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Joel McIntosh

Joel McIntosh
I'm the publisher at Prufrock Press. I've been involved with education for more than 20 years and hold a masters degree in gifted education. I've been a classroom teacher and a parent (still am that). In addition to this blog, you can follow me on Twitter. Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you have any questions about this blog or Prufrock Press.

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Articles from January 2008

A System of Organizing Books for Gifted Students

Keeping track of all the books I read has always been a problem. I’ve floated from one system to another. Recently, a friend told me about GoodReads. At first I was skeptical because I figured it was just another gimmicky Web site, but I tried it and now I am hooked. I think it would also work for gifted kids. In fact, in addition to students using it as a way to keep track of books they’ve read, it also encourages them to write and to communicate with others about their reading.

The Web site is free and you can keep recorded information as private as you want. Right now, I am only sharing my input with one other person, though I’ve invited a couple of friends who are also avid readers to join.
As a parent, you would want to monitor the way in which your young person uses the site. While GoodReads is a useful tool for any age, like any public site, it is probably most appropriate for emotionally mature students who will use it appropriately. If you have elementary or middle school children, you may want to first test it with your own books to see if you are comfortable with it.

Let me tell you the parts I really like:

  • I can list all the books I have read and rate each on a scale of one to five.
  • I can list the dates on which I finished each book.
  • I can easily access a summary of a book or information on the author. This is good, because sometimes I can’t immediately recall the theme of a book if I read it several years ago.
  • By clicking on edit, I can record anything I want about the book. Sometimes, I find it helpful to write down meaningful quotations or passages. Sometimes, I just want to remember a particular impression I had, or cite what I learned from the book. I can also write my own review of the book.
  • By clicking on the title of a book I’ve read, I can see comments that others have made after reading it themselves and click again to see threads of discussion about the book. I can also rate the reviews of others. 
  • I am also able to list books I am in the process of reading and books I want to read.
For those who like to organize information, this is a great way to do it. The books I read become my friends, and when I go back years later and review some of the things I have written, the words bring back warm memories.
If I choose to become “friends” with others on GoodReads, I receive an email every time these people post books they have just finished, or reviews they have written. That way, I can keep up with the interests of others.
A group of readers can be formed by a parent or teacher to discuss books read in class or through a homeschool group. GoodReads is one way to be able to organize and voice opinions outside of class.


Aside: If you had access to my section of GoodReads, you would see that I just finished reading Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri and am a little more than half way through War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Both are well worth reading.

Prufrock Acquires a Line of Books Formerly Published by Zephyr Press

Thursday, January 24, 2008 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, News From Prufrock Press

I am thrilled to announce that Prufrock Press has acquired a group of selected titles formerly published by Zephyr Press. Some of these books are fairly recent releases and some are classics. I always felt that Zephyr had some wonderful titles, and I wanted to bring a select group of them over to Prufrock. I felt that they would be great additions to our growing line of products supporting gifted and advanced learners. I had been working for almost a year to get these titles, and I'm proud to announce that the agreement is complete and the books are in our warehouse!

You can see the entire line of products in a special area of our online catalog devoted to the titles formerly published by Zephyr Press.

However, let me take a bit of time to tell you about some of these exciting books.

Strategies for Great Teaching: Maximize Learning MomentsStrategies for Great Teaching

This is a fun book filled with quick and creative teachings ideas that help students make connections with the content you are teaching. For example, this book offers lessons in which students

  • play the part of television reporters, interviewing other students about content they have learned;
  • create visually complex pictures and graphs to represent information or concepts;
  • use mathematical symbols to capture their understanding of relationship and events inherent in the content; and
  • play a classroom version of the old television game show, "The $10,000 Pyramid," to identify patterns and seek meaning.

I like the practical, teacher-friendly way the authors share their strategies. They provide lots of examples to illustrate the teaching ideas they share.


A Kid's Guide to Creating Web PagesA Kid's Guide to Creating Web Pages

I love this book. Written for kids who want to create their own Web pages, the language and instructions are easy to follow and straightforward. The book leads readers step-by-step through the basics of building a Web page. This is an exciting book for any kid who wants to move beyond the basics of "canned" Web 2.0 Internet tools. The emphasis for this book in on fun and creativity.

