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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Q&A About the Jacob's Ladder Reading Program
Our best-selling Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program offers educators a wonderful tool for increasing reading comprehension and critical thinking skills among students. Whenever Prufrock Press exhibits Jacob's Ladder at education conferences, teachers ask questions about how the program works and whether the program can be used with all students in a mixed-ability classroom. I've prepared this blog entry in hopes of answering some of these questions.
Does Research Support Using the Program With All Students?
Emphatically, yes. Jacob's Ladder was developed at the College of William and Mary as part of a federally funded Department of Education research grant. Although there are many reading programs focused on developmental readers, there are very few research-based reading programs designed to teach advanced reading comprehension skills. Jacob's Ladder fills this gap.
Research conducted using Jacob's Ladder in Title 1 schools shows that the program increases reading comprehension skills for all students in a mixed-ability classroom. The researchers concluded, "when compared to students who used the basal reader only, those students who were exposed to the Jacob's Ladder curriculum showed significant gains in reading comprehension and critical thinking."
For an overview of the research supporting the use of this product, please download What Works: 20 Years of Curriculum Development and Research for Advanced Learners.
What Skill Sets Do the Ladders Represent?
The program is organized around the metaphor of ladders. There are six types of ladders representing different types of reading skills and each ladder has "steps" that represent increasingly difficult variations of the skills represented by the ladder. For example, Ladder A focuses on sequencing, implications, and consequences. At the lowest step of Ladder A, students sequence information found in a reading. At the highest level, students are asked to identify the short-term and long-term consequences of actions and events in a reading.
The types of reading skills addressed by each ladder are listed below:
- Ladder A: sequencing, cause and effect, and consequences and implications;
- Ladder B: identifying key details, classification, and generalizations;
- Ladder C: literary elements, inference, and interpretation of theme or central idea;
- Ladder D: synthesis of information through paraphrasing, summarizing, and creative synthesis;
- Ladder E: understanding emotion, expressing emotion, and using emotion; and
- Ladder F: planning and goal setting, monitoring and assessing, and reflecting.
How do the Readings and Ladders Work?
Each book in the Jacob's Ladder program contains between 8-10 short stories, 7-10 poems, and 4-6 nonfiction selections. Following each reading, a series of activities from the ladders are presented to students. Teachers may choose to have students complete all activities on the ladders or limit students to only certain activities presented. For example, emergent readers may be assigned activities from the lower steps of a ladder, while more advanced readers may be assigned multiple activities from the ladders.
Let's look at an example from Jacob's Ladder: Level 1: After reading one of Aesop's fables, students first encounter Ladder A, which includes the following tasks:
- list the events that occurred in the fable (Rung A1—sequencing),
- build a chart showing the various cause and effect relationships in the fable (Rung A2—cause and effect), and/or
- discuss the long-term consequences of one of the main character's actions (Rung A3—consequences and implications).
Next, from Ladder B, students would be asked to:
- discuss the mental images the fable created in their mind and list the specific details from the tale that supported the images (Rung B1—details),
- identify the actions of one character that could be characterized as helping another character (Rung B2—classifications), and/or
- determine the moral or "lesson" the fable is attempting to deliver (Rung B3—generalization).
Can I Use the Program With Cooperative Learning Groups?
Yes. Although the activities and readings can be done by students individually, Jacob's Ladder is ideal for small groups. The readings and activities may be used in a number of different grouping patterns. The use of small groups provides excellent opportunities for student discussion of the readings and collaborative decisions about the answers to questions posed.
Does the Program Include Assessment Tools?
Yes. Pre- and postassessments are included. The pretests should be administered, scored, and then used to guide student instruction and the selection of readings for varied ability groups. Both the pre- and postassessments, scoring rubric, and sample exemplars for each rubric category and level are included along with exemplars to guide scoring.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
—Search on “Puppet Making Tutorial” for many options to learn how to make puppets.
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.
Prufrock Press Acquires Cottonwood Press
I would like to share some exciting news with you.
Today, my company, Prufrock Press, announced the acquisition of a wonderful publishing house, Cottonwood Press.
Colorado-based Cottonwood Press is a leading publisher of more than 85 engaging education products for the language arts classroom. Cottonwood Press' titles have been enthusiastically used in K-12 classrooms for 25 years.
This exciting and creative company built its reputation on quality language arts materials with a flair for humor and creativity. Cheryl Thurston, the publisher at Cottonwood, created a company beloved by language arts and English teachers around the country.
I am honored that Prufrock Press will be the new home for Cottonwood's excellent product line.
