Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Shape of Things

The journey has begun. My daughter, Dusty, is officially a first grader and a participant in the school’s Gifted and Talented program.

A week into the school year, we attended Back to School night and a meeting with the G&T teachers. The women have a confusing job sharing set-up which seems to work for them, underscoring their amazing organizational skills. They gave a presentation that covered what they do, what the different grades focus on throughout the year, how they work with the classroom teachers, etc. In short, they said all the right things in all the right ways and I felt very excited.

We were given Dusty’s Individual Education Plan for each subject area and...I saw a lot of jargon and incomplete phrases that appeared to be more for the teachers' benefit than the parents'. My excitement turned to confusion. And I have a degree in education. Granted, that was a long time ago and I did not end up teaching, but I was back to feeling a bit left out of the process.

I knew which days the teachers would be in Dusty’s classroom so I quizzed her at dinner one night.

“So, Mrs. A. was in your classroom today?”


“And you like her?”

“Yeah, she’s fun.”

“What did you do?”

“I don’t know. Shapes.”

“Shapes? Did you play with shapes?” I’m imagining some hands-on activity with tangrams or some other similar manipulative.

“No. She had one of those things. A machine. Like a movie projector.”

“An overhead projector?”

“Yeah. She moved the shapes around.”

Uh. So, no hands-on activities? The teacher just moved triangles around on an overhead? The fact that I got this much information out of my six-year-old was a triumph of sorts but clearly I wasn’t getting the entire story.

So imagine my surprise when I received an email from each of the teachers the next day. Wow! Here’s what they’ve been doing:

1. A lesson using the book “A Bad Case of Stripes” that involved patterns. The “shapes” on the overhead were used to create masks using “patterns from our imaginations.” They then filled in Venn diagrams to show more than one way the patterns were alike and different.

2. A lesson that falls under the title Socratic Seminars using “Chester’s Way”. This was a citizenship lesson involving social studies and language arts that analyzed the text, discussed respectful behavior, comparing and contrasting, and relating personal experiences to the big ideas presented.

3. A lesson using “The Principal’s New Clothes” which again used Venn diagrams to compare this story to “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” They then designed a new outfit for their principal and wrote a descriptive sentence about this outfit.

4. A lesson in patterns and skip counting using “Jack and the Beanstalk”. They got to work with beans and glue for this one.

So far, so good. If nothing else, these email messages have given me a window into what Dusty does all day and what she’s learning. The fact that the G&T teachers communicate weekly with worth its weight in gold.

Now, if I could only get Dusty excited about her homework...

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