The Gifted Gazette
Simkins Elementary: Volume 1: Issue 4
Calendar of Events
12/6-"Say Yes" Information Session
Classroom Needs: The cold weather is here and we are in need of tissues for our classroom. Any donations would be greatly appreciated.
Our current ELA unit on human rights focuses on exposing students to stories of historical human right violations around the world. With the current events that are happening all around the world, our human rights unit has taken on a whole new meaning. Fifth grade ELA students have been extremely vocal sharing their ideas about the events that they have watched unfold around the world. The attack on Paris and the Syrian refugee crisis, while unfortunate have offered great opportunities for students to see how human rights affect everyone. The worldwide news coverage has allowed students to see the differing view points that often surround human rights issues. In class, students had the opportunity to discuss how the events that are occurring are tied directly to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students have been able to see that there is not always a clear answer when discussing human rights. This month we will continue to explore human rights through the story of Malala. Students will also read a nonfiction article that centers around child labor in other countries. During these activities students will continue to work on annotating the text, determining two main ideas for one text, and expressing themselves in a clear and concise manner. This month students will also begin working on their final project for our human rights unit that will be coming to an end during the month of January.
Our current unit Beyond Base 10 builds upon an exponential understanding of place value and will help students explain patterns in the number of zeroes of the product when multiplying a number by powers of 10. Students will take their understanding of the our base 10 system and begin applying it to other number systems. Students will explore converting between different base systems. Students will specifically look at the base 5 number system and the base 2 number system. Students will practice representing different numbers in different bases. For example, students will represent the number 712 base 10 in base 5. Students will also convert numbers in base 5 or base 2 back to the base 10 number system. Students will also explore the history behind ancient numbers systems such as the Mayans, Greeks, Chinese, and Egyptians. This unit requires students to think about numbers in ways that they have never thought about them before.
This month we will continue with our unit Explaining the Explainable and explore ancient myths from around the world. Students have really enjoyed reading Greek myths and have had a lot of great discussions concerning what the myths are trying to explain in addition to discussing the truths and untruths in each myth. This month students will continue their work with Pandora's Box. Students will create their own modern day version of Pandora's box where they will place items in the box that represent good and evil in today's society. Students will also read the Native American myth Loo-Witt, The Fire-Keeper and compare and contrast this myth with Pandora's box. Students will also continue to work on their close reading skills and explore themes throughout literature as they read the myth Daedalus and Icarus and many other Greek myths. This month students will also begin working on their end of unit project. Look for more details to come in your January newsletter.
Our current unit focuses on real world mathematics. Fourth grade students will continue to explore mathematics concepts that they will use as adults. This month students will explore the idea of chance through the concept of probability. Students will explore where the phrase lucky number seven comes from and students will investigate if mathematics can help determine the outcome of events. Students will explore probability through the use of dice, spinners, and coins. Students will practice representing probability data using fractions and percents. Students will also learn about the power of interest rates and its importance when financing large purchases . During this lesson students will learn how to use decimals and percents when calculating interest. Students will also practice their writing skills by completing math journal prompts at the end of each lesson that sum up the big ideas from each lesson that we cover in class.
The Learning Myth: Why I'll Never Tell My Son He's Smart By: Salman Khan
My 5-year-old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell-tale signs of a “growth mindset.” But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.
Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.
What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.
However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.
The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth mindset with someone. Process praise acknowledges the effort; talent praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait. And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.
The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind. However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra – it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument. If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.
And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right) can begin to change a person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.