology Specialist and a Boy Scout Leader work with us on how to use a compass. By February 1st, these students will be out on campus geocaching and beginning the exciting projects and activities. I will do my best to keep things posted on our website about this exciting project and the students’ activities.

Social Studies
# Benchmark SS.B.1.2.1. The student: uses maps, globes, charts, graphs, and other geographic tools including map keys and symbols to gather and interpret data and to draw conclusions about physical patterns.

# Benchmark SS.B.1.2.2. The student: knows how regions are constructed according to physical criteria and human criteria.

# Benchmark SS.B.1.2.3. The student: locates and describes the physical and cultural features of major world political regions.

# Benchmark SS.B.1.2.4. The student: knows how changing transportation and communication technology have affected relationships between locations.

# Benchmark SS.B.1.2.5. The student: knows ways in which people view and relate to places and regions differently.

# Benchmark LA.A.1.2.1. The student: uses a table of contents, index, headings, captions, illustrations, and major words to anticipate or predict content and purpose of a reading selection.

# Benchmark LA.A.1.2.2. The student: selects from a variety of simple strategies, including the use of phonics, word structure, context clues, self-questioning, confirming simple predictions, retelling, and using visual cues, to identify words and construct meaning from various texts, illustrations, graphics, and charts.

# Benchmark LA.A.1.2.3. The student: uses simple strategies to determine meaning and increase vocabulary for reading, including the use of prefixes, suffixes, root words, multiple meanings, antonyms, synonyms, and word relationships.

# Benchmark LA.A.1.2.4. The student: clarifies understanding by rereading, self- correction, summarizing, checking other sources, and class or group discussion.

Benchmark LA.A.2.2.1. The student: reads text and determines the main idea or essential message, identifies relevant supporting details and facts, and arranges events in chronological order.

Benchmark LA.A.2.2.5. The student: reads and organizes information for a variety of purposes, including making a report, conducting interviews, taking a test, and performing an authentic task.

# Benchmark LA.A.2.2.7. The student: recognizes the use of comparison and contrast in a text.

# Benchmark LA.A.2.2.8. The student: selects and uses a variety of appropriate reference materials, including multiple representations of information, such as maps, charts and photos, to gather information for research projects.

# Benchmark LA.B.1.2.1. The student: prepares for writing by recording thoughts, focusing on a central idea, grouping related ideas, and identifying the purpose for writing.

# Benchmark LA.B.1.2.2. The student: drafts and revises writing in cursive that: focuses on the topic; has a logical organizational pattern, including a beginning, middle, conclusion, and transitional devices; has ample development of supporting ideas; demonstrates a sense of completeness or wholeness; demonstrates a command of language including precision in word choice; generally has correct subject/verb agreement; generally has correct verb and noun forms; with few exceptions, has sentences that are complete, except when fragments are used purposefully; uses a variety of sentence structures; and generally follows the conventions of punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.

# Benchmark LA.B.1.2.3. The student: produces final documents that have been edited for: correct spelling; correct use of punctuation, including commas in series, dates, and addresses, and beginning and ending quotation marks; correct capitalization of proper nouns; correct paragraph indentation; correct usage of subject/ verb agreement, verb and noun forms, and sentence structure; and correct formatting according to instructions.

# Benchmark LA.B.2.2.1. The student: writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of content and experiences from a variety of media.

# Benchmark LA.B.2.2.2. The student: organizes information using alphabetical and numerical systems.

# Benchmark LA.B.2.2.3. The student: writes for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes.

# Benchmark LA.B.2.2.4. The student: uses electronic technology, including word- processing software and electronic encyclopedias, to create, revise, retrieve, and verify information.

Benchmark LA.B.2.2.6. The student: creates expository responses in which ideas and details follow an organizational pattern and are relevant to the purpose.

Listening Viewing and Speaking
# Benchmark LA.C.1.2.1. The student: listens and responds to a variety of oral presentations, such as stories, poems, skits, songs, personal accounts, and informational speeches.

# Benchmark LA.C.1.2.2. The student: identifies specific personal listening preferences regarding fiction, drama, literary nonfiction, and informational presentations.

# Benchmark LA.C.1.2.3. The student: carries on an extended conversation with a group of friends.

# Benchmark LA.C.1.2.4. The student: listens attentively to the speaker, including making eye contact and facing the speaker.

# Benchmark LA.C.1.2.5. The student: responds to speakers by asking questions, making contributions, and paraphrasing what is said.

Benchmark LA.C.2.2.1. The student: determines main concept and supporting details in a nonprint media message.

# Benchmark LA.C.3.2.1. The student: speaks clearly at an understandable rate and uses appropriate volume.

# Benchmark LA.C.3.2.2. The student: asks questions and makes comments and observations to clarify understanding of content, processes, and experiences.

