Webinar: Twice Exceptional Students

SENGinar: When Lazy Doesn’t Make Sense

Executive functioning challenges are often a key factor in the success or failure of our twice-exceptional population. Cynthia Hansen’s SENGinar focuses on the gifted or highly creative child and the divergent thinking styles that affect their thinking processes and executive skills.

The Webinar takes place on Thursday, September 13,  2018 from 7:30-9:00 PM.  Cost $30 for members/$40 for nonmembers of SENG.

The deadline to register is 3:00PM on Thursday.

Register Here

Growth Mindset Webinar

Check out this free webinar about Growth Mindset.  The  one hour webinar is excellent.     The instructor explains what Growth Mindset is and offers many ideas about how to help your students of all ability levels adopt a growth mindset.            A free downloadable children’s book list is offered to support Growth Mindset discussions in the classroom.

Click here to access the webinar          Mindsetwebinar

Rubik’s Cube and Mosaics

At the end of the year it is always fun to explore new topics and games to engage your students. One game I found students to be passionate about is the Rubik’s Cube. This is a great puzzle to take with you on road trips, to play as you are watching TV, take outside and is a puzzle you can do independently or with friends. Educators can check out Rubik’s cubes for free (minus return shipping) from a lending library in amounts of 12-600 cubes. Henrico even holds a competition each spring for students to compete in teams of 8 to solve 25 cubes as fast as they can. Currently, the Glen Allen Cultural Arts center has Rubik’s cubes mosaics on display- what a great summer activity to check out! Feel free to pass on any links below to your students’ families as they gear up for summer.

Rubik’s Cube website
How to Solve the Cube
Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center- Rubik’s Mosaics Event

For Those Who Love History or Just Want to Know More About It

Want to learn more about Virginia history this summer? A new app has been developed to help you.  See below…


Virginia has hundreds of museums and historic places and thousands of historic markers. How do you sift through them all to find the stories that interest you? You hit the trails—the Virginia History Trails. They are easy to find and easy to follow. And with 20 trails containing 400 stories, the Virginia History Trails are easy to love.

Virginia blazed a trail that America followed. Which makes Virginia’s history your history.

And the smartest way to explore your history is through Virginia History Trails.

To learn more visit the FAQ page.

End of the Year Plans

At the end of the year teachers spend a lot of time prepping for the SOLs, remediating and reviewing to get everyone prepared for the next year. But, what do you do with those kids who have demonstrated mastery? This is a perfect opportunity to try something new and exciting that you may not have had time for before.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

Project Based Learning-–  Start with a question, a problem you’d like the kids to solve.  Then, think of the real world occupation/person that may try to solve that problem.  What authentic product would that person make?    For example–How can you, as a zoologist design an exhibit that would teach guests about a new animal to join the city zoo?  Pose this question right at the start and then get the students to brainstorm what they need to know to solve this problem. As the students work, offer guidance and support and give them a rubric for the final product. Depending on their age level and experience you may need to offer some scaffolded support with graphic organizers mini-lessons on research. When the students have made their final product give them an audience to present to.  Do you know an expert in the field who may skype or come in and give feedback?  What a powerful experience for young learners!  For more information on PBL projects visit: https://www.bie.org/ or chat with your Gifted Resource Teacher

Virtual Field Trips–The opportunities for students to visit places far and wide are endless.  As VR technology continues to expand so do the experiences students can have.  Check with your ITRT to see if your schools has access to Google Cardboard.  If they do, visit this link: https://edu.google.com/expeditions/#about

If you do not have Google Cardboard, students can still visit places using a variety of other sites such as http://www.discoveryeducation.com/Events/virtual-field-trips/explore/

Market Day/Mini-Economy/Mini-society–Have you wanted to do this out during the school year, but were afraid of the time involved?  The end of the year is a perfect time to try it out in a modified way, keep your students engaged and learning and it can even be used as part of a classroom management plan–and we all know that at this time of the year we need as much in our bag of tricks as we can get!



