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Prufrock's Gifted Child Information Blog

About The Author  
Carol Fertig

Carol Fertig

I have been active in the education community for more than 40 years and involved in gifted education for more than 20 years. At various times, I have been a classroom teacher, gifted education teacher, consultant, writer, editor—you name it. I live in Colorado, but also spend a fair amount of time in Chicago. I have two grown boys: one in Colorado and one in California. In my spare time, I enjoy skiing, mountain biking, and golfing. I also like to read, go to plays, and watch foreign movies. Feel free to send me an e-mail.

I am also the author of Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook. This book offers a large menu of strategies, resources, organizations, tips, and suggestions for parents to find optimal learning opportunities for their gifted kids, covering the gamut of talent areas, including academics, the arts, technology, creativity, music, and thinking skills.

Raising a Gifted Child

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Prufrock's Gifted Child Information Blog Has Moved

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All Good Things Need to End...Or Do They?

 
Dear Readers,
 
This is my final entry for Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog. The blog and its search capabilities will be taken down around the first of September.
 
I have posted a blog at this site every week for almost 6 ½ years. It has been a lot of fun sharing all the wonderful resources available for very bright young people. I have enjoyed a good following of parents, educators, and others who support the strengths and interests of children. Thank you to Joel McIntosh, publisher of Prufrock Press, for making this blog possible. Joel is a wonderful person to work for and to work with.
 
As the old saying goes...when one door closes, another opens. I plan to rework much of the content of the blogs at this site into some new formats that should be highly useful to parents and teachers. I also plan to spend more time on non-education writing projects that I have been postponing. I hope that you will continue to follow me as I reinvent myself.
 
You can find me at my new website bycarolfertig.com. At this new website, you will be able to find out more about me; my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook; and ways to stay in contact with me.
 
I will maintain a blog at the website, which will chronicle my writing process. This may be a helpful tool for those who teach writing or who are writers themselves. It will include projects on which I am working, the emotional side of writing, my organizational methods for writing, frustrations and joys of writing, etc. Hopefully, this blog will inspire teachers and parents to discuss writing issues with their students and encourage young people to pursue the art.
 

In addition to my new website, you can 

  •  Like me on Facebook at Carol Fertig – Author
  •  Follow me on Twitter at cfertig1
  •  Email me at carol@bycarolfertig.com
  •  Find me on LinkedIn (Carol Fertig—Independent Writing and Editing Professional)  
Please help spread the word to others that this blog is ending. Let your friends and colleagues know how to find me in the future. I shall look forward to seeing you at my new website, on Facebook and Twitter, and through my future writing projects.
 
Carol Fertig

20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows—An Opportunity for Highly Gifted

This past May, Peter Thiel announced the appointment of twenty-four Thiel Fellows. These are young people—all under the age of 20—who are interested in solving difficult problems and in increasing the quality of life for people everywhere. Thiel wants to help these young people become the next generation of tech visionaries. You can read about each of the Fellows here

While the intent of the Thiel Foundation was to choose 20 fellows, there were so many excellent applicants that it was impossible to stop at the appointed number; instead, they decided to choose 24. These are individuals who are challenging the authority of the present and the familiar. More than 400 people applied to be Fellows. Applications arrived from nearly two dozen countries and from nearly two hundred high schools, junior colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges, and graduate schools. Many applicants never went to college, had stopped going to school, were already working, or had already launched their own companies. Many had long personal histories of entrepreneurship.
 
The Fellows are pursuing  innovative scientific and technical projects, learning entrepreneurship, and beginning to build the technology companies of tomorrow. During their two-year tenures, each Fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs and innovators. The project areas for this class of fellows include biotech, career development, economics and finance, education, energy, information technology, mobility, robotics, and space.
 
The next application period for 20 Under 20 will be available after October 1, 2011. Criteria for application will not be released until then. If you would like to be on the mailing list for the application when it comes out, sign up under the “Contact Us” at the Thiel Foundation website.

The Museum of Mathematics—Great Resources for the Gifted

 

Great new resources are becoming available with the pending 2012 opening of the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) in New York City. MoMath will be the only museum in the United States dedicated strictly to mathematics. (The small one that previously existed on Long Island closed in 2006.) To read about the founder of this new museum, how it got started, and the types of exhibits that will be included, see the article about it that recently appeared in The New York Times.

 

The exhibits and programs at MoMath are designed to stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics. I can hardly wait until it opens.

 

A series of videos titled Math Encounters is already available. Some of these include

  • The Geometry of Origami

  • Symmetry, Art, & Illusion

  • Soap Bubbles and Mathematics

Math Midway is a hands-on traveling exhibition that highlights the engaging and playful nature of mathematics. Math Midway is making appearances at science and technology centers across the country. A list of upcoming engagements is provided.

 

Math Mondays is a partnership between MoMath and the magazine Make: Online. The weekly column discusses fun, experiential, puzzling topics in mathematics. Some recent topics are

  • Knit or Crochet a Dodecahedron

  • Fold Your Own Hyperbolic Paraboloids

  • Cut and Fold Escher

There is also an online store for MoMath that sells a variety of mathematical games and books.

Graphic Arts for Gifted Kids

 

Graphic arts encompasses the art of representation, decoration, and writing or printing on flat surfaces. Common uses include identity (logos and branding), websites, publications (magazines, newspapers, and books), advertisements, and product packaging. Graphic arts is a field of interest for many gifted young people. If nurtured, it might develop into a career option. Here are some websites that may be helpful for your students.

 
Celebrating Creativity: Interview with Graphic Designer Michael Schwab—Want to know what it is like to have a career as a graphic artist? Find out in this interview with graphic designer Michael Schwab, whose designs are known nationwide for their bold colors and simple images. Schwab has created award-winning logos and posters for many clients, including Apple, Comedy Central, Levi’s, Major League Baseball, Nike, Warner Brothers, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. In this interview, he discusses graphic design and what it takes to be a graphic designer
 
Design Dossier: Graphic Design for Kids—This is a book that acts as a mini-class on all the aspects of graphic design, including profiles of graphic designers, each answering a few key questions about the art and craft. There are also pull-outs, die-cuts, and other special effects that allow young students a chance to interact with the material.
 

Kids Can Learn Graphic Designing, Too!—Here you will find graphic design project ideas to encourage the younger set.

Staff Development and Parent Presentations for the Gifted

Friday, July 15, 2011 - by CFertig - Category: Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children
 
Budgets are tight, yet there is one quality resource for gifted education that is available at minimal cost. Check out the Educators Guild at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. Presentations are available for the cost of staff traveling expenses. That should cut costs drastically as presenters often charge large amounts for speaking fees.
 
Repeatedly, the Davidson Institute has turned out quality programs and has amassed a huge database of information that is available online.
 
Some presentations are already in place, with the promise of more to come soon. Each of the presentations listed here has a PDF file that offers an overview of the topic. There is also contact information if you want to learn more.
 
For Teachers
  • Accommodations for the Gifted Child in the Regular Classroom—characteristics of giftedness, manifestations of the gifted in the regular classroom, accommodations, and free resources and ideas for teachers.
  • Davidson Institute for Talent Development - Gifted Overview—takes a look at the history of and the programs offered by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, as well as information on identifying gifted students, characteristics, underachievement, perfectionism, and peer relations. 
For Parents
  • Motivation and the Gifted Child—extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation, characteristics that effect motivation, and tips on how to shift motivation.
  • Raising a Gifted Child—asynchrony, intensities, perfectionism, peer relations, and underachievement.

Universal Themes and Essential Questions for the Gifted

 
This is a topic that I keep revisiting because I feel that it is the very essence of gifted education.
 
Teachers are often accused of delivering curriculum that is not relevant to today’s students. If we teach (or have discussions at home) using universal themes, the material presented does become relevant. By using universal themes, you will provide umbrellas under which details become easier to remember, and give students frameworks of understanding that they can carry with them the rest of their lives.
 
A universal theme is a timeless, broad, abstract idea that can be used to tie together literary works or to understand broad concepts in history. It is a concept to which all people can relate. It transcends race, gender, and creed.
 
We learn best when we are able to relate new information to previous experiences and to ideas that are familiar. By teaching universal themes/concepts, we help students better understand their past experiences and form “big ideas” that are transferred to future experiences. Themes give a common reason for students to read many different books, including books on different ability levels, which is excellent for differentiation. Universal themes can be used with any subject, but they are especially suited for literature and social studies.
 
