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ADHD: The Ongoing Controversy
No one will argue that ADHD is a long time subject of controversy. But some question whether it is really a disorder or just a collection of personality traits that may be undesirable. A few conservatives even see ADHD as being an attack on traditional masculine traits.
The online magazine, Slate
, recently published The ADHD-ventures of Tom Sawyer
, suggesting that today, Tom would have been diagnosed as having not only ADHD, but also Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). When Mark Twain wrote his books about Tom Sawyer, the boy’s behaviors were described quite differently than they would be today. Tom had a wandering mind, his heart ached to be free, he had to sit far away from the seductive outside summer scenes, he was unable to take responsibility for his own actions, he aggressively provoked his peers, he ignored rules, defied adults, he was dishonest, and skipped school.
No one described him as having ADHD.
For some critics, the label ADHD is merely an excuse for frustrated parents and teachers and overzealous doctors to medicate away a child's annoying behaviors. Other critics concede that ADHD exists, but believe it is vastly over diagnosed. ADHD and Education
, on the University of Michigan Web site, states one “controversy is that of teachers and schools wanting students to be on medication so that they are not a disruption in class.”
Does ADHD Exist?,
from the archives of Frontline, offers six different viewpoints about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Some opinions are from active opponents of ADHD and some are from true believers of the disorder. Reading these will give you a broader perspective.
In some circles, it is felt that ADHD may be a misdiagnosis. Instead of suffering from ADHD the child (especially a gifted child) may be expressing overexcitabilities as described by Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski. You can read more about overexciteabilities in Overexcitability and the Gifted
at the SENG Web site.
It is important for parents and teachers to understand that there is not a consensus about ADHD. Before jumping to any conclusions, those who work with young people should educate themselves thoroughly about the topic.
More Online Learning for Gifted Students
Teachers and parents alike often turn to online learning options in order to supplement and/or accelerate gifted students' learning. Does your young person have a strong interest and ability in mathematics, physics, computer programming, literature, writing, history, or foreign language? Does she want to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes that are not offered at her local high school? Or, does your student need a flexible schedule because of family circumstances, work responsibilities, or health issues?
Are you in a school district where your young person’s needs and abilities surpass the available curriculum? Do you homeschool your child, either full-time or part-time, and, as a result, need solid educational resources? Or, do you have a student who doesn't necessarily want to earn credit for extracurricular classes, but instead just wants to expose himself to different topics in order to see if any really interest him? If so, then you may want to introduce your student to the wide range of opportunities available through online learning.
For years, I have been writing about the virtues of distance learning for gifted kids. Over the past few years, the distance learning field has continued to expand. As the technology becomes more sophisticated, many distance learning programs are beginning to use not only computers for their programs, but also everyday technologies, such as cell phones.
Kids are often more comfortable with these technologies than adults. This may be one reason why traditional schools are often unable to adjust to and incorporate these new technologies into the traditional classroom. Adults (both parents and teachers) sometimes lack the expertise that young people have already learned at an early age and use every day. Perhaps it is time for adults to stop fighting these new developments and, instead, embrace them and incorporate them into student learning. Online learning is one good way to start.
If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities available to gifted kids, there is a great deal of information available at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development website and at the Distance Learning Programs page of Hoagies’ Gifted Education website.
National Standards for the Gifted
For a very long time, our country has maintained a hodgepodge of educational expectations for students, often not even coming close to the standards of other developed countries. You may have read recently about the proposed national standards for math and English
, which have recently been released. They are part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI)—a panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents who are working to create benchmarks to bring all areas of the country in alignment with the same expectations. As reported by The New York Times
, these are not without controversy. Alaska and Texas declined to participate in the standards-writing effort, arguing that they should decide locally what their children learn. After viewing the proposed standards, some states, like Massachusetts, may oppose the proposed national standards because state educators feel that they already have higher standards in place and may want to keep those.
Although the implementation of high academic standards is probably a good thing for our country in general, we must also be careful that the standards (if accepted) do not limit the learning of gifted students. It would be impractical to set a unique set of standards for the gifted population because these students fall on a long continuum of abilities. Instead, it is best to think of any national standards as a baseline of expectations, allowing more capable students to progress much more quickly and in greater depth.
Are you aware that back in 1998, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) developed and released the Pre-K - Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards
designed to assist school districts in examining the quality of their programming for gifted learners? These are standards for creating and maintaining effective gifted programming in schools. At the very least, these gifted program standards should be implemented in addition
to the national educational standards. The NAGC standards include:
program administration and management,
curriculum and instruction,
socio-emotional guidance and counseling,
professional development, and
While national educational standards are probably a good idea for the general population, they should only be considered as minimal expectations. Students who are capable should not be held back by these proposals, but allowed and encouraged to move beyond them. Pairing the proposed national standards with the NAGC program standards is a good option for able students.
Maritime History for Gifted Kids
The study of maritime history is a great vehicle for weaving together an understanding of the history of ships, as well as an understanding of how inventions and discoveries enabled explorers to travel farther and farther from home. It also helps students understand the motivations for explorers to travel to different parts of the world, whether it was for political, economic, or personal reasons. There is excellent information on the Internet that will enable students and teachers to study this subject. Below is just a sampling:
The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia has created an Age of Exploration On-Line Curriculum Guide
. The curriculum guide, which is designed for grades 3-12, addresses maritime discovery from ancient times to Captain Cook's 1768 voyage to the South Pacific. The website includes visual images, text, and materials that can be downloaded or printed for transparencies, presentations, or reports. It also includes lesson plans, vocabulary, links to related websites, and guides to other reference materials.
The National Maritime Historical Society has created a site titled Sea History for Kids
. At this site, you will find a variety of informational pages and activities, including vessel types, the commerce of historical shipping, famous mariners, underwater archaeology, professions and occupations of the sea, the historical stories of kids who went to sea, games, and puzzles.
The BBC presents A History of Navigation
, charting the course of maritime navigation "from the days of rough reckoning to the ground-breaking technological advances of the late 1700s." An animated slide show is used to present the information.
Free Tutorial Videos on Math and Science
Salman Khan and the Khan Academy are back in the news, having recently being featured on NPR and PBS. At the Khan Academy website, there are more than 1,100 free instructional videos, each 10-20 minutes long, that range from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, biology, and finance. The videos cover concepts that, as a student, Sal felt were poorly taught through lectures and textbooks. Each video explains the concepts covered in the lesson in a comfortable, relaxed manner that reflects Sal's own easy understanding of math and doesn't compromise rigor or comprehensiveness. Sal also has included several hundred videos devoted to the SAT, GMAT, and other standardized test problems.
Since I first wrote about the Khan Academy back in December 2008, Sal decided to quit his day job and devote himself full-time to expanding his library of instructional videos. Eventually, he plans to add even more academic subjects to the website.
The videos at the Khan Academy website can be used by a wide variety of students, including:
students who need a bit more instruction to understand a concept,
those who want to learn beyond what is being taught in the classroom, and
students who are preparing for certain standardized tests such as AP, SAT, and GMAT.
The videos can also be used in a variety of venues, such as the classroom, home, and around the world. Those who live in areas where an advanced class is not available, or those who are homeschooled, would particularly benefit from viewing Sal's videos.
I highly recommend that you take a good look at the website. View some of the instructional videos yourself and take a look at some of the videos explaining more about Sal Khan and his plans for the Khan Academy. The website is a wonderful resource and it is free.
Sharpening Gifted Brains
The SharpBrains blog
is run by a market research firm that tracks new research into brain fitness and cognitive health. The website includes a number of articles and sections that may be of interest to parents and teachers of gifted kids.
Interesting articles from the website include:
Activities highlighted on the website include:
Brain Teasers. More than 50 brain teasers are divided into categories such as “attention,” “pattern recognition and planning,” and “visual illusions.” Many of the brain teasers are interactive and are accompanied by articles explaining the brain research that supports the activities.
Advocating for Your Gifted Child
The Duke Gifted Letter always contains informative articles. The current issue contains a useful article about how to advocate for your gifted child. The article, titled Administrators of Gifted Programs: Paying Attention to the "Man Behind the Curtain," by Rick Courtright, explores the ways in which you can successfully interact with your child's administrator of gifted programs. Remember that the administrator of gifted programs (AGP) could hold any one of several professional roles in a school system. The APG could be:
- the designated coordinator of gifted education at the central office,
- the superintendent or a principal,
- a lead teacher, or
- the gifted resource specialist in a school.
In the article, Courtright highlights two different types of advocacy, microadvocacy and macroadvocacy:
- Microadvocacy refers primarily to the work of individual parents who are attempting to bring about individual changes for their children. According to Courtright, "Microadvocacy involves seeking an alteration of attitudes, beliefs and practices of those who work most closely with one child: the teacher, guidance counselor, gifted resource teacher or specialist."
- Macroadvocacy refers to the work of parents, practitioners, and policy makers who are seeking to change the educational landscape for a large number of children. As Courtright notes, "Macroadvocacy involves the process of bringing change(s) that affect many students—the attitudes, practices, policies and resources at the district, state or national level."
You might decide to try microadvocacy when a teacher does not recognize your child’s high abilities and is not providing enough challenge. Courtright argues that, for a variety of reasons, it is always the best political strategy to begin with your child’s teacher. In the article, he lists several things to remember when working with your child's teacher.
Be sensitive to the fact that the teacher must share his or her time and attention with all of the students in the classroom, including those with disabilities and English language learners.
Offer compliments and let the the teacher know if you admire something that he or she has done inside the classroom.
Mention what you are willing to do as a parent in order to be supportive.
If your child is in the upper grades, consider including him or her in your discussions with the teacher. You may even wish to bring your child along when you meet with the teacher face-to-face.
Offer the teacher some specific strategies that you would like to see implemented, such as giving your child alternative assignments, compacted lessons, or a referral for additional screening and evaluation.
Before you meet with the teacher or with someone else at your child's school, research the school district's rules and regulations so that you can fully understand the district's policies.
Confine the discussion to your child only. Do not discuss other children.
Remember that the teacher is a busy professional. Treat him or her with respect and understand that the teacher may not be available to you at every moment. Schedule meetings ahead of time and plan for them accordingly so that you can use that time efficiently.
Macroadvocacy will be covered in the next issue of the Duke Gifted Letter
. To subscribe (free), click here
What Makes a Great Teacher—Not Just for the Gifted, but for All Students
The January/February 2010 issue of The Atlantic features a noteworthy article titled, What Makes a Great Teacher? Although the article does not focus on gifted education per se, it is still worth a close read. The article discusses specific attributes that excellent teachers with exceptional track records tend to display in the classroom. (It is important to note that these attributes are based on research that was conducted by the nonprofit organization, Teach for America, which advocates for teacher reform. It is also important to note that the group's research focuses solely on teachers who work in underperforming school districts where the primary goal in the general education classroom is to get students to perform at or above grade level.) The article outlines several specific recommendations that the organization makes for recruiting and hiring successful teachers, particularly in underserved communities.
For those of us in the gifted education community, the traits identified in the article may be ones that we should perhaps consider first before we consider any additional teacher characteristics that might be specific to gifted education. (See my previous blog entry titled, Training and Competencies of Teachers of the Gifted.)
Amanda Ripley, the author of The Atlantic article, writes that although parents worry about sending their children to the “right” schools, statistical research shows that the schools themselves do not matter as much as the quality of the individual teachers. Ripley notes: “Teacher quality tends to vary more within schools—even supposedly good schools—than among schools. But we have never identified excellent teachers in any reliable, objective way." Teach for America (a nonprofit organization that recruits college graduates to spend 2 years teaching in underperforming, high-poverty schools) has been working to change this. According to Ripley, the organization has spent more than a decade rigorously studying the educational outcomes of kids in underperforming school districts in an admirable attempt to explain "why some teachers can move those kids three grade levels ahead in one year," while others are unable to accomplish this.
By following students in underperforming school districts and analyzing the techniques and attributes of the school districts' teachers, the organization concluded that the most effective teachers in those school districts displayed five professional qualities. They:
- tended to set big goals for their students;
- were perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness;
- avidly recruited students and their families into the process;
- maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning;
- planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and
- worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls. (para. 26-27)
Teach for America has also carefully studied what to look for when hiring candidates for its program. Many of the assumptions that they held in the early years of the program about which candidates would make exceptionally effective teachers were found to be unreliable. However, three traits stood out as very important. Such traits included:
- A history of perseverance. (Recruiters at Teach for America believe that tenacious, goal-oriented individuals tend to "work harder and stay committed to their goals longer.")
- A positive, happy attitude. (As Ripley notes: "Teachers who scored high in 'life satisfaction'--reporting that they were very content with their lives--were 43 percent more likely to perform well in the classroom than their less-satisfied colleagues.")
- A record of achievement. (Ripley writes: "Recruits who have achieved big, measurable goals in college tend to do so as teachers. And the two best metrics of previous success tend to be grade-point average and 'leadership achievement'--a record of running something and showing tangible results.")
A master’s degree in education was found to have no impact on classroom effectiveness.
Friendship and Giftedness
There is a common misconception that gifted children experience more social and emotional troubles than average children. However, research shows that most gifted young people are well-adjusted and have a strong circle of friends. For a clearer understanding of the importance of gifted children's friendships, you will want to consult the following resources:
The Davidson Institute for Talent Development
The Institute's website offers numerous links to articles that expand on this theme, as well as information about a wide variety of books that discuss friendship and giftedness. Articles that may interest you include:
SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted)
The Duke Gifted Letter
Summer Programs for the Gifted: Time to Start Planning
Gifted students enroll in summer programs for a wide variety of reasons. They may choose to enroll in a summer program in order to:
spend valuable time with others who are at a similar intellectual level,
concentrate on a specific area of interest or ability,
enhance their academic study with additional enrichment opportunities,
burnish their credentials so that they have a better chance of gaining entrance to an elite college,
"try out” an academic area of interest, or
- earn early college credit.
is an online community for gifted youth that is sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. As of today, the website has listed more than 430 summer programs in all academic areas. These programs are located all over the United States, as well as the world. Most of the programs listed are designed for middle school and high school students, but some programs are designed for elementary school students, as well. Some programs are residential and some are commuter. Opportunities can be sorted by title or by organization. There is also a search engine built into the website that allows you to sort by grade level, acceptance requirements, and location. You also may want to check out Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page: Summer and Saturday Programs
for more summer enrichment ideas.
Selecting an appropriate summer program for your student can seem like a daunting task. NAGC
(National Association for Gifted Children) has several articles that you may find helpful as you sort through your list of choices.
Remember that many of these programs have strict deadlines for admission. Whatever your reason for enrolling your student in a summer program, be sure to start the process now before it is too late.
What Does It Mean to Be Gifted?
I am often asked the question, "What does it mean to be gifted?" and my standard answer usually is, "I have no idea." I realize that is a rather strange response from a gifted and talented specialist, but it is an honest answer. I will then expand my reply by stating that although there isn't a universal definition of giftedness, I still consider myself an advocate for students who have strong interests and/or strong abilities in one or more areas.
For a broad discussion of the many definitions of giftedness, you can consult previous blog entries on this website, including:
As you can expect in the evolving world of technology, a few of the links in these blog entries are no longer valid. Nevertheless, you will find a rich exploration of the various theories of giftedness.
We shouldn't get too hung up on the definition of gifted. No one is denying that students need educational paths that suit their strengths and interests (and some of these needs are quite high). However, we also shouldn't let the definition of a word cause stumbling blocks that hinder the process of those needs being met.
Interactive Opportunities for Gifted Math Students
If you are an advanced math student, teacher, math contest sponsor, homeschooling parent, or math mentor, you may be interested in today’s blog entry.
The Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) website was founded in 2003 to create interactive educational opportunities for avid math students. The website offers textbooks, online classes, and other online resources for the top middle and high school math students in the English-speaking world. AoPS is run by highly qualified specialists who have graduate degrees from some of the best schools in and out of country. Included among the website's many student users are winners of major national contests such as MATHCOUNTS, ARML, and the USA Mathematical Olympiad.
The bookstore on the AoPS website has several excellent features. For example, the bookstore offers online pre- and posttests for each of the texts in the AoPS introduction series. This feature helps students evaluate their current skill set, and choose the most appropriate text level as they move through the series. The bookstore also offers many excellent books for math contest preparation. In addition, the bookstore offers recommendations for math materials for children as young as 2 years old.
AoPS online classes are designed for high-performing math students in grades 6-12. In these classes, students learn from instructors who have won national mathematics competitions and who have trained others to do the same. Detailed information about each of the instructors is provided on the site. Online opportunities are also offered for math students who wish to interact with others of their own ability.
Other Online Resources
Additional resources include the following:
An online forum and individual blogs so that students can chat about math and other topics.
Free virtual classrooms called Math Jams that provide improvisational problem-solving sessions, reviews of major math contests, and informational sessions about prominent programs, college admissions, and other topics.
Alcumus, a (currently) free, customized learning experience that adjusts to student performance in order to deliver appropriate problems and lessons. Alcumus includes more than 1,100 problems with solutions, more than 60 video lessons, and detailed progress reports. As a student gets stronger, Alcumus automatically provides more challenging material. Conversely, if the student is having difficulty with a particular topic, Alcumus provides additional practice problems.
For the Win!, an online multiplayer math game, based on thousands of problems from MATHCOUNTS, AMC, and other sources.
A wiki that supports educational content that may be useful to students of mathematics, science, computer science, technology, and other problem-solving subjects.
A resource section that has additional articles, books, and excellent Internet links.
Educate Yourself about Gifted Education by Attending a Conference
One of the best ways to learn about gifted education is to attend a conference dedicated to the subject. These conferences offer sessions of interest for parents, teachers, beginners, and experts alike. They are also great places to meet like-minded people with similar interests.
Every month of the year, a gifted education conference is held somewhere in the United States. However, the size and nature of these conferences tend to vary widely. Some of the smaller conferences cater to strictly regional or state-specific interests, while many of the larger conferences cater to national, or even international, audiences. Some conferences simply cover the general subject of gifted education, while others cover very specific topics such as curriculum, advocacy, science, math, or social-emotional issues.
No matter how big the conference may be, however, you can almost always count on finding a vendor area full of books, magazines, and journals dedicated to gifted education, as well as educational games, toys, and kid-friendly computer programs. In addition, you can often find a plethora of information about programs, classes, and camps for gifted kids.
There are several ways to find out where and when to attend a gifted education conference. Probably the two most comprehensive lists can be found at:
So treat yourself to the experience of learning along with others who share your interest in gifted education. Plan to attend a conference this year and/or plan in advance to attend one next year. Better yet, make it a goal to attend at least one conference every year. You will walk away feeling stimulated and full of fresh, new ideas.
Is the Overscheduled Gifted Child Just a Myth?
For years, parents have been warned about the dangers of overscheduling their kids. Critics of overscheduling say that it leads to stress and burnout. But is that true for all young people?
Laura Vanderkam's recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, The Myth of the Overscheduled Child, argues that many kids like being challenged and busy. And, often, it's quite good for them. Like many of us, students are happiest when they throw themselves into meaningful projects such as practicing with a sports team to improve their game, or performing independent computer science research. They enjoy making progress toward their goals.
In USA Today's College All-Stars Gifted in Class and Beyond
, plenty of examples are provided of gifted college students who excel not only in academics, but also in outside interests. The college students profiled in the article keep busy with hobbies, sports, and community service, and they all juggle these activities efficiently.
Perhaps the success of a highly scheduled child is at least partially due to his or her ability to self-regulate. Laura Vanderkam notes in her USA Today
op-ed, The Secret of School Success
, that self-regulation is the ability to stop, think, make a plan, and control one’s impulses. These skills are necessary for success in school and in life. They can also help a young person manage a busy existence. After all, the ability to control one’s impulses is critical for choosing constructive projects over nonconstructive activities. The capacity to problem solve is also essential to productively organizing those activities.
However, certain widespread practices of modern parenting don't help older children learn to master themselves. We hate to see children make mistakes or, worse, fail, and so rather than challenge children and teens to self-regulate, parents often choose to make decisions themselves and “rescue” young people from their mistakes. Parents will often "help" their kids with science fair projects, and check their homework before it's turned in. Rather than allow kids to plan their own course of study, they will mark kids' tests on their calendars. When a child forgets her homework at home, well-meaning moms and dads will race to school with the forgotten assignments, rather than take the opportunity to coach the child to solve her own problems. All of these common actions have positive immediate outcomes, but they undermine kids' self-regulation skills.
Perhaps by improving self-regulation in children, we will not need to worry about their overscheduled lives. Instead, we can allow young people to fit a variety of challenging academic, community, and personal interests into tight schedules, and feel confident that our kids understand how to do this in a positive, satisfying manner.
Legacy Book Awards for Gifted
I’m pleased to let you know that my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook
, has received a 2009 Legacy Book Award
in the category of Parents/Family. The award honors “outstanding books published in the United States that have long-term potential for positively influencing the lives of gifted children and/or youth and contribute to the understanding, well-being, education, and success of students with gifts and/or talents.”
Raising a Gifted Child is a compilation of the first 3 ½ years of this blog, woven together with real stories about real kids and parents. It is packed with resources that are useful for not only students and parents, but also for teachers. The book takes a positive approach to education, empowering those who are interested in helping kids with strong abilities and strong interests. As one reviewer stated, “Chapter Seven, ‘Specific Subjects’ is full of many suggestions and links for parents and children to explore. Various programs, competitions, print resources and clubs are mentioned, and all are categorized by subject and described by the author. This section in itself is a good reason to buy this book.”
Prufrock Press is to be congratulated for its dedication to gifted education through the many excellent books and periodicals that it publishes and the resources that it offers on its website.
Helping Gifted Students Analyze Literature
The website Guidelines for Reading and Analyzing Literature was compiled by Dr. Tina L. Hanlon, associate professor of English at Ferrum College in Virginia. Although the guidelines were originally assembled for college students, they are equally applicable to gifted high school students and, with some minor adjustments, also can be used by gifted youngsters in middle school and upper elementary school.
The higher level thinking skills presented on the website provide an excellent model for teachers to use with almost any piece of literature. The guidelines also are helpful for parents who want to have in-depth book discussions with their kids. And homeschoolers: I know that you too will appreciate the useful information provided on this site. Hanlon breaks down the process of reading and analyzing literature into five steps:
Types of Literature
Evaluation and Review
I like this particular website because the information, while extensive, is presented in a form that is very easy to scan quickly. It also contains universal ideas that can be used immediately.
Social Networking and Gifted Education
Although social networks on the Internet started out with connecting friends for purely social reasons, they have since grown into valuable networking tools for adults. Now, parents, teachers, and other professionals interested in the field of gifted education can easily connect with one another over the Internet.
Twitter, Facebook, and online message forums seem to have the most to offer gifted education right now. Educators post information about curriculum, classroom techniques, and upcoming conferences, while parents post interesting family activities, places to visit, and useful links. Questions are often posed through online forums, and answers from online users around the country, or even world, are quickly offered.
You may want to consider becoming part of the following discussion forums, as well:
Social/Emotional Activities for the Gifted
What a surprise! For this week’s blog, I chose the topic of social/emotional activities for the gifted. I like to provide free information to readers, and I thought that it would be easy to find material about this topic to post on the blog. However, it wasn’t easy at all!
There is a lot of information available about why gifted kids may need support, and there are also basic guidelines for setting up support groups. In addition, there are several books available on the subject, but these books can be costly.
When it comes to finding actual, hands-on strategies that a parent or teacher can use with gifted kids, it can be very difficult. My guess is that there are readers out there who have developed their own successful strategies for working with gifted kids. I invite you to share those ideas by adding a comment to this blog entry. There is obviously a strong need for your suggestions. Meanwhile, below are a few links that I did find.
The following links can be used as jumping off points for your own discussions about issues that gifted students may struggle with over time. Frequently, young people may not be able to attach names to some of their issues, and they may not realize that others wrestle with the same concerns. Don’t hesitate to modify the information provided below to suit your group of students.
If you are interested in actually purchasing books, here are a few resources:
- Free Spirit Publishing specializes in social and emotional issues and strategies.
- Prufrock Press also has books on the subject. Search using the words “social emotional” for a list of possibilities.
- SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) lists recommended books under the link to “Articles and Resources.”
Helping Gifted Students Find Their Passions
Passion drives an individual and creates self-motivation. Some students easily develop strong interests that motivate them. However, for many others, discovering their passion is not always so simple.
How can we, as adults, help these kids uncover their desire to learn? I suggest that this can be accomplished in two ways: first, by exposing kids to a wide range of subjects, interests, and experiences, and second, by allowing kids to observe first-hand another person’s excitement for a topic.
Parents and teachers may assume that a student's passion must be academically driven in order to be important. However, this is not true. A student's profound interest in just about any socially acceptable area can be very significant. For example, when a student is driven by an extracurricular passion, they will often find reasons to work harder on academic areas that support that interest.
Eleven-year-old Tyler Befus found his passion in fly fishing. (Listen to this interview to get a sense of Tyler’s intensity, and his ability to articulate his passion.) Fly fishing led Tyler to write two books about the subject, develop his marketing skills, and practice public speaking at a very young age. It also motivated him to study entomology, and master the fine art of fly-tying. In addition, Tyler developed skills through fly fishing that would serve him well throughout his life, such as the ability to organize information and see patterns, as well as the ability to persist in the pursuit of his goals and overcome obstacles. Tyler’s father exposed him to fly fishing at a very early age, and, luckily for Tyler, one of the first interest areas that he was exposed to was one that stuck. Most people need to be exposed to a large variety of topics before they latch on to one that suits them.
Adults should expose kids to a wide variety of experiences, and realize that youngsters may develop interests that are quite different from those enjoyed by the rest of the family. It is also important that adults supplement kids' academic pursuits by introducing them to different types of music, dance, theater, film, sports, hobbies, and people. After all, if a student's exposure to different experiences is limited, then how can they be expected to develop an interest in something suited to their personality?
Once your kid does find a topic that she wants to pursue, support their interest by increasing their exposure to that subject through books, extracurricular clubs, information on the Internet, supplemental classes, or perhaps summer camps devoted to that interest. You may also want to introduce your kid to mentors that have excelled in their area of interest.
Don’t be upset if your kid seems passionate about one topic, and then suddenly wants to move on to something else. This is a time for experimentation, and it may take a while for them to find a passion that sticks. After all, even you may find that your interests wax and wane at different periods of your life.
Free Gifted Webinars on Wednesdays (WOW) from NAGC
Beginning August 26, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)
will offer Webinars
on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month (plus a monthly “Parent Night”). These Webinars on Wednesdays (WOW)
will be free through 2009! This is a fantastic opportunity to get high-quality, professional development without leaving your home or office. Sessions will be broadcast over the Internet with the ability to listen, view slides, access handouts, and pose questions. Presenters will be experts in the field who will share practical advice, as well as updates on the latest issues in gifted education.
The Webinars are designed for classroom teachers, counselors, graduate students, parents, G/T coordinators, and administrators. Although WOW is free through 2009, you must register, as a limited number of “seats” are available for each session.
Registration for each session opens about 2 weeks before the event and closes when capacity is reached. You will want to register
as soon as possible for each session as they are certain to fill up quickly. As you will see, the first session is already at capacity.
Here is a list of upcoming topics.
Date & Time
7 p.m. EST
Classroom Indicators of Giftedness with Mary Slade, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Moderator: Nancy Green
Registration Is Closed - Capacity Reached
12 p.m. EST
Differentiation Overview with Jennifer Beasley, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
7 p.m. EST
Back to School. Back to Gifted with Robin Schader, NAGC Parent Resource Advisor
7 p.m. EST
Things Administrators Should Know about Gifted Education with Joyce VanTassel-Baska, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA
12 p. m. EST
Pre Assessment: What Are the Tools?
7 p.m. EST
Examining the Myths and Truths of Gifted Education
Training and Competencies of Teachers of the Gifted
In the Duke Gifted Letter article, Teaching Gifted Children: National Guidelines and State Requirements, Sarah Boone points out the following: “Since no national degree or certification requirements for gifted educators exist, all policy and funding mandates come from the state and local levels. As a result, requirements for teacher training and ongoing professional development vary widely from state to state and in many cases from district to district within a given state.”
Some teachers are naturals when it comes to teaching gifted students, intuitively understanding the individual needs of this group. Much more often, special training is required for teachers to understand how these kids think and learn, what methods and materials are available to use with them, and how to work positively with their parents. Unfortunately, many gifted programs employ teachers who have no training in gifted education.
Do you know the qualifications of the person who teaches your gifted child? Do you know where your state stands on gifted education policies?
Gifted education policies are determined by states and often individual districts. Some states or districts have specific requirements for educators to fulfill before they are allowed to teach gifted students, but most do not.
knowledge of the origins and nature of high levels of intelligence, including creative expressions of intelligence;
knowledge and understanding of the cognitive, social, and emotional characteristics, needs, and potential problems experienced by gifted and talented students;
knowledge of advanced content and ideas;
ability to develop a differentiated curriculum appropriate to meeting the unique intellectual and emotional needs and interests of gifted and talented students; and
ability to create an environment in which gifted and talented students feel challenged and safe to explore and express their uniqueness.
While these competencies are very important, they also are vague.
NAGC also has developed Pre-K–Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards and NAGC-CEC (NCATE) has developed Teacher Preparation Standards. These sets of standards offer guidelines for states, districts, and universities to provide minimal and exemplary preparation of teachers and of programs to meet the needs of gifted students.
For more information on your state's standards regarding gifted education click here.
Music Appreciation for the Gifted
A History of African American Music
Here you can trace the musical contributions of African Americans from the time of slavery to today’s popular styles. An interactive timeline
organized by year and genre includes notable Carnegie Hall performances. Photos and historical information are partnered with streaming audio.
This section was designed to teach kids, ages 6–12 about sound, music notation, text, and instruments in a fun, interactive exploration. Teacher resources are included along with the following adventures:
- “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Benjamin Britten” where students join Violet as she embarks on an instrument safari, guided by her uncle Ollie, collecting all the instruments of the orchestra.
- “Carnegie Hall Animated History” hosted by Gino the cat who leads an adventure through Carnegie Hall from its founding in 1891 to the present day. It includes a game featuring important figures from this landmark music venue's past.
- “Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9” teaches kids about the structure of the symphony as well as the instruments that are played. This is done with help from Dvořák himself via excerpts from his letters and instructive comments about his life. Engaging activities are also included.
This section is suited for more-advanced learners, exploring issues of technique, interpretation, and composition.
- Leon Fleisher's master classes focus on technique, interpretation, and performance in the four late Schubert piano sonatas. This section will be best understood by advanced piano students.
- “The Emerson String Quartet: The Bartók Quartets, A Guide for Performers and Music Lovers” is intended for performers who are preparing these pieces as well as listeners and concertgoers who wish to learn more about the Bartók quartets and about the many musical decisions that must be made in order to perform these demanding works. This section includes video footage, written commentary, and an animated score. Much of the video was taken during a workshop given by Emerson members in 2003 and has been supplemented with additional video of Emerson members and others speaking about the quartets.
In addition to these wonderfully interactive segments, the Sound Insights
section of the Carnegie Hall Web site has a wealth of musical information. Additional sections include video, audio, and written material about composers, artists, and other music personalities.
David Shenk's Giftedness Controversy
David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, to be released next year, has created a blog of the same title for The Atlantic magazine. The Genius in All of Us focuses on initiating and perpetuating a research-based conversation about the nature of giftedness and the institutional responses that are filtered through gifted education. Many will find Shenk’s research and resulting conclusions controversial. Some will find him threatening to their view of giftedness; others will find his views heartening. But this controversy is what makes him interesting, creating potential for field-enhancing questioning and discussion.
Shenk hopes to post blog entries several times a week and is off to a good start with the following titles:
Some of the broad areas he plans to cover in the future include:
- How brains work
- Where child prodigies come from
- What nature/nurture really means
- The creative process and work habits of high achievers
- The roles of parents, schools, culture, and technology
I am curious to see where Shenk goes with all of his ideas—if he makes convincing arguments for his view of intelligence, what implications this will have for future research in gifted education, and what suggestions he will make for parents and educators.
Helping Gifted Kids Become Resilient
We all know people who have been through a lot but are able to bounce back—emotionally strong, physically healthy, happy, and able to achieve. We also know individuals who appear to have every advantage but fall apart at the first sign of trouble. The difference is resilience. Resilient people are able to adapt, despite risk and adversity.
When things happen unexpectedly or take a wrong turn, gifted children are just as susceptible to the intense vulnerability that accompanies struggle and tragedy whether it results from something beyond their control or is simply caused by errors in judgment. Given the right tools, young people can gain control over how they react to situations. Children can learn to be more resilient by becoming more optimistic in response to difficulty.
"Seven Parenting Solutions to Help Kids Rebound from Mistakes," an article in Michele Borba's blog, Reality Check
, offers some great advice for parents (teachers, these are good techniques for the classroom as well). Using colorful anecdotes, Borba lists concrete ways to teach kids to bounce back from difficult situations, see mistakes as learning opportunities, and keep trying. In addition to teaching techniques, she suggests that teachers and parents use optomistic language when addressing students in a vulnerable state. Visit her web site
to read the detail behind each of the following suggestions:
Be an example of bouncing back;
Set realistic expectations;
Start a “bounce back!” motto;
Create a “Stick to It” award;
Help children see mistakes as opportunities;
Respond to errors noncritically; and
Offer support only when needed.
Praising effort rather than performance;
Reading hopeful, optimistic stories with resilient characters, discussing the challenges the characters face, and the choices they make;
Helping the child brainstorm many possible reasons for a situation to prevent the development of black-or-white thinking; and
Doing anything and everything possible to enhance the child’s relationships with caring adults.
Modeling resiliency for young people;
Praising effort and perseverance more than accomplishment;
Encouraging risk-taking and boldness; and
Allowing kids to fail, but being ever ready with unconditional emotional support, context (failure is one of the best ways to learn), and redirection toward the future.
News Sites for Gifted Kids
Kristin Hokanson (elementary teacher turned high school tech coach) maintains The Connected Classroom Web site. Hokanson understands the growing importance of technology in our lives and urges teachers and parents to incorporate technology into their children’s learning experiences. Connected Classroom contains many interesting sections. Today, I’d like to tell you about News Sites for Kids.
News Sites for Kids offers a comprehensive list of links to news that kids can understand. Many of these links also offer lesson plans or teaching ideas such as the following listed on The New York Times Learning Connection:
In the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch tells Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." And the Buddha is supposed to have said, "You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger." Choose one of these quotations or find another expression about human nature by searching an archive of quotations, such as About.com's Quotations page or Bartleby.com. Then read The New York Times for a week, looking for articles that support (or refute) the expression you chose. Good starting places are the Opinion, N.Y./Region and U.S./National sections. Then write an essay that explains the degree to which the expression seems to be true, backed by the examples you found.
As always, teachers should check sites out first to make certain they are appropriate for the learning levels of their students.
Links for the younger set include:
For upper elementary and older:
Hokanson has including additional links to visual sites using world maps to organize the day's headlines, world newspapers, commercial newsites, and sites that help teachers develop lesson plans about current events and the nature of journalism.
Free Online Mathematics Instruction for Gifted Students
Mathematics education in the United States is often criticized as ranking behind that of other countries. For a sampling of such evidence, you can review a study conducted by the American Institutes for Research
or highlights from TIMSS 2007
Online mathematics learning offers one possible solution for advancing math abilities in highly engaged and self-motivated students. Global Education is an organization that endeavors to raise the proficiency level of capable students so that they will be prepared for the world’s elite universities. The main goal of the program is not to educate mathematicians but to help students acquire as much useful analytical ability as possible to be successful in the future. Though Global Education was established in 2003, it employs proven teaching methods developed to support math education in the 1960s.
Predicated on the premise that mathematically gifted students (from about Grade 6) should be allowed to pursue math education outside the strictures of a traditional classroom setting, Global Education presents rich content in an interactive forum that naturally facilitates individual enrichment. Four to five 50-minute sessions weekly supplant the traditional text book, challenging gifted students to acquire additional math skill by relying upon previous knowledge and their own innate abilities.
Using live video and audio, the program was developed by and is taught by many of the foremost mathematics experts in the world, including contributors from the Ivy League, Russia and Central and Eastern Europe. All of the teachers are able to instruct in English.
Here’s the part that may really catch your attention: In an effort to promote this program, no tuition will be charged through the summer of 2010. Please be aware that specific, upper-end hardware is required for participation.
If you have a very capable student, you may want to look at the Global Education Web site and contact them for more information.
Wiki on Great Books for Gifted Kids
Here’s a new idea—a wiki hosting literature and related lesson plans that focus on both intellectual and emotional development in gifted kids. Newly created by Lynette Breedlove, GTKidsBooks provides a place for educators and parents to recommend and share books with gifted children. Breedlove anticipates the wiki to include great lesson plans posted by teachers using the books suggested.
You can join the wiki and contribute. To be included, a book must:
- feature a character who exhibits gifted and talented characteristics
- deal with some issue that gifted children often face
A chart summarizes book titles categorizing them as adult or young-adult novels, chapter books, picture books, or self-help. At present detailed information for specific books is limited, however, as the wiki is fleshed out, book data will possess rather comprehensive detail including recommended ages, themes related to giftedness, and linked lesson plans.
As always, wikis grow through the participation of followers, so join GTKidsBooks and contribute to the process. With your help this could become a great resource.
