From Psychology Today—Nurturing Genius
Joseph Cardillo, a blogger at Psychology Today
, has written a series titled Gifted Children: Nurturing Genius
. In the three-part series, he voices surprise “that the population least likely to learn and achieve its potential is the highly gifted.” He pulls much of his information from the research of Jan and Bob Davidson, founders of the Davidson Institute
, a private foundation that serves profoundly gifted young people under the age of 18 through a wide variety of programs.
Cardillo explains that the category of "gifted" really covers a wide range of abilities, from those who may only need moderate academic advancement to those who may be extremely advanced—many years beyond their age peers. Even though there is a wide range of abilities, educational policies tend to view the gifted as a homogeneous group and provide the same program for all.
Furthermore, gifted education in the United States varies greatly. Some states have no mandate for gifted education, so they don’t have to serve these students. Others have a mandate, but no funding, so they’re not able to do much. Often gifted programs only provide enrichment, much like an indoor camp. Highly gifted children need so much more. Just because a child gets all A+'s does not mean that person is receiving an appropriate education. Profoundly gifted youngsters need a variety of strategies, including acceleration, extended learning at home in an area of interest, mentors, and challenging summer programs.
There is really good information on these topics in this series of blogs, which includes discussions of:
- characteristics of profoundly gifted children,
- initial signs of giftedness,
- things that parents can do to advocate for their child, and
- ways to work through the possibility of various types of homeschooling
For example, in Part 3 of the series, Jill Adrian, Director of Family Services at the Davidson Institute, has some good suggestions for how parents can advocate for their students in school. She says,
“it’s about going in there and approaching things as collaboration: asking the school, how can I help you and how can you help my child? And doing this with a little empathy about what the school system is dealing with, but ultimately, you’re asking for a favor for your children at this point in time. And so presenting cost-effective options that can work for your child and your school may work best.”
One cost-effective option that is discussed in Cardillo's blogs is acceleration. Tools such as the Iowa Acceleration Scale
guide schools in determining for whom acceleration is appropriate. In addition to grade skipping, more and more very young teens are taking college classes. Students take advantage of dual enrollment programs where they attend both high school and college classes. Using subject acceleration, a child may remain at his grade level for most subjects but take one or two subjects (e.g., math, science) in a higher grade class.
We must be careful not to lump all gifted students together. There is a wide range of abilities and needs within the group. One size does not fit all.
A Creativity Crisis in the United States
Although the subject of creativity is often among the top issues for those interested in gifted education, it should be of prime importance to everyone. As a nation, we need to pay special attention to some new findings regarding the topic.
The cover story in the July 19, 2010 issue of Newsweek
is "The Creativity Crisis"
, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The authors define creativity as the production of something original and useful. It requires divergent thinking to generate many unique ideas and then convergent thinking to combine those ideas to find the best result.
Bronson and Merryman review the work of E. Paul Torrance that began in the 1950s, when Torrance had 400 children complete his newly designed creativity tasks. Torrance and his colleagues then spent the next 50 years tracking the children, recording all of their creative accomplishments. Through this endeavor, they found that Torrance’s creativity index was incredibly reliable for predicting creative accomplishments as adults. In fact, Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently reanalyzed the data and found that the correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.
An interesting phenomenon has been discovered when comparing IQ to CQ. With each generation, IQ scores have gone up about 10 points. This was also true of creativity until about 1990 when scores started falling.
It is a well-established notion that creativity is extremely important to our country. We constantly need creative approaches to political, scientific, and social aspects of our culture. Around the world, other countries are making creativity development a national priority, with China and the European Union leading this effort.
Although some people may be born with a predisposition to be creative, it is also possible to practice the skills necessary to recruit the brain’s creative networks quicker and better. A number of universities are doing research in this area and the conclusion is that creativity can be taught. For example, the National Inventors Hall of Fame School in Akron, OH uses Donald J. Treffinger’s Creative Problem Solving (CPS) method. As mentioned in the Newsweek article, teams of fifth-grade students at the school were given 4 weeks to figure out how to reduce the noise in the library. The library’s windows faced a public space and, even when closed, let through too much noise. The problem, process, and results of this project are excellent illustrations of ways in which creativity can be incorporated into real-life problems and how it can make school relevant while still meeting all the state standards and raising test scores.
I think you will find this article worth reading. You may also want to follow up on the research of some of the authorities mentioned in the article.
Finding the Best Biographies for Gifted Readers
Reading biographies is important for many reasons.
- The genre provides students with compelling reads.
- Biographies offer role models that often emphasize specific character traits.
- Young people are able to see how real people overcome obstacles and solve problems.
- By reading several biographies about the same person, readers grow to understand how different authors may view that same individual.
Inquiry-based Learning for Gifted Kids
There is an old saying: Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. Inquiry-based learning enables students to become involved in their learning for better understanding. When using inquiry-based learning, the teacher acts as a facilitator rather that a purveyor of information. This type of learning is more engaging and exciting for students than traditional methods. Gifted kids really enjoy it because they are asked to question, to investigate, and to experiment, all while using critical thinking skills.
There are quite a few websites that explain how inquiry-based learning works and offer sample lesson plans for students K-12.
Intro to Inquiry Learning
has two particularly helpful sections: Advantages of Inquiry-Based Learning and The Art of the Question. This second section explains how to ask good questions, which may be more complicated and sophisticated than many parents and teachers realize.
Workshop: Inquiry-Based Learning
offers all the basics of inquiry-based learning, provides classroom demonstrations through video clips, explains how to get started, and shows how to create a facilitation plan.
lets you looks at actual units using inquiry-based learning.
Center for Inquiry-Based Learning
was created by Duke University to help North Carolina K-8 teachers learn inquiry-based teaching practices. Here you can explore the list of science kits that they recommend. You can then find these kits on the Internet by searching on both the title of the kit and the publisher’s name, which is in parentheses. Also, be sure to check out Teacher Resources, where you will find many Inquiry Exercises.
Consider using inquiry-based learning both at school and at home. Students will be actively engaged while improving their critical and creative thinking skills.
Summer Activities to Do at Home
Are you looking for some fun summer activities to do with your kids? Here are some ideas.
—Professor Copper Giloth at the University of Massachusetts Amherst teaches Introduction to Computing in the Fine Arts. She assigns her students the task of illustrating the traditional Aesop's fables alongside their own retellings of the fables in a modern setting. This website showcases their work and can be used in several ways. You and your child can read the fables, you can compare the fables with versions found elsewhere, or you can use the student work as incentive for your children to illustrate stories or poems.
Neuroscience for Kids
—Learn about all aspects of neuroscience in a format that uses helpful graphics. Try the many experiments that make use of games and activities. View questions that have been submitted and then answered by basic and clinical neuroscientists from around the world. Search the numerous links provided, sign up for the free newsletter, and much more.
—Brought to you by the Amateur Entomologists' Society, this website helps the visitor identify bugs, learn about bugs, find out how to care for bugs as pets, and many other interesting things about insects and invertebrates. There is also information on how to become an entomologist.
U.S. Department of the Treasury for Kids
—Here there are links to government websites especially for kids. Links lead to the White House, the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Official Kids' Portal for the U.S. Government, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Brain Teasers, Optical Illusions, and Logic Links
—Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page provides a very long list of links that will engage students in mental gymnastics. There are also links for rebuses, wacky wordies, frame games, and visual puns. Enjoy working some of these puzzles as a family.