David Shenk's Giftedness Controversy
David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, to be released next year, has created a blog of the same title for The Atlantic magazine. The Genius in All of Us focuses on initiating and perpetuating a research-based conversation about the nature of giftedness and the institutional responses that are filtered through gifted education. Many will find Shenk’s research and resulting conclusions controversial. Some will find him threatening to their view of giftedness; others will find his views heartening. But this controversy is what makes him interesting, creating potential for field-enhancing questioning and discussion.
Shenk hopes to post blog entries several times a week and is off to a good start with the following titles:
Some of the broad areas he plans to cover in the future include:
- How brains work
- Where child prodigies come from
- What nature/nurture really means
- The creative process and work habits of high achievers
- The roles of parents, schools, culture, and technology
I am curious to see where Shenk goes with all of his ideas—if he makes convincing arguments for his view of intelligence, what implications this will have for future research in gifted education, and what suggestions he will make for parents and educators.
Addressing Back-to-School Social Anxiety
Education.com just posted a great article on "Addressing Back-to-School Social Anxiety" with your children. From the article:
Many preteens and teens are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of returning to school in the fall. But how can parents know when anxiety about the social challenges of the new school year is more serious than normal back to school jitters?
Is your child just shy and introverted, or does she not want to return to school because she has social anxiety? Is it “just a phase” or does it constitute a disorder?
The article includes several important insights from Dr. Bonnie Zucker, the author of Prufrock Press' Anxiety-Free Kids: An Interactive Guide for Parents and Children. In the article, Dr. Zucker offers great tips for overcoming social anxiety and several suggestions for using the summer months as an opportunity for preteens and teens to work on their social skills.
Recently, the Washingtonian magazine named Dr. Zucker one of the top 10 therapists in Washington, D.C. I'm very proud to have her as one of our authors.
Helping Gifted Kids Become Resilient
We all know people who have been through a lot but are able to bounce back—emotionally strong, physically healthy, happy, and able to achieve. We also know individuals who appear to have every advantage but fall apart at the first sign of trouble. The difference is resilience. Resilient people are able to adapt, despite risk and adversity.
When things happen unexpectedly or take a wrong turn, gifted children are just as susceptible to the intense vulnerability that accompanies struggle and tragedy whether it results from something beyond their control or is simply caused by errors in judgment. Given the right tools, young people can gain control over how they react to situations. Children can learn to be more resilient by becoming more optimistic in response to difficulty.
"Seven Parenting Solutions to Help Kids Rebound from Mistakes," an article in Michele Borba's blog, Reality Check
, offers some great advice for parents (teachers, these are good techniques for the classroom as well). Using colorful anecdotes, Borba lists concrete ways to teach kids to bounce back from difficult situations, see mistakes as learning opportunities, and keep trying. In addition to teaching techniques, she suggests that teachers and parents use optomistic language when addressing students in a vulnerable state. Visit her web site
to read the detail behind each of the following suggestions:
Be an example of bouncing back;
Set realistic expectations;
Start a “bounce back!” motto;
Create a “Stick to It” award;
Help children see mistakes as opportunities;
Respond to errors noncritically; and
Offer support only when needed.
Praising effort rather than performance;
Reading hopeful, optimistic stories with resilient characters, discussing the challenges the characters face, and the choices they make;
Helping the child brainstorm many possible reasons for a situation to prevent the development of black-or-white thinking; and
Doing anything and everything possible to enhance the child’s relationships with caring adults.
Modeling resiliency for young people;
Praising effort and perseverance more than accomplishment;
Encouraging risk-taking and boldness; and
Allowing kids to fail, but being ever ready with unconditional emotional support, context (failure is one of the best ways to learn), and redirection toward the future.
News Sites for Gifted Kids
Kristin Hokanson (elementary teacher turned high school tech coach) maintains The Connected Classroom Web site. Hokanson understands the growing importance of technology in our lives and urges teachers and parents to incorporate technology into their children’s learning experiences. Connected Classroom contains many interesting sections. Today, I’d like to tell you about News Sites for Kids.
