Sunday, 9 December 2012

Week 9: The Marshmallow Challenge!

This week was our last week of gifted class until the new year.  We finished it off with a bang!

The Marshmallow Challenge

Classes were divided into groups of 3 - 4 and tasked with building the tallest tower they could with the following supplies:

The rules were simple:

  • Build the Tallest Freestanding Structure
  • The Entire Marshmallow Must be on Top
  • Use as Much or as Little of the Kit (which contained the supplies listed above).
  • You May Break Up the Spaghetti, String or Tape
  • The Challenge Lasts 18 Minutes

Before starting the challenge we discussed what were good strategies to use when working in groups. Then the students went at it! 

The older students (grades 4s and 5s) were able to work well in their groups while some of the younger students did require more coaching / intervention. In most cases the students were able to resolve any conflicts and go on to work well as a group. I was proud of their ability to come up with solutions that worked for everyone in the group!

When the 18 minutes were up, some groups did not have a completed tower, others had a tower that looked great, but could not support the marshmallow (which is surprisingly heavy), while the remaining structures proudly held their marshmallows on top. The two tallest towers were both 61 cm tall -- one built in the Tuesday grade 5 class and the other in the Thursday grade 4 class.

Here are some of the towers:

After the activity we went over some of these slides and related the challenge to the process that inventors and others go through when solving problems. 

Thank you to one of our parents, James' mother Christina, for mentioning this activity to me. It is described in this TED Talk.

For Fun

Continuing on our Rube Goldberg theme, some of the classes watched this video:

Wrap Up

This was the last week of gifted classes for 2012. Reports for the fall term of gifted classes will be going home before schools break for the holidays. Gifted classes resume again the first week that school is back in session (January 7th - 11th). Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Week 8: Inventor Skits

Inventor Skits

This week in gifted all of the classes created skits about specific inventors.  Students were randomly put into groups of 3 or 4 and then they were given a fact sheet about a specific inventor and their invention(s).  The group members had to learn the information and then create a skit to convey that information to the rest of the class.  Prior to working in their skits we discussed successful strategies for working in groups.  Some of the ideas that students suggested were:
  • making an effort to try and include everyone's ideas
  • no put downs
  • being aware of not dominating the group
  • seeking the input of quieter members of the group
It can be very challenging working in a group, especially when working against the clock!  All of the groups did a great job.  In some cases there were disagreements, but with some gentle prodding group members were able to come up with solutions that met everyone's needs.

The skits were, creative, insightful, and fun to watch!  We had a wonderful impression of bacteria growing out of control from the Tuesday morning group's Alexander Flemming penicillin sketch.   Sean from the Thursday afternoon class portrayed a very realistic and mischievous little turtle as his group tackled the challenging task of explaining Tim Berners-Lee's invention of the World Wide Web.  The Wright brothers skit from the Thursday morning class was full of dramatic acting, plays on words (ask them about their airplane instruments) and audience participation!  There were also entertaining skits on Mary Anderson (windshield wipers), Johannes Gutenberg (moveable type printing), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), and Frank Epperson (popsicle).

After each group performed their skit there was a chance for questions about the inventor and the invention.  Then the audience commented on what they thought the group did well.  We're trying to work towards specific feedback, although I'm sure that no one minds being told that their group "was awesome!" or that "I liked everything!"

For most of the classes the groups were then asked to create a quick skit illustrating what life would be like today without their invention.

Inventors' Workshop

The Inventors' Workshop is something that all of the classes will be helping to create in the new year.  Some of the students from the Tuesday morning class got started on creating a large paper mache light bulb for the Inventors' Workshop.  Unfortunately their teacher, ahem, caused the balloon to pop.  Back to square one...

One of the ideas for the Inventors' Workshop was to build a model of a giant TV in which we would highlight different inventors/inventions.  Marcus from the Tuesday afternoon class had the great idea of  also using the TV as a puppet theatre; students could create puppets and put on plays depicting famous inventors and their inventions.  Other ideas have included creating a portal to the workshop and a remote for the TV.