Also, the lead author of this book is a teenager! Literally written by a kid for kids, this book is a great guide for young Web designers.


Brain Food: 100+ Games That Make Kids ThinkBrain Food: 100+ Games that Make Kids Think

All about fun ways to get kids to stretch their brains in creative and complex ways, this book contains more than 100 mental exercises guaranteed to make kids think. The book includes

  • word games,
  • math games,
  • logic games,
  • memory games, and
  • much more!

I like the fact that this book has a bit of an international flavor. It is filled with fun games from around the world that challenge and stimulate young minds. From the Japanese strategy game Hasami Shogi, the traditional African game Wari, to the deductive game Witch Hunt, to the word challenge Wordbuilder, this book is packed with mind stretching tools that encourage complex thinking skills.


Learning vs. Testing: Strategies That Bridge the GapLearning vs Testing

Okay, I'm not a fan of the cover, but what is inside this book makes it a real winner. As teachers and parents, we all know bright kids who just don't perform well on tests. There seems to be a disconnect between the child's learning and their ability to perform well on typical school assessments. Yet, for better or worse, these assessments are a part of their educational experience.

In this book, the author offers practical strategies to help students learn how to learn and process information in ways that more closely match how they are being tested. Intended for teachers and parents wanting to help raise student grades and test scores in reading, spelling, math, and vocabulary, the strategies provided are designed to bridge the gap between how students learn and how they are tested.


More Exciting Books ...

That is just four of the twelve books we acquired. For the sake of brevity, I'll save my discussion of the other titles for a future blog post. However, I will tell you that these additional titles include some spectacular books for social studies teachers, math teachers, and teachers interested in employing problem-based units in their classroom.

Stay Tuned to hear more about these new titles!

History Enrichment Opportunies and Summer Programs

Friday, January 18, 2008 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted Education, History Education

This week, one of my readers wrote to me with the following question:

My son is 10 and loves history, but no kids his age share that interest. I think he would enjoy meeting people his age who also like history! Are there any history camps out there? Or any “young historian clubs” or anything? I have no idea where to go to look for something like this. Do you know of anything, or could you point me in the direction of someone who might?

In writing this blog, I quite often find that I get a question for which I am not the best person to compose an answer. This was the case here, so I turned to Sandra L. Berger, the author of our recently published, The Ultimate Guide to Summer Opportunities for Teens.

I'll post Sandra's Response below. Because the parent posing the question was from Michigan, that state is slightly more represented in the response.

The following programs will have information and/or sponsor courses that may interest your son. This is not a complete list, but it should give you a good start. Please do not be put off by the word “gifted” in the program titles. The term describes a program, not a child. These programs often include a diversity of children who are interested in advanced topics.

  1. It's likely that the Center for Talent Development (CTD) will have something for your son. At the very least, he will find peers who share his interests—many math kids are equally interested in history. To enroll in CTD, your son will need to take an above-grade level test—Midwest Academic Talent Search (MATS). The deadline is February 4.
  2. The Center for Talented Youth, another talent search program, at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore offers summer enrichment classes throughout the U.S. The Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP), a third talent search program, is located at Duke University.
  3. Check with local universities. Many universities offer special summer enrichment programs for talented young people. For example, Michigan State University Youth Programs offers a variety of summer programs for students your son's age.
  4. The Summer Institute for the Gifted has numerous courses on history and philosophy. They tend to be on the expensive side so be sure to apply early if you want to inquire about financial assistance.
  5. Check with your state’s gifted education association. They may be able to point you in the right direction. Visit the National Association for Gifted Children's Web site for a list of state affiliates of NAGC.
  6. Visit the web site of your state's department of education. For example, the MI Department of Education sponsors summer opportunities for children who live in your state.
  7. Your state’s government or historical society may sponsor some event. For example, the Michigan state government Web site lists several resources and programs for kids..
  8. Jr. Discovery offers summer enrichment programs for students completing grades 6–8. The four-week program features the "Skills for the Mind & Body" curriculum where students can choose from over 30 interactive workshops.