When working with universal themes, it is important to ask essential questions. Essential questions are open ended (i.e. they do not have a single answer). Instead, the question requires a longer, more involved response and causes the respondent to think and reflect. These cause students  to think critically instead of simply looking up answers. Essential questions
  • provoke deep thought
  • may not have an answer
  • encourage critical thinking, not just memorization of facts
  • require students to draw upon content knowledge and personal experience
Example
Universal Theme: Identity--This theme might be used with a literature unit or while studying ethnic differences in social studies.
Identity might be defined as uniqueness, distinctiveness, individuality, or personality. The identity of a person or group is rarely static, but instead is constantly being changed by internal and external forces.

Essential Questions:
  • How do we form our identities?
  • How does what others think about you affect how you think about yourself?
  • How is identity shaped by relationships and experiences?
  • What can you learn about yourself by studying the lives of others?
  • When should an individual take a stand in opposition to an individual or larger group? 
One resource that will help you with these topics is Universal Themes and Generalizations, from DukeTip. In this pdf file, ten different themes are listed along with sample sub-categories for each of those themes.
 
You may want to refer to previous posts I have written on the topics of universal themes and essential questions. Some of these previous posts provide examples, demonstrating ways these tools can be used in the classroom. Parents, remember that you can always modify classroom suggestions for your discussions at home. Here are the links to the previous posts.

The Fascination of Storm Chasers for Gifted Kids

   
Gifted young people frequently get very excited about bizarre occurrences and occupations. The job of storm chaser fits into that category and may act as an impetus for the study of meteorology.
 
Please be sensitive to the emotions of your individual children. While this information will fascinate some children, it may terrify others. Use your judgment about making this available to your kids.
  • Storm Chasing—Who are storm chasers? Can one make a living at the job? What does a typical chase look like? What is the best way to become a storm chaser?
  • Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel—This site is presented in Hollywood fashion, sensationalizing the storms. Here you will find impressive videos, a real-time weather tracker, and information about the vehicles and equipment used by storm chasers. The production crew of StormChasers also answers questions about their jobs.
  • Storm Chasers from PBS—University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Howard Bluestein turned a boyhood fascination with severe weather into a career chasing tornadoes, working to shed scientific light on one of nature's most violent and unpredictable phenomenons. He and his graduate student “chasers” are featured in an IMAX film. An interview with the director of the film can also be found at this website. Learn about the development of Bluestein’s career. Included at this site are facts about severe weather and information about obtaining an activity guide for teachers (or parents).

Encouraging Mathematical Thinking in Gifted Kids

 
Parents, do you want to encourage your young people to think mathematically this summer and beyond? Here are some ways to accomplish that.
 
Preschoolers
Nurturing Mathematically Talented Preschoolers–In this blog entry, Natasha Chen shares her experience on parenting a mathematically precocious child. The author acknowledges that it can be difficult to find a program for three- to five-year-olds, so she offers some tips that she has found useful. Her suggestions include
  • Specific resources
  • Playing with LEGOs, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, K’nex, Magna-Tiles, tangrams, and blocks of all shapes and sizes. She also provides ideas for using these building sets.
  • Ways to use mathematical logic in everyday conversations
  • Ideas for working with fractions
There is no need for formal lessons. All of Chen's suggestions are applied through play activities.
 
Elementary School Students
10 Practically Fun Math Games and Activities for Your Preteen–While the title of this article suggests that young people be close in age to teenagers, many of these activities are appropriate for much younger children. Author JC Ryan lists eight indoor activities and two outdoor activities that parents may not automatically think of as building math skills.
 
Kindergarten through High School
Have You Seen These 8 High Quality, Free Math Websites?–Activities here cater to an enormous range of abilities and offer math related subjects from basic counting through calculus, current economic theory, and puzzles.

Careers in Science and Engineering for the Gifted

 
Students who want to learn about careers in science and engineering can do so through a series of interviews (many written, some video) at Cogito. Interviews are both with professionals and with advanced students in high school and college. When you watch and read these interviews, it becomes obvious that these individuals took their interests seriously, and found appropriate ways to pursue them, from very early ages. Their work is often notable before they even graduate from high school.
 
NOVA also has a great series of videos and written materials titled The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers. By watching and reading the various segments, students learn about the many different roads available to scientists and engineers (some quite obscure) and also see unexpected aspects of the personal lives of these professionals. This series brings a human element to the professions. For instance, Rachel Collins is both a microbiologist and a professional wrestler. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and a figure skater. Emily Whiting is an architectural engineer and a rock climber. Alan Sage is both a vegetarian scientist and a rapper. The NOVA website also has a teachers guide for introducing young people to careers in science and engineering.
 
Both the Cogito and the NOVA websites can be used to encourage gifted kids to pursue careers in math and engineering.

Call to Action: Making Gifted Education Relevant Today

Friday, June 10, 2011 - by CFertig - Category: Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children

Deborah Mersino has become very active in the gifted community over the last few years. She brings a business perspective to the field and acts as a consultant, writer, and speaker to gifted and talented organizations and communities. She helps institutions and associations serving the gifted population with marketing communication strategies, including digital media tactics. She also acts as moderator of the weekly global #gtchat sessions on Twitter, where she helps connect parents, teachers, and advocates from across the world every Friday at noon and 7:00 p.m. (EST) to discuss critical issues relating to giftedness.

 

Recently, Mersino posted a blog entry titled CALL TO ACTION: Making Gifted Education Relevant Today. This post is worth reading. The article would make a good topic for group discussion. I urge you to take it to your gifted associations, gifted parent or teacher organizations, or college classes. She believes that "the current course for advocating on behalf of gifted learners is doomed; a radical shift in mindset is needed." Mersino has five suggestions for making gifted education relevant in today’s world. I am only listing them here. You will want to read the descriptions of each in detail

  • Get rid of the word "gifted."
  • Focus research on big picture education reform and simplify focus.
  • Change the descriptor to the "Talent Development Movement" (no more “Gifted Education Movement”), and start tearing down protective, yet ultimately inhibiting, walls.
  • Overhaul national and state nonprofit gifted associations’ missions and purpose.
  • Give things away. Be generous.
Mersino takes some risks in bucking the established ways of doing things in gifted education. Many of her ideas are worth serious consideration. I hope you will use her article as a springboard for open and honest discussions in your advocacy groups and in your district meetings.

Parenting and Teaching Young Gifted Children

In her article, Differentiated Instruction for Young Gifted Children: How Parents Can Help, Joan Smutny does an excellent job of explaining strategies that can be used in the classroom to address the needs of young gifted children, including

  • Compacting—Children skip content that they already know and move to more advanced work.
  • Learning Stations—Areas of the classroom where students can work on different tasks within a unit. Each station may represent a higher level of complexity than the one before it. Students move freely from one task to the next.
  • Tiered Activities—A classroom of children may focus on the same, broad learning goal, but at different levels of depth and complexity.
  • Clustering—Students who are significantly ahead are grouped and provided with more advanced content.

The best parts of Smutny’s article, though, are the many quotes and stories about children she uses to illustrate her points. She not only explains the strategies that might be used in the classroom to differentiate instruction, but also shows parents how they can enhance their children’s learning at home and also support and get involved with student learning at school.

From this article, both parents and teachers will get ideas about ways they can form better partnerships to enhance the learning of young gifted students.

Smutny has made young gifted children one of her specialties. If you like her article mentioned here, you will probably also enjoy some of the many books that she has written on the subject. You will find these by going to web sites such as Amazon and typing in her name or doing a general Internet search using her name.

Teaching Gifted Students to Write Well

The ability to write well is one of the major gateways to a successful education and to career advancement later in life. It is also a tool that helps one sort through and analyze personal thoughts, express oneself effectively, and act as a stress reducer when one is faced with difficult physical and psychological issues in life.

Watch the video of Steve Graham discussing the importance of learning to write well.

Writing is most effectively developed when it is taught across all subjects—not just those in the field of language arts. Unfortunately, not enough teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach writing. 

The National Writing Project (NWP) is one resource filled with ideas and opportunities to remedy this situation. There are currently more than 200 university-based writing project sites that provide high quality professional development and leadership opportunities to more than 100,000 K-16 educators every year. Many NWP sites offer special writing programs for children. For tips on helping children learn to write and how to support good writing instruction in schools, click on the Resources tab at the top of the NWP website. Parents, remember that you can also play an important part in teaching your children to write. You will also find many suggestions in the resources listed at the NWP website.

Mark Overmeyer is one person in the NWP network who I know and greatly respect. I have attended some of his writing workshops, which have been excellent. On Mark Overmeyer’s Blog you will see that he is an excellent writer himself. He has published two books about teaching writing and his blog entries are filled with helpful resources.

Summer Literacy Resources for Gifted Kids (and Their Parents)

Need some book recommendations for your children this summer? Excellent lists of recommended books can be found at

In addition to reading good books, children may enjoy creating their own books. There are a number of websites to help with this.

