• Grades

    Posted by Loralie Cole-Holmbo on 8/27/2018

    If My Child is in a Gifted Program, Why are his Grades So Low?

        Many children who switch from a general education classroom to a gifted self-contained classroom find it a bit overwhelming at first.  There can be tears when a student who usually receives all A’s gets a B or C on a quiz. There can be frustration from parents who are used to feeling proud of their child’s high scores.  

        In many cases, what has happened is that the gifted children  learned how to underachieve.  Gifted students can learn the typical material in about half the time of a average student, so when they see their peers working more slowly, they learn to slow down their pace.  “By the fourth grade, they have experienced several years of coming to school, putting forth very little effort, and getting amply rewarded for it” (Rogers, p. 270).

        Therefore, in my fifth-grade class, I have to spend a few weeks breaking bad habits that the students have spent years creating.  We are moving at a pace twice as fast as that to which they are accustomed, and they need to learn how to function in that environment.  I do not have a “skill and drill” class. Over time, they will get used to practicing the material with fewer repetitions; however, in order to do that, they will need to increase their focus and attention and invest energy into working at a much faster pace.  


    Is My Kid Still Gifted?!

        Of Course!  There are varying levels of giftedness - and in different subject areas and modalities - so just because your child is no longer “the top” one in the class doesn’t change the fact that s/he has higher-than-average strengths.  In a partnership between teacher and parent, we will provide outstanding education experiences and increase the levels of expectations so that your child can fulfill her/his highest potential!

    Resources:  Losing Our Minds: Gifted Children Left Behind by Deborah L. Ruf, and Re-Forming Gifted Education by Karen B. Rogers

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  • That Book Project!

    Posted by Loralie Cole-Holmbo on 2/24/2017

         Sending in the Student Treasures published books last Friday was an, um… amazing experience (… and some parents might have their own colorful adjectives to describe their feelings about it as well)!  So, I’d like to go over some things that the children learned throughout this project.

    • Quantity of writing – It’s important to start at the beginning in order to know how far students have come. At the beginning of the year, at the end of the first week, I had them respond to a prompt relating to our first-quarter theme:  “What does it mean to depend on each other?”  I got many one-sentence answers.  To say the least, I was disappointed.  With this book project, I was getting several seven-, eight-, or ten-paged, single-spaced, size-12 font stories!  That amount of writing from ten-year-olds is amazing.    
    • Creativity – We know that the gifted child’s brain can make brilliant connections, and I have seen that in action every day. Whether it’s fan fiction or fantasy, the amazing twists, turns, depth, and character development amazes me each and every day!   
    • Teamwork – This buzz word is sometimes overused, so let me give specific examples to demonstrate what I mean. Especially during crunch time the last few days, I had to “hire” illustrators to help some kids who were just not going to finish on time.  The conversations that I heard were amazing:  “Does this look like how you want it?” “I don’t understand why your character did that. Can you explain it better?”  “I think you need to start a new paragraph there.”  “That drawing’s awful.”  “She said my drawing’s awful!”  “Can you re-phrase that, please?” Silence. “How about, ‘Can I help you with that?’” which ended up leading to an amazing illustration at the end.  
    • Quality of writing – Again, to go back to the beginning, the quality of writing was at a level that I did not expect. Now, everyone knows where to put paragraphs, each child can write an introduction and conclusion, almost everyone knows how to punctuate dialogue, and we can all have in-depth conversation about how to balance descriptive adjectives regarding setting and characters vs. actions and events moving at the right pace in a plot. 


       So, was it all worth it?  You bet!  As you might have noticed, I used the adjective “amazing” several times here.  I cannot overstate how incredible the work is that your children are producing now.   Is everyone perfect?  No, but the next time you read a good book before you go to sleep at night, you can rest assured that your child might someday be on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List.

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  • Making a Difference

    Posted by Loralie Cole-Holmbo on 11/18/2016

         We are working on our unit theme, and we have enriched this topic of study by beginning a College of William and Mary unit called "Autobiographies and Memoirs."  Eventually, we will make connections on how these famous people contributed to society to make a difference.

         The initial activities are reading poems, and then writing a poem titled, "What's Important about Me."  Reading these student-authored poems have touched my heart, seeing the children describe themselves in such beautiful ways.  Several students have begun typing their final copy in a Google doc, so I hope that you access them at home and read the poems your children have written.

