Exciting History for Gifted Students
I hated history all the way through high school. It seemed like an endless memorization of meaningless names, dates, and battles. When I got to college, freshmen were required to take a basic world history course. That course completely changed my attitude towards history. On our own, we read about the names, dates, and battles, but when we were in class, the professor brought out the “skeletons in the closet” of history. He made history come alive with interesting interactions and the idiosyncrasies of people and places. I could hardly wait to get to class each day. I loved this course so much that I actually decided to major in history.
Making history come alive is what makes it interesting. Joy Hakim
, a former teacher and newspaper woman, decided write about history in the most interesting way for students from 8 to 80. She wrote the 10-book, highly illustrated series A History of US
. These books, which are very well researched and historically accurate, contain the stories that grab students--just like my first college history class grabbed me. The stories are anything but dull. These books can be used as textbooks or supplemental readings for students. Gifted students have a real opportunity to explore in depth with these stories.
Hakim also wrote Freedom: A History of US
, a one-volume book written as a companion to a 16-part PBS miniseries
. This television miniseries is hosted by Katie Couric and features the voices of Paul Newman, Glenn Close, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Matthew Broderick, Angela Bassett, Jeremy Irons, John Lithgow, and Morgan Freeman, among others. The series is available on DVD for school and home use.
I would strongly recommend encouraging schools and libraries to purchase these materials. Or, parents may want to purchase them for their own families.
Specific history curricula that teachers/schools should consider has been developed by the Center for Gifted Education
at the College of William & Mary
. Each unit that has been developed is designed to respond to gifted learners’ characteristics of precocity, intensity, and complexity. This is accomplished through advanced content, higher level processes and product development, and interdisciplinary concepts, issues, and themes. Every teacher who I have talked to who has used these units raves about them. The units are available for grades 2-12. Some of the titles include
- A House Divided? The Civil War--Its Causes and Effects
- Ancient China: The Middle Kingdom
- The Renaissance and Reformation in Europe
Many are published through Kendall/Hunt Publishing
. Some are works in progress
and will eventually be published by Kendall/Hunt. Be aware that many different books are needed to support each unit. It is possible to obtain some of these books through one’s library. At the schools where I have worked, we have written grants to obtain materials to support the curriculum.
Families of Gifted Children Face Extra Expenses
On January 22, 2006, the New York Times ran an article titled "It Pays to Have a Smart Child, but It Can Cost, Too".
One important point the article makes is that families of gifted children are increasingly being forced to spend thousands of dollars to supplement the education of their children. These families are supporting their gifted children's education with special learning opportunities outside of the traditional school setting. Recently, Prufrock Press released a book for parents and teachers on this topic by Julia Roberts, Ph.D., titled Enrichment Opportunities for Gifted Learners.
In the Times article, Charles Beckman, director of communications for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, described the need that many parents of gifted children feel. "The No Child Left Behind Act has forced many states to redirect money from gifted education to bringing other kids up to a minimally acceptable skill level," he said. "Cutting the education dollars of tomorrow's leaders, thinkers and doers means more families are looking for ways to have their kids' intellectual needs met outside of school."
The article is a good look at the ends to which families of gifted children have to go to find appropriate, challenging learning experiences for their kids.
One irritating part of the article is a quote by a retired professor of industrial psychology, Perry Prestholdt. "It's important to give kids normal experiences that are typical for children of that age ... Unique and expensive opportunities can imbue these kids with a false sense of privilege."
Why in the world did the New York Times print this knee-jerk response from someone with no experience with gifted children or gifted education? Why does this retired professor of industrial psychology feel that gifted children should be restricted to "typical" learning experiences?
I think we've still got a long way to go before we convince the Perry Prestholdts of the world that gifted children deserve appropriate, challenging learning experiences -- be they "typical" or not.
Organizational Skills and Gifted Students
Frequently parents and teachers complain that gifted students lack organizational skills. In fact, it is the lack of these skills that often hold students back.
