All Good Things Need to End...Or Do They?
This is my final entry for Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog. The blog and its search capabilities will be taken down around the first of September.
I have posted a blog at this site every week for almost 6 ½ years. It has been a lot of fun sharing all the wonderful resources available for very bright young people. I have enjoyed a good following of parents, educators, and others who support the strengths and interests of children. Thank you to Joel McIntosh, publisher of Prufrock Press, for making this blog possible. Joel is a wonderful person to work for and to work with.
As the old saying goes...when one door closes, another opens. I plan to rework much of the content of the blogs at this site into some new formats that should be highly useful to parents and teachers. I also plan to spend more time on non-education writing projects that I have been postponing. I hope that you will continue to follow me as I reinvent myself.
You can find me at my new website bycarolfertig.com
. At this new website, you will be able to find out more about me; my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook
; and ways to stay in contact with me.
I will maintain a blog at the website, which will chronicle my writing process. This may be a helpful tool for those who teach writing or who are writers themselves. It will include projects on which I am working, the emotional side of writing, my organizational methods for writing, frustrations and joys of writing, etc. Hopefully, this blog will inspire teachers and parents to discuss writing issues with their students and encourage young people to pursue the art.
In addition to my new website, you can
- Like me on Facebook at Carol Fertig – Author
- Follow me on Twitter at cfertig1
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Find me on LinkedIn (Carol Fertig—Independent Writing and Editing Professional)
Please help spread the word to others that this blog is ending. Let your friends and colleagues know how to find me in the future. I shall look forward to seeing you at my new website, on Facebook and Twitter, and through my future writing projects.
20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows—An Opportunity for Highly Gifted
This past May, Peter Thiel announced the appointment of twenty-four Thiel Fellows. These are young people—all under the age of 20—who are interested in solving difficult problems and in increasing the quality of life for people everywhere. Thiel wants to help these young people become the next generation of tech visionaries. You can read about each of the Fellows here.
While the intent of the Thiel Foundation was to choose 20 fellows, there were so many excellent applicants that it was impossible to stop at the appointed number; instead, they decided to choose 24. These are individuals who are challenging the authority of the present and the familiar. More than 400 people applied to be Fellows. Applications arrived from nearly two dozen countries and from nearly two hundred high schools, junior colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges, and graduate schools. Many applicants never went to college, had stopped going to school, were already working, or had already launched their own companies. Many had long personal histories of entrepreneurship.
The Fellows are pursuing innovative scientific and technical projects, learning entrepreneurship, and beginning to build the technology companies of tomorrow. During their two-year tenures, each Fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs and innovators. The project areas for this class of fellows include biotech, career development, economics and finance, education, energy, information technology, mobility, robotics, and space.
The next application period for 20 Under 20 will be available after October 1, 2011. Criteria for application will not be released until then. If you would like to be on the mailing list for the application when it comes out, sign up under the “Contact Us”
at the Thiel Foundation website.
The Museum of Mathematics—Great Resources for the Gifted
Great new resources are becoming available with the pending 2012 opening of the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) in New York City. MoMath will be the only museum in the United States dedicated strictly to mathematics. (The small one that previously existed on Long Island closed in 2006.) To read about the founder of this new museum, how it got started, and the types of exhibits that will be included, see the article about it that recently appeared in The New York Times.
The exhibits and programs at MoMath are designed to stimulate inquiry, spark curiosity, and reveal the wonders of mathematics. I can hardly wait until it opens.
A series of videos titled Math Encounters is already available. Some of these include
The Geometry of Origami
Symmetry, Art, & Illusion
Soap Bubbles and Mathematics
Math Midway is a hands-on traveling exhibition that highlights the engaging and playful nature of mathematics. Math Midway is making appearances at science and technology centers across the country. A list of upcoming engagements is provided.
Math Mondays is a partnership between MoMath and the magazine Make: Online. The weekly column discusses fun, experiential, puzzling topics in mathematics. Some recent topics are
There is also an online store for MoMath that sells a variety of mathematical games and books.