         Our first grammar study within this unit is categorizing words based on parts of speech.  We will soon be analyzing the meaning of the poems and what the author's intent was in writing the piece. 

         The College of William and Mary units are specifically designed for advanced learners, and I can definitely observe the appropriateness of the activities.  The kids have just eaten this up!  They are deeply engaged in the learning, asking me questions, and referring to the high-level texts during small book groups.  I look forward to digging deeper after Thanksgiving Break.  I am truly grateful for your children, and I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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  • Math Philosophy

    Posted by Loralie Cole-Holmbo on 11/4/2016

           Gifted students often learn at a very rapid pace and can remember what they’ve learned with very few repetitions.  In Mrs. Cole’s math class, this rapid pace is sustained on a daily basis. 

           For each standard, we begin with the lowest level (4th grade).  The lesson and practice time generally takes 15-20 minutes; it would take a typical class 45-60 minutes.  After the students “get it,” we increase the difficulty of the standard (move to the 5th-grade expectations, generally).  If they demonstrate proficiency at that level within the class period, we then move on to the 6th grade standards. 

           Of course, each lesson is also differentiated.  I have given a pre-test for each set of standards.  Students who have already shown proficiency for a given day’s lesson will not join us for the first mini-lesson; s/he will do extension work for that portion.  If particular students are not ready to move into the 6th-grade level part of the class period, they are given problem choices to develop fluency at the 4th- or 5th-grade level before moving on.  I believe that I have set a class culture where it is okay to work at your own level;  it is not okay to compare yourself to someone else or make someone feel bad for not moving as quickly. 

           You might be wondering why your child has scored upwards of 9th grade on the NWEA but is working on grade-level standards in class.  The answer is that NWEA questions are all multiple choice, and in class I expect students to explain themselves using advanced vocabulary.  This adds a depth and complexity to the work that is not scored on NWEA.  The purpose of this is so that students who want, for example, a math internship in high school or want to go on to engineering or architecture as a future career will have the communication skills to back up their excellent math skills. 

           If you have any comments or questions about this or any other topic, I’d love for you to share them with me!  E-mail me at lcoleholmbo@sd27j.net .

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  • Science Lesson Sweetens the Day!

    Posted by Loralie Cole-Holmbo on 10/6/2016

           Today’s science class was amazing!  Students were given their supplies and materials and had to design their own way to test and collect data and observations on the results.  Fifth-graders – who have been creating saturated solutions and measuring the amounts of solute (in grams) needed – had to create a focus question to test concentration of a solution and write an hypothesis.  The first reaction was, “I don’t know what to do.” And my response was, “Exactly!”  I didn’t tell the teacher-guided lesson plan.  Fourth-graders had to design models of circuits through which electricity would flow with the given materials.


           They had to put their prior knowledge and curiosity to work!  And boy, did they!  Their inquiry instincts kicked in and the room was buzzing with excitement as they used the tools to create, construct, check, and measure their hypotheses.  They were able to describe their results – how they knew their solutions were different concentrations by look, taste, and gram measurements in the solvent, or the success of their circuits.  I heard explanations like, “First, I didn’t know what to do, but when I realized what you meant, I added one scoop to the first cup, two scoops to the second cup, three scoops to the third cup, and four scoops to the fourth cup.”  “It was hard, because you didn’t tell us what to do, but then we tried it and we figured it out by tasting it.”  “It surprised me when we could light the bulb and run the motor with the same battery!” 


           These types of thinking develop problem-solving skills, communication with others, and confidence with risk-taking.  There were a few messes to clean up, but it was all worth it!

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  • How's it Going?

    Posted by Loralie Cole-Holmbo on 9/16/2016

    Our kids have already completed a month of school!  Can you believe it?!  

    It seems like we are going at a rapid pace.  I love it!  I'd like to get your feedback, though.  How is your child doing?  Do you feel that s/he is learning at an appropriate level and pace?  Is the blended learning (using both technology and paper materials) helping your child?  Do you want more homework?  Less homework?

    Fill me in on your impressions of Achieve Institute so far!  And thanks for joining us in this endeavor!

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