Summer Programs for the Gifted
Only a couple of months until summer vacation! If you plan on enrolling your child in activities this summer, decisions need to be made very soon. Sometimes the choices seem overwhelming and other times it is difficult to find any program that seems appropriate. Here is some help.
First of all, you and your child need to sit down and decide why you are interested in a summer program. Once that is decided, you need to figure out how to go about choosing one. You will find help in the article Time to Start Thinking About Summer!
, which is written by both a camp director and a parent of gifted children. The article will help you think about lots of questions to ask of yourself, your young person, and the camp director. It also provides a framework for narrowing your choices.
Web sites also will help you in your search, including:
Academic Competitions for the Gifted
Academic competitions can provide higher level learning for gifted students. A little more than a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about math competitions
, but there are also competitions and contests available in other subjects.
A few well-recognized national competitions include
The National Geographic Bee
—This is an educational program of the National Geographic Society. It is a nationwide geography competition for U.S. schools for grades 4–8, designed to encourage the teaching and study of geography.
National History Day Contest
— Students in grades 6-12 discover and interpret historical topics related to an annual theme. They produce creative and scholarly projects in the form of exhibits, documentaries, historical papers, or performances.
Scripps National Spelling Bee
—This is the one you've read about and seen movies about in the last few years. It begins with a school competition and progresses to a national competition.
Word Masters Challenge
—This is a classroom competition in language arts for grades 3-12. The emphasis is on vocabulary, analogies, and analytical reading.
Although many competitions are initiated at schools, homeschoolers often group together to participate. Some competitions are also available to individuals.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of competitions. Many others are available—some that are well run and some that are not. Find out as much as you can about each competition or contest before entering. Some ways to find competitions are to
Explore one of the search engines, such as Google
. Search the words "competitions" or "contests" and add the words of the subject in which you are interested (i.e., art, French, writing, etc.). You might even try adding the name of your city or state.
The Gifted Resource Center
has a search engine that will help you find a contest or competition according to the students’ age or grade and also the subject of interest.
Competitions for Talented Kids: Win Scholarships, Big Prize Money, and Recognition
—This book is a treasure trove of information on selecting, entering, and competing in national contests. It also features complete information on who to contact, how to enter, prizes, judging criteria, contest origin, significant dates, and tips from the contest organizers themselves.
PBS Launches Free Educational Resource
Earlier this month, PBS launched PBS Teachers
(http://www.pbs.org/teachers), a "front door" Web site for all of the educational resources and services PBS offers. The site offers plenty of quality resources for classroom teachers and home-schooling parents.
The site also provides a one-stop resource for educators searching for wide-ranging curriculum resources, video archives, and more.
The site offers lots of free teaching resources that include:
- Thousands of free standards-based lesson plans, classroom activities, interactive resources, and more—organized by subject, grade level, and curriculum topic.
- Hundreds of curriculum resources from local PBS stations—forming a local-national search, combining the best educational resources from around the country.
- PBS' newest blog, "Media Infusion" (http://www.pbs.org/teachers/mediainfusion), which will showcase ideas for and encourage conversations about using media and technology in the classroom, to be hosted by practicing classroom teachers and educational technology experts.
- Dedicated areas for early childhood educators, library media specialists, and technology coordinators.
- Showcases for public broadcasting's video content—including on-demand streaming video from selected PBS programs, customizable local PBS station TV schedules, and Shop for Teachers, a source for purchasing video programs.
At first glance, this appears to be a solid resource for teachers, especially teachers with Internet access in their classrooms (many of the lessons direct students to watch a brief streaming video from the PBS archives). Take a look at the site and let me know what you think.
Open-Content Portal Resources for the Gifted
More and more doors are opening in education.
Many of my blog entries have included information on online courses and educational Web sites for the gifted. This educational delivery method is constantly evolving, and I believe we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of its future. Online courses are certainly not perfect, but I feel they have the potential to revolutionize education—especially for highly motivated, independent learners. In the future, online courses may have the capability to truly differentiate education according to both student ability and interest. These online opportunities are worth exploring, especially if you work with a student who has a special area of interest.
A relatively new term that applies to online courses is “Open Educational Resources
." The term was first adopted at a UNESCO
Forum in 2002. Open Educational Resources are digitized materials offered freely and openly for educators, students, and self-learners to use for teaching, learning, and research. They are designed for all ages. OER Commons
is a recently launched Open Educational Resource Web site. At this site, which was developed by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), you will find a vast collection of free online courses and other information. You can search by subject area or by grade level. I would strongly suggest that you screen materials, especially for young children, to make certain you feel they are appropriate. A number of video segments from programs such as NOVA are available to watch. Sample learning materials range from building a house for a teddy bear, to a 5-day view of the jet stream, to algebra, to 20th
The Stingy Scholar: How to Learn for Free on the Web
is a blog that keeps track of free online educational opportunities. The entries at this site are short and sweet, but filled with great information. If you want to keep up-to-date as the field of online delivery develops, you will want to check this out.
The Journal of Advanced Academics
I'm thrilled about a new product we've launched: the Journal of Advanced Academics
. Because you are reading this, I'll assume you are interested in the history
of this professional journal. It's a big assumption, so if you just want to read about the new journal specifically, visit the Journal of Advanced Academics information page
The Journal's History
I started Prufrock Press more than 18 years ago with one product, the Prufrock Journal
. The idea behind this journal was to offer teachers involved in secondary gifted education a source of information and ideas for the middle school and high school classroom. I was the journal's editor, publisher, designer, and "mail room" manager. I took out a loan from the local teachers' credit union (I was a high school English teacher at the time) to publish the first issue. I printed 5,000 copies and mailed them as complimentary samples to teachers across the country. Because I could not afford the permit for a bulk mail imprint, I licked and stuck a stamp on each of the 5,000 copies.