How to Create and Manage Discussion Groups for Gifted Kids

Friday, May 13, 2011 - by CFertig - Category: Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children

In addition to meeting the academic needs of gifted students, it is also important to address affective issues they may have. These bright kids benefit from being with others who are highly intelligent and with whom they can discuss social and emotional issues that may set them apart. 

Terry Bradley is a gifted education advisor from Colorado who specializes in social and emotional needs of very bright students. For years, she has facilitated affective discussion groups with gifted middle school and high school students. In these groups, kids talk about issues they have in common and how life looks and feels through the lens of giftedness.

Bradley feels that there needs to be a balance between appropriate academic and emotional opportunities. Gifted kids often share similar characteristics such as intensity, sensitivity, heightened moral and ethical codes of behavior, and the ability to process feelings more thoroughly and deeply. Discussion groups provide a forum where students have the opportunity to express themselves as they truly are. 

In her article, Beyond Academics: Discussion Groups That Nurture Affective Growth in Gifted Students, Bradley explains the difference between affective education and counseling. She also offers a step-by-step guide for adults who want to start discussion groups in their own schools. Topics include getting support, the optimum group size, frequency of meetings, choosing discussion topics, and encouraging participation. She describes specific activities that she uses as well as communication techniques. Outside resources are also included.

If you do not already have a social/emotional discussion group established at your school, consider starting one. Whether you already have a group up and running or you’re considering the idea, you will find the ideas in Bradley’s article to be helpful.

What Should We Be Teaching Gifted Kids for the 21st Century?

 
Dr. Judy Willis is an authority on brain research. She has a unique background, having been both a neurologist and a classroom teacher. She has written several books and writes a blog for Psychology Today. One of her recent blog entries is Whose Children Will Get the Best Jobs in the 21st Century? which offers an interesting perspective on what we should be doing to prepare students for today’s world.
 

According to Willis, the best jobs in the future will go to applicants who have the

  • skillsets to analyze information as it becomes available
  • flexibility to adapt when what were believed to be facts are revised
  • ability to collaborate with others
  • ability to articulate one's ideas
Rather than just learn a lot of facts, students need opportunities to discover the connections between isolated facts, build networks of concepts, and apply what they learn in new contexts. Critical analysis, judgment, creative problem solving, and the ability to evaluate and apply data to new situations are all vital.
 

Parents can prepare students by

  • helping children develop personal responsibility
  • explicitly teaching how to focus attention, study, organize, prioritize, plan, and set goals
  • teaching how to make the switch from memorization to mental manipulation by comparing and contrasting concepts and applying big ideas to solve new types of problems
  • teaching how to evaluate sources of accurate information and then to use critical analysis to assess the veracity/bias and current/potential uses of new information
  • finding out the topics children will study in the coming school months and then promoting interest by introducing things that relate to the topic, providing background knowledge and interest
Willis provides many concrete ideas for parents to teach these skills at home. I strongly urge you to read the article. The ideas provided would make a great beginning for a discussion in a parent support group.

The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War

 
This year ushered in the start of a four-year commemoration of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary. Among some groups, there is still a controversy about whether the war was started because of slavery or state’s rights. This might be a good issue to broach with gifted students. There are some excellent websites to help you when studying the Civil War.
  • Civil War Trust: Saving America’s Civil War Battlefields—This site includes maps, apps for your smartphone, resources for teachers and students, Civil War blogs, and a list of Civil War anniversary events across the nation.
  • The Civil War: 150 Years (Part of the National Park Service website)—Includes upcoming events, information on more than 70 parks in the National Park System that have resources related to the history of the Civil War, a database of those who served in the war, news stories from the time, and the history of African Americans in the war.
  • North Carolina Civil War Sesquicentennial—This site has adopted three themes—freedom, sacrifice, and memory— which are explored across all aspects of the war.
  • Civil War 150 (from The History Channel)—Offers an interactive experience that provides interesting information about who fought in the Civil War, weapons that were used, how people died, the five deadliest battles, paying for the war, West Point warriors, and other topics too numerous to list.
  • Civil War Battlefield Medicine—General medicine, surgery, and primary sources.
  • Pictures of the Civil War (from the National Archives)—Photographs of civilians and civilian activities; military personnel, equipment, and activities; and the locations and aftermaths of battles. Because wet-plate collodion negatives required from 5 to 20 seconds exposure, there are no action photographs of the war.
  • Civil War Photos—Over 1,200 Civil War images.
  • Selected Civil War Photographs (from the Library of Congress)—1,118 photographs of military personnel, preparations for battle, and battle after-effects.

When Does a Parent Know His or Her Child Is Gifted?

 
So often I’m asked, “When does a parent know if his or her child is gifted?” I think they are surprised when I respond by saying, “I don’t know. What does it mean to be gifted?”
 
After all, I am supposed to be the expert. I am expected to have the answers. But I can’t provided any definitive reply.
 
First of all, what does it mean to be gifted? There are many definitions and many ways of assessing a child’s ability. Is one more correct than another? Who should make that determination? You may want to look at some of the previous posts on this blog about this subject, including
Even if there is some consensus about the definition of giftedness, I think most people would agree that students fall somewhere on an extended continuum. There are children who have strong interests or abilities in just one area, which may or may not be a traditional academic subject. There are students who are more globally endowed and may finish high school before they are teenagers and receive graduate degrees by the time others finish high school. Some young people who are very bright have learning disabilities or physical disabilities or emotional problems. Some fit into a traditional school environment and some could care less about school.
 
So what’s a parent to do if she thinks her child fits into the gifted category? There are no quick and simple answers; however, if you read my book, Raising a Gifted Child (also available on Amazon and in book stores) and search through this blog, you will find many options and combinations of options for schooling children. You will also find many excellent subject-specific resources. Consider me your personal research assistant. Through both Raising a Gifted Child and more than six years of weekly blog postings, I’ve tried to anticipate questions that you might have about giftedness and find the answers for you. I receive emails from people all over the world who read this blog and ask even more questions. I “listen” to these, answer them personally, and use those questions to post still more entries. You can use the search feature (upper part of the right-hand column) at this site to find the information you need on all things gifted.
 
In the end, I want parents to know that there are many ways to help very bright children to develop not only academically, but socially and emotionally. The choices you make must be flexible—if one doesn’t work, try another. Mix and match what works for your family and understand that your contributions to the educational process are at least as important as any formal education your young people may receive.

Alternatives for Gifted High School Students

Friday, April 15, 2011 - by CFertig - Category: Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children
 
Some high school students are ready to move on academically long before their peers. As stated in High School Alternatives for Gifted Teens, “It’s easy to find stories of 13-year-olds going off to college, but many gifted kids just aren’t ready to leave the nest early.” At the same time, they may have already finished or tested out of the regular high school curriculum. Author Suki Wessling suggests that students in this situation investigate
In addition to these suggestions, I would recommend looking at some previous posts on Prufrock's Gifted Child Information Blog, including
Also, check out the Open Courseware Consortium, which is a collaboration of higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world creating open educational content that is free to the public.
 
A student who finishes high school early might also take a year or two to pursue her passions in a very focused manner, furthering her studies in music, theatre, art, dance, language, cultures, science, etc.
 
Remember that sometimes the best solution is a combination of possibilities.

The Importance of the Arts in Our Schools

 

 

Years of research show that [the arts is] closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

 
This is from a recent article in Edutopia, titled Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in many areas, including academic development and positive character traits. Over the last few decades, arts in the schools have been eroded, but there is hope. Some school districts are now revitalizing the arts, many prompted by new findings in brain research and cognitive development. In this article, you will find examples of school districts that are reinvigorating their curricula with the arts. Edutopia has a whole series of articles on the importance of arts education, including
Take some time to read these articles and encourage the arts in your child’s school. Incorporate art into your family activities. Development of the arts is at the very basis of highly civilized societies.
 
Do you want to know what your state policy is on arts education? Search the database at the Arts Education Partnership.

Using Primary Sources with Gifted Students

 
In school, most students study history using only secondary sources—articles, reference books, and textbooks—all written at some point after the actual event. Secondary sources tend to interpret or analyze historical events. 
 
Primary sources, on the other hand, were created during the time period being studied. They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Primary sources include autobiographies, diaries, e-mails, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches, art, drama, music, novels, poetry, buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery, etc. These sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period.
 
Today, the Internet provides access to a wealth of primary resources. In earlier years, one would have had to travel great distances to various libraries and museums to gain access to this information.
 