# Benchmark LA.C.3.2.3. The student: speaks for specific occasions, audiences, and purposes, including conversations, discussions, projects, and informational or imaginative presentations.

# Benchmark LA.C.3.2.4. The student: uses eye contact and gestures that engage the audience.

# Benchmark LA.C.3.2.5. The student: participates as a contributor and occasionally acts as a leader in a group discussion.

# Benchmark LA.C.3.2.6. The student: organizes a speech using a basic beginning, middle, and ending.

Finally, I would like to thank Oneco and Tara Elementary School's administration and staff for their constant support.

CBL-What is in a Name?

About two or three weeks ago Wes Fryer threw his tweet out: “wonder why Apple insists on using their own term (challenge based) instead of project/inquiry based learning?...”

Since, my third grade girls were finishing up their CBL-Stop Girl Bullying Project, and it has been a completely positive experience for myself and my students. I felt the need to send back a reply to his tweet with this comment:“@wfryer Don't care what it is called, but love it. Finishing up w/ 3rd gr.. Apple makes things clear & kids love the videos.#CBL.”

To be honest, there are times that I find it is difficulty to communicate a complete thought in only one hundred forty characters. Since this interaction on Twitter I have been unable to get that question out my mind. What is in a name? I mean no disrespect, but I feel that question is the wrong question we, as educators, should be asking. A few of the questions we should consider asking are: Is this good education? Is there a better way to teach not just content, but things like higher level thinking skills? Are my students learning strategies that can be transferred to a new situation? Will what we are doing help them become productive members of the society? Will this project provide an opportunity for my students to improve on a multitude of academic standards/benchmarks? Basically, I feel that part of our job as educators is to spend some time asking those questions and reflecting on the programs and projects that we use in our classrooms. With that said, the following are some humble reflections on my experiences.

I have been aware of Inquiry/ Project Based Learning and have used some of the principles for a couple of years now. Through my experiences I found that my students would learn a lot through completing their inquiries or projects, but they never quite understood the process in which the learning takes place. That is until I introduced Challenge Based Learning into my classroom this fall. A woman I work with lives by the motto "Keep it Simple Stupid" and honestly that is exactly what the authors of CBL have done. They have created a simple open-ended framework in which students can understand, follow and monitor themselves during the process. With some of our other projects, I believe students learned things like how to do research, how to collect data and how to create a finished product. However, with the CBL framework being simple enough to be placed in the students' hands they were forced to learn things like why you do research, why you collect data and how to evaluate your process and final product. The conversations my third graders had about the whys of the process were so valuable. It was through those conversations that I learned the most about what had not been going on in my classroom. I took for granted that if the students could collect the data and make a graph that they understood why it was being done.

Finally, an element that is unique and necessary to CBL, is that the project should be based on “real world problem”. With that concept at the forefront, it gives students the motivation and inspiration to fully be involved with the project at hand. In my third graders' case, their project came from a piece of literature we read and more importantly out of the girls’ personal experiences. Due to that fact, the project became a learning experience that involved not just their minds, but their hearts too. About three weeks into the project one of my girls looked at me and said, "You know, Miss Snyder, if we keep taking these little steps we could change the world.” With CBL these students didn’t just learn how they could make a difference in their world they were inspired and empowered to make a difference. What else could we possible ask for from a program, project or framework?

In the end, I suppose the jest of my Tweet had summed my thoughts up nicely, "Don't care what it is called, but love it."

Standards/Benchmarks worked on during The Stop Girl Bullying Project

Our Holiday Voice

Since the beginning of the year, I have been working with a fourth grade class on writing each Monday for couple of hours. It has been kind of fun and their teacher Christina Avirett is a true joy to work with. She has done a wonderful job building a learning community. It is Ms. Avirett’s first year in fourth grade and before teaching gifted I spent four or five years teaching fourth so it seemed like a good fit. If I were honest she would have done fine without me. She really is an amazing teacher. Anyway, due to a schedule change in the gifted program in January I will no longer be working with Ms. Avirett’s class on Monday. This makes me a little sad but, before I leave I thought I would report on one of my favorite writing activities that we worked on. Actually, it was an activity I used to do every year when I taught fourth grade. When I added it into my plans about ten years ago I did so, because I thought it was fun. Since then I have learned that it is good for teaching Voice, which is one of the Six Write Traits.

During my first couple of years as a teacher someone gave me a copy a book entitled Christmas in America, which was basically a book of photographs of people celebrating the season across the country. At first, I had no idea what I was going to do with the book, but the kids seem to like it so I kept it around. Then one year, I over heard students giving the people in the photographs dialogue and from there we just started writing those things out. Each year the students have a great time with the photographs and Ms. Avirett’s class was no exception. We have written all sorts of things like; thank you notes to Santa, email and plays. Yes, I did say we. I feel that to build a true writing community the teacher in the room needs to write along with his/her students. With that said, I thought I would include one of my writing samples from this activity.