Inventor Projects (Morning Classes)

The Tuesday morning and Thursday morning classes are continuing to work on their inventor projects.  Last week I highlighted what the Tuesday class was doing, now for Thursday's class:
  • dioramas--Danica and Ronesca have made great strides on their diorama as has Gina on hers about the inventor Gary Fong
  • comics--a number of students have decided to give Bitstrips for Schools a try to relate what they have learned about their inventors.  Bitstrips is an online comic strip creator.  Some of the students trying it out are: Brandon, Zach M, Zack K, Jordan, Tristan, Koen, Paul, Tyler
  • interview with an inventor --  Carson and Braiden have got a great start on their script as have Chloe and Nicola, who would also like to include other elements in their project such as a poster
  • inventor cards--Josh is making great headway on his inventor cards and learning a lot in the process!
Not every student in the class is listed above as a number were away in the last class, and so may not have totally settled on a format yet.

Wrapping Up

This coming week (December 3rd - 7th) is the last week of gifted program classes until January.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Week 7: Projects, Straws and Spaghetti

Here are a few of the things that happened this week in gifted.

The Ediphone Arrives

One of our students, Kristen, brought in an Ediphone that belonged to her grandfather.  All of the classes were intrigued to find out what it does and how it works.  Kristen's family believes that the machine is from around 1917.  The Ediphone was an early dictation machine.  A person speaks into the speaking tube and their voice is recorded onto a wax cylinder.  For more information on the Ediphone, check out this site.  Thank you Kristen for sharing this with our classes!

Inventor Projects (Morning Classes)

The grade 5s continued to work on their projects.  Eli, Joaquin, and Marcus are each showing their distinctive styles and interests with their Smart Board quiz games.  Angel and Melina are each creating great movie posters.  James has made a good start to his project involving the creator of Minecraft, a game I am clearly going to have to learn a lot more about judging by its popularity with students!  Chase, Charlie and Zack have created most of the models for their diorama.  Nathan's card game is coming along well and Lyndsy is ready to start recording her radio interview.  Meanwhile Brody and Evan have made some great figures using Pivot Stick Figure animation software.

The Thursday morning class started on their projects this week too.  More on how they are doing next week!

Spaghetti Towers

The Tuesday morning grade 5 class were challenged to build the tallest free-standing tower that they could using only 30 mini-marshmallows and 30 sticks of spaghetti.  Bonus marks were awarded if they didn't use all of their supplies! 

What Are You Doing?

This drama game is popular with a number of the classes, especially the the Wednesday afternoon grade 1 - 2 class.  The focus is on thinking on your feet, being creative and getting up and acting in front of your peers.  For more info on this game, ask your child!

Hockey Card Wrap Up

The afternoon classes worked on their hockey cards and almost everyone is now done!  Our walls are now covered with these creative cards.

The Straw Shape Challenge

Last week the morning classes tried this activity, and this week almost all of the afternoon classes took a shot at it.  Students created triangles and squares using straws and paper clips.  The idea was to demonstrate that triangles are more stable shapes because they are better able to balance the forces of compression and tension.  The students were then challenged to build a stable three dimensional shape.  As a follow up, we checked out this interactive online lab

Straw Structures from this week and last:

Final Note

There are only two more weeks of classes before Gifted Program classes wrap up for the fall term.  For more information, please check this short post.

Fall Term Wrapping Up Soon

This is just a short post to let you know that the fall term of the Gifted Program classes will soon be wrapping up.  The last classes will be the week of December 3rd to 7th.  The winter term of the Gifted Program classes will start when school resumes on January 8th.  Reports on the Fall term will be sent home in mid-December.

The rationale for ending classes 2 weeks before winter break is that this is the time that many schools are preparing for school wide concerts and other seasonal activities which many students do not want to miss out on.  It also allows me time to assess the many students who have been referred to the Gifted Program.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Week 6

As the term progresses, the activities that the different classes are doing start to diverge a bit.  Part of this is due to the age of the students in each class, and part of this has to do with the morning classes being longer than the afternoon classes.