Writing for Writers and “Wanna Be” Writers

It can be a challenge to motivate students to write, unless they are “born” writers.  Here are a few ideas to encourage your students to reach for their potential.  One of the biggest challenges in the classroom is time.  Rather than giving a new writing prompt each day, allow your students to choose a prompt that can extended over several class periods.  Ask them to choose the writing idea that most motivates them to write a great deal.  As a goal, ask them to write how they would write if they were 2 years older – advanced vocabulary, amazing descriptions, and possibly even multiple chapters.  Additionally, especially for those students who have a focus challenge, fine motor “roadblock”, or some other difficulty, allow them, even at a young age, to utilize a word document on a computer to do the writing.

Here are a couple of links that could work for various grade levels.




Conference on Creativity

The Virginia ASCD Whole Child Institute will be held on Monday, February 26, 2018 in Staunton, Virginia.   This year the topic is Teaching for Creativity.   

Cindy Foley, the Executive Deputy Director for Learning and Experience at the Columbus Museum of Art will present the keynote,   Making Creativity Visible; Rethinking Schools as Centers for Creativity.        See one of Cindy’s Ted Talks.  

In the afternoon, invited educators from schools in Virginia will share experiences, strategies, programs and ideas for supporting creative thinking skills.

For additional information    Creativity Conference Staunton, Virginia

Look under the Professional Growth tab above to find a link to  information about a variety of upcoming conferences and classes.



Connecting Writing With Children’s Literature

Picture Book Experience Units designed and written by Nancy Polette, published by Pieces of Learning, provide a variety of ideas and activities to promote critical thinking and creative writing experiences.  Many of the activities are open ended.

Sample activities, taken from the unit, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, will give you an idea of the types of activities found in Nancy’s units.

Pre-Reading Oral Language  (Provides practice with flexible thinking, speaking, and listening.)

Children work with a partner.  Teacher gives a topic such as FORESTS.  Partner A talks about the topic with partner B for 10 seconds and then the teacher will say switch.  Now partner B talks about forests for ten seconds and partner A listens.  A second topic is then given (example:  TAKING A TRIP) and students talk for fifteen seconds about this topic then switch.The third topic may be WILD THINGS with each partner talking about the topic for twenty seconds.

Pre-Reading Journal Writing Activity (but this can also be done orally).  A series of open ended sentences related to ideas /themes found in the book is provided and students are asked to complete the sentences.

Examples for Where the Wild Things Are include:Animals that can talk….

  1.  One thing many people don’t want to meet is…
  2. The worst punishment is…
  3. Traveling to a new place can be…
  4. When going on a trip you should…
  5. Being a king for one day is…..
  6. You know you are home when….

When I’ve used these, I have asked students to finish the statement and then explain why.

Example:  You know you are home when_____________________________ because _________________________.   Or have students complete the statement and require that they add one or two additional sentences to elaborate.

With these types of open ended, thought provoking statements, you will quickly learn more about how your students think and about their ability to elaborate.  Some students are very literal and others will show you that they are abstract thinkers. Remember, this is a before reading activity so student answers will/should be original to their experiences and not related to the story that you are about to share.

Post Reading Vocabulary Enrichment Activity   This unit includes a spelling game where students are asked to use only the letters     g  p  n  i  r  s      to answer a series of five questions (letters may be used more than once).


  • Use four letters to describe the look on Max’s face when he saw the wild things.
  • From the word you made in #1, take away two letters and add two letters to make a word that means to turn around and around quickly.

Fact Based Report  Students are asked to brainstorm words to describe a forest using this chart

Sights Sounds Smells

Then complete a Five Senses Report using the template below.

The forest is (color) ________________________

It sounds like ________________________________________

It tastes like _________________________________________

It smells like _________________________________________

It looks like  _________________________________________

It makes me feel like __________________________________

Additional writing opportunities in this unit include a Making Silly Sentences activity and a Building Riddles writing activity.

Visit Nancy’s  personal web page http://www.nancypolette.com/home.asp  to find a variety of free activities posted for many different picture books.  Look at the column to the left of the page and click on the words “Literature Guides”.

To order complete units from Pieces of Learning visit https://piecesoflearning.com/product-category/products/downloadable-literature-activity-guides/

As Nancy Polette states on her web page, “Enjoy the many activities found in the picture book and novel literature guides and note that these activities can be used with other picture books and novels as well.”