Focused Interests for Gifted Kids: One Example
Decades ago, I used to edit an antiques and collectibles tabloid. The publication mainly consisted of interviews with people who studied and collected specialty items. I always was amazed at several things: the items that wound up in these collections, the groups of people who became passionate about their areas of interest, and the amount of information that could be learned from trivia that may have seemed meaningless to the rest of society. One man’s house was filled with bells of all sizes. Another person’s basement was filled with display cases of pencils. Still others collected vintage buttons. Each of these people could cite all kinds of historical facts about his collection. A visit to eBay also will reveal the number of people who collect various items and have special interest items for sale. These are not hoarders. These are people who genuinely get excited about a specialty category and then learn everything they can about it.
Young people also may find areas of specialty and use those as a focus for learning and collecting. Really being able to “get into” a subject builds traits that may transfer to other areas of learning and work in the future. Some of these traits include:
networking with others of like minds,
pride in one’s accomplishments, and
setting and working toward goals.
While there are many hobbies, collections, and special interests from which a child may choose, I will use trains as an example to illustrate my point. As parents and educators, we want to encourage young people to pursue their passions. Here are some possible ways to do that with trains.
Museums: When you’re traveling, take time to visit railroad museums. For a list of railroad museums across the nation and throughout the world, visit RailMuseums.com
Train Stations: Click here
for a list of train stations around the world. Some have historic architectural significance and some are very modern.
Build a Model Railroad: Building one’s own model railroad is a fantastic way to enhance creativity, work on fine motor skills, manage money, learn to read and understand detailed instructions, and plan. Such hobbies often begin in childhood and continue long into adulthood. For learning all about building a model railroad, check out Building Your Model Railroad
Books: Want to learn about the history of trains and railroads and the people who were most influential in creating them? This information will help a student to understand the development of transportation and help put general history in perspective. One also can learn about today’s high-speed trains and commuter systems, the future direction of rail travel, and how that might influence societal trends. For a list of railroad books, go to sites such as RailroadBookstore
Train Clubs and Organizations: Clubs and organizations are a great place to not only learn about your hobby, but also to meet other people with the same interest. Adult members may act as mentors to young people, providing encouragement and expertise. For a list of model railroad clubs, go to RailsUSA
and search by your state.
Take a Ride: Consider a vacation by rail or just a ride downtown on a commuter train. See listings at TrainTraveling
. Search local transportation systems such as light rail, subways, and elevated trains at local public transportation sites.
You can take any subject in which your child shows an interest and brainstorm all of the possible ways to support that interest. You never know where it may ultimately lead. If you need help, e-mail me (see the e-mail link under my biography on the left-hand side of the page). If I think others also may be looking for ways to encourage the same interest in a child, I will use the idea for a blog entry in the future.
Announcing Prufrock Press' Web Affiliate Program
A Dynamic Partnership
I’m proud to announce Prufrock Press’ new web affiliate program.
If you write a blog or manage an education or parenting website, Prufrock’s web affiliate program offers an exciting way to generate additional revenue for your site. As a web affiliate, you will receive a 10% commission on sales made by individuals coming to Prufrock Press’ website from your website.
In the past, when bloggers or web masters created web links to our books for their readers, they provided a link that directed the readers to a major online retailer like Amazon.com. I want to change this by offering an incentive to link directly to the Prufrock Press website.
I would much rather service my customers directly. We provide a superior experience to that of the large online retailers. (Ever try to reach a real person on the phone at those retailers?) If you have a question about a book or need help with an order, my customer service department is available by phone, e-mail, or fax (that information is on the bottom of every page of our website and catalog). Our attention to building relationships with our customers is simply something that the major retailers don’t offer.
To encourage bloggers and web masters to directly link to Prufrock’s website, I asked our programmers to build a web affiliate program that is superior to that of the major online retailers.
If you write a blog or manage an education or parenting website, visit Prufrock Press’ web affiliate page for more information about participating in this program.
Opening the Possibilities of Online Learning for the Gifted
Recently on the website for the Alliance for Excellent Education, there was a great article titled, Online Learning in U.S. High Schools: Lessons Learned From . . . Snow Shoveling
, by the former Governor of West Virginia, Bob Wise. The article provided an analogy that compared working efficiently during a paralyzing snowstorm to providing a good education for high school students. While caught in the snowstorms that blasted the Eastern part of the United States this winter, the author was able to use technology to work on and finish projects, communicate with others, shop, do research, and share photos. He was able to do all of this while working around the necessities of shoveling snow.