Graphic Arts for Gifted Kids
Graphic arts encompasses the art of representation, decoration, and writing or printing on flat surfaces. Common uses include identity (logos and branding), websites, publications (magazines, newspapers, and books), advertisements, and product packaging. Graphic arts is a field of interest for many gifted young people. If nurtured, it might develop into a career option. Here are some websites that may be helpful for your students.
Celebrating Creativity: Interview with Graphic Designer Michael Schwab
—Want to know what it is like to have a career as a graphic artist? Find out in this interview with graphic designer Michael Schwab, whose designs are known nationwide for their bold colors and simple images. Schwab has created award-winning logos and posters for many clients, including Apple, Comedy Central, Levi’s, Major League Baseball, Nike, Warner Brothers, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. In this interview, he discusses graphic design and what it takes to be a graphic designer
Design Dossier: Graphic Design for Kids
—This is a book that acts as a mini-class on all the aspects of graphic design, including profiles of graphic designers, each answering a few key questions about the art and craft. There are also pull-outs, die-cuts, and other special effects that allow young students a chance to interact with the material.
Universal Themes and Essential Questions for the Gifted
This is a topic that I keep revisiting because I feel that it is the very essence of gifted education.
Teachers are often accused of delivering curriculum that is not relevant to today’s students. If we teach (or have discussions at home) using universal themes, the material presented does become relevant. By using universal themes, you will provide umbrellas under which details become easier to remember, and give students frameworks of understanding that they can carry with them the rest of their lives.
A universal theme is a timeless, broad, abstract idea that can be used to tie together literary works or to understand broad concepts in history. It is a concept to which all people can relate. It transcends race, gender, and creed.
We learn best when we are able to relate new information to previous experiences and to ideas that are familiar. By teaching universal themes/concepts, we help students better understand their past experiences and form “big ideas” that are transferred to future experiences. 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.
When working with universal themes, it is important to ask essential questions. Essential questions are open ended (i.e. they do not have a single answer). Instead, the question requires a longer, more involved response and causes the respondent to think and reflect. These cause students to think critically instead of simply looking up answers. Essential questions
provoke deep thought
may not have an answer
encourage critical thinking, not just memorization of facts
require students to draw upon content knowledge and personal experience
Universal Theme: Identity--This theme might be used with a literature unit or while studying ethnic differences in social studies.
Identity might be defined as uniqueness, distinctiveness, individuality, or personality. The identity of a person or group is rarely static, but instead is constantly being changed by internal and external forces.
How do we form our identities?
How does what others think about you affect how you think about yourself?
How is identity shaped by relationships and experiences?
What can you learn about yourself by studying the lives of others?
When should an individual take a stand in opposition to an individual or larger group?
One resource that will help you with these topics is Universal Themes and Generalizations
, from DukeTip. In this pdf file, ten different themes are listed along with sample sub-categories for each of those themes.
You may want to refer to previous posts I have written on the topics of universal themes and essential questions. Some of these previous posts provide examples, demonstrating ways these tools can be used in the classroom. Parents, remember that you can always modify classroom suggestions for your discussions at home. Here are the links to the previous posts.
The Fascination of Storm Chasers for Gifted Kids
Gifted young people frequently get very excited about bizarre occurrences and occupations. The job of storm chaser fits into that category and may act as an impetus for the study of meteorology.
Please be sensitive to the emotions of your individual children. While this information will fascinate some children, it may terrify others. Use your judgment about making this available to your kids.
—Who are storm chasers? Can one make a living at the job? What does a typical chase look like? What is the best way to become a storm chaser?
Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel
—This site is presented in Hollywood fashion, sensationalizing the storms. Here you will find impressive videos, a real-time weather tracker, and information about the vehicles and equipment used by storm chasers. The production crew of StormChasers also answers questions about their jobs.
