Thinking Skills for Young Gifted Children
Earlier today, a parent posted a comment related to an entry on this blog asking about quality educational activity books for her gifted child.
I have a 6-year-old boy and have observed in him the urge to keep busy in some kind of mind-challenging activity. I see a great potential in him, and since I am running out of home grown ideas to help his little mind grow, I would like to know whether anyone can recommend some good activity books that address problem solving, critical thinking, language, etc.
I'll offer my response. However, as the publisher at Prufrock Press, I'm a bit biased. For this reason, I would like to invite our readers to post resources they would recommend regardless of who publishes the materials.
Finding Quality Thinking Skills Activity Books
There are a lot of companies that develop educational activity books. However, there are not nearly as many companies that develop quality educational activity books. Avoid the big companies that just churn out low-cost products. Most of these companies are more concerned with publishing lots of inexpensive booklets than offering much in the way of real challenge and motivation for gifted children.
Stick with companies that have made a commitment to serving parents and teachers of gifted children over the years. They know these kids and have a strong reputation in the field of gifted education to uphold. In addition to Prufrock Press, I recommend Pieces of Learning and the Critical Thinking Company as sources of quality thinking skills materials for younger students.
Prufrock has a line of great thinking skills books that are perfect for younger gifted children. Our online catalog includes sample inside pages from our books, so you can review the content of the books before you buy. Some books will be more or less interesting to your child depending on his or her interests. Let the inside pages and your child be your guide in selecting which books are best.
Here are a few of our products I would recommend.
Evaluating Quality Educational Activity Books
Let me offer some suggestions about how to choose good educational activity books for your child.
- Make sure the book is teaching a specific skill. Any quality activity book will clearly identify the skill being taught. For example, developing the ability to logically postulate a sequence of events, objects, or numbers is an important skill for any young thinker. Our book, Attribute Block Thinking Activities: Sequences (mentioned above) makes it pretty clear that it teaches sequencing skills using shapes. A responsible publisher tries to be very clear about the skill-set being addressed.
- Check the reading level. You may want your child to look at the book and test its reading level. The greatest book about improving logical thinking will do little good if it is above your child's reading level. Don't assume that the level listed on the book cover is accurate for your child. Quite often, gifted children read above-grade-level, so you may have to experiment a bit.
- Let your child's interests guide your choice of topics. It's important to focus on your child's strengths, abilities, and interests. For example, if your child loves mysteries, look for books that incorporate mysteries in their activities (see our book, Detective Club: Mysteries for Young Thinkers).
- Finally, don't assume that all learning comes in an "educational" package. For example, kids who complete the wonderfully complex K'NEX building sets are learning as much about sequencing as they will in any activity book. Be creative as you search for learning activities that will challenge your child.
OK, readers, feel free to post comments with any additional resources for young gifted children you would recommend.
Using IQ Tests to Determine Giftedness
So, caution should be exercised when considering the results of an IQ test. When doing an Internet search for these tests, it is disturbing to see how many tests billing themselves as IQ tests are available for parents to purchase and administer to their children. Parents, unaware of validity and reliability issues, may be duped into purchasing one, giving it to their child, and then having unrealistic results and expectations. Even with recognized tests administered by trained psychologists, there are issues with the different versions of the tests
Another area of controversy is the magical IQ score that makes one “gifted.” IQ scores are rising so dramatically, say researchers who study intelligence, that a high proportion of people considered average at the turn of the 20th century would be regarded as significantly below average by today's tests. Are people actually becoming smarter
or do these rising scores mean something else?
Early College Entrance and Dual Enrollment
- Dual enrollment is admission to college courses while continuing to be enrolled in high school.
- Early admission is a program for gifted high school juniors who have exhausted their high school curriculum. Some of these students have met state graduation requirements by the end of their sophomore or junior year. Early admission programs allow these students to skip their senior year and go on to college.
- Early entrance programs offer the opportunity to start college or university work at an early age, some as early as age 12. These students might never attend traditional high schools.
Information is offered on specific programs along with articles and books on the subject.
Dual enrollment is useful for students who have exhausted the academic possibilities in a specific area at their regular school. For instance, once a student has taken all the higher-level math courses available at the high school level, she can move on and take a more advanced math class at a local junior college or university. Therefore, while taking most of her classes at high school, she takes the one math class at college. In some states, the law requires the school district to pay for these more advanced classes.
