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Teacher Idea Exchange

This is a place for teachers, administrators, and parents to exchange ideas. E-mail your ideas to Carolyn so they can be posted as part of an exchange. Your lesson plans or strategies could also be posted here. We look forward to your ideas and suggestions! 

You may remember me from your visits to Australia. I love your Questivities model and I use it all the time, especially as I am now Senior Advisor on the new Australian Curriculum and in a position to teach teachers your model. Here are two I completed recently. I have many more. Is there a place on your website for me to place them? I will be placing them on ours.

Kind regards,
Janet Farrall

Questivities-Rabbit Proof Fence
Questivities-The Sapphires

Attached please find the handout "Avoiding Digital Distractions While Completing Homework." This piece comes to you from the Academically Talented Youth Program (ATYP) at Western Michigan University, and was compiled by Ms. Becky Cooper, our English Program Coordinator.

Thanks so much!
Nan Janecke
Program Coordinator

Avoiding Digital Distraction

Thanks for the opportunity to be part of Carolyn Coil's course on the Common Core Standards!  It was my pleasure.  As requested, please see the attached lesson plan.

Joy Hammond
The Champion School

Questivities™--Arab/Israeli Journal from the 1940s-Present

Here is my Primary ILP lesson along with the handout for the Biopoem. Carolyn's course was wonderful! Thanks for everything!

Monica Taggart
Henderson Mill Elementary

Primary ILP George Washington Carver
Biopoem Directions


Thank you for the workshop today! Here is the Tic-Tac-Toe I created to use a number of different ways to build knowledge about gymnastics.

April Stewart
Summit Academy

Gymnastics Tic-Tac-Toe

Here's my Urban Legend Tic-Tac-Toe for my Computer Graphics class (for 7th and 8th graders).  It's color-coded, and students are supposed to choose a project from each color. Thanks for the info an ideas!

Lisa Schoen
Summit Academy


Here are the documents I use with my students to teach them how to analyze and evaluate multiple sources of information. The "Checklist" is really the cover page that I make the students fill out themselves. It is a great way for them to "grade" their work. They other 3 pages are the actual DBQ itself. The last is an essay that a student of mine actually wrote. It was great having you as the keynote speaker at the West Virginia Gifted Conference.

Robyn Addie
Monongolia County Schools, West Virginia

Checklist and DBQ

Carolyn Coil asked us to share with you some UPDATED activities for Technological Learners.

  1. Create an new tool that demonstrates __________________________ .
  2. Customize his/her gadgets to show ____________________________ .
  3. Create flowcharts about _________________________________ .
    Mindomo.com, MindMeister, Bubbl.us, Popplet.com
    Popplet, iThoughts HD, SimpleMind+, etc
  4. Create a network of gadgets, projector and screens to show ___________________ . (Screen Sharing, air Drop, Google Talk, Google Docs, etc)
  5. Review and Evaluate information via RSS feeds on _________________________ . (Digg, Reddit, etc)
  6. Set up interactive video conferencing about _______________________. (Skype, Google Talk, iChat, etc)
  7. Lead an online meeting/webinar about _______________________. (Elluminate, Google Talk, Skype, Online Chatrooms, or Audience Response Systems, etc).
  8. Create a web album (stream) of ORIGINAL images to show ______________________. (Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, iWeb, etc)
  9. Produce a podcast series/channel that features information or news on __________________. (Garageband, Photobooth, KidPix, Audacity, PodOmatic, iTunes, etc)
  10. Create a wiki, tweet or blog about _________________________. (Wikispaces, Twittter, Blogger, Google Sites, webs.com, etc)

Dear Carolyn,

Here you go! Below is our plan for using the Monitoring Forms from the book Differentiation, RTI, and Achievement: How They Work Together

Thanks so much for the great Professional Development workshop.

Wendy Zacuto
Chinese American International School
Assistant Head, Academics

Click here to download a formatted copy of the Monitoring Form saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com:

Hello Carolyn:

Here is the Monitoring Form I adapted from your book Differentiation, RTI, and Achievement: How They Work Together. Since this student had two problems we were working on, I combined the Math Problem Solving and the Self Confidence Progress Monitoring Forms.

I learned a lot from your workshop and I can't wait to continue it at my school and in the Diocese.

Ramona Lapid
Catholic Schools - Diocese of San Francisco

Click here to download a formatted copy of the Monitoring Form saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com:


Differentiation for ESL Reflections--ESL students come with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and like their non-ESL counterparts, different levels of learning. Therefore, we need to provide them with these four considerations.

Karen Hile
ESL teacher, Oxford Schools, Oxford, MI

Differentiation for ESL Reflections

Hi Carolyn!