News Sites for Kids offers a comprehensive list of links to news that kids can understand. Many of these links also offer lesson plans or teaching ideas such as the following listed on The New York Times Learning Connection:
In the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch tells Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." And the Buddha is supposed to have said, "You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger." Choose one of these quotations or find another expression about human nature by searching an archive of quotations, such as About.com's Quotations page or Bartleby.com. Then read The New York Times for a week, looking for articles that support (or refute) the expression you chose. Good starting places are the Opinion, N.Y./Region and U.S./National sections. Then write an essay that explains the degree to which the expression seems to be true, backed by the examples you found.
As always, teachers should check sites out first to make certain they are appropriate for the learning levels of their students.
Links for the younger set include:
For upper elementary and older:
Hokanson has including additional links to visual sites using world maps to organize the day's headlines, world newspapers, commercial newsites, and sites that help teachers develop lesson plans about current events and the nature of journalism.
Immediate Action Needed to Save Federal Gifted Education Funding
The National Association for Gifted Children has called for "emergency" action to save federal funding for gifted education. However, if you wish to help, you must act before the end of business today.
Federal funding for gifted education is on the chopping block, and your action is needed. The only federal funding for gifted child education is known as the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act. While small in comparison to other education programs, this funding supports important programs and research focused on identifying and serving disadvantaged gifted students. These limited funds were cut out of the proposed 2010 federal budget.
Please consider e-mailing or calling your congressperson and asking that at least $7.5 million be reinstated in fiscal year 2010 for the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act.
Please suggest to your congressperson that funds currently earmarked for local special projects be directed to fund the Javits Act. These special projects funds have already been budgeted, so ask that some of these dollars be allocated toward gifted education. By simply shifting these funds, federal spending would not be increased.
The National Association for Gifted Children has posted detailed instructions related to contacting your representative in Congress.
Keep in mind that you must act today.
Free Online Mathematics Instruction for Gifted Students
Mathematics education in the United States is often criticized as ranking behind that of other countries. For a sampling of such evidence, you can review a study conducted by the American Institutes for Research
or highlights from TIMSS 2007
Online mathematics learning offers one possible solution for advancing math abilities in highly engaged and self-motivated students. Global Education is an organization that endeavors to raise the proficiency level of capable students so that they will be prepared for the world’s elite universities. The main goal of the program is not to educate mathematicians but to help students acquire as much useful analytical ability as possible to be successful in the future. Though Global Education was established in 2003, it employs proven teaching methods developed to support math education in the 1960s.
Predicated on the premise that mathematically gifted students (from about Grade 6) should be allowed to pursue math education outside the strictures of a traditional classroom setting, Global Education presents rich content in an interactive forum that naturally facilitates individual enrichment. Four to five 50-minute sessions weekly supplant the traditional text book, challenging gifted students to acquire additional math skill by relying upon previous knowledge and their own innate abilities.
Using live video and audio, the program was developed by and is taught by many of the foremost mathematics experts in the world, including contributors from the Ivy League, Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. All of the teachers are able to instruct in English.
Here’s the part that may really catch your attention: In an effort to promote this program, no tuition will be charged through the summer of 2010. Please be aware that specific, upper-end hardware is required for participation.
If you have a very capable student, you may want to look at the Global Education Web site and contact them for more information.
Wiki on Great Books for Gifted Kids
Here’s a new idea—a wiki hosting literature and related lesson plans that focus on both intellectual and emotional development in gifted kids. Newly created by Lynette Breedlove, GTKidsBooks provides a place for educators and parents to recommend and share books with gifted children. Breedlove anticipates the wiki to include great lesson plans posted by teachers using the books suggested.
You can join the wiki and contribute. To be included, a book must:
- feature a character who exhibits gifted and talented characteristics
- deal with some issue that gifted children often face
A chart summarizes book titles categorizing them as adult or young-adult novels, chapter books, picture books, or self-help. At present detailed information for specific books is limited, however, as the wiki is fleshed out, book data will possess rather comprehensive detail including recommended ages, themes related to giftedness, and linked lesson plans.
As always, wikis grow through the participation of followers, so join GTKidsBooks and contribute to the process. With your help this could become a great resource.