How does this relate to student learning? As Wise states,
“Similar to those of us who were isolated from the outside world during these recent snowstorms, there are millions of American students facing a variety of barriers often isolating them from receiving a quality education. Our urban students may live in the shadows of great education and economic institutions, but far too many still attend high schools where graduation is not the norm. Rural students may have to travel fifty miles across a mountain to visit a museum or other off-site learning experiences. Perhaps a suburban student has a particular course of study that her school is simply not able to meet. Or the limited availability of qualified Chinese instructors restricts motivated students from studying one of the world's newly dominant languages.”
Although it is impossible to get high-performing content teachers into every classroom, online learning programs can unite high-quality content and instruction with a teacher in the classroom who effectively guides the students. World-class education can come literally from anywhere in the world and be blended with effective pedagogy.
Online courses can help students work around issues such as inadequate schools, family situations, poverty, and limited course offerings. These classes can be accessed any time of day, making them available when it fits into the student's schedule.
The classes can be taken exclusively by attending a virtual school, as a supplement to traditional school, or in partnership with a real-time teacher in a traditional school. The possibilities are limitless.
National Standards for the Gifted
For a very long time, our country has maintained a hodgepodge of educational expectations for students, often not even coming close to the standards of other developed countries. You may have read recently about the proposed national standards for math and English
, which have recently been released. They are part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI)—a panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents who are working to create benchmarks to bring all areas of the country in alignment with the same expectations. As reported by The New York Times
, these are not without controversy. Alaska and Texas declined to participate in the standards-writing effort, arguing that they should decide locally what their children learn. After viewing the proposed standards, some states, like Massachusetts, may oppose the proposed national standards because state educators feel that they already have higher standards in place and may want to keep those.
Although the implementation of high academic standards is probably a good thing for our country in general, we must also be careful that the standards (if accepted) do not limit the learning of gifted students. It would be impractical to set a unique set of standards for the gifted population because these students fall on a long continuum of abilities. Instead, it is best to think of any national standards as a baseline of expectations, allowing more capable students to progress much more quickly and in greater depth.
Are you aware that back in 1998, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) developed and released the Pre-K - Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards
designed to assist school districts in examining the quality of their programming for gifted learners? These are standards for creating and maintaining effective gifted programming in schools. At the very least, these gifted program standards should be implemented in addition
to the national educational standards. The NAGC standards include:
program administration and management,
curriculum and instruction,
socio-emotional guidance and counseling,
professional development, and
While national educational standards are probably a good idea for the general population, they should only be considered as minimal expectations. Students who are capable should not be held back by these proposals, but allowed and encouraged to move beyond them. Pairing the proposed national standards with the NAGC program standards is a good option for able students.
Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Students (Podcast)
Increasingly, teachers grapple with the task of differentiating instruction in a way that challenges every student in a mixed-ability classroom. While there are many effective approaches to accomplishing this goal, Prufrock Press' series, Differentiating Instruction With Menus, is one of the best ready-to-use resources available on the topic.
In today’s podcast, I speak with Laurie Westphal, the author of Prufrock's Differentiating Instruction with Menus series. After teaching science for more than 15 years, both overseas and in the U.S., Laurie now works as an independent gifted education and science consultant and as a very popular Prufrock Press author.
I asked Laurie to join the podcast today to discuss the idea of adding student choice into a classroom as one way of differentiating instruction in a mixed-ability class of students.
Listen to the Podcast
Click here to listen to the podcast
(approximate length: 22 minutes)
Click here to listen to or subscribe* to this podcast on iTunes
(requires that you have iTunes installed on your computer)
* If you wish to receive notifications when new podcasts are posted, you need to subscribe to Prufrock Press' "Gifted Education Podcast" on iTunes or subscribe to the "Podcasts" RSS feed in the left column of this blog (see "Categories/RSS"). Click here to read instructions on using RSS feeds.
