Friday, January 4, 2019

Welcome to 2019

My focus for January is getting ready for going back to school with a bunch of suggestions for saving time. Starting with a brand new challenge 

This is an activity with a difference. There is a hidden twist with plenty of followup opportunities for discussion that will engage students in critical thinking about their learning. A great way to start the new year and give teachers insight into the new class.                                                                           

The word work bundle is a no prep set of activities for fast finishers, small group work or whole class lessons based around literacy devices. Ideal for middle school and early secondary to give practice to common concepts. All the answers are included.                                                                                                    

 Mystery mini units are best sellers from my store and there are lots to choose from. Mini units can be purchased individually. There are mysteries to suit certain days of the year as well. Why not visit and browse for Valentine's day?

and some math freebies from other sellers for your math class.

Happy New Year. Enjoy! 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Just a plate of rocks.

A teacher affects eternity. No-one can tell where their influence stops.

I'd like to tell you a story,,,
On my desk in my classroom, many years ago, I kept a dish of rocks. I am fascinated by stones because of the colours and patterns in them. They weren't precious stones. They were just a collection of rocks. The kids in my class sometimes asked me about them and I loved to share what I knew about rock collecting  but in reality I kept them there because they grounded me and on a day from hell I could look at them and know that there was life beyond the classroom and it would pass.
Fast forward 25 years.
I chanced to meet up with a former student from that class and I asked about his life nowadays. He told me that he was a geological engineer  and then dumbfounded me by saying that it was my fault he had gone into that line of work. He explained further...
Do you remember the plate of rocks you always had on your table?  And the kid who was always asking questions about them? Well, that kid was me and we all knew that if we were having a bad day and you looked at the rocks then somehow they made things better. I knew then that I wanted to work with rocks because they could withstand anything and so I studied geology at university.
And I thought it was just a plate of rocks!

Here's a suggestion for you...
Have something in your classroom that you are passionate about.
Something you can look at and feel that there is life beyond the classroom.
Something with special meaning to you.
The only proviso is that it needs to be child friendly!

Put it in place as soon as you get back to school.
- a painting
- a family/ animal/ place  picture on your desk
- an item from something that you collect
-a book that you love
- flowers from your garden

Be prepared to share your knowledge and passion with a child who asks about it but it is there for YOU, not for the class.You will probably never know the influence you have had on the future, but it will be positive because enthusiasm is contagious.

These days I sell original resources online through would love you to visit and follow my store to be updated as new resources are added. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Christmas Countdown

Are you ready for the Christmas Countdown?
There are so many things that teachers have to complete before the end of the term and it is hard to find the time to do it in a busy classroom. It is important to keep up the momentum with activities that reinforce learning so here are some no-prep suggestions…
I love mysteries and so do the students in my classes. Set your kids going with the mystery outline and the clues and watch the fun unfold!

A FREEBIE to start your students thinking critically…

If you enjoyed that challenge then how about trying one with a lot more clues?


For teachers who are not into mysteries but want to motivate beyond busywork…

 Did you know that anagrams are classed as riddles?
Try this FREEBIE:

For young gifted wordsmiths and upper primary/ middle school …

And some more Christmas Freebies for reading the blog this far!
An activity pack from Hinemoa Robb:

A Stem challenge for juniors from Sarah Kroenert:

A magic square with pictures from Heather Jo Wetham – Fergen

Christmas Trivia fun from Shelly Keyser Rees

And a following directions challenge from Sandra Riddle.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy!

Friday, October 19, 2018

An apple for the Teacher

The gifting of fruit is associated with hardship in world history. In Denmark and Sweden during the 1700s, families gave baskets of apples as payment for the education of their children. Apples have become symbols associated with schools all over the world and most of us are familiar with the phrase that I have deliberately chosen to share my apples with teacher readers in the hope that they will provide some compensation for the hard work that goes into the job of teaching.

A handful of websites worth visiting…
This link takes you to an infographic with links to 32 sites.
This link is to a number of tools that are great for building STEAM projects  Science/Technology/Engineering/Art/Maths

Professional Reading.
Resources/ links to publications and research plus a link to a YouTube channel.
The importance of mindfulness: An article by Stephanie Tolan that discusses how a highly gifted child’s different intensity and cognitive ability affects life experiences.

TED talks are a wonderful source of inspiration. Check out these amazing talks by children and bookmark the TED blog site. Well worth the time!
A link to 10 podcasts about subjects lending themselves to STEAM  investigations. Great for kids to listen to.

Learn to differentiate.
Differentiation is giving students choice to add depth to the learning and includes the provision of  resources to match levels of understanding.
Here is a link to help out with ideas:
And many of the activities for sale on my teacherspayteacherswebsite:

Educational ideas for the classroom 
Click FOLLOW while you are there and keep up to date with new offerings.

