Arts Education and Brain Research
Earlier this month, Johns Hopkins School of Education hosted a summit and roundtable discussion titled Learning, Arts, and the Brain
. Much of the information from this summit and roundtable can be found at the Dana Foundation Web site.
Included are the following:
Music Training Changes Brain Networks
Research by Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College; Gottfried Schlaug, professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School; Michael Posner, professor emeritus at the University of Oregon; and Elizabeth Spelke, professor of psychology at Harvard University.
The Arts Will Help School Accountability
Comments by Mariale Hardiman, Assistant Dean, Urban School Partnerships, and Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in Education at the John Hopkins University School of Education.
Learning, Arts, and the Brain
A conversation with Michael S. Gazzaniga, director of the University of California, Santa Barbara’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind and its Summer Institute in Cognitive Neuroscience.
The Dana Foundation has just started Arts Ed on the Web
, a bimonthly feature in which Web sites devoted to arts education are highlighted. You’ll want to bookmark this. In the first posting (May 26, 2009) you will find an arts integration resource site, an education portal for teachers with lesson plans and videos, and a music education project featuring Yo-Yo Ma.
School Options for Gifted Kids—Where to Begin
I experienced another interesting conversation yesterday while traveling to the airport in a shared van. The woman sitting next to me was flying to Tennessee to watch two of her children compete in the Global Finals for Destination ImagiNation
(DI). DI is an exciting, creative enrichment program that engages kids in critical thinking, teamwork, time management, and problem solving. She told me about the wonderful enrichment teacher who works at their neighborhood school. Each year, the teacher is able to recruit parents who are willing to make the necessary time commitment to work with teams of youngsters who compete in Destination ImagiNation. What a wonderful experience for the students at this neighborhood school.
We then went on to have a general conversation about education, gifted education, parenting, etc. She told me that next year two of her children will attend a magnet/charter school that focuses on international studies. There, they will have a choice of languages on which to focus. Her children have decided to concentrate on Chinese. This woman had really done her research and was a very positive advocate for her kids, finding educational options that fit their needs.
My question to this fellow traveler was, “How do parents find out about the various choices in their school district?” It was then I realized that the shuttle driver had been listening intently to our conversation. When I asked my question, he laughed. He indicated that he had several children at home, was not pleased with their school situation, and did not realize that he had choices. He, too, had wondered how one finds out about opportunities.
So often, parents feel that their children are trapped in whatever educational program is closest to their home. They often cannot afford to move to a “better” neighborhood and don’t realize that there are alternatives.
So, I want to present you with some information. I also hope that others will comment on this blog entry, sharing possibilities that I have not listed. Right now, I will just talk about actual physical (as opposed to virtual) schools that might be available to you in your area. In my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook
I discuss many more educational options.
Situations vary from state to state and from district to district. You often won’t know if these possibilities exist unless you ask.
The Education Commission of the States (ECS)
provides an online database for open enrollment. To one degree or another, open-enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to the public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open-enrollment policies: intradistrict and interdistrict. The Web site cited here is an excellent resource. In many cases, students are not locked in to attending their neighborhood or even their district schools.
The U.S. Department of Education
provides information on charter and magnet schools across the country. Charter schools
are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Some of them have very innovative philosophies. Magnet schools
are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. They focus on a specific subject, such as science or the arts; follow specific themes, such as business/technology or communications/humanities/law; or operate according to certain models, such as career academies or a school-within-a-school. Once you understand the general concepts of charter and magnet schools, you can search the Web sites of your local school district and surrounding districts to see what is available.
It is important to know how the students in your school and in schools you are considering perform on state tests. Look at sites such as SchoolMatters
where you can search for information by school or state. This Web site is also able to list schools within a state from highest scoring to lowest scoring in reading and in math. It will be much easier for your child to perform at a high level if he attends a school where the norm is to perform well.
Please feel free to share additional information by hitting the “Comment” button at the top of this blog entry.
The NRIC Project for Kids Gifted in Math
Teachers, students, and parents will find the following Web site valuable. Activities found here can be used to teach grade-level topics, to accelerate, and to enrich.
is a project created by the mathematics and education departments at The University of Cambridge. The Web site contains thousands of free mathematics enrichment materials including problems, articles, and games. The information is helpful for students (ages 5 to 19), teachers, and parents. All the resources are designed to develop subject knowledge, problem-solving, and mathematical thinking skills. The Web site is updated with new material on the first day of every month.
Young people are able to practice writing about their mathematical thinking at the Web site. Being able to clearly state one’s process for solving a problem assures that the student truly understands the mathematical process. By practicing this skill, we are able to eliminate the standard response, “It’s hard for me to explain how I got the answer.” By assessing student writing, teachers are also able to identify fallacies in reasoning. Examples of past problem solutions are provided as models. Students can send in solutions to current problems that are posted, knowing that those solutions might be published on the Web site in the future.
There is also a forum that is monitored by a team of mathematicians (click on Ask NRICH at the top of the page). You can join in an existing discussion or start a new conversation of your own.
Journalism for Gifted Students
The way in which we get our news is morphing, with a heavy emphasis on technology. As journalism changes, newspapers remain important primary document resources. Archives of print media help us trace trends and ideas in history. There are numerous resources available to teach students about the value of journalism and how to be critical consumers of news. Here are a few.
is an interactive museum in Washington D.C. that offers five centuries of news history. There are also links at the Newseum Web site that have good teaching tools. Under the Education
link, the section titled Teacher Resources has some great lesson plans for grades 6-12 that highlight the headlines and front pages of newspapers. Today’s Front Pages
is a very interesting section where you will find the day’s front pages from 767 newspapers, across 72 countries.