Maritime History for Gifted Kids
The study of maritime history is a great vehicle for weaving together an understanding of the history of ships, as well as an understanding of how inventions and discoveries enabled explorers to travel farther and farther from home. It also helps students understand the motivations for explorers to travel to different parts of the world, whether it was for political, economic, or personal reasons. There is excellent information on the Internet that will enable students and teachers to study this subject. Below is just a sampling:
The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia has created an Age of Exploration On-Line Curriculum Guide
. The curriculum guide, which is designed for grades 3-12, addresses maritime discovery from ancient times to Captain Cook's 1768 voyage to the South Pacific. The website includes visual images, text, and materials that can be downloaded or printed for transparencies, presentations, or reports. It also includes lesson plans, vocabulary, links to related websites, and guides to other reference materials.
The National Maritime Historical Society has created a site titled Sea History for Kids
. At this site, you will find a variety of informational pages and activities, including vessel types, the commerce of historical shipping, famous mariners, underwater archaeology, professions and occupations of the sea, the historical stories of kids who went to sea, games, and puzzles.
The BBC presents A History of Navigation
, charting the course of maritime navigation "from the days of rough reckoning to the ground-breaking technological advances of the late 1700s." An animated slide show is used to present the information.
A "Mysterious" Way to Teach Scientific Inquiry
When I was a kid, I loved mysteries and ghost stories and games. When I was about six, my parents gave me a board game called “Green Ghost.” For the life of me, I don’t remember the details of how the game was played, but I remember that the entire board game glowed in the dark. The point of the game was to make your way around a haunted house with trap doors and attacking ghouls. One fun gimmick of the game was that you had to wait until after dark to play it if you wanted to experience the glow in the dark effect.
As a teacher, I never lost my love for the good mystery. I tried to bring elements of the mysterious into the classroom. My high school students and I played with writing descriptive passages from the home of Jack the Ripper, collected local ghost stories, and discussed the ways in which mystery writers construct their tales.
When I first saw the prospectus for Science Sleuths: Solving Mysteries Using Scientific Inquiry, I was thrilled. The authors, two science teachers, wanted to develop a tool for teaching scientific literacy and inquiry using detective mysteries as their framework.
As the project developed, I became more and more excited. The authors began constructing a book with full-color “evidence” posters, crime logs, crime scene evidence, and a cast of questionable suspects. The crimes they created were intriguing—an art gallery heist, a mysterious death at a bed and breakfast (yes—they called it “Dead and Breakfast”), and a mysterious death at a software company.
Each of the activities in the book requires students to use inquiry, research, and the tools of scientific exploration to solve mysteries. Students must think and act like forensic detectives to succeed. Working in groups, students race to beat the clock as they attempt to determine which suspect should be charged with the crime.
I’m incredibly proud of this book. The authors have a knack for making science fun. The kid in me is pretty envious of the students who will get to experience Science Sleuths in their science classrooms.
Prufrock Press Selected by "Publishers Weekly" as Small Publisher Standout
I'm very excited to announce that Prufrock Press was featured in the March 1 edition of Publishers Weekly as one of the nation's fast-growing small publishers. The recognition comes on the heels of 21% sales growth for the company from 2007-2009, attributable to Prufrock's aggressive development of new titles, a market-driven approach to publishing, and soon-to-be-released digital editions of our books.
Prufrock Press was one of only 11 small publishers featured in the industry news magazine's annual list of fast-growing small publishers. Publishers Weekly's Small Publisher Standouts list highlights independent presses in the United States who were exemplary in terms of growth in sales, number of new titles released, and number of employees.
A Commitment to Digital Books
I was very pleased that the article took the time to emphasize our exciting plans for growth in 2010. For example, Publishers Weekly's 2009 list focused on small publishers with the "ability to seize opportunities quickly." The article specifically noted Prufrock Press' commitment to digital editions. While other small presses have taken a wait-and-see approach to digital content, we are committed to offering our books in digital formats to our customers. By the end of the second quarter 2010, we will offer digital editions of most of our titles through our website and through all major ebook channels.
Expanded Categories of New Titles
In 2009, Prufrock Press released 35 new titles. In 2010, we plan on releasing 50! We plan on adding new subject categories such as ADHD, behavioral disorders, and strategies for inclusive classrooms to our already growing line of products for parents and teachers of students with learning disabilities. We also plan to grow our advanced learning and gifted education line with exciting new curriculum products, professional development resources, and college planning guides.
I want to thank all of our customers for their ongoing support and feedback. We simply couldn't have grown so fast without the continued loyalty of our customers.
Click here for more information about Prufrock Press' listing in Publishers Weekly's Small Publisher Standouts list.