It was great to see you again at the NAGC conference. I received your RTI Monitoring Forms for Gifted Learners yesterday, Thank-you. I don‚t know if you remember but I told you I had added to your Product List for my students. I attached that, as you can see. I will continue to add to the list as I think of them. The products that are highlighted are products I haven‚t yet developed the Criteria Cards. I am working on them.

I also told you that I have students creating Questivities that are their Passion Projects. The students take a passion of theirs and create a Questivity, the Passion Projects are created for other students/teachers to check-out for individual research projects. I am about to start a new group on creating them. As of now I have them on Soccer, the Roman Empire, Music, China, First Lego League, Snowboarding, Skiing, Greatest Mountain Ranges, a couple of Video Games, Quantum Physics something or other (way beyond me), Biking, Fashion, Baseball, Time and Space, Animation, Directing, and a few others. They are so way cool! Thank you for all of your ideas and for keeping in touch with me.

Rita Olson
G/T facilitator/Coordinator

Click here to download a formatted list of her Products for Individual Projects saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com:

Thanks so much for your time on Friday (11/30/07). I have known very little about the craft of differentiation as I never had training in gifted education. Though I did some form of differentiation when I was a classroom teacher, it was not as effective as it could have been if I had known then what I am learning now. I came back to work this morning and decided to try my hand at making a tic tac toe. I created one for the book The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston ( a NC native) and shared it with my 2nd grade teachers. While I know there would room for improvement, they loved it and have asked for copies of it. It is my hope that once they see how easy it is for them to use with some of their students, they might get the bug to try some out on their own. Because of your practical approach and usable tools, I feel better empowered to help my teachers effectively differentiate. Thanks so much! I excitedly look forward to March! I am attaching a copy of my product. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for making it better. Have a happy holiday season!

Kelley James, Instructional Facilitator
Northview Elementary, Iredell-Statesville Schools

Click here to download a formatted copy of the Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Tic-Tac-Toe saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com:

Hi Carolyn

Here it is - my Tic Tac Toe with the rubrics for high school English Literature. Thanks for the great workshop!

Jennifer Livingston
Newberg High School Language Arts

Literacy Circles Assessment
Literacy Circles Tic Tac Toe


I just wanted to say thank you again for a wonderful workshop. I would love to see more and can't wait to implement what I have learned into my classroom. Here is my Learning Contract for my unit on Simple Machines.

Jennifer Schneider
Teacher/Bldg Tech Coordinator
Dundee Elementary Dundee, OR 97115

Simple Machines Learning Contract

Questivities are Thinking Questions done in conjunction with a Project Activity.  They stimulate creative and critical thinking and give practice in research skills. The thinking questions are starter questions that should be done before students begin the Project Activity. This set of Questivities™ about Immigrants was developed by Judith Allensworth, a teacher in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Click here to download a formatted copy of the Imigrant Questivities saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com:

To purchase Questivities™ on a variety of different topics, log onto www.piecesoflearning.com

These are three Tic-Tac-Toes for student choice activities for High School Geometry sent by Penny Long from Nacogdoches ISD in Texas.

Surface Area and Volume Tic Tac Toe
Surface Area and Volume Tic Tac Toe Assessment
Transformation Tic Tac Toe.doc

Teachers often wonder about guidelines for parental involvement and assistance with their child's work. We spent time discussing this during a workshop in June 2007. The result was a letter to parents composed by Barbara Masten, a middle school teacher in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Dear Parent,

So that I may enrich your child's learning experience, I will be assigning a project for each grading period. This project will be minimally worked on during class time but mainly will require outside effort. I am writing to you concerning the issue of parent involvement. I want to encourage you to be involved with your child's education, but also to know what degree of assistance will be acceptable on homework/ projects.

Acceptable Assistance:

  • PLEASE check your child's agenda thoroughly so that you are aware of what is being covered. Assignment due dates are given to the class well in advance. What if your child doesn't bring home an agenda? Browse through the backpack and more specifically the Social Studies notebook. A single subject notebook is mandatory for this class. Organization is one of the skills that I feel is extremely important for student success and to enhance general school maturity. If you still feel that you are not informed about the classroom, please e-mail or call. (See below.) This works better than notes in the agenda as they are seldom passed on to me.
  • From time to time your child will have an easier time completing an assignment if he/ she have access to a computer and printer. The SFA and Nacogdoches Public Libraries are very convenient. I do recommend that you supervise your child while they are researching on the internet due to all the undesirable aspects available there.
  • Supplies such as glitter, construction paper, clay, poster board, etc. may need to be purchased throughout the year.