Storm Chasers from PBS
—University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Howard Bluestein turned a boyhood fascination with severe weather into a career chasing tornadoes, working to shed scientific light on one of nature's most violent and unpredictable phenomenons. He and his graduate student “chasers” are featured in an IMAX film. An interview with the director of the film can also be found at this website. Learn about the development of Bluestein’s career. Included at this site are facts about severe weather and information about obtaining an activity guide for teachers (or parents).
Encouraging Mathematical Thinking in Gifted Kids
Parents, do you want to encourage your young people to think mathematically this summer and beyond? Here are some ways to accomplish that.
Nurturing Mathematically Talented Preschoolers
–In this blog entry, Natasha Chen shares her experience on parenting a mathematically precocious child. The author acknowledges that it can be difficult to find a program for three- to five-year-olds, so she offers some tips that she has found useful. Her suggestions include
Playing with LEGOs, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, K’nex, Magna-Tiles, tangrams, and blocks of all shapes and sizes. She also provides ideas for using these building sets.
Ways to use mathematical logic in everyday conversations
Ideas for working with fractions
There is no need for formal lessons. All of Chen's suggestions are applied through play activities.
Elementary School Students
10 Practically Fun Math Games and Activities for Your Preteen
–While the title of this article suggests that young people be close in age to teenagers, many of these activities are appropriate for much younger children. Author JC Ryan lists eight indoor activities and two outdoor activities that parents may not automatically think of as building math skills.
Kindergarten through High School
Careers in Science and Engineering for the Gifted
Students who want to learn about careers in science and engineering can do so through a series of interviews (many written, some video) at Cogito
. Interviews are both with professionals and with advanced students in high school and college. When you watch and read these interviews, it becomes obvious that these individuals took their interests seriously, and found appropriate ways to pursue them, from very early ages. Their work is often notable before they even graduate from high school.
NOVA also has a great series of videos and written materials titled The Secret Life of Scientists & Engineers
. By watching and reading the various segments, students learn about the many different roads available to scientists and engineers (some quite obscure) and also see unexpected aspects of the personal lives of these professionals. This series brings a human element to the professions. For instance, Rachel Collins is both a microbiologist and a professional wrestler. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and a figure skater. Emily Whiting is an architectural engineer and a rock climber. Alan Sage is both a vegetarian scientist and a rapper. The NOVA website also has a teachers guide
for introducing young people to careers in science and engineering.
Both the Cogito and the NOVA websites can be used to encourage gifted kids to pursue careers in math and engineering.
Parenting and Teaching Young Gifted Children
In her article, Differentiated Instruction for Young Gifted Children: How Parents Can Help, Joan Smutny does an excellent job of explaining strategies that can be used in the classroom to address the needs of young gifted children, including
- Compacting—Children skip content that they already know and move to more advanced work.
- Learning Stations—Areas of the classroom where students can work on different tasks within a unit. Each station may represent a higher level of complexity than the one before it. Students move freely from one task to the next.
- Tiered Activities—A classroom of children may focus on the same, broad learning goal, but at different levels of depth and complexity.
- Clustering—Students who are significantly ahead are grouped and provided with more advanced content.
The best parts of Smutny’s article, though, are the many quotes and stories about children she uses to illustrate her points. She not only explains the strategies that might be used in the classroom to differentiate instruction, but also shows parents how they can enhance their children’s learning at home and also support and get involved with student learning at school.
From this article, both parents and teachers will get ideas about ways they can form better partnerships to enhance the learning of young gifted students.
Smutny has made young gifted children one of her specialties. If you like her article mentioned here, you will probably also enjoy some of the many books that she has written on the subject. You will find these by going to web sites such as Amazon and typing in her name or doing a general Internet search using her name.
Teaching Gifted Students to Write Well
The ability to write well is one of the major gateways to a successful education and to career advancement later in life. It is also a tool that helps one sort through and analyze personal thoughts, express oneself effectively, and act as a stress reducer when one is faced with difficult physical and psychological issues in life.