The National Association for Gifted Children has an interesting article titled Organization Skills
It suggests possible reasons why a gifted child may appear to lack organization.
- He doesn't see a reason to participate appropriately at school.
- She has missed some basic foundation skills along the way.
- The student has a subtle learning disability.
- It may be a sign of perfectionism.
There are many reasons for lack of organization, but none of them should be used as an excuse for poor school performance. It is vital that parents help students to overcome this problem. How the child views the situation will make a difference in the best way to approach the problem. In this article, suggestions are given that get student buy-in in deciding methods that may improve organization.
When a child tries a new method for organization, the method must come from the child according to Organizational Skills for Visual-Spatial Learners
. It simply will not work to try to become organized under somebody else’s (like a parent’s) system. (I think this is probably true whether a person has a strong visual-spatial bent or not.) The student must create his own meaningful strategies that can be understand and remembered. Here’s how to help your young person get started:
- Be sure to visit office supply stores and other places that carry a variety of products designed to help with organization.
- Color-coded envelopes, files, and pocket folders are perfect for storing specific papers.
- Colored index cards are a great tool for note taking.
- The use of a day-timer or planner to record due dates and appointments is a tool available for the visual-spatial learner.
I do think that Linda Leviton, a member of the Visual-Spatial Resource Access team and a visual-spatial learner herself has an interesting idea. She states that visual-spatial learners are either horizontal or vertical organizers. If they are horizontal, they need a long table (preferably not deep) to put out (and leave out) works in process. If they are vertical, they need places to create stacks. She bought herself one of those paper sorters with cubbies and keeps it right next to her computer (with labels for each section).
Other ideas to help with organization include:
- using different colors to record homework assignments in one’s planner;
- allowing enough time during transitions to record assignments, put materials away, etc.;
- marking assignments as they are finished to give one a sense of accomplishment;
- placing materials to go to school or to take to a practice or lesson in a specific area near the door that your child exits (if this can be done the night before, it eliminates stress in the morning);
- having adequate office supplies. It’s difficult for a child to do homework if she can’t find paper, pencils, scissors, tape, post-its, etc.; and
- setting a good example as an adult by having good organizational skills.
Motivational Activities for Gifted Students
Guest Post by: Stephen Young, Ed.D.
There is an old educational adage that you can’t teach something to someone who doesn’t want to learn it. This old maxim is one reason why professional educators spend so much time on the challenge of motivation. Teachers of gifted and talented students are no less likely to face this challenge than other teachers.
There are essentially only two ways to motivate a student to learn. The first is to offer students content and skills that they see as relevant, meaningful, and important. Students will try to learn what they value as important.
When faced with teaching content and skills that do not meet this first approach, we often look for fun and exiting ways to “hook” students into our lessons. That which students find fun and interesting will also get their attention and, despite themselves, they will dive in head first simply because it’s fun. Let's face it, while we often teach content and skills that seem wonderfully relevant and important to students—sometimes the content we teach needs a little boost.
Every teacher wants each class to get off to a good start. Hook student’s attention at the beginning of a class or school day, and your chances of a successful lesson improve dramatically. One way to do this is to use something I call “hooks and grabbers.” These are short attention getting activities: games, puzzles, artifacts, quotes, mysteries, riddles, words, observations, magic tricks, and a host of other means of grabbing their attention at the starting gate and getting them involved in mind stretching activities. “Hooks and grabbers” create a frame of mind—an atmosphere of fun, curiosity, or discovery—which can successfully lead into the main content of the lesson.
During my 35 years as a public school teacher and college professor, I have accumulated a number of such activities. I've collected them in my new book, Super Smart: 180 Challenging Thinking Activities, Words, and Ideas for Advanced Students.
With this blog, I've included a few samples of actual activities included in my book. Just click on any of the images below to view these fun classroom “hooks and grabbers.” Feel free to print any of the samples below and try them out in your classroom.