I invite you to learn more about our acquisition of this fine publisher of respected products. For more information, click here to read our press release about our acquisition of Cottonwood Press.
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.
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.
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 Urban Institute
offers much statistical information on current immigration, including where immigrants are settling and information about children of immigrants.
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.
Excellent Resources for Teaching Shakespeare to Gifted Students
The study of Shakespeare never grows old: his plays are counted among the greatest works in English literature, he was an outstanding observer and communicator of human character, and he expressed enduring wisdom and wit. Presented appropriately, Shakespeare fascinates students—especially gifted students—who appreciate the opportunity to study and perform his plays. There are a number of excellent resources available to help teachers and parents expose their children to this icon of literature.
The Folger Shakespeare Library is located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. It is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials. On its website, there is a Teach and Learn
section that contains a wealth of information. Teaching resources for K-12 include Shakespeare lesson plans and other materials for teachers, such as audio and video podcasts, a blog, a Teachers' Lounge forum, and an expanding list of web features. The Shakespeare for Kids section of the site offers games, activities, and creative fun. Folger is a strong advocate of performance-based teaching, which is reflected in the resources on their website.
The University of Texas at Austin created Shakespeare Kids
. It is designed for young people and also for teachers, parents, and administrators who work with students in grades K-8. The resource page contains an excellent list of Internet sites, books, and films.
In Search of Shakespeare
was developed by PBS. It contains case studies, articles, and quick tips on how to bring Shakespeare to life in the classroom; interdisciplinary lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school students; and lots of print and online resources.
Prufrock Press also has a series of books that is designed for teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) students in grades 7-12. In the series you will find
Finding the Best Biographies for Gifted Readers
Reading biographies is important for many reasons.
- The genre provides students with compelling reads.
- Biographies offer role models that often emphasize specific character traits.
- Young people are able to see how real people overcome obstacles and solve problems.
- By reading several biographies about the same person, readers grow to understand how different authors may view that same individual.
Inquiry-based Learning for Gifted Kids
There is an old saying: Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. Inquiry-based learning enables students to become involved in their learning for better understanding. When using inquiry-based learning, the teacher acts as a facilitator rather that a purveyor of information. This type of learning is more engaging and exciting for students than traditional methods. Gifted kids really enjoy it because they are asked to question, to investigate, and to experiment, all while using critical thinking skills.
There are quite a few websites that explain how inquiry-based learning works and offer sample lesson plans for students K-12.
Intro to Inquiry Learning
has two particularly helpful sections: Advantages of Inquiry-Based Learning and The Art of the Question. This second section explains how to ask good questions, which may be more complicated and sophisticated than many parents and teachers realize.
Workshop: Inquiry-Based Learning
offers all the basics of inquiry-based learning, provides classroom demonstrations through video clips, explains how to get started, and shows how to create a facilitation plan.
lets you looks at actual units using inquiry-based learning.
Center for Inquiry-Based Learning
was created by Duke University to help North Carolina K-8 teachers learn inquiry-based teaching practices. Here you can explore the list of science kits that they recommend. You can then find these kits on the Internet by searching on both the title of the kit and the publisher’s name, which is in parentheses. Also, be sure to check out Teacher Resources, where you will find many Inquiry Exercises.
Consider using inquiry-based learning both at school and at home. Students will be actively engaged while improving their critical and creative thinking skills.
Summer Activities to Do at Home
Are you looking for some fun summer activities to do with your kids? Here are some ideas.
—Professor Copper Giloth at the University of Massachusetts Amherst teaches Introduction to Computing in the Fine Arts. She assigns her students the task of illustrating the traditional Aesop's fables alongside their own retellings of the fables in a modern setting. This website showcases their work and can be used in several ways. You and your child can read the fables, you can compare the fables with versions found elsewhere, or you can use the student work as incentive for your children to illustrate stories or poems.
Neuroscience for Kids
—Learn about all aspects of neuroscience in a format that uses helpful graphics. Try the many experiments that make use of games and activities. View questions that have been submitted and then answered by basic and clinical neuroscientists from around the world. Search the numerous links provided, sign up for the free newsletter, and much more.
—Brought to you by the Amateur Entomologists' Society, this website helps the visitor identify bugs, learn about bugs, find out how to care for bugs as pets, and many other interesting things about insects and invertebrates. There is also information on how to become an entomologist.