Notes That Apply to the Gifted from The Last Lecture
When I read a book that has special meaning for me, I often write down quotes that I feel are important. Such was true with The Last Lecture
by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow. Pausch was a very successful professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University
. When he wrote the book, he knew he would die in a matter of months. He wanted to leave something for his young children that would show them who he was and teach the things that he would not be there to teach them as they grew up. The book is filled with wonderful stories of the author’s childhood and sprinkled with bits of wisdom that he gleaned over the years. While Pausch was an accomplished computer scientist, the things he says about parenting and education are very applicable to the gifted community. Some of my favorite quotes are…
We didn’t buy much. But we thought about everything. That’s because my dad had this infectious inquisitiveness about current events, history, our lives. In fact, growing up, I thought there were two types of families:
1. Those who need a dictionary to get through dinner.
2. Those who don’t.
We were No. 1… “If you have a question,” my folks would say, “then find the answer.”
The instinct in our house was never to sit around like slobs and wonder. We knew a better way: Open the encyclopedia. Open the dictionary. Open your mind. (p. 22)
All my life, she (his mother) saw it as part of her mission to keep my cockiness in check. I’m grateful for that now. Even these days, if someone asks her what I was like as a kid, she describes me as “alert, but not terribly precocious.” We now live in an age when parents praise every child as a genius. And here’s my mother, figuring “alert” ought to suffice as a compliment. (p. 23)
Coach Graham worked in a no-coddling zone. Self-esteem? He knew there was really only one way to teach kids how to develop it: You give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process. (p. 37)
Getting people to welcome feedback was the hardest thing I ever had to do as an educator…It saddens me that so many parents and educators have given up on this. When they talk of building self-esteem, they often resort to empty flattery rather than character-building honesty. I’ve heard so many people talk of a downward spiral in our educational system, and I think one key factor is that there is too much stroking and too little real feedback. (p. 113)
There are no better role models than people like Jackie Robinson and Sandy Blatt. The message in their stories is this: Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier. (p. 139)
This is an excellent book to read with older kids, perhaps starting at upper elementary school through high school. Take a look at The Last Lecture Web site
, click on Online Extras and then The Last Lecture Educator’s Guide for some excellent discussion questions and writing ideas.
Science Friday for Gifted Kids
Every Friday I look forward to listening to Ira Flatow’s program, Science Friday, on NPR. Each week, the program focuses on interesting science topics in the news and provides an educated, balanced discussion of the issues at hand. Panels of expert guests join Flatow, himself a veteran science journalist, to discuss these topics and to answer listener questions during the call-in portion of the program.
Science Friday Kids’ Connection is an educational resource based on Flatow’s Program. A database created in partnership with McREL (the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning in Denver, Colorado), Kids’ Connection incorporates a variety of programs, available via podcast or streaming, that satisfy benchmarks selected from national science standards for grades 6-8. The database utilizes these standards along with Science Friday program content to optimize search results, enabling students, parents, and teachers to locate programs that best address specific subjects. For example, if you choose the topic “Characteristics of the Earth System,” three benchmarks pop up. The resource page for Benchmark 1—Knows that the Earth is comprised of layers including a core, mantle, lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere—links to Science Friday’s program on “Preparing for Natural Disaster.” In addition, these benchmarks are supplemented by numerous (notice that I underlined “numerous”) linked curriculum activities.
Kids’ Connection is an excellent resource for teachers, parents who want to learn with their children, homeschoolers, and other kids who wish to explore topics in-depth. Teachers can use this resource to extend or differentiate their curriculum, providing an engaging alternative for students who have already mastered the fundamentals. These students, along with children exploring the site from home, will be able to participate in the further study of a subject of interest while being introduced to new topics.
Parents—if you have a child who loves science and is not challenged in school science classes, I encourage you to spend some time with your son or daughter and this resource during the summer. If it works for you, suggest it as an alternative for independent study in the fall. This is a Web site well worth exploring.
Summer Apprenticeship Program for Gifted Students
The Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA) offers three- and four-week summer apprenticeship programs for gifted high school students. Each year, the program places high school freshmen, sophmores and juniors in challenging, hands-on learning experiences provided by an esteemed group of participating mentors in various professions. This year's participants are located at several sites in Southern California and include the Los Angeles Superior Court, Art Center College of Design, and the Japanese American National Museum.
The programs run from July 12 through August 8. During this time, apprentices spend weekdays working with their mentors on pre-arranged projects. At the end of the program, they will present their work to fellow participants and other interested parties. Apprentices live on the Occidental College campus and IEA staff transport the students to and from apprentice locations. In addition, IEA will provide enriching evening and weekend activities, as well as other general opportunites for apprentices to socialize with their intellectual peers. Past program participants rave about their experiences and many have gone on to attend prestigious universities.
The original application deadline for this program has past, but there are still some spaces available. Call 626-403-8900 if you are interested in applying. IEA will continue to accept applications until all spots are full.
Specific information on the program, including apprenticeship sites and participating mentors can be found here. Financial aid is available.
This truly sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I urge you to explore this program.
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.
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.
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?
Marketing Gifted Education
Educators and parents often become frustrated in their efforts to promote gifted education. Perhaps it’s time for us to learn some lessons from the corporate world about promoting our field more effectively.
Deborah Mersino has combined nearly 20 years of national marketing communications experience with her passion for gifted education to form Ingeniosus. As part of her work, she has started a blog
that contains lots of good ideas for incorporating business sensibilities into the educational realm—specifically in the area of gifted education. Using concrete examples, Mersino cites ways in which school communities unconsciously shut parents out. She is sympathetic to the concerns of both parents and teachers and her goal is to form strong partnerships between the two groups. Among her ideas for creating good, efficient, and informative communication is the use today’s technology.
Mersino’s goal is to create situations in which parents and teachers listen to one another, are both empathetic and pragmatic, and show respect. She focuses on examples, trends, and tactics that help bolster impact and strategies that help alleviate tensions.
Too often, teachers develop wonderful curricula for working with very bright kids, but lack skills to educate parents about classroom activities. When teachers are able to bring parents on board with gifted/talented programs, mothers and fathers will volunteer, spread the word, rally around, and become partners in education.
Teachers and district coordinators should read this blog on a regular basis for innovative ideas to keep parents informed about gifted education in the schools. There is a link at the blog that will allow you to subscribe via RSS feed or you can subscribe directly by emailing Deborah.
Gifted Students and the Role of Exceptional Teachers
Recently there was an article in the National Post
(a Canadian newspaper) that discussed the research of Larisa Shavinina, a gifted education expert from the Université du Québec en Outanouais. Shavinina examined the backgrounds of more than 50 science Nobel laureates between 1981-2005 through personal interviews, autobiographies, and public documents. She found that they all had at least one teacher who was very important to them and acted as a role model. These formative teachers were enthusiastic, inspiring, and used “a playful spirit” that sparked a passion for science.
Many of the Nobel Prize winners were not considered gifted when they were young. They were often normal or sometimes underachievers. Some were twice exceptional (gifted with learning disabilities).
Professor Shavinina eventually hopes to include in her study science laureates from 1901-2006. She plans to discover when each winner’s first exceptional scientific talent was identified, the advantages and disadvantages of different educational approaches, and the factors that influenced their successes.
As parents, we need to figure out how to find inspiring teachers. In addition to classroom teachers, mentors can also play a significant role in inspiring students. You will find blog entries on mentors by using the search function in the right column on this page.
Meteorology for Gifted Students
Do you have a student who is interested in the weather? Weather affects our lives every day, yet it is a subject that few of us understand in-depth.
Meteorology and climatology are sciences that deal with the atmosphere and its phenomena. In addition to predicting the weather, scientists attempt to identify and interpret climate trends, understand past weather, and analyze today’s weather.
Meteorological research is applied in air-pollution control, agriculture, forestry, air and sea transportation, and defense. Meteorologists might analyze or develop numerical models, monitor rainfall and issue river stage warnings, or fly in aircraft investigating hurricanes.
Atmospheric Research Centers
Local, State, and National Weather Services
Manufacturers of Meteorological Instruments
Private Consulting Firms
Radio and TV stations
Satellite Research Centers
If you want to teach about various aspects of weather, or if you have a student who is interested in the subject, there are some great resources available on the Internet.
This is an excellent science/math Web site for academically talented youth. Search on “Weather” to find articles, Internet links, contests, book reviews, reports, interviews, and information about educational expeditions.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
In the upper right quadrant of this Web site, you will see a couple of rows of rectangular boxes, including Weather, Satellites, Oceans, Climate, Coasts, and Research.
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
Check out the section “Students and Educators,” which contains many good informational resources; classes and quizzes (many of them free); career information; a data base of colleges and universities; digital libraries; teaching/learning modules; webcasts; podcasts; and animations.
Free Curriculum on Investigating Systems
In past blog entries, I have talked about the importance of teaching universal themes and using essential questions. (Use Search Entries button on the right to find and read these previous entries.) I continue that discussion here.
Marion Brady who, over the span of his career, has been a teacher, administrator, and author, is a person with strong ideas about what our educational system should look like. He feels that traditional curriculum is fragmented, emphasizing the need to "cover the material," without providing an umbrella under which students can understand and apply their learning. Brady offers this umbrella through his curriculum titled, Investigating Systems
In the spirit of the current movement to offer open sourceware (free classroom materials online), the author provides IS for download. (You do have to register, listing personal identification information, to be able to download the curriculum.)
To give you an idea of the content of the curriculum, I am including its Table of Contents.
Organizing Information (Investigating Patterns, Investigating Relationships, Analytical Categories)
Analyzing Systems (Systems with Human Components)
Major Human Systems: Societies
Investigations of Structure
Investigations of Environment
Investigations of Patterns of Action
Investigations of Shared Ideas
The Dynamics of Change
Change and Stress
Constructing New Knowledge
In addition to the free curriculum, there is also a place for online comments and discussions. Rather than viewing this curriculum as fully finished, Brady sees it as a work in progress; therefore, input from those who use the material is valued.
Whether you are a teacher or a parent, whether or not you choose to use the curriculum in its entirety, you will find that this curriculum will help you better understand the concepts of universal themes and essential questions and how to use these in the education of students at home and at school.
Upcoming Webinar on Developing a Gifted Program
Coming up next week is an online seminar that will target program leaders in gifted education—preschool through grade 12. Check it out and see if it is something in which your school/district should participate. It will take place on March 26 from 4:00-5:45 p.m. Eastern Time.
What are the national standards for preparation of teachers of the gifted?
What is the implication of accreditation standards in teacher preparation programs for Pre K – 12 teachers, schools, and districts?
At the end of the session, participants will be able to
Describe the national gifted education standards.
Identify ways that school districts can use the standards.
Plan specific activities for implementing the standards in professional development.
The presenters are tops in the field: Susan Johnsen, Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, Diana Montgomery, and Margie Kitano.
To participate, one only needs a speakerphone, a computer, and a high-speed Internet connection. Administrators can arrange for as many individuals as they would like to participate for one low price. Teachers and educators can earn .2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).
The sponsor of the online seminar is the Council for Exceptional Children
(CEC), which is “dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents.”
Questioning Techniques for the Gifted
As parents and teachers, we want to stimulate the thinking of gifted kids by posing open questions and teaching students how to create their own open questions. A closed question is one that can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase (i.e., "How old are you?" or "Where do you live?" or any question that can be answered with either "yes" or "no"). An open question, however, requires a longer, more involved response and does not have one correct answer; instead, it causes the respondent to think and reflect.
There are several resources available for teachers to create open questions in the classroom. Parents can use these same resources to guide interesting conversations with their children and promote good problem-solving skills.
Open questioning techniques include essential questions and critical thinking questions.
This Web site lists seven key components that essential questions have in common.
Examples of essential questions include:
- What are the ramifications of cloning?
- What is intelligence?
- Are we really free?
- Where does perception end and reality begin?
- Does history really repeat itself?
- Are there any absolutes?
- Are there other more pressing issues that deserve consideration before space exploration?
- What was the greatest invention of the 20th Century?
Although the information provided at this site is designed for college students, most gifted students are fully capable of using the techniques. I especially like the generic questioning stems, such as:
- What are the implications of …?
- How does … tie in with what we have learned before?
- Do you agree or disagree with this statement? What evidence is there to support your answer?
There are also very good suggestions for using critical thinking in student writing. The act of writing requires students to focus and clarify their thoughts before putting them down on paper.
Questioning in the Classroom
Although this Web site was developed specifically to identify questions to be asked in science or math, the concepts can easily be transferred to many other subjects. Questions are divided into four groups: direct information, relational, divergent, and evaluation. Questions are also posed to reflect critical thinking.
What can you change to try to make ____ work/happen?
Where have you seen something like this before?
How can you use what you’ve learned?
The form at this Web site can be used to generate essential questions to be used in class.
The Evolving Definition of Giftedness
The definition of giftedness has always been controversial. In recent years, authorities have continued to explore the meaning of the word.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests giftedness is not static. Instead, gifted behaviors can appear at different points in one’s life, and once in evidence may or may not continue. Rather than thinking about whether a student is “gifted” or not, we should focus on subject-specific programming options that meet advanced learning needs. The more options that are available to support gifted development, the greater the chances that child's learning needs will be met.
Some individuals may have pre-dispositions towards high abilities, which can be nurtured through the environment. In addition to nurturing these pre-dispositions, we also need to foster gifted-level development more broadly in more diverse learners. Both agendas are essential, and we shouldn’t choose one or the other.
Giftedness is developed in three stages:
- Helping students to fall in love with the topic or area
- Providing advanced skills and knowledge of the topic or area and sharing the values associated with it
- Coaching to help refine individual voice and contribution
There is much research that should still be done as we try to understand the definition of giftedness. We need to ask:
- How and why do some young children teach themselves to read?
- How does a prodigy's brain develop?
- What happens when a young person has intense instruction or when a strong ability is ignored?
There should be also be more longitudinal studies of talent development in specific domains and intervention studies of effective instruction and programming in each of those domains.
The Development of Giftedness and Talent Across the Life Span discusses important variables that affect functioning, including:
- ethnic minority status and how it can be both an advantage and disadvantage in talent development.
- the role of social skills in successful expression of talent.
Summer Arts Programs for Talented High School Students
Do you have a talented high school student who would like to pursue a possible career in the arts? There are a variety of summer programs that are worth considering. Some of these schools also offer programs during the school year. The following is only a sampling of what is available. To find more, use an Internet search engine or talk with a local high school art teacher or counselor.
The emphasis of this program is drawing, painting, and sculpture.
Classes include Introduction to Architecture and Art as Experience.
This program offers four weeks of exploration, discovery, and hard work designed to unleash creative power. Talented high school students receive intensive training from professionals in music, theatre, video and film, visual arts, dance, creative writing, and animation.
More than 2,500 of the world's most talented and motivated young people attend this camp each summer. They learn and perform with peers and educators. Areas of focus include creative writing, dance, motion picture arts, music, theatre, and visual arts.
Here, students expand their creative talents and develop a strong portfolio for college admission while receiving college credit. Students study art, design, and writing.
New York City
This program is designed for high school students who want to enhance their creative skills, learn more about a particular field of art, or develop a portfolio. Course offerings include animation, filmmaking, screenwriting, cartooning, painting and drawing, sculpture, printmaking, graphic design, and photography.
Webinar on Whole Grade Acceleration for Gifted Students
Whole grade acceleration, or grade skipping, is recognized in the field of gifted education as one of the most successful ways to address the needs of students who are advanced in their abilities. However, it is not the answer for all gifted kids. The Iowa Acceleration Scale: A Guide for Whole-Grade Acceleration K-8
(IAS) is a tool to help parents, teachers, and administrators determine if grade acceleration is appropriate for a particular student. The third edition of this instrument has just been released. Training for its use will be offered via the Internet. Here is the information you will need to participate.
Date of Webinar: Saturday, February 21, 2009
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (U.S. Central Standard Time)
Cost: $120 (includes the IAS 3rd Edition Manual)
Participation is limited to the first 50 computer registrations. (One computer per registration, but you may have multiple participants viewing that computer.)
high-speed Internet access and speakers connected to your computer. To ensure that you have the necessary computer capacity, click here.
Required Materials: IAS 3rd Edition, available for purchase at a reduced rate from the Belin-Blank Center.
Instructors: Drs. Susan Assouline, Nicholas Colangelo, Clar Baldus, and Laurie Croft.
Training Format: Lecture/Presentation, case studies via stream video, and opportunities for Q&A during the training.
One-semester-hour of credit; multi-media format from February 21 to March 20. Cost to participant: $180 (the Belin-Blank Center is providing participants a $181 scholarship that will cover the remainder of the graduate tuition)
. Contact Laurie Croft
with questions about the credit option or to get a copy of the credit registration form. IAS training is required to participate in the credit option.
Cartooning and Animation for Gifted Kids Revisited
Cartooning and animation are great outlets for those who have visual-spatial strengths. They also involve problem-solving skills, especially once one enters the realm of political cartoons or storyboards. There are many jobs available in this field for talented individuals, including film, advertising, video game design, print media, and instructional design.
My June 20, 2008 post on Cartooning and Animation for Gifted Kids
has been very popular. Because of this interest, I am writing another blog on the topic with more resources. Here are some good Web sites, arranged in alphabetical order.
Contains all kinds of information on careers in the fields of animation and cartooning.
Offers information and advice on careers in animation.
Created for older, more mature students, this site offers lessons in political cartooning.
The best part of this Web site is the section on free classroom handouts.
Includes almost 300 quick tips for drawing cartoon characters and objects.
Written by Chris Browne, who creates the comic strip Hagar the Horrible. He offers advice on how to become a cartoonist.
Offers regularly updated cartoon drawing lessons.
Lists numerous drawing lessons, arranged alphabetically.
Teaching Gifted Students to Analyze Literature
Whether you are a parent or a teacher, there are some great resources to help you encourage students to think analytically about the books they read.
From University of Connecticut’s Schoolwide Enrichment Model Reading program, comes Using the SEM-R Bookmarks
. I like the suggestions provided at this Web site because they explain how adults can model the thinking they want to develop in children. For example:
“How would the problem change if the story took place elsewhere?
The teacher could say, ‘I’ll show you how I might answer that question. First I would think of a different place or setting—maybe here in Willimantic. Then I would think about what is different between Willimantic and the setting in the book. (She could talk about some of these differences.) Now I would think about how these differences might change the problem.”
By modeling all behavior, we help students to better understand.
Be sure and download the “Bookmarks” provided at the beginning of the article. These bookmarks provide 28 pages of good higher level questions to pose when discussing books of all types. Even if you haven’t read the book that the child is discussing, you can elicit a conversation with these questions.
Inauguration—January 20, 2009
Don’t miss the opportunity to introduce your students to the historical significance and excitement of the upcoming presidential inauguration. The following Web sites can be relied on for accurate, in-depth information.
Offers extensive information about all things having to do with the presidential inauguration. The history section is especially detailed and interesting.
Contains the schedule for the days leading up to, through the days following the inauguration. There is a link to the committee’s Flickr page, with lots of related photos.
Information on security at the upcoming inauguration and the role of the Secret Service in protecting government officials.
Where you can read the inaugural address from 54 inaugurations.
There are many different levels of giftedness. Profoundly gifted kids are so advanced that they may have a very difficult time finding peers. They often skip several grades and/or begin college before they enter adolescence. This group of students makes up a very small portion of the population and resources are difficult to find. Here are some that you may find helpful:
- To better understand various levels of giftedness, read What Is Highly Gifted? Exceptionally Gifted? Profoundly Gifted? And What Does It Mean? Carolyn K. helps us better understand the meanings of each of these terms and how they are determined.
- Exceptionally and Profoundly Gifted Students: An Underserved Population by Miraca U. M. Gross explains the developmental differences of this group of young people, pressures they feel, and provides recommendations for addressing their academic needs.
- Raising a profoundly gifted child can be a real challenge. In Profoundly Gifted Guilt, Jim Delisle discusses the frequent concerns of parents of profoundly gifted children.
- In Tips for Parents: Helping Parents Understand Their Profoundly Gifted Children, Barbara Clark applies brain research to profoundly gifted children and recommends ways to work with them.
- The Davidson Young Scholars program provides free services designed to nurture and support profoundly gifted young people. Students and their parents receive assistance through consulting services, an online community, annual get-togethers, the Ambassador Program, and guidebooks.
- The Texas Parents for the Profoundly Gifted provides both planned and spontaneous activities. The organization has an informational e-mail loop to discuss topics of importance.
- PG Retreat: A Gathering Of Families With Profoundly Gifted Children is an annual event that provides opportunities for children to meet, socialize, play with, and learn from others who are developmentally advanced. While the children are engaged in their activities, parents listen to speakers. The 2009 retreat will take place July 2–6, 2009, in Colorado Springs, CO.
Free Math Tutorials for Gifted Kids
The Khan Academy
is a great, free resource for those students who need help understanding math concepts or for those who want to work beyond what is offered to them at school. The academy was founded by Salman Khan (Sal) with the hope of using technology to foster new learning models. Sal currently is an investment professional in Palo Alto, CA and has held positions in venture capital, product management, and engineering. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He also holds a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a BS in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has worked with students of all ages.
Posted on his Web site are more than 600 videos covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, and finance. Singapore Math is included as is SAT preparation. And these videos will cost you nothing. For an overview of the video offerings, check out this YouTube video. This is a great resource for kids who love math or who need a little help or reinforcement.
More and more individuals are posting legitimate math tutorials on YouTube. I found that, when searching, it helps to add the word “tutorial” to your search. For instance, if you search for “calculus tutorial,” you will be more successful than if you just search for “calculus.”
ADHD—A Good Thing or a Bad Thing for Gifted Students?
Many gifted students have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
A New York Times
article, A New Face for A.D.H.D., and a Debate
, questions whether attention deficit is a good thing or a bad thing, giving experts a chance to thrash out the argument. The viewpoint that ADHD may be more blessing than curse has been brought to the forefront since the world learned that Michael Phelps, the Olympic superstar, was diagnosed in elementary school.
“Children with the disorder typically have trouble sitting still and paying attention," the author states. "But they may also have boundless energy and a laserlike focus on favorite things — qualities that could be very helpful in, say, an Olympic athlete.” Some doctors now pushing for a new view of the disorder that focuses on its potential strengths rather than solely on its challenges cite that, often, children with ADHD are highly creative.
If you do a search on “ADHD Famous People,” you will find long lists of historical figures who are thought to have had difficulty focusing coupled with very high energy. Of course the compilers of these lists can only have made assumptions that the people they included had the disorder.
Amazing Accomplishments of Gifted Science Students
If you want to be wowed by the capabilities of highly gifted, highly motivated middle school, high school, and college students, take a look at News & Views—Young Scientists
on the Cogito Web site. These young people are incredible!
Cogito has gathered information on winners of science awards from all over the world, including Davidson Fellows, Global Challenge Awards, Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, Fields Medal, Siemens Westinghouse Competition, USA Computing Olympiad, and more. In addition to competition winners, many more students are presented who are working on very advanced science projects. These are projects that one would expect from only established research scientists. As of this writing, there are 155 articles on the Web site about these young science students. Some examples are
- Daniel Burd, who found a way to reduce the time it takes a plastic bag to decompose from 20 or more years to just three months.
- Tara Adiseshan, who is investigating a cure for endangered amphibians.
- Ahana Datta, who devised a plan to apply nanotechnology to making catalytic converters.
- Anshul Samar, who created a chemistry game and a company to produce and market the game.
- Tiffany Dinkins, who spent a summer working to uncover the mysteries of how genes affect brain function.
- Kayson Conlin, who is working on an electromagnetic invisibility cloak for buildings and vehicles that can be turned off and on at will.
Gifted Education Forums
Do you ever have specific questions about gifted education, but you don’t know where to turn? Do you want to know what gifted education issues are being discussed by others but don’t want to join a listserv that might flood your email box? An Internet forum might be just what you need. An Internet forum is an online discussion site where you can ask questions and get answers or you can just observe the questions and answers of others.
There are a number of forums dedicated to gifted education. Here are a few, along with some recent topics of discussion.
Music and learning
How gifted-friendly is your state?
Exploring fine art with children
Radical acceleration and early college
Gifted Education 2.0
Book recommendations for gifted readers grades 4–6
Information on upcoming conferences
Recommendations for online GT endorsement programs
Parenting and advocacy
Identification, testing, and assessment
Gifted - OGTOC
When to seek professional help
No Child Left Behind Act
Early entry to kindergarten policies
Web-based math programs
Compacting/Learning Contract Advice
Encouraging Gifted Students to Be Innovators
Is innovation dead? Are we encouraging our young people to be creative innovators?
In a podcast titled Tough Economy Doesn't Help U.S. 'Innovation Gap'
, author Judy Estrin is interviewed about her new book Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy.
Estrin wants to encourage the renewal of innovation in America, closing the gap between where we used to be and where we are now, and between where we are now and where we could be in the future. She believes that this key trait has been stifled by the school system, by an emphasis in society on efficiency, and by the use of threats in our country to scare people rather than inspire them.
The author states that certain core values are needed to foster deep innovation. These core values include
Estrin feels that our current educational system is set up to produce people who test well. What we really need is for people to ask questions, not just answer them. The way in which many of us currently teach and parent kids stifles the core values listed above and, therefore, stifles innovation. We can influence the educational system by working with certain nonprofits, electing officials who promote innovation, and encouraging the respect of science in society.
As parents, we should encourage kids to explore, think, and ask questions. We should also really listen to children and engage them in critical thinking discussions. One organization that Estrin believes is helpful is Sally Ride Science
For related blog entries on this topic, search (upper right corner of this page) on Creativity, Questioning, and/or Critical Thinking. While Estrin focuses her discussion primarily on science and technology, innovation, creativity, and critical thinking are needed across all disciplines.
A Different Way of Looking at Boredom of the Gifted
When someone is bored, they don’t like what they’re doing, but don’t know what else to do.
I can remember that when I was a young child, I often sat around the house saying, “I’m bored.”
With a little smile on his face, my father’s consistent reply was, “Carol, you’re always bored.”
There was nothing I felt like doing at the time. No one ever felt sorry for me, though, and no one ever tried to rescue me from my boredom. Each member of the family went about his or her business and did not consider it their responsibility to entertain me. There was plenty I could do if I chose to take on the task.
Today’s parents and teachers often feel that their kids must be engaged at all times. But by rescuing young people from their boredom every time it pokes its head above the surface, we may be denying them the chance to figure out their own boredom-relieving tactics.
Children need to understand that life isn’t always fun, that everyone gets bored occasionally—or dislikes the task at hand—and we all have to do things that we’d rather not.
Perhaps it would be interesting to create a regular discussion group around the subject of boredom to help kids better understand it. Some possible activities follow:
- Have students articulate their own feelings about boredom. What does it mean? Are they ever bored? If so, when? How do they handle it? Are there other ways they can handle boredom?
- Find out how others have handled boredom. How do characters in the books they read address the subject? What about people who lived in other times?
- Have students interview family and friends and ask them how they handle boring times. What are the similarities and differences?
- Have students do the activities in the lesson plan, How Did Civil War Soldiers Battle Boredom? Students are asked to make a Venn diagram comparing things they do to combat boredom with the activities Civil War soldiers did to do the same.
- Create a list of all the things one could do when bored in school or at home. Allow kids to be very creative with this.
Book Just Released on Raising a Gifted Child
What should you realistically expect from a gifted student, from the child’s teacher and school, and from yourself as a parent? Where can you find great resources to provide the best education possible for your young person? What are the many conventional and unconventional ways to educate a bright student?
Written in a very easy-going style, it is chock-full of real stories of gifted kids. One of my favorite parts of the book is the chapter titled Specific Subjects. Here, one can find a multitude of resources to either encourage or reinforce student strengths in language arts, math, science, social studies, foreign language, fine arts, technology, and thinking skills. There also is a whole chapter on nurturing creativity.
If you find the information on this weekly blog helpful, you also will appreciate the information available in this book.
Whales—A Fascinating Topic for Young Gifted Kids
Just as many children love learning about dinosaurs, they also love to learn about whales. Although there are many different types of whales, the information here focuses on the North Atlantic Right Whale.
Right whales were so named because early whalers considered them the "right" whale to hunt. In the early centuries of shore-based whaling, right whales were virtually the only large whales the whalers were able to catch for three reasons:
- The right whales often were found very close to shore where they could be spotted by lookouts on the beach.
- They were relatively slow swimmers so the whalers could catch up to them in their whaleboats.
- Compared to other species of whale, right whales killed by harpoons were more likely float, and thus could be retrieved by the whalers and towed back to shore.
Tale of a Whale
, from Smithsonian Education, has great information for teaching and learning about the North Atlantic Right Whale. Using the lessons provided, students experience work that is similar to that of real whale researchers by identifying an individual whale according to patterns of callosities and also identifying migration patterns. There also is a link to the New England Aquarium Web site where students can learn more about whale research and play an interactive whale identification game.
For background information and more photos, check out
Chemistry Resources for Gifted Kids
National Chemistry Week is October 19–25. There are some great resources available for students during this week of celebration or anytime during the year. The mission of National Chemistry Week is to reach the public, particularly elementary school children, with positive messages about chemistry. The theme of this year’s National Chemistry Week is Having a Ball with Chemistry. The focus is to show how chemistry plays a big part in all kinds of sports and games.
The education section of the American Chemical Society Web site
has numerous resources for students in kindergarten through graduate school. There also are programs available for educators and scientists. If you look at the bottom of the page, you will see that the site is available in numerous languages. Poke around on the Web site and you will find
activities, puzzles, and games;
interviews with chemists from a kid’s point of view (great for learning about potential careers);
information on Project SEED, which is a summer research program for economically disadvantaged students to experience what it’s like to be a chemist.
Rohm and Haas (a company that develops innovative technologies and solutions for the specialty materials industry) and The Franklin Institute (a leader in the field of science and technology learning) have teamed to produce a set of seven online videos
that address the theme of this year’s National Chemistry Week. The videos explain how science has impacted a variety of kids’ favorite sports, like bicycling, snowboarding, hockey, and basketball. The videos show how a combination of physics, chemistry, and materials enable participants’ abilities to improve and also increase safety. This is a great way to see how science is applied to the sports industry. The videos will be available online beginning October 19.
Terrific Science: Empowering Teachers Through Innovation
provides a large selection of fun activities to support this year’s National Chemistry Week’s theme of Having a Ball with Chemistry. These include activities about topics such as the Speedo LZR Racer® swimsuit that was the hit of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, impact and puncture testing of sports helmets, the importance of iron in our bodies, the chemistry of heat packs applied to sports injuries, and the effectiveness of sunscreen products.
Understanding Economics for the Gifted
Well, if nothing else, the financial crisis we’re experiencing is raising our awareness of economics. We’re all trying desperately to better understand what is happening—where we have come from and where we are going. We should view this as a good teaching opportunity, especially for middle and high school students. There are excellent resources that are available to help. Remember that very bright students often can handle content that is intended for older students. Bright middle school students, or even upper elementary children, may benefit from material that is intended for high school. If you look at the Economics Classroom link below and click on resources, you also will find economics lesson plans for students as young as in kindergarten.
The Annenberg Foundation
has created a series of free online videos
for both teachers and students including
—Twenty-eight half-hour video programs that explore the fundamentals of economic history, theory, and practice, including microeconomics and macroeconomics, through interviews with Nobel Prize-winning economists. The series features Milton Friedman, Paul Samuelson, John Kenneth Galbraith, Walter Heller, and others. In each program, case studies of major economic events show how economic theory relates to the real world.
Inside the Global Economy
—Thirteen one-hour video programs offer a multinational perspective on how the global economy and market affect individuals, businesses, and industry. The series features 26 case studies, with follow-up analysis, from more than 20 countries, balancing widely held American views with opinions from around the globe and inviting comparison of the strategies used in international economics today.
The Economics Classroom: A Workshop for Grade 9–12 Teachers
—Eight video workshops and associated print and Web site information is intended to assist high school teachers in developing strategies to effectively teach the fundamentals of economics and personal finance. This site also provides a number of classroom-tested lesson plans and links to a variety of useful additional resources.
Etymology for Gifted Students
Etymology is the study of the history of words. It explains when a word entered a language, from what source, and how its form and meaning has changed over time. It is fun, interesting, and helps to build vocabulary.
This Web site takes words from mythology, explains their meanings, and helps students understand the influence of those words on today’s vocabulary. This is accomplished through interactive exercises and worksheets.
Students can search the origins of their names and that of friends and relatives.
The system explained in these books can be used at home or at school to teach the Greek and Latin roots of words. It is a valuable system for students in elementary school through high school. The system helps students develop their vocabulary and enables them to recognize roots that will help them decipher the meanings of new words.
Students improve their mastery of the English language and acquire the keys for understanding thousands of words by studying Greek and Latin word parts (prefixes, root words, and suffixes).
Each of these books build understanding of vocabulary and help boost SSAT and SAT scores.
Anatomy for Gifted Kids
There are a couple of great anatomy Web sites available for kids. The first two listed here are interactive and suitable for bright, middle to late elementary school kids. The sites can be used either at home or at school and are both entertaining and educational.
At this Website from the BBC, you will find interactive computer activities that teach about the organs, muscles, skeleton, senses, nervous system, and puberty. Students use drag-and-drop to place various parts of the body and learn about the function of each.
At this site, students can participate in virtual hip replacements and virtual knee replacements. Viewers also have the opportunity to diagnose different patients who might need knee or hip replacements. There are also videos of real people who have had the replacements, explaining what it was like before and after the surgeries. In addition, students can learn about “interesting people” who have jobs that are related to hip and knee replacements. This feature of the Web site introduces students to possible career paths.
At this site, there are numerous links to biology resources, several that relate directly to anatomy.
Teaching Foreign Language to Gifted Students
All research points to the virtues of beginning foreign language early in life—as early as preschool. Both parents and teachers appreciate ways to enrich foreign language instruction for their students who are gifted in this area.
As we become more and more global-centric, multilingual skills become even more important. We need to move beyond learning the traditional one foreign language to being comfortable speaking several languages.
The following include some helpful resources for teaching or learning a foreign language.
This Web site comes from the U.K. It contains ideas for enriching and extending pupils' experiences in foreign languages that include
using everyday classroom events as an opportunity for spontaneous speech;
expressing and discussing personal feelings and opinions;
using a range of resources, including games, songs and poems;
using the target language imaginatively and creatively (i.e., creating newspapers, quizzes and tongue-twisters);
listening, reading, or viewing for personal enjoyment short stories, short novels, poetry, fairy tales, and plays.
writing short stories and poetry.
Here you will find an extensive list of language camps for students of all ages.
This is an article in the Duke Gifted Letter, which reviews a couple of software programs that teach foreign languages.
If you do an Internet search on “Foreign Language Online,” you will find many free resources, including games for learning languages.
Courses and Degree Programs for Teachers of the Gifted
Do you want to have a more thorough understanding of gifted education so that you can better serve the needs of your students and their parents? Have you considered taking a class or two or perhaps working on a degree in gifted education? Here is a great resource for you.
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has put together a University Directory of Programs and Services in Gifted Education. At this site, you will find lists of
- universities and colleges offering coursework or degree programs in gifted education by state.
- coursework by university that leads to a certificate or endorsement, an undergraduate degree with an emphasis in gifted, an M.S., an Ed.D., or a Ph.D.
- universities that offer online courses in gifted education.
By using this information, you can find out if there is a program close to you, and if there isn’t, where you can take online classes.
The Use of Praise and Reward in Motivating Students
Over the years, we have run the gamut with the role of praise and reward when working with students. When I was a young child I can remember hearing adults say, “Don’t tell him he did too good of a job or he’ll get a swelled head.” Praise was not readily given. At least in my environment, reward for tasks completed was never even considered. We were expected to do well without praise or reward.
When my children were young, self-esteem became a big issue. Adults became very sensitive to building the good feelings that children had about themselves. Praise, and often reward, was lavished upon these young people.
Today, we are offered a middle ground.
Both teachers and parents often are eager to motivate their kids in school. In two articles, Daniel T. Willingham
, at University of Virginia, discusses the role of praise and the role of reward in motivating students. The emphasis of Willingham’s research is the application of cognitive psychology to K–12 education.
Research indicates that praise can motivate and guide children—but there are circumstances under which praise is not beneficial. If you try to use praise for your own ends or even in a conscious attempt to help the student, it is likely to go wrong. If, on the other hand, praise is an honest expression meant to congratulate the student, it will likely be at least neutral or even helpful to the student. Whether or not praise is beneficial depends on when and how it is used. For praise to be helpful, it must
- be sincere—In order to receive praise, the child must have done something praiseworthy. The content of the praise should express congratulations (rather than express a wish of something else the child should do).
- emphasize process, not ability—The target of the praise should be not an attribute of the child, but rather an attribute of the child’s behavior.
- be immediate and unexpected—Praise should immediately follow the praiseworthy act; however, praise that comes like clockwork presents a potential problem: The student may start to work with the expectation of being praised.
Here the author tackles the question of creating an atmosphere in which students want to learn vs. one in which they do minimal work to earn a promised reward.
Are rewards immoral and dehumanizing? What happens when rewards stop? How can rewards decrease motivation? What makes rewards more or less effective? Are rewards worth it?
Willingham likens using rewards to taking out a loan. You get an immediate benefit, but you know that you will eventually have to pay up, with interest. He suggests three guidelines to the use of rewards:
- Try to find an alternative—The obvious alternative is to make the material intrinsically interesting.
- Use rewards for a specific reason, not as a general strategy—One example is when a student has lost confidence in himself to the point that he is no longer willing to try.
- Plan for the ending—If students are told at the start of the rewards program when it will end, there may be fewer complaints when the goodies are no longer available.
Philosophy for Gifted Children
It may surprise both parents and teachers to learn that philosophy is a very accessible topic for children of all ages. Peruse some of the sites listed below and you will see what I mean. Philosophy is especially appropriate for gifted children who benefit from the exploration of ideas. The information provided here can easily be used both at home and at school and will help adults incorporate philosophical questioning into the daily lives of their children.
Until recently, philosophy was thought to be too difficult and uninteresting a subject for children. It has now been found that children not only are capable of understanding philosophy but need and appreciate it for the same reasons that adults do. Philosophy offers children the chance to explore ordinary but puzzling concepts, to improve their thinking, to make more sense of their world, and to discover for themselves what is to be valued.
The IAPC publishes curriculum materials in Philosophy for Children for use in grades K–12. The curriculum consists of novels for students and manuals for teachers. Each novel is about 80 pages in length and is written in informal language, without technical terminology.
What is courage? Do the lives of kids require them to be brave? Philosophy for Children was created by Mount Holyoke College. All you need to do is to read aloud one of the children’s books suggested by the site to a group of elementary school children, and then use the question sets provided to guide the discussion of issues.
Be sure to watch the short video of fifth graders discussing whether judgments about art are purely subjective, and also listen to the podcast interview with Professor Thomas Wartenberg about the often overlooked philosophical concerns of young children and the deep philosophical issues raised by children’s books. The resources section at this site contains a rich list of other Web sites that will help guide adults when teaching philosophy to kids.
This Web site was developed by Gary Matthews, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It poses stories and questions to guide parents or teachers in philosophical discussions with young children.
Books by David A. White
Questions include: “Who are your friends?” “Can computers think?” “Can something logical not make sense?” and “Can you think about nothing?” This book, designed for young people ages 10 and up, is packed with activities arranged around the topics of values, knowledge, reality, and critical thinking. The book includes activities, teaching tips, a glossary of terms, and suggestions for further reading.
This book, designed for students in grades 7–12, offers ways teachers can help students grapple with age-old questions about the nature of friendship (Aristotle), time (Augustine), knowledge (Plato), existence of God (Aquinas), perception (Berkeley), freedom and society (Rousseau), and many more.
Books by Paul Thomson and Sharon M. Kaye
In this book, created for students in grades 7–12, the authors examine some of life's biggest topics, such as lying, cheating, love, beauty, the role of government, hate, and prejudice. Both sides of the debates are covered on every issue, with information from some of the world's most noted philosophers. Each chapter includes discussion questions, thought experiments, exercises and activities, and community action steps to help students make reasoned, informed decisions about some of life's greatest debates.
Created as a companion book to their first book (above), the authors examine some of life’s toughest questions, including identity, God, the universe, freedom, and the meaning of life.
Other Blogs on Gifted Education
Every once in a while I like to remind readers about other blogs on gifted education. If you look on the left column of this page as you scroll down, you will come to a section titled Other Blogs. I try to keep an updated list there of all the other blogs that focus on gifted education.
There are two blogs that have recently come to my attention:
This blog deals with “extreme giftedness, education, homeschooling, parenting and more…as seen from the Washington, DC suburbs.” It is written by a mom of two girls--one highly gifted, one profoundly gifted--living in Montgomery County, Maryland. Her family has experience with normal school, magnet school, and homeschooling...and the girls are not yet out of middle school.
The author of this blog has her M.A. and is an educational consultant who specializes in providing academic advocacy services for gifted and twice-exceptional children and their families. She has 15 years of teaching experience in public and private schools, the last ten as a classroom teacher in a school for gifted and talented. She is an adjunct faculty member for the Technology in Education program at National-Louis University in Wheeling, Illinois, and presents regularly to various educational and professional groups.
Tamara Fisher maintains this blog for Teacher Magazine. Tamara is a K-12 gifted education specialist for a school district located on an Indian reservation in northwestern Montana and president-elect of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education. She is also co-author of Intelligent Life in the Classroom: Smart Kids and Their Teachers. In this blog, Fisher discusses news and developments in the gifted education community and offers advice for teachers on working with gifted students. She does an excellent job.
Ideas for Studying the Olympics
We’re right in the middle of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Few Americans are in school right now, but parents may want to supplement their student’s summer learning using the Olympics. Teachers may want to start the school year with a review of the Olympics. Whether you are a parent or a teacher, there are lots of good resources available. When working with gifted individuals, do not feel that you need to stay with suggested grade level curricula or ideas; instead, move up one or more grade levels to find more appropriate material. Here are just a few of the wonderful resources available online.
The Academy of Achievement includes student materials, teacher facilitation guides for grades 4–12, and video clips of former Olympic champions.
Series of 16 inexpensive booklets of activities surrounding the Olympics.
This site is filled with the history of the Olympics and all kinds of statistical information about the 2008 Summer Olympics, including information about all participating athletes. There are also lots of photos and video clips.
This Web site from Australia features key Internet links and learning ideas tied into the Olympics theme. Learning ideas include drug use at the Olympics, classical Greek mythology, China, and languages that are used at the Olympics.
Shakespeare for Gifted Students
Shakespeare never grows old. He was an outstanding observer of life and created many immortal characters that profess and embody human nature. His characters often capture traits that are universal. He used rich literary devices, compelling plots, and had an enduring wisdom and wit. He also wrote many unforgettable lines that are imbedded in our culture. He continues to be the most-quoted author in the English language.
There are many resources available to help teach about Shakespeare. Here are just a few.
has a new Advanced Placement Classroom series for the upper level classroom, grades 7–12. Currently, there are three books that present background material and activities for teachers for Hamlet
, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
, and Romeo and Juliet
The Writing Company
has an extensive collection of books, videos, posters, simulations, and other resources on William Shakespeare.
Navigators are collections of questions and activities intended to support group or independent study of selected literary pieces. The Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary
offers Navigators for three of Shakespeare’s plays: Henry IV, Part 1
; and Twelfth Night
. These Navigators are designed for students in grades 9–12.
Complete texts of Shakespeare’s plays, sonnets, and poems. This site also includes search tools and statistics.
Numerous resources on all things Shakespeare.
Includes Shakespeare’s will, the authorship debate, language, the Globe Theatre, Elizabethan England, and theatre companies.
Activities for teachers to use when teaching Shakespeare.
For Fun and Learning
This book is filled with insults that teachers can share with their students to help them really get into Shakespeare's language, such as "Your brains are useless, boil'd within thy skull."
Using Universal Themes with Gifted Students
Back in September 2005 I wrote a blog entry titled Universal Themes & Gifted Education
. Universal themes give any unit meaning. Themes give a common reason for students to read many different books, including books on different ability levels, which is excellent for differentiation. Universal themes can be used with any subject, but they are especially suited for literature and social studies.
A Sampling of Universal Themes
Good vs. Evil
Separation and Loss
Innocence and Experience
Customs and Traditions
Activity to Begin a Unit
Upper Elementary through Adult
Divide students into groups of 5–7 and give each a large sheet of paper and markers. Ask the participants to brianstorm everything they can think of about the given theme. (You may want to review the rules of brainstorming
before you begin this activity.) Give them plenty of time and don’t worry about silences.
2. After sufficient time to think and write, ask the students to look at their lists and see if there are ways they can group their comments.
3. Next, have them label each group of comments with a generalization.
4. Have each group of students share results, allowing them time to explain their reasoning.
5. As a class, find some common generalizations that can be used for the entire class.
A number of years ago, I participated in this activity while attending a conference session. At first, I was skeptical, thinking that it wouldn’t be a worthwhile exercise, but in the end, I was amazed at the depth of the discussion.
Next, I tried the activity with a class of gifted fifth graders. The discussions that the students had were phenomenal and gave real meaning to all the reading they did later in the unit. Each day, the kids could hardly wait to come to class to continue the discussions about the theme. I think that one of the reasons that students enjoy learning this way is because there are no right or wrong answers when discussing anything that is related to the theme. Instead, the universal themes and generalizations are used as a framework to help them think and to value their thinking. They do have to be able to support their ideas, which was far more meaningful that just spitting back facts or predetermined answers.
For more ideas about universal themes, check out Universal Themes and Generalizations
. Remember that the generalizations listed here are only suggestions. You and your class may come up with different generalizations.
Girls vs. Boys in Math
For many years it was believed that boys were superior to girls in math, but research in the current issue of the journal Science reports that the gender gap has become a myth. Janet Hyde, a psychologist at University of Wisconsin, and her collaborators at University of Wisconsin and University of California, Berkeley culled data from federally mandated (No Child Left Behind) annual math tests administered in 2005, 2006, and 2007 to 7.2 million second- through 11th-grade students in 10 states. They found little difference between boys' and girls' average math scores. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Today, girls are increasingly sticking with math classes through school, with girls and boys taking advanced math in high school in equal numbers and women receiving nearly half of all bachelor degrees given in math in the U.S.
Even though girls increasingly take the most difficult math classes, and girls and boys now perform equally well in math in school, researchers still need to better understand why females seem less likely to pursue careers in math-intensive technology and science fields. Currently, women make up only 15% of doctoral candidates in engineering programs. Furthermore, despite evidence that girls are performing as well as boys in math classes, many parents and teachers still believe girls struggle in math.
We need to get the word out to the high school teachers and counselors that girls are as good as boys at math. Hyde thinks mothers who grew up with math stereotypes need to be especially careful. "Even if you believe you can't do math, you can just keep quiet about it," she said.
The study's most disturbing finding, the authors say, is that state tests mandated by the NCLB law are doing a poor job of challenging both boys and girls, as few tough math problems being asked. Using a four-level rating scale, with level one being easiest, the authors said that they found no challenging level-three or -four questions on most state tests. The authors worry that teachers may start dropping harder math from their curriculums because "more teachers are gearing their instruction to the test."
To learn more about this study, read the current issue of the journal Science.
National Guidelines and State Requirements for Teaching the Gifted
Requirements for teachers to have had training in working with gifted students vary from state to state, district to district, and sometimes school to school, heading off in many different—sometimes contradictory—directions.
Frequently, regular classroom teachers have had no instruction in understanding or working with gifted students. Only six states (Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, and Washington) mandate that classroom teachers receive any training in gifted education.
Shockingly, even teachers of gifted programs may not be required to have specialized training.
Requirements for teacher training and ongoing professional development are very uneven. There are no national certification requirements, and only 34 states require that gifted students be identified. Only 29 states require that gifted services be provided.
The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), and its division, The Association for the Gifted (TAG), recently completed a three-year collaborative project to develop a set of research-based standards for educators: The Teacher Knowledge and Skill Standards for Gifted and Talented. Joyce VanTassel-Baska and Susan Johnson, who served on the standards task force, recommend that the regulations overseeing the administration of gifted education programs in every state involve teacher training in conjunction with the new standards, and that the standards be linked to state-based university programs in gifted teacher education.
Briefly, the ten standards include teacher knowledge and understanding of the following:
- Development and Characteristics of Learners
- Individual Learning Differences
- Instructional Strategies
- Learning Environments and Social Interactions
- Language and Communication
- Instructional Planning
- Professional and Ethical Practice
Simulation Curricula for Gifted Kids
Interact is a publisher that offers curricula that is unique and creative. The units often are used as supplements in the regular classroom but can be used in a separate enrichment class. Many of the units involve interaction between students through simulations. I have seen Interact curricula used successfully in classrooms that consist of many different abilities. I knew one teacher who always had an Interact simulation going in his classroom. His students (including the gifted students) were so excited to go to school each day to work on the activities.
Each Interact unit includes a teacher's guide, purpose and overview, daily lesson plans, student materials, time management guidelines, and support materials.
If you do a search on “gifted” at the Interact Web site, results will show curricula particularly suited to high-ability students; however, many of the regular units also work well for students who are academically strong.
Unit subjects include language arts, social studies, math, science, and character building.
A few examples are
Up to 20 hours for preparation, planning, and performance
Description: Welcome to a monthly meeting of the Fairy Tale Advice Council. Led by Rapunzel, a handsome prince, and a recovering wicked witch, the council offers help in character building to folk and fairy tale creatures. In this fun and humorous musical, the Big Bad Wolf learns the Golden Rule, Cinderella gets help in managing her anger at her bullying stepsisters, and Jack and the Giant discover that their differences are cool. Will Humpty Dumpty take responsibility for his fall? Can Baby Bear forgive Goldilocks? And will the magic mirrors tell the evil queen the truth about who is "the fairest of them all?"
A flexible structure allows for lengthening or shortening the time required
Description: Cheatum Swindle is running the Goodwin's game factory into the ground by producing unfair games, and it's up to your students to use their arithmetic skills to save the company! Students work in pairs performing hands-on experiments with spinners, dice, coins, and cards to test the probabilities of Cheatum's games. The flip of a coin or the roll of the die determines the moves they make as they advance through the factory, examining games for fairness. As they find problems, they make modifications and record reasons for their decisions. In the final push to save the company's reputation, student pairs design their own games and present them with an explanation of their fairness.
Advanced Placement Short Story: Challenging Approaches for Honors, Gifted, and AP English Classes
Description: A sophisticated collection of 36 teacher plans and student handouts based on seven short stories (included) by well-known writers. The activities may be used in many ways. They may heighten awareness of how plot, theme, character, setting, point of view, and style interconnect; they may give students practice in answering the sort of multiple-choice and essay questions they will meet on the AP exams; or they may simply illuminate the art of the short story as practiced by some of its masters: E.B. White, Katherine Mansfield, Langston Hughes, Tillie Olsen, Raymond Carver, Sean O'Faolain, and Bernard Malamud. Index. Supplemental reading list.
Up to 15 hours of instruction
Description: Black Gold is a challenging, multi-disciplinary study of petroleum and our reliance upon this vanishing fossil fuel. The science, geography, research, mathematics, and language arts activities center around the global dynamics of petroleum production and consumption. Your students will
- create a map of the world showing the magnitude of petroleum reserves and consumption, and trace major transportation routes and techniques;
- use a variety of research tools, analyze information, and present and defend their conclusion;
- buy and sell crude oil at a commodity market (at their desks or via e-mail); and
- devise techniques to clean up a disastrous oil spill.
Cartooning and Animation for Gifted Kids
Looking for a fun summer activity for your kids? Try cartooning and animation. An interest in this area could actually turn into a wonderful creative career opportunity.
There are some great Web sites that will help bright students learn this craft.
A set of tutorials to teach the art of animation.
An animation expert from Disney offers free online lessons in animation.
Gives kids the opportunity to create their own comic strips using templates.
Read a couple of articles from Imagine Magazine (published by Johns Hopkins University) telling about the pursuit of education and careers in computer animation
Also, check out your local library for books on cartooning and animation.
Online Resources for Twice Exceptional Students
An oxymoron it is not—twice exceptional, 2e, GT/LD, gifted with learning disabilities—these are all labels given to people who are very bright, yet have learning difficulties. The phenomenon is much more common than most people realize.
There are online resources to help parents and teachers better understand and work with students who fit into this category.
: Lots of free articles and an online newsletter to which one can subscribe.
: Lists characteristics of children who are gifted but are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or have physical disabilities. Suggests strategies to use with students who are twice exceptional. The Web site also discusses savants, those with Asperger’s syndrome, and gifted students who suffer from depression.
: There are many resources, including articles and personal experiences of both parents and students. A long list of types of disabilities is presented with links to supporting information. Also included are treatments, training, and therapies to use with twice exceptional students. Numerous support groups and email lists are given.
Explore these resources for a better understanding of kids with learning difficulties and suggestions of ways to help them compensate, while taking advantage of their wonderful strengths.
Mary Anne was perplexed by her preschooler. The child seemed quite precocious at times and Mary Anne wasn’t sure what to do about it. Should the child be tested to see what her true abilities might be? Should Mary Anne be looking at gifted school opportunities? Should she be doing anything special at home?
The American Association for Gifted Children at Duke University
has suggestions for parents with questions like those of Mary Anne. At this site, you will find information about characteristics of very young gifted children, appropriate activities that stimulate learning, identification and testing, and preparing your child for school.
At the Augusta Web site from Australia, you will find the article Parenting Gifted Preschoolers
, which lists both normal and advanced development in very young children as well as a list of activities to do with gifted preschoolers.
Each of the above Web sites will give you lots of fun ideas for working with your precocious preschooler.
SCAMPER Your Way to Creativity
SCAMPER is an acronym for a list of words that can help you and your students think differently about a problem area and enhance creativity.
What or who can be used instead? What other ingredients, place, or time? Other material? Other Process? Other power? Other place? Other approach? Other sounds?
What materials, features, processes, people, products, or components can be combined?
Is there anything that can be changed? What else is like this? What could be copied?
Modify, Magnify, or Minify
Can you change the meaning, color, motion, sound, smell, form, or shape? Can you distort it?
Put to Other Uses
Are there new ways to use or reuse it? Is there another market?
Can you reduce time, effort, or cost? Can you remove part of it?
Can you interchange components or patterns? Can you change the pace or schedule? Can it be reversed?
Just a few possible ways to use SCAMPER.
- Read a simple story. What elements of SCAMPER could be used to rewrite the story? If you get stuck on a writing assignment, will the ideas from SCAMPER help you to keep going?
- Create your own invention. Take any common object and think about how it might be changed or improved upon. Think about the history of some common invention, such as the telephone. Go back to the earliest phone you can find and see how the elements of SCAMPER were used to improve each generation of the communication device.
- Take a current social or political problem and discuss how elements of SCAMPER might be applied to come up with possible solutions.
- Use SCMAPER to analyze a Web site or a brochure. Can you find ways that the Web site or brochure might be improved?
- Take any common object—a penny, a shoe, a table. How can you apply the elements of SCAMPER to come up with a new and creative use of the object?
New Tests of Giftedness
Robert J. Sternberg is a nationally known psychologist who has spent much of his career designing new measures that might more accurately capture the full range of students’ intellectual potential. He believes that conventional assessments measure only a narrow subset—memory and analytical skills—and do not necessarily measure all the abilities students need to succeed in life, namely a combination of practical, creative, and analytical skills.
While traditional assessments are frequently good predictors of success, plenty of people succeed without ever fitting that pattern—people like Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson or filmmaker Steven Spielberg, both of whom were high school dropouts.
A team of Yale University researchers is taking Sternberg’s ideas and rethinking tests that schools use to identify students for gifted and talented programs. Dubbed Aurora Battery for the colorful spectrums created by the northern and southern lights, the assessment is being translated and tested with tens of thousands of students between 9 and 12 in the United States, England, India, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and other countries. Aurora is a comprehensive battery that includes a group-administered paper-and-pencil test, a parent interview, a scale for teacher rating of students, and some observation items.
With the Aurora assessments, scholars hope to get a read on the skills that make the Bransons and Spielbergs of the world successful, as well as the academic skills that intelligence tests have traditionally measured.
The new assessment could yield a very different pool of gifted students—one that includes a higher proportion of those from traditionally underrepresented minority groups. It also has the potential to capture a population of students with a more varied and better-qualified array of skills.
Gifted Gab—The Art of Rhetoric
Do you have a student who is preparing a graduation speech right now? Do you have a gifted student who wants to work on his or her verbal skills, especially public speaking?
is a great resource. It has a database of and index to 5,000+ full text, audio, and video versions of public speeches, sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other recorded media events, and a declaration or two. They are great examples to watch, listen to, and learn from.
In addition to great examples of speeches, there is a compendium of more than 200 audio (mp3) clips illustrating 40 different rhetorical devices. These devices, or stylistic figures, are techniques used in both writing and speaking. For each rhetorical device, there are definitions and examples, both written and audio. Audio examples are taken from public speeches and sermons, movies, songs, lectures, oral interpretations of literature, and other media events.
This entire Web site is a great teaching and learning tool.
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.
Identification of Creatively Gifted Students
Recently, I had a request from a teacher about how to identify creatively gifted students at her school. The Center for Creative Learning
has in-depth information on this subject.
· Assessing Creativity: A Guide for Educators. This 121 page PDF file was originally published by the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, at the University of Connecticut.
· Database of more than 70 instruments used to assess creativity.
However, before considering the assessment of student creativity, one should ask a few basic questions.
1. What is the purpose of the identification?
2. If a child is identified, will that child be treated differently?
3. What areas of creativity are you assessing (i.e., scientific, art, music, school project development, general problem solving, oration)?
4. Is your assumption that children are born creative or that only certain young people have that potential?
When we talk about someone being generally gifted, it is best to state the area of high ability. The same is true for describing a person who is creatively gifted. We simply can’t expect any individual to be creative in everything. So, we must ask ourselves, what information do we expect to gain from these formal assessments?
As students advance in age and abilities, it is probably most accurate to have experts in specific fields determine creativity, as only they will have enough knowledge compare these students with the general population.
Pairing youngsters with others who are creative in similar ways is beneficial as these students will appreciate one another and feed off of one another’s ideas. (Aside: Remember that it is possible to be creative in ways that are not acceptable, in which case you wouldn’t want to pair kids.)
We should not forget that it is very beneficial for all young people to frequently be offered opportunities to be creative both at home and at school. Creativity is not a static attribute.
For more information on aspects of creativity, be sure and visit previous blogs.
Economics for Gifted Students
Resources for teaching economics to students is not something we hear a lot about, and yet knowledge in this area is something that is vital for one’s entire life. Strategies for teaching this are available for all ages. As a teacher, parent, or student, here are some you might want to investigate.
There’s an article in The Duke Gifted Letter
that reviews two board games for parents who are interested in teaching their children the complexities of the stock market: Bull Market
, by the Great Canadian Game Company Inc. for ages 8 to adult, and Stock Market Tycoon
, by Vida Games LLC for ages 12 to adult.
The National Economics Challenge
is a competition that takes place in 35 different states. There are two different divisions: one for high school students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, honors, college level, or two-semester classes; the other for students enrolled in all other general or one-semester economics classes. There are monetary prizes for both students and teachers.
It is possible for a student to have dual enrollment in high school and college, remaining with his age peers at his home school while taking one or more classes at a local college. You can read about an unusual partnership that was created between an Illinois high school and university to provide duel enrollment courses in economics
that actually took place on the high school campus. Through the school partnership, administrators and teachers recognized that the high school audiences present special challenges for methods used most frequently on the college campus. Through this partnership, economics courses were taught by a tenure-track university faculty member and limited to honors students. Details are provided about the modifications made, especially in regards to disciplinary actions, grading policies, and scheduling.
Speech and Debate for Gifted Students
The Chicago Tribune
recently ran an article titled Can 100 Students Agree on Complex Foreign Policy? It's Debatable telling about a competition where more than 100 students in grades 5-8 from six schools debated the following topic: Should the federal government increase its public-health aid to sub-Saharan Africa? Every claim made by students had to be supported by a quotation from a public source, so the kids really had to do their homework before the competition.
We don’t hear a lot about speech and debate competitions for middle and high school students, but where they exist, they provide young people with real-world issues to research and open-ended questions to answer. Speech and debate can greatly improve critical thinking, communication skills, and self confidence in the public arena.
There are several speech and/or debate organizations you might want to look at. Even if your school does not sponsor these opportunities, the Web sites have great resources that can be implemented in the classroom or in family discussions.
This is the nation's oldest and largest debate and speech honor society.
This organization currently works with 311 urban high schools and 51 urban middle schools in school systems with approximately 87% people of color and 78% low-income student populations. Urban Debate Leagues have proven to increase literacy scores by 25%, to improve grade-point averages by 8 to 10%, to achieve high school graduation rates of nearly 100%, and to produce college matriculation rates of 71–91%.
IDEA develops, organizes and promotes debate and debate-related activities in communities throughout the world.
Overprotection of Gifted Students
The primary role and responsibility of parents is to protect their children from physical, social, and emotional harm, but author Debra Troxclair believes that parents of gifted children tend to have a propensity for overprotection.
Gifted children often
· are very sensitive to the expectations of others, causing them to feel different.
· have a strong sense of idealism and justice.
· have high expectations of themselves and others, sometimes causing frustration.
· possess strong emotional depth and intensity.
· are sensitive to inconsistency between ideals and behaviors.
Since it can be very difficult for parents to watch their children struggle with these traits, the adults may automatically and unconsciously step in to make their kids feel better. This may be the exact opposite of what is needed.
There are two types of overprotective parents:
· indulgent—characterized by guilty, anxious parental attachment
· controlling—characterized by high supervision, discouraging independent behavior
One thing that can be especially detrimental to a child is overhearing parents point out errors made by teachers, principals, and school districts. Hearing these comments can cause the young person to become confused about the natural balance of roles, giving the child too much power.
When coming to a child’s aid, parents need to consider if they are really meeting the needs of their youngster or if they’re really trying to satisfy their own fears.
Thoughts on Individualized Learning for the Gifted or Nongifted
Individualized learning can help a person of any age move through a subject at his or her own pace. Neither kids nor parents need to wait for their schools to figure out how to arrange for individualized learning. There are other choices, including private lessons, technology (much of it costing no more than an Internet connection), and mentors.
I am personally rediscovering how individualized learning works. For quite a few years I’ve been thinking about becoming proficient in several languages and also studying piano. A couple of months ago I took the plunge.
For a foreign language, I decided to start with French. The last time I studied a language was in college. Technology has totally changed the way I can now learn. Rather than spend a lot of money on a class that has a set time schedule and curriculum, I’ve subscribed to a couple of French podcasts over iTunes (free). The podcasts include pdf files on vocabulary and grammar, which I download and print out to accompany the audio podcasts. That way, I can both see and hear the language. I’ve also signed up for an online class at LiveMocha
. I learned about this Web site from an article in The New York Times
, titled Learning from a Native Speaker, without Leaving Home
. I can progress through the LiveMocha course at my own pace with both visuals and audio. I also have the opportunity to communicate with real native speakers by writing, talking together, and even using a Webcam. Once I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the language, I will join a group in my community that gets together with the sole purpose of speaking the language.
The second thing I’m doing is studying piano. (I had taken lessons as a child, under duress, and had never done very well.) I knew that I needed formal, private instruction for this. I interviewed four different piano teachers. Each had a very different style. I am very pleased with the person I chose. He is explaining techniques to me that no one had ever explained before. My teacher does not write lesson plans before working with me; instead, he listens to what I have practiced and watches the way I am using my hands, and then teaches me according to my performance on lesson day. While there is a general plan for the areas we will cover, the real value is in discovering where I am with my studies at a particular time and figuring out what needs to be taught. I can’t think of a better way to learn.
Before starting on either of these learning pursuits, I made a commitment to myself to work hard and enjoy each. The coupling of motivation, plus the individualized learning seems to be the perfect match. When hearing my enthusiasm for French and piano, some of my friends have used the words “obsessive” or “highly focused.” Sometimes, in gifted education, we more kindly say a person has a real passion.
We hear so much about the benefits of individualized instruction, but it isn’t easy to accomplish in a school setting. At least for some subjects, individualized instruction is the best way to learn. Remember that there are options outside the school setting to learn at one’s own pace.
Can Critical Thinking Really Be Taught?
The Washington Post published an interesting article this week on teaching critical thinking skills. The term seems to mean different things to different people. It might mean
- reading deeper into what is written.
- understanding why historical events happened, rather than simply memorizing facts.
- using analysis, synthesis, application, and reflection.
- discerning judgment.
All kinds of organizations are devoted to studying critical thinking.
According to the educational nonprofit group Foundation for Critical Thinking, a practiced critical thinker will
- raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely.
- gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret effectively.
- reach well-reasoned conclusions and solutions and test them against relevant criteria and standards.
- think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought.
- communicate effectively with others to solve complex problems.
A controversy seems to be whether critical thinking can be taught without content knowledge, and whether the skills can be transferred from one situation to another.
As Daniel T. Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, says, “To understand the structure and the nature of poetry, you need to read a lot of poems. It’s the same thing with mathematics and science.”
Teachers and parents need to make certain that students know the difference between memorizing material and understanding it, that they are open to different ways of thinking, and that they learn as much as they can about as much as they can.
“The easiest way to encourage critical thinking is to force [students] to question everything,” said Michael Tabachnick, professor of physics at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, PA, who teaches a course in it.
“Question me, question their parents, their pastor, everything,” he said. “It doesn't mean you can’t believe, but you must question. Is it true? Is it opinion? Is it justified by fact? . . . Students eventually learn to analyze. Some will do it better than others, but you can always get them to at least question.”
The Gifted Introvert
In society today there is a great emphasis on being social and having lots of friends, but some people savor being alone and are most productive in this state.
There are many ways to consider learning styles and personality types. One way is to classify a person as either an extrovert or an introvert. The extrovert's main interests are with the outer world of people and things, while the introvert is more involved with the inner world of concepts and ideas. Well developed introverts can deal competently with the world around them when necessary, but they do their best work inside their heads, in reflection.
Many teachers (and parents) are extroverts. It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert. Therefore, an adult may see the introverted student as someone with a problem, not as simply someone with a different personality type. This may lead to attempts to get the young person to be “friendlier,” to work in large groups, to talk more often and more spontaneously, and to be more outgoing and interactive.
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. It does not need to be cured. It simply needs to be understood and accepted. Of course adults need to be able to tell when the introversion (or extraversion) is dysfunctional, but normally introverted students don't need to be changed to match other students.
- Are territorial—desire private space and time
- Are happy to be alone—they can be lonely in a crowd
- Become drained around large groups of people; dislike attending parties
- Need time alone to recharge
- Prefer to work on own rather than do group work
- Act cautiously in meeting people
- Are reserved, quiet and deliberate
- Do not enjoy being the center of attention
- Do not share private thoughts with just anyone
- Form a few deep attachments
- Think carefully before speaking (practice in their heads before they speak)
- See reflection as very important
- Concentrate well and deeply
- Become absorbed in thoughts and ideas
- Limit their interests but explore deeply
- Communicate best one-on-one
- Get agitated and irritated without enough time alone or undisturbed
- Select activities carefully and thoughtfully
So, don’t try to change kids who are introverts. Don’t think there is something wrong with them.
There are many advantages to being an introvert. Introverts
- don’t always need to have people around.
- are quite happy to entertain themselves or to learn on their own.
- are potentially more productive, because they can get right to the task at hand rather than being distracted by others.
Black History Month Resources for Gifted Kids
February is Black History Month and there are rich resources available to learn about important African Americans and their contributions to history. With a click of the computer mouse, teachers and students can access audio interviews, music, video, photographs, text, and Internet links from reputable sources. You can read biographies, listen to live performances of spirituals, hear great speeches and discussions about cultural influences, learn about important movements, and view study guides.
Here are just a few of the resources available.
If you are an iTunes user, go to iTunes U and see the free downloads on Black History Month that are available for your computer or MP3 player.
Enhancing Creativity through Elaboration
Another important element of creativity is the use of elaboration—to embellish, enhance, and enrich. Elaboration allows for the addition of significant detail to basic ideas, making thoughts and products more complex and intricate.
Think of the artwork in Where’s Waldo? books or Richard Scarry books. Young children delight in the pages completely filled with minute illustrations. Consider a very detailed description of a place or person. After finishing the passage, you have a clear picture of what that place or person is like. You cannot only “see” the object of interest, but you can also “smell,” “hear,” and perhaps “feel” it.
Examples of elaboration activities you can practice with kids include the following:
- Give each student a blank piece of paper along with pencils, crayons, or markers. Instruct them to draw a simple house by sketching a square with a triangle on top of it for the roof. Next, set a timer for five minutes. During the allotted time, students should add as many details to the picture as possible. At the end of the five minutes, share the pictures and talk about them. Encourage children to add more details as they see/hear the ideas of others that they like. The object is to make the pictures as elaborate as possible.
- Sit down at the computer. Have your student or even a whole class take a seat near you. (You are going to do the typing.) Write a simple sentence, such as, “The boy walked down the street.” Together, generate questions and answers that will allow for the elaboration of the story. Why was the boy walking down the street? Was he by himself or with someone else? Can we replace “walking” with another word? What did the boy see around him? How was he feeling? What was he wearing? Fire the questions out as quickly as possible and insert answers before, in the middle of, and after the original sentence. You will be surprised at how you can turn a simple sentence into an elaborate story.
Have a child or a small group of children help plan a party including invitations, decorations, games, food, and entertainment. Use everyday materials that are found around the house. The more detailed the decorations are, the better. This party can be for people, pets, or stuffed animals. It might be fun to have it theme oriented.
Review classified ads and human interest stories with your young person. Look for ideas that evoke images. Take turns creating stories based on the mental images created from the ads. For example: “Lost—bag of pearls in blue velvet bag somewhere between Main Street and 7th Avenue after large dog grabbed it out of owner’s hand. If found, please call 644-5983.” What kind of story can be created using elements from this ad? What kind of a person would walk around with a bag of pearls? How did the person acquire the pearls? What was the person going to do with the pearls? Where did the dog take the pearls? The possibilities for a great story are endless.
Encourage students to put lots of detail into their school projects, when appropriate.
When a young person tells you something, encourage him to elaborate with statements like, “Tell me more.”
A System of Organizing Books for Gifted Students
Keeping track of all the books I read has always been a problem. I’ve floated from one system to another. Recently, a friend told me about GoodReads. At first I was skeptical because I figured it was just another gimmicky Web site, but I tried it and now I am hooked. I think it would also work for gifted kids. In fact, in addition to students using it as a way to keep track of books they’ve read, it also encourages them to write and to communicate with others about their reading.
The Web site is free and you can keep recorded information as private as you want. Right now, I am only sharing my input with one other person, though I’ve invited a couple of friends who are also avid readers to join.
As a parent, you would want to monitor the way in which your young person uses the site. While GoodReads is a useful tool for any age, like any public site, it is probably most appropriate for emotionally mature students who will use it appropriately. If you have elementary or middle school children, you may want to first test it with your own books to see if you are comfortable with it.
Let me tell you the parts I really like:
- I can list all the books I have read and rate each on a scale of one to five.
- I can list the dates on which I finished each book.
- I can easily access a summary of a book or information on the author. This is good, because sometimes I can’t immediately recall the theme of a book if I read it several years ago.
- By clicking on edit, I can record anything I want about the book. Sometimes, I find it helpful to write down meaningful quotations or passages. Sometimes, I just want to remember a particular impression I had, or cite what I learned from the book. I can also write my own review of the book.
- By clicking on the title of a book I’ve read, I can see comments that others have made after reading it themselves and click again to see threads of discussion about the book. I can also rate the reviews of others.
- I am also able to list books I am in the process of reading and books I want to read.
For those who like to organize information, this is a great way to do it. The books I read become my friends, and when I go back years later and review some of the things I have written, the words bring back warm memories.
If I choose to become “friends” with others on GoodReads, I receive an email every time these people post books they have just finished, or reviews they have written. That way, I can keep up with the interests of others.
A group of readers can be formed by a parent or teacher to discuss books read in class or through a homeschool group. GoodReads is one way to be able to organize and voice opinions outside of class.
Aside: If you had access to my section of GoodReads, you would see that I just finished reading Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri and am a little more than half way through War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Both are well worth reading.
Financial Aid for Top Universities
In the not so distant past, spots in elite schools in the United States were reserved only for the wealthy. Even today, many very capable students and parents of capable students feel that any college education, let alone at one of the nation’s top schools, is out of reach. Some students with great potential see no point in working hard in school because they feel they will have no opportunity to go on to a higher education, believing it simply can’t happen financially.
We need to let these students know that it is possible for them to get the best education at the best schools. They need a reason to work hard and explore options for learning. That may include going beyond the traditional school system. (See the many posts at this blog for possibilities beyond a traditional education.)
There actually seems to be a competition now among some of the elite schools of higher learning to recruit students from low and middle class homes. At some of these schools, if the family earns less than $60,000/year, the students pay no tuition.
Some of the schools that are making it possible for more students of lower incomes to attend include Columbia, Duke, Harvard
, Princeton, Stanford
, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale
. My guess is that more will follow.
This is all part of a growing national movement to combat the rapidly rising cost of higher education and to ensure that elite universities don't shut out all but the wealthiest students. Tuition at many private colleges and universities has risen so much in recent decades that even families earning close to $200,000 a year may struggle to afford it.
Under the plan announced by Drew Faust, president of Harvard, families earning more than $60,000 will be expected to pay a small percentage of their annual income for tuition and room and board, rising to 10% for those earning between $120,000 and $180,000 a year. All families that qualify for financial aid will receive that aid in grants, rather than being required to take out loans.
So let’s get the word out and give capable students an incentive to set high academic goals.
Creative and Critical Thinking for Gifted Students through FPSPI
We all have problems we’d like to solve. Some people aren’t very good at math. Some people have nosy neighbors. Some people go to bed hungry at night. No matter how small or how big the problems are, we’d like to solve them. It’s hard to solve a problem, though, unless we understand the problem very well. Who is involved in the problem? What is the problem? When and where does the problem occur? Why does the problem happen? How does it occur? The first step in successful problem solving is defining and describing the problem.
This is just one type of thinking fostered by FPSPI. The program (for students in grades 4–12) stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and encourages young people to develop visions for the future through both individual and team activities. It nurtures global awareness not only through choice of topics, but by knowing that the same problems are being studied by over 250,000 students annually, including those from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.
Curricular and co-curricular competitive activities, as well as non-competitive activities are offered.
Through FPSPI, students learn to
formulate and attack complex, ambiguous problems
analyze and better understand material
improve in oral and written communication
work together in a team.
You can get an idea of the scope of current and future topics by reading their descriptions at the program’s Web site.
Debt in Developing Countries
Even if your student never participates in the formal program, the organization’s website contains good instructional materials for creative and critical thinking. Materials include both written offerings available for purchase and also links to other Web sites.
Trends in Gifted Education
The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children)
Convention was held in November. Each year, I like to read through the entire catalog of presentations so that I can form general impressions about categories that were considered important.
Disclaimer: I do not have access to information about presentation proposals that were submitted nor do I have information about how the presentations were chosen. I do not look at this information to make judgments; only to observe trends.
Like everything else in society, certain topics wax and wane. Someone else may interpret this very differently than I do. But, for the record, this is what I see.