Writing is most effectively developed when it is taught across all subjects—not just those in the field of language arts. Unfortunately, not enough teachers are sufficiently prepared to teach writing.
The National Writing Project (NWP) is one resource filled with ideas and opportunities to remedy this situation. There are currently more than 200 university-based writing project sites that provide high quality professional development and leadership opportunities to more than 100,000 K-16 educators every year. Many NWP sites offer special writing programs for children. For tips on helping children learn to write and how to support good writing instruction in schools, click on the Resources tab at the top of the NWP website. Parents, remember that you can also play an important part in teaching your children to write. You will also find many suggestions in the resources listed at the NWP website.
Mark Overmeyer is one person in the NWP network who I know and greatly respect. I have attended some of his writing workshops, which have been excellent. On Mark Overmeyer’s Blog you will see that he is an excellent writer himself. He has published two books about teaching writing and his blog entries are filled with helpful resources.
Summer Literacy Resources for Gifted Kids (and Their Parents)
Need some book recommendations for your children this summer? Excellent lists of recommended books can be found at
In addition to reading good books, children may enjoy creating their own books. There are a number of websites to help with this.
What Should We Be Teaching Gifted Kids for the 21st Century?
Dr. Judy Willis is an authority on brain research. She has a unique background, having been both a neurologist and a classroom teacher. She has written several books and writes a blog for Psychology Today
. One of her recent blog entries is Whose Children Will Get the Best Jobs in the 21st Century?
which offers an interesting perspective on what we should be doing to prepare students for today’s world.
According to Willis, the best jobs in the future will go to applicants who have the
- skillsets to analyze information as it becomes available
- flexibility to adapt when what were believed to be facts are revised
- ability to collaborate with others
- ability to articulate one's ideas
Rather than just learn a lot of facts, students need opportunities to discover the connections between isolated facts, build networks of concepts, and apply what they learn in new contexts. Critical analysis, judgment, creative problem solving, and the ability to evaluate and apply data to new situations are all vital.
Parents can prepare students by
helping children develop personal responsibility
explicitly teaching how to focus attention, study, organize, prioritize, plan, and set goals
teaching how to make the switch from memorization to mental manipulation by comparing and contrasting concepts and applying big ideas to solve new types of problems
- teaching how to evaluate sources of accurate information and then to use critical analysis to assess the veracity/bias and current/potential uses of new information
- finding out the topics children will study in the coming school months and then promoting interest by introducing things that relate to the topic, providing background knowledge and interest
Willis provides many concrete ideas for parents to teach these skills at home. I strongly urge you to read the article. The ideas provided would make a great beginning for a discussion in a parent support group.
The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War
This year ushered in the start of a four-year commemoration of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary. Among some groups, there is still a controversy about whether the war was started because of slavery or state’s rights. This might be a good issue to broach with gifted students. There are some excellent websites to help you when studying the Civil War.
The Civil War: 150 Years
(Part of the National Park Service website)—Includes upcoming events, information on more than 70 parks in the National Park System that have resources related to the history of the Civil War, a database of those who served in the war, news stories from the time, and the history of African Americans in the war.
Civil War 150
(from The History Channel)—Offers an interactive experience that provides interesting information about who fought in the Civil War, weapons that were used, how people died, the five deadliest battles, paying for the war, West Point warriors, and other topics too numerous to list.
Pictures of the Civil War
(from the National Archives)—Photographs of civilians and civilian activities; military personnel, equipment, and activities; and the locations and aftermaths of battles. Because wet-plate collodion negatives required from 5 to 20 seconds exposure, there are no action photographs of the war.
Selected Civil War Photographs
(from the Library of Congress)—1,118 photographs of military personnel, preparations for battle, and battle after-effects.
When Does a Parent Know His or Her Child Is Gifted?
So often I’m asked, “When does a parent know if his or her child is gifted?” I think they are surprised when I respond by saying, “I don’t know. What does it mean to be gifted?”