U.S. Department of the Treasury for Kids
—Here there are links to government websites especially for kids. Links lead to the White House, the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Official Kids' Portal for the U.S. Government, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Brain Teasers, Optical Illusions, and Logic Links
—Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page provides a very long list of links that will engage students in mental gymnastics. There are also links for rebuses, wacky wordies, frame games, and visual puns. Enjoy working some of these puzzles as a family.
Explore Firefighting with Gifted Kids
Firefighting has always fascinated young children. Firefighters dress in special clothes, ride in special vehicles, and perform unusual tasks. They save people and structures. They are our heroes at a time when there is an absence of heroes. If your child is interested in this subject, there are many ways you can help him or her learn more.
There are firefighter museums all over the country. Do an Internet search for “firefighter museum” in your hometown or any place where you plan to travel. Visit these sites and see if they have any special programs for kids.
Local fire stations often allow visitors to tour the facility, talk with firefighters, and find out what their days look like. Schedule a visit with your young people.
Find out about firefighting worldwide
. How is firefighting managed differently and how do the jobs of firefighters vary in different countries?
has many videos
that you can watch about firefighting. You can search on firefighter training, firefighting tools, forest fire, fire fighting airplanes, and fire boats to name a few. (Notice that firefighting can be spelled as either one or two words, so try both with your searches.) If you have young children, screen the videos to make certain that they are appropriate.
Branch out and think of subjects related to firefighting—clothing, vehicles, tools, types of fires, types of firefighting, famous fires, fire departments, layouts of fire stations, life at a fire station, special training for firefighters, ways to keep your home safe, what to do in case of a fire, ways to put out different types of fires, and how firefighters protect themselves. Brainstorm as many ideas as possible.
Encourage kids to make their own creations focusing on firefighters. Perhaps they could make a book or develop a game to teach others about firefighting. Or, they might draw pictures and write stories.
More Online Learning for Gifted Students
Teachers and parents alike often turn to online learning options in order to supplement and/or accelerate gifted students' learning. Does your young person have a strong interest and ability in mathematics, physics, computer programming, literature, writing, history, or foreign language? Does she want to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes that are not offered at her local high school? Or, does your student need a flexible schedule because of family circumstances, work responsibilities, or health issues?
Are you in a school district where your young person’s needs and abilities surpass the available curriculum? Do you homeschool your child, either full-time or part-time, and, as a result, need solid educational resources? Or, do you have a student who doesn't necessarily want to earn credit for extracurricular classes, but instead just wants to expose himself to different topics in order to see if any really interest him? If so, then you may want to introduce your student to the wide range of opportunities available through online learning.
For years, I have been writing about the virtues of distance learning for gifted kids. Over the past few years, the distance learning field has continued to expand. As the technology becomes more sophisticated, many distance learning programs are beginning to use not only computers for their programs, but also everyday technologies, such as cell phones.
Kids are often more comfortable with these technologies than adults. This may be one reason why traditional schools are often unable to adjust to and incorporate these new technologies into the traditional classroom. Adults (both parents and teachers) sometimes lack the expertise that young people have already learned at an early age and use every day. Perhaps it is time for adults to stop fighting these new developments and, instead, embrace them and incorporate them into student learning. Online learning is one good way to start.
If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities available to gifted kids, there is a great deal of information available at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development website and at the Distance Learning Programs page of Hoagies’ Gifted Education website.
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.
Vocabulary Development for Gifted Students
Advanced vocabulary development is essential for students for many reasons. It not only helps students excel at college admissions tests, it also helps them succeed in a wide variety of endeavors. For example:
Increasing students' vocabulary encourages them to use more descriptive words when writing or speaking and enables them to communicate their thoughts more clearly.
Understanding the meaning of a wide range of words allows students to comprehend their reading more easily, thus increasing their retention.
Having a larger vocabulary helps students' verbal communication flow and helps them to avoid making unnecessary noises such as "umm" and "uhh" when they speak.
Using richer and more colorful words helps students project a more intelligent image.
Having the right vocabulary for planning and solving problems helps students maximize their thinking skills.
There are many ways that students can increase their storehouse of words.
Students can increase their vocabularly significantly by reading widely and actively, noticing and looking up new words as they read. Students should also seek out classics and other books that require them to pay close attention and think deeply about language and ideas.
Students looking for a fun and relaxing way to learn new words should try playing crossword puzzles and word games. These activities help students to not only learn new words, but also learn alternative meanings for words.
Students wishing to deepen their vocabulary further should study the meanings of root words, as well as prefixes and suffixes. These devices help students guess the meaning of words that they do not already know. They also help students gain a broad understanding of language.