Survival Strategies for when the going gets tough
Make a list of things to be done then categorise (chunk) them, check them off as each group is completed and give yourself a little reward.
Celebrate learning success with a powerful way to end the school year:
60 more ways to survive as your teaching year ends.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Getting ready for the Christmas Season

The end of the year will soon be upon schools and a later finish to the term is an added incentive to find educational activities associated with the holiday season that will continue to challenge students to the end.
Here are some ideas that I have been working on from my teacherspayteachers website.
The mysteries are aimed at upper primary/ intermediate level.

1. 12 Days of Christmas for the classroom

On the first day of Christmas, my teacher gave to me 
A worksheet to complete for her to see. 
On the second day of Christmas my teacher gave to me,,, 
Instructions for a puzzle on a worksheet to complete for her to see. 

2.  The Tree of Christmas Kindness
An activity designed to encourage random acts of kindness for the Christmas season. Only preparation required is to print pages for student use and provide access to scissors and glue.
3. Who is the Secret Santa? A new Christmas Mystery to solve

Mrs Scott was surprised to find that someone had left her a Secret Santa parcel on her desk when she arrived at school on Friday morning. She opened it to find a bag of chocolate candy.  Use the clues to find out who the Secret Santa could be.
4. Other Christmas mysteries to try...

Who stole Rudolph's nose?

Who pinched the Christmas pudding? 

These thinking challenges are part of a series of mysteries for students to solve either individually or as a group challenge. The clues are based on mathematical codes and ciphers and as each clue is solved it eliminates a number of suspects until there is just one possibility left. Answers are included.
In my own teaching practice students are given the booklets to solve at the beginning of the week and I do not debrief with answers until three or four days later. This challenges the students to work on the puzzles at their own rate and to think about possible strategies. It also encourages collaboration. Each mystery includes a range of problem difficulty. 
No prep. Just print and go. 

And an idea for a surprise for a teaching colleague:
Are you looking for a gift for a teacher? 
Here's an easy idea to put together for teacher colleagues or your child's class teacher that will make them smile. 
Included is a label for a gift for each of the 12 days of Christmas and all you need to do is print it out and add the small gift that it refers to, or one of your own ideas to fit. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Anxiety Taming in the Classroom.

Gifted children and anxiety often seem to go together like bread and butter. It is natural for all children to have some worries and fears as they are growing up, but for children who already have a heightened awareness of what is going on in the world around them and what the future might hold, the worries can be magnified out of all proportion.

Issues such as acceptance, perfectionistic tendencies and not being able to live up to perceived and/or real expectations can cause anxiety as the child strives for independence and a sense of self. Teachers are not qualified to treat the anxiety of a gifted child if it is causing concern, but if we are able to understand the worry and fear and then empathise rather than trivialise it, then we can avoid increasing the problem at school.

My focus is on helping gifted kids to cope with anxiety as distinct from fear or phobia. Fear is felt when faced with immediate danger' That's where the danger IS. There is a direct cause for the emotion being felt and fear is the reaction to being afraid of being harmed. A phobia is much stronger than simply being afraid of being harmed. It is an intense unreasonable reaction to something that interferes with everyday life.  Anxiety can be defined as the worry that is felt when thinking about what might happen. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all combined in such a way as to make the brain's survival response centre (the amygdala) react instinctively by increasing heart rate, tightening muscles ready for flight and causing rapid breathing. it ranges from general uneasiness to panic. the reaction of others can make all the difference because everyone perceives things differently.

Many able students can be intensely worried about things that their imaginations conjure up, but dismissing them out of hand is not helpful because it will make them not prepared to tell you about them.

Talk to students about how worries can impact on performance and discuss how these might be alleviated so that you help them to gain confidence in their own ability to cope. Practise active listening and don't try to 'fix it' by appearing to have all the answers, but give information if it is asked for. Encourage students to check their ... what if? thinking as a way to identify wht can be controlled and what can't. Positive thinking leads to positive outcomes.

Some gifted students are reluctant to take part in activities in which they are afraid of failure. Failures are inevitable in our lives but they are not final. If you don't fail then you don't learn. It is how we react to the anxiety that will make the difference.

Focus on the process rather than the outcome and provide regular, constructive feedback for the student to review so that anxiety is overcome by taking smaller steps and builds into success when the task is completed. Encourage calculated risk taking. Talk about situations where you have taken risks yourself and how you dealt with them.

