Wonders All Around

Learning Alongside My 5th Grade Wonders


#SOL21 – Day 19 – Family TV Night

No vemos mucha televisión en familia, pero recientemente encontramos un programa que a todos nos gusta: Young Sheldon. Todos los fines de semana, nos sentamos juntos en el sofá y miramos esto. A menudo hay montones de mantas, generalmente palomitas de maíz, y siempre muchas risas. Este es un momento especial porque los niños son todos adolescentes y usualmente prefieren a pasar mucho tiempo en sus habitaciones. ¡Me alegro de que tengamos muchos episodios para disfrutemos juntos!

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We don’t watch a lot of tv as a family, but we recently found a show that we all like: Young Sheldon. Every weekend, we sit together on the couch and watch this. There are often piles of blankets, often popcorn, and always lots of laughter. This is a special time because the kids are all teenagers and usually prefer to spend a lot of time in their bedrooms. I’m glad there are a lot of episodes for us to enjoy together.


#SOL21 – Day 12 – En Español

No soy bilingüe, pero estudio español todos los días. Comencé a usar Duolingo hace cuatro años cuando mi hijo empezó a tomar español en la escuela. Me senté en mi cómoda silla despues de la cena con uno de nuestros gatos en mi regazo. “¡Cricket quiere aprender español tambien!” bromeamaos. ¡Es bueno tener un amigo de estudio, pero necesito uno que no duerma durante las lecciones!



I am not bilingual, but I study Spanish every day. I started using Duolingo four years ago when my son started to take Spanish in school. I sat in my cozy chair after dinner with one of our cats on my lap. “Cricket wants to learn Spanish, too!” we joked. It’s nice to have a study buddy, but I need one who doesn’t just sleep through the lessons!


#SOL21 – Day 7 – Video Lessons, part 1

Like many teachers, I started recording videos of many of my lessons just over a year ago. Those first ones were SO hard to make! I scripted everything…the words, the images, the transitions, the pacing…yes, everything. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend more than 30 minutes, sometimes almost an hour, planning for a 5-minute minilesson.

Another thing I struggled with was saying everything perfectly. I’d start the recording and then find myself saying, “Umm…” too many times, or I’d start ad libbing and forget what I was supposed to say next. There were many times that I got tongue-tied and stumbled over a word. Whenever this happened, I started recording again or planned to spend time editing the video later. There was one lesson that had about 10 retakes. Getting it just right was one thing I could do to support my students in the early days of remote learning.

I also spent a lot of time double-checking everything before I posted it to Google Classroom. I’d rewatch the video, write out all of the directions carefully, and reread the directions multiple times to make sure that I wouldn’t be bombarded with emails asking, “What am I supposed to do?” or “I don’t get it!” It was exhausting, and even though I knew it was not sustainable, I kept at it.

Once, as I was looking over student questions and responses to an assignment, I wondered why so many were having a hard time with the reading strategy I’d so carefully modeled in the minilesson video. I decided to rewatch the lesson and see if I could figure out why.

My jaw dropped about 20-seconds into the video. Instead of seeing me annotate the text and record my thinking on a doc, only the main window of my computer, the one with the description of the minilesson, was recorded. As it turns out, I skipped some of my usual quality-control checks to get this assignment out to all four classes on time. Ugh! Why couldn’t just one of the over-one hundred 5th graders have emailed me about this oversight?!?

This is when I realized that “good enough” is all my students really need, even during remote learning. “One take” became my new rule, which I mostly followed. If I misspoke, forgot to explain something, or didn’t have the visuals perfectly choreographed, that was fine. There would be a chance to follow up in another lesson. It was my chance to follow what I always say to my students: “You never have to try to be perfect; just try to do the best you can each day with the time and resources that you have.”


#SOL21 – Day 5 – Not Quite Checked Off My List

This morning, I wrote three tasks on my lunchtime to-do list: schedule my doctor’s appointment, reset the low tire pressure warning on my car, and pick up the spare key for that car. Totally manageable for a Friday, right?

The hardest part of scheduling my doctor’s appointment was finding the phone number, but after a few clicks in My Chart, I had what I needed. I was even able to get an appointment for next week on the afternoon of records day, so I won’t even have to write any sub plans!

Next, I searched the Internet for steps to reset the warning on my car. According to the first site suggested, it would take a few clicks on the car’s touchscreen and then 30 minutes of driving to recalibrate the system. If that was really the case, this wasn’t going to be a lunchtime task. Fortunately, I decided to watch a short video on the process, and it turns out the 30 minutes of driving isn’t necessary. I went out to the car and recalibrated the system in about 30 seconds.

The last task was picking up the spare key for the used car I purchased last week. The dealership is about 2 miles from work, so I would still have plenty of time to eat lunch and get ready for the afternoon. When I arrived, my salesperson was at the door to greet me. I collected the key from him, chatted for a few minutes about how much I’m enjoying the car and went on my way. It felt so good to finish everything on my list.