Students who wish to experiment with the words that they use on paper should try using a thesaurus when they write. They will not only learn new words this way, but they will also gain a richer appreciation for choosing the right word in a sentence.
The following websites represent just a few of the online activities that encourage students' vocabulary development:
features a variety of vocabulary games for all ages, ranging from simple games for elementary school students to advanced games and quizzes for high school students who are studying for the SAT and ACT.
offers free online test preparation, including a vocabulary builder. This website includes practice sessions that adapt to a student's ability level. The website requires students to set up a free account.
Revisiting Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Gifted
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy was widely used (and often misused) in classrooms. It was misused when educators assumed that if they taught the highest levels on the taxonomy, then all of the needs of the gifted would be addressed. It was also misused when educators assumed that they could jump right to the highest levels, negating the importance of the lower levels. For example, an educator might ask a student to read a book and evaluate the character's actions, but not ask the student to support his or her conclusions with evidence from the book.
Bloom’s Taxonomy was eventually updated, or revised, in 2001.Whether you apply the original version or the revised version, Bloom’s Taxonomy is still a good tool when used appropriately because it encourages higher level thinking skills. Some websites that are helpful when trying to understand and use Bloom’s Taxonomy include:
Bring Speakers (Based on Student Interest) Into Gifted Classrooms
Bringing weekly speakers into the classroom broadens the interests of gifted students and encourages individual passions. It also makes it possible for some students to find an exciting new area of passion. By inviting speakers to your classroom, you will:
expose your students to a wide range of subjects and people,
show them that their interests and ideas are valued, and
help them to begin their career education at an early age.
The classroom is also a much more intimate and valuable setting than a school assembly.
Here are a few examples of speakers that I used at the elementary school level in the Denver, CO, area:
Student interest: Astronomy
Speaker: A female scientist from The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) brought a wonderful slide show on solar flares and explained their many effects to students.
Student interest: Animation
Speaker: The owner of a local animation company brought in a short video about his company, presented some animation production cels, showed the kids how to make flip books using their own animations, talked about jobs in animation, and explained the education that one should have in order to follow a career in animation.
Student interest: Snakes
Speaker: A member of the local herpetological society brought in some live snakes and talked about his own personal interest in the animals, their life habits, and what we should all know and understand about snakes.
Because it can be very time consuming for teachers to find speakers, parents can play a vital role with the teacher's guidance. Here are some suggestions for setting up a similar program:
Survey students to find out areas of interest that they would like to learn more about. Do not give them a list of possibilities to check off. Instead, just have each child write on a piece of paper at least three things that he or she would like to explore. These ideas do not have to be academic.
Have a small group of volunteer parents sort through the students' ideas and try to group them. Are there some recurring themes?
Have the same group of parents brainstorm about places where they might find speakers that would address student interests.
After discussing their ideas with you first, parents can begin making contacts.
Once schedules are set up for speakers, ask parents to contact the speaker again a week or two in advance to confirm the date and time and find out if there is anything special that the speaker will need.
Make sure that parents keep you informed of any communication that occurs between them and the speakers.
Locating Potential Speakers
Start close to home. Are there people you know personally that would match a student's interest?
Are there parents at the school that have a strong personal interest or profession that would match another student's chosen topic?
What are some of the companies in your community that might have individuals that could present? Many larger companies actually have speaker bureaus.
What about people who work at museums, theaters, orchestras, or universities? Or, what about individuals who work as mathematicians, authors, or cartographers? No matter what the interests of the students may be, you can probably find a speaker nearby if you live in a large metropolitan area.
Don't be afraid to approach people. They can always say no, but I think you will be surprised by the people who say yes.
Setting Up Guidelines for Speakers
Decide what day and time you would like to have the speaker. (I always chose Friday afternoons, because it was a nice end-of-the-week activity.) We tried to have a speaker every week that it was possible.
Be clear about exactly what time you need the speaker to start, the physical condition of the classroom, the types of students that they will be working with, and whether or not you want the talk to be interactive. Sometimes those outside the school system don't understand the difficulties that are presented when an expected person doesn't show up right on time, and so be careful to explain all of that.
Making the Speaker Feel Welcomed
Make certain that the class has reviewed appropriate behavior for honoring a guest in the classroom. Remind them that this is a special occasion and a privilege.
Have someone meet the speaker at the front door of the school building. This could be a parent and/or student (depending on the grade level). Let the speaker know how much the class is looking forward to the presentation.