After all, I am supposed to be the expert. I am expected to have the answers. But I can’t provided any definitive reply.
First of all, what does it mean to be gifted? There are many definitions and many ways of assessing a child’s ability. Is one more correct than another? Who should make that determination? You may want to look at some of the previous posts on this blog about this subject, including
Even if there is some consensus about the definition of giftedness, I think most people would agree that students fall somewhere on an extended continuum. There are children who have strong interests or abilities in just one area, which may or may not be a traditional academic subject. There are students who are more globally endowed and may finish high school before they are teenagers and receive graduate degrees by the time others finish high school. Some young people who are very bright have learning disabilities or physical disabilities or emotional problems. Some fit into a traditional school environment and some could care less about school.
So what’s a parent to do if she thinks her child fits into the gifted category? There are no quick and simple answers; however, if you read my book, Raising a Gifted Child
(also available on Amazon and in book stores) and search through this blog, you will find many options and combinations of options for schooling children. You will also find many excellent subject-specific resources. Consider me your personal research assistant. Through both Raising a Gifted Child
and more than six years of weekly blog postings, I’ve tried to anticipate questions that you might have about giftedness and find the answers for you. I receive emails from people all over the world who read this blog and ask even more questions. I “listen” to these, answer them personally, and use those questions to post still more entries. You can use the search feature (upper part of the right-hand column) at this site to find the information you need on all things gifted.
In the end, I want parents to know that there are many ways to help very bright children to develop not only academically, but socially and emotionally. The choices you make must be flexible—if one doesn’t work, try another. Mix and match what works for your family and understand that your contributions to the educational process are at least as important as any formal education your young people may receive.
The Importance of the Arts in Our Schools
Years of research show that [the arts is] closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.
This is from a recent article in Edutopia, titled Why Arts Education Is Crucial, and Who's Doing It Best. Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in many areas, including academic development and positive character traits. Over the last few decades, arts in the schools have been eroded, but there is hope. Some school districts are now revitalizing the arts, many prompted by new findings in brain research and cognitive development. In this article, you will find examples of school districts that are reinvigorating their curricula with the arts. Edutopia has a whole series of articles on the importance of arts education, including
Take some time to read these articles and encourage the arts in your child’s school. Incorporate art into your family activities. Development of the arts is at the very basis of highly civilized societies.
Using Primary Sources with Gifted Students
In school, most students study history using only secondary sources—articles, reference books, and textbooks—all written at some point after the actual event. Secondary sources tend to interpret or analyze historical events.
Primary sources, on the other hand, were created during the time period being studied. They reflect the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Primary sources include autobiographies, diaries, e-mails, interviews, letters, minutes, news film footage, official records, photographs, raw research data, speeches, art, drama, music, novels, poetry, buildings, clothing, DNA, furniture, jewelry, pottery, etc. These sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period.
Today, the Internet provides access to a wealth of primary resources. In earlier years, one would have had to travel great distances to various libraries and museums to gain access to this information.
The American Library Association’s Reference and User Services Association has posted an article titled Using Primary Sources on the Web
, which can be used as an exercise in critical thinking
. It provides information on
Finding primary sources
Evaluating primary sources (including, among other things, understanding the purpose of the website and the credentials of the person who created the website)
Citing websites appropriately
Repositories of Primary Resources
contains links to Internet sites for primary sources all over the world. Want to find a digitized photo of a street scene in Colorado in the mid-late 1800s? Do you want to find crime reports for the United States in 1935? Do you want to see an original score written by Beethoven? Do enough searching on this site and you will find this information.
The Library of Congress
is in the process of digitizing many of the important documents in American history. As of the writing of this blog entry, they have posted documents from 1763-1877.
These are just some of the many sources for primary resources on the Internet. For a particular topic of interest to you or your students, do an Internet search using the subject of your search (e.g., Civil War women) plus the words “primary source.”