The American Library Association’s Reference and User Services Association has posted an article titled Using Primary Sources on the Web, which can be used as an exercise in critical thinking. It provides information on
  • Finding primary sources
  • Evaluating primary sources (including, among other things, understanding the purpose of the website and the credentials of the person who created the website)
  • Citing websites appropriately
Repositories of Primary Resources contains links to Internet sites for primary sources all over the world. Want to find a digitized photo of a street scene in Colorado in the mid-late 1800s? Do you want to find crime reports for the United States in 1935? Do you want to see an original score written by Beethoven? Do enough searching on this site and you will find this information.
 
The Library of Congress is in the process of digitizing many of the important documents in American history. As of the writing of this blog entry, they have posted documents from 1763-1877.
 
The University of Technology in The Netherlands has assembled an extensive list of primary sources on voyages of discovery, including letters and reports written by explorers.
 
These are just some of the many sources for primary resources on the Internet. For a particular topic of interest to you or your students, do an Internet search using the subject of your search (e.g., Civil War women) plus the words “primary source.”

The Future of Gifted Education through Technology

 
Teachers, parents, and students should pay special attention to the learning options listed below. Technology is revolutionizing the world of education by replacing familiar classroom tools and making new strategies possible. It’s no longer just through computers that students are exposed to technology; instead, it’s through all devices that are out there. There are resources and schools that are already using these revolutionary methods and tools effectively.
 
MindShift is one such resource. This site explores the many possible dimensions of the future of learning. These changes will benefit gifted students immensely as they make possible global education, project-based learning, and interest-based learning.
 
Tina Barseghian, a former editor of Edutopia, has written a series of very interesting articles about the way that technology is impacting education. Three Trends That Will Shape the Future of Curriculum lists specific ways that technology can be used today.
  • Digital Delivery—Barseghian includes numerous websites that extend learning beyond textbooks, including Schmoop’s, the Kahn Academy, and many open education resources. Even though I consider myself quite knowledgeable about resources, many of the sites that are listed here are new to me.
  • Interest Driven—Individualized learning technology creates a platform for tailoring education to the interests of children, beginning in elementary school. Links are provided that describe some schools that already incorporate this type of learning.
  • Skills 2.0—The ability to teach collaboration, innovation, critical thinking, and communication are becoming easier with the technological revolution. Interactive abilities are broadening the reach of students and teachers to a global perspective. No longer is one’s learning confined to the classroom. Examples are given with links to more information. Tech companies are also looking for additional ways to develop new learning methods.
Be sure and check out other sections of the MindShift website. I especially recommend clicking on the Online Learning link near the top of the page for innovative ideas. We are truly living in an exciting time. Technology is reforming education in ways that could not be imagined a decade ago. In the not-too-distant future, I believe we will look back in disbelief at the ways that we learned. They will seem quite primitive and inefficient.

Exercising the Minds of Gifted Kids through Questioning

 
Bright students often come to class thinking they must know all the right answers. What they (and many adults) may not realize is that thinking is not driven by answers, but by questions. It is the sense of wonder and curiosity that drives understanding. As the old saying goes…The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. The more you learn about a subject, the more you realize there is to know. Perhaps having students list thoughtful questions at the conclusion of a unit would be a better determiner of knowledge gained than taking a test.
 
Young people learn to develop inquiring minds when they hear their parents and teachers ask thoughtful questions of themselves and others. One way to do this is to use Socratic Questioning. Socratic questions help to
  • Clarify issues
  • Question assumptions
  • Justify statements
  • Understand the ideas of others
  • Imagine consequences
  • Relate different issues
Divergent questions are also useful. They usually begin with words or phrases such as
  • Imagine…
  • Suppose…
  • Predict…
  • If…, then…
  • How might…
  • Can you create…
  • What are some possible consequences…
Reflective Thought, Critical Thinking presents a model for generating problems or questions. One example is given for young children in kindergarten or first grade after reading and discussing Jack and the Beanstalk.
Q.  What did Jack do when he got to the giant's castle?"
A.  Jack hid from the giant, found the goose that lays the golden eggs, was discovered by the giant, fled, reached the bottom of the vine, and then chopped it down. The giant, of course, tumbles down, breaks his neck, and Jack lives happily every after with his mother and his newly found wealth.
Q.  Did Jack trespass illegally? (In kindergarten terms, "Did Jack go into someone's house where he did not belong?"
A.  Yes!
Q.  Did Jack steal the goose that lays golden eggs?"
A.  Yes!
Q.  Did Jack, then, refuse to give back what did not belong to him?
A.  Yes!
Q.  Then did Jack escape down the bean vine and cause the giant to be killed?"
A.  Yes!
Q.  If Jack trespassed, stole, and murdered the giant, why is the giant the villain of this story?

Theme Park and Ride Design for Gifted Learners

 
What child doesn’t enjoy an amusement park? How many people have fantasized about creating rides and theme parks? There are many gifted characteristics and abilities that go into the actual jobs required for this field, including physics, creativity, project management, art, architecture, and film. Here are some ideas for developing these interests.
 
Annenberg Learner has developed an interactive resource titled Amusement Park Physics. This website helps students learn the forces behind the fun. Young people find out what principals of physics make the following rides work, how the dynamics of physics control the safety of the rides, and considerations that need to be factored in by ride designers.
  • Roller Coasters
  • Carousel
  • Bumper Cars
  • Free Fall Rides
  • Pendulum Rides
  • Ride Safety
  • Related Resources 
Teach Engineering: Resources for K-12 has created Amusement Park Ride: Ups and Downs in Design, a lesson plan for middle school students to build and test model roller coasters using foam tubing.
 
If your student is interested in investigating a career in theme park and ride design, he can check out Help! I want to be a Theme Park Designer. What Do I Do Now?
13 Guidelines for Your Success
.  
 
Walt Disney Imagineering is the master planning, creative development, design, engineering, production, project management, and research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company and its affiliates. Representing more than 150 disciplines, its corps of Imagineers is responsible for the creation of Disney resorts, theme parks and attractions, hotels, water parks, real estate developments, regional entertainment venues, cruise ships, and new media technology projects. Be sure and check out the Student and College Programs on the left side of the page.

Free Guidebooks to Help Exceptionally Bright Children

 
The Davidson Institute serves profoundly gifted young people under the age of 18. As part of its mission, Davidson Institute professionals have written a series of guidebooks designed to assist families in finding the most appropriate educational settings for their exceptionally bright children. The guidebooks are excellent resources and can be downloaded at no cost. While the guidebooks are written for parents and students, teachers should also become familiar with them so that they can effectively advise families.
  • Advocating for Exceptionally Gifted Young People—What should you know about your child? What should you know about gifted education? How should you formulate a plan? How should you approach your child’s school? How can you monitor your child’s education?
  • Investigating Early College Entrance: A Guidebook for Parents and a Guidebook for Students—How does one assess whether a student is ready for early college entrance? How might early entrance impact the family? What about scholarships and other financial aid?
  • Investigating Gap Year Opportunities—A gap year is a “break from formal education to become more immersed in another culture, to volunteer domestically or abroad, to gain experience and maturity…” It is becoming more common in the U.S., especially for students who graduate early from high school. This guidebook discusses possible options for a gap year, the pros and cons of taking a gap year, and what colleges think of students who pursue this option.
  • Volunteerism and Community Service—This guidebook provides resources, strategies, and valuable information to think about when considering the who, what, where, when, how, and why questions associated with volunteering.
  • Mentorships—How does one search for a mentor? What types of mentoring relationships are available? What characteristics should a great mentor have?

Looking Ahead to Summer Programs for Gifted Kids

 
It’s that time of year again to begin planning for summer experiences for your gifted students. For some, that may mean lots of free time at home to play, read, relax, and let minds wander. Others may benefit from a specialized experience at a day camp or an experience far from home. Here are some suggestions for places to begin your search if you’re looking for something outside the home. (Note: These are not program endorsements. You will want to do your own investigations of programs to make certain they fit your needs.)
 
Some summer programs are general and some are specialized. Examples of focused programs include the study of space, inventions, technology, government, music, film, oceanography, math, archaeology, debate, art, foreign languages, and Shakespeare. Search hard enough and you’re likely to find a specialty to meet every need.
 
Here are some searchable databases where you can begin to look.

Interactive Science Web Sites for Gifted Kids

  
The interactive science websites listed here can be used both in the classroom and at home to teach students.
 