Have the student or students who chose the area of interest briefly explain to the class why they selected that particular topic.
Decide on a way to thank the speaker for taking time to come to the classroom. Students may write letters, draw pictures, create something to send to the speaker, or anything else that you feel suits the situation.
It takes quite a bit of time and organization to set up a program like this in a classroom, but I know that you will find it well worth the effort.
Helping Gifted Students Analyze Literature
The website Guidelines for Reading and Analyzing Literature was compiled by Dr. Tina L. Hanlon, associate professor of English at Ferrum College in Virginia. Although the guidelines were originally assembled for college students, they are equally applicable to gifted high school students and, with some minor adjustments, also can be used by gifted youngsters in middle school and upper elementary school.
The higher level thinking skills presented on the website provide an excellent model for teachers to use with almost any piece of literature. The guidelines also are helpful for parents who want to have in-depth book discussions with their kids. And homeschoolers: I know that you too will appreciate the useful information provided on this site. Hanlon breaks down the process of reading and analyzing literature into five steps:
Types of Literature
Evaluation and Review
I like this particular website because the information, while extensive, is presented in a form that is very easy to scan quickly. It also contains universal ideas that can be used immediately.
Increasing Depth and Complexity in Curriculum for the Gifted
I have always been a big fan of Sandra Kaplan at the University of Southern California. She has created wonderful techniques for increasing depth and complexity of curriculum—attributes that are at the core of gifted education.
Kaplan’s chart, Facilitating the Understanding of DEPTH and COMPLEXITY
, presents teachers with easy-to-follow prompts, key questions, thinking skills, and resources that provide ideas for differentiating curriculum. These ideas can be applied to many subjects including language arts, science, social studies, and math. The prompts and key questions are very helpful when developing universal themes. A few examples include:
What are the reoccurring events?
What elements, events, ideas, are repeated over time?
What was the order of events?
How can we predict what will come next?
·Determine relevant vs. irrelevant
·Discriminate between same and different
Other chronological lists
What dilemmas or controversies are involved in this area/topic/study/discipline?
What elements can be identified that reflect bias, prejudice, and discrimination?
·Judge with criteria
How are the ideas related between the past, present, and future?
How are these ideas related within or during a particular time period?
How has time affected the information?
How and why do things change or remain the same?
View the entire chart at the link above and use it as a guide when developing curriculum for the gifted or when differentiating lessons in the regular classroom.
If you have used Kaplan's material in developing units or lessons, please share them through comments at this post.
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.
Macbeth: The Monster Interview
Prufrock Press recently released Advanced Placement Classroom: Macbeth, the last installment in its four-part Advanced Placement Classroom series. Like the series' previous installments, including volumes devoted to Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet, this teaching resource focuses on developing advanced reading comprehension and analytical skills while providing students with a greater historical context for understanding the story and its tempestuous cast of characters.
Co-author, Daniel Lipowitz has taken this a step further, hosting none other than Macbeth, who, fresh from the battlefield, joins him in this episode of his podcast series Lip On-Line. In this "Monster Interview," Lipowitz transcends time acquiring affectations of Elizabethan linguistics to create an interview persona appropriate for his Shakespearean subject. Set immediately after the murder of MacDonwald, the interview primarily focuses on Macbeth's (and to a lesser extent Lady Macbeth's) literary reputation, to which the Scottish rogue supplies a unique perspective. Not unlike the exercises in AP Classroom: Macbeth, Lipowitz's podcast offers an interactive and introspective method of examining the play. And it's fun.
Listen to the Podcast
Click here to listen to the podcast
(approximate length: 14 minutes)
Summer Reading and Media Lists for Gifted Students
It’s that time of year again. Summer is upon us and I know many of you are looking for good books for your kids to read as well as notable recordings, videos, and software. Here are some links that will offer guidance.
Lists book and media awards, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, Wilder, Carnegie, Batchelder, Belpré, Geisel, and Odyssey awards and the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Includes Children’s Notable Lists, identifying the best of the best in children's books, recordings, videos, and computer software.
Includes book awards lists in various categories along with a number of lists dedicated to audiobook and film recommendations for accelerated young adults.
A teacher of gifted students lists books that, over the years, “were requested the most often, provoked the most interesting discussions, and were remembered and mentioned years after they were read.”
Information about goal-oriented summer reading programs from Scholastic and Barnes and Noble.
