Effective Parents and Teachers of Gifted Children
Recently I was doing some research on the effective characteristics of teachers of the gifted. It struck me that the characteristics of effective teachers are often what I would consider to be the effective characteristics of parents. See if you don’t agree with me. I’d love to hear your comments.
- High degree of intelligence, intellectual honesty
- Expertise in a specific intellectual or talent area (mathematics, writing, etc.) This may be more applicable to teachers than parents. However, a specific intellectual or talent area may influence a child to pursue that same area. This is often noted when accomplished musicians had at least one parent who was a musician.
- Self-directed in own learning, with a love for new, advanced knowledge Modeling by adults is often the best teacher.
- Equanimity, level-headedness, emotional stability
- A genuine interest in, liking of gifted learners
- Recognition of the importance of intellectual development
- Strong belief in individual differences and individualization As parents, shouldn’t we respect and encourage the differences in our children?
- Highly developed teaching skill and knowledge Is it fair to say that parents should have a highly developed parenting skill and knowledge? We don’t go to school to become parents, but we can certainly educate ourselves through reading, perhaps taking classes in parenting, and observing other families.
- A sense of humor Having a sense of humor is critical to handling any stressful situation.
- Move quickly through material Children are often capable of more than we expect. I’m not talking about unfairly pushing kids, but just recognizing that they have the ability to think through important issues given the tools and the opportunities.
- Treat each student as an individual
- Avoid being a "sage on the stage" all the time As parents, we need to guide our children to make good decisions rather than always telling them what needs to be done or how they should think.
- Consistently give "accurate" feedback Some parents don’t give accurate feedback because they are afraid it will damage their child’s self-esteem. We do not serve children well by constantly protecting them. Accurate feedback can be given without being harsh. Your children will also trust you more if they know that you are being honest.
When looking at schools, we often have high expectations for teachers. As parents, we also need to have high expectations for oursel
Summer Reading Lists for Gifted Children
As summer approaches each year, parents ask for summer reading suggestions for their children and teachers ask for suggestions for their students. Precocious readers look forward to blocks of time when they can pursue their interests with fewer interruptions.
When helping gifted readers choose books, whether fiction or non-fiction, include the following:
- Enriching vocabulary
- Books that cause the reader to ponder issues
- Ethnic diversity of subjects and authors
- Creative approaches to topics
The following are booklists you may want to consider:
- The Newberry Medal—most distinguished contribution to American literature for children
- The Caldecott Medal—artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children
- Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal—an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children
- Mildred L. Batchelder Award—an American publisher for a children's book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States
- Pura Belpré Award—a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose works best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth
- Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal—the author of the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year
- Alex Awards—adult books that appeal to teen readers
- Best Books for Young Adults—annual recommendations for this age group
- Margaret A. Edwards Award—recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world
- Michael L. Printz Award—an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature
- Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners—books on this list offer opportunities to discover new ideas, and provide an introduction to a fascinating variety of subjects within an academic discipline. Readers gain an understanding of our diverse world and build a foundation to deepen their response to that world.
Gifted Kids, Gifted Characters, and Great Books
—compiled by Bertie Kingore, these books are written by authors of merit. Each book contains well-developed characters who display gifted behaviors. The stories include thought-provoking problem situations, issues, or personal needs with which gifted students can identify.
Good Books for Good Readers
—books are grouped into categories such as Books with Gifted Characters, Long Books and Long Books with Sequels for Kids who read too fast
, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Real History, Science Fiction, Survival, Math, Poetry, Biographies, etc.
Advocate for Gifted Children
This week I began posting samples of articles that have recently appeared in Gifted Child Today, Prufrock Press' gifted education teaching and parenting journal. One of the articles focused on the topic of ways parents and teachers can use traditional public relations strategies to advocate for gifted education and gifted children.
The time for such an article could not be better. Gifted and talented programs are faced with budget cuts, and teachers of gifted kids are dealing with the damaging effects that the No Child Left Behind initiative is having on the educational opportunities for gifted children. In the article, Kevin Besnoy explains that, in order to stem the tide of the reduction of gifted education services, teachers and parents of the gifted must become advocates and employ public relations strategies to support their cause. The article goes on to explain how. You can download the article by clicking the link below.
"Using Public Relations Strategies to Advocate for Gifted Programming in Your School" by Kevin Besnoy (Gifted Child Today. 28(1), 32-37, 65.)