Edheads provides many virtual teaching activities and supplemental resources. Topics covered at the website include the following:
  • Create a Line of Stem Cells—Learn what a stem cell is and help our scientists create a stem cell line!
  • Design a Cell Phone—Help engineering director Elena design and manufacture a cell phone to help senior citizens get the most out of new technology!
  • Deep Brain Stimulation—Help Dr. Vanessa Mei cut, probe, and drill her way to helping her patient cope with a movement disorder through brain surgery!
  • Crash Scene—Help the highway patrol recreate a deadly crash by examining the evidence and calculating the forces.
  • Virtual Hip Resurfacing—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a hip resurfacing surgery.
  • Virtual Hip Replacement—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a hip replacement surgery.
  • The Odd Machine—Learn how forces and simple machines can work together to create The Compound Machine.
  • Virtual Knee Surgery—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a total knee replacement surgery.
  • Weather—Learn how to report and predict the weather at the underground W.H.E.D. weather caves.
  • Simple Machines—Learn about simple and compound machines while you explore the House and Tool Shed.
Virtual Electron Microscope—Click and drag specimens under the microscope to examine and then identify and sort slides.
 
Virtual Dissections—A variety of websites offer the opportunity to either watch dissections or to do virtual dissections. Here are two.
Second Life is a virtual world and requires the viewer to sign up for a free account. There are many aspects of Second Life and not all are being recommended here. This is a site that parents and teachers may first want to explore themselves. The technology is being used by NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration). NOAA’s Virtual World offers educational opportunities in science. Other “destinations” available on Second Life can be found here.

Teaching about Propaganda Techniques—Opening the Door to Critical Thinking

 
As educators and parents, we should teach students how to think, not what to think. We need to present all sides of issues and encourage debate. Propagandists, on the other hand, build the strongest possible case for their views and discourage discussion. Propaganda appeals to its audience in three ways. It
  • calls for an action or opinion that it makes seem wise and reasonable.
  • suggests that the action or opinion is moral and right.
  • provides a pleasant feeling, such as a sense of importance or of belonging.
Propaganda is an excellent resource for exploring this subject. Aaron Delwiche, the author of the site, holds a doctorate in communications from the University of Washington and a B.A. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Trinity University.
 
As Delwiche states, "propaganda can be as blatant as a swastika or as subtle as a joke. Its persuasive techniques are regularly applied by politicians, advertisers, journalists, radio personalities, and others who are interested in influencing human behavior. Propagandistic messages can be used to accomplish positive social ends, as in campaigns to reduce drunk driving, but they are also used to win elections and to sell malt liquor."
 
Delwiche explains the importance of teaching students about propaganda, presents common propaganda techniques and common fallacies, and provides examples of propaganda in both print and video.
 
The Oracle Education Foundation sponsors ThinkQuest, an online learning platform that helps students develop important 21st century skills, including communication, critical thinking, and technology skills. ThinkQuest houses over 7,000 websites created by students around the world who have participated in a ThinkQuest competition. Several of these student-created websites on propaganda are included in the online ThinkQuest library. Here are two.
  • What is Propaganda? —Communication that is meant to persuade or change public opinion. While the word often has a negative connotation, it is not necessarily bad. Propaganda is an attempt to change opinions by persuasively presenting new ones. It is important to recognize propaganda techniques and examine the purpose of the propaganda before making decisions.
  • Propaganda Techniques—Eleven different techniques are listed and explained. The knowledge of these techniques enables students to analyze print and other media. Understanding the techniques opens the door to critical thinking and the ability to analyze information. 
Suggested Activities
  • Have students collect advertisements and analyze what, if any, propaganda techniques were used.
  • Apply propaganda techniques to current political discussions or to a unit in history being studied.
  • Discuss how the use of technology has affected the use of propaganda.
  • Have students take a stand on a topic of their choosing. Individually or in small groups, have them create an advertising campaign that uses a set of propaganda techniques.

Teaching Gifted Kids to Argue Persuasively

 
There is a big difference between fighting and arguing, with the former having a negative connotation and the latter having a positive connotation. Fighting causes hard feelings and is non-productive, while arguing can be very beneficial for all concerned. The goal of a fight is to dominate your opponent. In an argument, you succeed when you either bring your audience over to your side or at least reach a better understanding of the views of each side. We need to teach kids to argue persuasively and effectively and reward them when they do it well.
 
In How to Teach a Child to Argue, Jay Heinrichs states that “rhetoric doesn’t turn kids into back-sassers; it makes them think about other points of view.”
 
To disagree reasonably, a child must learn the three basic tools of argument: logos, ethos, and pathos. Examples of each are provided in Heinrichs’ article.
  • Logos is argument by logic.
  • Ethos is argument by character and employs the persuader’s personality, reputation, and ability to look trustworthy. A sterling reputation is more than just good; it’s persuasive. An adult is more likely to believe a trustworthy kid and to accept her argument.
  • Pathos is argument by emotion. It plays on one’s heartstrings. When a student learns to read your emotions and play them like an instrument, he is becoming a good persuader.
Aristotle’s Guide to Dinner Table Discourse (according to Heinrichs)—or rules for teaching young people to argue effectively:
  • Argue to teach decision-making. When you argue the various sides of an issue with your kids (“Beach or mountains this summer?”), they are learning to present different options (“Both!”) and then decide which choice to follow.
  • Focus on the future. Arguments about the past (“Who made the mess with the toys?”) or the present (“Good children don’t leave messes.”) are far less productive than focusing on what to do or believe: “What’s a good way to make sure that toys get cleaned up?”
  • Call “fouls.” Anything that impedes debate counts as a foul: Shouting, storming out of the room, or recalling past family atrocities should instantly make you choose the opposite side.
  • Reward the right emotions. Respond to screaming and anger by not responding, except to say, “Oh, come on. You can do better than that.”
  • Let kids win sometimes. When they present a good argument, there’s no better teaching method than rewarding them. My overreliance on the slow cooker, for instance, made my son beg for “dry” food. “Even the cat’s meals,” he said, “aren’t all wet.” Good point. I served hamburgers next. Very dry hamburgers.

Some other guidelines for interacting with kids and teaching them to argue effectively include
  • Listen and verbally acknowledge that you have heard what the other person has said.
  • Take time to think. Don’t be afraid to say you’d like to think about a point for a while and respond later. This will give time to formulate an appropriate response.
  • Acknowledge the other person’s points that you agree with.
  • Stick with the main point and don’t get sidetracked.
  • Don’t let feelings fester. Bring up topics sooner rather than later.
  • Look for a win/win solution. 
When your student gets older, encourage her to join a debate club where the art of argument is fostered. According to IDEA (The International Debate Education Association), “...debate embodies the ideals of reasoned argument, tolerance for divergent points of view, and rigorous self-examination. Debate is, above all, a way for those who hold opposing views to discuss controversial issues without descending to insult, emotional appeals, or personal bias.”

A Comprehensive Guide to the Study of Shakespeare

 
For those of you who teach Shakespeare or for students who study Shakespeare, there are some excellent resources available. A reader of Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog recently brought an exceptionally good link to my attention. (I always appreciate it when readers tell me about valuable resources). Naturally, I want to share it with you.
 
Your Comprehensive Guide to Everything Shakespeare is just what the title suggests—comprehensive. It draws from major websites on Internet that cover the playwright and poet. The guide is divided into the following topics:
  • Cool Shakespeare Facts—Personal trivia, words and phrases that were created by Shakespeare, and information about the Globe Theatre.
  • General Shakespeare Resources—Links to five major sites that cover a multitude of facts and opinions about the famous bard.
  • Links to Every Single Shakespeare Work Online—Plays are divided into the categories of comedy, history, and tragedy. Shakespeare’s poems are also listed. Each link contains the complete work so you don’t have to go to the bookstore or library to get a play or sonnet.
  • Links to Resources that Give Notes/Info/Explanations of Shakespeare Plays—Sites that will help you interpret the writings of Shakespeare.
  • Shakespeare Festivals—A list of Shakespeare festivals (with Internet links) held in the United States and Canada.  
For more information, consult previous blog posts on Shakespeare at this Prufrock website.

Creativity Revisited

 
What is creativity and how should it be measured? Is it an important trait to possess?
 
For many years, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking have been used to measure individuals’ divergent thinking. The tests are sometimes used to gain entrance to gifted programs. But is it enough to be deemed creative, or is creativity only a valuable trait if one can put that ability to use to make and produce new and practical products and ideas?
 
A Box? Or a Spaceship? What Makes Kids Creative recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal. In the article, parents are given suggestions about how to help their children be creative. Some of the suggestions include
  • Tolerate “wrong” answers as children explore and fantasize.
  • Sign children up for programs that foster creativity, such as Destination ImagiNation, Odyssey of the Mind, and Future Problem-Solving Program International.
  • Invite children to come up with possible solutions for everyday problems, and listen to their ideas with respect.
  • Ask open-ended questions and show interest in answers.
  • Refrain from judging kids' ideas, even if they seem crazy or naive.
  • Avoid paying too much attention to the outcome of kids' creative efforts. (You want them to be creative for the pure pleasure of it, not because they will receive praise.) 
For numerous ideas about helping kids be creative, click on the Search Entries button in the upper right corner of this blog. Enter the Keyword “creativity,” and click on Search. This will bring up all previous blog posts on creativity.