General Schedule

For all of the classes we follow the same general schedule.
  • Social Time.  As students arrive they take out games, toys, puzzles, or books.  It is an opportunity to reconnect with students from other schools, whom they probably haven't seen since last week.  Some popular activities during social time lately have been:
    • the magnetic construction kit -- there have been some amazing structures built and we've all been learning a lot about magnetic force
    • the robotic set -- it was rediscovered at the end of October and has been very popular!
    • Lego (of course!)
    • Maze books
    • and the wooden cube puzzle
  • Circle.  During circle I outline what we will be doing for the class.  Then we go around the circle and everyone has an opportunity to speak on a specific topic or to pass if they wish.  This week students were asked to mention either something interesting that happened to them since we last met, or something they were looking forward to. 
  • Game / Brain Teaser.  Many of the games that we do involve some or all of the following; presentation skills, creative thinking, and/or working as a group. This week, depending on the class, students
    • played Concentration
    • were challenged to line up by height... without talking
    • played What Are You Doing?  (very popular with the Weds afternoon class!)
    • played Wink Murder
  • Challenge Activity.  We don't do a challenge activity every class.  This week the morning classes did a straw building challenge.  I don't want to say much more about is as I hope to have the afternoon classes try it out soon.
  • Recess.  The morning classes have a recess break outside.  Right now we are taking our recess at a different time from Wiltse Elementary.  Part of the rationale is to encourage the students to continue to bond as a group.  For both morning classes the 'big thing' is to go on the saucer swings. 
  • Lesson / Project.  This week the Tuesday morning class (grade 5s) started on their inventor projects.  Students are either working alone or with a partner.  They have all chosen an inventor and are doing research which they will present in one of a variety of ways (movie poster, radio interview, diorama, quiz game ...)  The other classes continued to work on their 'Hockey Cards' (mentioned here).  If you get a chance, please check out our growing gallery of hockey cards along the south wall of the classroom.  Students are enjoying checking out their peers' hockey cards and many are excited to find other students that they recognize from their home school.
  • Wrap Up.  At the end of the class, once we've cleaned up, we meet again as a group and summarize what we've done and what we'll be up to next week.  During this time we've also been checking out different Rube Goldberg machines.  This week most of the classes saw the OK Go video This Too Shall Pass.  

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Week 5: Hockey Cards

This week the main focus was to continue to work on the 'Hockey' Cards students started last week.  On the front of the card is the student's name and their photo.  The photos were printed as faint black and white shots and the students coloured them in.  Many students drew in colourful and creative backgrounds.  On the back of the cards students included some general information about themselves including their interests and favourite inventions.  Completed cards will be posted around the classroom so that students can learn more about their peers.

For Fun

Last week I showed students the video of Joseph Herscher's 'Creme That Egg'; a crazy Rube Goldberg machine.  The students were very taken with it so this week we followed up by watching the video below; another Rube Goldberg machine by Herscher called The Page Turner.  There is so much to see and to try and figure out with these installations. 

Answer to 'How Many F's?'

At the end of last week's post was the following puzzle.  How many F's are there?  Answer is below.


If your answer is 3, you are not alone.  You're not correct, but at least you are not alone!  The correct answer is 6.  Most people get 3 because they don't count the F's in the word OF which occurs 3 times.  The students and I discussed the possible reasons why so many people get the wrong answer.  Some of the suggestions were that:
  • 'of' is a small word so we ignore it
  • 'of' doesn't add much to the sentence so we ignore it
  • the f in 'of' makes a vee sound while the other f's do not

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Week 4: Brainstorming


This week in gifted class the main focus was on brainstorming what this year's 3D object was going to be.  Every year in the elementary gifted program the classes have collaborated to produce a 3D object that fits in with the year's theme.  This year's theme is invention.  Here are some of the past year's themes and the 3D objects that students have built.

3D object
2011/12Games3D Game Table
2010/11deBono’s 6 Thinking HatsGiant Hat
2008/07TimeTime Machine

Prior to brainstorming we talked about the DOVE technique:
D  defer judgement -- judging slows the creative process, can shut people down
O  oddball / original -- spurs on other interesting ideas
V  vast number -- allows us a lot to choose from
E  expand / elaborate -- most good ideas are built on previous ideas

Here is a word cloud showing some of the terms students brainstormed.

Over the next week or so I will be sifting through all of the wonderful ideas generated to come up with a starting point for our project. 

Hockey Cards

Students started working on 'hockey' cards featuring themselves.  In addition to giving students the opportunity to share some information about themselves it also gets students to work on computer skills such as properly editing and saving documents.  Some of the classes will be using the hockey card format to create cards for various famous inventors. 

For Fun

It was great fun watching student reactions to the following video of an intricate Rube Goldberg machine.

