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  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

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.”

Indoor Recess

The recent cold weather has forced many to stay inside for recess. While this can sometimes be a welcome change for students, it can also leave teachers wondering- what activities should I offer my students? One of my favorite brands of games to purchase for my classroom is ThinkFun! This company creates challenging games that students love to play. These can be great games to add to your classroom wish list. Even better- your kids can play these games online! Don’t forget to also checkout other great sites for students to use on our website.

Activating Student Curiosity

Recently many Henrico County teachers had the great opportunity to attend the National Association for the Gifted Conference (NAGC) in Charlotte, NC. Many innovative ideas were shared. Below you will find a couple ideas that you may want to implement in your classroom to help learning come alive for your students:

Would you like your students to learn about other peers in different parts of the world? The Belouga Program is a great way to connect with other countries and encourage your students to ask thoughtful questions to others. Another great program to try is Empatico. This website helps to connect you with another classroom around the world that is completing the same lesson as your class. It even helps you to schedule a time to video chat!

Are you looking for ways to engage your students during transitions, snack, or maybe even a morning meetiing? Check out Mystery Doug! This website releases 5-minute videos that will activate student curiosity, encourage questioning and may even prompt a passion project.

See, Think, Wonder

Find a unique photo or picture, or use a picture to introduce a unit.  Allow students to make observations, then draw conclusions about what they see, and finally create open ended questions to encourage interest and curiosity.  This technique assists teachers with inquiry skills and helps older students determine effective questioning for research.

Below are some links which give more information about this idea:

Here are some helpful graphic organizers you may want to use:

See Think Wonder Primary

See Think Wonder Sheet




Holiday Connections

Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holidays give us a great opportunity to plan some activities that are uniquely engaging for kids of all levels.  These open-ended activities really are accessible to all, but give higher level students a chance to stretch and show off what they are able to do.

Create a Holiday

There are many different takes on this project however this blog posting by Ian Byrdseed really helps students think at a higher level and connect holidays back to a common set of values and priorities for a particular group/community of people.  This activity is perfect for collaboration within a group. Students could show off their ability to make connections, be insightful, and justify their decisions and would lend well to many technology connections.

Holiday vs. Holiday Persuasive Writing

Want a highly engaging way for students to demonstrate their ability to change perspectives and write persuasively? Check out this blog post for a detailed description of how to structure this lesson.  While this description is aimed at more experienced upper grade writers, this activity could easily be adapted for even our early writers.


Early Finisher Ideas

Do you have students that often finish their work before everyone else? Students who may have mastered the content that you are getting ready to review for that day? Consider having some activities or stations in your class where students can explore independently with little prep from you. You’ll want to put procedures in place to make sure that students are not rushing through work to get to these kinds of activities, but you may find that these are awfully motivational for your students who may not attack their assignments with the same urgency as everyone else.

Stem Bins

Visit this blog posting to get a better idea of how you could use STEM bins in your classroom.  You could use your PTA money to purchase the TPT file and materials.  Most of these items would be great parent donation items, too.  Many teachers are using these as early finisher activities, replacement morning work, or even “Fun Friday” type activities.

Play dough or Lego Task Cards

Create a set of Task Cards that can be placed and rotated with a bin of play dough or Legos.  The tasks can be quite simple to more complicated.  Once the students have created their masterpiece have them write about the process or a story to go along with their creation.  For example, in November they could create a turkey out of play dough and then write a story about the adventure their turkey embarks on. Using Legos, students could build the room they’d have Thanksgiving in and then write about how they like to celebrate.

Picture Sorts

Start a collection of images or pictures from magazines. In an envelope, place some of your pictures and ask your students to create a sort for the pictures they have chosen.  Alternatively, this could also be done in a Google Doc with clip art placed on the page and then shared with students.  They could sort and then add a text box to explain their reasoning.

Visit this blog post for some additional ideas about early finisher activities.

Jackpot–Math/Science/Literature and Writing Resources


Holman Middle School Rubik Cube Challenge   for more information

2018 Letters About Literature Contest  Students are asked to write a letter to an author (living or dead) to explain how their life has been influenced/impacted by the author’s work.  Examples from past winning letters are posted  and suggestions for writing lessons are included at this site.  Many gifted students will relate to the sample letters and will be able to write equally beautiful and meaningful responses to literature.

Entries are accepted through December 9.  Support materials for this contest could be used at any time for instructional purposes.          main page

Skype with a Scientist Include a Skype session as a way to teach questioning skills to students.  Students will need to produce open ended as well as closed questions in order to learn more about what it is like to be a scientist.   Each session is student driven with the scientist answering all of the students’ questions.   Official Program Description:     This program matches scientists with K-12 classrooms worldwide. The program aims for students to have positive experiences with scientists and form a personal connection with someone working in a scientific field. More than 500 scientists are ready to chat, and teachers can choose the type of scientist who best fits their classroom!

 Math  Problems —  Teacher Advisor with Watson–a new, free online tool, contains highly targeted instructional math resources to support  kindergarten through fifth grade math instruction including some activities for students who are ready for a challenge.    (After you log in, scroll down to find the Learning Activities link)—There are PDF’s for problems  for each grade level matched to specific skills.                               

Writing about Math (Primary Grades)  Check out this link for ideas about how to have primary students write about math.

SEM-R bookmarks containing higher level reading comprehension questions focused on specific genre  are available at   SEM R reading comprehension questions

Digital Breakout--Codes for K-5 students covering a variety of SOL related topics.