When my district decided to completely revamp our gifted service model, I eagerly decided to obtain my gifted teaching endorsement and take charge. The result transcended expectations and in Loveland, we affectionately refer to “the GREEN ROOM”. (1st year in review)

My first task: create a unique environment.  This video introduces the GREEN ROOM to new students with a virtual tour:

So clearly my environment is very different… In Ohio, law requires that we identify gifted learners but does NOT mandate that services be provided. Prior to the 2013-2014 school year, we offered a very selective pull out model where students were pulled out ¾ of a day one day a week for supplemental and enrichment services. We used a strict set of criteria so very few students were eligible. As we adjusted our criteria, we increased the number of students receiving services by 200%.

The decision was made to have our gifted services be offered in reading/ELA as replacement instruction. While this means that I have to focus heavily on ensuring my students have full grade level mastery, I also have to stretch and advance the curriculum.  Gifted_green room overview

I serve all students with a superior cognitive identification, with the exception of a few students who have reading needs. This means I do have a few twice exceptional students I am a consult for, but do not serve directly. These are students that still need reading fluency and skill foundation; while I have the background and qualification to teach these skills, it was decided that the focus of our reading service model should be on comprehension and vocabulary standards.

The result is a range of student ability. When students leave me, they must have an additional “achievement” score. Then the GIS serves all LA needs to a more selective group.

So within our alternative service model, students are placed in clusters with 3rd/4th grade teaching teams. (This year we have 7 teams for 3rd and 6 for 4th with one self contained class). One hour of the day, students leave their homeroom to work with me, so while they are with me, their homeroom teacher is teaching reading to a smaller class, thus the replacement. Then I have 2 groups of 4th graders and 2 groups of 3rd graders. I write a WEP for each child with 2 reading goals and 1 affective domain goal. I do a great deal of curriculum compacting to ensure that grade level needs are met because I cannot automatically assume that my children have all of the skills they need. With the range of motivation and skill level, menu choices are the best way I can give my students choices while still ensuring that I have also met the content goals required. Blended learning is a huge part of our classroom as we have “plugged” and “unplugged” learning opportunities.

How does it work? The first piece is differentiation through a menu of choices. Weekly assignment menu 2014 page  Since we are a “non-graded” school, we assess on a “number continuum”.  That gives me flexibility to allow my students to work for points.  Since my students have a wide range of skills, I meet the needs of students who have superior achievement to those that are average in skill.  The common thread is how quickly they pick up new content and how their minds work in more advanced, complex ways.  I still have to teach many basic concepts and skills, so I never assume my students already know, have been exposed to, or understand something.  Scoring guide for the GREEN ROOM 3rd grade weekly point sheet 4th grade weekly point sheet READ station menu overview

As an extra motivator, I do have 100 club incentives too. (I am currently making some modifications, but one includes an “app evaluator”) 100 club perks

Dive ins: The “Daily Dive-in” started out as a transition activity. I would have students coming from up to 4 different homerooms, so it was a way to have them get right to work on a meaningful task. My goal with dive-ins has become a way to really stretch and extend creative thinking while building skills within the common core (specifically RL 7)

 Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 1.23.47 PM

My 3rd graders have enjoyed responding to artists like Norman Rockwell, Van Gogh, Grant Wood, Monet, Rauschenberg, so far this year with more artists to come. They do this “unplugged” in composition notebooks I cut in ½. 4th graders then use a virtual classroom environment to access and respond to their tasks. They have done a range of artists, starting the year with self-portraits. Currently my 4th graders are examining the writing and illustrations of Chris Van Allsburg.Dive in illustration_Stranger 1  The ultimate goal is to move past what we call “captain obvious” and pull out the “captain creative” in us all!

Artistic techniques

 Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 2.05.52 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 1.45.09 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 1.45.23 PM

First and foremost, I have to remember that I am charged with teaching reading skills. Again, I know I can never assume that my students already know something or can figure something out. I still have to do a great deal of modeling and scaffolding, but I set a high bar and then gradually help each student get there.

Even before the new PARCC assessments came out with a huge emphasis on written response to reading, I started exploring response to reading as a school-home connection. I did this before become a GIS so I built upon those ideas to ramp up the expectation. Using a menu approach, students in both 3rd and 4th grade have a range of choices for both fiction and non-fiction, as well as a scoring rubric to use as a guide. It has taken some level of scaffolding to get the students to this level of intensity, and most of my 3rd graders are not fully there yet, but the investment is already paying off!  Video lessons have allowed my students to watch again and involve parents for support at home.  (Responding to text video playlist:  I even have students exploring audio and video responses to build on speaking skills (we use dropbox so students can share their work.)

 Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 1.56.29 PM

educreations Educreations app

Instead of reading groups, we have “Talk about Text” groups.  While I enjoy small class sizes (15, 11, 13, 16) subdividing students into even smaller groups makes discourse and specific content/skill instruction focused and meaningful. Students receive a text in advance to read in advance.  Then they come ready to “chat”.  Again, I have to keep standards in mind, so close reading is a huge focus.  When I need to model, I often use a monitor connected to an iPad with Educreations for an interactive whiteboard experience.  Close reading 1 2 3


A new, but exciting experience this year for my 4th graders is the addition of a book club. We are reading a novel and each week we have a discussion on the next chapter. They get a “discussion” guide to use as they read and annotate in order to better prepare for the Friday “chat”. I randomly place them in 3-4 groups and they use an app called “Recordium” to record the discussion. I later listen to each group to reflect and assess then turn the recording into a podcast to share with families as well as make available for classroom use. Book club scoring rubric Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 2.24.15 PM

Curriculum compacting has become a critical part of what I do. While I would love to just focus on the exciting projects and independent pursuits, I have to make sure that my students know and can apply specific vocabulary and terms. To give my students the needed background information, we are building an interactive notebook that we refer to as well read texts. For example, this week the students relied on their notebooks to access elements of poetry as we compared two poems on similar topics. I had to teach the basics of figurative language, verse, meter, structure/layout before we could dive deep into the meaning. While the “compacting” isn’t exciting, it allows me to maximize the time I have and gives students access to information at their own pace. I’ve learned that my gifted students have been conditioned to be poor listeners…mostly because they pick up information quickly and start to tune out in the classroom when information becomes repetitive. After a few years of tuning out that repetition, they need to learn to tune back in! Until they do, they know they can put a video lesson on pause, replay a part they need, or parents can access to support at home. This has also been great for when a student is absent!  I am still building my playlist and refining the interactive “notebook” pieces, but here it is thus far:

Independent choices are the core of our routine.  In order to get the time to meet with small groups and be available for individual conferencing, students are expected to be self-directed.  Because my students are 8-10, they are not all able to make the best choices yet, so I have to give them choice with structure.  This is where my station choices come in.  We call these “side dishes”.  Each week they choose at least 3 of the 6. Writing station:  Listening station:

“Desserts” started as a way to entice the kids with some extra special choices. Some have become routine while others are specific to what we might be learning at a specific time.  Check out 3 students demonstrating “Shades of Meaning” (which I purchased from TeachersPayTeachers). Other “desserts” are digital discussion options or Edmodo supplements.

“Snacks” evolved out of a need to give those “hungry” students more.  They also were necessary because I was sharing students with 13 different teaching teams across two grade levels and I was expected to provide supplements when needed for my children to access in their homerooms.  We call these “ELO’s” or “Extra Learning Opportunities”.  I get these from reproducible resources such as logic problems, word ladders, and reading detectives, but I’ve also integrated paragraph prompts because too many of my students need skill development. Blooms brochures are something I found on TeachersPayTeachers, giving me an opportunity to really teach and reinforce Bloom’s Taxonomy. We call it “extending the experience”:

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 3.04.13 PM (My “Blooming Thinkers” is at )


Passion project Steps to expert

Passion Projects have been my way of incorporating independent study. Technically I am charged with reading instruction and am the teacher of record for reading for my students, so research and presentation are not officially my responsibility, but as GIS I have to guide my students towards independent learning pursuits.  I have developed a passion project unit available at:  We display our Passion projects in our virtual museum at:

Virtual Field trips evolved out of a need to be standards driven in reading, gifted learning, and technology all at the same time.  I also needed flexible assignments at the end of the school year to accommodate testing and field trip schedules.  In May I go from getting to see students 5 days a week to 2-3, and because I pull from multiple classrooms, I would have 1/2 to 1/3 of students on a given day.  The routine we worked so hard to establish went out the window but the virtual field trip was born! Virtual Field Trip

Introduction to a “flow chart”:

“Fishing for facts” (note taking strategy):

How to write a postcard:

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 3.16.30 PM

Self-direction: Last year I had a reality check for my students when we had huge disruptions to our routine because of snow days. This made the point system challenging and the communication of progress to parents very difficult. At this point I my students and I had to evaluate their own level of self-directed-ness. I had students in both grades ranging from 297 points to 22 points. It was very frustrating because I had to find ways to get the bare minimum out of unwilling students to challenging students that could not get enough. That’s when I created a rubric for self-direction. The goal was to inspire students to be a “3” or “4”, while recognizing that as a teacher of record I had to still accommodate my “2’s”. I made it clear that “the GREEN ROOM” was no place for “1’s”! Rubric for Self Directed Learner

As a teacher of record, I have to give a variety of assessments. Some are just “grade level” specific, but others I try to ramp up the rigor.  Here are two centered around CCSS Reading Anchor 4: CCSS gifted asssement RA 4 3rd grade CCSS gifted asssement RA 4 4th grade

Rubrics of course are important for my young learners to use as tools.  While we use many specific ones, here are a few general ones: Rubric for Quality Work Effort and persistence rubric

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s