We also looked at this puzzle, though I'm not sure that puzzle is the correct term.  How many F's do you see in the following sentence?  Ask your child for the correct answer or check back here next week ;-)



Monday, 29 October 2012

Week 3: Inventor Timelines

This week in gifted class the focus was on doing research using the internet. Last week we discussed using good keywords in our searches and this week students got to use those skills. They looked up information on famous inventors; when were they born, what they invented, interesting facts about their lives.  The older students entered their information into a form like this one.  That information was then put into JS Timeline and the timelines at the end of this post were created (they may take a few moments to load).  The main focus was on learning about a variety of famous inventors and using their internet research skills.  The timelines provide a nice overview of who the students researched, but the focus was on the exploration not on creating a final polished work.

This week we also played one of the following games (depending on the class):
  • Concentration -- a good game to keep you sharp!
  • What are you doing? -- a drama game that encourages students to be creative and to present in front of their peers
Timelines -- Below are the Inventor Timelines which were described at the beginning of the post.  They will take a few moments to load.  Once they are up hover your mouse on the right side of the image and an arrow should become visible.  Click on it to move to the next inventor on our timeline.  The Wednesday afternoon class did not do this part of the activity.

Tuesday Morning Class

Tuesday Afternoon Class

Thursday Morning Class

Thursday Afternoon Class

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Week 2: Getting Down to Business

This week we continued to build community with Name Games.  Our theme is invention so we talked about what makes something an invention.

Internet Searches

We're going to be doing research on different inventors, so it was time to investigate what constitutes a good search.  I used the following resources from Google Search Education -- the lesson was adapted slightly based on the age of the students. 
Beginner 1: Picking the right search terms (lesson plan)
How Search Works (YouTube video)

But what the kids probably enjoyed the most was...

The Straw Bridge Challenge!

15 straws, 25 cm of masking tape, 1 pair of scissors.  Go!!!
Students worked in groups of 2 - 4 people and with very little resources and very little time (5 minutes) they had to build a bridge that could span a 30 cm gap.  Oh, and the bridge had to be able to support a coffee can and up to 9 golf balls!  Students from all classes amazed me with:
  • How well they worked together in their groups.  A time limited task like this can challenge even the most cooperative group!
  • The diversity of bridges they built.
Only two groups out of all of the classes were able to build a bridge that could hold the maximum of 9 golf balls.  Interestingly enough it was a group from the grade 5 Tuesday morning class and a group from the grade 1/2 Wednesday afternoon class.  Below are photos of some of the different bridge designs.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Week 1: Getting to Know Each Other

Week 1 (Oct 9th - 11th) in Gifted was all about getting to know each other.

Some of the things we did this week:
  • Name Game: "My name is ______ and I like to ______"
    • a fun and very active way to get to learn everyone's name
    • knowing the names of the people in our class is the first step to creating a strong learning community
  • Classroom Agreements: we went over these together and students helped to describe and demonstrate each one
    • Attentive Listening
    • Appreciations; No Put Downs
    • The Right To Pass
    • Mutual Respect
  • Discussion of This Year's Theme
    • classes brainstormed the types of activities they would like to do this year as we explore the theme Invention
  • Improv Bingo
    • each class generated a wacky scenario and then in groups of 3 or 4 acted them out
    • this activity allows students to have fun and to be creative 
    • it hits on a number of our goals in the gifted program: creative thinking, divergent thinking and presentation skills
    • the activity can be quite challenging because students have a limited amount of time to come up with their skit; often group members each have differing ideas and must come to some sort of agreement
    • at the end of the skits we discussed what we thought each group did well 
The morning classes also did 'You in 3D'.  Students thought of an activity that they did that gave them the feeling of flow.  They then chose an object to represent that activity and either drew it or created it out of play dough.  Below are photos of some of the student creations.

So that's the Coles' Notes version of the first week of classes.  I'm really enjoying getting to know the students and I hope that they are enjoying the class too!

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Welcome to the TWIG blog!  TWIG stands for This Week In Gifted.  My goal is to let parents know about the different things we are doing in gifted class each week.  You'll get a glimpse at some of the activities we do and the projects students are working on.

As my friend Jan Smith says on her class blog, Huzzah:
Please notice our successes, not our mistakes.  Our blog is an invitation to see what we are up to.  Some of our work will be polished, some will be in draft form.  Please honour our attempts.  We are learning!
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