Some of the topics that were considered top priorities in the past 10-30 years that I see no longer getting the same attention include
GT resource teachers
Theory of giftedness
Topic trends that I do see increasing are
The integration of technology into the curriculum rather than treatment as a separate subject
Interest of programs on an international level (in fact, at the NAGC convention this year, a strand was added titled “International”)
Special schools and programs
Less talk about specifically meeting the needs of the gifted and more emphasis on the need for an increase in general academic rigor, including the need to let students advance at a faster speed
I would love to hear the ideas of others on these trends. You can always leave a comment at this blog entry or email me if you would prefer that others do not see your comments.
Science OCW Geared to AP Courses and Beyond
Lately, we seem to be on a roll with more and more tools becoming available for advanced science students. (Click on the Science category in the column on the left of this Web page to see recent entries.) And now, yet another resource is available.
More and more very reputable universities are making available free video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes, and assignments online. Now MIT has taken that concept one step further and created Highlights for High Schools
. This new site takes the information that MIT had already made available through what’s known as OpenCourseWare and has created a site that categorizes that information to match the Advanced Placement (AP) physics, biology, and calculus curricula.
The site also has just plain interesting, free courses appropriate for gifted high school students, including a class that teaches how to design sets for theater and one on designing toys (both under the heading of Knowledge in Action: Build Stuff).
There are also high school courses created by MIT students such as Guitar Building; a course exploring Gödel, Escher, and Bach; and Combinatorics, a fascinating branch of mathematics that applies to problems ranging from card games to quantum physics to the Internet.
You can also subscribe to an online newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on new courses and other information.
An estimated 10,000 U.S. high school teachers and 5,000 U.S. high school students already visit MIT OpenCourseWare each month, and MIT expects Highlights for High School to make MIT’s course materials even more useful to these audiences.
Acceleration of Gifted Students
Acceleration—moving students ahead at a faster pace than normal—is probably the most effective way of accommodating the abilities of highly able students. While we often think of acceleration in terms of grade skipping, that is only one of many ways to advance a student.
If you are interested in more information on acceleration, or support materials for your advocacy in this area, you will want to view the information posted at the Web site for the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (IRPA)
at the Belin-Blank Center. The comprehensive site is divided into the following sections:
Questions and answers about acceleration—There are general Q&As as well as specific Q&As for parents, teachers, and administrators.
Research—Currently, there is a substantial annotated bibliography posted on acceleration.
Stories of acceleration—Numerous stories of students are listed. There is also a place to submit your own personal stories of acceleration.
Information about staff members at the center
Resources—Listed with Internet links are information on various centers and organizations across the country that support acceleration; early entrance programs; distance learning; policies and practices; and the Iowa Acceleration Scale, which is designed to help decision makers determine if grade acceleration is appropriate for a particular child.
Information on grants—Grants are available for new research on acceleration and also to assist in the dissemination of existing research.
Slide presentation—Available for download, this presentation can be used when giving talks on acceleration.
Just What Are the Capabilities of Gifted High School Science Students?
The Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology
, one of the nation's most prestigious student science contests, gives young people the opportunity to demonstrate and be rewarded for their intense research. Awards were announced Dec. 3, and girls walked away with top honors in both individual and team categories.
Sixteen-year-old Isha Jain, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $100,000 scholarship for her studies of bone growth in zebra fish. The tail fins of the zebra fish grow in spurts, similar to the way child’s bones do.
Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, both 17-year-old seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, New York, will split a $100,000 scholarship for creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.
Alicia Darnell, a 17-year-old senior at Pelham Memorial High School in Pelham, New York, won a $50,000, second place for research that identified genetic defects that could play a role in the development of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
This year, 48% of the contestants and 11 of the 20 finalists were female. It was the first year that girls outnumbered boys in the final round.
Eighty percent of the competitors were from public high schools. One team of finalists consisted of home-schooled girls.
The interest in science for many of the competitors began at home and they began working with mentors
at early ages. Three-quarters of the finalists have a parent who is a scientist. Many of the schools whose students were represented have close ties to nearby universities or research labs. As James Whaley, Siemens Foundation President notes, “There are very few [high] schools that have the resources or labs to support this high level of research.”
For more information, see the following:
Science Video Sharing for Gifted Students
There are more and more groups of professionals who are committed to making information freely available to the public through the Internet. Many universities and scientists are willing to share their lectures and expertise. Instructional videos are available for students of all ages—elementary through graduate school.
SciVee is operated in partnership with the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). It has a relatively new Web site that contains some material for elementary students and larger quantities of material for older students through scientists. Young people who are interested in careers in science will be fascinated by the various topics being studied. Just seeing what is going on at different universities may help students focus on their future objectives.
Examples of videos available at the site include Where Does Water Go When It Rains? Dissections, and Freezing by Boiling. There is also much information on highly sophisticated topics that will be appealing for highly able high school students.
Bio-Alive Life Science is another open access Web site. Available here are university lectures and videos on the human skeletal system, tissue engineering, and aging genes to name just a few.
Some scientists have been amazed at the number of people who are watching university lectures on the Internet now. Viewers come from a wide age range: Some are elementary school children, many are high school students, and others are adults who want to know more about science for a myriad of reasons.
Remember that these new uses of technology are still in their infancy; they are certainly on the verge of exploding, changing the way we learn.
Gifted Students Publishing Historical Academic Papers
When I took my first serious history course in college, the president of the university (a history buff himself) spoke to our class and encouraged us to submit our papers to various journals for publication. Being rather inexperienced, it had never occurred to me to submit anything I had ever written to anyone for publication. In my mind, I was "just" a student and couldn't imagine anyone being interested in what I wrote.
Now it is possible not only for serious college students to publish their work, but for serious high school history students to publish the papers that they have researched. The Concord Review
gives young people this opportunity. The Review
is the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic expository research papers of secondary history students. Papers may be on any historical topic, ancient or modern, foreign or domestic, and may be submitted in two categories: short (1,500-2,500 words) and long (4,000-6,000 words).
Many of these young authors have sent reprints of their papers along with their college application materials. Their research has helped them to gain admission to some of the nation’s (and world’s) best universities.
High school teachers also use The Concord Review in their classes to provide examples of good historical writing. What a wonderful opportunity for students to see the work of age peers who have taken their work seriously.
Included on The Concord Review Web site are more than 60 sample essays for both students and teachers to view so they can get an idea of the quality of work accepted.
At this site, you also will find information about The National Writing Board, an independent assessment service for the academic writing of high school students of history. Each submission is assessed by two readers who know nothing about the author. These readers spend more than 3 hours on each paper. Three-page evaluations, with scores and comments, are then sent, at the request of the authors, to Deans of Admissions at the colleges to which they apply.
Video Competitions for Gifted Students
As technology continues to evolve, it becomes more and more of an embedded educational tool rather than a stand alone entity. Web sites like YouTube are very popular with young people. Why not combine student interest in video as a creative device with academics? The ultimate product gives students a chance to share their research and creativity with a real-world audience. In addition, there can be the motivation of possible prizes. Entering video competitions is one way to accomplish this. If the following don’t meet your needs, continue to do online searches for video competitions or contests, as I expect there will be more and more available in the future.
Middle School Students (grades 6-8)
High School Students (grades 9-12)
This is an annual documentary competition that encourages students to think seriously about issues that affect our communities and our nation. It invites students to identify a current political topic of interest and produce a short (up to 10 minute) video documentary that creatively explores an issue.
Elementary School Students (grades 1-6)
Junior School Students (grades 7-9)
Senior School Students (grades 10-12)
Contest is open to students in the U.S. and Canada
Develop and execute an environmental, human rights, or social justice project and submit two videos about the project.
Prepare a video on positive aspects of various forms of energy, including nuclear energy.
This competition encourages students to create short, research-based videos about a global topic based on an overarching theme, which for this year is Global Health.
Students work in teams to research Global Health issues, and then create their presentations.
Creative Flexibility: Bending Gifted Minds
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about using fluency to stimulate creativity
. Flexibility is yet another element to be considered when encouraging creative thought and actions. While fluent thinkers try to come up with many ideas, flexible thinkers look for great variety.
Flexible thinkers go beyond the bounds of orthodox thinking and look for alternatives others fail to see. While rules are used as guidelines, they are not used as straightjackets that curb thinking. Flexible thinkers are those who are creative problem solvers.
Flexibility requires that people escape from ruts and try new things. These thinkers are able to shift gears easily. They look for new ideas everywhere. They are not afraid of change.
Flexible thinking also can help a person move through difficult situations more easily. Imagine a violent wind. Some of the older trees are large and rigid and are able to withstand the gale-force winds, but sometimes that same rigidity causes them to snap and break. The younger, smaller trees are very flexible. Their coping mechanism for survival is to bend with the wind. This bending gives them resilience, and they are able to withstand great adversity. People are much like the trees. At some time during one’s lifespan, everyone has to endure difficult times. Sometimes it is helpful to be strong and rigid, but other times it is flexibility that allows one to be resilient—to bounce back more quickly—to see that there are choices and that there are different ways to look at problems and solutions—to be creative.
Student activities for practicing flexibility
- Take a concrete object, such as a table, and have students imagine what it would look like from the point of view of an insect, a baby, an adult, and an elephant.
- List as many unusual family vacations as possible. The wilder and wackier the better (i.e., trip to the moon, vacation in a cave or underwater sea area, visit different amusement parks and ride all the roller coasters).
- Share fairy tales that have been written from different points of view.
- Read books such as history, biographies, or political accounts that are written from different points of view and discuss.
- What are all the ways you could make it fun to clean your room or do other chores? (i.e., have a race with a timer, give yourself a small reward every half hour, pretend you are preparing for the visit of a queen)
- When trying to resolve a conflict between students, have each young person analyze the disagreement from the other person’s viewpoint.
- Give students a list of 50 inventors (or any other groups of people, animals, objects, etc.). How many ways can they categorize this group? (Examples for inventors: male/female, century in which the inventor lived, types of inventions, native countries, last names that begin with the same letter)
- Discuss the way one family member’s actions might be interpreted by other members of the household. (Kids being noisy at bedtime might be seen as fun for the children but disturbing for the parents. Mom or dad telling kids to go out and play might feel like a healthy suggestion for the parents but rejection for the youngsters. Kids not wanting to eat certain foods may feel like an exertion of choice for the children but rudeness to the cook.) Try to explore these options in a nonjudgmental manner. You may find the different interpretations interesting.
- Practice switching activities quickly and efficiently (i.e., school, to home, to piano lessons, to soccer practice, to dinner, to homework, to bedtime).
Language Arts Curricula for Gifted Students
I am a great fan of the various language arts curricula that has come out of the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. It is truly geared towards the gifted learner, employing high level thinking skills and a strong writing component. Two relatively new types of units are Navigators and Jacobs Ladder.
Navigators are collections of questions and activities for group or independent study that use selected novels or picture books. Navigators are designed for grades 1-12. These novel studies encourage advanced readers to develop their skills for analyzing and interpreting literature through structured questions and activities that highlight themes and concepts, literary elements, and real world connections. They also help students to develop vocabulary and writing skills by exploring and emulating the language and style used by authors.
Several Navigators for grades 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 3-5, 3-6, and 4-6 are available online, for free, so you can get a taste of the structure and questioning techniques used.
Jacobs Ladder targets reading comprehension skills in highly able learners in grades 3-5. The three skill ladders use individual readings in poetry, myths/fables, and nonfiction. Students move through an inquiry process from basic understanding to critical analyses. Ladder rungs are organized to increase complexity in intellectual demand. They are all based on Paul’s (1992) Elements of Reasoning Model.
Here is an order form for materials.
Concomitant Characteristics of the Gifted
Patrick was consistently the first to raise his hand in class and he always had the correct answer. The problem was, he never gave anyone else a chance to contribute. Can we show Patrick other ways to demonstrate his knowledge? Should he be moved to a class that is more challenging?
Both at home and at school, Joslin had a terrible time moving from one activity to another. She would get so “into” whatever she was doing that she hated it when her parents or teacher would ask her to switch to something else. Would it help to give her advanced notice of when to expect a change, with several reminders?
Seneca was curious about everything, so he had lots of questions. The problem was that he had so many questions that it was annoying and often intimidating to others. Can we give Seneca projects that require a lot of idea generation? Should he be taught skills for finding his own answers rather than asking everyone else?
Every behavioral characteristic has its positive and negative side. This includes characteristics that gifted children tend to have. These two-sided attributes are known as concomitant characteristics.
While we should not excuse bad behavior, we can help direct kids to positive outcomes. We also can learn to be more tolerant ourselves by understanding that someone else’s seemingly irritating behavior also may have a very positive side.
Some examples are:
Dominates the conversation
Accelerated pace of learning
Can move through material quickly
Gets frustrated with the pace of learning
Ability to concentrate and persist
Is able to focus on a task and learn in depth
Likes to plan ahead and keep everything neat
Difficulty with spontaneity
Entertaining and resilient
Uses humor in inappropriate ways that distract or offend
Heightened self-awareness; feels different
Realizes the potential of being unique
Feels isolated and self-consciousness
Critical of self and/or others when high expectations are not met
Huge store of facts and long memory
Becomes bored and impatient with others
Has many possibilities in life
Has difficulty choosing between interests
Viewed as stubborn and inflexible
Conceptualizes on a greater level
Avoids tasks for fear of not doing them perfectly
Using Fluency to Stimulate Creativity
There are a number of elements of creativity that teachers and parents can use to stimulate their students (and themselves). Fluency—the ability to come up with many ideas—is one of those elements. It is difficult to find innovative ideas if one can’t generate many from which to choose. You can have a lot of fun with these activities. The exercises fill odd moments (waiting in line, driving in the car) with stimulation and can also help generate ideas for projects.
techniques are used when working on fluency. When brainstorming,
- No criticism is allowed. Defer any judgment until a large number of alternatives have been produced. (If you judge too quickly, you risk shutting people down.)
- Freewheeling is desired. The wilder the ideas, the better. (From those crazy ideas might come some very sensible ones.)
- Quantity is desired. Include the small, obvious alternatives, as well as the wild, unusual, clever ones. (The more ideas one can generate, the greater the chances that one of those ideas will be a good one.)
- Combine alternatives and hitchhike upon alternatives to produce even more ideas. (Often young children will complain: “He stole my idea.” But, it’s a compliment to take someone else’s idea and change it slightly or expand upon it.)
For fun activities try some of the following:
- List all of the words you can think of that begin with a certain letter, certain two letters, certain three letters, etc.
- List all of the synonyms/antonyms you can thing of for a certain word.
- Name all the objects you can think of that are white and edible, or mean and yet soft.
- Name uses for a bale of hay or a needle or a broom.
- What are all of the uses (conventional or nonconventional) you can think of for a fork?
- Think of all of the possible presents you could give to a person if you had no money.
If you ask at your local bookstore, you will find books that list suggested topics for brainstorming.
Some ideas for using brainstorming for academic subjects include:
How many aspects are similar/different between two books?
How many ways did WWII affect the culture of the U.S.?
List as many equations as you can where the answer is 6. (3 + 3, 2 x 3, 26 – 20, etc.)
Name as many kinds of penguins as you can and their natural habitats.
List all the possible settings for a scary story.
How many different techniques can you think of to make a presentation to the class?
Mentors for Gifted Science Students
Amber Hess is a passionate science student who has won awards at many prestigious science competitions. She was an Intel Science Talent Search Finalist, a semifinalist for the Siemens Westinghouse competition, and she won a First Place Grand Award in Chemistry at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). She qualified to compete at the California State Science Fair five times, winning 4th, 3rd, and two 1st place awards. Hess is now attending MIT where she is majoring in chemical engineering. In her article How to Find a Mentor, she stresses the importance of a mentor/advisor, stating that the vast majority of winners of top fairs have mentors and the vast majority of students have to find their own mentors.
Hess gives specific steps for finding a mentor and stresses the importance of students finding their own mentors. It is, she states, the only way they’ll appreciate the advisor. She also feels strongly that mentors respond when contacted by motivated students, not motivated teachers.
Many other valuable tips for participating in science competions can be found at the Science Buddies Web site where this article is posted.
If you are a serious science student or a potential mentor of one, you will want to read these articles.
Ning Technology for Gifted Education
is a relatively new technology available for discussion groups, and Gifted Education 2.0
has been formed for gifted education. When I first viewed the site, I was skeptical because one needs to join before discussion threads can be accessed. I didn’t want to give out any information that might cause me to increase the spam on my email or cause me to be associated with something I would later regret. After viewing the other members’ profiles, I gained some confidence by seeing some highly recognizable names in the field of gifted education. It’s been about three weeks since I joined, and I haven’t felt any negative repercussions.
It’s free to join Gifted Education 2.0. Ning makes its money from ads by Google that you see along the righthand side of the page.
There are some very interesting discussions going on at this site, but it takes a bit of investigating and playing around to understand how it all works. Having some skills in technology also is helpful.
Start out by clicking on either “Forums” or “Groups” at the top of the page. Remember that almost everything you see is layered. In other words, if you click on “Forums,” then “Book Discussions,” you are only seeing the opening page of that discussion. Click on “Novels for Book Discussions” and scroll down the page. You will see extensive postings on this topic with teacher suggestions.
Some of the additional categories of discussions at the site are:
- topics where advice or feedback are requested;
- tech tools;
- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;
- conferences and workshops;
- news items;
- elementary education;
- middle school education; and
- high school education.
Remember. This technology is in its infancy. Add your own discussion groups or reply to existing postings and watch it grow.
Should Gifted Students Learn an Instrument?
When I was a young child I was forced into piano lessons. Each time I protested, my mother said, “You will thank us when you get older.” The funny thing is that I do now thank my parents, but it took me many years to get to that stage.
With my own children, I took a different approach. I told each of them that they would only be allowed to take piano as long as they practiced. One of them took me up on it and one did not.
If you do an Internet search on “children music lessons benefits” you will find a plethora of reasons why young people should pursue an instrument. At the very least, learning an instrument helps round out a young person’s general experiences, helps him to better understand the music that is heard every day, promotes discipline and persistence, and helps with motor skills. Gifted children have the potential to gain a lot from music lessons.
In Lessons for Life
, Matthew Erikson, a Star-Telegram
staff writer, discusses the value of having a child learn an instrument. He also acknowledges the difficulty parents have working their way through the maze of choices. Some of the points he covers are:
When do you know if your child is ready for music lessons?
First, your young person should be able to:
- follow instructions,
- recite the alphabet, and
- concentrate for 30 minutes.
Parents need to be:
- ready for a long-term commitment, including weekly trips to the teacher’s studio and supervising at-home practice; and
- willing to stick with lessons for 6-12 months to evaluate the child’s progress.
How do you choose the right instrument for your child?
- Parents should expose young children to a wide variety of sounds. Kids often gravitate toward musical instruments they’ve been around. Family concerts performed by orchestras are good venues for exposure.
- Wind and brass instruments can be a poor match for a young child’s small lips.
- Some people believe that the piano offers a good foundation.
- Don’t get caught up in stereotypes of boys playing big, noisy instruments and girls playing softer, more delicate instruments.
- Respect your child’s choice.
- Be practical. What kind of instruction is available in your area and how far are you willing to drive?
How much will it cost?
Costs of instruments can vary widely.
- Decent upright piano--$1,000
Many band instruments can be rented from music stores for $20-30/month, with the option to buy.
A very cheap instrument can actually be harder to play.
Lessons will probably run $30-60/hour, but may be a lot more in some areas of the country. A good teacher will be much more skilled at instructing your child.
How do you find the right teacher?
The first teacher your child has is essential in setting the right tone and establishing good playing habits, so research this well.
You and your youngster may want to first observe a lesson to make certain you are comfortable with the way the teacher interacts with students.
To find a teacher, check out the Web site for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)
for a list of questions to ask. On the same Web page, you will find a box to fill out to find a certified music teacher in your area.
The Label of Gifted Education
About 2 ½ years ago, one of my blog entries was titled The Label of Gifted: Is There a Better Way?
You might want to revisit it and also look at the reader comments that follow the article. Today I am no closer to an answer to the question about the label of “gifted.”
In a recent Washington Post
article, Labels Aren’t What Kids Need
, high school English teacher Patrick Welsh brought up a number of issues about identification and programming for gifted education that are worth considering.
One of the problems with the term is that educators and parents often look at kids as gifted or not gifted, rather than looking at abilities on a continuum. Can a gifted program meet the needs of all able children? Can the needs of a highly gifted child be met in a regular gifted program? What happens to the child who is very capable in math but not in language arts? What happens to the youngster who is intensely interested in geography, but the gifted program is designed for more mainstream subjects?
Kids who are selected for a particular program often are given enrichment activities, from which all students would probably benefit. While the students in the gifted program may be capable of moving more quickly or studying a topic more in depth, can you understand why the parent of a “regular student” may want his less capable child to also be exposed to this enrichment?
How does a school handle the problem of some parents regarding the label of gifted as a status symbol? (Note: I am not saying that the kids are not very capable, but I am saying that SOME parents regard the label as a status symbol without truly understanding the real needs of a small percentage of students.)
How do we handle the affective consequences of labeling, both for students who are identified and students who are not? As Welsh states in his article, “When we apply this tag to a tiny group of children . . . we are in effect saying that the rest are ungifted and untalented. We’re denigrating hard work and perseverance, telling children that no matter how much effort they put forth, they just can’t measure up to their special peers.”
“Just as bad, we’re telling those on whom we deign to bestow the coveted label that they have it made; we’re giving them an overblown sense of their intellectual abilities and setting them up to fall short when they face real challenges later . . . What most parents don’t realize is that the gifted label can harm not only those who don’t receive it, but also those who do.” (See the research of Carol Dweck.)
Welsh goes on to suggest a highly sensitive topic: “. . . school administrators are caught in a political and moral trap. They have to assure mostly white middle-class parents, who provide most of the tax dollars for the schools, that their children can progress academically without being held back by lower-income kids.” Can we be honest with ourselves? How much of this is true?
When I was a kid, the term gifted was foreign to my ear. Everyone did, however, agree that some kids were very smart in some areas. Some kids were even very smart in all areas. At least in the district where I went to school, the system may have done a better job of trying to challenge all of the students all of the time.
There obviously is no perfect solution to the controversy of the label “gifted” and how it should be handled. But, let’s not shut the door on some of the realities of the dilemma by feigning to believe that there must be a perfect solution.
SAT Exam, Taken at Age 13, Can Predict Career Path of Gifted
A new study from Vanderbilt University finds that the future career path and creative direction of gifted youth can be predicted well by their performance on the SAT at age 13. The study offers insights into how best to identify the nation’s most talented youth, offering opportunities for educators and policymakers to develop programs to cultivate these individuals.
The current study looked at the educational and professional accomplishments of 2,409 adults who had been identified as being in the top 1% of ability 25 years earlier at age 13. Significant differences in the creative and career paths of individuals were found, with those showing more ability in math having greater accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, while those showing greatest ability on the verbal portion of the test going on to excel in art, history, literature, languages, drama, and related fields.
The key was to administer the SAT at a young age. When students take the test in high school, the most able students all score near the top, and individual differences are harder to see. Using the test with gifted students at a young age creates the potential to help shape that person’s education.
Overall, the creative potential of these participants was extraordinary, with individuals earning 817 patents and publishing 93 books.
With this knowledge, the policy question becomes: How best can we support these individuals, especially during their formative years?
For more information, see:
New Gifted Blog from Teacher Magazine
Blogging about gifted education is growing. Unwrapping the Gifted
, written by Tamara Fisher and published by Teacher Magazine
, is the latest to hit the scene. Each new blog that is created (scroll down in column on left to find a list with links) approaches gifted education from a slightly different perspective, and each is a valuable resource for a different reason. I really encourage you to visit the different blogs often.
Tamara Fisher is a K-12 gifted education specialist in northwestern Montana and president-elect of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education. With Karen Isaacson, she is also coauthor of Intelligent Life in the Classroom: Smart Kids and Their Teachers. In her blog, Fisher discusses news and developments in the gifted education community and offers advice for teachers on working with gifted students.
She presents some interesting analogies about understanding and working with this population of kids, as well as thought-provoking questions. Her aim is to “generate some timely thought, reflection, discussion, and questions.” She does a good job of modeling higher-level thinking questions by posing open-ended questions for teachers to consider.
Be sure and read through reader comments after each post as they offer a variety of perspectives on gifted education and also offer strategies that other teachers have used successfully.
The two most recent posts on Unwrapping the Gifted are about the meaning of the term “gifted” and how gifted kids may be “shut out of class participation because they’re perceived as being ‘already where they need to be.’”
Girls and Science: What Are the Myths?
Since 1993, The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been working to broaden the participation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to their Research on Gender in Science and Engineering program, there are five myths about girls and science.
- Myth: From the time they start school, most girls are less interested in science than boys are.
Reality: In elementary school there are about the same number of girls (66%) as boys (68%) who report liking science. But, by second grade, most students portray a scientist as a white male in a lab coat. Children often draw women scientists as severe and not very happy. There is a stereotype of the relationship between gender and careers in science. By eighth grade, boys are twice as interested in STEM careers as girls.
- Myth: Classroom interventions that work to increase girls' interest in STEM run the risk of turning off the boys.
Reality: Interventions that work to increase girl’s interest in STEM, such as showing images of women scientists, also increase such interest among the boys.
- Myth: Science and math teachers are no longer biased toward their male students.
Reality: Teachers, without realizing it, often treat boys differently than they do girls, explaining more to boys when asked for assistance, while just simplifying experiments for the girls.
Girls Creating Games was created as an afterschool and summer program designed to support the interest of middle school girls in computers and information technology. Its goal is to increase the number of females in the IT workforce.
- Myth: When girls just aren't interested in science, parents can't do much to motivate them.
Reality: Parental support has been shown to be crucial to a girl's interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. Parents can make girls aware of the range of science and engineering careers available, the relevance of these jobs in society, and the types of courses and grades necessary to put students on a path to a STEM career. A guide for parents can be found at Sally Ride Science.
- Myth: At the college level, changing the STEM curriculum runs the risk of watering down important "sink or swim" coursework.
Reality: Women often perceive "Bs" as inadequate grades and drop out, while men with "Cs" will persist with the class. Effective mentoring and "bridge programs" that prepare students for challenging coursework can counteract this. To help retain both women and men in engineering schools, programs should:
- have students work in pairs on programming in entry-level computer science and engineering courses, and
- provide coursework in spatial visualization.
One of the most effective interventions is mentoring. MentorNet, a virtual e-mentoring network and community offers award-winning, research-based, technology-leveraged mentoring programs that pair young people with professionals working in STEM careers in industry, government, and higher education.
Additional, helpful resources funded by the National Science Foundation are available online.
Many women have made significant contributions to the advancement of science. Go to Women in Science
to hear some of their stories.
Are We Failing Our Geniuses?
The August 16 issue of TIME
Magazine features an article titled Are We Failing Our Geniuses?
In the article, John Cloud criticizes the American school system, saying that it “has little idea how to cultivate its most promising students” and that it spends a disproportionate amount of money on students with learning disabilities, often ignoring the need for money to meet the needs of gifted students.
He cites that “many school systems are wary of grade skipping even though research shows that it usually works well both academically and socially for gifted students—and that holding them back can lead to isolation and underachievement.”
While I agree with much of what Cloud says in this article, I do question some of his conclusions. He states that, while the most recent data indicate that U.S. universities are awarding more doctorates than ever before, the rate of annual increase has fallen dramatically. In 1979 it hit nearly 15% for the year, but for more than a decade now, the number has grown less than 3.5% a year. His assumption is that we are now coasting and the implication is that this is because we are not adequately attending to the education of the gifted. While it may be true that there was a dramatic increase in the number of doctoral candidates following the post-Sputnik era, I question whether the number of students seeking advanced degrees should be expected to increase by high percentages every year. Are there that many people who would benefit from a doctorate? Is a doctorate important to all high-level professions? Is this really a valid measure of opportunities available for gifted students?
Cloud also states that the year after President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, Illinois and Michigan cut large amounts of funding from gifted education. Yet, he offers no documentation explaining the link between the cuts and NCLB. Although there may be a link, he did not provide evidence. He just came to that conclusion on his own.
The premises of Cloud's article revolve around The Davidson Academy
, a public school for profoundly gifted students that has received a lot of press. But, this is not perfect either. The school’s admission policy relies on test scores. One consequence of this is that its population does not mirror the population of our country. Both girls and African Americans are represented in disproportionately small numbers.
One discusses the question of who should be adapting to differences in ability, geniuses or average people
? “Special schools for genius children? If the genius child is not adequately exposed to the rest of society, how then will she/he cope later in life?
What about educating all of us 'average people' more effectively, so that we can learn how to live with and work with real genius, giving them adequate emotional support at least, even if we cannot quite match them intellectually? This route is barely explored anywhere in any society or school.”
The other questions some commonly used terms or phrases
. “The continued assertions that a) there is some monolith called the ‘education industry’ and b) a bias against exceptionally bright students remain, as far as I can see, undefined and unsupported, especially the former.”
New Book Explores Giftedness at Stuyvesant High School
In the spring of 2006, author and Washington Post reporter Alec Klein—a Stuyvesant alum—spent a semester with the teachers, students, and parents of the school to find out what makes it so special. (The New York City public school is so selective, that it admits only 3 percent of the kids who take its intense entrance exam.) The school is well-known academically and its alumni include several Nobel laureates, Academy Award winners, and luminaries in the arts, business, and public service.
The book is filled with personal stories of students and educators, whose stories are hilarious, sad, and powerfully moving. The book also tackles the question of elitism in public education.
Some of the high schoolers at Stuyvesant are off the charts with their abilities. One student profiled in the book is incredibly gifted, but unable to cope with her devastating addiction to heroin.
What can other schools learn from the success of Stuyvesant? The author touches on the importance of parental involvement, regardless of family wealth. (Many are immigrants who run delis or drive taxis.) The level of trust within the school creates a home away from home for students.
Autism and the Nature of Intelligence
The debate about the nature of intelligence and giftedness continues.
Led by psychologist Laurent Mottron of the University of Montreal, a team gave both autistic kids and normal kids two of the most popular IQ tests used in schools: the WISC, which relies heavily on language; and the Raven’s Progressive Matrices, which measures the ability to infer rules, to set and manage goals, and to do high-level abstractions. The Raven’s presents arrays of complicated patterns with one missing, and test takers are required to choose the one that would logically complete the series. The test demands a good memory, focused attention and other “executive skills,” but—unlike the WISC—it doesn’t require much language.
The difference between the scores of the autistic and normal children on the WISC and the Raven’s test was striking. Not a single autistic child scored in the “high intelligence” range of the WISC. In fact, a third of the children with autism had WISC scores in the mentally retarded range. Yet fully a third scored in the “high intelligence range” on the Raven’s.
The scientists ran the same experiment with autistic and normal adults, with the same result.
While it is probably true that people with autism possess extraordinary perceptual skills, and that they use unique cognitive pathways for problem solving, their intelligence clearly goes far beyond rote memory and perception to include complex reasoning ability.
I would like to know…
What implications does this research have for the education of autistic children?
Neuroscience for Gifted Kids
There is a great Web site available for students (elementary through high school) and teachers titled Neuroscience for Kids
. The site, maintained by Eric H. Chudler at University of Washington, provides a wealth of information on the brain in fun, clear, easy-to-understand terms and illustrations. Not only is there great information, but there also are experiments, activities, questions and answers, other links and resources, and a place to sign up for a free newsletter.
The table of contents includes (click on "Explore" to find this)
- The World of Neuroscience
- Brain Basics
- “Higher” Functions
- The Spinal Cord
- The Peripheral Nervous System
- The Neuron
- Sensory Systems
- Neuroscience Methods and Techniques
- The Effects of Drugs on the Nervous System
- Neurological and Mental Disorders
I have had so much fun exploring this Web site and finding interesting, complicated information presented in an understandable manner. It would be a great site for students to use for an independent study or as an extension of a school science topic.
Portions of the site are in Portuguese, Slovene, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Turkish.
Language Immersion Programs for the Gifted
I was at a wedding reception this last week, talking to one of the guests and asking how her kids were enjoying the summer.
“Our son had the most incredible experience this summer,” she told me. He’s a bright kid, but hadn’t done well in his French class the last year. “We decided to enroll him at a language immersion camp at Concordia College in MN. The entire time he was there, nothing was spoken except French. All possible ways of communicating in any other fashion were taken away, including cell phones and computers.” She said he absolutely loved the experience.
The Concordia Language Villages
are located in Moorhead, Minnesota. They teach 14 languages (including Chinese, Finnish, Arabic, Korean, and Russian) and have sessions ranging from one weekend to 4 weeks for students 7-18 years of age. All levels from beginner through advanced are welcome.
Day camps are available at several locations for children 4-8 years of age to learn languages such as Norwegian, German, and Spanish.
Concordia also has an immersion program for children from countries around the world who want to learn English.
Scholarships and financial aid are available. Nearly 15% of the villagers receive scholarships.
I found out they also have immersion programs for adults and am going to look into that for myself. Wouldn’t it be fun to learn a different language every year?
Using Search Tools on Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog
You may have noticed that the format of this blog changed a bit recently, and I want to make certain readers understand the search possibilities available. This is the 120th weekly blog that has been posted in more than 2 years, so there is a lot of information here. There are two ways to search.
· Categories—In the left column of the web page, you will find a section titled Categories. Within that section, you will see a list of more than a dozen subjects. If you click on any of these, all the articles that fit into that grouping will appear.
· Search—You can also search for words, phrases, or topics you do not see listed under Categories. With the new format of the blog, you will need to sign in to use the search function. There is a section on the upper right where you can register. Your user name and password are case sensitive.
Example—You might want to search on “underachievement.” To do this, click on the word Search either at the bottom of the Categories list or near the top of the page. Once you do this, a number of boxes will appear and you can fill in the appropriate information. (You do not need to fill in all the boxes.) Click on Search, and all of the articles will come up that meet the criteria you entered.
These are great tools, so make sure you take advantage of them.
Perhaps we should stop trying to put square pegs in round holes. Both parents and teachers feel very frustrated by intelligent students who do not perform in school. They assume that the kids are just plain lazy or that the school personnel are not trying hard enough. We label these students gifted underachievers. Instead of everyone casting blame, perhaps we should look at this dilemma in a different way.
I recently ran into the former teacher of one such student. Ms. Dignan said that Thomas was obviously very smart and a nice boy, but was not a producer.
Thomas is now in his early 30s, very much a producer, and very successful at his job. Ms. Dignan was right—Thomas was and still is very smart. But I don’t think he had problems because he was lazy or because school personnel were not trying. I think it was because he has a style of learning that cannot be readily taught. He was, and still is, extremely visual-spatial and learns through experimentation. (I tried to find a good link to explain visual-spatial learners, but every Web site I found placed people in neat little boxes again. I find that neat little boxes are only useful in theory and close off our minds too much.)
I had a conversation with Thomas last week. He said that the way he learns is so visually oriented that he is not able to explain to others how his mind works. Though he is a happy and content person now, it is obvious that this used to trouble him, and he has given all of this a great deal of thought over the years. In fact, that’s one of his real strengths. He is able to analyze situations very thoroughly (both at work and in his personal life) and problem solve more effectively than most.
Rather than beat our heads against the wall trying to fit this type of student into a system that we feel is necessary for life, we should consider alternatives. What is the young person interested in, academic or nonacademic? There are many valuable careers that do not use traditionally academic subjects. As a young person, Thomas’s interests were in computers, film (both watching and making), and individual sports. He loved it when his parents read to him, but he did not enjoy reading himself unless it was fantasy. He learned to play the guitar and did quite well with it. He seemed to be born knowing how to draw well and combined this with a well-developed sense of humor to create cartoons. He enjoyed being with peers who were deep thinkers, often because they admired his strong creativity.
Foster and value the interests of the young person even if you can’t see down what productive path these may lead. Explore together career possibilities that might use these strengths.
Thomas was a disaster in school. He rebelled strongly against authority and resented people trying to fit him into the traditional mold. His parents feared that he would never finish high school. However, he did finish and also spent a few years in and out of college. He wandered around in jobs trying to find something that would fit his interests. Finally, in his mid-20s, he landed on just that. He got back into computers in a way that could use his very developed visual-spatial sense and excellent problem solving ability. He presently works for a small company that builds and maintains computer systems. He has a great deal of responsibility, and loves being in charge. He thrives on complex problems much as a lawyer would welcome the challenge of a court scene. He makes a good salary, has lots of friends, and is a very caring person.
In “the real world” (a term I really dislike), Thomas is hardly an underachiever. In fact, he has achieved far more than many of his classmates who were excellent students. But Thomas is pretty much self-taught. In fact, looking back on the situation, there is probably no way that anyone could have taught him. His mind does just not respond to traditional school. He used to be a square peg who everyone was trying to fit into a round hole. If the adults in his life had just allowed him to be the square peg, life may have been a little easier as he was growing up.
Your Own Clipping Service for Gifted Education
This is the 117th
blog I have written since its inception. It’s challenging to keep up-to-date on all things gifted and to come up with new ideas. Like everyone else, I need resources to help me achieve this. One of the many resources I use falls under the category of Web feed aggregators
. You may also find these helpful.
Are you a parent of a young child who is gifted? Do you feel isolated in this role and wish you could get regular advice and also hear from other parents of young gifted children?
Are you a teacher who wants to better understand your high-ability students and improve differentiation techniques?
In the not too distant past, high-ranking individuals would hire clipping services to cull the newspapers for articles that might be of interest to a particular industry or geographic area. Now this collection of data is automated through the Internet and can be used by a much wider variety of people. One application is gifted education. Rather than hiring a clipping service or spending a lot of personal time and money buying and going through various news resources, individuals can now subscribe (for free) to Web feed aggregators.
and My Yahoo
are just two examples of aggregators. You can use a search engine to find more possibilities. When you sign on to any of these aggregators, you can add specific Web sites and be notified every they add new content.