Early Entrance College Programs in the USA
compares a variety of schools that accept groups of students taking college courses at least a year before they would typically go to college. Essentially these are programs that take bright students and accelerate them into full-time college studies while maintaining a supportive environment to help make sure they succeed. The students are not left on their own to fend for themselves. In order to be successful in these programs, students must be both intelligent and mature. While there are definite academic advantages to such programs, many students decide not to take this route because they want to be with their friends, and participate in high school sports and other activities such as band. A long list of testimonials (both positive and negative) can be found at the site. If entrance into one of these programs is something your student is considering, you will find much helpful information here.
An Interview with Dr. Jim Delisle
I'm a big fan of James R. Delisle, Ph.D.
In fact, back in 1993, when I purchased the journal Gifted Child Today
from Marvin and Faye Gold, Dr. Delisle was the first person I contacted to write a standing column for the journal.
I love Jim's common-sense ideas about gifted education and his sensitive, intuitive beliefs about gifted children. Over the years, Jim's column "Au Contraire" has become one of the journal's most popular features. Often controversial, Jim's ideas are always thought-provoking.
I'm proud to announce that Prufrock Press will soon release Dr. Delisle's newest book, Parenting Gifted Kids: Tips for Raising Happy and Successful Children. A middle school teacher, parent, and Kent State University professor, Jim offers warm, funny, and down-to-earth advice for parents of gifted kids in his new book. The book will ship in mid-March.
Recently, I asked one of my editors, Lacy Elwood, to interview Jim. At one point in the interview, Lacy asked Jim what would be the most important piece of advice he could offer parents.
Jim's response says a lot about his respect for gifted children:
I think the best advice I ever received from my son, even though he never told me directly, was to follow his lead. When you have kids who are really bright, they have a lot of directions they want to go in, usually simultaneously. I think the more we, as parents, try to pigeonhole our kids to go a certain route because they're smart or because they're strong in a certain area, that's when it becomes an artificial fit. I'd rather ask my son or my students, "What are you interested in and how can I help you get there?"
And, that's really what we've done with our son. His major in college was creative writing and film studies, and I can't tell you how many adults would kind of look at us and say or think, "What's he ever going to do with a degree in that? How's he going to earn a living?" And, that is certainly the wrong question to ask. If you're passionate about what you want to do, you will find a way to make it work. There are too many parents who make the mistake of trying to take that away. You have to give them that freedom. It's their life to live, not ours.
Read the entire interview with Jim Delisle, Ph.D. It offers a unique perspective on a powerful advocate for gifted children and those who touch the lives of those children.
Underinvesting in Gifted Education
his week, the New York Times ran a story titled, "U.S. Trade Deficit Hits All-Time High." The article explained that "American appetites for all things foreign, from oil to cars to clothing, pushed the trade deficit to yet another record in 2005." This article concerned me and sparked me to do a bit more research on the topic. What I discovered has some powerful implications for how this country invests in gifted education.
"Dark Matter"--America's Unrecognized Export
Recently, two Harvard professors, Ricardo Hausmann and Federico Sturzenegger, offered a new perspective on the trade deficit issue in their published paper, "U.S. And Global Imbalances: Can Dark Matter Prevent A Big Bang?" In his December 28, 2005, BusinessWeek blog article, "Dark Matter," Michael Mandel summarizes the paper's findings:
- The international trade statistics are great at tracking flows of goods, and OK at tracking flows of services.
- The trade statistics are terrible at tracking cross-border flows of intellectual property. For example, when Intel sets up a chip fabrication plant in Ireland, that country reaps the benefit of Intel's designs, and all of Intel's accumulated wisdom about how to run a fab successfully. In effect, a massive amount of intellectual property has been exported to Ireland, without showing up in the trade statistics at all.
- These massive and unobserved exports of intellectual property--"dark matter"--imply that the U.S. is actually running a much smaller current account deficit than the official data shows.
- In addition, U.S. assets abroad are really worth a lot more than we thought, because the official calculation doesn't include the value of the intellectual property.
Hausmann and Sturzenegger write:
In a nutshell, our story is very simple. The income generated by a country’s financial position is a good measure of the true value of its assets. Once assets are valued accordingly, the US appears to be a net creditor, not a net debtor and its net foreign asset position appears to have been fairly stable over the last 20 years. The bulk of the difference with the official story comes from the unaccounted export of knowhow ...
We Are Underinvesting in Gifted Education
The point of this paper is quite clear. In the new global economy, America's most powerful advantage is our intellectual property--what Hausmann and Sturzenegger call "dark matter."
If "dark matter"--intellectual knowhow, innovation, and talent--is America's most important asset in the new global economy, why isn't gifted education--the education of our most intellectually able, innovative, and talented children--this nation's top priority?
Why is our only national education mandate, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), void of even a reference (much less financial investment) to gifted children and their education?