Unacceptable Assistance:

  • Part of learning is actually thinking through a project, and the step by step completion of that project.
  • All parents may offer suggestions but the ultimate decisions should be the student's.
  • Concerning construction: please assist with parts that may be safety issues; but don't "do" the project.

As the specialist, Ms. Carolyn Coil advises: "Be supportive and interested in what your child is learning, but do not do your child's homework for him or her. There is a delicate balance between too much parental assistance and not enough."

Please be aware that grades will reflect only the child's work.

Mrs. Masten, Social Studies

I attended your workshop on learning styles in Jasper recently and loved it. Came back and did some web searching and found a neat site. www.thelearningweb.net/personalthink.html It is a short 15 word choice to determone the concrete sequential, etc. 

Thank you for a wonderful day.

Susan Fiscus
North Daviess Elementary

I am a DeKalb County teacher who participated in the online gifted course last year with Amy Hall Kilbride as the instructor. The course brought me from good to great, and most of my improvements were because of your books.

Because of what I learned, we asked to teach a self-contained classroom with nine special education students, six gifted, and two regular education students. For the most part, the special education students are strong in math, but weak in language arts. The gifted-identified students are strong in language arts, but weak in math. We teach in small groups ALL day. The homework is leveled according to ability. The instr uction for math is compacted based on pretests. We provide the students with many tic-tac-toe activities from your books, which they love. I cannot list all of the improvements we have made.

It's my tenth year of teaching, and I have never enjoyed it so much. I want to extend an open invitation to our classroom. Please check out our website, http://home.att.net/~kristendrake/, and join us any time. Unfortunately, we have testing for the next three weeks. Beginning October 30, we'd love to have you.

Thank you for being such a great inspiration.

Kristen Drake, third grade teacher
Vanderlyn Elementary School



1. Kindness related thoughts
A. Practice random acts of kindness.
B. A question to ask learned from my years of involvement with Eckankar: prior to any action related to others, ask yourself, "Is it kind; is it true; is it necessary?" If you can answer Yes to all three aspects of the question, then there is a firm foundation to go ahead for the action.

2. Laughter produces beta-endorphins (mood elevators).

Ray A. Harmen


During my first year of teaching, I sent a card to the parent of each of my students over the course of the year. I got so much positive feedback and recognition back, and my students sparkled as well. I didn't so it last year in my second year, but I'm going to make some card-stock postcards for next year. It only takes a few minutes a day if you stay on top of it even with 150 students in 180 days. The best part was I had to pick something individual and positive in every student, and I looked at them all differently and more positively because I was constantly looking for something special I could write in the note.

Sarah Fox
Bellevue Christian Schools

Ms. Coil,

I want to say thanks for the work you've done. I'm sending you an attachment of one of the ILP's I used from your book Activities and Assessments for the Differentiated Classroom. I modified the ILP based on the book from page 90.

Cleofas Arenal III
Memorial M. S.

Click here to download a formatted copy of the Building Bridges Guidelines saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com:


Just a note to let you know how much I enjoyed your workshops at the conference in Athens. I plan to implement some of the strategies you demonstrated. I can pat myself on the back because you confirmed some of my own theories concerning student choice.

I thought of another activity to add to the Bingo choices on the plagarism lesson. The students could write a fable or a folktale which must include a moral.

I plan on doing these activities prior to teaching the research component of the Science Fair project which is required for our school's gifted 8th graders.

Thanks again for such inspirational and practical ideas.

Susan VB Teaster
Gifted Language Arts
Camden Middle School, Kingsland, GA

Dear Mrs. Coil,

I cannot tell you how much I needed yesterday's workshop at Huntington University. A friend and co-teacher attended one of your workshops last year and just raved. Now, I have to tell you there are definitely times when she just raves without reason - :) - occupational hazard, you know! But, I have to tell you, yesterday's workshop was definitely the best I have ever attended. And, as a former Resource Teacher, I have attended quite a few. You were honest, funny, honest, informative, honest, and practical. I loved it. Unfortunately, we didn't have school today, so I couldn't immediately put into practice many of your tips. I literally can't wait until Monday!!! You are a lifesaver and a career-saver. Thanks so much!

Marsha Banks


Here is the learning contract I promised to send you.  I actually thought it was an ILP, but this is the format I chose for some reason.  If you find it useful, please feel free to use it.  I would also welcome any comments or suggestions you would like to make.

Take care. I enjoyed seeing you at TAGT and look forward to your return to Nacogdoches next summer.