The Future of Gifted Education through Technology
Teachers, parents, and students should pay special attention to the learning options listed below. Technology is revolutionizing the world of education by replacing familiar classroom tools and making new strategies possible. It’s no longer just through computers that students are exposed to technology; instead, it’s through all devices that are out there. There are resources and schools that are already using these revolutionary methods and tools effectively.
is one such resource. This site explores the many possible dimensions of the future of learning. These changes will benefit gifted students immensely as they make possible global education, project-based learning, and interest-based learning.
Digital Delivery—Barseghian includes numerous websites that extend learning beyond textbooks, including Schmoop’s, the Kahn Academy, and many open education resources. Even though I consider myself quite knowledgeable about resources, many of the sites that are listed here are new to me.
Interest Driven—Individualized learning technology creates a platform for tailoring education to the interests of children, beginning in elementary school. Links are provided that describe some schools that already incorporate this type of learning.
Skills 2.0—The ability to teach collaboration, innovation, critical thinking, and communication are becoming easier with the technological revolution. Interactive abilities are broadening the reach of students and teachers to a global perspective. No longer is one’s learning confined to the classroom. Examples are given with links to more information. Tech companies are also looking for additional ways to develop new learning methods.
Be sure and check out other sections of the MindShift website. I especially recommend clicking on the Online Learning link near the top of the page for innovative ideas. We are truly living in an exciting time. Technology is reforming education in ways that could not be imagined a decade ago. In the not-too-distant future, I believe we will look back in disbelief at the ways that we learned. They will seem quite primitive and inefficient.
Exercising the Minds of Gifted Kids through Questioning
Bright students often come to class thinking they must know all the right answers. What they (and many adults) may not realize is that thinking is not driven by answers, but by questions. It is the sense of wonder and curiosity that drives understanding. As the old saying goes…The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. The more you learn about a subject, the more you realize there is to know. Perhaps having students list thoughtful questions at the conclusion of a unit would be a better determiner of knowledge gained than taking a test.
Young people learn to develop inquiring minds when they hear their parents and teachers ask thoughtful questions of themselves and others. One way to do this is to use Socratic Questioning
. Socratic questions help to
Divergent questions are also useful. They usually begin with words or phrases such as
Reflective Thought, Critical Thinking
presents a model for generating problems or questions. One example is given for young children in kindergarten or first grade after reading and discussing Jack and the Beanstalk
Q. What did Jack do when he got to the giant's castle?"
A. Jack hid from the giant, found the goose that lays the golden eggs, was discovered by the giant, fled, reached the bottom of the vine, and then chopped it down. The giant, of course, tumbles down, breaks his neck, and Jack lives happily every after with his mother and his newly found wealth.
Q. Did Jack trespass illegally? (In kindergarten terms, "Did Jack go into someone's house where he did not belong?"
Q. Did Jack steal the goose that lays golden eggs?"
Q. Did Jack, then, refuse to give back what did not belong to him?
Q. Then did Jack escape down the bean vine and cause the giant to be killed?"
Q. If Jack trespassed, stole, and murdered the giant, why is the giant the villain of this story?
Theme Park and Ride Design for Gifted Learners
What child doesn’t enjoy an amusement park? How many people have fantasized about creating rides and theme parks? There are many gifted characteristics and abilities that go into the actual jobs required for this field, including physics, creativity, project management, art, architecture, and film. Here are some ideas for developing these interests.
has developed an interactive resource titled Amusement Park Physics
. This website helps students learn the forces behind the fun. Young people find out what principals of physics make the following rides work, how the dynamics of physics control the safety of the rides, and considerations that need to be factored in by ride designers.
Free Fall Rides
Walt Disney Imagineering
is the master planning, creative development, design, engineering, production, project management, and research and development arm of The Walt Disney Company and its affiliates. Representing more than 150 disciplines, its corps of Imagineers is responsible for the creation of Disney resorts, theme parks and attractions, hotels, water parks, real estate developments, regional entertainment venues, cruise ships, and new media technology projects. Be sure and check out the Student and College Programs
on the left side of the page.