Any time you see the letters RSS on a Web site (notice the RSS feeds under Categories in the left column of this Web page), you know that the creaters of the Web site want people to know whenever it is updated. Blogs and forums are great examples of this.
If you go to any aggregator and add Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog or Prufrock’s Gifted Education Blog, you will be notified on your personal page every time either of these blogs is updated.
You can also do a search on a Web feed aggregator for specific words or topics, just as you would on a regular search engine to find and add Web sites to your list.
is another tool that you can use. This is still in the beta stage. I have told the engine that I want to see all articles that are posted on the Internet using words such as Gifted Education
, Gifted Child
, Gifted Student
, etc. I also told the system that I want to be notified every day about new articles that are posted. A list of articles then appears each day in my email inbox. This is probably be overwhelming to most people, but I want to keep on top of all information that has to do with giftedness so that I can keep you informed.
Free University Video Lectures
Click on “Science and Technology” or “Society and Culture” for a list of video lectures.
This site contains all recorded video lectures produced in the Duke University Mathematics Department Multimedia Classroom.
Webcasts of major law school lectures, conferences, panels, debates and special events.
A wide variety of lectures from the many departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Includes lectures from the Princeton Environmental Institute, Public Lecture Series, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and others. Sample titles are “Exploration of the Great Rivers of Africa,” “Escher and the Droste Effect,” and “The Legacy of John Adams.”
Videos include course lectures, readings, and symposiums in a variety of subjects.
Podcasts for Gifted Kids
Want to learn more about polar bears, Thomas Jefferson, space travel, the geography of Nigeria, or hear the latest Presidential speech? Podcasts may be the answer. A podcast is a collection of files that can be found at a specific website address. People can "subscribe" to updated files using a service such as iTunes. (There is no charge for downloading podcasts using iTunes.) When new "episodes" become available in the podcast they will be automatically downloaded to that user’s computer. The user can then listen or watch the file on his computer or portable media player. Podcasts are not viewed in real-time; instead, the material is pre-recorded and users can view or listen to it at their leisure, offline. This might be a great learning and entertainment tool for students to use while traveling this summer.
While you may want to shield your student from many of podcasts that are available, there are many more that are valuable. Here are some positive examples.
The Discovery Channel
NPR (National Public Radio)
NASA Planet Quest
The Education Podcast Network
The San Diego Zoo
The White House
Creating a podcast can also be a creative learning experience. After researching a specific topic or polishing a specific talent, a young person can create a podcast and share it with the world. Your child may enjoy putting together a podcast on places you visit this summer as a trip diary to be shared with others. The student’s podcast can also be viewed by Grandma in Philadelphia and Cousin Emily in San Francisco. All these relatives have to do is turn on their computers.
In school, students find the creation of podcasts much more satisfying than standing in front of the class and giving a report. Samples of student-created podcasts can be heard at The Education Podcast Network and at LearningInHand. The LearningInHand site also guides students in the creation of their own podcasts and even invites them to join the Our City group by creating a podcast telling about their own city.
Technology continues to evolve and provide wonderful possibilities for education. Podcasts are just one tool that can be used to enhance the learning of gifted students.
Challenging Gifted Readers
Do you have a child who is an excellent reader, but is not picking up books on her own? Do you wish you had a way to help your student choose books that will enrich his life? Do you want to give a gift of a book to a precocious reader, but don’t know where to start?
In many districts, school librarians no longer exist. In efforts to cut costs, aids with little training often replace these import figures in student education. Yet librarians, parents, and teachers are so important in guiding precocious readers to appropriate choices. In order to maintain interest in reading, students often need help in finding books that inspire them.
Rita Soltan advises other librarians how to advise gifted readers in her article titled Precocious Readers
. She recommends that first librarians find out areas of interest to the young person. Next, those interests should be matched to books that contain at least some of the following criteria:
Language that is rich, varied, precise, complex and exciting
A story that is open-ended and inspires contemplative behavior
A book that will leave the reader with as many questions as answers
Fiction complex enough to allow interpretive and evaluative behavior
Non-fiction that helps a student build problem-solving skills and develop methods of productive thinking
Characters that are portrayed as intelligent, talented, resourceful, and/or inventive
In Challenging Gifted Readers
, Patricia Austin discusses reading elements that challenge strong readers, including language, structure, perspective or point of view, ambiguous endings, and content. Reading well-written books about professional role models is also important, especially if the books enable readers to view the work of a scientist, historian, activist, or other contributor to society. In addition, books with gifted protagonists help bright readers better see their own lives, struggles, and feelings mirrored in the characters. While gifted readers may not naturally gravitate towards these books, adults can certainly steer them in that direction. Austin goes on to elaborate on each of these elements and also provides an annotated bibliography of suggested books. Suggested grade levels are provided.
- What can you tell me about your reading?
- What did you think was easy to do and hard to do?
- What changes would you want to make?
- What is the most important thing you learned from this?
- What do you do when you are reading and you find a word you do not know?
- When might it be a good idea to reread something?
- Why do you think that is so?
- How did the author cause you to infer/conclude that?
- What evidence can you use to support that?
- If you did not know, what would you do to get the most information?
Teaching Writing to Gifted High Schoolers
Writing is something I’ve enjoyed all my life, but I am glad that I never had to teach a writing class. When assignments of any length are given to students in high school, one of three things often happens:
- The paper is full of discouraging correction marks.
- The paper has few comments that are really helpful.
- The assignment is never returned to the student.
Learning to write well is a very personal experience and, to be helpful, teachers need to offer specific feedback while still providing encouragement. Praise needs to be both sincere and specific
. There’s nothing I hate more than having someone praise me in general terms. The words feel empty and dishonest. I do, however, appreciate it if someone provides me with very specific positive or negative feedback in a kind and caring manner. That is helpful!!
The problem is that it takes a great deal of time for a teacher to give adequate attention to each student when evaluating writing assignments. This is why I am glad that it was never my task. I knew that if I had to give each student the time needed, I would have no life outside of school. It just takes too much. I also believe that only giving written feedback is not enough. To really help a writer develop, a verbal discussion needs to take place.
Publishing adults who are already good writers often belong to writers’ groups where everyone in the group reads one another’s work and comments over and over until each piece is polished. Even good writers continue to learn.
When teachers are responsible for critiquing the writing assignments of large numbers of students, the task becomes impossible.
So, is there a solution? I do have some suggestions. While your student should still do and hand in assignments and look carefully at comments written by the teachers, this is not enough. The student needs to
- Write often. Write letters, emails, keep a journal, etc. It is important to become comfortable with writing by producing.
- Buy a copy of The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. Originally written in 1957, this book has been revised. It remains the bible for writers. Read and study it.
- Read books by writers about how they write. A few that come to mind are On Writing, by Stephen King; How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, by Janet Evanovich; and Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury.
- Find an adult who you know is a good writer and ask that person to read and critique your writing. This person can be a parent if the student will listen with an open mind.
- Find an adult writers’ group and sit in on discussions. You may be able to find a group by searching online and adding the name of your city. Your local public librarian may also know about groups.
- Consider taking an online writing course from EPGY (Education Program for Gifted Youth), the Stanford University EPGY Online High School, or a junior college.
Writing is such an important skill. It will open doors of opportunity in many areas as a student matures. In addition, it’s just plain fun!!!
GeekDad--Ideas for Parenting Gifted Kids
I am constantly amazed at the growing resources on the Internet. Some of the resources are created by universities or large companies, but others are created by parents (i.e., last week’s blog entry on homeschooling and traveling with gifted kids).
Today I want to tell you about a blog titled GeekDad
. It is put together by a team of writers and each entry contains information and ideas about working with children—all from a dad’s perspective. Some recent entries include finding answers to kids’ unanticipated questions, creative cooking with youngsters, making digital movies, simple computer programming, constructive ways to use YouTube
, turning your photographs into wallpaper for a room, treasure hunts using a GPS
, a discussion of what it means to be a geek, online games, and the top 10 reasons geeks make good fathers. There are many ideas for activities in the areas of science, technology, research, and field trips.
You’ll want to check this site often, as there are frequent postings. Also, if a particular subject interests you, click on “View Comments” at the end of that posting. Readers have often added even more information that will be helpful.
Homeschooling and Traveling With Gifted Kids
Bright Kids at Home
bills itself as “a practical website geared towards homeschooling and traveling with gifted and talented students.” It is for parents who want to or already are homeschooling for academic reasons. For seven years, the author of this site has been homeschooling her highly gifted child because she was not satisfied with the solutions their neighborhood school offered. The family takes an eclectic approach to school and blends together humor, travel, photography, reading, writing, math, science, and one rather large Guinea pig.
Lots of information is offered at the site about home education, gifted students, and resources. She explains how their homeschooling techniques have evolved over the years, into what worked and what didn’t, and also provides opportunities to ask questions. An overview of study topics is provided, beginning with third grade.
Although there is lots of free information, the author of the Web site does sell items to help keep it all financially afloat. These items for the most part are, however, ones that other parents may find quite helpful.
This homeschooled family blends travel with learning as much as possible and details their travel experiences. The mom makes a good point when she says that, although everyone may not be able to travel, there are plenty of ways to enjoy imaginative experiences close by and she offers specific suggestions
Whether you are interested in homeschooling your student or not, I think you will find many valuable ideas and links here that you can incorporate into your family’s learning experiences.
Help Write a Book on Giftedness
Now here’s an interesting concept: David Shenk
, author of five books, and a contributor to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The American Scholar, NPR,
, is asking for help in writing his next book, which is tentatively titled, The Genius In All of Us: Nature, Nurture and the New Science of Talent and Giftedness
, to be published by Doubleday.
Shenk started a blog in January called The Genius In All of Us
where he presents research that fleshes out a new way of understanding the source of greatness. In the blog, he asks for reader skepticism and openness and for observations and personal experience through posts on the blog or through e-mail. From this dialogue, he hopes to solidify ideas to write a provocative and compelling book.
Some of his blog entries include
The Narrowness of Greatness
"Gifted and Talented" School Programs
On Musical Talent
My (Current) Bias
What Is I.Q.? (An IQ FAQ)
Overconfidence → Incompetence; Humility → Success
Genius Is . . .
How to Motivate Kids to Be Their Best
Where Does Persistence Come From?
Labels and Limits
Savants and Us (An FAQ)
How to Bake a Beethoven Cake: Johann's Recipe for Musical Genius
Is IQ Actually AQ? (Mistaking Achievement for "Intelligence")
Whether or not you choose to participate in the online dialog, I think you will find Shenk’s entries interesting. It is also informative to follow the reader discussions that follow each entry.
Artistically Gifted Children
How can parents and teachers assess whether a child is artistically gifted? In Identifying Artistically Gifted Children
, Willemina Foeken does a commendable job of summarizing research, listing characteristics of artistically gifted youth, and offering recommendations for parents and teachers.
Foeken believes that artistic talent does not normally reveal itself as early as musical talent. When looking at the childhoods of great artists, we find that the earliest known painting of Rembrandt was done at the age of 19. Although Leonardo da Vinci took up art at the age of 15, all his great work was done after the age of 40. Matisse and van Gogh didn’t start painting until they were in their 20s.
Foeken feels that the most remarkable work on artistically gifted children has been done by C. Gaitskell and V. Lowenfeld who both conducted many long-term case studies. In searching the Internet, I found that it is not easy to find information on these two experts. One might have to go to a specialty library to find them. However, Foeken summarizes the characteristics that Gaitskell and Lowenfeld use to identify children as being artistically gifted. They are
- Artistically gifted children show fluency of imagination and expression. These children can’t get their ideas down fast enough. They don’t need stimulation. One idea leads to another.
- They might have a highly developed sensibility in certain areas. For example, movement, space, rhythm, color. (One small boy I taught was only interested in tempera paints and lost interest if other media were used. Another child drew only figures showing a lot of movement or action.)
- They show integration of thinking, perceiving, and feeling.
- There is a distinctive quality to their imagination. These children have faith in their ideas and don’t find the need to copy.
- There’s a directness of expression. The gifted child can be very expressive but only if the experience motivating him or her to paint, has been personally meaningful. Such a child rarely responds well to classroom activities where the teacher sets the topic.
- There is a high degree of self-identification with the subject and the medium. Artistically gifted children live their art. They are in their work. It is part of them. Even the medium is often like an extension of the fingers. Their work is intensely personal and shows an inner need for visual expression.
- Most of these children draw well before the age of 2—usually by 15 months if given the chance.
- They are always above average in intelligence. Although studies indicate that all those gifted in art score well in IQ tests, the reverse is not always true. Many with high IQs are below average in art!
- All show extraordinary skill with the medium.
- There is usually a sensibility for design.
- Each child is highly individual and inventive.
- The artistically gifted child works frequently on a favorite art form. No encouragement is needed. (Foeken, 2005)
Foeken offers recommendations for parents and teachers of artistically gifted children, based on both Lewenfeld’s suggestions, as well as her own. They are
- Regard your child’s art as a record of his or her personality.
- Don’t put too much emphasis on the end product.
- Display the work of all of your children—not just the one best at art.
- Teach your child to respect the work of others.
- Don’t correct wrong proportions.
- Don’t encourage competitiveness in art.
- Provide your child with an appropriate space for work and suitable materials.
- Send your child to art classes.
- Don’t show children how to paint.
- Allow experimentation.
- Provide a range of materials and experiences to suit as many children as possible.
- Avoid the trap of over-teaching. Teachers need to know when to assist and when it is best to leave children alone. (Foeken, 2005)
Foeken also says not to be concerned if, as a parent, you know very little about art. Some of the greatest artists also had parents who knew very little about the subject. She advises parents to burn all coloring books and “how-to-draw” books. Do visit art galleries with children and make them familiar with the art sections of the library. “Above all, enjoy your child’s creativity but don’t make a great fuss over it.”
Mensa for Kids
, the high IQ organization, has launched a Web site for kids
, geared toward children ages 6-10. The site provides numerous interactive educational games and puzzles that are frequently updated. There is also a monthly feature written by Mensa members on a wide variety of topics. The feature this month includes a series of physics experiments that kids can do at home. Be careful, though, because one of the experiments requires the use of a diamond. (Hang on to those rings.)
Mensa for Kids also provides lots of information and resources for parents and teachers, including articles, booklists, and Internet resources.
The site is colorful and easy to navigate. It is one more worthwhile resource you will want to bookmark.
The Positive and Negative Powers of Praise
Why is it that some children who are very smart lack confidence about their abilities in school? According to a recent article in New York Magazine
titled How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise
, a large percentage of gifted students severely underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.
The vast majority of parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart, but a growing body of evidence strongly suggests that labeling kids as “smart” may actually cause underperformance.
, formerly from Columbia and now at Stanford, has spent the last 10 years studying the effect of praise on students in New York schools. She found that, when given a choice, students who were praised for their intelligence
chose easier work so that they could still look smart; they didn’t want to risk making mistakes. Ninety percent of the children who were praised for their effort
chose harder work.
In a subsequent round, when all students were given a very difficult task, there was also a difference between the two groups. Those who had been praised for effort got very involved and were willing to try all the solutions to the puzzles, many remarking that “This was my favorite test.” Those who had been praised for their intelligence had a different reaction. They found the test to be very stressful.
Dweck concluded that emphasizing effort gives a child something they can control.
In follow-up interviews, it was found that those who think that innate intelligence is the most important ingredient of success feel that they do not need to put out effort. Dweck found that this effect of praise held true for students of every socioeconomic class, and was especially true of the very brightest girls.
To be effective, researchers have found that praise needs to be both sincere and specific (i.e., I like how you keep trying, or you listened well to instructions, or you concentrated for a long time without taking a break, or your free throws during the basketball game were very good).
Students must have a strategy for handling failure. The lack of this strategy is compounded when a parent ignores a child’s failures and insists he’ll do better the next time. This may cause the child to believe that failure is so terrible that the family can’t acknowledge its existence. A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can’t learn from them. Dweck wants students to believe that the way to bounce back from failure is to work harder. By developing this trait of persistence, students are able to sustain motivation through long periods of delayed gratification. If one is rewarded too much, they’ll learn to quit when those rewards disappear.
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.
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.
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.
Why do so few highly gifted children grow up to be renowned and creative producers? Psychological Factors in the Development of Adulthood Giftedness From Childhood Talent
addresses this issue. Personality factors and motivation appear to be the most important elements of creative achievement and creative producers. Although there is consistency among researchers regarding the attributes of eminent individuals, less information is available about how these characteristics are acquired or the circumstances that generate them.
Characteristics of creative producers include
- tolerance or preference for solitude in childhood, which facilitated study and practice within the talent area and also supported the development of a rich internal fantasy life.
- lack of concern with social conventions and conventional paths to achievement. This lack of concern with conventions may vary according to different socioeconomic-ethnic reasons and may encourage risk taking.
- extraordinary ability to cope with tensions caused by trying to solve major problems and produce novel works. Eminent individuals actually thrive on this tension.
- ability to live and work on the edges of acceptance by critics.
- high energy, with individuals often described as "workaholics."
It’s very interesting that these characteristics can be born not only out of childhoods that are privileged, but out of poverty, isolation, parental death, serious illness, or dysfunctional families. When tragedy occurs in childhood, some individuals are destroyed and others turn that tragedy into positive energy that creates a very creative adult producer. If only we could understand what sends these individuals off in different directions.
Gifted Education in Rural Communities
Gifted education in metropolitan communities can be difficult, but it has the potential for much greater challenge in rural areas where the options may be more limited and funding even more restricted. Nevertheless, some small, isolated communities are able to move past those hurdles and provide excellent opportunities for gifted students.
When consulting with school districts in rural Colorado, I was always very impressed with the caring communities of teachers, their willingness to recognized real strengths and potential in individual students, and their efforts to see that the needs of these students were met.
Smaller classes make children’s needs more apparent.
Administrators are more accessible, making it easier to get approval to implement new accommodations.
Teachers have fewer students to oversee.
Because fewer students are competing for available spots on teams and leadership positions in clubs, gifted students may be able to participate in more activities.
School personnel, students, and families often socialize outside of school, making the community more close-knit. Because of this, teachers are able to observe their students’ achievements in out-of-school activities and accept gifted students’ individual differences more readily.
The community often opens itself up as a resource, enhancing open-ended learning opportunities.
Students are often grouped with the same individuals throughout their school years, permitting classmates and teachers to develop strong relationships.
Although many of these advantages can also be viewed as disadvantages, specific strategies can be used to overcome negative aspects. Technological advancements make many of these strategies even more viable. Many of the hurdles that rural communities face have the same solutions that should be heeded by metropolitan areas. They include:
various types of acceleration and grouping,
specialized gifted education training for educators,
development of relationships with like-ability peers and mentors through interactive technologies,
creatively accessing additional educational resources, and
helping students and parents to see education and career possibilities beyond their local environment.
Parents can have a strong influence on the quality of education for their own children and for the school as a whole. Much can be accomplished when parents offer positive feedback and assistance to educators and work with other parents.
Gifted Kids Need to Take Risks
Maureen Neihart is a licensed clinical child psychologist with more than 25 years experience counseling high-ability children and their families. Whenever I hear her speak or read her articles, I am so impressed with her wisdom and her ability to articulate that wisdom. Her article "Systemic Risk Taking”
is but one example. In it, she not only talks about the theories of risk taking (not to be confused with thrill-seeking), but she provides examples from her own clinical practice and teaching experiences.
“People who do not take risks may avoid suffering, disappointment, fear and sorrow, but they may not learn, change, love, grow or live. Genuinely secure people are risk takers.” Gifted children sometimes avoid situations where they may not do well. In their own minds, it is important for them to always achieve the highest grades, but by early adolescence this may cause them to dramatically limit their opportunities. As parents and teachers, it is important for us to help gifted students appreciate the value of taking risks.
Neihart sees six steps to systematic risk taking.
1. Understanding the benefits—Benefits of risk taking include increasing one's confidence about taking on a challenge, increasing a sense of control in one’s life, developing skills for managing anxieties and overcoming fears, and providing practice in important decision making.
2. Initial self-assessment of risk-taking categories— There are intellectual risks, social risks, emotional risks, physical risks, and spiritual risks. Some risks may be easy for a person and others very difficult.
3. Identifying personal needs—The author provides ideas to help students understand and prioritize their risk levels in different categories.
4. Determining a risk to take—After students identify their personal needs, she has them choose a risk they will take and think about what might make that risk more palatable.
5. Taking the risk
6. Processing the risk experience—This is the most important step of systemic risk taking and can be accomplished in many ways. Most of the change in people comes not as a result of taking the risk, but as a result of processing the risk. The processing that follows risk-taking activities provides for the expression of feelings, helps to clarify strengths and weaknesses and identify needs.
Many strategies are presented by Neihart for parents and teachers to support students with their risk-taking behaviors. My guess is that after reading this article, many adults will also look at their own risk taking. This is very important because one of the most effective steps to encourage risk taking is to model risk-taking behavior.
Training the Gifted to Be Good Citizens
In a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal
, Charles Murray voices his opinion about intelligence. He postulates that the intellectually gifted can be defined as those with IQs over 120, which is the top 10% of intelligence and that this group of people has a huge influence on our economy, culture, and institutions. In spite of the importance of this group to society, in 2006, the Department of Education spent only one–hundredth of 1% of its budget on gifted education and in 2007, President Bush zeroed it out.
Despite the lack of federal funding for gifted education, most students of this ability find their way to college. What they lack from the absence of gifted education support is training as citizens. Murray feels that because it is considered elitist to talk about inequality of ability, children who know they are smarter tend to think of themselves as superior to others. Instead, he states, children should be taught that their intellectual talent is a gift, that they are not superior beings, and that their gifts bring obligations, including the obligation to be wise.
To be wise, one must have humility, which is attained through recognition of one’s own limits and fallibilities. In an era of education where many high-IQ students go through school never taking a course that they feel they can’t handle, they are not given the opportunity to hit an intellectual wall. Gifted students need to have some classes together so that “their feet can be held to the fire” intellectually. They need to master analytical building blocks and be steeped in the study of ethics. Gifted children need to learn more than to be nice; they need to learn what it means to be good. They also need an advanced knowledge of history. This all adds up to a revival of the classical definition of a liberal arts education to prepare these students to contribute to society in worthwhile ways.
Perfectionism in Parenting the Gifted
My kids used to love to read Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books
. These books were written for the 9-12 ageset and can be finished quickly. The concept is great. You read for a while and then you have to make a choice. Let’s say you’re at the circus and you are given the choice of joining the circus to become a clown (go to page 64) or joining the circus to become a tightrope walker (go to page 72). After making the choice and going to the appointed page, you read some more until you come to another choice. It’s fun because you can read the book over and over, each time making the story different.
I’ve often thought how much this is like life. We face choices all the time—especially with gifted children. Some are more serious than others, but with each choice, our life takes a slightly different turn. As parents, I think we often get caught in the trap of thinking there is only one correct way of “reading the book” of raising our kids. We are afraid that if we don’t move into the “right” neighborhood or choose the “right” school or the “right” teacher for our kids the results will be disastrous. Although there’s a slight chance this may be true, it is much more likely that each result will just be different—not necessarily better or worse. There may even be some consequences that surprise you.
We get caught up in the perfectionism of parenting because we’re afraid we might ruin the lives of our gifted kids. We also don’t want to be considered failures as parents. Instead of becoming so insistent that everything happen “just so,” I recommend relaxing a bit and considering what good might come out of a situation that doesn’t look favorable on the surface. If not in a perfect situation, might your child learn some coping skills? Might he find a way to become more self-reliant? Might she be exposed to some ideas that might lead her down an exciting path that you would not have been able to provide?
It’s often one’s attitude toward different choices that can be more important than the choice itself. Can you help your gifted child discover what he might learn from a particular decision? Can you help him find the good in it and ways to make it better?
One child I knew always had a difficult time in school. She couldn’t handle any type of authority. Her coping mechanism was to create cartoons of school situations. Her teachers never would have approved of the cartoons, but she became very good at it and eventually drew political cartoons for a newspaper.
As kids get older and more independent, you may find that they make choices that are not of your liking. I know so many very bright students who chose not to go to school or not to get a traditional job when it was expected. The parents wrung their hands and felt like failures. In almost all cases, these kids were just taking nontraditional paths. As one parent put it, “My son decided to retire at the age of 22.” For years he wandered, seeming to do nothing with his life. Now, at 27, he’s in a Ph.D. program. Another fellow I knew would get menial jobs and sleep on a friend’s couch so he could save all his money to travel. He traveled to the most exotic places, stayed with the native people under primitive conditions and quickly learned the language of each place he visited. (He also managed to contract malaria along the way.) Somewhere along the line, he became interested in photography and then macro photography. He wound up going back to school and becoming an entomologist. Now he is also working on a Ph.D., but it has taken him until the age of 32 to get there. Think of the life experiences he had that the rest of us missed.
So, don’t lose faith if parenting your gifted student has its ups and downs and if you aren’t always able to make things “work” for your child. Your family many be taking an unexpected path, but that doesn’t mean it will have undesirable results in the end.
Gifted Kids Are Not Born With All Knowledge
About 15 years ago, the exterior of my house needed to be painted. My neighbor couldn’t understand why I didn’t save some money and have my two teenage boys do the job. For some reason, my neighbor assumed that, because they were boys, they were born with the necessary skills to paint a house. I certainly hadn’t taught them how to paint and I knew they weren’t born with the ability. Yes, my neighbor made a rather sexist statement when he expected my boys to be able to paint just because they were born male, but it also made me think about other things we expect our bright kids to automatically be able to do.
We expect gifted kids to be organized, responsible, interested in school, and good at most academic subjects. We also expect them to be self-motivated, well behaved, and to value the same things that we value. Realistically, do we really expect them to automatically know how to take notes, write papers, and prepare for exams? Our students may be smart, but they are not born with these skills. They need to develop certain skills, including the ones just mentioned, to prove to others that they are capable.
be examples to their children,
talk about responsible acts,
illustrate irresponsible behavior by letting children know about the mistakes that you make, and
use literature to teach important lessons by reading about characters who act responsibly or irresponsibly.
Although kids may be born with native intelligence, they are not necessarily born with the skills that enable them to effectively use their giftedness.
IB for Gifted Students, Ages 3-19
The International Baccalaureate or IB Programme
has long been recognized as a rigorous high school curriculum for students who are academically talented. Many gifted students search out high schools that offer this program because they know it is a feather in their cap for admittance to a selective college.
What many people do not realize is that there are also programs available for middle school and elementary school students.
The Primary Years Programme (ages 3-12) is now in 72 U.S. schools, up from 6 schools in 2000. There are currently 171 U.S. schools that offer the Middle Years Programme (ages 11-16), and 520 U.S. schools that offer the Diploma Programme (ages 16-19). The organization was founded in 1968 and currently works with 1,921 schools in 124 countries. It provides a truly international curriculum.
To become an IB school, teachers and administrators go through special training. Curriculum is taught through a transdisciplinary approach. An emphasis is placed on students:
learning to ask challenging questions,
learning how to learn,
developing a strong sense of their own identity and culture, and
developing the ability to communicate with and understand people from other countries and cultures.
Schools can only offer the IB curriculum if they are approved by the organization. Approval takes time and is explained at IB's Web site. Once accepted, schools are reevaluated on a set schedule.
There is a search device on the IB Web site that will allow you to find schools at each level in your area. If you are able to locate a school in your area, you may want to schedule a visit. I highly recommend educating yourself about specific schools and programs years before your child enters that particular level. That way you have time to adequately research and make appropriate decisions.
Finding a Qualified Person to Test Your Child
Parents have a variety of reasons for wanting to have their child tested. Some want to better understand their child’s strengths and get recommendations for providing the best educational environment. Some need to supply a certain aptitude score for their child to enter a gifted program. Still others see that their child is very bright but also has some pretty significant problems. They want to see if there is some type of diagnosis and get suggestions for helping the child. Finding a qualified person to provide an appropriate evaluation for any of these dilemmas may be a difficult hurdle.
Typically, a psychologist will administer necessary tests and interviews, but it is best to find a psychologist who really understands gifted issues, including various levels of giftedness and the pros and cons of the spectrum of tests available. I receive e-mails from parents asking for recommendations of people they might contact in their area. While I cannot give specific recommendations, I often refer them to their state gifted association
or the gifted arm of their state education department. Another resource for parents to consider is a list on the Hoagie’s Gifted Education Page
When considering a specific psychologist, find out what tests he or she offers and how information will be presented to you. Will the tester make recommendations? Make certain that the psychologist has experience working with gifted children who are of the same age as your child. Find out as much about the tester as possible, including his or her fees. If your child needs to provide a score on a specific test to be admitted to a gifted program, make certain the appropriate assessment will be administered.
Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth After 35 Years
What does it take to create an intellectual leader like Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking?
A report based on 35 years of research from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth was published on December 18
and reflects data collected from more than 5,000 participants. The report, from Vanderbilt University, reveals that a complex mix of factors is necessary to create these leaders: cognitive abilities, educational opportunities, investigative interests, and old-fashioned hard work. Both personal attributes and learning environments are required that are truly beyond the norm. While mathematical gifts and a variety of aptitudes have significant impact, special educational opportunities and commitment can dramatically increase this impact.
Researchers found that differences in ability exist even among the very top of this elite group. Researchers also found that the majority of the highest performers at age 33 were willing to work more than 65 hours a week.
Differences were revealed between men and women in types of abilities and interests. Female participants were more likely to prefer careers such as the social sciences, biology, and medicine, while men were more likely to prefer engineering and the physical sciences.
It will be interesting to follow the impact of this report and see if it has any influence on educational opportunities made available to students with top cognitive abilities who are also willing to work very hard.
Grade Acceleration of Gifted Students
The debate on acceleration continues. Is it helpful or detrimental for a student to skip grades?
Dr. Kevin Leman, a Tucson psychologist
, feels that “there’s not a lot of wisdom in pushing kids ahead, even kids who are gifted.” He thinks that enrichment, both at home and at school, is a better alternative. Dr. Leman states that a child may not be as mature socially as he is intellectually, especially if the child is a boy and, therefore, acceleration may stack the deck against the young person.
The Ohio Department of Education believes that acceleration allows a student to excel.
School districts in Ohio were required by law to adopt an acceleration policy this school year for advanced learners. Districts could either use a model policy developed by the state or adopt a similar one. According to Tom Southern, a Miami University educational psychology professor who has studied acceleration for 20 years, kids who are accelerated tend to operate at the head of the new placement. In addition, he states, there is no documentation that shows harm to the student socially or emotionally. In addition to benefits to the child, acceleration is often an economical way for school districts to meet the needs of students.
When Parents Feel Their Young Child Is Gifted
I can hear cries of blasphemy before I even begin to write this blog entry, but I have to say it anyway. There is a fine line to walk when you are the parent of a young, precocious child. Although we may hear that it is important to identify a child’s abilities at an early age, parents also need to be careful not to “wish” their children into giftedness.
We certainly hope that all parents love their children dearly, but that doesn’t mean that one should jump to conclusions about the perceived skills that a child has and how those skills will be applied to the rest of his life. I see parents of very young children (sometimes just a year or two old) list all the skills their young person has acquired and enthusiastically declare that the child is gifted or even a genius. The expectation is that the child will continue to perform at this accelerated level the rest of her life. When the child is still a toddler, the parents are already imagining that he will have his choice of any college he wants to attend and most likely be enrolled at an early age. Parents may even imagine that the preschooler will eventually save humanity through medical research, implement important social changes in the world, or becoming a famous musician. Why, one might ask, are the parents putting themselves and their child through this? Think of the possible scenarios that they are setting up for failure. If the child doesn’t continue to perform, whose fault will it be? The parent’s? The child’s? The school’s? Think of the pressure that will be felt by the child to always be a top performer.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that a child’s strengths should be ignored. But, at the same time, don’t assume that your child is operating at a level far above his age peers or that he will always perform at a very high level. You may not be qualified to properly assess your child’s abilities. Let others who have experience working with many young people make that determination. And, you need to know that it is not a common practice to assess the intellectual abilities of children at a very young age.
Meanwhile, let your young person enjoy her childhood and not feel pressured with expectations to change the world. Offer her a solid base of a loving family. Expose him to a wide variety of experiences and definitely support his interests. But please, don’t burden him with the expectation that he will always be the shining star of academics, the arts, or sports.
A piece from a South Dakota Public Broadcasting program
warns parents not to try to live their fantasies through their children. When children see priorities belonging to the parents and not to themselves, they do what comes naturally: they either find a way to resist, however illogical it may seem to the parents, or they strive extra hard to win their parents’ approval, even at their own expense.
Meeting the needs of one’s child without imposing unreasonable pressure or transferring one’s own dreams onto him does not mean we cease to have expectations for the child. We simply put those expectations into a framework that respects the child’s needs as much as it respects the child’s abilities.
Holiday Gifts for the Gifted: Part 2
Thiago Olson’s interest in science
began with mixing things together in the kitchen (his mother thought he would be a cook), a simple chemistry set, and the ability to meet other science enthusiasts on the Internet. His friends now call the 17-year-old, “the mad scientist.” In the basement of his parents' home, Thiago spent more than 2 years and 1,000 hours to research and build a machine that, on a small scale, creates nuclear fusion.
I’ve been thinking more about gifts for the holidays that encourage lifelong skills—that chemistry set that Thiago received certainly helped him to develop his love of science.
There are many presents out there that are self-limiting and hold one’s interest for only a short time. There are also presents that can have a real impact on one’s life. We can give presents that support an interest that is already established or we can give a young person a present that may introduce him to something new and interesting. I surveyed family members and friends by posing the question: “What are your memories of your best holiday presents—ones that really got you interested in something that you continued to pursue?” The following is a synthesis of responses:
Computer—played games, learned simple programming, figured out how computers work—this person went on to make computers his life work. He now builds and maintains computer systems for individuals, companies, and governments.
Video camera—used to make very creative movies. Learned movie editing skills. Gained a lot of positive recognition from friends for this creative activity. Encouraged creativity in all aspects of life.
A basic stereo—parents showed that they supported his love of music. His career became work in radio.
Erector set—This mechanical building set taught him principals of mechanics and helped him to develop manual skills. Eventually this person became an orthopedic surgeon.
Diary with a lock and key and lots of stationery and pencils and pens—learned to love to write. As a teenager, had pen pals all over the world, so he also learned a lot about geography and different cultures.
A simple chemistry set with a rocket that could be launched with vinegar and soda, and also chemicals and directions for making invisible ink, fake blood, and other mixtures—Parents did not have much money and this was a sacrifice for them to purchase. Child was sensitive to this and appreciated it. This person went on to become a psychologist and high school counselor—always sensitive to the needs of others.
An adult received a copy of Writer’s Market—It was a personal signal that she should take her writing seriously and has since published numerous articles and her second book is now at the printer's.
Twenty-gallon fish tank—turned into a lifelong hobby.
Hopefully, when choosing presents this holiday season, you will consider ones that will help your young person develop a skill and encourage creativity. One never knows how this might translate into a lifelong endeavor.
What Are the Characteristics of Effective Teachers of the Gifted?
Knowing the characteristics of the best teachers of gifted students would be helpful for a variety of reasons. Understanding these characteristics could help in the training of teachers, in hiring of teachers of the gifted, and in helping parents assess who might best serve their children. Although it would be helpful to understand the characteristics of the best teachers of gifted students, there does not appear to be a general consensus of what those characteristics are. There have, however, been a number of studies that attempt to synthesize this information. An interesting discussion question might be how the characteristics of a teacher of the gifted might differ from the characteristics of an exemplary teacher of any type of student.
Based on questionnaire data and needing more thorough research, effective teachers of the gifted have the following characteristics:
- high degree of intelligence, intellectual honesty;
- expertise in a specific intellectual or talent area (mathematics, writing, etc.);
- self-directed in own learning, with a love for new, advanced knowledge;
- equanimity, level-headedness, emotional stability;
- a genuine interest in, liking of gifted learners;
- recognition of the importance of intellectual development;
- strong belief in individual differences and individualization; and
- highly developed teaching skills and knowledge.
Student responses suggest effective teachers of the gifted need to
- be patient,
- have a sense of humor,
- move quickly through material,
- treat each student as an individual,
- avoid being a "sage on the stage" all the time, and
- consistently give "accurate" feedback.
- having insights into the cognitive, social, and emotional needs of gifted students;
- having skills in differentiating the curriculum for gifted students;
- employing strategies that encourage higher level thinking;
- encouraging students to be independent learners;
- providing student-centered learning opportunities;
- acting as a facilitator or "guide on the side";
- creating a non threatening learning environment;
- being well organized;
- possessing in-depth knowledge of subject matter;
- having broad interests, often literary and cultural;
- having above-average intelligence;
- being a lifelong learner;
- thinking creatively;
- possessing excellent communication skills;
- being willing to make mistakes;
- possessing a sense of humor; and
- being enthusiastic.
- preference for teaching gifted children,
- businesslike teaching behaviors,
- promotion of student independence, and
- training in the needs and characteristics of gifted students.
Child Prodigy--One Form of Giftedness
Like all aspects of gifted education, the topic of child prodigies is controversial. Adequate research seems to be lacking.
According to Wikipedia, “A child prodigy is someone who is a master of one or more skills or arts at an early age. One generally accepted heuristic for identifying prodigies is the following: a prodigy is someone who, by the age of roughly 11, displays expert proficiency or a profound grasp of the fundamentals in a field usually only undertaken by adults.”
According to D. Feldman in Child Prodigies: A Distinctive Form of Giftedness, a child prodigy may have a reasonably high, but not necessarily exceptionally high, IQ. Prodigies tend to be unusually focused, determined, and highly motivated to reach the highest levels of their fields. They are often marked by great confidence in their abilities, along with a naive sense of these abilities.
The Myth of Prodigy and Why it Matters summarizes a talk given by Malcolm Gladwell at this year’s convention of the Association for Psychological Science. The best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point was considered by some to be a child prodigy. Society often assumes that great ability in any given field that is manifested early on is a predictor of the continued success in that field when one becomes an adult, but Gladwell questions any evidence of that.
Another way to look at precocity is to work backward—to look at adult geniuses and see what they were like as kids. A number of studies have taken this approach and they find a similar pattern. Gladwell cites a study of 200 highly accomplished adults that found just 34 percent had been considered in any way precocious as children. He also read a long list of historical geniuses who had been notably undistinguished as children. The list included Copernicus, Rembrandt, Bach, Newton, Beethoven, Kant, and Da Vinci. We think of precociousness as an early form of adult achievement, and, according to Gladwell, that concept is much of the problem. “What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement,” Gladwell notes.
I would like to add to the list of Other Gifted Blogs that I recently posted here. The Boy Who Knew Too Much: A Child Prodigy is a blog written by the father of a young boy in Singapore, deemed to be a scientific child prodigy. It is interesting to hear about the development of the child and the reaction of the parents and other adults.
In Celebrating the Child in Child Prodigy, J.K. Ward cautions parents of highly precocious children to help them find balance in their lives—including just being a kid. Because the focus is often so strong on the strength of the child, it may be easy to forget to teach the child basic ways to take care of himself. Also, because a prodigy is often told how wonderful she is, she may actually stop trying to develop her talents further.
SAT Preparation for Gifted Middle Schoolers
It makes sense to me that preparing for any test can only improve one’s chances of earning a higher score. It helps to understand the construct of a test—what types of questions and types of knowledge will be included. Understanding these things also gives an individual more confidence, ameliorating test anxiety. It’s a “practice makes perfect” (or at least better) mentality.
Test preparation programs have long been popular for SAT and ACT preparation, but some recent college graduates have come up with a new way of doing this and the program has now been extended to help middle schoolers—and specifically gifted middle schoolers—prepare.
The online prep program is described in the article 'Tweens Study for SAT with First-Ever Test Preparation Designed for 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-Graders. Younger students sometimes need to take the SAT to gain acceptance into special gifted programs run by universities such as Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, and Northwestern University. PrepMe has a specific program for gifted students called the Precocious Program. After a student completes a diagnostic test, the results are analyzed and a customized program is created for the child.
The student is then assigned a personal tutor from either Stanford University or the University of Chicago. Each of the Precocious Program tutors has received special training on working with gifted students.
An article at CNNMoney.com
, tells about the initial launch of the PrepMe company in January 2005. The company was started with $20,000 in prize money from a business plan competition at the University of Chicago.
Unlike the giant SAT prep companies that teach a single test-taking methodology, PrepMe offers several ways to work with students. First it gives the student a diagnostic exam to identify his or her weaknesses. Then it uses relevant, repetitive drills to conquer those weaknesses. PrepMe also provides 20 to 60 hours more preparation material for about the same price as the larger companies. In addition, it offers live essay coaching via e-mail, instant messaging, and phone.
The company's curriculum is based on the test-taking approaches of top scorers and the use of tutors close in age to their target customers.
The original PrepMe version for high schoolers
was founded by three very bright students from the California Institute of Technology/Oxford University, Stanford, and University of Chicago. The founders have won numerous awards for the program, including a business plan contest at the University of Chicago, the Fortune Small Business first prize of $35,000, as well as SAP Business One and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2004 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.
PrepMe bills itself as a premium college admissions and test preparation service that not only emphasizes the material on standardized tests, but also how to best prepare for the tests mentally and physically. The company prides itself on employing college students who have scored high on the SATs and were admitted to premier colleges.
Because the Precocious Program was only launched yesterday, it does not have a track record; however, the concept is certainly worth considering.
On Being a Desperate Parent of a Young Gifted Child
I have a preschooler who is extremely smart. Most people say he is too smart. He is having a lot of behavior problems both at home and at school. The director at his school thinks he is gifted. Many others have said he is probably ADHD
, but I don’t believe it.
Can you please point me in some direction to have my son tested and also to find schools that specialize in gifted and talented? I am lost. I am a desperate mother with a beautiful and bright child who just needs some special attention.
Being a parent is never easy. There are no magic answers. It sounds, however, like you would benefit from two things: a professional evaluation of your child (both intellectual and behavioral) and information for yourself.
Like every other area of life, you will find that the more you learn about giftedness and gifted education, the more you will realize there is to learn. It is not an exact science and much of it is driven by polarized opinions and philosophies. Start by going to the National Association for Gifted Children State Affiliation Association Websites page
where you will find a list of gifted associations by state. Browse not only your own state’s website, but those of other states. For instance, California has a lot of good resources listed, no matter where you live. Click on various links and you will learn about magazines and journals to which you might want to subscribe, conferences to attend, contacts, etc.
By browsing these different areas, you will learn about some of the many different definitions of giftedness and you will learn that it is also possible to be both gifted and have ADHD (or any other learning problem). You will find parenting suggestions as well. The people listed as contacts at your state’s association website may be able to recommend psychologists in your area who test for giftedness and behavioral issues and who also offer appropriate counseling. By having your child evaluated, you will better understand his needs and where to go from there. If you do find that your child is gifted, you can go back to your state association and ask for help in locating schools in your area that specialize in gifted and talented.
What Does It Mean When Your Gifted Child Says She's Bored?
The phrase “I’m bored” sends waves of panic through some parents. When a parent's child says he’s bored at home or at school, the immediate impulse is to do something about it. But, what does it mean to be bored? Often we assume that a child is not being challenged and it is the job of adults in her life to remedy that.
In an article titled "The Benefits of Boredom"
, the author reminisces about growing up in the 1950s when children did not have all the current technological devices to keep them occupied. It was a time when youngsters engaged their natural creativity to busy their minds. Well, I grew up in the 1950s and experienced many of the same things as the author; however, I also remember an ongoing dialog with my father. I would say, “I’m bored,” and he would reply, “Carol, you’re always bored.” He didn’t say this in a mean way. It was just an acknowledgement that he had heard me. I cannot once remember him coming to my rescue, though. He would just let me wrestle with that boredom. Pretty soon, I would find something interesting to do.
So, what does the term bored really mean? My guess is that it has different meanings to different people and at different times. It could mean that the material a child is being taught is not challenging. It could also mean that she’d rather be playing with friends than doing schoolwork, that he is not in his comfort zone, or that she has no clue how to direct her mind to something that really grabs her. It simply could mean that the child wants permission to play his new computer game.
As adults, we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions. It would probably be helpful to ask your child to tell you what it means to be bored. Ask probing questions, like “Can you tell me more about that?” or “How would you make things different if you could?” or “What would the perfect day look like?” Don’t put words in the child’s mouth such as “Are you not learning anything new at school?”
As is stated in the article "The Benefits of Boredom," there are actually good things that can come from this lack of engagement. It can lead to periods of creativity, giving the mind time to wander and the time necessary to put those thoughts into action.
I remember when my kids were young and misbehaved. I’d send them to their rooms as punishment and to “cool off.” When I’d finally open the doors to tell them they could come out, they would each greet me with excitement over the things they had done while in solitary. They read books; or they took their books and built houses with them, stacking them like cards; or they made a fantasy world with their stuffed animals.
I am not implying that there is never a legitimate reason for a child to be bored in school; that the work is not challenging. I just want to encourage you not to jump to conclusions.
If your child has legitimate reasons for being bored in school, there are a couple of routes you can take. Try approaching the problem from all angles. Talk with the teachers and or administrators at the school about ways that your child might be more challenged. But because you cannot always control the school environment, also help your child to learn to challenge himself at school. How can he go more in depth with a subject or go in different directions with it? By moving toward these alternatives, you will help your child become responsible for her own learning, which is a very empowering skill.
Advice for Parenting Gifted Children
“I think I must have picked up the wrong baby at the hospital,” stated one mother when talking about her elementary school whiz kid. She had no idea how her son knew the things he did or how he developed some of his interests.
In Nourishing the Super Kid
, other parents voice similar feelings. Lesley Ansell-Shepherd describes how she supported her son’s interest in marine biology by introducing him to others who shared the same interest. She tells how they visited a museum to see special exhibits, went to the library to get books, and attended meetings of the local natural history society. Although the parents did not have special knowledge in the area of marine biology or a strong interest in it, they were able to support their son by providing a community of practitioners in the field.
In the same article, Lannie Kanevsky, who is an associate professor of education at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, with a special interest in gifted education, gives the following advice to parents:
- value the child’s strength, whether it’s academic, athletic, or humanitarian;
- remember that the child is still like other children in many ways, with the need to be loved, the tendency to misbehave, and common anxieties about life; and
- support your child’s passions, even if they change from week to week. Expose your child to people and places where his passion can flourish.
Families may need to struggle with the subject of a youngster being well-rounded. Should a child who is a gifted pianist also be required to play on a soccer team? Enabling kids to succeed means not having a preconceived concept that a child will follow certain paths and participate in certain activities. Each child is an individual.
Although parents should advocate for an appropriate education for their youngster in school, they will also need to find ways to challenge her outside the classroom. It is also important to maintain a balance. Don’t be a “stage parent.” Gifted children need to be children first.
In The Talent to Excel
, parents again express their wonder at where their gifted children got their interests. Some feel that they were born with certain personalities that move them toward certain areas of expertise (i.e., A caring heart may move a child toward a deep understanding of others or toward a love of nature.).
This article includes the following advice from parents:
- Read a lot to your child, even when he can read himself.
- Listen to your youngster and take her interests seriously.
- Show him things that can help mold his character.
- Be on your child’s side.
- Set a culture in your house of learning, reading, and using one’s brain.
- Play many different kinds of music.
- Get out and be physically active together.
- Expose your child to many different experiences.
- Try to keep life positive.
- Encourage, but don’t force your young person to do what he loves to do.
Other Gifted Blogs
is growing by leaps and bounds. What started out as personal journaling on the Internet has evolved and continues to morph into different uses and forms. You will find blogs that cover the news, promote discussions at universities, debate politics, sell products, provide information within corporations, discuss law, etc., etc. Blogging is also growing in popularity within the education community. Since you are currently reading this blog on gifted education, you may be interested in knowing about other blogs on this subject or related subjects. Here are a few of which I am aware. Please let me know if you find others.
- Applied Imagination—Explores ideas about creativity, creative thinking, creative problem solving, innovation, applied imagination, creative studies and more.
- Eide Neurolearning—Articles related to brain-based learning and learning styles, problem-solving and creativity, gifted and visual learners, dyslexia, attention deficit disorders, autism, and more.
- Gifted Exchange—Gifted children, schooling, parenting, education news, and changing American education for the better.
- Gifted Gear Reviews—An insightful view into the world of a gifted child written by a gifted and talented 10-year-old who has a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome.
- Intelligent Insights on Intelligence Theories and Tests (aka IQ's Corner)—Shares contemporary research findings, insights, musings, and discussions regarding theories and applied measures of human intelligence.
- Overexcitable—Attempts to reduce prejudice against gifted/high IQ people.
- Prufrock's Gifted Education Blog—Prufrock publisher’s perspective of gifted children.
Free Online Newsletter for Parents of Gifted
Wow, have I got a great new resource for you! Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP
) just announced that it is now offering the Duke Gifted Letter online and free of charge
. The newsletter is filled with articles on educational and social-emotional issues relevant to the gifted population. TIP is not only offering the quarterly newsletter without a subscription, but is also including archives of all back issues at its Web site, along with a searchable database. In addition, users can comment on articles and engage in dialogue with other readers and the editors. When you click on an article title, not only does that article show up on the main page, but also links to other related articles and suggestions for further reading in books. If you click on the Subscribe icon near the top of the newsletter page, you can receive the quarterly newsletter via e-mail. This is a wonderful resource. Check it out
Testing for Inclusion in a Gifted Program
I have a son who is being tested for the gifted program at his school. He was given the ITBS and scored 95-99% on the academics portion. Now they want to give him a “full cognitive assessment.” Can you tell me what this is? I am concerned that he is being made to jump through too many hoops.
Your concerns are not uncommon. Parents often wonder, “Why so many tests?” “What do they all mean?” “Is the school just trying to make it difficult for my child to get into the program?”
The ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills
) is an achievement test and is often given to all students at certain grade levels in a school. An achievement test gives an indication of what a student has already learned, which is different from testing one’s ability or potential for learning. Achievement tests typically assess material taught at the student’s grade level, so a score of 95% indicates that the student has a very good understanding of the material that is taught at that grade level. It does not
test how much a student might already know beyond that grade level. When school personnel give a full cognitive assessment, it usually means they want to learn what the student a) already knows
beyond his grade level and/or b) what his potential
is for learning beyond his grade level. Assessments used may include an IQ test, an interest inventory, tests of visual-spatial strengths, or any one of a number of other categories of tests.
Do not be concerned that your student is being asked to jump through too many hoops. By giving him a full cognitive assessment, educators will learn more information about his abilities and form a more detailed picture of how to address his academic needs. After the full assessment, someone should sit down with you and interpret your child’s strengths and needs. If this isn’t done automatically, request this service. The ITBS was probably used as an initial screening device and the school now needs more information to determine if their gifted program will be a good match for your child. Some parents pay a great deal of money to have their kids assessed privately. I assume your child’s school is doing this for free, so this is a good thing.
Gifted Students with Learning Disabilities—Twice Exceptional
Yes, it is possible to be gifted and have learning disabilities—be a smart kid with school problems. This is known as being GT/LD or twice-exceptional. It can take on several different forms.
A student may be identified as gifted yet exhibit difficulties in school and may be considered an underachiever. Because he may be working at grade level, he may be overlooked by the screening procedures that are necessary to identify subtle learning disabilities. Underachievement is often attributed to poor self-concept, lack of motivation, or laziness. It is often not until school becomes more rigorous that academic difficulties increase to the point where the student falls considerably behind peers. Only then does someone consider the possibility of a disability.
A young person, who has been identified as having learning disabilities, may not be recognized for her strengths. Inadequate assessments and/or a depressed IQ score often leads to an underestimation of intellectual abilities. This student is noticed for what she cannot do instead of the strengths that she has.
A child may not be considered for services provided for students who are gifted or who have learning disabilities. This student may appear to be average because his abilities and disabilities mask one other. While the student typically performs at grade level, in reality, he is performing well below his potential.
Being twice-exceptional can be very frustrating for parents, teachers, and students—especially if there is a lack of understanding of the subject. Arming oneself with knowledge about the topic will enlighten and, hopefully, lead to coping strategies or modifications in learning techniques.
How many times have you heard stories about gifted students who either don’t get along socially or become frustrated and quit working on a project? There is much more our children/students need to learn than just academics. Reasoning, resilience, and responsibility (the other three R's) are among the important skills that are vital to our young people.
Many students are getting ready to start the new school year and many have already started. As we go forth with this new year, I’d like both teachers and parents to strongly consider incorporating the other three R's into their daily contact with kids.
The Other 3Rs Project
was created as a partnership between the American Psychological Association, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Vanderbilt University. It examined not only whether teaching the skills of reasoning, resilience, and responsibility had an impact on student learning, but on the effectiveness of teachers as well.
Experts have identified the other three R's as key problem solving skills that, when learned, can benefit student achievement and general life success strategies. The Other 3Rs Project developed a program for teaching teachers how to implement these skills into their academic curriculum. Parents should also realize that they can teach the skills at home through their family interactions.
Reasoning is defined as thinking that utilizes rules, whether they are implicit and/or explicit. What strategies would help me solve this problem?
Resilience is the ability to surmount challenges, both inside and outside of school. By teaching about resilience, we help young people to realize that:
- Challenges and difficulties are a normal part of life.
- Persistence/determination is needed. If at first I don't succeed I will try again.
- Obstacles are challenges to be overcome. Keep things in perspective. Think of challenges as opportunities for learning.
Responsibility causes one to be accountable for his own actions and inactions and the resulting consequences. By teaching responsibility, we help students see their:
Academic responsibility—Good grades result from my efforts. If I want to learn it's up to me.
Personal responsibility—It's up to me to make it happen. How I act matters.
Social responsibility—I care about what is good for all of us, not just for me.
Ability to give and seek help—Let’s help one another.
By teaching these skills, we will help our young people to do well academically, use good judgment, conduct themselves with appropriate behavior, get along with people, bounce back from the bumps of life, and be good citizens.
Giftedness and Sibling Rivalry
All families have the potential for sibling rivalry and jealousy. In families where one student is gifted and others are not, there is an even greater chance for friction. It is easy for one child to be left feeling more or less valued than another. Parents can help prevent this.
In Giftedness & Family Dynamics,
Deborah L. Ruf suggests that it is very helpful for parents to learn as much as they can about where each of their children fits on the intellectual continuum. It is not about being better or worse, or more or less valuable than a brother or sister. It is about each child's individual needs. These needs include finding one's own path and purpose, friendships, and sense of worth.
She believes that children will feel valued when parents get to know them well, work to make available what they need in order to thrive, and show them that they are valued for the very people that they are. We each want to be loved for our essence—not for what we do, not for our looks, not for how clever we are. All of these qualities can fade or disappear. If you can get the message across to your children that you love them for their essence, you have accomplished a great deal.
Bring to the attention of each of your children his strengths, whether they are academic strengths, personality traits, thinking ability, musical talent, etc. It is very likely that they will each have different strengths and it’s actually quite exciting that they are different. While your son may be very good at math, your daughter may be a great friend. While your son may keep his room very tidy, your daughter may love the piano.
In The Do's and Don'ts for Raising Gifted Kids
, again by Deborah L. Ruf, it is suggested that parents not hold a child up as an example for siblings or other children to emulate, compete with, or follow. Each person is unique and abilities affect interests and goals as much and often more than effort. Comparisons might make you child tone down her abilities so as not to feel freakish or disliked. Comparisons can put other children in an untenable, unfair position.
In Tips for Reducing Sibling Rivalry
, Sylvia Rimm says not to appoint your achiever to the role of tutor for your underachiever. It will serve only as a daily put-down for the other. The underachiever may not understand or be able to express those feelings. Children often say they appreciate the help, but "it makes me feel dumb."
Resources for Parents and Teachers of Gifted Children
I want to remind both parents and teachers that there are additional free resources on this Web site that are very helpful. In addition to this blog and the Gifted Education Blog
, Joel McIntosh, the publisher at Prufrock Press, has made available a number of articles, book excerpts, links, and upcoming events on this Web site.
- articles detailing gifted characteristics, definitions, and information about placement and programming;
- a glossary of terms;
- practical advice on parenting gifted children;
- book excerpts on understanding gifted children and smart kids with learning difficulties;
- information on perfectionism;
- articles on developing math, science, and writing talent;
- advice for college planning for gifted students;
- information on upcoming conferences; and
- links to state and national associations.
- information for teachers new to gifted child education;
- curriculum and teaching strategies for educating gifted children;
- articles on such topics as gifted students with disabilities and gifted girls;
- teaching strategies for language arts, science, and math;
- information on upcoming conferences; and
- links to state and national associations.
Also, if you want to find back entries about specific topics on this blog, enter your search terms in the box in the upper right-hand corner under "Search."
Please take time to check out these resources. Knowledge is power.
Developmentally Appropriate Materials for Young Gifted Children
Parents and teachers often face the problem of finding developmentally appropriate materials for young gifted children.
Gifted children tend to begin reading at a younger age, read at a higher reading level that their age peers, and go through books more rapidly. This creates a number of problems for parents. It becomes a challenge to find materials that are psychologically and developmentally appropriate. Although a 7-year-old child may be reading at a 12- or 14- year-old level, materials which deal with puberty, sex, violence, and other topics will not be understood or enjoyed. The intensity of some books can also disturb young gifted children. The best way of knowing what your child is reading is to read it yourself. However, a gifted child can devour books at an enormous rate, making this task difficult. Just for Kids
has developed a Recommended Reading List
for young gifted readers. Don’t stop at the first page of this site, which is just the table of contents. If you delve further into the site you will find specific recommendations of titles of books.
Math is so much more than just computation. Learning how to think through problems, finding different ways to solve problems, and nurturing general logic and reasoning abilities should be emphasized. The Prufrock Gifted Child Information Blog Enrichment for Gifted Children in Math
from May 13, 2005, provides a list of publishers that have excellent materials to support this philosophy. Also, look for mathematical games to play at home. These can either be purchased or you can invent your own games by asking your child to solve problems around the house (i.e., You may ask a very young child, “If we have 10 cookies for dessert, how can we make sure each of the four members of our family gets an equal share?”).
This topic may be the easiest to deal with. Young children love to learn about animals, insects, and the world around them. Visit nature preserves, zoos, and streams or lakes. Spend time observing with your child. Don’t just notice the things that are obvious. Look word up at the sky and get your noses down into the grass to see both the big and little worlds that are often overlooked. As you observe objects, smells, and the forces of nature, help your child discover patterns that occur and pose questions together . Posing questions will lead to finding answers through reading books or searching on the Internet. Your child will “lead” you in areas that interest him. The more you expose your child to, the greater the chance she will find an area she wants to pursue.
Motivation and the Gifted Underachiever
There is nothing as frustrating as having a child who you know is very bright, yet does not perform.
Many studies have been done on underachieving gifted students, but it is still a little understood syndrome. There is no one reason for underachievement. It may be caused by
- a physical, cognitive, or emotional issue such as a learning disability, attention deficit, emotional disturbance, psychological disorder, or health impairment;
- a mismatch between the student and his school environment; and
- a personal characteristic such as low self-motivation, low self-regulation (the ability to monitor, evaluate, and react appropriately to one’s performance), or low self-efficacy (belief in one’s own capabilities).
So, what is a parent or teacher to do? Caution should be exercised when using the reward/punishment approach, which may encourage the constant need for extrinsic motivation.
Extrinsic motivation is when a person is motivated by external factors. Extrinsic motivation drives a person to do things for tangible rewards or pressures, rather than for the fun of it.
Intrinsic motivation on the other hand, is when a person is motivated by internal factors. Intrinsic motivation drives a person to do things just for the fun of it, or because she believes it is a good or right thing to do.
Intrinsic motivation is by far the most desirable as it is long lasting. I have known so many students who have spent their school career (K-12) motivated mainly by the rewards or punishments that adults imposed upon them only to fall apart once they are on their own. It is always most desirable to encourage hard work and learning for the love and self-satisfaction of it rather than for a short-term reward or punishment.
The next question is, what can be done if one does not use punishments and rewards. Because parents and teachers are always looking for concrete tips for helping gifted underachievers, you may want to check out some of these resources.
Handouts from a presentation titled, Motivational Paralysis,
by Anna Caveney help parents understand possible causes of underachievement and suggestions for breaking the cycle.
Drawing in the work of Joanne Whitmore and Sylvia Rimm, the author of this site on intrinsic motivation
synthesizes both philosophies and research to offer many strategies for enhancing motivation
- those who value school goals and display near-average motivation/self-regulation, but have negative attitudes toward teachers and school; and
- those who display positive attitudes toward teachers and school, but do not value school goals and have low motivation/self-regulation.
The authors recommend using specific comments about success (i.e., “You really know how to calculate area,” provides more information to a student than a general comment, such as, Good job.”)
Jobs of the Future for the Gifted
I recently returned home from a wonderful trip to visit my son and daughter-in-law in L.A. We golfed, rollerbladed along the ocean, played Scrabble, and went to a couple of parties where I met many of their friends. Whenever I meet bright, young people (in their 20s and 30s), I am fascinated to learn about the jobs they have or are planning to have. Many of the job opportunities today are vastly different from the jobs that were available to my generation. For gifted students, this may also involve much higher levels of education. I question whether we are properly preparing our children for this changing world.
The greatest change I see is the application of technology and the jobs this is creating. For instance, I met several people on my trip who are working on their doctoral degrees at the University of Southern California in a combination of artificial intelligence and psychology. I found it interesting that they each had the same combinations of focus. They are trying to figure out how to apply the thought process of the brain to technology. So far, they are applying this knowledge to training simulations for the military and private companies, but they also predicted that the field will eventually infiltrate our basic education system. Of course, no one knows what this will look like yet, but it has the potential to truly individualize education according to each student’s strengths, needs, and interests. (A philosophy we have always encouraged in gifted education.)
Another graduate student I know at Georgia Tech is combining his interests of technology and psychology to find applications that will aid people with health problems.
The second major change I see is the globalization of jobs. When I asked these young people (two who were from South Korea) where they planned to live and work, they saw the world as their platter. In my parents’ generation, one usually got a job close to home and kept that job for the duration of his career. (I specifically said “his career,” because it was primarily men who worked at that time.) In my generation, job opportunities began to open up for women and people often considered moving away from their hometowns. In fact, some people moved numerous times. With the present generation, there are newly invented jobs, young people think globally about where they might live, and it is predicted that they will not only change positions numerous times, but actually change careers more than once.
So, my question is—Has our method for teaching kids kept up with our changing society—especially for our gifted students? Are we giving them the skills they will need to meet these challenges? Are we teaching them skills of flexibility and supplying them with a comfort for change so that they will be prepared for jobs of the future that haven’t yet been created?
The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute has designed a curriculum for seventh- through-ninth grade gifted and talented students titled Science Fiction and the Future
. The unit helps students look toward the future to think about the possibilities, as well as understand the concept of change.
You may want to consider instituting a Future Problem Solving Program
at your school to help prepare students for the future. The goals of the FPSP program are to:
· increase creative thinking abilities;
· improve analytical thinking skills;
· stimulate an interactive interest in the future;
· extend perceptions of the real world;
· explore complex societal issues;
· refine communication skills – written, verbal and technical;
· promote research;
· integrate problem-solving into the curriculum;
· encourage cooperative, responsible group membership; and
· offer authentic assessment.
Are Gifted Students Really Prepared for the Future?
Think of how technology has changed society in recent years. We have grown to love (and hate) computers with word processing, online bill paying, shopping online, and financial management. Computers can now integrate with televisions and music systems. They are used to remotely monitor activity at home and turn on and off various appliances. We have cell phones, text messaging, iPods, Blackberries, Bluetooth wireless devices, etc. These are not new technologies for our students; instead, they are a completely normal part of their lives. But, how do students use these innovations? Are they used productively?
The Internet article, Schools Failing Dotcom Kids
, reviews the philosophy of Ian Jukes
, international educator and author. Jukes feels that teachers need to focus more on higher-order thinking skills and critical problem-solving techniques to prepare students for the future. While he does not speak directly about gifted kids, he focuses on the same concerns that we have in gifted education—rigor and relevance. He cautions us to prepare children for their future and avoid producing “highly educated useless people.” (Hmmm, an interesting thought. I haven’t quite decided how I feel about that one yet.)
I do agree with Jukes that the dotcom generation lives in a culture that is fundamentally different from the one in which we grew up. For the first time in history, teachers are facing students who often know more about the digital landscape than they do. He believes that information fluency should be taught in every classroom in the same structured manner as academic subjects.
We need to teach information fluency, not just information literacy. Information fluency allows information seekers to ask good questions using a wide range of resources, then analyze and authenticate data and apply it.
Kids should be taught:
- thinking skills: critical thinking, problem solving, applied reasoning, information processing, new communication skills;
- technical skills: technical reading and writing, the ability to apply technology creatively and apply it to academic subjects;
- personal skills: goal setting, self-assessment, organization and time management, change readiness, stress management, digital entrepreneurship, marketing, and self-marketing; and
- workplace skills: to be future focused and aware of trends, understand the global marketplace, and to know how to work and learn in teams.
This all certainly sounds different from a traditional education, but it also makes a lot of sense. It also sounds extremely difficult to add to everything else that is taught in school. If students are to even come close to learning all these skills, it will take more that just the schools to teach them.
Tutoring Gifted Students Full Time
This is a throwback to the time when children were educated by a governess or tutor and curricula were customized to meet the needs of the individual students. Parents who hire full time tutors are often not displeased with public education. It just doesn’t fit their lifestyles. Some families do it for short stints, others for years at a time.
Full time tutors are used by families who:
- live between two or more locations,
- have a parent who travels a lot,
- have a child who is sick for an extended period of time, or
- have children in show business or competitive sports.
Although many of the families who pursue this type of education are wealthy, increasing numbers of middle class families who are more sociologically and racially diverse have begun to school their children at home using tutors.
This method of schooling is different from homeschooling, because the parents are either not comfortable or able to teach the children themselves.
Some families combine full time tutors with online learning and local enrichment classes to add variety.
A few organizations that provide full time tutors are:
Keys to Parental Involvement with Gifted Kids
Over the years, I have worked in many schools and with many school districts. The best school in which I ever worked had two strengths that I think elevated it to such excellence: 1) the principal hired outstanding teachers and then left them alone to their own styles and creativity, and 2) the parents were very positively involved in the education of their children, both in and out of school. Because of these two strengths, the students clearly understood that the learning expectations at the school were very high. It was the norm to excel.
In Best Schools Usually Have Involved Parents
, the authors looked at the top schools in Georgia (according to state tests) and came to the same conclusion—that parents are very important. When looking at these state test scores that are part of the No Child Left Behind Act
, many parents at the better schools were most interested in how many kids exceeded
the expectations of the tests. They also wanted to know how their school compared to other schools in the area. Parents were often willing to sacrifice to move to a neighborhood where their children could attend schools that met high standards. When choosing a school, they also visited and made certain that the teachers were nurturing and supportive, that the school was challenging and exciting, and that the educators were open to suggestions.
The authors found that at these successful schools, other families also worked to keep their children in a thriving environment. Parents made sure the school did not compromise art, music, or gifted education.
Making certain that schools work is an investment not only in children but also in the community. Good schools have a big impact on the values of homes.
Parents support their children’s educations by reading to them beginning at an early age, supporting their interests, volunteering at the school, and working together on hobbies. They travel and have an enriched environments at home.
The book debunks the stereotype that Asians are born smart, but does suggest that Americans can look to Asian cultures for tips on raising successful kids. The authors compare the way they were brought up by their Korean parents versus the way their friends were raised by American-born parents.
In Asian families, the child’s life tends to be much more structured, with emphasis on discipline and delaying gratification. The mother often gives additional creative assignments about whatever happens in their lives on a day-to-day basis.
Parents are role models for learning by being enthusiastic toward learning and education. They surround children with people who love learning and incorporate learning into all of their children’s activities, so they don’t associate education just with school. The adults make it fun.
So, if you want your children to have a good education, look first to yourself as parents and consider the many things you can do, beginning with the choice of where you live and continuing to your support of the schools and your children at home.
Direct Teaching of Social Skills to Gifted Children
Gifted students are sometimes criticized for having poor social skills. They may be academically advanced and emotionally sensitive, yet be immature socially. As adults, it is easy to ignore the necessity for direct teaching of social skills to very bright young people. We assume that because they are verbally precocious and have a broad base of knowledge that social skills should come automatically to them. If the skills do not come automatically, we use the excuse that it is because they are so gifted. By doing so, we do a disservice to these kids. We send them off into the world ill-equipped.
In How Can My Gifted Child Make More Friends?,
Dennis O’Brien writes that adults make it more difficult for gifted children to acquire the age-appropriate social skills and same-age friendships by encouraging a child’s intellectual growth at the expense of the child’s social development. Because of this, many children who excel in academic areas are developmentally arrested in their psychosocial growth.
He suggests that adults explicitly teach children basic social skills. One way to do this is through role-playing. Even after you have taught your child how to do these most basic skills, don’t take it for granted that she is using them. Ask your child how frequently she uses these skills each day. How do other children respond? Stay on top of your child until he or she habitually uses appropriate social skills with peers.
- listen. No one likes a know-it-all, especially if they do know it all,
- understand that he has control over only one thing—his reaction to events,
- have fun, and
- be a child.
Some specific social skills that should be taught are:
- introducing oneself,
- saying hello and good-bye courteously,
- when to listen and when to talk,
- telephone skills,
- table manners,
- appropriate language and topics of conversation with different groups,
- ways to include people in a conversation or play activity, and
- how to get along with different types of people.
Remember, people are not born with these skills. We must not assume they will develop automatically. They need to be directly taught, not only through our own examples of good behavior, but through direct words and instruction.
Working to One's Gifted Potential
Concerns that I frequently hear from parents include, “I just want my child to be able to reach his potential…or work to his potential…or realize his potential.” Parents want to know how they can help their child achieve this level of competence. They want the schools to provide an appropriate education so their student will reach this proficiency. They may be frustrated because the youngster isn’t interested in using his aptitude to its fullest.
The phrase “reaching one’s potential” raises a lot of questions. First of all, how do you know exactly what anyone’s potential is? How would you know when it was reached? Is it fair to ask a person to always be doing his best? What impact does asking one to reach her potential have on the actual output of a child?
Let’s take this out of the realm of the gifted student for a moment; instead, apply the term to yourself. Do you know what your potential is? Have you achieved it? If you have, I assume you have worked hard to get there. Would you want those around you to expect you to be at your peak performance all the time? Are there periods in your life when you have achieved great things and periods where you’ve just glided through the days or years?
Does it cause a lot of pressure to strive to work to one’s potential? How do you know when it’s too much pressure?
What is the point of working to one’s potential? Is a person a failure in life if he doesn’t work to his potential?
These are all thoughts on which to ponder. Exactly what are your expectations of your child or your child’s school or yourself?
Bright Child or Gifted Child?
How do you know if your student is a bright child or a gifted child? Intelligence is all on a continuum and this decision may be somewhat subjective, but there are certainly some characteristics one should consider when making this evaluation. The comparison list first attributed to Janice Szabos in Challenge Magazine
many years ago has been adopted by many districts and individuals. Bright children may be excellent students. Gifted children not only have the potential for being excellent students, but also look at life in a different way. Gifted children are curious, think abstractly, draw inferences, initiate their own learning, manipulate information, and thrive on complexity. Because they look at things so differently, this may actually get in the way of doing well in the traditional system. (But, don’t assume that is always the case.)
When school districts create “gifted programming,” they are often really creating programming for bright children that may also include gifted children. The programming may offer an accelerated approach to the curriculum, but, in order to truly address the needs of the gifted, it should also include a much higher level of complex thinking and exploration of ideas.
In a recent article appearing in the Cincinnatti Enquirer
titled Finding the Gift in Every Child
, the author sets forth several interesting premises about gifted education.
- It’s a shame children have to be labeled at all. Words like gifted and challenged seem rigid and exclusive when the truth is that children, their abilities and inabilities, come in a jumbled and motley assortment.
- Some children can and should move more quickly and wade more deeply into some coursework. It isn’t fair to hold them back, or deny that they need to be served differently than other students.
- Schools need to create learning environments that are shaped around the child, rather than trying to shape the child around the environment.
- Teachers need support in the form of training to deal with wide ranges of ability levels and learning styles and they also need support staff.
- Caution should be exercised when identifying gifted children. While identifying children at early ages may help the brightest students get off to a good start, it may be too early to see the gifts that are just starting to bloom in some students.
- In addition to academic gifts, schools must acknowledge and support gifts of empathy, leadership, kindness, creativity, organization, and problem-solving.
- We must help all children see their potential and work towards it.
I receive many e-mails from parents who want to know if their young children are gifted. What a difficult question to answer. I’m still not sure if I know what the term really means. I do know that it means many different things to different people—including experts in the field. I personally think it is too much of a “catch all” term and does not really describe much about a child. I would understand much more about a young person if strengths and weaknesses were described to me, as well as personality traits and learning styles. So, I agree somewhat with the author of the above article. I agree that the term gifted is rigid. It is certainly not very descriptive.
The author acknowledges that some children should move more quickly and delve more deeply into some coursework. I know this is definitely true. I also agree that teachers need lots of support in terms of training and additional people power to make this work. A point is well made about needing to create learning environments that are shaped around the child. I’m afraid the No Child Left Behind Act
has made this almost impossible. Little room is left in the curriculum for variance or creativity.
The concept of the need for caution when identifying children is an interesting one. This concept poses the question: Is a person born gifted or can giftedness be developed at various points during one’s life? Can we fit people into neat little slots when they are young and expect them to always stay in those slots?
The author also stresses that we need to acknowledge and support various types of giftedness. Here are a couple of questions to ponder. Is one type of giftedness more important than another type of giftedness? Should we expect schools to address all types of giftedness?
Finally, we must help all children to see their potential and work toward it. I guess I would restate this to say we must help all children see the possibilities in life even if they aren’t obvious. The young people will then need to decide if they are willing to work toward those possibilities. Much needs to come from the internal drive of the individual. Just providing opportunities does not mean that everyone capable will take advantage of them.
Challenging the Minds of the Gifted Children with Chess
Chess is the gymnasium of the mind - Blaise Pascal
Are you looking for an excellent extracurricular activity for your school? One that will really excite and draw kids while improving their minds? Think chess clubs. At one school where I worked, parents started a before and afterschool chess club and it was one of the most popular extracurricular activities available. Kids not only learned strategies and practiced chess during club time; they also went on to compete at various levels with one child going all the way to nationals.
Don't Protect Your Gifted Students Too Much
As parents, we want our kids to be happy. It is painful to watch them experience the bumps of life. We also worry about their self-esteem and try to protect it. But BEWARE!! Too much protection can be harmful.
Many parents fight to get their kids into more challenging academic classes because it is understood that challenge is healthy. It is interesting then that parents often protect their students from challenge in other aspects of their lives
, such as dealing with uncomfortable situations, learning to work with people who have different ideas, earning money to purchase something they want, doing without a lot of material things, or learning to fill their own free time. We don’t allow children to struggle because we are afraid it will damage their self-esteem. Parents who constantly hover over their children, trying to make the world just right for them are called “helicopter parents.”
So stop trying to solve all your children’s problems. Just as you demand challenging academic classes for your kids, also demand that they accept their own challenges in life.
Keep Gifted Students Motivated Through Mentoring
This year, 28 students have been paired with an architect, a doctor, writers, a biathlon coach, a municipal counselor, veterinarian, artists, a theatrical makeup expert, a lawyer, a carpenter, photographers, an interior designer, computer experts, and a cartoonist. These community members meet with the children for 2 hours each week over an 8-10 week period. At the end of the program, students prepare a presentation for their classmates. These young people have accomplished a variety of tasks under the tutelage of their mentors, including building a ski rack, mastering an architectural drafting program, and working at a veterinary hospital.
The two teachers in charge of the program this year said that they were surprised that it wasn’t that difficult to find community members to volunteer their time to help the students and that the program is very fulfilling to the mentors, as well as the young people.
Each student should be screened to determine if he really has a strong interest in a subject and is willing to commit to the time necessary to participate in such a program. This can either be accomplished through the school or parents can make arrangements on their own. Think about the type of person who might support the child’s interest and begin networking through friends and professional acquaintances. As both a teacher and a parent, I have had other adults approach me with their child’s interest, asking if I knew anyone who might help. I can almost always think of either individual people with expertise or organizations the parents might begin contacting. All of the personal experiences I have had with mentorships—elementary through high school—have been very successful.
Don't Jump to Conclusions about Your Child's Gifted Characteristics
Recently I had some pretty obvious physical symptoms that indicated I should see a doctor. Because my symptoms were pretty pronounced, I was shuttled from doctor to doctor in quick succession. Each specialist hypothesized about what awful disease I probably had. While each of these doctors had a lot of experience in their professions, we had no test results back yet. There was little objective information. I didn’t want to listen to any of their speculations, because I would worry myself unnecessarily. It also would have made no sense for them to treat me for an illness they just thought I had. This reminded me of communications I have with many parents.
I hear a lot from concerned parents with young children. Either the parents or others are having trouble with the kids. The parents are certain that their child is gifted and that is the cause of the problems. They don’t know what to do. They are frantic. I often want to say, “Slow down. You do not have enough information to come to any conclusions yet.” Because some well-meaning teacher or friend tells you that they think your child is gifted, doesn’t mean she is. Even if your child is gifted, that doesn’t mean that his or her giftedness is the cause of whatever problems you are having. The parents are assuming a “diagnosis” and speculating about “treatment” prematurely.
Once your child is in school, talk with your child’s teacher. While you may see one side of your child, your child’s teacher has worked with many children and may have valuable information to share with you that is quite different from your perspective. While it is important for you to share your knowledge, it is also extremely important for you to truly listen.
Parenting Books on the Gifted
Want to learn more about parenting the gifted? Read some of the following books:
Practical strategies for the education of exceptionally high ability children.
A good mix of research-based conclusions and anecdotal stories of how children, parents, educators and society at large deal with giftedness.
From solving social problems, to dealing with perfectionism, and developing time-management strategies, to mastering goal setting, this is an up-to-date guide for gifted kids, their parents, and teachers.
This user friendly guidebook educates parents and teachers about important gifted issues, an ideal resource for the beginner to seasoned veteran in educating gifted children.
Provides a humorous, engaging, and encouraging look at raising gifted children today with practical, down-to-earth approaches. Goes beyond the basics, focusing on attitude, reflection, and subtle changes, rather than specific, cookie-cutter recipes for action.
Great introduction to IQ testing and gifted children. Answers your questions, from “Why test?” to “What do the scores mean?” and “What about scores of twice exceptional children?”
A practical, informative, and authoritative primer for raising and educating gifted children from preschool to adolescence. Beginning with sensible strategies to determine whether, and in which area, your child is gifted, this book takes parents through selecting an appropriate day-care center, a school, and a home reference library.
Helps you understand the meanings and implications of having a gifted or talented child in your family and provides practical suggestions for working with your child's school.
Helps you recognize your child's gifts, understand his or her problems at school, find out your district's policy on gifted education, explore various options, communicate effectively with the school and district, and provide enrichment at home.
Helps you understand what giftedness is (and isn't) and how kids are identified as gifted. You'll discover encouraging practical tips for living with your gifted child, find out how to keep from raising a "nerd," how to prevent perfectionism, and when to get help. And you'll learn how to advocate for your child's education at school and in your state.
Offers background and advice from the identification process, to choosing a teacher, to gifted programs and curriculum.
Stories of gifted kids, from verbal to humor, and great quotes from the experts, all to get you started on your adventure with your gifted child.
How to recognize giftedness, from the obvious signs such as advanced language, math and motor skills, to the less obvious ones such as sense of humor, good memory and active imagination. The book also offers a variety of age-appropriate techniques to stimulate your child's curiosity.
Schooling Options for Gifted Students
Because parents want the best possible opportunities for their children, different school options should be explored. Each type of schooling has positive and negative aspects, and there is no one right solution. The best choice lies within the needs and characteristics of your individual child and your family.
Let’s look at three possibilities: neighborhood school, special school for the gifted, and homeschooling. We will look at these broadly, because even within each of these categories, there can be great diversity. I have listed both advantages and disadvantages for each type of schooling, but these are only possible advantages and disadvantages. Much will depend on the specific situation, including training of teachers, characteristics of individual students, the population of the neighborhood or special school, etc.
Advantages—This is certainly the most convenient possibility. The school is close. It is probably either within walking distance or provides transportation. The school often has before and afterschool options, which is convenient for working parents. Children become acquainted with others in the neighborhood, making it easier to make friends in the area. Your child may feel very confident knowing that he is one of the best students in the school. He will be exposed to a wide variety of types of people and, hopefully, learn to get along with those who have different backgrounds, ethnicities, and intellectual abilities.
Disadvantages—A gifted child may not find a cadre of intellectual peers at the neighborhood school. She may feel very lonely and set apart from others at the school. Teachers and/or the organization of the school may not be equipped to provide for the higher intellectual needs of the student; therefore, your child may not feel intellectually challenged.
Special School for the Gifted (may be private or public)
Advantages—Since the school is designed for the gifted, the curriculum will be more intellectually appropriate and stimulating. Your child will have intellectual peers and challenges. She may be better prepared academically to go on to the next level of education. Teachers are trained specifically to work with intellectually able children and will cover not only more content, but higher level thinking skills.
Disadvantages— Transportation may be a problem. There may be additional costs if the school is public. There definitely will be costs of tuition, etc. if the school is private.
Your child will probably not be exposed to as great a diversity of children as in your neighborhood school. Your child may feel intellectually average or even below average amongst so many smart kids. High expectations may feel too challenging and stressful.
Advantages—Your child can focus on his real strengths. He may advance much more quickly through curriculum and also go more in-depth with it. There may be more time to pursue the study of an instrument or some other nonacademic interest area. There are more opportunities to visit museums and other outside educational venues. Your student may be spared from dealing with others who may be unkind or have different values than your family.
Disadvantages—Homeschooling is a very large commitment on the part of the parent. If both parents are working or the child is from a single parent home, this may not be possible. Parents may not have the tools to effectively homeschool their child. Parents will need to work harder to provide social interaction. Your child may not have the opportunity to learn to deal with students who are unkind or have different values than your family.
Each of these possibilities has advantages and disadvantages. You will have to look long and hard at your family’s situation. When you do make a decision, be careful not to shut doors behind you. You may try an option and find that it doesn’t work as well as you hoped. You want to leave doors open so you can eventually reverse your decision if you decide that is best.
Purchasing Materials for Gifted Students
Are you looking for resources to support gifted students? While many publishers produce general education materials, some publishers specialize in the gifted. All of the following publishers offer online catalogs and ordering:
Many resources to support the Autonomous Learning Model
Specializes in creative problem solving and talent development
Practical ideas for working with the gifted
In addition to books, this site offers some free activities to do with children
A great resource for high-level math materials
Lots of higher-level thinking resources
Another great resource for high-level math activities
Many ideas for learning centers and independent studies and projects
Tools and information that help students survive and thrive academically, socially, and emotionally
Integrated science and humanities series, upper elementary through high school
Books for parents, teachers, and educators of gifted, talented, and creative children
Recommends books for gifted children
A great resource for puzzles and learning games
Books for both parents and educators
Resources to support differentiated education
A wide variety of resources for teaching and parenting gifted and advanced learners, including classroom materials, books, and journals
Includes support materials for gifted and talented and for critical thinking
Gifted Education Magazines and Journals
If you want to become more informed about issues in gifted education, you may want to subscribe to one of the many publications in the field. These publications fall into different categories. Each of these categories meets different needs. Publications written for the adult audience are either journals (covering research in gifted education), or more casual-style magazines (offering ideas and opinions in a less formal reading style). There are also publications directed toward gifted students. Here are some periodicals you may want to consider. Only those with Web sites have been listed.
Research Based Journals
Gifted Child Quarterly
–Publishes research studies, as well as manuscripts that explore policy and policy implications. A subscription is available with membership to NAGC.
Journal for the Education of the Gifted
–This is the official publication of The Association for the Gifted and reports the latest research findings on such topics as the characteristics of gifted children, effective schools, gifted children with learning disabilities, the history of gifted education, and building successful programs.
Journal of Secondary Gifted Education
–Reports the latest research findings on such topics as teaching strategies with gifted and talented adolescents, programs at the secondary level, effective high schools and magnet schools, and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs.
Magazines for Teachers and Parents
Gifted Child Today
–Articles include such topics as teaching strategies in gifted education, building a more effective gifted and talented program, working with gifted children who have learning disabilities, raising a gifted child, how to tell if your child is gifted, and effective strategies for parenting a gifted child.
Gifted Education Communicator
–This publication provides information and strategies that help apply theory, research, and best practices in the field.
Teaching for High Potential
–Filled with practical guidance and classroom-based materials for educators. Subscription is available with membership to NAGC.
Understanding Our Gifted
–Addresses the intellectual, social, and emotional needs of gifted students through regular columns and feature articles.
For the Younger Audience
–Filled with games, art, stories, poetry, and opinions by and for kids ages 8-14.
–This is a periodical for middle and high school students who want to take control of their learning and get the most out of their precollege years. Each issue includes articles about summer programs, advice on planning for college, student reviews of selective colleges, and career profiles of accomplished professionals.
Should Gifted Underachievers Stay in Honors Classes?
I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend and gifted/talented resource person at a middle school in a very good district. My friend has several students who, on standardized tests for language arts, score very high. These students are enrolled in honors English classes but perform poorly in these classes. The honors teachers want the students to be removed from their classes and placed back in grade-level English. Apparently, the students do not turn in their homework on a regular basis.
Upon quizzing my friend, I learned that each of these students comes from a difficult home situation. Her question to me was, “Should the students stay in the honors classes because they are obviously very bright, or should they be returned to the grade-level classes because they are not performing?”
A number of years ago, underachievement
was one of the “hot topics” in gifted education. Much was written about it. It was defined, explored, and strategies were offered for resolving the problem. Unfortunately, underachievement is probably not a dilemma with a “cookie cutter” solution. Worse, it may not have any solution. Family instability is only one of many reasons for underachievement.
Students are strongly impacted by their families. For reasons we don’t fully understand, some youngsters will step beyond the difficulties at home and use learning as an escape or as something over which they can
have control. More often, if a strong base is not offered at home, a child cannot get beyond that. This goes right back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
. If basic physical and psychological needs are not met, one cannot reach self-actualization.
can sometimes be helpful. To have any success when working with underachievers, though, there must be a very strong commitment on the part of the mentor and the ability to create a positive relationship with the student.
So, let’s go back to my friend’s question, “Should the students stay in the honors classes because they are obviously very bright, or should they be returned to the grade-level classes because they are not performing?” I would hope that before any changes are made, someone will attempt to address the personal difficulties of the kids.
Online Classes for Gifted Students
In addition to meeting the needs of mainstream gifted students, online classes are also of benefit to:
- those who live in rural areas where smaller populations reduce the number of available classes,
- families who are traveling for extended periods of time,
- young people who need to devote an unusual amount of time to their talents in the arts or sports, and
- students who need to accelerate their learning.
The Stanford University EPGY Online High School
is launching it’s program in September 2006. It will offer a fully accredited high school diploma with academically rigorous courses. University-level courses will be available in some subjects. Tuition is approximately $12,000 for a full-time academic year.
Lists of state-level virtual schools and links to obtain more information about them can be found at e-learners.com
It should be noted that not all of these schools will offer classes suitable for gifted students, but they are worth exploring.
Also, there are approximately 31 virtual charter schools
in 12 states. Information about these and links to the actual schools are available.
So, keep an open mind when searching for differentiation techniques for meeting the needs of gifted students. Taking online classes—whether it’s one class or an entire curriculum—is one possible solution.
Blogs for the Gifted Classroom
You are reading a blog entry right now.
The blog is an evolving technology. Originally, blogs started as personal diaries on the Internet. As with many types of technology, people viewed them and asked, “What is the value?” Now, all kinds of individuals, organizations, and companies are looking at the possibilities--even wondering if they can survive without blog technology.
Blogs can be used in a variety of ways in schools. They can be used as a communication tool between the school and parents, between teachers to share ideas and problems, and as a tool for teaching students.
In education, where students frequently ask, “What is the relevance of the class I am taking?” blogging may be helpful. It is a method for communicating with others, for receiving recognition, and for improving students’ skills, all using the technology of the day.
When viewing blogs and suggestions for blogs, remember that this medium is not static. If you don’t like what you see, think about how could you make it more valuable. How can you use your creativity to find value for this technology?
To learn more about incorporating blogs into schools and the classroom, visit
Writing a blog can involve research, as well as writing. For instance, to write this blog, I did research on the Internet to find other Web sites, or links, to provide information for the reader to click on. Imagine a student doing this for a science or social studies class.
If you are using blogs in your school or classroom, let us know about them. Just click on the “add comment” link below this entry and tell us all how the blogs are being used and if they are beneficial.
Gifted in Music--Whose Responsibility Is It?
How much should we expect public schools to do for gifted students? We already want the schools to meet the needs of gifted students academically. Is it realistic to also expect schools to meet the needs of those who are gifted in music? One of my sons was a very talented piano player. He was not talented enough to be at the top of the class at the best music schools in the country, but he was heads and shoulders above his K-12 academic peers. It never occurred to me to expect the public schools to address his needs. Instead, I made sure we hired the best private piano teachers in our area. As he approached middle school, he spent a week for each of two summers at a music camp where the kids practiced five hours a day and had lots of private lessons and performance opportunities. He absolutely loved it. It was the first time he ever met others who shared his interest so passionately. I could not expect the public schools to offer these types of opportunities. We were fortunate, because we could afford the private lessons and the camp. It is much more difficult for those who are not in the same position. [However, there are organizations, such as The MusicLink Foundation
that can help.]
I’m not sure what the definition is of a child who is gifted in music
. We used to laugh about Todd because he would sing himself to sleep long before he could talk. After I would put him down for a nap, visitors would say “What’s he doing?” I replied that I always rocked and sang Brian to sleep, but I didn’t have as much time with Todd, so I just taught him to sing himself to sleep. When he was still very little, he would sit with a record player so he could listen to and sing with the music. I had lots of old 45 rpm records from my youth and I didn’t care if they got scratched, so he would play those over and over again. When Todd was 3, my mother sent out the piano that had been in our house when I was growing up. Todd begged to learn to play. I started teaching him and there was no stopping him after that. Eventually, Todd got his first college degree in music. Does that make him gifted? I don’t know. But I do know that I could not expect the public schools to meet his needs in music.
When observing children who have a strong interest in music, remember that they may have great strengths in one area, but not another and that is just fine. For instance, a young person may have talent singing, playing a specific instrument or type of music, composing, or conducting. Don’t expect a student (even one who is musically gifted) to be interested in all areas of music.
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.
Organizational Skills and Gifted Students
Frequently parents and teachers complain that gifted students lack organizational skills. In fact, it is the lack of these skills that often hold students back.
The National Association for Gifted Children has an interesting article titled Organization Skills
It suggests possible reasons why a gifted child may appear to lack organization.
- He doesn't see a reason to participate appropriately at school.
- She has missed some basic foundation skills along the way.
- The student has a subtle learning disability.
- It may be a sign of perfectionism.
There are many reasons for lack of organization, but none of them should be used as an excuse for poor school performance. It is vital that parents help students to overcome this problem. How the child views the situation will make a difference in the best way to approach the problem. In this article, suggestions are given that get student buy-in in deciding methods that may improve organization.
When a child tries a new method for organization, the method must come from the child according to Organizational Skills for Visual-Spatial Learners
. It simply will not work to try to become organized under somebody else’s (like a parent’s) system. (I think this is probably true whether a person has a strong visual-spatial bent or not.) The student must create his own meaningful strategies that can be understand and remembered. Here’s how to help your young person get started:
- Be sure to visit office supply stores and other places that carry a variety of products designed to help with organization.
- Color-coded envelopes, files, and pocket folders are perfect for storing specific papers.
- Colored index cards are a great tool for note taking.
- The use of a day-timer or planner to record due dates and appointments is a tool available for the visual-spatial learner.
I do think that Linda Leviton, a member of the Visual-Spatial Resource Access team and a visual-spatial learner herself has an interesting idea. She states that visual-spatial learners are either horizontal or vertical organizers. If they are horizontal, they need a long table (preferably not deep) to put out (and leave out) works in process. If they are vertical, they need places to create stacks. She bought herself one of those paper sorters with cubbies and keeps it right next to her computer (with labels for each section).
Other ideas to help with organization include:
- using different colors to record homework assignments in one’s planner;
- allowing enough time during transitions to record assignments, put materials away, etc.;
- marking assignments as they are finished to give one a sense of accomplishment;
- placing materials to go to school or to take to a practice or lesson in a specific area near the door that your child exits (if this can be done the night before, it eliminates stress in the morning);
- having adequate office supplies. It’s difficult for a child to do homework if she can’t find paper, pencils, scissors, tape, post-its, etc.; and
- setting a good example as an adult by having good organizational skills.
Gifted Students in the Primary Grades
In kindergarten, first, and second grade, teachers work to lay a strong foundation for the education of students, both academically and socially. At the same time, some children enter these grades already quite advanced in their abilities. It is not easy for these students to have patience while waiting for everyone else to “catch up.”
While teachers may want to differentiate learning for the various academic abilities, it is especially difficult with the lack of independence that most children have at this age. In addition, there is often a great discrepancy (or asynchrony) within a single child. (i.e., Yolanda may be a whiz kid in math, but have very poor fine motor coordination.) To address the needs of young gifted students, it takes a teacher who understands gifted education, is very creative, and has a great deal of energy. It is also vital to have additional adults in the classroom who are truly helpful.
Funding for gifted education often does not start until at least third grade (if at all), which is also a problem. There may be no money available for gifted education specialists, extra programs, or necessary materials.
So, parents, while you may be concerned about your child, it is also important to realize the problems facing your school and child’s teacher. How can you help? Is there some way you can raise money for programs or materials? Can you volunteer your time in the classroom by working with small groups of children? Can you create open-ended interest centers and then help to supervise them?
Teachers, will you understand the concerns of parents of bright young children? Will you educate yourselves more in gifted education by attending conferences
, taking classes, and reading? Will you contact your gifted coordinator in the district or building for advice?
It is only by working together and respecting the concerns of one another that we can help to meet the needs of gifted students in the primary grades. Setting up adversarial situations is not in the best interest of children, so reach out to one another in a positive manner.
Some resources that help provide understanding and ideas for working with young gifted children include
For Parents and Teachers
Many of the materials by Bertie Kingore
. Look through the list of books and articles she has written. Even though titles don’t often indicate it, many of them are geared towards primary gifted children.
Recognizing and Working with Gifted Toddlers
I get many questions from parents about their very young children. Is their son or daughter gifted? If so, what should the parents do about it? This is a very difficult and controversial subject to address. There are several of schools of thought on the subject.
- It is very important to identify a child at a very early age. If you do not, you will deprive her of her potential.
- The child may just appear to be gifted because he has been exposed to many experiences at an early age. Other children will eventually catch up to him.
- The child may be going through a developmental spurt when young, but this growth will slow down as she gets older.
In Joan Franklin Smutny’s article, Identifying Gifted Toddlers
, note that she addresses the question: “What do you look for in a potentially
gifted toddler?” She also provides a list titled: “Your toddler may
be gifted if he or she…” I think it’s important to note the words “potentially” and “may.” She is not saying that children who exhibit these characteristics necessarily are
While you may not be able to find a program like New Zealand’s Small Poppies
, you can certainly take some of the strategies used in the program to work with your toddler.
The question of when you should conscientiously teach your toddler to learn is addressed in Carol Bainbridge’s
answer to a parent’s question.
I personally think that the easiest way to address this dilemma is twofold. No matter what you think your child's abilities are,
- expose her to a wide variety of experiences in a playful manner. The experiences do not have to cost money. They may involve a walk in the park and noticing the things that nature provides or listening to music on the radio, or playing with plastic containers in the bathtub.
- support your child's interests. If he likes books, go to the library often and read lots of books together. If you he expresses an interest in art, provide paints and paper or play-dough.
If your child has the potential to develop giftedness in a certain area, she will pursue it in earnest for an extended period of time. Above all, talk to your toddler and give him lots of attention and love.
Hobbies for Gifted Children
Home was such a fun place to be when I was growing up. There was always something to do. My parents encouraged every interest any of us had. My older brother was interested in the weather, building models, HO gauge trains, beekeeping, and sailing.
Rich kept a small ringed notebook and every day he cut the weather map out of the paper and pasted it in. Using the thermometers and barometers in the house, he recorded the high and low temperatures and the air pressure. He made his own predictions of the short and long-term forecasts and also noted whether he had been correct on the previous day.
Model airplanes that Rich built hung from the ceiling in his bedroom and the dresser was covered with ships he had assembled.
While in elementary school, he saved his money from his paper route to start buying HO gauge trains. In the basement he created a setup of plywood that rested on wooded horses. On this platform rested the layout that he created. He built every house, created every tree and road, and constructed every bridge on that layout.
When he was in junior high school, Rich started beekeeping and eventually had four hives. He would harvest the honey and sell it to friends and family. He had an arrangement with the school principal to let him out of school whenever a swarm left a hive so he could retrieve it.
Rich first experimented with sailing by fastening a rig on an old aluminum rowboat. In junior high, he took over the family’s one-car garage and built a two-man Sunfish from scratch.
We all had collections of rocks, shells, and butterflies. I learned how to sew, knit, and crochet. Everyone learned how to play at least one instrument. We had hobbies that required a financial investment, but we also had many hobbies that didn’t cost a cent.
At times, parents come to me and say that their child is very bored in school. One of the first things I ask is what the child likes to do at home. Occasionally, a parent will reply that this is a big problem because the child isn’t interested in anything. When I hear this answer, I worry. I’m not sure how to help a child who is interested in nothing. If, however, the parent starts rattling off all kinds of interests that the child has at home, I have great hope that we can work with these interests to change the way things work at school. I strongly encourage all parents to expose their kids to a wide variety of interests and hobby possibilities.
According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, a hobby is a "specialized pursuit (as stamp collecting, painting, woodworking, gardening) that is outside one's regular occupation and that one finds particularly interesting and enjoys doing usually in a nonprofessional way as a source of leisure-time relaxation; broadly: any favorite pursuit or interest." While hobbies benefit all kids, gifted children can gain enormously from them. Hobbies broaden the interests of children, inspire new ways of thinking, release stress, and enhance competence. They also encourage tenacity, organization, and creative thinking.
The first place to start, of course, is for parents to have interests and hobbies of their own. Just don’t expect your children to have the same interests. Respect their desire to try new things. Support them as they explore different areas.
As always, the Internet is full of support and ideas. The following may be helpful:
Homeschooling Gifted Children
There are a number of reasons why parents of bright students choose to homeschool their children.
- Their children are very smart and it is difficult for their needs to be met in the public school system.
- The family is traveling extensively and traditional school is impossible.
- At least one of the children has a very special talent, often outside of the realm of the traditional school curriculum. This talent may be in music or acting or art or a specific area of science. Whatever the talent, it requires more time than is possible while attending a traditional school.
Some families decide to homeschool their children for the entire K-12 education. Others may do it for just a few years. Some combine traditional school with homeschooling by enrolling students in only some subjects at their neighborhood school and homeschooling all other subjects. Some combine homeschooling with enrollment in courses in a junior college or in a university. By keeping an open mind, one can come up with many possibilities.
Support for homeschooled families is vital. The good news is that the resources to help are out there. Here are just a few.
This site includes listservs, websites and electronic magazines, bibliographies, and research studies--all on homeschooling gifted children.
You will find a wealth of information here, which is provided by the Homeschool Association of California. It includes reasons for homeschooling your gifted child, how to do actually do it, working with teens, preparing for college, working with gifted children who have learning difficulties, and resources.
At this site you will find a message board, supportive articles, sources for supplies, and suggestions for curriculum.
This book helps families decide if homeschooling will be right for them, ways to approach homeschooling, testing, and resources.
Gifted Education Journals and Magazines
Would you like to learn more about gifted education? One way to do this is to subscribe to a journal or magazine in the field. Here are some publications that you may want to consider.
Gifted Child Quarterly
is published by the National Association for Gifted Children. This journal publishes original scholarly reviews of literature, research studies, and manuscripts that explore policy.
Gifted Child Today
, a magazine for educators and parents, is published four times a year. It offers information about teaching and parenting gifted and talented children, including lesson ideas, program suggestions, new product announcements, and more.
Gifted Education Communicator
is published by the California Association for the Gifted. This practitioner’s journal is issued four times each year. The primary target audiences are parents and educators of K-12 gifted children.
is for middle and high school students who want to take control of their learning and get the most out of their precollege years. Published five times a year, Imagine
provides insights, information, and solid counseling to young, motivated readers.
Journal for the Education of the Gifted
, a quarterly journal, is the official publication of The Association for the Gifted. It offers information and research on the educational and psychological needs of gifted and talented children.
Journal of Secondary Gifted Education
is a quarterly journal that offers education professionals information needed for building effective programs for gifted adolescents and young adults. Articles address the unique issues related to gifted education during the middle school, high school, and undergraduate years.
Parenting for High Potential
is a quarterly magazine designed for parents who want to develop their children’s gifts and talents.Roeper Review
(no website available)
41190 Woodward Avenue
Bloomfield Hills MI 48304
This resource is published four times a year and is for professionals who work with teachers and psychologists, and for professionals who work directly with gifted and talented children and their families.
Understanding Our Gifted
is published four times a year and is filled with practical advice, social and emotional concerns, strategies to use at home and school, and educational options. It is written for parents, educators, and counselors.
Holiday Gifts for Gifted Children
This holiday season, adults are scrambling to find presents for gifted children that will be fun, help them to grow intellectually, and have lasting value. If chosen appropriately, board games, card games, construction toys, books, puzzles, and computer software, will serve these needs in a most satisfying way. When looking for gifts to give at the holiday season or any time, look for items that
- require higher level thinking and reasoning
- encourage creative thinking
- teach new facts or ideas
- can be used over and over again
Quality toys and activities usually require seeing patterns, making plans, searching combinations, judging alternative moves, and learning from experience.
Sometimes it is difficult for parents to find good sources for these great educational materials. Here are a couple of organizations for the parents of gifted children that have compiled links to many worthwhile sources.
The Smart Toys for Gifted Kids
section on Hoagies’ website, where you will find numerous sources for classic wooden puzzles, toys, and board games for the family.
The Davidson Institute section on games
. Scroll down the page almost halfway until you get to the section on catalogues.
Remember that your children--no matter what their ages--will enjoy your active role in playing with them and solving puzzles together. Much of the learning experience comes from discussing the various possible strategies used--what works, what doesn’t work, and why.
Perfectionism and the Gifted Child
If I were to have an operation, I would want a surgeon whose skills were perfect. As a passenger on an airplane, I want to have a pilot who knows exactly what to do in any situation. We look for people at our workplace to be not only bright, but dedicated, with attention to detail. We applaud the student who studies hard, does excellent work, and is never a behavior problem.
One would think, then, that trying to be perfect is a highly desirable trait. Unfortunately, perfectionism
can also have its downsides--especially for gifted students.
When my youngest son, Todd, was only three, he wanted to learn how to make his bed. I taught him and he did a good job. However, if he couldn’t make it without a wrinkle, he would be very upset with himself. He had a habit of taking his open hand and slowly moving it down his face, over and over again. He thought that if he kept making that movement, he would keep the tears from welling up in his eyes. When Todd played his simple pieces on the piano, it was important to him to play them perfectly. If he made a mistake, his hand again would slowly start moving down his face. It was very upsetting to me to see him so stressed out. Finally, when he was about eight, this need for perfectionism started to turn. I would walk past his room and see that everything wasn’t put away just right. While many mothers might call the child to the room and ask him to straighten it up, I was secretly doing a little dance in my head. When Todd chose a college, he rejected the possibility of a four-year fully paid music scholarship at one school to go to a more difficult school. A couple of months into his freshman year I asked him how it was going. He replied, “Mom, I’m the worst pianist here.” My heart sank as I said, “That must feel terrible.” His voice took on an enthusiastic tone as he boasted, “No. Not at all. It gives me something to work towards.” Over the years, he had learned to change from a perfectionist to a person who strives for excellence. In other words, he set high goals and worked towards them, but didn’t get upset if he didn’t do as well as he hoped. He became realistic in his objectives.
Many young people who are perfectionists are consumed by fears, especially fears of social or academic failure. These children perceive themselves as failures, feeling they have not met either their own expectations (which are often unrealistic) or the expectations of others. They may feel that respect and love from others is conditional upon their performance. Every situation is “all or nothing,” “black or white.” People must and can do their best at all times. Since there is little value in doing things they cannot do well, this perfectionism may turn into a paralyzing situation where they don’t even try.
When external pressures (either real or perceived) are exerted upon some children, results can be even more acute. These external pressures may include due dates, reward systems, and expectations for certain grades. While these pressures work to the advantage of many students, they may cause problems for students who are extremely sensitive.
Strategies to Help Perfectionists
- Discuss perfectionism--its symptoms, causes and misconceptions.
- Share stories that show that mistakes can be used as learning tools. (Look at any book about inventors and you will find stories of people who failed many times for every success they experienced.)
- Help students determine the areas of their lives that they can control and those that are controlled by others and by chance.
- Incorporate goal setting and student evaluation into major facets of learning.
- Help students to self-evaluate, drawing attention to their strengths and accomplishments, and to reinforce progress they make toward goals.
- Be a good role model. Demonstrate that learning is a process of trial and error. Stay with problems for a reasonable amount of time, even if the problems are difficult. Admit all mistakes as an adult. Model imperfect behavior, personal evaluation, goal setting, reasonable risk taking, self acceptance of your own imperfections and "off" days, and good listening and responding skills.
- Encourage and expect children to try new things.
- Help your young person look for realistic standards.
- If a child perceives that she has failed at something, wait until after the emotional tension is reduced before discussing the matter. This may help avoid defensive behaviors. Don't expect rational or logical thinking during the immediate stress period following defeat.
- Teach admiration as a strategy for handling jealously. Notice, admire, and communicate admiration to others. Acknowledge a family member when he treats another in a positive manner. When playing games together, voice appreciation for the skill used in a particular move rather than being upset that the person is beating you.
There are some excellent books available on perfectionism, including
Mentoring Gifted Children
There are many reasons to establish a mentoring
relationship and many possible ways to structure one. A variety of gifted student populations can benefit from such a relationship, including
- those interested in career choice and development
- students needing help in affective areas
- young people wanting to pursue a specific area of interest in-depth
- those having progressed beyond the curriculum offered at school
- disadvantaged children
A mentoring relationship will not meet the needs of every gifted student. Before going through the work of setting up a mentorship, one must ask seriously if there is enough of a commitment on the part of both the mentor and the protégé to make it successful.
Some people suggest that the creation of a mentoring experience should wait until high school. I think that it depends on the goals of the program. One elementary school had a very successful mentoring program, but it required a great deal of time on the part of a parent volunteer to make it work. The following steps were taken:
- Teachers and parents were surveyed to find students who had a very strong interests in subjects that went beyond the scope of the curriculum. This was evidenced by a strong interest in a specific subject for a minimum of two years.
- The student was asked if he would like to participate in a mentoring program.
- The parent volunteer searched for someone who might address the needs of that student. The circle of possibilities started close, asking teachers and parents if they knew of anyone who might be appropriate and then branched out from there.
- Once a potential mentor was found, the mentor, protégé, and parent met to make certain that they felt comfortable with one another.
- An agreement was signed to meet outside of the school building and outside of school time for ten times. (Many of the mentoring relationships went on long beyond that, but it is important to have that initial limit so that no one feels trapped by a long commitment.)
- Legal issues between the school and mentor were discussed. (This may vary from district to district.)
- Parents needed to address any concerns they had about leaving their child with someone they don’t know well.
Some examples of successful mentorships at the school, included
- A child who was interested in snakes being paired with a herpetologist from the zoo.
- A student who was interested in cartooning being paired with a political cartoonist for a local newspaper.
- A boy gifted in music being paired with a jazz musician.
- A young person who was interested in computers working with an IT person.
- A person who was very interested in visual special math pairing with a person who specialized in this field.
Mentoring disadvantaged children may be approached in an entirely different way and for different reasons. When mentoring this group of children, an adult may act as a mentor in a specific area of interest or she may help the student to see the possibilities beyond the young person's limited environment. In Mentoring Disadvantaged Gifted Children
, Neil Satterfield explains how this group of children has grown and he provides resources for those who are interested in helping.
The mentoring of high school students takes on an entirely different face. Subject specific mentors require more and more expertise and mentoring for career decisions can be very important. When considering a mentoring program at high school, you may want to see the work being done by Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society
. Also, corporations are sometimes willing to work with adults to set up mentorship programs with talented youth.
Whatever population is mentored, whether it is a formal program or something more informal, it can be a valuable experience.
Be sure and hit the “Add Comment” button below and let us know if you, your child, or one of your students has had a positive mentoring experience and what you think made it positive. Please be respectful of other’s wishes for privacy by not leaving specific names.
Virtual Museums for Gifted Children
With the Internet today, the world is virtually at our fingertips. Gifted children are often interested in a wide variety of topics--many that would not normally be taught in school. Virtual museums allow students to pursue these topics by “visiting” collections around the world. Even by just browsing museums, a young person may become interested in a topic that he had not previously considered. You will see some overlap of topics or museums in the links below, but each is worth viewing.
This site provides links to online collections and exhibits covering a vast array of subjects, from classical art to architecture to mundane collectible objects. Links include MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), The Smithsonian, a collection of advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955, and a museum of chocolate wrappers.
Here you will find links to The Getty, The Guggenheim, The Library of Congress, and also to digital art.
This is a specialty site that has great pictures and history.
If virtual museums pique your interest, consider creating a virtual museum with gifted students
. Look at the article, Building a Virtual Museum Community
, which describes how a school district and museum partnered to develop of a virtual museum devoted to local history at the turn of the 19th
Century. The article discusses strategies needed to cultivate such a relationship.
Geography and Gifted Education
When I started working as a gifted education specialist at one elementary school, I was told that there was a second grader at the school who was a whiz at geography. Peter was a whiz-kid! His father had introduced him to the subject before he ever started public school and he had been devouring it ever since. Ask him to locate any place on the map and he could point right to it. But he wasn’t just good at place names. He could tell you the climate, the animals, and the vegetation of the area. If asked to reason why a certain event might take place in a specific country or city, he would pause and then begin his sentence very slowly with, “Let’s see…” He would then take all the information he knew about the place and reason very logically why that event might have taken place there. He might also add, “But I would also like to know…” Peter was a phenomenal reader. At second grade, he was reading at a 12th grade level. This enabled him to research easily. Peter was gifted in geography.
I often wonder how many other kids might be gifted in geography if they were just exposed to it. After all, a child can’t get excited about something to which he has never been introduced. While most students in first or second grades are learning about their neighborhoods in school, Peter was exploring the world. Peter knew that geography was not a dry subject.
Geography is much more exciting than many people think, involving far more than places and locations. Geography helps us to understand the relationship of places and people. With a little searching adults will find that there are resources available to introduce young people to this subject.
To give you an idea of the scope of geography, check out the definitions
that were compiled from participants at the Geography Summit II which was held at Southwest Texas State University in 1996 and collected by Dr. Ed Fernald of the Florida Geographic Alliance.
Great Resources for Teaching
To help people gain a greater understanding of geography, in 1984 the Joint Committee on Geographic Education of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) developed Five Themes of Geography.
These themes include location, place, human/environment interaction, movement, and regions. Be sure and take a look at this site as it explains each of these themes and lists fun activities to teach them. More activities for teaching the Five Themes can be found at Education World
At the National Geographic Xpeditions
site, you will find not only the U.S. National Geography Standards, but lesson plans, activities, an atlas, and an interactive learning museum.
Want to know if you have a student who is gifted in geography
? The national curriculum of England has actually set up standards.
Finally, if you would like to pursue geography on a competitive basis, take a look at GeoBee Challenge
. This site includes information for kids, parents, and teachers, including information on the National Geographic Bee.
So, have lots of resources available to students, including maps, atlases, and globes. I have a large world map hanging in my kitchen. There’s no need for me to look for it or open it up when I want it. If I read about a place and I’m not sure where it is, I can look it up. If I’m doing a crossword puzzle and one of the questions pertains to geography, I can look it up. Have maps for everything. I live in a sports oriented state, so I have maps of bike trails, hiking trails, ski area trails, and cross-country ski trails. They are fun to study. Also interesting are topographical maps, relief maps, political maps, and weather maps. Each gives different kinds of information.