Places to Publish for Gifted Young Writers

 
Gifted students need “real” audiences for their work. Those students who enjoy writing need places where they can see their words in print and find others who have the same interest.
 
Figment is a place where young people, ages 13 and up, share their writing, connect with other people with similar interests, and discover new stories and authors. The website was started by Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and Jacob Lewis, the former Managing Editor at The New Yorker and Condé Nast Portfolio. It contains a variety of sections that will be of interest to young authors, including
  • A place where they can post their writing and get feedback in the form of comments and reviews.
  • Writing contests.
  • Advice from adults who publish young adult books.
  • Recommendations of recently published books for young adults.
  • A forum where students can connect on a variety of subjects related to their writing.
  • A blog which, among other things, contains interviews with published authors of books for young adults.
If your young writer is more independent, suggest that he submit his writing for publication without the feedback and interaction of a group. A Young Authors Guide from NewPages.com provides updated lists of publications that accept submissions from young people, some from children as young as eight. It also contains a long list of writing contests, listed by month.

Paper Folding for Gifted Visual Spatial Learners

While it might jumble the brains of many bright people, the art of paper folding plays right into the strengths of gifted visual spatial learners. Once a student becomes comfortable with basic folds, she can go on to design her own models. 

Here are some websites to help young people learn and improve paper folding techniques.
Some people even specialize in certain types of paper folding, such as Paper Airplanes, which includes six different designs.
 
Ways to Share and Collaborate
It’s always helpful to find others with the same interests.
  • If your student would like to join a group of origami folders, you can find contact information at Origami USA. International groups are also listed at this site. In addition, information is provided on forming your own group of folders.
  • Mailing Lists and Social Networks—See what others are doing with the art of paper folding. Share your own work. Connect with fellow folders. 
Paper Folding Artists
If you want to show your burgeoning paper folders the possibilities of this craft, direct them to professional artists who have become masters. Here are just a few:

Parent Groups to Support Gifted Children

Friday, December 31, 2010 - by CFertig - Category: Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children
 
Realizing that quality gifted education exists in places where there are strong parent groups, two organizations—the National Association for Gifted Children and Prufrock Press—have come together to create an eBook that can be downloaded for free. Starting and Sustaining a Parent Group to Support Gifted Children is filled with advice and examples that come directly from the experiences of parents of gifted children. The multitude of ideas, resources, and stories are presented in an easy-to-read format that is anything but intimidating.
 
Parents do make a difference, and when they are involved, change happens—perhaps not as quickly as we would like, but it does happen. Some of the topics covered in this eBook include
  • Reasons for Starting a Parent Group
  • Ways to Organize Your Parent Group
  • Pitfalls
  • Building Support
  • Turning Support Into Advocacy
  • Tips for New Parent Groups
  • Building an Accepting Culture
  • Resources (Internet Resources are presented as hot links so you can connect directly to websites) 
The formatting and layout of the book is excellent. It is punctuated with real-life stories that draw in the reader and help him to identify and personalize the information. The advice presented does not get lost in theory; instead, the suggestions and strategies are concrete. Bullets, fonts, and color are used so that the reader’s eyes quickly find the most important material.
 
Since Starting and Sustaining a Parent Group to Support Gifted Children is so well presented and is free to everyone, it makes sense for all advocates of gifted education to take a look. In addition to parents, teachers and administrators would also benefit from viewing the material. This would be an excellent tool for educators to recommend to parents of gifted students.

Lost in Lexicon—Clever, Imaginative Reading for Gifted Students

 
Are you looking gifted for curriculum for a literature unit, a literature/math unit, or an enrichment group? Here is a great idea.
 
Pendred Noyce is a physician, educator, and writer. She is creative person who has used her talents to come out with a book for young people that combines a good story with word games and mathematical thinking. The book would be good (in my opinion) to use with middle to upper elementary gifted students. Lost in Lexicon: Adventure in Words and Numbers was originally written for Noyce’s son Damian’s ninth birthday to challenge and entertain him.
 
But wait...Lost in Lexicon is both a book and a website. The website is filled with supportive teaching material, including
  • Character sketches from the book
  • Challenging games and activities
  • Ideas to extend concepts in the book (i.e., Greek and Latin roots, the coordinate plane, poetic meter, mathematical slope)
  • Word challenges
  • Discussion questions
  • Noyce’s keynote address to the Iowa Science and Mathematics Teacher Educators Summit, titled Grand Challenges and Inspiration: Lighting the Fire in the Next Generation. The address is not only inspiring, but it is also filled with some excellent resources for working with gifted kids in math and science.
  • From the same Iowa Summit, Noyce includes the transcript from her breakout session, Can Math and Literature Mix in the Middle School? The ideas the author presents might be used with middle school students, but could also be used with gifted students in upper elementary school. Suggestions are presented not only for Lost in Lexicon, but also for Flatland by Edwin Abbott and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
  • Two teacher-created units using Lost in Lexicon: "Teaching Plot Structure and Types of Conflict," and "Teaching Characterization."
Pendred Noyce also has a blog titled View from the Windowseat. While the blog covers many different subjects, with a bit of hunting, you will find even more ideas to use with Lost in Lexicon.
 
Three more novels in the Lexicon series are planned, along with other books for young people.

More Online Resources for Gifted Education

 
In the past, I have listed many excellent websites that contain compilations of resources for gifted education. Recently, several more have come to my attention.
 
Exquisite Minds is created and maintained by Stacia Nicole Garland, a national award-winning teacher who worked with gifted children for 16 years. She includes practical, user-friendly information for both parents and educators as well as a long list of links of "Brainy Games."
 
While 96 Essential Sites & Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers is designed for homeschoolers, it also contains some great websites for children who are more traditionally educated. If you are looking for ideas that support or supplement your student’s interests and abilities, you will find many ideas here. Topics include
  • General Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers
  • College Prep
  • Science
  • Math
  • Writing
  • The Arts
  • Forums 
Related Gifted Education Web Sites, from the American Psychological Association has an extensive alphabetical listing of gifted associations, programs, university connections, schools, research organizations, and publications.
 
Top 10 Gifted Education Blogs, from OnlineDegrees.org, lists links to the best blogs in gifted education. I’m pleased to say that Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog is included in the list.

Fun, Enriching, Science Activities for Gifted Kids

 
ZoomSci, from PBS Kids, has some great science experiments to do in classrooms, in enrichment groups, or at home. Numerous experiments for kids are available in the following areas:
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • The five senses
  • Forces and energy
  • Life science
  • Patterns
  • Sound
  • Structures
  • Water
Many of these experiments are accompanied by excellent videos showing actual kids performing the activities. I started watching these videos and had a hard time stopping because they were so engaging and fun. The website also encourages viewers to send in their findings from the experiments.
 

Interactive Body, from The BBC, is designed for the older set. It provides engaging activities that help students learn about body parts, including

  • Organs
  • Muscles
  • Skeleton
  • Senses
  • Nervous system
The first three activities (organs, muscles, skeleton) have the viewer rotate and place the various body parts in a virtual human being. The website also explains the various functions of the body parts.
 
There is also a detailed section on puberty. Some of the information in this section may even surprise some adults.

Educating High and Low Achievers in the Same Classroom

 
Everyone seems to agree that the American education system needs to be fixed, but the debate rages on about how it should be changed. One year research points in a direction, only to point in the opposite direction a few years later. It’s no wonder that educational programming is constantly in flux.
 
In his article All Together Now?, Hoover Institution fellow Michael Petrilli states that the greatest challenge facing America’s schools is the enormous variation in students' academic levels.
 
By the fourth grade, there may be a six-year span of reading abilities in a classroom. Addressing all of these levels is a daunting task for any teacher. Over the past four decades, schools have gone back and forth between ability grouping and tracking in reading and math to arguing that confining youngsters to lower tracks hurts their self-esteem.
 
Once policy incentives like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) were instituted, there was a shift to prioritize low-achieving students. As a result of this, the performance of the lowest 10 percent of students shot up, while the achievement of the top 10 percent of students stagnated, leaving parents of gifted students displeased.
 
The answer, according to the ed-school world, is differentiated instruction. Using this method, one teacher instructs a diverse group of students, but manages to reach each one at precisely the appropriate level. Every child receives a unique curriculum that meets that individual’s exact needs. In reality, most teachers agree that it is very difficult to accomplish this.
 
Michael Petrilli visited Piney Branch, an elementary school in Takoma Park, Maryland, where both high-ability and low-ability students have made remarkable gains on test scores. At this school, every homeroom has a mixed group of students that represents the diversity of the school. Then, during the 90-minute reading block, students spend much of their time in small groups that are appropriate for their individual reading levels. These groups are fluid. If a child in a slower reading group progresses, that youngster can get bumped up to a faster group.
 
For math, students are split into homogeneous classrooms. All the advanced math kids are in one room, middle students in another, and struggling children in a third. If capable, an advanced group of math students may work two years ahead in the curriculum.
 
During science, social studies, and specials, the students are back in heterogeneous classrooms. Even then, teachers work to differentiate instruction, offering more challenging, extended assignments to the higher-achieving students.
 
But it gets more complicated. In an effort to retain gifted students who were testing into highly gifted programs at magnet schools, Piney Branch formed cluster groups of students at each grade. Therefore, in one classroom in each grade, there are 12 or so gifted students, along with another 12 or so who are working at grade level. Teachers agree that handling these various groups requires extensive planning and training. In addition, the teacher needs to be someone who is well organized and creative.
 
There are many different ways to approach the education of gifted students. This is an example of the methods used by one successful school. In order to replicate this success, a school needs to have strong support from the district, the principal, the teachers, and the parents.

The Value of Instrumental Lessons for Gifted Kids

 
I am a very strong advocate of instrumental music lessons for children—especially gifted children.
 
I recently bought myself an excellent grand piano and was able to get it at a bargain-basement price. I was able to purchase it at such a good value for two reasons:
  • The poor economy is limiting people’s discretionary funds.
  • Since taking piano lessons is no longer the norm in American households, there is not a big demand for the instruments.
Lucky for me. Sad for those who have no interest in learning to play music. I keep trying to figure out why instrumental lessons have lost their allure. When I was young, it seemed that almost every young person I knew took piano lessons and, once they entered junior high (today’s middle school), they often took an additional band or orchestral instrument. It was all considered part of a rounded education.
 
I am making a plea to parents of bright kids to enroll their kids in lessons. There is so much to be gained from this instruction. In his article, The Prodigious Power of Piano Playing, Brian Chung lists some great reasons to take piano lessons. These reasons also apply to lessons on other instruments. Taking lessons and practicing will help the youngster learn to
  • work hard
  • focus
  • be responsible
  • pay attention to details
  • be self-reliant
  • be creative
All of these skills can transfer to other areas of the student’s life.
 
I have a few extra words of advice.
  • Don’t expect your kids to enjoy learning music that you do not play in your own home. It may be too foreign to their ears. Play—and hopefully enjoy—a wide variety of types of music at home, including classical, jazz, folk, contemporary, and music from other cultures.
  • Take your children to concerts of many types, letting them hear many types of music.
  • Present music lessons as an honor, not a duty.
  • Be willing to sit with your child during practice, especially in the beginning.
  • Research and interview a variety of teachers before choosing one. It is very important that your child and the instructor are able to “connect” on many levels.
In Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind, the editors of Scientific American discuss studies showing that instrument training from an early age enables the brain to better focus, concentrate, and learn subtleties in sound, thereby enabling one to more easily learn a foreign language.
 
Serious practice on an instrument also helps students to acquire self-discipline. It is enormously satisfying to work very hard at something and then reap its rewards. If a student participates in playing instruments with a group, there is a great deal of teamwork involved. Above and beyond all of this, learning to play an instrument promotes a lifelong joy in music.

Puppetry for Gifted Kids

 
If you think that the art of puppetry is a simple subject, think again. Like any niche subject, there is a great deal more to learn than initially meets the eye.
 
Puppetry can be incorporated into any subject, it can be a study on its own, or it may become a lifelong hobby. It may even lead to a profession (think Jim Henson).
 
Learning to make puppets and stage puppet shows can be done at many levels, from very simple to very sophisticated, and incorporates a variety of skills, including math, language arts, art, advanced problem solving, and creativity. Many gifted kids will find it exciting and compelling.
 
Here are some puppetry websites that will help you as a teacher, a parent, or a student.
 
The Puppetry Home Page presents a wealth of information about the art of puppetry.
  • Definitions—Lists information about more than a dozen kinds of puppets.
  • Traditions Around the World—Traditions from 13 different countries.
  • Puppet Building—Books, patterns, tutorials, materials, and suppliers.
  • Using Puppetry—Puppet stages, plays, and scripts.
  • Schools, Workshops, Internships, Scholarships, and Awards—A great section for those who are seriously interested in puppetry.
  • Organizations—Links to organizations around the world.
  • Festivals—Conferences and festivals in the United States and Canada.
  • Exhibits and Museums—From around the world, with many in the United States.
  • Resources—Books, mailing lists, newsgroups, and other puppetry Web sites.
Puppeteers’ Cooperative Home Page contains instructions for making 68 different puppets that are very large.
 
YouTube—Search on “Puppet Making Tutorial” for many options to learn how to make puppets.
 
Puppeteers Unite is a blog for current and future puppeteers that provides information detailing puppet performances, building techniques, and positive business practices.
 
You may want to start searching on the Internet for puppet camps for this summer. Start with a search such as “puppet camp” combined with the name of your city.

Online Math Program Comparison for Gifted Students

 
If you haven’t already bookmarked the website for The Davidson Institute for Talent Development, you should do so right now. The website contains a wealth of valuable information pertaining to gifted education. Click on the Datebase link near the top of the page for various ways to search.
 

In my blog entry today, I want to draw your attention to a particularly useful website for those who are considering enrolling a student in an online math program. Online math programs may be beneficial whether the young person participates during school hours or after school. It may serve as enrichment or acceleration and may offer classes in areas that are not readily available. An online math program may also be a good choice for a student who is homeschooled. The Davidson Institute has put together an Online Math Program Comparison. The information provided is a one-stop shopping experience when considering an online class. This database presents a table of the ten most popular online math programs used by Davidson Young Scholars. Included are Internet links to each program’s website, prices (one is free), topics offered, enrollment periods, whether or not the program is self paced, financial assistance, levels/grades offered, and age/grade requirements.

 
In Tips for Parents: Parenting Math-Talented Students, author Lupkowski-Shoplik advises parents that
One of the major benefits of studying math via an online mathematics program is the opportunity to study a subject at the right level of challenge. The student can work at his or her own pace and at the right level. One of the most difficult aspects of online math programs is that the student should be highly self-motivated and an independent learner. Some students thrive in this atmosphere, others feel isolated and find that they prefer being in a classroom setting.
 
If you are considering an online class for your math student, be sure to look at the comparison table offered by The Davidson Institute.

Immigration Studies for Gifted Students

 
Gifted students will find the controversial and relevant topic of immigration especially interesting. I have tried to find Web sites on the subject that are politically neutral and offer more facts than opinion. These sites are divided into historical immigration and current immigration.
 
Historical Immigration
  • More than 12 million immigrants arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor between 1892 and 1954. Now you can hear first-person accounts of their ocean journeys, daily life in their home countries, and experiences at the federal government’s former processing station. Ancestry.com is a subscription genealogy Web site that contains an incredible amount of information. Some information is free, including more than 1,700 taped interviews with immigrants.  
  • Immigration and U.S. History presents an overview of four centuries of immigration in the United States.
  • Digital History gathers together a multitude of research items. You will want to spend time clicking through the various resources on the left side of the page.
  • The Library of Congress: Immigration Web site links educators to primary sources from the Library of Congress' online collections.
 
Current Immigration
  • The Urban Institute offers much statistical information on current immigration, including where immigrants are settling and information about children of immigrants.
  • Migration Policy Institute: Country and Comparative Data presents an incredible amount of data. From where are immigrants coming? To which countries are they moving? Which countries are accepting people applying for asylum, and how many do they allow each year?
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is the official Web site to check when wanting to enter the United States legally. Readers will discover the various ways that a person can enter the U.S. and how the application process works.
 
Possible Questions for Study
  • Why do people immigrate to other countries?
  • What factors are considered when immigrants choose a destination country?
  • In what ways has immigration been a positive influence?
  • In what ways has immigration been a negative influence?
  • How has the view of immigration changed or stayed the same over the years?

Gifted Kids Blogging about Academics

 
Recently I came across two blogs written by students who are "into" academics. These blogs are fun for others to read and may inspire young people to launch blogs to share their own passions.
 
Daphne’s Word Blog is written by a logophile, a person who loves words. Each entry discusses a word or words that the author finds fascinating.
 