By the journal's fourth year, I was running out of steam and wanting to expand Prufrock Press into other projects that demanded my time. I spoke to Dr. Tracy Cross, a respected professor at Ball State University, about taking over the journal, refocusing it as a peer-reviewed journal, and renaming it the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education. The journal would now focus on research and critical theory related to secondary gifted education programs.
Over the years, I've had the chance to work with some wonderful editors of the journal: Tracy Cross (Ball State University), Paula Olszewski-Kubilius (Northwestern University), Rena Subotnik (American Psychological Association), Marcia Delcourt (Western Connecticut State University), and Bonnie Cramond (University of Georgia). The annual JSGE advisory board meeting offered me a chance to interact with some of the best minds in the field of education.
As the years passed, however, the defining focus of the journal seemed to grow dated. Gifted education at the secondary level seemed too narrow a concept to embrace the new menu of programs being offered to gifted and talented students. For better or worse, the secondary "gifted program" expanded to include Advanced Placement programs, International Baccalaureate programs, early entrance to college, dual-enrollment in high school and college, and various new acceleration approaches.
Furthermore, the term secondary became a liability: What do you call it when a fifth grader is allowed to take a precalculus course at the high school or a junior in high school heads off to college? Were those situations covered by a secondary journal?
A New Vision for the Journal
For more than 2 years, the advisory board and current and former editors and I struggled to re-envision the journal. That new vision for the journal launched this month with the premier issue of the Journal of Advanced Academics (JAA).
This journal is in a unique position to critically evaluate trends related to advanced academic education.
In particular, JAA publishes articles that feature:
- strategies for increasing academic achievement,
- programs that promote high levels of academic achievement and engagement, and
- programs that prepare students to engage in high-level and rigorous academics.
Under the leadership of Del Siegle and D. Betsy McCoach (University of Connecticut), this journal promises to be the preeminent source of critical analysis and research related to those strategies, programs, and approaches that support and enhance advanced academic achievement for students of all ages. Potential authors should visit JAA's author and manuscript support Web site at the University of Connecticut.
I invite you to subscribe to the Journal of Advanced Academics. I believe it offers a new and innovative view of the education of gifted and talented students.
Smithsonian Resources for the Gifted
In 1826, James Smithson, a British scientist, drew up his last will and testament, naming his nephew as beneficiary. Smithson stipulated that, should the nephew die without heirs (as he would in 1835), the estate should go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” Since its founding, the Smithsonian Institution has grown to be the world's largest museum complex and research organization. The Internet has enabled the institution to grow even more and avail its resources more readily to people around the world.
A specific area of the institution’s site, Smithsonian Education
, is of particular interest to gifted students, their families, and educators.
The section for educators (my favorite) includes extensive lesson plans and suggestions for uses of technology in the classroom. (Currently, the Web site shows how student podcasting can be used as a learning tool.) Lesson plans are divided into the categories of Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, and Language Arts. The many lesson plans and resources within each of these categories can be used as wonderful differentiation tools. Individual or small groups can be formed to investigate the various subjects, using primary sources on the Internet. The wonderful part is that it’s free and already developed for teachers.
The family section provides information for those who want to visit one of the museums in person. It has suggestions for before, during, and after activities to make a family visit most enjoyable and educational.
The section for students includes many interactive modules to help young people learn in the areas of Everything Art, Science & Nature, History & Culture, and People & Places. You might want to spend a little time looking at this section. Although there are activities for many different levels of ability, it may take a little hunting to find a section that is most appropriate for your student.
In addition to the Internet resources, Smithsonian Education also offers a free e-mail newsletter that is filled with interesting information. You can view a sample copy before signing up for the newsletter.
This may be one of the best distance learning sites on the Internet.
Grammar Is Key for Gifted Students
Grammar is no longer taught in K-12 schools as it was when I was growing up. In fact, many younger teachers are very uncomfortable broaching the subject, as it was not something that they were adequately taught when they were students. As I looked for links on the Internet about grammar, I found that many basic grammar sites based out of universities contain the same information people of my generation were taught in junior high. Because of the absence of this subject in schools, all students, including gifted students, are missing out on a key component of their education.
To many, grammar is a boring subject, but if you don’t have a good grasp of it, you will probably use words incorrectly. It really doesn’t have to be boring. I remember Miss Johnson, my fifth- and sixth-grade English teacher making diagramming sentences fun and exciting. Writing in her class was a real treat. Grammar is an essential tool for speaking, and writing, and it is also very helpful with SAT and ACT tests.
If grammar is not imbedded in the curriculum at your child’s school, make sure you understand the rules and teach them at home. There are a number of Internet resources that are helpful.
At this site, there is information on grammar, punctuation, and spelling, along with computer-driven exercises.
Included are quizzes and an online reference book. There is even a grammar blog.
This link includes all kinds of information on grammar, including words that are often confused, such as affect vs. effect, its vs. it’s, and lie vs. lay.
Please don’t make grammar a chore for your kids. If they sense that you feel it is not interesting, they will pick up on that. If you hear your children make grammar mistakes as they converse with you, gently correct them on the spot and try to give them a way to remember the rule.