If you go to the zoo, get a map of the animal locations. If you go to a museum, get a map of the exhibit locations. Have your child make a map of your house. Talk about the arrangement of the rooms and how the present locations function in your house. Then have your child create a map of his ideal house. Have him explain why he placed the rooms where he did. Is it more functional that way?
Use maps when studying history. Observe border changes. Why do they change? How does geography influence where people settle? How does it affect where people move? Discuss geography in relationship to current events. How does geography affect alliances and conflicts throughout the world? Why do the names of countries change?
Teach students how to read legends. Understand longitude and latitude and time zones. How does geography affect climate? Make geography a part of everyday life both at home and at school.
Highly Gifted Children
At one school where I was a gifted/talented resource teacher, Peter entered kindergarten literally being able to read anything. Unfortunately, his parents did not understand that he was still a five-year-old emotionally and let him read books like Frankenstein and Dracula. Since he was still at such a literal stage of his life, he believed that the stories were true and was very frightened by them. Peter was also a “walking encyclopedia.” He seemed to remember every fact he ever read. Peter had no intellectual peers in kindergarten. He skipped first grade. He had no intellectual peers in second grade. From a distance, I followed Peter through the years and heard that he had no one who resembled an intellectual peer until high school. Can you imagine how difficult this was for Peter and his family? He had no one with whom he could relate, and the students in his classes really wanted nothing to do with him. They found him to be a real oddity.
There are gifted individuals and there are highly (or even extremely or profoundly) gifted individuals. Peter was at least a highly gifted individual. While it may be a challenge to address the needs of gifted students, it is a much greater hurdle to address the needs of the highly gifted. These children may be particularly vulnerable because of their uniqueness. It is extremely difficult for schools to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of these kids.
These children are often found as a result of extremely high scores on an individually scored IQ tests, generally above the 145 IQ range. Others may be prodigies in areas such as math, science, language and/or the arts. Profoundly gifted children can score in excess of 170 IQ.
There are resources that are available to parents and teachers of these students.
Exceptionally Gifted Children
, by Miraca U. M. Gross is a 20-year study that reveals the negative academic and social effects imposed on gifted children by inappropriate curriculum and placement and shows clearly the long lasting benefits of thoughtfully planned individual educational programs.
Parenting Gifted Children
Parenting can be a tough job. Kids don’t come with an instruction book, and parents often feel that they have one chance to do this right and one chance only. For 11 years, I worked as a gifted/talented resource teacher in a public school that had an excellent academic record. Though it wasn’t a specialized school, it had a high number of gifted students. Frequently I would have very concerned parents call me. They wanted to talk with me about their sons and daughters and questioned many aspects of their students’ education. I would listen for as long as they wanted to talk and then ask the question, “Do you feel that your child’s needs are being met?” Inevitably their answer would be, “Well, yes, but I just want to make certain that everything is being done that should be done.” It was easy for me to address these issues because I knew the quality of the school and the teachers. (Of course, all of the schools where I worked were not as strong as this one.)
In addition to having concerns about school, parents also feel that they have only one shot at parenting at home. How can they know the best way to parent? Should they follow the same model that their parents used? Should parenting be different with gifted children? Should they be strict or liberal? Of course, there is no one right answer, but some theories, research, and opinions can be shared. A recent article, Critical, Demanding Parents Can Damage Gifted Children
, appeared in USA TODAY. The article covered a panel discussion at a meeting of the American Psychological Association. Gifted kids were reported to be as mentally healthy as their less able classmates, but all bets were off if the kids had critical parents who demand stellar performance every day. That approach can create nail-biting perfectionists who fear taking risks and fall short of their potential.
While gifted children are not typically a problem for the family, they do offer some unique challenges, as was reported in A Review of Research on Parents and Families of Gifted Children
. Parents, it was found, may become excited because a bright child can be a step up in socioeconomic status. This becomes a problem only when parents have inordinate expectations about their child's achievement. In fact, pressure from parents to achieve has also been cited as a cause of underachievement.
Different kinds of family dynamics yield different outcomes in developing talent. The role of stress or challenge in a family can certainly have an influence as is discussed in Parenting Practices that Promote Talent Development, Creativity, and Optimal Adjustment
“Parenting styles that help a child find his own identity, rather than prescribe it…aid in the development of talent, creativity, and good mental health.”
“Parents also help children to succeed by allowing them to experience and cope with challenges and difficulties in their lives.” We often want to make life go very smoothly for our kids because we love them, but we actually help them to grow and become self-confident if we don’t try to protect them from every difficult event that occurs in life. It’s much more helpful to talk with them when there are challenges and help them to figure out how to cope, make the best decisions, and learn from adversity.
Gifted Children of Immigrants
I meet the most interesting people when traveling. Often this takes place in taxi cabs or shuttles to and from the airport. The most recent example was the taxi cab driver I had a few days ago. He had a “need to talk.” The man entered the United States in 1986 from Eritrea under political asylum. Eritrea is a small African country located on the Red Sea between Sudan and Ethiopia. Mostly, the driver wanted to talk about his children, ages 12 and 14. He was obviously very proud of them and their achievements. Each of the boys is at the top of his class academically. The father said that he and his wife work very hard to provide for their children financially and to instill in them the value of hard work and the importance of education. “After all,” he said, “education is the key to success.”
Why is it that this value is so strong in those who immigrate or are the first-born of immigrants while many students who are born here do not see the value of hard work?
In his article The Multiplier Effect
, Stuart Anderson states, “Students from immigrant families seem acutely aware of the opportunity to excel that their parents gave them by immigrating to the United States.”
“An astounding 60 percent of the top science students in the United States and 65 percent of the top math students are the children of immigrants.”
If you saw the documentary, Spellbound
, you know that a disproportionate number of excellent spellers are children of immigrants, or are naturalized citizens themselves.
While it is certainly helpful to be born with high intelligence, it is also necessary to have a strong work ethic to maximize that natural ability. Sometimes, I think, that we expect all the hard work to come from the school systems rather than from the kids. We are concerned that the schools are not providing enough for our children and yet we excuse our children’s lack of interest in pursuing educational goals themselves.
Perhaps those of us whose families have been in this country for generations can benefit from some of the strategies that work for many immigrant families.
Opportunities for Gifted Children
When flying into Chicago, sometimes I take a “ride share” taxi to get downtown. It’s about half the cost and involves waiting around five minutes until the taxi arrangers can find two other people going the same direction who are willing to share the cab. I did this last week. I was sitting in the backseat when the door opened and in entered a very good-looking African-American man, wearing a handsome navy suit and spit-polished shoes. He was very friendly and introduced himself as Lyndon. After saying “hello,” he immediately started working on his Blackberry, alternating the reading of email with making business calls. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes with him moving very quickly from one matter to the next. I grew exhausted just watching and listening to him.
Somewhere along the line, he stopped working and we started a conversation. I was fascinated by his story because it fit so well with the area of gifted education.
Lyndon grew up in a small, poor town in Texas. His parents did not have opportunities to go to college, and I’m not even sure they finished high school. Lyndon’s parents were only teenagers when he was born--too young, thought his grandparents--so he was initially raised by the older relatives.
In elementary school, Lyndon was hyperactive and always talking. According to Lyndon’s point-of-view, this caused him to be placed in a resource room for children with learning disabilities. He felt stigmatized. Somewhere a long the line, he had a teacher (we’ll call her Mrs. Johnson) who looked at him differently. She saw his strengths, not his constant distracting chatter. One day she pulled him aside and said to him, “I’m going to call your mother tonight. I can tell you’re a smart boy and I want to have you tested.” Through the advocacy of Mrs. Johnson, Lyndon was tested and found to be very bright and was placed in a magnet program for gifted students. Suddenly he saw possibilities outside his immediate environment. He skipped one grade in elementary school while in this magnet program.
When he was in middle school, Lyndon was invited to attend a special program on the East Coast for bright, under-privileged students. This led to him receiving a scholarship for a prep school for two years. I asked Lyndon how his parents felt about him going away to school. He said that he thought it was difficult for his mother, but his father was very supportive. When his father was in the military, he saw that there was “another world out there” and wanted to give his son the opportunity to experience that.
After some time, Lyndon missed his friends back home and decided to finish his final years at his old high school. When he returned to that school, he skipped yet another grade.
Lyndon went on to attend Brown University and then got a graduate degree at The University of Chicago. He is now a very successful business executive. All this happened because he was shown the possibilities of a different life and he had adults who made sure those possibilities could take place.
Lyndon is now married and has two preschoolers. Because of his experiences, he realizes that doors can be opened when one is exposed to the possibilities in life. He is making a concerted effort to give his children even more exposure than he had. He wants them to know many different types of people. He has them in an environment where they are already speaking two languages. He exposes them to lots of books and provides many enriching experiences.
Lyndon told me that he did some volunteer work recently with kids at Cabrini Green. The young people were shocked to see the car he was driving. They said it was the first time they had ever met an African American driving a Mercedes Benz who wasn’t a drug dealer.
By the way, Mrs. Johnson, the teacher who recognized Lyndon’s talents, still remains in his life. She was one of those special teachers who stayed in touch and was a guiding force. Mrs. Johnson “made a difference.” She attended his graduations from high school, college, and graduate school. She attended his wedding and the birthday parties of his children. She is a “part of his family” and very valued individual.
All Parents Homeschool
On one of the many listservs to which I belong, a contributor recently stated that all parents homeschool
their children to some extent. It is all on a continuum, with some families deciding to make the commitment to homeschool their children fulltime and some providing aspects of homeschooling without even realizing they are doing so. After all, homeschooling is simply the provision of educational opportunities that may not be available in the regular school system.
Even if you don’t homeschool your children fulltime, you may want to look at Internet Resources for Homeschooling Gifted Students
for ideas to incorporate into your own family’s situation. Schools cannot possibly provide a complete education for your young people; no one entity can. One’s education comes from a total experience of formal schooling, plus all experiences outside of school. You are homeschooling your children when you take them to the library, to cultural events, to museums, and on trips to areas outside their neighborhoods. You are homeschooling when you read to them, discuss with them, and encourage their hobbies. You are homeschooling when you enroll them in music lessons or send them to camp. Enjoy your homeschooling experience whether it is part-time or fulltime.
Questioning for Gifted Students
One's first step in wisdom is to question everything - and one's last is to come to terms with everything.
Parents often ask how they can enhance the education of their students at home. Teachers often ask how they can help gifted students in the classroom. Teaching children good questioning techniques is one of the many ways to address these dilemmas.
When children first start school, adults ask the questions and pose problems. Over time, we want to shift to students asking questions and finding problems for themselves. Questions should also become more complex as young people grow. “What evidence do you have...?” or “How do you know that’s true?” or “What do you think would happen if…?” or “If that is true, then what might happen if...?”
Children should look at their environment and inquire. “Why do frogs croak?” “How high can a bird fly?” “What use is the hair on my arms?” “How can we stem pollution?”
When going out on an errand or a vacation or a field trip together, query young people with “What questions will you ask yourself?” “What do you wonder about?” “What more could you learn about...?”
On August 26, I posted a blog entry titled Critical Thinking for Gifted Students. In that entry, I talked about some techniques that adults can use when questioning gifted students. By modeling these methods, young people will soon start using some of the same techniques.
Parents can always modify classroom suggestions for use at home. Never feel that it is just the school's responsibility to teach children. Parents play the major role in developing the minds of young people.
Parents and teachers are invited to post ways that they encourage young people to ask good questions. Just click on the “Add Comment” section below this blog entry. Also, feel free to post some of the interesting questions your students have asked.
Universal Themes & Gifted Education
My dad had a wonderful way of explaining things. Because he was a doctor, he often needed to describe how the parts of the body worked and what happened when those parts did not work properly. Frequently he compared the systems of the body to common machinery or household systems. He helped his patients understand their illnesses by making connections to objects and experiences that were already familiar to them.
Our children and students also learn best when they relate new information to things and ideas that are familiar. We can help them with this by teaching universal themes/concepts. By using this technique, we also help students to form “big ideas” that are transferred to future experiences. Gifted students are capable of taking these big ideas in-depth and becoming quite complex with them. This can actually be used as a differentiation tool.
- Rather than have kids just memorize math facts, show them the patterns of numbers. This will make the memorization much easier.
- Rather than learn a lot of historical facts—dates, names, battles—teach the concept of cause and effect. Then the dates, names, and battles will fall into place.
- When studying literature, instead of checking only for comprehension, discuss the theme of the book in relation to responsibility, or conflict, or survival.
Universal themes can make the difference between knowledge and understanding—learning many facts vs. being able to apply those facts to something meaningful.
It is especially helpful if a theme is carried across all disciplines for months or even an entire year. Some schools have a different universal theme for each year. Possible themes include
- Point of view
- Human rights
The International Baccalaureate Organization
uses universal themes in its Primary Years Programme
. The program uses six transdisciplinary themes as umbrella concepts for all subjects
. The themes are
- Who we are
- Where we are in place and time
- How we express ourselves
- How the world works
- How we organize ourselves
- Sharing the planet
- Human/environment interaction
By studying geography using these themes, students learn not only place names, but they learn about communication, transportation, trade, languages, the cultures of the world, why people settle in certain areas, and how landscape and weather influence areas. Studying geography using themes provides a better understanding of history, interactions between countries and cultures, and a better understanding of current events.
Universal themes can also be used at home. Having a common vocabulary and relating many experiences to the same theme will help students learn in all aspects of their lives. For instance, if the theme were “systems,” your family could discuss the characteristics of a system and then see how different systems meet those characteristics. Some systems that you might find around home are
- a bicycle
- structure of living quarters (rooms for different purposes)
- systems for accomplishing work around the house
- systems for doing homework
Once children have an idea about systems in general, they will be more ready to learn about other systems, such as
6. structure of the school
Critical Thinking for Gifted Students
We want to teach students to think logically and critically and not accept information as fact just because someone tells them it is so. We also want them to go beyond the memorization of facts and be able to analyze, evaluate, and apply what they learn to their own lives. The ability to think critically helps one to make thoughtful decisions about school work, directions in life, friends, politics, etc.
- evaluate information and opinions in a systematic, purposeful, efficient manner
- solve complex real world problems
- generate multiple (or creative) solutions to a problem
- draw inferences
- synthesize and integrate information
- distinguish between fact and opinion
- predict potential outcomes
- evaluate the quality of one's own thinking
The incorporation of critical thinking skills is often what determines the more complex process when teachers differentiate curriculum for gifted students.
While it is important that critical thinking be taught in the schools, it is also very important that it be developed at home.
There are two well-recognized systems of questioning that have been developed to teach critical thinking: Bloom’s Taxonomy and Richard Paul’s Socratic Questions. These types of questioning can be incorporated into both school work and into discussions at home.
created a hierarchical taxonomy of questioning techniques from the very basic levels of knowledge through analysis, synthesis, and evaluation questions. In the 1970s and 1980s, his taxonomy was often misused in classrooms in a variety of ways. Often gifted students were expected to jump right to the higher-level questions without the basic knowledge. Here is a list of well-constructed question-starters using Bloom’s Taxonomy
that I would highly recommend. Remember to ask students questions from all levels—not just the complex questions.
- probe assumptions
- probe reasons and evidence
- explore viewpoints and perspectives
- probe implications and consequences
- ask questions about the question
While the questioning techniques of Bloom’s Taxonomy and Richard Paul’s Six Types of Socratic Questions can be applied to any subject that is discussed in school, teachers also need to know that there is excellent, already-developed curricula incorporating these critical thinking approaches. The curricula include
Julian Stanley: A tribute
Dr. Stanley’s original research program, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, was renamed in June 2005 to the Julian C. Stanley Study of Exceptional Talent. The program enrolls students who, before age 13, earn scores of 700 or higher on the math or verbal portion of the SAT. It provides counseling, mentoring, and other support for these profoundly gifted students.
During his career, Dr. Stanley wrote or edited 19 books and over 500 articles in professional journals, including
Free Time and the Gifted Child
Do you worry when your kids have nothing to do? Is doing nothing a waste of time? What do your children do when they do have free time? Is your family over scheduled? Does your family always feel hurried?
These are questions we should all be asking ourselves. While it is good to expose gifted children to a variety of experiences, we must not forget the value of down time.
The results of Time for Playful Learning?
(a study done by the LEGO Learning Institute), showed that “…German and Japanese parents wish for more time for free play for their children, whereas parents in the USA, UK, and France seem to prioritise (sic) scheduled activities over free play.” The study also showed that “Doing nothing in particular is relatively more appreciated among parents with a higher level of education, parents with higher incomes and older parents.” Interesting.
My life seems to go in cycles from being over scheduled to having a more leisurely pace in which to accomplish necessary tasks. I have noticed that when I move at a more leisurely pace, I am actually more productive and definitely more creative. I have time for the necessities of life: adequate sleep, healthy diet, and quality exercise. Therefore, I am physically and mentally more prepared to handle tasks. In addition, I have time to organize everything I have to do and I also have time for my mind to wander.
According to many experts in creativity, one has to go through three stages to come up with a creative idea:
- Be presented with some type of problem
- Allow time for that problem to incubate in one’s mind
- Realize an “aha” experience
Finding that time to let ideas incubate is often difficult. When talking to adults about creativity, I often ask them when they get their best ideas. It is usually when they are doing mundane activities like driving, taking a shower, washing the dishes, or vacuuming. We as adults and certainly our children need time to allow for those great ideas.
In a Better Homes and Gardens article
from last year, the author concluded that kids really need some down time and time to be creative. After one parent arranged for her children to have more free time, her oldest son became interested in the piano. Her other son created elaborate card games and now wants to be a game inventor.
When we over schedule kids we deny them the opportunity to use their time to organize, plan, contemplate, imagine, create, and pursue interest areas. We also reduce family time for activities, conversations, and problem solving.
Gifted Education Conferences & Associations
I frequently get emails from both parents and teachers seeking more information on gifted education. Parents feel that they have very bright children and they want their kids to have opportunities that will meet their needs. Teachers are often asked to work with gifted kids, even when they have not received the preparation necessary for these jobs. Both parents and teachers benefit greatly when they become active in state and local gifted organizations and attend gifted conferences. By taking advantage of these opportunities, adults can hear experts in the field, meet others with similar interests, and receive support. The beginning of the school year is an excellent time to make a commitment to educate oneself by joining a local or state organization. It is also an excellent time plan to attend one or more conferences.
Gifted Children & Poverty
When I was young, growing up in a suburb north of Chicago, I heard rumors of Cabrini Green
. This was one of the “projects” in Chicago, northwest of The Loop. It was to be feared. When I first learned to drive, Division Street (where Cabrini Green was located) was firmly imbedded on my mind as a place to avoid at all costs. When you’re on the subway, I was taught never
to get off at Division Street. Cabrini Green was filled with poor, angry, black people.
Now, many years later, I frequently go back to Chicago. To get from the area where I stay to one of the main highways, I have to drive down Division Street, past Cabrini Green. Much of the area is being gentrified. One by one, the projects are being torn down, replaced by expensive new row houses. A large grocery store has been built in the same strip mall as a Starbucks. But a number of the old Cabrini Green structures are still there, waiting their turn to be torn down. Meanwhile, they are still occupied by the same population that has been there for decades. Every time I drive by I am sickened. This is like a war zone in a third world country. It is inexcusable for our country to allow anyone to live in the squalor that that exists in these projects. The buildings, surrounded by tall chain-linked fences are literally falling apart. It is evident by the smoke stained concrete that numerous fires have taken place in the buildings. Children of all ages “hang out” on the broken sidewalks and grassless, dirt yards.
Each time I drive past this scene I wonder about the children inside. What kind of a backgrounds do they bring to their school experiences? What hopes do they have for learning? We are told that in every population there are similar percentages of gifted students. If this is true, how will they be found in this population and how will they be served? Will anyone care?
Gifted Kids & Video Games
My oldest son, Brian, has always been “into” computers. He enjoyed this pastime as a child and continues as an adult. He now builds and maintains computer systems on his job, and acts as a consultant for top companies and governments. At home, he is helping to raise a twelve-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. When you enter his house, there are computers everywhere. Each of the kids has a computer and games are played regularly. For fun, sometimes my son will get together with his buddies, each bringing a computer to a central location where everyone hooks up to one another and they have a gaming session that can last for days. This is difficult for me to understand. Pardon the pun, but it doesn’t compute.
Recently, I was editing an article on technology—specifically on video games. The games sounded educational, so I emailed the article to Brian to get his impression. He gets irritated with the fact that everything has to be “educational,” whatever that means. After all, aren’t there different types of education and different types of skills and knowledge to be gained? He emailed back to me an article that he says expresses the way he feels about video games. The article, from the July 12 issue of USA Today, is titled Video Games Not Necessarily Turning Kids’ Brains to Mush
, by Kevin Maney. Maney talks about two books that espouse that playing video games might be one of the best things your kid can do to ensure future success.
The argument comes from Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
. Johnson, a best-selling science writer who often tackles neuroscientific issues, feels that playing video games helps kids to learn valuable problem-solving skills. Games like The Sims
and RollerCoaster Tycoon
give kids a cognitive workout. We're getting smarter, Johnson says, and the reason is the growing complexity of popular culture—including video games. He feels that books lack interactivity and, therefore, understimulate the senses. It’s not the game content that’s important, but the mental process that is required to solve problems. At every point you have to make decisions. You have to think about patterns, long-term goals, and resources. Then you have to make decisions, get feedback from the game, and use that to readjust your decisions. Steven Johnson has his own blog
, if you’re interested in learning more about his thinking.
Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever
, by John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade states that video games are changing the way that work and data are managed. The authors stress the importance of kids learning to be fluent in video games. Gamers believe that winning matters and they place a high value on competence. Game players learn about measured risk taking, have an amazing ability to multitask, and develop leadership skills.
So, perhaps, parents and educators should take another look at video games and discover what skills can be gleaned from them. Also, shouldn’t we consider how the techniques used in these games might be applied to future learning methods?
Metacognition and Gifted Children
Metacognition is analyzing one’s own thinking process—thinking about thinking. It is vital when learning to develop strategies for solving problems, whether they’re math problems
, learning a second language
, or social problems. It helps students make connections between different situations.
We can learn a lot about our kids by just sitting down and asking probing questions about their thinking. Some statements and questions that you might use are
- Think out loud for me.
- Tell me about the strategies you are using.
- Tell me more about that.
- What are some things you will have to think about before beginning this?
- When did you start having trouble?
- What was it that confused you?
- Is this problem like any other problem you have experienced?
- Is there another way of looking at this?
- How did you develop that idea?
I remember one time I was working with a class on some difficult math problems. After giving the students time to work individually on a problem, they still struggled. I suggested that we stop and share some of the strategies that students were using and how they were thinking about the problem. One rather quiet boy began explaining his thinking. Suddenly several others blurted out, “That will never work!!” (I didn’t think it would work either.) Instead of cutting the boy off, I told the others to be polite and hear him out. As he explained his thinking, the correct solution slowly emerged. Yes, he had approached the dilemma in an unusual way, but it had been correct. There are often many different interesting ways to approach a problem. That’s one of the things that’s exciting about all of this.
It will help your own children or students if you model your own metacognition. When beset with a task, talk out loud and state how you will approach the task. Tell if it reminds you of something you have done before, anticipate what information or tools you will need to accomplish the task, give yourself a timeline, etc.
When something isn’t working, stop and talk out loud. What might be a different strategy you could try?
Rather than focusing on judging, focus on thinking strategies. What works and what doesn’t work.
When students learn to use metacognition, they become more confident in their ability to solve new problems. They learn what to do when they don’t know what to do. By understanding how individual kids think, you may better understand their choices in the fut
Creatively Gifted Children
I often get the following comment about my two grown boys: “They are both so creative and so funny. How did they get to be that way?”
The people who make this comment are correct; Brian and Todd are very creative. Being funny is probably part of that creativity. As adults, this innovative ability is demonstrated in their approach to their jobs, solutions to problems they encounter in life, and the way they spend their spare time. Because they can look at situations in creative ways, they also greet life in a very upbeat fashion.
Creativity is a great asset. Some seem to be born with it and for others it may be a bit of a challenge, but no matter what, it can definitely be enhanced.
I think that my two boys were basically born creative, but I also found that there were ways to enhance this trait as they progressed through childhood. I would like to share some of those ways with you.
Tolerance for Chaos
If everything in your house always has to be neat and tidy, you will have a difficult time encouraging creativity. Sometimes it is necessary to mess up the house to have fun.
Tolerance for chaos is also very helpful in making good decisions. Kids (and adults) often want instant answers. To make good decisions it is often necessary to have “think time.” During this think time, one can come up with a variety of possible choices from which to choose. The more choices, the greater the chance one has of selecting a good one.
Brainstorming ideas also fits under the umbrella of tolerating chaos. On their Creativity Central Idea Blog
, Jake and Maria G. pose a variety of questions that incorporate brainstorming by allowing readers to respond. You really should take a look at this as some of their questions and responses are quite thought provoking.
Less Is More
You don’t have to spend any extra money to encourage creativity in kids. All you need to do is look around the house and think about different ways of using the items you already have.
Sheets and blankets draped across furniture make great playhouses. This may mean rearranging the furniture. Add some stuffed animals and a whole fantasy world can be constructed. Let the kids use their imaginations for the use of each room or area of this fantasy world.
Keep a box of unused or discarded hats, costume jewelry, pieces of cloth, shoes, and clothing that children can use to dress-up. Make sure a full-length mirror is available so children can see how they look. An old slip may suddenly become the gown of a princess, especially when combined with a necklace and a feathery boa. Garage sales and thrift shops are also inexpensive places to buy items for the dress-up box.
Bathtub toys can consist of empty plastic bottles of various sizes that can be floated or used to pour water from container to container. A plastic bowl may become a boat. All can be stored under the sink in a plastic pail.
Recycle your plastic meat trays, tin foil, and anything else that can be washed. Save all kinds of odds and ends of ribbon, string, yarn, sewing scraps, colorful paper, catalogs, etc. Whenever you’re going to throw something out, look at it in a different way and think if your child might use it in some creative way. Keep the items in a creativity box for the kids on a rainy day. Coupled with scissors, markers, and glue, they will create artwork and create inventions.
When Halloween rolled around, we didn’t go out and buy costumes; instead, they decided who or what they wanted to be and we would decide together how the costume could be made. This was actually a practical reason for them to learn how to use the sewing machine.
There were a couple of times as my boys were growing up when they created whole fantasy themes together. For weeks or months, everything in their lives revolved around these themes. One time they decided they were each birds. Another time they decided they were flies. (This may embarrass them as adults, but it was great to see their young minds at work.) With each fantasy, they created songs, rhymes, ways that they moved their bodies, games they played, and how they slept. It would have been easy to discourage this, especially when the boys decided that birds only eat with their beaks. After all, this is not encouraging good manners at the table. I knew the fantasy wouldn’t last forever, so I let them be birds.
Older Children and Creativity
As the boys grew, their creativity demonstrated itself in other ways. They produced wonderful videos that were driven by themes or stories that they made up. Brian programmed his own computer games. Todd found unusual ways to practice the piano, making the memorization of pieces easy. They approached their sports (extreme skiing and technical rock climbing) with thoughtful problem solving techniques.
Mistakes Are Great
In his blog Creative Projects for Gifted Students
, Joel McIntosh talks about the importance of student projects that reach a real audience. Creative inventions fit right into this need. Why not encourage kids to participate in one of the many creative invention competitions, such as
Let Their Minds Flow
So, enjoy and encourage the creativity in your children. Know that with your encouragement, these traits will help them to become productive individuals and good problem solvers as adults.
Gifted Children and the Value of Persistence
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Calvin Coolidge (1872 - 1933)
While it is wonderful to have ability, it does little good if it is not applied. Teachers blame parents for not instilling persistence in their children. Parents blame teachers for not encouraging their child’s intellect with challenging work. The question remains: is persistence a characteristic with which one is born, or is it a trait that is taught or encouraged?
In this age of instant gratification, it can be agonizing for individuals to develop persistence. Shortly after being given a task, even very capable students may approach an adult saying “I can’t do this,” or “It’s too hard.” Students often jump to conclusions. The teacher asks a difficult question and hands are immediately raised. The students respond with the first answers that pop into their minds without being truly thoughtful with their replies. Being first and being right frequently take precedence over the consideration of different approaches to the posed problem.
In his article, Persistence
, Daniel Greenberg cites examples of students who successfully developed strong interests and then devoted themselves to those interests. The results of these efforts are impressive. Some of the students pursued musical instruments, one followed his interest in physics, and one studied to become a mortician. (If you’re curious about that one, make certain that you read the article.)
Persistence is a key factor in the success not only of students, but of adults. Think of the long hours and effort that is required to be a successful entrepreneur or a great leader
or an inventor
. This attribute of perseverance often begins in childhood.
Even students who come from privileged backgrounds need to be persistent to be successful. Unfortunately, some students are not so lucky and come from difficult backgrounds where it is this sheer persistence that enables them to succeed against the odds. It is this ability to persevere that helps lift a person out of a difficult socio-economic condition, a dysfunctional family, an inadequate educational experience, or a personal tragedy.
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seems to be no hope at all.
Things to consider when evaluating the persistence level of a student
- Does persistence appear to be natural in this student?
- How does this person respond when something becomes difficult?
- Are all attempts stopped at the first stumbling block?
- Is the student constantly asking for help rather than working on a task or problem alone?
- Does he not do part or all of homework assignments because he doesn’t understand a problem at first glance?
- Is it difficult for the student to stay focused for more than a few minutes?
Ways to encourage persistence
- Model persistence both through one’s own actions and by sharing stories about others who are persistent.
- Help the student develop ways to analyze a problem. When presented with a problem, how does one begin? What steps need to be taken? What information needs to be generated or collected?
- Help the student create a series of strategies for solving problems. If one doesn’t work, move to another. It is more helpful to learn three ways to solve one problem than one way to solve three problems.
Energy and persistence conquer all things.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)
Academic Environments for Gifted Children
What makes a good academic environment for gifted kids? Parents want to know if their neighborhood schools provide the best for their children. Should students remain where they are or should different schools be considered?
I was reading in this morning’s paper about the frustration of school officials because they cannot seem to raise the state test scores in certain schools. They have invested a great deal of money and tried new programs that promise results, but to no avail. I personally think that they are looking in the wrong places for answers. A program is not going to fix things. The entire culture needs to be changed to support academic learning.
I have worked in a wide variety of schools and districts across five different states. These schools have been in rural areas, small towns, and large urban areas. Some schools have been in very poor communities and some have been in very wealthy communities. Some of the schools have been “top notch” and some have been far from it. What I have to offer is my own subjective opinion about good academic environments, based on my personal experiences.
Most importantly, I think that an appropriate academic setting for a very bright child is determined not just by the school, but by the child’s total environment. I worked at one school where a parent was upset with her child’s classroom teacher. I understood the parent’s frustration as the teacher could have been doing much more to enrich and advance the child’s learning. Because I lacked authority to change the classroom situation, I suggested some things that the parent might do at home to help. The mother’s response was, “The education of my child is not my job. That’s the school’s job. It is my job to love my child and have fun with her—not to educate her.” I was really appalled by this answer. Yes, it is the school’s job to educate each child, but it is also the parents’ responsibility.
From my observations, a good academic environment is one where there is a culture of high expectations with lots of support in place. The academic needs of bright students most often must be met in the regular classroom. To accomplish this, support needs to come from the administration, the teachers, the parents, and the students. Here are some of the ways that support is necessary.
Both district and school administrators must believe that it is their obligation to provide the best possible education for all students, including those who are capable of learning beyond the expectations of their grade level. The administration helps to create a culture of high expectations by
- maintaining a focus of what’s best academically for kids
- hiring highly competent teachers
- providing teachers with opportunities to further their education in meeting the needs of all populations
- encouraging and offering incentives for teachers to attend gifted conferences
- including evidence of differentiation for gifted students in teacher evaluations
Teachers must believe that it is their obligation to provide for all students, including gifted students. Teachers demonstrate their support by
- having high expectations for themselves, for students, and for parents
- continuously acquiring education in the field of gifted education and in ways to differentiate education
- continuously assessing students (formally and informally) and analyzing ways to meet the changing needs of students
- collaborating with colleagues to problem-solve educational strategies
- supporting the positive steps that are taken by administrators, other teachers, parents, and students, even if they are different from one’s own methods
Parents must offer continuity and support from the time their children are born through adulthood. This includes the culture of learning and its importance. Parents demonstrate their support by
- providing a home environment where kids feel safe and loved
- guiding children to have strong character and values
- exposing children to a wide variety of experiences so that they may “taste” the possibilities of life
- showing excitement about the things they, as parents, learn and experience and the things their children learn and experience
- reflecting on the things they, as parents, read and sharing those reflections with children
- reading to children, even when the children get older
- respecting and valuing the thoughts and abilities of each member of the family
- encouraging respectful family discussions where everyone does not need to agree
- leading children to find their own importance in the “rules of society” and a lifetime philosophy rather than dictating everything
- showing support for the schools by attending conferences and school meetings, helping in the classroom, fundraising, and serving on committees
- being respectful of teachers, administrators, and parents when speaking to children
- expecting that children will pay attention in school, hand in assignments on time, go beyond what is expected, be considerate of others, etc.
Yes, the attitude of students plays a major role. Students must understand the value of education and feel a personal responsibility for it. Without that, it is difficult to make good use of opportunities that are provided by educators or parents. Students will support themselves in their own education by
- knowing that both the adults around them and their fellow students value learning
- realizing that they have a great deal of control over their learning if they choose to take it
- going beyond what is expected of them in school
It is certainly rare to have all these things come together. I did, however, see this take place in one school where I worked and it was quite remarkable. Even if it is unrealistic in most situations to expect all of this academic support, there are elements that you can control in a very positive way. Every little bit will help to set that culture of high expectations.
Parents of Gifted Children Have the Power
Parents have more power than they realize, but it may come in different forms than they expect.
I hear so often from parents who are frustrated because neighborhood schools do not meet the needs of their gifted kids. Parents need to know that they have options—but one option that is not acceptable is to continue to complain without acting positively. Here is a list of possibilities for action.
First and Foremost, Educate Yourself
- Continue to work with your school and district in a positive, helpful manner. Be assertive, but not aggressive. Assertive parents present positive, educated alternatives and suggestions that build bridges. Aggressive parents cause educators to build walls of defense.
- Offer to help in the school and classroom. Don't be surprised if you are never called if you offer general help; instead, come in with a specific need and suggestion. For instance, “It must be very difficult for you to work with all of your math students. I would love to help you by working with a small group of students on enrichment. What would be a good time for me to come in each week to help you?” Once you offer to do something like this, though, be there every week and on time. Be professional in honoring the confidentiality of students. Teachers need to be able to depend on you.
Think about any specific skills, interests, or hobbies that you may have. Is there a way you might use this knowledge to work with an individual child, a small group of students, or an entire class?
- Sponsor a before or after-school club such as Chess Club or Math Club or Junior Great Books.
- If you are still unhappy and your district/state allows it, transfer your child to another school that you feel is more academically suited to your child’s needs.
Outside of School Enrichment
- Enroll your child in music lessons.
- Consider children’s classes that are offered by private agencies, museums, and junior colleges.
- Expose your child to enriching experiences such as travel, plays, and live music.
- Encourage your child’s hobbies and other outside interests.
Outside of School Academic Experiences
- Consider homeschooling your child.
- Enroll your child in online classes.
- Find a mentor for your child.
- Hire a tutor who can work on enrichment and acceleration with your son or daughter.
Please share with us the positive experiences that you have had helping your gifted child. What has worked for you? I’m sure that many of you have ideas other than those that I have presented here. Even if you have suggestions that you haven’t used, we would love to hear from you. All you have to do is click on the icon below that says “Add Comment.”
Effective Parents and Teachers of Gifted Children
Recently I was doing some research on the effective characteristics of teachers of the gifted. It struck me that the characteristics of effective teachers are often what I would consider to be the effective characteristics of parents. See if you don’t agree with me. I’d love to hear your comments.
- High degree of intelligence, intellectual honesty
- Expertise in a specific intellectual or talent area (mathematics, writing, etc.) This may be more applicable to teachers than parents. However, a specific intellectual or talent area may influence a child to pursue that same area. This is often noted when accomplished musicians had at least one parent who was a musician.
- Self-directed in own learning, with a love for new, advanced knowledge Modeling by adults is often the best teacher.
- Equanimity, level-headedness, emotional stability
- A genuine interest in, liking of gifted learners
- Recognition of the importance of intellectual development
- Strong belief in individual differences and individualization As parents, shouldn’t we respect and encourage the differences in our children?
- Highly developed teaching skill and knowledge Is it fair to say that parents should have a highly developed parenting skill and knowledge? We don’t go to school to become parents, but we can certainly educate ourselves through reading, perhaps taking classes in parenting, and observing other families.
- A sense of humor Having a sense of humor is critical to handling any stressful situation.
- Move quickly through material Children are often capable of more than we expect. I’m not talking about unfairly pushing kids, but just recognizing that they have the ability to think through important issues given the tools and the opportunities.
- Treat each student as an individual
- Avoid being a "sage on the stage" all the time As parents, we need to guide our children to make good decisions rather than always telling them what needs to be done or how they should think.
- Consistently give "accurate" feedback Some parents don’t give accurate feedback because they are afraid it will damage their child’s self-esteem. We do not serve children well by constantly protecting them. Accurate feedback can be given without being harsh. Your children will al