Free Guidebooks to Help Exceptionally Bright Children
The Davidson Institute
serves profoundly gifted young people under the age of 18. As part of its mission, Davidson Institute professionals have written a series of guidebooks
designed to assist families in finding the most appropriate educational settings for their exceptionally bright children. The guidebooks are excellent resources and can be downloaded at no cost. While the guidebooks are written for parents and students, teachers should also become familiar with them so that they can effectively advise families.
Advocating for Exceptionally Gifted Young People—What should you know about your child? What should you know about gifted education? How should you formulate a plan? How should you approach your child’s school? How can you monitor your child’s education?
Investigating Early College Entrance: A Guidebook for Parents and a Guidebook for Students—How does one assess whether a student is ready for early college entrance? How might early entrance impact the family? What about scholarships and other financial aid?
Investigating Gap Year Opportunities—A gap year is a “break from formal education to become more immersed in another culture, to volunteer domestically or abroad, to gain experience and maturity…” It is becoming more common in the U.S., especially for students who graduate early from high school. This guidebook discusses possible options for a gap year, the pros and cons of taking a gap year, and what colleges think of students who pursue this option.
Volunteerism and Community Service—This guidebook provides resources, strategies, and valuable information to think about when considering the who, what, where, when, how, and why questions associated with volunteering.
Mentorships—How does one search for a mentor? What types of mentoring relationships are available? What characteristics should a great mentor have?
Looking Ahead to Summer Programs for Gifted Kids
It’s that time of year again to begin planning for summer experiences for your gifted students. For some, that may mean lots of free time at home to play, read, relax, and let minds wander. Others may benefit from a specialized experience at a day camp or an experience far from home. Here are some suggestions for places to begin your search if you’re looking for something outside the home. (Note: These are not program endorsements. You will want to do your own investigations of programs to make certain they fit your needs.)
Some summer programs are general and some are specialized. Examples of focused programs include the study of space, inventions, technology, government, music, film, oceanography, math, archaeology, debate, art, foreign languages, and Shakespeare. Search hard enough and you’re likely to find a specialty to meet every need.
Here are some searchable databases where you can begin to look.
Interactive Science Web Sites for Gifted Kids
The interactive science websites listed here can be used both in the classroom and at home to teach students.
provides many virtual teaching activities and supplemental resources. Topics covered at the website include the following:
Create a Line of Stem Cells—Learn what a stem cell is and help our scientists create a stem cell line!
Design a Cell Phone—Help engineering director Elena design and manufacture a cell phone to help senior citizens get the most out of new technology!
Deep Brain Stimulation—Help Dr. Vanessa Mei cut, probe, and drill her way to helping her patient cope with a movement disorder through brain surgery!
Crash Scene—Help the highway patrol recreate a deadly crash by examining the evidence and calculating the forces.
Virtual Hip Resurfacing—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a hip resurfacing surgery.
Virtual Hip Replacement—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a hip replacement surgery.
The Odd Machine—Learn how forces and simple machines can work together to create The Compound Machine.
Virtual Knee Surgery—Take on the role of the surgeon throughout a total knee replacement surgery.
Weather—Learn how to report and predict the weather at the underground W.H.E.D. weather caves.
Simple Machines—Learn about simple and compound machines while you explore the House and Tool Shed.