Danny Nichols, B.S., M.S.
Science Teacher and Robotics Facilitator, Mike Moses Middle School
Nacogdoches, TX 75961

Click here to download a formatted copy of Danny's learning contract handout saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com:

I just wanted to tell you how wonderful the information you shared at the Raising Student Achievement Conference I attended in St. Charles, IL on December 6, 2004.

I am a second year LD teacher -- currently a resource teacher. As you described the different categories of Underachievers, I could put many of my students into each of those categories. I plan to use the strategies to help me with one student I work with who does very little work, inside and outside of school. She has little or no help at home (we have found that her sisters actually do her homework for her, instead of helping her). I am going to try some of those strategies you gave us with her today!

Thank you so much for a great workshop!
Courtney Curtin, LDR
McHenry School District 15

Subject: Thanks from a grateful NZ teacher 

Dear Carolyn, thank you so much for the seminar you provided in Gisborne, New Zealand. I much enjoyed it and acquired from it such very useful information and ideas to implement in my classroom, thanks to you. I have been teaching since 1964 and love getting new ideas and strategies. Once upon a time I thought I would get to know all about teaching if I taught long enough. Silly me. I have long since realised that the more I learn, the more there is to learn. But isn't it fun! And they even pay one!

Thank you for your part in helping me to fill in this huge puzzle we call Education.

Hope you had a pleasant trip home. Come back soon.

Regards, Marcia Walmsley <m.walmsley@xtra.co.nz>


Whangara, New Zealand (where Whale Rider was filmed)

Dear Carolyn,

I recently attended one of your presentations at the Australian Gifted Conference in Melbourne.

I wish to thank you and congratulate you on both your fantastic presentation which was so enspiring and for sharing your knowledge and wisdom with all participants.

Personally, I felt that you were highly realistic and clear in your approach, sharing implementable ideas with educators to "take or leave". I have already set up my own version of the "Resident Expert" sheet - I am a music teacher (with good resources - computers/synthesizers for composing etc) and this will be a fantastic resource - especially with my Accelerated Learners class - as well as the mainstream classes - I will share your idea with others.

I have purchased some of your recommended books as a consequence and will share some of the resources with the 70+ staff at my College in my role as Middle Years Programs Manager.

If you have any other little handy sheets or helpful hints you could send me - especially in regard to Accelerated Learners - that I could share with my colleagues, I would be most grateful.

Thanks again for sharing your fantastic knowledge - I am in awe of your ability.

Regards and I hope it is a lovely day in USA today.

Pamela Turnbull <turnbull.pamela.p@edumail.vic.gov.au>
Middle Years Programs Manager
Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College

Hi Carolyn,

I am attaching the "rules" for my Survivor literature circles. My Coil-inspired assignment was to make each group responsible for choosing an activity fromt he choices in each of three different areas. Of course, the choices varied in learning style, and I used your grids for the assessment rubrics!

Thanks for all of the help you have given so many of us!

Martha Byrnes
English teacher, Brownsburg High School
Brownsburg, Indiana

Survivor Literature Circles Rules

Your group will be reading one of the books in the "What is an American?" group. You will be working together to answer these Essential Questions:
• What does it mean to be an American?
• Can we identify similar elements or experiences in an "American's" life?
• How does the author use the language to build the character?
• What does the story reveal about the time period?

You will be meeting once a week to discuss the novel and to work on the assignments. During this group time, you will have specific group roles. It is important that you read the book and do your job. If you do not keep up with the reading and/or do your job, the group may decide to "vote you off the island" much like the teams in Survivor.

Voting off procedure:

Before someone can be voted off, the group must:
• Inform their member that he/she is not keeping up with the work.
• Inform the teacher that there is a problem within the group.
• Put their reasons for the vote in writing and give to the teacher.
• Vote off or on.

Before the vote is taken, the group must have given the member until the next meeting to show that he/she is up-to-date with their assignments.

In some cases an individual may decide that he/she is the only one doing any work. If that is the case, that team member may "escape" from the team.

Escape procedure:

Before he/she can escape from the team, the member must:
• Inform the rest of the group that they are not keeping up with the work.
• Inform the teacher that there is a problem within the group.
• Put his/her reasons for the escape in writing and give to the teacher.
• Upon mutual agreement of teacher and team member, inform the team he/she is leaving the group.

If you are voted off the group or if you escape from the group, you will be given individual assignments. The remaining members of the group are still responsible for the original assignments. Any individual work for an assignment remains the property of the individual who produces the work and goes with him/her when leaving the group.

Click here to download a formatted copy of Martha's literature circles handout saved as a PDF file. In order to view and print it, you will need a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can easily download a free copy at www.adobe.com: