Welcome back to a new school year! I'm excited to jump right in and begin working with our nearly 200-identified gifted students. For those of your who are new to Kempsville, I am beginning my 3rd year as the GRT and have moved into my 3rd (and hopefully final) office over the summer. My new office is actually a classroom where I have space to collaborate with teachers and students. Have your student BOLO for an invitation to attend my room-warming open house during lunch at the end of the month in room 103. I still have a little work do to make it feel like home and I am excited to see it all come together!
Thanks to all the parents who joined us last night for the first parent workshop of the year. Heidi Yeager, the Kempsville Middle School GRT and I joined forces to help parents of students who have not yet been identified as gifted navigate the identification process and the new online application.
If you missed the workshop and are still interested in having your student tested for identification there are a few things to know.
Before leaving the workshop, parents logged on to the application and began to complete them with the GRTS providing technical support and guidance.
After a year of soaking up as much as possible about gifted education and the job of a GRT, this year marks year 1 of building my gifted program at Kempsville. While I know I won't really ever be finished building, it is so important that I establish a strong foundation in these early years on to rely on as my program grows. My plan is to continue the work from last year bringing Problem Based Learning (PBL) to cluster classes but to also get into some not as flashy work by empowering cluster teachers to integrate learning models and strategies proven effective for gifted learners. Starting with the ninth-grade cluster teachers and expanding to the upper grades in the years to come, I will be working with teachers to understand the rationale for each model and to develop classroom strategies that challenge and empower our students.
This year's focus is on Kaplan's Depth and Complexity and Sternberg's Triarchic Theory. The work of Sandra Kaplan and the Depth and Complexity Icons are a great place to start because they are so versatile and can be integrated across disciplines. Additionally, from my work with the feeder schools, I've learned there is a strong emphasis on Kaplan in the lower grades meaning we will be able to provide better programming consistency throughout grade levels. My hope is that teachers will utilize the Icons to promote rigor and critical thinking in the classroom. Sternberg's Triarchic Theory groups learners' skills in three areas of strength-analytic, creative, and practical. Cluster teachers this year will be encouraged to work with me and develop differentiated classroom activities that enable students to learn according to their strength and show mastery using a chosen modality. Algebra 2/Trig students have already taken their Sternberg Learning Style Evaluation and a Algebraic Functions anchoring activity is in the works.
Meet the cluster teachers!
The E.E. Brickell Scholars program is designed to promote and recognize academic excellence among high school students in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools. From 1968-1987, Dr. Brickell was the Superintendent of VBCPS and is credited with building our school division’s reputation of academic excellence. Upon his retirement, the Virginia Beach Rotary Club created a scholarship program to honor Dr. Brickell.
Students selected for this honor must be juniors with at least a 3.5 GPA, achieved excellent scores on standardized tests, participate in academically advanced courses, and must show evidence of other academically-oriented pursuits and events. As seniors, these students have the opportunity to attend a series of three seminars arranged by members of the Virginia Beach Rotary club. The recipient of the E. E. Brickell Scholarship will be chosen from this group of scholars.
Being nominated as a Brickell Scholar is one of the highest academic distinctions in our school division. Today, we announced the selection of the 2016-2017 E. E. Brickell Scholar Nominees...
English 9H cluster classes PBL
PBL, or Problem Based Learning is a teaching strategy devised by medical schools in order to develop creativity and innovative thinking in future doctors. The med students would be presented with a case study, a patient describing a list of symptoms, and it was up to the students to diagnose and recommend a course of treatment for the patient. These case studies mirrored the work students would do as qualified physicians, requiring them to be resourceful and take the reigns of their learning.
The 9th grade cluster teachers began learning about PBL as a classroom strategy through a book study last school year. This year, the goal of each teacher was to put together a PBL learning event for their classrooms. Ms. Watson and Mrs. Bailey's English 9H classes were the first to roll out their PBL. The English teachers selected objectives related to the research process and are asking the students to focus on problems in society.
The first step of a PBL is being introduced to a messy problem. Placed in the role of university research assistants, our students were given a call for submissions to The Journal of Effective Solutions. Students brainstormed the topic and settled on a research question for their group.
One key aspect of PBL is that teachers take a step back and allow the students to drive the process of learning. One way we did this was by asking the students to create the rubric for evaluation of their papers. After looking at an example of an exemplary APA paper and investigating the research process, students were asked to describe exemplars for categories like grammar, tone, in-text citations, etc.
While teachers are asking students to take a more exploratory approach to learning, we have to still ensure students are meeting learning objectives. This is accomplished through formative assessments like daily exit tickets, progress logs, and posts to digital mediums like Socrative and Edmodo. However, the most useful data to inform teachers comes from the Project Board, which is another key element of PBL. The Project Board is a fluid document that the teacher uses to check the progress of the students toward their learning objectives. We opted to use sticky-notes in order to move answered questions to the "known" category and to be able to update our action steps and processes. The teachers use this board, particularly the "need to know" section to plan learning activities that address individual concerns.
Based on what students stated they "Need to Know" about the research process, the LMS, GRT, and classroom teachers devised a rotation of mini-lessons to address those needs. In the library, each group was given a 15 minute introduction to online databases, organizing research, evaluating web-sites for credibility, and APA in-text citations. In order to further individualize learning, teachers used the TES site Blendspace to create tutorials on a variety of topics in the writing and revision process.
On Monday, February 22 gifted students from Kempsville Middle School and Larkspur Middle School were invited to KHS to shadow current 9th and 10th graders. The idea came from a series of recruitment trips that took place at the middle schools in December. Many of the middle school students talked about feeling anxious about coming to high school so the shadow day was created to soothe some of those fears.
The students were ferried around in activity buses driven by gifted cluster teachers and delivered to the Kempsville library during our second block. The future Chiefs were greeted by their host student and Mrs. George, one of the assistant principals at KHS. After a tour of the building, high school students took their guests to third and fourth blocks. Middle schoolers participated in classes, navigated the hallways and the lunch line, and some had an opportunity to participate in an intra-building problem solving activity during study block. Most importantly, our guests had a chance to find out first hand what Chief-life is all about.
AP European History simulates the Industrial Revolution
Mr. Quinn and I teamed up to plan a lesson together to teach the Industrial Revolution which began in Great Britain in the 1780's. The students were introduced to the simulation by presenting them with maps of Manchester, England from 1750 and 1850. They were able to observe the urban sprawl that occurred over 100-years time and asked to predict how this sprawl happened given what they know about Britain's social, political, economic, technological, and environmental status in 1750. The simulation took students through 100-years of change in a typical British town, highlighting the advancements in technology, the social, political, and economic changes, and the toll these changes took on the environment and family life at the time. Embedded in this simulation were primary documents that typified the events of the day which students discussed to deepen their understanding of the time period. Ultimately, students used the historical background they created early on and the documents they used each day in class to practice the skill of Document Based Question (DBQ) writing for the AP exam.
PBL in the works for the 9th grade cluster
Problem Based Learning, or PBL, has been an area of study for the 9th grade cluster teachers over the last two years. What began as a book study last year, is now in the planning and implementation phase. PBL presents students with a messy problem to sort out, learning of new material occurs as a careful balance between independent discovery and teacher-led activities, and ultimately students create a final product of their choice presenting their solution. PBL was first developed in medical schools to teach content along with developing creative thinking, research, and problem solving skills. By approaching new material through PBL, students take the reigns of their learning and are able make better meaning of the content we teach. I don't want to give too much away, but this year our 9th grade cluster students are going to be asked to approach problems as though they were FEMA task-force members, genetic counselors, and graduate research assistants in their Health, Biology and Honors English classes.
SPARKS and Think Tank are under way
The online-blended elective, SPARKS and Think Tank began this week. When we are done in June, I look forward to some wonderful independent research presentations from this crew! We kicked off our semester of inquisition on Tuesday with our first face-to-face meeting. At the meeting, students were given an overview of the course and introduced to the online learning platform, Edmodo. We also did a few getting-to-know-you and team building activities. Pictured below are students completing "Silent Squares" where the team had to make their way through a secret path on the grid without talking. In our debrief, we talked about how this activity was a metaphor for online learning and how we are all will need to adjust how we communicate since "talking it out" is no longer an option.
What's a Google Expedition, you ask? A Google Expedition is an educational app that takes students on a virtual field trip to hundreds of places on the on Earth and even all the way to Mars. Using Google Images, satellite photos, and NASA photos, students can ascend Olympus Mons and see a sandstorm on Mars. They look for sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef and follow a weather balloon as it journeys up through the stratosphere.
Kempsville High School students are lucky to be among a group of students and teachers who were asked to beta-test the application in class today. 9th grade cluster students from World History, Biology, and Algebra II/Trig had a chance to put on the goggles and explore with their teachers.
Students were so excited to be among the first to get their hands on the technology. The kids were engaged and excited. It was amazing to watch! All I heard from the kids were comments like, "this is a game changer" "how cool is this?!" "ohmigosh, look at the..." "woooa!" I even overheard a few students who were trying to come up with their own design prototype for the goggles! Even the teachers were enamored--check out more pictures below.
Vocal Music students performed Handel's Messiah to commemorate the holiday season. You should be able to spy a couple of familiar faces below.
The GSA jazz band features Xavier Brown and performed holiday music for shoppers at MacArthur mall.
Yesterday I was part of a team of teachers who embarked on a mission to study the AP learning environment in classes at Ocean Lakes High School. We were looking specifically for tips to integrate rigor through technology and improve engagement through student-centered activities. Boy were we inspired! We spent our morning observing AP Biology and AP US History; having candid conversations about scaffolding academic support structures in AP classes; and thinking of ways to adjust our instruction to meet student needs. Yesterday was the first of many AP teacher learning walks and I hope they continue to be meaningful, productive experiences for our teachers.