Personally, I support gifted education on more humanistic grounds--every child deserves an appropriate education. However, if an economic reason is required, we certainly have one in Hausmann and Sturzenegger's paper. As a nation increasingly immersed in a global economy, our political leaders need to begin tending to this country's most important economic asset by properly investing in gifted education.
Science for Gifted Students
Science is an often neglected subject, especially in elementary school. In the early grades, the controversy continues surrounding the best method to teach science: direct instruction or discovery.
When attempting to identify young students who may be gifted in science, educators may find help at this site
. By clicking on the menus on the right side of the page, you will also see examples for differentiating the science curriculum for gifted students within the regular classroom.
Since science is not usually emphasized in the classroom, parents should expose their children to the subject outside of school as much as possible through books, museums, nature centers, Internet sites, experiments—anything that exposes them to the subject.
Competitions in science are not readily available in the early grades. Note that ExploraVision listed below is the only competition listed that includes younger students.
Middle and High School
As one approaches middle and high school there are many more opportunities for advanced classes and competitions in the subject. The National Science Teachers Association recognizes that many kinds of learning experiences, including science competitions, can contribute significantly to the education of students of science. With respect to science competitions, such as science fairs, science leagues, symposia, olympiads, scholarship activities and talent searches, the Association takes the position that participation should be guided by certain principles
Some competitions that you many want to consider include
This is a multi-tiered competition designed to stimulate and promote achievement in high school chemistry.
This science essay competition is for students in grades 7-12 and provides prizes up to $5000.
ExploraVision is a competition for students of all interest, skill, and ability levels in grades K-12. The purpose of the competition is to encourage students to combine their imaginations with the tools of science to create and explore a vision of a future technology. Prizes include U.S. Savings Bonds and laptop computers.
This is the world's largest pre-college celebration of science. It is held annually in May and brings together over 1,400 students from more than 40 nations to compete for scholarships, tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips and the grand prize: a $50,000 college scholarship.
This competition is intended to increase knowledge of the oceans on the part of high school students, their teachers and parents, as well as to raise the visibility and public understanding of the national investment in ocean-related research.
This is an academic competition among teams of high school students who attend science seminars and compete in a verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math.
This competition provides middle and high school students an opportunity to hone their skills as science sleuths by learning the scientific method employed by epidemiologists.
This national model rocket competition for U.S. high school and middle school students has a grand prize pool of over $60,000 in cash and savings bonds that is shared by the winning teams.
The American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Institute of Physics sponsor a competition each year for high school students to represent the United States at the International Physics Olympiad Competition.
This is a biology competition for high school students.
The YES Competition offers college scholarship awards to high school juniors and seniors who conduct outstanding research projects that apply epidemiological methods of analysis to a health-related issue.
This is an essay contest for students in grades 7-12. Essays based on studies conducted by a class, a summer institute, summer camp, pre-college student research program, or environmental program and are eligible as long as the student conducted his or her own research and expanded the investigation to include his or her own topic question.
Math Competitions for Gifted Students
One needs to plan well in advance to set up mathematics competitions. It is not too early to start planning for next year. Just choosing which competitions to participate in is a challenge. Many of the sites below list sample problems, so you can get a taste of what it’s like to participate. While most competitions are for high school students, there are a handful at the middle school/junior high level, and just a few at the elementary level. When a range of grade levels is listed, there are usually competitions set up for just one or two grades at a time (i.e., a test for each of grades 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8). Here are some competitions to consider.
High school students and some exceptional junior high students
High school students
High school students
High school students
High school students
Middle and high school students
BBC Seeking Gifted Children to Produce Video Diaries
I got a call today from a producer at BBC-America (the US branch of the British Broadcasting Company) about a really interesting opportunity for kids between the ages of 7-11. TLC (The Learning Channel) and the BBC are seeking 7- to 11-year-old children of all backgrounds and personalities from across the U.S. to film a video diary of their lives for approximately 3 months. The producer I spoke to said that they are seeking gifted and talented children of all kinds to participate.
Are you the parent or teacher of a 7- to 11-year-old gifted and talented child who might find this intriguing? Know a gifted child who has an interesting story to tell, a wonderful imagination, or a unique view of life? Whether the child you have in mind is shy or outgoing, funny or serious, stubborn or cooperative, the BBC would love to learn more about them!
This innovative documentary series aims to capture American life through the eyes of 7- to 11-year-olds who film video diaries of their lives for approximately 3 months.
BBC and TLC will train the kids to use the camera and then give them the freedom to decide what to film and what to discuss. If you are interested in learning more, please call the BBC's My Life as a Child office at (212) 974-9050, ext. 221, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.