Summer Apprenticeship Program for Gifted Students
The Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA) offers three- and four-week summer apprenticeship programs for gifted high school students. Each year, the program places high school freshmen, sophmores and juniors in challenging, hands-on learning experiences provided by an esteemed group of participating mentors in various professions. This year's participants are located at several sites in Southern California and include the Los Angeles Superior Court, Art Center College of Design, and the Japanese American National Museum.
The programs run from July 12 through August 8. During this time, apprentices spend weekdays working with their mentors on pre-arranged projects. At the end of the program, they will present their work to fellow participants and other interested parties. Apprentices live on the Occidental College campus and IEA staff transport the students to and from apprentice locations. In addition, IEA will provide enriching evening and weekend activities, as well as other general opportunites for apprentices to socialize with their intellectual peers. Past program participants rave about their experiences and many have gone on to attend prestigious universities.
The original application deadline for this program has past, but there are still some spaces available. Call 626-403-8900 if you are interested in applying. IEA will continue to accept applications until all spots are full.
Specific information on the program, including apprenticeship sites and participating mentors can be found here. Financial aid is available.
This truly sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I urge you to explore this program.
School Options for Gifted Kids—Where to Begin
I experienced another interesting conversation yesterday while traveling to the airport in a shared van. The woman sitting next to me was flying to Tennessee to watch two of her children compete in the Global Finals for Destination ImagiNation
(DI). DI is an exciting, creative enrichment program that engages kids in critical thinking, teamwork, time management, and problem solving. She told me about the wonderful enrichment teacher who works at their neighborhood school. Each year, the teacher is able to recruit parents who are willing to make the necessary time commitment to work with teams of youngsters who compete in Destination ImagiNation. What a wonderful experience for the students at this neighborhood school.
We then went on to have a general conversation about education, gifted education, parenting, etc. She told me that next year two of her children will attend a magnet/charter school that focuses on international studies. There, they will have a choice of languages on which to focus. Her children have decided to concentrate on Chinese. This woman had really done her research and was a very positive advocate for her kids, finding educational options that fit their needs.
My question to this fellow traveler was, “How do parents find out about the various choices in their school district?” It was then I realized that the shuttle driver had been listening intently to our conversation. When I asked my question, he laughed. He indicated that he had several children at home, was not pleased with their school situation, and did not realize that he had choices. He, too, had wondered how one finds out about opportunities.
So often, parents feel that their children are trapped in whatever educational program is closest to their home. They often cannot afford to move to a “better” neighborhood and don’t realize that there are alternatives.
So, I want to present you with some information. I also hope that others will comment on this blog entry, sharing possibilities that I have not listed. Right now, I will just talk about actual physical (as opposed to virtual) schools that might be available to you in your area. In my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook
I discuss many more educational options.
Situations vary from state to state and from district to district. You often won’t know if these possibilities exist unless you ask.
The Education Commission of the States (ECS)
provides an online database for open enrollment. To one degree or another, open-enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to the public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open-enrollment policies: intradistrict and interdistrict. The Web site cited here is an excellent resource. In many cases, students are not locked in to attending their neighborhood or even their district schools.
The U.S. Department of Education
provides information on charter and magnet schools across the country. Charter schools
are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Some of them have very innovative philosophies. Magnet schools
are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. They focus on a specific subject, such as science or the arts; follow specific themes, such as business/technology or communications/humanities/law; or operate according to certain models, such as career academies or a school-within-a-school. Once you understand the general concepts of charter and magnet schools, you can search the Web sites of your local school district and surrounding districts to see what is available.
It is important to know how the students in your school and in schools you are considering perform on state tests. Look at sites such as SchoolMatters
where you can search for information by school or state. This Web site is also able to list schools within a state from highest scoring to lowest scoring in reading and in math. It will be much easier for your child to perform at a high level if he attends a school where the norm is to perform well.
Please feel free to share additional information by hitting the “Comment” button at the top of this blog entry.
Journalism for Gifted Students
The way in which we get our news is morphing, with a heavy emphasis on technology. As journalism changes, newspapers remain important primary document resources. Archives of print media help us trace trends and ideas in history. There are numerous resources available to teach students about the value of journalism and how to be critical consumers of news. Here are a few.
is an interactive museum in Washington D.C. that offers five centuries of news history. There are also links at the Newseum Web site that have good teaching tools. Under the Education
link, the section titled Teacher Resources has some great lesson plans for grades 6-12 that highlight the headlines and front pages of newspapers. Today’s Front Pages
is a very interesting section where you will find the day’s front pages from 767 newspapers, across 72 countries.