Mr. Besnoy's article caught my attention because of its relevance to a recent blog entry I wrote in which I focused on the problems that No Child Left Behind has created for gifted programs.
Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Joan Smutny called me to talk about some of the exciting things happening with the Illinois Association for Gifted Children (in addition to her many other accomplishments, Dr. Smutny edits the association's annual journal). During our conversation, the topic of advocacy came up, and Dr. Smutny mentioned a parenting book she had written titled Stand Up for Your Gifted Child: How to Make the Most of Kids' Strengths at School and Home. I had not seen the book, and Dr. Smutny had a copy sent to me.
Last weekend, I got a chance to read the book. It is a fantastic how-to manual on advocating for your gifted child. The book discusses how to tell if your child is gifted and helps you understand the problems your gifted child may face in school. The book focuses on knowing your rights as a parent of a gifted child and how to work with your child's school to guarantee that he or she is challenged. The book also talks about building a supportive home environment for your gifted child and how to find and network with other parents of gifted kids.
I really like this little how-to manual for parents who want to become better advocates for their gifted kids. I would have to agree with Dr. Jerry Flack who, in the book's foreword, writes, "I have never read a finer and more practical book on advocacy for gifted students."
Kudos to Dr. Smutny and the folks at Free Spirit Publishing for publishing such a great little book.
Textbooks and Gifted Kids
Last night, at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants here in Austin, TX, I got a chance to read the February/March 2005 issue of edutopia. This is a very slick, free teacher magazine published by The George Lucas Educational Foundation. I really liked one article in the issue titled, "No Books, No Problem." As with all of the magazine's content, the article is available online.
The article focuses on one teacher's choice to stop using his class' adopted textbook and focus on the use of many different sources of information to teach students. I especially liked one comment by the teacher: "Since textbooks are marketed nationally, they must comply with content standards for all states, resulting in ten-pound tomes that cover all topics superficially."
I think this problem is particularly true with teachers faced with the challenge of teaching gifted students. I used to get so frustrated with textbooks that try to cover everything without touching on anything in any depth. Teachers of gifted and talented students are often encouraged to increase the depth and complexity of the content they teach to gifted learners, but how are we supposed to do this with the current crop of textbooks out there. Julia Roberts, Ph.D., in her little booklet Enrichment Opportunities for Gifted Learners, offers all kinds of ways to extend the learning of gifted children, but it's tough to follow her advice in a classroom bound to the confines of a textbook.
In a follow-up article to the piece I mentioned above, edutopia includes a "How To" piece titled "Toss the Text". This article offers some practical advice for teachers wanting to move away from relying so much on a single textbook. It provides some sound advice, but I would like to hear more from you guys about this.
Is anyone out there using some subject-area textbook that you really like? If not, what are you doing to sidestep the issues involved (finding the materials you want to use, getting copies for your students, etc.) and expose your kids to really significant content?
2 Ways of Looking at Traits of Gifted Children
One evening, I was talking to a Frank, surgeon friend of mine. I knew that he had been having some problems with his family.
“They get upset with me,” he said, “because I like things done a certain way. Also, when I ask that something be done, I expect it to be done immediately.”
When Frank makes decisions, he sees no reason why everyone shouldn’t agree that his decisions are correct. When things don’t go as he expects, he lets his wife and kids know about it.
“I realize that I may do and say things that irritate other people,” he continued, “but when I’m in surgery, I have to make snap decisions and I need for things to be done well and done quickly. Those characteristics are essential for me there.”
Frank is right. The ability to make decisions, to give commands, and have everyone jump to his beckoning is vital in the operating room. It does not, however, work so well in the home environment.
Maria is a voracious reader. Given her choice, she will read from the time she wakes up in the morning until she goes to bed at night. While pleased that she is able to read many grade levels above her peers, her parents are still concerned that she seems to have no other interests. She does not socially interact much with friends or family. She is not interested in sports or musical instruments or hobbies or even watching TV. Sometimes, it is difficult to get her to stop reading and come to the dinner table.
Dakota, an eighth grader, is very creative. He constantly finds new uses for ordinary objects and has a vivid imagination. Those sound like great qualities, but they often cause him problems in school. When he gets bored in class, he draws cartoons. The problem is that these cartoons can be very irreverent portrayals of his teachers. Recently, when his math teacher discovered his drawings, Peter was immediately sent to the dean for discipline.