Picture two guys dressed as Santa peering out of dirty subway windows.

“Santa’s Subway Rant”
There is something wrong with this picture. I mean really I have heard about our need to cut cost, but this is ridiculous. All we’ve heard up at the North Pole lately is productivity and profit. When it was mentioned that they were going to be cutting our travel budget I thought they meant letting a few reindeers and possibly a keeper or two go, but this is outrageous. I do not see how anyone could think this is productive or sanitary for that matter.

Battle of the Books

Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I have seen so many students excited about reading in one place. Back in June Oneco's Reading Coach, Jill Bradley and I began to discuss ideas for Battle of the Books, which we were planning to use to help build a community of readers at Oneco and improve FCAT scores. During those conversations we decided that we would include book clubs and a blog for each of the books the students will be reading. The decision was made about including the blog was partly based on some of my experiences with blogging in the past and a Reading Teacher Article“ HOT Blogging: A Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher Order Thinking” written Lisa Zawilinski.

From there Ms. Bradley and I looked at literature blog I had created three years ago for the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson and took the basic format of that blog. At that point, Ms. Bradley revised each topic a bit and I then plugged those topics into the blogs for each book. Those blogs can be found linked to Oneco's Battle of the Books' Website, which I created in iWeb.

Finally, in the beginning of November Ms. Bradley introduced all of our fifth grade students to our first ever Battle of the Books on Oneco’s campus and the morning book clubs run by a variety of different teachers on campus. Two weeks after that, I entered each of the fifth grade classes to introduce the blog portion of the battle. Since then students can be found around campus busy reading their chosen books, attending book clubs, blogging and finding adults on campus who will discuss the book with them. It has been so incredible to see all the excitement and listen (and read) the insight and higher level thinking these kids are doing about their reading. Battles are set for later in December, but honestly I don't think it will matter who wins each battle. In my opinion the whole Oneco Community has already won.

The PEP Progam

There is a lot of talk out there about the importance of collaboration and people all over the world are using tools like Twitter, Facebook, iChat and now Google Wave to do so online. However, it is nice, every once in awhile, to have a chance to collaborate with other educators on a local level. About a year and half ago I was invited to take part in of District of Manatee School's Peer ePortfolio Partner or PeP Program. Which is an extension program of the ePortfolio Project. Manatee County’s ePortfolio Project was birthed in the Fall of 2006. I was one of the thirty pilot teachers for this program and cannot believe how far we have come.

Anyway, I was honored to be invited to the PeP Program, but I really had no idea what I would be walking into. During the first meeting we learned that the program was formed out of a necessity to help meet the demands of the growing ePortfolio Program. Over the first three years this program grew from thirty participants to three hundred and the need arose from that growth. We also learned that we were each chosen, because we demonstrate the following qualities: strong leadership qualities, strong communication skills, strong instructional practice, enthusiastic about the eFolio Program, expertise in teaching technology, expertise in teaching reflection and expertise in teaching the Strategic Objectives. We are simply people who are there to be a peer support and encourage as we may have already experienced some of your same struggles as newer teachers to the program. We are moral support and cheerleaders of the program.

There have been two day trainings each summer, a couple of all day meeting during the year and cluster video conferences. However, these meeting are a lot more than just training. The Instructional Technology Department and Administration involved with the ePortfolio Project listen to what we say and opinions are not only asked for they are valued. Personally, I have learned so much from these individuals and I leave each meeting with my brain full of how to make things better back in my classroom and/or school. When I walk into meetings now I spend the first fifteen minutes hugging and visiting with other educators around the county. I so enjoy catching up with them and hearing about the things that they are doing with ePortfolio and technology in their classroom. It truly has turned into a community and I am so looking forward to our next get together.

Navigate Your World

When I wrote the Manatee Education Foundation Grant to receive the funds to purchase handheld Global Positioning Systems a year ago I am not sure I understood completely where this Navigate Your World Project would be going. All I knew for sure was that we would be learn about and participating in Geocaching on campus. To be honest with you, it has turned into something that is multifaceted and one in which the learn curve for me has been huge. Lucky for me, I have some wonderful colleagues helping me.