High School Journalism: Lesson Archive
is sponsored by the American Society of News Editors. Here you will find lots of ideas to teach about advertising, bias, copy editing, critical thinking about the media, decision-making, design, diversity, editing, editorial cartoons, editorial writing, entertainment journalism, features, First Amendment, graphics and design, interviewing, journalism ethics, journalism history, libel, news values, online journalism, photography, reporting, story ideas, and more. If you truncate the URL as I have here
, you will find even more great information.
The New York Times Daily Lesson Plan
is an archive of lesson plans that blends daily news with higher-level thinking skills. There are some excellent ideas for teaching students to analyze what they read and see.
As always, remember that very bright students are capable of working beyond the suggested grade levels of lesson plans. The Web sites here are designed for teachers, but parents will also get many ideas for working with young people at home.
Is your student interested in a career in journalism? Have him check out some of these sites.
Dragons in Literature
Gifted kids relish theme-oriented studies. These studies allow students to study a topic in-depth and at a higher-level of thinking than many traditional units.
One fun, interesting, and non-conventional theme for study is Dragons in Children’s Literature. If you have a student who might find this topic interesting, there are some good resources available.
Tina L. Hanlon
, Associate Professor of English at Ferrum College in Virginia, has assembled an annotated bibliography on Dragon’s in Children’s Literature
. Included in the bibliography are picture books, novels, poems, background resources, and a paper/essay (the essay is particularly interesting) that Hanlon presented at the Children’s Literature Association Conference in June 2002. Using the extensive information that Hanlon offers could be a basis for a wonderful study of dragons (from those in Beowulf to Harry Potter) and their role in literature. Sometimes dragons are regarded as a symbol of evil and, as Hanlon states, sometimes as ”watered-down images resulting from the attempts of modern Americans to protect innocent children from the violence in traditional literature.”
Links to additional supportive materials can be found at The Dragon Theme Page
, created by the Educational Technology Center at Kennesaw University in Georgia.
Material on the Web sites listed above could be a basis of study for very young children through high school students and beyond.
Free Curriculum on Investigating Systems
In past blog entries, I have talked about the importance of teaching universal themes and using essential questions. (Use Search Entries button on the right to find and read these previous entries.) I continue that discussion here.
Marion Brady who, over the span of his career, has been a teacher, administrator, and author, is a person with strong ideas about what our educational system should look like. He feels that traditional curriculum is fragmented, emphasizing the need to "cover the material," without providing an umbrella under which students can understand and apply their learning. Brady offers this umbrella through his curriculum titled, Investigating Systems
In the spirit of the current movement to offer open sourceware (free classroom materials online), the author provides IS for download. (You do have to register, listing personal identification information, to be able to download the curriculum.)
To give you an idea of the content of the curriculum, I am including its Table of Contents.
Organizing Information (Investigating Patterns, Investigating Relationships, Analytical Categories)
Analyzing Systems (Systems with Human Components)
Major Human Systems: Societies
Investigations of Structure
Investigations of Environment
Investigations of Patterns of Action
Investigations of Shared Ideas
The Dynamics of Change
Change and Stress
Constructing New Knowledge
In addition to the free curriculum, there is also a place for online comments and discussions. Rather than viewing this curriculum as fully finished, Brady sees it as a work in progress; therefore, input from those who use the material is valued.
Whether you are a teacher or a parent, whether or not you choose to use the curriculum in its entirety, you will find that this curriculum will help you better understand the concepts of universal themes and essential questions and how to use these in the education of students at home and at school.
Integrated Curriculum for Gifted Students
Curriculum is meaningful when students can relate it to other aspects of their lives. This is more likely when material is taught using themes that integrate many subjects.
organizes education so that it links together the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, social studies, music, and art. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way, reflecting the real world and prepares children for lifelong learning. Integrated curriculum includes
A combination of subjects
An emphasis on projects
Sources that go beyond textbooks
Relationships among concepts
Thematic units as organizing principles
Flexible student groupings
Teachers often learn the theory behind good curriculum development, but they are too often expected to create their own materials. It is difficult to find enough time to keep “reinventing the wheel.” There are a couple of very good resources for integrated curriculum that contain already-developed teaching units that target gifted students.
In my blog, I have frequently mentioned the units developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. These units contain in-depth activities that develop high-level thinking skills and encourage students to relate the material to their own lives. I have personally used several of these units and know teachers who have used others. The material is excellent! Units are available for elementary through high school. Titles include The Weather Reporter, Spatial Reasoning, Patterns of Change, and Defining Nations: Cultural Identity and Political Tensions.