High School Journalism: Lesson Archive
is sponsored by the American Society of News Editors. Here you will find lots of ideas to teach about advertising, bias, copy editing, critical thinking about the media, decision-making, design, diversity, editing, editorial cartoons, editorial writing, entertainment journalism, features, First Amendment, graphics and design, interviewing, journalism ethics, journalism history, libel, news values, online journalism, photography, reporting, story ideas, and more. If you truncate the URL as I have here
, you will find even more great information.
The New York Times Daily Lesson Plan
is an archive of lesson plans that blends daily news with higher-level thinking skills. There are some excellent ideas for teaching students to analyze what they read and see.
As always, remember that very bright students are capable of working beyond the suggested grade levels of lesson plans. The Web sites here are designed for teachers, but parents will also get many ideas for working with young people at home.
Is your student interested in a career in journalism? Have him check out some of these sites.
Parenting Gifted Children: A Beginner's Guide to Finding Support
Although I have made gifted education my business, I'm frequently stumped when it comes to specific questions I receive via e-mail about parenting gifted kids. Frankly, any wisdom I might have about the questions I receive would be dwarfed by the collective wisdom of other parents of gifted children and the excellent Web resources available.
As such, I've developed some recommended online starting points for parents of gifted kids who are seeking help, information, and answers. This list is by no means comprehensive! There are hundreds of fine Web resources for parents of gifted children. However, the resources below, in my opinion, ought to give you a good start.
Local Support Groups for Parents of Gifted Children
Most importantly, if you are not already a member of a local support group for parents of gifted children, I would suggest you that join such a group. To locate a group near you, contact your state's National Association for Gifted Children affiliate. Your state's affiliate should have some knowledge of the various local support groups in your area. Parent support groups are wonderfully helpful as you navigate the issues related to parenting a gifted child.
Let me suggest that you join one of the e-mail listservs devoted to parents of gifted children. Subscribe to one of the listservs below and pose your question to the members of the mailing list. You are sure to get a quick response from one of the hundreds of other parents who subscribe to these lists.
GT-Families Listserv — This is a listserv for families of gifted and talented children. To subscribe, send a message with "subscribe GT-Families firstname lastname" in the body to firstname.lastname@example.org.
TAGFAM Listserv — Similar to the listserv above, this also is for families of gifted and talented children. To subscribe, send a message with "subscribe tagfam firstname lastname" in the body to email@example.com.
American Psychological Association's Gifted Child Listserv — This is an e-mailing list of more than 400 researchers, scholars, parents, and educators who are interested in information concerning gifted children and advocacy on the behalf of gifted children. To join the list, simply send an e-mail to Ashley Edmiston asking that you be added as a member of the CGEPNETWORK listserv.
There are many excellent Web sites that might be helpful to you; however, I would recommend that you first visit the following:
- Davidson Institute for Talent Development — The Davidson Institute for Talent Development Web site features a database of many excellent online articles about parenting and educating gifted children. Although the Davidson Institute is devoted to supporting profoundly gifted children, the database of articles found on its Web site provides helpful information for parents of any gifted child.
- Hoagies' Gifted Education Page — If you visit no other Web site, visit this wonderfully rich source of information and support for those of us involved with gifted children. Hoagies' Gifted Education Page offers resources, articles, books, and links. I highly recommend it.
- Prufrock Press' Gifted Education Web Resources and Blogs — Over the years, we have tried to provide lots of free, unbiased information, articles, and links for parents of gifted children on our site. Start by visiting the Parenting Gifted Children section of our Web site. Then, visit Carol Fertig's Gifted Child Info Blog.
There are many other fine online resources for parents; however, I wanted this blog post to give you the resources you need to "get your feet wet." Once you have explored the options above, you'll want to visit Web sites hosted by the National Association for Gifted Children, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, and the many other online resources you discover along the way.
To Label or Not to Label as Gifted
Some schools are doing away with the label of “gifted and talented” yet still attempting to address the academic needs of bright students. Two schools in Maryland are participating in a pilot program
in which second-graders are tested to see if they qualify for accelerated and enriched instruction. The qualifying students are then placed in accelerated classes that are tailored to their strengths. The theory behind this concept is that children don’t need to be labeled to get the instruction they need.
I have personally seen schools where students are labeled as gifted but do not receive an education that is appropriate for their academic needs. I have also see situations where young people are not formally identified, yet are subject-accelerated or are taught with the aid of in-depth studies using high-level thinking skills that are well above grade-level expectations. These same students may be linked with mentors or offered intense enrichment classes that are geared toward specific strengths. So I ask: Is the label necessary or even desirable?
The basic questions I ask are:
On the many listservs and forums to which I subscribe, I frequently see questions from educators asking advice on what methods to use to identify gifted students. I can assure you, that there are no definitive answers given other than that multiple criteria should be used. There is no consensus on which criteria should be employed or what the cutoffs should be.
I am sure I am dating myself when I tell you that when I was in public school, we never heard the word “gifted.” We did, however, know that some kids were smart and some kids were very smart. We also knew that there were students who dedicated themselves to their studies, working very hard. Those who were academically strong and applied themselves were provided with more difficult work or advanced classes. Expectations were high and it was considered an attribute to be asked to take on more challenge.
So I ask you (and would love to hear your comments): Is the label “gifted” necessary? Does it improve education or should we expect that a top-notch education be provided even without the label?