Ivan’s Number Blog includes interesting information about number patterns and problems that require time and thought to solve.
 
Each of these bloggers encourages readers to submit their own words, problems, and solutions.
 
You may want to use these two blogs with students who have an interest in vocabulary and in math, and/or you may want to use the blogs as examples of what your own young people might create. Students could construct blogs in any area of interest (e.g. The Civil War, butterflies, favorite books, creative writing, fire engines, dinosaurs, kites, careers, famous composers, etc.). Entries may be added as time permits or a routine schedule for posts can be established to encourage self-discipline.

Mentors for Gifted Students

 
On several other occasions I have written blogs about the virtues of finding mentors for gifted students. See
The importance of mentoring is worth revisiting over and over again. Some students have such esoteric interests that it is only through one-on-one coaching and support that they can get the intellectual nourishment that they need. So I want to bring this academic option to your attention once more with some other links available on the Internet.

Grade-Skipping for Highly Gifted Students

Friday, October 15, 2010 - by CFertig - Category: Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children
 
The recent Washington Post opinion piece, Class Struggle: Why Grade-Skipping Should Be Back in Fashion, has created quite a stir in gifted education blogs and forums and in reader comments. Some of the points writer Jay Mathews makes are that
  • a generation or two ago, grade skipping was more acceptable,
  • students are far more ready to adjust to age differences when skipping a grade than we think they are,
  • grade-skipping is an economical and effective way to meet the needs of highly able students, and
  • when a student has strong academic abilities in just one or two subjects, that student should move to a higher grade for those specific subjects and stay with his age-peer group for the rest of the day. 
According to the NAGC Position Statement on Acceleration, there is more research supporting this intervention than any other in the literature on gifted individuals. Several interventions fall under the umbrella of acceleration: not only grade-skipping, but also telescoping, early entrance into kindergarten or college, credit by examination, and acceleration in content areas through such programs as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate at the high school level.
 
Australian author and scholar Miraca Gross is a strong proponent of radical acceleration for exceptionally and profoundly gifted children. She is well known for her longitudinal study of students with IQs over 160. Many of the titles of her books and articles can be found at the link provided in this paragraph.
 
If you are a parent or educator who is interested in exploring the possibilities of grade-skipping for a student or students, go to the website for the Davidson Institute for Talent Development and search on the words grade skip. Also, take a look at the Iowa Acceleration Scale, which is a tool to help schools make effective decisions regarding a grade-skip.

The Do-It-Yourself Movement

Friday, October 08, 2010 - by CFertig - Category: Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children
 

This month’s issue of The Atlantic contains an article titled School for Hackers: The Do-It-Yourself Movement Revives Learning by Doing. The article is consistent with the project-based learning concept where students explore real-world problems and challenges.

Because we have become so used to providing young people with ready-made toys and technology, we often miss opportunities for them to use their own ingenuity to problem solve and create. In addition, we are not passing down what used to be common knowledge about folk crafts, creative cooking, model building, woodworking, gardening, collecting, etc. There is a movement now to revive the do-it-yourself (DIY) philosophy and get kids involved in building and creating. 

Through the do-it-yourself movement, students learn research skills, understand subject matter at a deeper level, and are more deeply engaged in their work.
 
When a kid builds a model rocket, or a kite, or a birdhouse, she not only picks up math, physics, and chemistry along the way, she also develops her creativity, resourcefulness, planning abilities, curiosity, and engagement with the world around her.
 
There are many resources that will help you introduce kids to the DIY movement.
  • Hobbie shops—both store fronts and online varieties have all kinds of materials and kits.
  • Knitting, sewing, and quilting stores have not only supplies, but often offer free or low cost instruction.
  • Home Depot often has building classes specifically for children.
  • Local summer camps, workshops, and clubs such as Tinkering School in Los Angeles. Whether or not you live in Los Angeles, check out this website. There are some great sections for everyone, such as Fifty Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do.
  • Magazines such as Make where you will find an archive of fun projects for kids of all ages.

Questions about Child Prodigies

 
 
How Can You Tell If Your Child Is a Prodigy? features 8-year-old Autumn de Forest, who has developed into an early artist. Her 4-foot-by-5-foot canvases sell for as much as $25,000. Her talents were discovered quite by accident when she asked her father if she could use some leftover stain and wood from a home project on which he was working. You can see a video clip of Autumn discussing her art and view samples of her paintings.
 
If child prodigies were never given the opportunity to discover their talents, would we know that they had the potential to excel? Is the same not true for young people who are very bright but not prodigies? By exposing a young person to as many physical activities, intellectual undertakings, and art forms as possible, you may find an area or areas where that child will excel. Even if the youngster doesn’t excel, she will still be better off for being exposed.
 
When we think of prodigies, men’s names often come to mind. One doesn’t hear the names of women as often. Lynn T. Goldsmith explores this and other issues in her paper titled Girl Prodigies, Some Evidence and Some Speculations. Goldsmith cautions us when she states that prodigies are notable for their rapid mastery, but not necessarily for their lifelong contributions to the field. Many prodigies burn out and do not make the contributions as adults that we expect. Conversely, most original adult contributors were not necessarily prodigies themselves.
 
Questions:
  • Will a child naturally excel in an area or is it necessary to first expose him to that particular area of study?
  • What is our obligation as adults to expose children to a wide variety of interests?
  • Why are we far more aware of male prodigies than female prodigies?
  • Since child prodigies don’t necessarily go on to produce as adults, does that make them just curiosities or something more important?

Are Schooling and Learning Synonymous for Gifted Kids?

The Brave New World blog, written by Australian Tania Sheko (parent and teacher, turned teacher librarian) raises the interesting question: Are schooling and learning synonymous? Between her comments and the comments of her readers, the following issues are raised:
  • When school isn’t the ideal place to educate kids, what should you do?
  • Should schools be responsible for completely educating young people or should they be considered supplements to education provided at home?
  • Are we adequately preparing kids for living and working in today’s world?
  • How can we foster a natural love of learning?
  • How can we allow and encourage young people to follow their passions, even though time consuming school assignments may make that difficult?
  • How can parents best communicate their educational philosophy and the needs of their kids to teachers?
  • How can parents play an active role in the education of their youngsters? What does “active role” mean?
  • What does an educated person look like?
  • How can parents and teachers help to keep the joy of learning alive?
  • How will technology change the way we learn?
These questions would be great starters for a deep discussions among teachers, parents, or students. Consider using one or more of the questions at parent or teacher meetings or with groups of students.

Brain Teasers for Gifted Kids

Friday, September 17, 2010 - by CFertig - Category: Parenting Gifted Children, Teaching Gifted Children, Homeschooling
 
Looking for puzzles to exercise the minds of your students? Are you in search of interactive puzzles for your kids at home? Post a puzzle a day or a puzzle a week in your classroom. Present a puzzle to your kids while driving in the car. Create a puzzle corner at home or at school.
 
The Internet is full of games and puzzles that work the brain and help kids think outside the box. Just search on such terms as “brainteasers” or “puzzles.” Here are just a few sites that will keep you and your gifted kids occupied for a good long time.
 
Brainteasers, Puzzles, & Riddles is hosted by NIEHS Kids’ Pages. Some of these are easy enough for the younger set.
 
Brain Boosters is found at the Discovery Education website. Many of these are quite difficult, so are more appropriate for older students.
 
The Sunday Puzzle is brought to you by NPR. Each week, puzzlemaster Will Shortz presents an on-air quiz. At this site, you will find an archive of his puzzles. These are probably the most challenging puzzles of the three sites I am listing here.

Oceans of Learning for Gifted Kids

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored. Just think of what there is to discover and how exciting it will be. One of every six jobs in the United States is marine-related, so it is definitely an area to think about for a future career. 

Providing an avenue for gifted kids to study the ocean may ignite their interest in exploration. Who knows where it might eventually lead.
 
The excellent websites listed below contain not only written information, but lesson plans, images, video, audio, and other resources.
 
Ocean Portal is sponsored by The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Some of the areas covered on this website include the latest news on ocean-related topics; numerous stories, resources, and lesson plans related to ocean life and ecosystems; and information about the latest research.

National Geographic has an extensive section on the ocean. There are special sections for both kids and for educators.

NOAA has ocean material for teachers and kids of all ages.
 
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ocean Surface Topography from Space has information and activities for students from kindergarten through graduate school, plus teacher materials.
 
Once your student’s interest in the study of the ocean has been invigorated, you may want to consider giving him a hands-on experience through a study program. To explore the possibilities, go to Cogito, which is an excellent website sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. Do a search on “study at sea.” You will be amazed at the opportunities that are available, including camps and living and working on research vessels.
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