I'm not as smart as they think I am. What if I can't do it? 
Tomorrow I have to present my work to the class. What if they laugh at me?
Each student is more talented in some areas than others. Don't trivialise the issue by brushing it off  with comments such as ... you will be fine., don't worry about it. Such comments do nothing to alleviate the anxiety because children like to succeed and their worries are real to them.Modelling can be a positive motivator for summoning up courage. Talk about how you felt on your first day in front of a class of students and how you dealt with the butterflies in your interaction with the students. Give encouragement and praise for attempting to comply rather than judgment or interpretation when the student tries to resolve the anxiety with action.

What if I never find anyone who thinks like me?
Is there something wrong with me?

Encourage students to read books with kids solving issues that they can relate to in their own quests for understanding about life. The following three books by Stephanie Tolan as personal favourites of mine. She writes about issues affecting gifted young people.
Surviving the Applewhites. Published by Harper Collins (2002). Jake has been expelled from a number of schools and finds himself with a highly talented, creative family where the children are home schooled and fans of 'The Sound of Music.'
Listen! Published by Harper Collins (2006). Charley has to deal with the emotional pain of losing her mother at aged 12 and the physical pain she is left with following an accident.
Welcome to the Ark.  Published by Morrow. New Yok. (1996) In a world of increasing violence, four people brought together in a residential treatment centre have the potential to change the world. Issues of allientaion, fear of what the future might hold, and heightened sensitivities strike a chord with middle school gifted students.

For the mathematically minded student, here is an old book that also has a place on my bookshelf.
Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, published by Viking, New York.  (1995)
Mrs Fibonacci, the math teacher, is convinced that nearly everything can be thought of as a math problem. There are little math jokes amongst a world of math predicaments.

And two sophisticated picture books that I highly recommend are :
Little Mouse's Big book of Fears. by Emily Gravett (2007) Published by MacMillan, London
Life from the point of view of a mouse is cleverly written and illustrated and allows for lots of discussion opportunities.
The Rabbit problem also by Emily Gravett and a lot of rabbits (2009) MacMillan, London.
A pop up book in the style of a Fibonacci explosion of rabits.  I love the ideas introduced via a monthly calendar.

Many gifted students feel deeply about social justice issues. They worry about things such as global warming, poverty, war and the plight of refugees. They feel helplessness in the face of such huge problems.

Look for ways for students to make a difference with their actions through social action. Discuss how it is possible to make a difference by starting with something small and supporting student efforts. Encourage your students to see this kind of worrying as a motivator for action based on real needs and help them to find ways to accomplish this, If a child expresses concern over something such as the plight of refugees and the response is ...'you are too young to worry about things like that'... then it reinforces the child's feeling of helplessness and can lead to a more serious outcome. There is ample support for the notion that groups of gifted students working together on projects can really make a difference. (The Future Problem Solving Programme is a great example.) Teachers can help by facilitating for students to identify community needs and find ways to develop actions as extensions of classroom experiences recognising a need that they are able to fill as a group or as individuals, thus providing opportunities to take a leadership role and make a differece.
Here are some projects worth reading about:
There are ideas here for the whole class.
Stories about 8 kids who made a difference
Finding solutions to hunger
a student takes her case to the United Nations
Students who have used social media to make a difference.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Life Lessons from a Spider

If Little Miss Muffit had not been in such a hurry to run away from the spider who sat down beside her, then she might have been privvy to some pearls of wisdom to help her in the future because we can learn a lot from spiders. Did you know that spiders can construct their webs in zero gravity?
What an example of adaptability is that!
I looked out of the window this morning to see a beautiful example of a spider web that had appeared on my clothesline over night. Since there was no sign of the spider I figured a photograph was in order and it set me to thinking further... How might that be an analogy to help gifted students in their own lives?

 Success only happens with action. Great ideas will not come to fruition unless they are followed up and acted on.  The spider only sits back and waits for its prey when it  has overcome the obstacles involved in building its web. It knows how imperative it is to get started if it wants to eat. 
Persevere with your dreams. Be persistent in your efforts and they will pay off. 
The spider doesn't give up when faced with obstacles.
Imagine the result you are after and keep your focus on getting there even when the going gets tough. Spiders will build and rebuild their webs to attain their goal.
Don't seek approval from those who don't understand or worry about what others think- they are looking through a different lens and the focus is not the same. Just as we do not see the world as the spider does.
Explore new challenges and be prepared to start again if necessary. The spider travels on silken threads and adapts to changing circumstances when faced with forces that it has no control over.  Understand your non negotiable foundation (your silken thread) and be prepared to adapt.
Reshape and rework if necessary to take advantage of changing environments. Have you read the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider?  
Widen your horizons. Think big. Create your own web  and make connections. 
Embrace mistakes and see obstacles as sources of new learning. Spiders don"t give up!
Believe in yourself.  Just as the spider can spin a web that is a resulting miracle of creativity  and design, so can you. Who knows how far your influence will travel?
Every success worth striving for starts with just one action.