The units developed by the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at University of Denver use critical thinking, problem finding, problem solving, and evaluating as an overlay for the content areas included in each topic. Multiple teaching strategies are used to address specific learning styles, individual needs, and intellectual abilities. Units are available for pre-kindergarten through grade 8. Titles include Arctic/Antarctic, Architecture, Natural Disasters, and United Nations.
Questioning Techniques for the Gifted
As parents and teachers, we want to stimulate the thinking of gifted kids by posing open questions and teaching students how to create their own open questions. A closed question is one that can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase (i.e., "How old are you?" or "Where do you live?" or any question that can be answered with either "yes" or "no"). An open question, however, requires a longer, more involved response and does not have one correct answer; instead, it causes the respondent to think and reflect.
There are several resources available for teachers to create open questions in the classroom. Parents can use these same resources to guide interesting conversations with their children and promote good problem-solving skills.
Open questioning techniques include essential questions and critical thinking questions.
This Web site lists seven key components that essential questions have in common.
Examples of essential questions include:
- What are the ramifications of cloning?
- What is intelligence?
- Are we really free?
- Where does perception end and reality begin?
- Does history really repeat itself?
- Are there any absolutes?
- Are there other more pressing issues that deserve consideration before space exploration?
- What was the greatest invention of the 20th Century?
Although the information provided at this site is designed for college students, most gifted students are fully capable of using the techniques. I especially like the generic questioning stems, such as:
- What are the implications of …?
- How does … tie in with what we have learned before?
- Do you agree or disagree with this statement? What evidence is there to support your answer?
There are also very good suggestions for using critical thinking in student writing. The act of writing requires students to focus and clarify their thoughts before putting them down on paper.
Questioning in the Classroom
Although this Web site was developed specifically to identify questions to be asked in science or math, the concepts can easily be transferred to many other subjects. Questions are divided into four groups: direct information, relational, divergent, and evaluation. Questions are also posed to reflect critical thinking.
What can you change to try to make ____ work/happen?
Where have you seen something like this before?
How can you use what you’ve learned?
The form at this Web site can be used to generate essential questions to be used in class.
Teaching Gifted Students to Analyze Literature
Whether you are a parent or a teacher, there are some great resources to help you encourage students to think analytically about the books they read.
From University of Connecticut’s Schoolwide Enrichment Model Reading program, comes Using the SEM-R Bookmarks
. I like the suggestions provided at this Web site because they explain how adults can model the thinking they want to develop in children. For example:
“How would the problem change if the story took place elsewhere?
The teacher could say, ‘I’ll show you how I might answer that question. First I would think of a different place or setting—maybe here in Willimantic. Then I would think about what is different between Willimantic and the setting in the book. (She could talk about some of these differences.) Now I would think about how these differences might change the problem.”
By modeling all behavior, we help students to better understand.
Be sure and download the “Bookmarks” provided at the beginning of the article. These bookmarks provide 28 pages of good higher level questions to pose when discussing books of all types. Even if you haven’t read the book that the child is discussing, you can elicit a conversation with these questions.
Exciting Reading Program that Challenges Gifted Learners
I'm very pleased to announce our newly released Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program.
We just got back from exhibiting at the annual conference of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). We took plenty of these books to display and sell at the conference, and we sold out on the second day!
I heard from so many people at the conference that they are looking for a field-tested reading program that works with kids of all ability levels--including gifted children. When field-testing this program, the staff at The College of William and Mary's Center for Gifted Education found solid achievement gains among mid-level and struggling students. The key difference between this product and others is that it also showed solid gains among gifted students. So many other programs really are geared to only address the needs of struggling students. This program offer a great tool for teachers in mixed-ability and gifted classrooms.
I've created a combination pack that allows you to buy the entire series at a savings ($109.95 for the complete set).
Developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary, the Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program targets reading comprehension skills in learners by moving students through an inquiry process from basic understanding to critical analyses of texts. Students in grades 2–8 will learn to comprehend and analyze any reading passage after completing the activities in these books.
In the form of three skill ladders connected to individual readings in poetry, short stories, and nonfiction, students move from lower order, concrete thinking skills to higher order, critical thinking skills. Each book, geared to increasing grade levels, includes high-interest readings, ladders to increase reading skill development, and easy-to-implement instruction. The ladders include multiple skills necessary for academic success, covering language arts standards, such as sequencing, cause and effect, classification, making generalizations, inference, and recognizing themes and concepts.
To read more about this exciting new reading program visit the Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program product page on the Prufrock Web site.