First there is Elizabeth Smith, who is Social Studies Curriculum Specialist for District of Manatee County. She has done a ton of work with Geocaching, Earthcaching and GIS/ Global Informational Systems in the past. In fact, she was a contributor for EarthCaching and Educator’s Guide put out by The Geological Society of America and sponsored by National Geographic Education Foundation.
Ms. Smith and I have been working on planning activities that teach basic geography and getting the students ready to use the GPS systems. For instance, one thing we worked on was taking The Six Essentials of Geography and creating Blooms Taxonomy activities for each. Geocaching/Earthcaching is a ton of fun and my students have been excited about getting out there. However, we felt it was important for the kids to understand some geography concepts before just turning them loose. Ms. Smith has been amazing and in the couple of meetings we have had she has brought so much to the table. It seems like each time we meet I am stretched just a bit further through new materials, resource or a concept she has introduced. During our last meeting, she brought me a ton of information on GIS/Global Informational Systems and an activity that we are planning to do with my students in May. This stuff blew my mind and I can’t wait to do some more reading on the subject. Honestly, I am ashamed to admit this, but I was unaware how vast the field of geography really is. The working out the balance of students learning what they need to know and leaving room for a few caches and challenges. This is truly a factor when we consider I only see these students once a week.

Mac Aldrich is a Boy Scout Leader, an Instructional Technology Specialist for the District of Manatee County and a geocaher. One of the first things Mr. Aldrich helped out with was in the selections of the GPS units themselves. Some of the concerns, I had about which unit to select were: durability and unit that would be compatible with our Apple Computers. Also we are excited about the plans for Mr. Aldrich to come and work with my students and compasses in early December. I believe it is an activity he has done with the Boy Scouts.

Then towards the end of September Dawn Howard the Instructional Technology SpecialistOneco Elementary offered (with permission) to allow me to pilot the Moodle for this project and possibly another. I was so excited about this since for the past two years I have been asking (maybe it has been more like begging) for a space that would allow students to interact and with the Moodle we are moving that direction. With that said, there has been a ton to learn here as well. The Moodle can truly do so many different things and much of it I have yet to explore. I have used the Moodle site and Dawn has been a big support. It has been really nice when I have needed help on a few things Dawn has sent me short how to videos she has made in Connect Ed Pro. I am so looking forward to seeing the many elements of the Moodle and learning to use them effectively.

I truly believe that for my students the real learning takes place in the process and I guess the same can be true for their teacher.
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The Accidental CBL Experience

Sometimes the best lessons don’t come from our plan books and my first experience with Challenge Based Learning has been just that. In Challenge Based Learning students are required work collaboratively to solve a real world problem. With these challenges the students work on variety of academic skills and many higher level thinking skills. The framework to this curriculum consist of the following:

-Big Idea: a broad concept that can be narrowed down by asking a questions and exploring its different aspects.

-Essential Question(s): Comes out of the Big Idea and helps identify what is important and helps narrow down the topic and define a manageable idea.

-The Challenge: Comes out of the essential question(s) in students are asked to create a solution that can result in a measurable action or actions.

-Guiding Questions: These questions are generated by the students and are based on what they need to know to solve the problem.

-Guiding Activities: Activities to help students solve their answer the guiding questions and gather resources.

-Solution(s): Should be student generated, require student action, thoughtful, clear, concrete and publishable in one form or another.

For me this all started on the last day of FETC 2009 when a speakers mentioned the ACOT 2 or Challenge Based Learning during is breakout session. This was just a brief description of CBL and I loved the idea. However, at the time I believed it only applied for secondary students. Then in early April I listened to Episode 4 of The Always on Podcast produced by Katie Morrow and Michelle Bourgeois. In that episode they had a virtual round table discussion with other educators on their experiences with Challenge Based Learning. After that I really started to explore the CBL Website and I began to think that even though this has been done mainly in High Schools that with some modifications it could be used in elementary school too. In my case,  I work with Gifted students and I really felt that CBL could be a good fit. Then this summer, I was in contact with Katie Morrow, who was a pilot teacher for the program in the 2008-09 school year, about the process and advice. She was wonderful and encouraging about my endeavor. My favorite piece of advice I received from her was to not over engineer the project too much.

With that, I went ahead and incorporated it into my plans for this year in grades four and five. However, to my surprise the journey started with a group of third grade girls on their very first day of gifted. We were sharing the book The English Roses by Madonna. This is a very sweet book about a group of girls that excludes another girl due to their jealousy and how the girls learn that behavior was wrong. Afterwards the girls began discussing some of their issues with the problem of cliques and how girls hurt each other. As the conversation continued it turned to where they had seen the same theme on TV and in the movies. I then asked them two questions: Did they want to do something about it? If so, what were they going to do? When the answer to the first was YES and the answer to the second was we don't know. I figured it was time to introduce CBL. So we visited the CBL website together and started working our way through the process.

Follow our the progress of our project in these two places:
Stop Girl Bullying Wiki

"Gabbing with the Gifted-3rd Grade Project Edition"

What is Gabbing with the Gifted?

This is a podcast series with very casual recordings of some discussions the students and I have about the different things we have been working on in class. They are mainly meant to inform parents and general education teachers of what is being worked on in Gifted Classes.

Gabbing with the Gifted