I didn’t discover the problem until I arrived home after work. As I got out of the car, I noticed that the spare remote didn’t have all of the same buttons that the other one does. I walked away from the car, let it automatically lock, and then pressed the unlock button on the spare remote. Silence. I pressed the unlock button on the original remote. Click-click. The car is now unlocked. Ugh!

Well, getting the spare key is back on my to-do list. Hopefully, it doesn’t take too much more to get this actually taken care of!


#SOL21 – Day 3 – Yucky Food


Oh, how I wish I could capture this pitiful cry in letters!

The eyes that stare up at me, telling me about the injustice that has occurred.

The indignant sulking away.

The return to protest only moments later.


Yes, I can tell that you hate this food,

But you loved it last week.

What’s changed?

Shopping for you is so hard!


#SOL21 – Day 2 – New Schedules

I’m sitting in the semi-dark of the dining room, reading daily Slices and leaving comments as I savor my tea. Each word, each sip, fills me with the peace and energy I need to start my day.

“No one’s up yet?” my husband asks as walks past on his way to the couch.

I glance at the time in the bottom corner of the screen. Hmm. It’s already that time? “No, probably not for one or two more minutes,” I answer, “But I think I heard Emmeline getting out of her bed.”

“I hope not. Not for another hour.”

My brain tries to make sense of this. Yesterday, all three of the kids set alarms for 5:45 so they’d be ready for the first day of catching the high school bus at 6:30. Why shouldn’t she be getting up now? “Oh, that’s right. Orchestra’s only at the high school on Monday and Thursday.”

I sure hope my kids can keep track of their new schedule!


For Goodreads

I just couldn’t resist this book.  Tiptop Cat by C. Roget Madercat


The Tendency to Question and Challenge

I highly recommend this lecture if you interact with gifted youngesters at all.  The third characteristic of gifted youth, according to Judith Roseberry, is to question generalizations and challenge authority.  I’ve heard other people call this the “little lawyer syndrome.”  You’ve probably met the child who cannot just accept what you say as being true and argues over details, an individual word, or even a related, but different example.  From my experience with a classroom of 28 gifted youngsters, I agree that this group of students does this more than average youngsters.

Our class has been working on ways to respectfully disagree with each other in conversation.  I can see that they need to be able to show that they agree with, or at least acknowledge, parts of another person’s statement, even when they do not agree with everything.  Being able to notice small details and evaluate their accuracy can be a wonderful skill in a democratic society.  Questioning and challenging can lead to new insights and new discoveries or all.  Too much questioning, however, can be perceived as being disrespectful.  Roseberry gives suggestions on phrases to teach to gifted youngsters that allow them to question and challenge ideas, but still follow social courtesies and use polite manners.  Most of these phrases are given with teenagers challenging their parents in mind, but the ideas still fit with younger children in the classroom:

  • In my opinion it seems as if…
  • Would you look at my evidence?
  • Is there anything I could say that would change your mind?

With instruction and practice, students can learn to use phrases like these on a regular basis.  They need to realize that conversations can be more productive and satisfying for everyone when the questioning and challenging of ideas happens in a polite, nonjudgemental way.


High Personal Standards

I agree that many gifted individuals tend to have this piece we often call “perfectionism.”  I can think of several students in my class this year who spend a long time making sure the conventions, presentation, word choice, etc. are perfect on anything before they share it with the world.  (I know a few gifted adults who still do this, too!). On the other hand, these same individuals can have the messiest desk you’ve ever seen.  It’s hard to use the phrase “high personal standards” to describe someone after finding an old banana peel in his/her desk.


What I learned from this presentation is that the key words “high” and  “personal” are equally important.  The standards that gifted students set are their own, and it is hard for them to lower (or raise) these standards simply because of what someone else says.  The example that comes to mind (about attention to detail) is the student who rushes through math problems, not showing his work, but writes an amazing descriptive fictional story.  This student attendance a high standard for details, but only when HE feels they are necessary.


Craving for Knowledge

Craving for knowledge.  This is listed as one of the typical characteristics of gifted individuals, and this seems to apply to each of the students in my class.  The students definitely show their excitement in different ways, but I can get them all hooked by letting them ask questions and helping them find the answers.

We have a Question Box in the classroom.  I wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning of the year when I introduced this, but there has been quite a variety of questions so far these couple two months.  Some of the questions seem strange at first (“Who invented the alphabet?”), but it turns out it came from looking at the alphabet strip at the front of the room.

The Question Box has helped me deal with the barrage of questions that I typically get during any given lesson.  I’m sure my students silently groan when I say, “If you have any more questions, please share them in the Question Box,” but it sounds better to me than, “I’m put of time for questions.”  Sometimes the questions show up in the box; other times they don’t.  The important thing to me is that I’m honoring and validating their curiosity.

I haven’t unshared Wonderopolis with this class yet, but last year’s class really enjoyed the site and information whenever we pulled it up.  I think I need to find a way to make it a part of our weekly routine.

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