Sometimes the same traits that are good in one situation are considered negative in another situation. We call these concomitant characteristics
. Think about people you know—both adults and children. Do any of these people have traits that work to their advantage and
to their disadvantage? Think about yourself. Is this true for you as well? Once you are aware of this anomaly, you may better understand the positive sides of characteristics that you previously thought were negative.
What about the person who talks your ear off? Perhaps that person would be a good public speaker. Think of the student who is the class clown. Could that person grow up to become the next best stand-up comedian? What about the child who is always asking questions and never seems to be satisfied with the answers? Will she take her questioning into the world of science and discover great things? If you look at people with this in mind, can you become a more tolerant individual? Will it help you to steer your child in directions where that potentially negative gifted characteristic might be used in a more positive environment
Blogging with Parents of Gifted Students
I've discovered a really exciting way that teachers of gifted children can communicate with parents. After doing a Google search for school teacher blogs, I came across several creative teachers that are using blogs in a way I had not considered. They are using blogs to communicate with the families of their students. For example, in Mr. Wright's Third Grade Class blog, a teacher, Christopher Wright, is using his blog to keep parents up-to-date about his class at Wyman Elementary School (Rolla, Missouri). I think this is a wonderful way to use a blog. Mr. Wright posts all kinds of useful information on his blog:
Mr. Wright also allows parents to post comments and ask questions about some of the activities taking place in his classroom.
- a calendar of class events (including field trips);
- a summary of what his kids are learning and what is going on in the classroom;
- the week's spelling list;
- pictures of the kids at work in the classroom;
- a reading log to be completed by students each week; and
- suggested web links that Mr. Wright would like his students and their parents to visit.
Using a blog to communicate with parents can also be used by a school's staff to keep parents informed about school-wide matters. At Meriwether Lewis Elementary School (Portland, Oregon), the staff uses a school-wide blog to keep parents informed about important events and news about what is happening at the school. The staff at the school even selects books available at the local public library that families can read together that support learning activities at the school.
In the "Other Blogs" section on the left sidebar of my blog, you will find links to other teachers who are using blogs in creative ways. Not all teachers are using blogs the way Mr. Wright does. Many are using blogs to keep a diary of their classroom experiences, discuss teaching ideas, and share their views on topics. This is a more traditional use of a blog. I mention it here because I want to point out how flexible the blog format is.
The advantages of blogs are many.
The easiest way to get a blog started is to visit one of the many free blog hosting services. I like Bloglines because the service makes it easy to set-up and maintain a blog, and it offers a simple method for tracking new postings to other blogs that you follow (I'm a fan of Macintosh computers, the Dilbert cartoon, and teacher blogs that are written like personal journals, so I use Bloglines to keep me posted whenever one of the 15 different blogs I like on these topics has a new entry). I've experimented with Blogger and had good experiences with it. Another big hosting service is TypePad, and I've heard good things about that service.
- Blogs are free.
- Blogs are easy to use. Any teacher can set up a blog within a few minutes. Most hosting services have a help section that can be very useful to new bloggers.
- Parents can be automatically notified when you post new entries. Parents wishing to subscribe to your blog will be emailed whenever you post a new blog entry. That way you let parents know when you have new information available. Parents more familiar with using RSS and Atom feeds can subscribe using those subscription methods as well.
Blogging is free, easy, and fun. If you do start your own gifted education classroom blog, feel free to drop me a note with its address. I would be more than happy to post it as a link on this blog.
Creative Writing Activities for Gifted Children
Here is a fantastic, fun, and free activity that teaches about using figurative language (like alliteration -- get it?). Last summer, I wanted to launch a line of activity books for gifted children and advanced learners. Rather than approach professional education writers who commonly haven't set foot in a real classroom, I approached classroom teachers of gifted students and asked them to spend some of their summer putting together some of their favorite activities.
The result is a series of great little activity books that we released in January of 2005. Creative Writing: Using Fairy Tales to Enrich Writing Skills (Grades 4-8) is an exciting book in the series by Teresa Cannon Hackett. Teresa does a great job of teaching creative writing skills identified as important by the National Council for Teachers of English and does so in a fun and interesting way.
Download a free creative writing activity from the book and use it with your students (the PDF file is about 600K so give it a few seconds to download). I added a footnote on the bottom of the activity sheets that gives you permission to reproduce the pages for classroom use. Let me know what you think. I'm always interested in getting your feedback.