Free Samples of Motivational Activities for Gifted Children
Using appropriate hooks and grabbers can give you a leg up in creating a classroom atmosphere of discovery students will look forward to each day.
About This Blog Entry's Guest Author
Stephen Young, Ed.D, recently retired from a 35-year career as public school teacher and professor of education at Morehead State University. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from MSU and Ed.S and Ed.D. degrees from Indiana University in Instructional Systems Technology. In addition to two novels in print, he is also the author of a manual for decision making via critical thinking. His newest book, Super Smart: 180 Challenging Thinking Activities, Words, and Ideas for Advanced Students, is is available from Prufrock Press.
Gifted Students in the Primary Grades
In kindergarten, first, and second grade, teachers work to lay a strong foundation for the education of students, both academically and socially. At the same time, some children enter these grades already quite advanced in their abilities. It is not easy for these students to have patience while waiting for everyone else to “catch up.”
While teachers may want to differentiate learning for the various academic abilities, it is especially difficult with the lack of independence that most children have at this age. In addition, there is often a great discrepancy (or asynchrony) within a single child. (i.e., Yolanda may be a whiz kid in math, but have very poor fine motor coordination.) To address the needs of young gifted students, it takes a teacher who understands gifted education, is very creative, and has a great deal of energy. It is also vital to have additional adults in the classroom who are truly helpful.
Funding for gifted education often does not start until at least third grade (if at all), which is also a problem. There may be no money available for gifted education specialists, extra programs, or necessary materials.
So, parents, while you may be concerned about your child, it is also important to realize the problems facing your school and child’s teacher. How can you help? Is there some way you can raise money for programs or materials? Can you volunteer your time in the classroom by working with small groups of children? Can you create open-ended interest centers and then help to supervise them?
Teachers, will you understand the concerns of parents of bright young children? Will you educate yourselves more in gifted education by attending conferences
, taking classes, and reading? Will you contact your gifted coordinator in the district or building for advice?
It is only by working together and respecting the concerns of one another that we can help to meet the needs of gifted students in the primary grades. Setting up adversarial situations is not in the best interest of children, so reach out to one another in a positive manner.
Some resources that help provide understanding and ideas for working with young gifted children include
For Parents and Teachers
Many of the materials by Bertie Kingore
. Look through the list of books and articles she has written. Even though titles don’t often indicate it, many of them are geared towards primary gifted children.
Recognizing and Working with Gifted Toddlers
I get many questions from parents about their very young children. Is their son or daughter gifted? If so, what should the parents do about it? This is a very difficult and controversial subject to address. There are several of schools of thought on the subject.
- It is very important to identify a child at a very early age. If you do not, you will deprive her of her potential.
- The child may just appear to be gifted because he has been exposed to many experiences at an early age. Other children will eventually catch up to him.
- The child may be going through a developmental spurt when young, but this growth will slow down as she gets older.
In Joan Franklin Smutny’s article, Identifying Gifted Toddlers
, note that she addresses the question: “What do you look for in a potentially
gifted toddler?” She also provides a list titled: “Your toddler may
be gifted if he or she…” I think it’s important to note the words “potentially” and “may.” She is not saying that children who exhibit these characteristics necessarily are
While you may not be able to find a program like New Zealand’s Small Poppies
, you can certainly take some of the strategies used in the program to work with your toddler.
The question of when you should conscientiously teach your toddler to learn is addressed in Carol Bainbridge’s
answer to a parent’s question.
I personally think that the easiest way to address this dilemma is twofold. No matter what you think your child's abilities are,
- expose her to a wide variety of experiences in a playful manner. The experiences do not have to cost money. They may involve a walk in the park and noticing the things that nature provides or listening to music on the radio, or playing with plastic containers in the bathtub.
- support your child's interests. If he likes books, go to the library often and read lots of books together. If you he expresses an interest in art, provide paints and paper or play-dough.
If your child has the potential to develop giftedness in a certain area, she will pursue it in earnest for an extended period of time. Above all, talk to your toddler and give him lots of attention and love.