Financial Aid for Top Universities

In the not so distant past, spots in elite schools in the United States were reserved only for the wealthy. Even today, many very capable students and parents of capable students feel that any college education, let alone at one of the nation’s top schools, is out of reach. Some students with great potential see no point in working hard in school because they feel they will have no opportunity to go on to a higher education, believing it simply can’t happen financially. 
We need to let these students know that it is possible for them to get the best education at the best schools. They need a reason to work hard and explore options for learning. That may include going beyond the traditional school system. (See the many posts at this blog for possibilities beyond a traditional education.)
There actually seems to be a competition now among some of the elite schools of higher learning to recruit students from low and middle class homes. At some of these schools, if the family earns less than $60,000/year, the students pay no tuition.
Some of the schools that are making it possible for more students of lower incomes to attend include Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. My guess is that more will follow.

This is all part of a growing national movement to combat the rapidly rising cost of higher education and to ensure that elite universities don't shut out all but the wealthiest students. Tuition at many private colleges and universities has risen so much in recent decades that even families earning close to $200,000 a year may struggle to afford it.

Under the plan announced by Drew Faust, president of Harvard, families earning more than $60,000 will be expected to pay a small percentage of their annual income for tuition and room and board, rising to 10% for those earning between $120,000 and $180,000 a year. All families that qualify for financial aid will receive that aid in grants, rather than being required to take out loans.

So let’s get the word out and give capable students an incentive to set high academic goals.

Creative and Critical Thinking for Gifted Students through FPSPI

Teaching critical and creative thinking is vital to the future of our youth. The Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is a program that really hones in on this subject.

We all have problems we’d like to solve. Some people aren’t very good at math. Some people have nosy neighbors. Some people go to bed hungry at night. No matter how small or how big the problems are, we’d like to solve them. It’s hard to solve a problem, though, unless we understand the problem very well. Who is involved in the problem? What is the problem? When and where does the problem occur? Why does the problem happen? How does it occur? The first step in successful problem solving is defining and describing the problem.

This is just one type of thinking fostered by FPSPI. The program (for students in grades 4–12) stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and encourages young people to develop visions for the future through both individual and team activities. It nurtures global awareness not only through choice of topics, but by knowing that the same problems are being studied by over 250,000 students annually, including those from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.
Curricular and co-curricular competitive activities, as well as non-competitive activities are offered.
Through FPSPI, students learn to
  • formulate and attack complex, ambiguous problems
  • analyze and better understand material
  • improve in oral and written communication
  • work together in a team.
You can get an idea of the scope of current and future topics by reading their descriptions at the program’s Web site.
2007-2008 Topics
Body Enhancement
Simulations Technology
Debt in Developing Countries
Child Labor
2008-2009 Topics
Olympic Games
Cyber Conflict
Space Junk
Counterfeit Economy
Even if your student never participates in the formal program, the organization’s website contains good instructional materials for creative and critical thinking. Materials include both written offerings available for purchase and also links to other Web sites.

Trends in Gifted Education

The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Convention was held in November. Each year, I like to read through the entire catalog of presentations so that I can form general impressions about categories that were considered important.
Disclaimer: I do not have access to information about presentation proposals that were submitted nor do I have information about how the presentations were chosen. I do not look at this information to make judgments; only to observe trends.
Like everything else in society, certain topics wax and wane. Someone else may interpret this very differently than I do. But, for the record, this is what I see.
Some of the topics that were considered top priorities in the past 10-30 years that I see no longer getting the same attention include
  • Underachievement
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • Pullout/enrichment
  • Advocacy
  • GT resource teachers
  • Affective issues
  • Identification
  • Learning Styles
  • Differentiation
  • Theory of giftedness
Topic trends that I do see increasing are
  • The integration of technology into the curriculum rather than treatment as a separate subject
  • Interest of programs on an international level (in fact, at the NAGC convention this year, a strand was added titled “International”)
  • Special schools and programs
  • Less talk about specifically meeting the needs of the gifted and more emphasis on the need for an increase in general academic rigor, including the need to let students advance at a faster speed
I would love to hear the ideas of others on these trends. You can always leave a comment at this blog entry or email me if you would prefer that others do not see your comments.
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