African American National Biography: An Incredible Resource for the Gifted
The most extensive compilation of African American biographies ever written has recently become available and promises to be an excellent resource for gifted students who want to learn about the heritage and contributions of this group. This resource is sure to be a treasure trove for independent study, classroom projects, or just plain interesting reading. Watch the ten-minute PBS interview
in which editors Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (both from Harvard) talk about their work on The African American National Biography
(Oxford University Press, 2008). The interview is excellent and will give you a real feel for the project.
African American National Biography includes biographies of more than 4,000 African Americans throughout 500 years, dating back to the arrival of Esteban, the first recorded African explorer to set foot in North America. Entries range from Aaron, a former slave without a last name, through Paul Burgess Zuber, a 20th century lawyer and professor. The series includes national heroes and historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass. But the biographies also include Sissieretta Joyner Jones, a 19th century opera singer; Richard Potter, a magician, sword swallower, and ventriloquist who owned 175 acres in New Hampshire and died in 1835; and the pistol-packing, fist-fighting Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, of the late 19th century.
The entries were written by more than 1,700 contributors in response to a call that was put forth in 2001. In addition to those names published in the printed series, an additional 2,000 names will be included in a forthcoming online database, as part of the African American Studies Center digital archive, available through the Oxford University Press Web site. Gates and Higginbotham have compiled a massive database that includes 12,500 names.
The 8-volume set of African American National Biography is expensive—just under $1,000, so encourage your schools and libraries to make the purchase.
Asynchronous Development in Young Gifted Students
Asynchronous is a term that describes uneven development. It can mean uneven development academically, physically, and/or emotionally (i.e., a student is a whiz kid at science, but can’t throw a ball). It can describe uneven development between subjects (i.e., a student reads years ahead of his classmates, but is at grade level in math).
We often expect children to meet certain development standards. We know that they should begin to crawl by a certain age, and then go on to walk and run. We expect them to talk when the baby books say they should talk and then recognize colors and shapes, begin reading, learn to share toys, etc. Teachers also have both academic and social expectations at each grade level. But, children do not necessarily develop just as expected.
Versions of the following conversation can often be heard when young gifted children start school. "Bill doesn't belong in kindergarten!" the parent cries. "Look, he's reading at the fourth-grade level and has already learned two-column addition." The teacher or principal, having already decided this is a 'pushy parent,' replies, "Well, Mrs. Smith, Bill certainly doesn't belong in first grade; he hasn't learned to tie his shoelaces, and he can't hold a pencil properly, and he had a tantrum yesterday in the hall."
The problem is that both parties are probably correct. This story is an example of asynchronous, or uneven, development. Few children meet developmental expectations across all areas each year of school; however, the disparity can be exacerbated when a child has especially high abilities in one or more academic areas.
It is especially difficult for teachers in primary grades to address advanced academics in children who are socially immature. It is easier to differentiate in a classroom where students are older because they are often socially mature and able to work independently or in small groups without constant supervision.
Parents and teachers may need to get very creative when trying to meet the needs of young children with asynchronous development, especially in the early grades. A combination of techniques may be employed, including the use of volunteers in the classroom, moving students to a higher grade for part of the day, and small group work with motor and social skills.
Summer Institute for the Gifted
Still one more opportunity is the Summer Institute for the Gifted
(SIG), which runs eleven three-week residential sessions in seven states. It also offers several non-residential day programs. In 2007, the Institute served over 2,000 academically gifted students in grades K–11.
All applicants to SIG programs require evidence of high academic ability and/or achievement. Documentation includes the following:
- Participation in Academic Talent Search Programs
- A score at the 95th percentile or above in at least one major content area or ability section of a nationally-normed standardized test, or at the highest performance level on a state test
- Score in the gifted range on the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or SSATB
- Be identified as gifted and/or have participated successfully in a local or school gifted program
- If none of the above are available, two letters of recommendation can be submitted.
Residential programs for students in grades 4–11 will be held this summer at the following locations. (You can click on each school to find out more information.)
Day programs for students in grades K-6 will be held at:
Developing Talent in Artistically Gifted Kids
Jan Brett is a popular author/illustrator of children’s books. She is especially fond of drawing animals. At her Web site is a series of videos
that could easily be used at school, at home, or through a homeschooling experience to encourage artistic talent.
From the time Brett was in Kindergarten, she knew she wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books. The videos include interviews that share how this talented lady became interested in drawing, and the events in her youth that inspired her. She also talks about how she gets the ideas for the books she publishes now.
In addition to the interviews, there are more than a dozen videos where Brett shows how to draw various animals and objects, breaking down the process into small, easy-to-follow steps. She includes a dolphin, rhinoceros, creature of the deep, lion, baby polar bear, hedgehog, chick, African okapi, bunny, elephant, horse, and Siberian husky.
This Web site is an excellent resource for students who want to do an in-depth study on a children’s author/illustrator. It could also serve as an inspiration for those who would someday like to publish their own work.
After watching the videos, students may want to create their own illustrated books for fun.