Virtual Dissections—A variety of websites offer the opportunity to either watch dissections or to do virtual dissections. Here are two.
is a virtual world and requires the viewer to sign up for a free account. There are many aspects of Second Life and not all are being recommended here. This is a site that parents and teachers may first want to explore themselves. The technology is being used by NOAA (the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration). NOAA’s Virtual World
offers educational opportunities in science. Other “destinations” available on Second Life can be found here
Teaching about Propaganda Techniques—Opening the Door to Critical Thinking
As educators and parents, we should teach students how to think, not what to think. We need to present all sides of issues and encourage debate. Propagandists, on the other hand, build the strongest possible case for their views and discourage discussion. Propaganda appeals to its audience in three ways. It
calls for an action or opinion that it makes seem wise and reasonable.
suggests that the action or opinion is moral and right.
provides a pleasant feeling, such as a sense of importance or of belonging.
is an excellent resource for exploring this subject. Aaron Delwiche, the author of the site, holds a doctorate in communications from the University of Washington and a B.A. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Trinity University.
As Delwiche states, "propaganda can be as blatant as a swastika or as subtle as a joke. Its persuasive techniques are regularly applied by politicians, advertisers, journalists, radio personalities, and others who are interested in influencing human behavior. Propagandistic messages can be used to accomplish positive social ends, as in campaigns to reduce drunk driving, but they are also used to win elections and to sell malt liquor."
Delwiche explains the importance of teaching students about propaganda, presents common propaganda techniques and common fallacies, and provides examples of propaganda in both print and video.
The Oracle Education Foundation
, an online learning platform that helps students develop important 21st century skills, including communication, critical thinking, and technology skills. ThinkQuest houses over 7,000 websites created by students around the world who have participated in a ThinkQuest competition. Several of these student-created websites on propaganda are included in the online ThinkQuest library. Here are two.
What is Propaganda?
—Communication that is meant to persuade or change public opinion. While the word often has a negative connotation, it is not necessarily bad. Propaganda is an attempt to change opinions by persuasively presenting new ones. It is important to recognize propaganda techniques and examine the purpose of the propaganda before making decisions.
—Eleven different techniques are listed and explained. The knowledge of these techniques enables students to analyze print and other media. Understanding the techniques opens the door to critical thinking and the ability to analyze information.
Have students collect advertisements and analyze what, if any, propaganda techniques were used.
Apply propaganda techniques to current political discussions or to a unit in history being studied.
Discuss how the use of technology has affected the use of propaganda.
Have students take a stand on a topic of their choosing. Individually or in small groups, have them create an advertising campaign that uses a set of propaganda techniques.
Teaching Gifted Kids to Argue Persuasively
There is a big difference between fighting and arguing, with the former having a negative connotation and the latter having a positive connotation. Fighting causes hard feelings and is non-productive, while arguing can be very beneficial for all concerned. The goal of a fight is to dominate your opponent. In an argument, you succeed when you either bring your audience over to your side or at least reach a better understanding of the views of each side. We need to teach kids to argue persuasively and effectively and reward them when they do it well.
In How to Teach a Child to Argue
, Jay Heinrichs states that “rhetoric doesn’t turn kids into back-sassers; it makes them think about other points of view.”
To disagree reasonably, a child must learn the three basic tools of argument: logos, ethos, and pathos. Examples of each are provided in Heinrichs’ article.
Logos is argument by logic.
Ethos is argument by character and employs the persuader’s personality, reputation, and ability to look trustworthy. A sterling reputation is more than just good; it’s persuasive. An adult is more likely to believe a trustworthy kid and to accept her argument.
Pathos is argument by emotion. It plays on one’s heartstrings. When a student learns to read your emotions and play them like an instrument, he is becoming a good persuader.
Aristotle’s Guide to Dinner Table Discourse (according to Heinrichs)—or rules for teaching young people to argue effectively:
Argue to teach decision-making. When you argue the various sides of an issue with your kids (“Beach or mountains this summer?”), they are learning to present different options (“Both!”) and then decide which choice to follow.
Focus on the future. Arguments about the past (“Who made the mess with the toys?”) or the present (“Good children don’t leave messes.”) are far less productive than focusing on what to do or believe: “What’s a good way to make sure that toys get cleaned up?”
Call “fouls.” Anything that impedes debate counts as a foul: Shouting, storming out of the room, or recalling past family atrocities should instantly make you choose the opposite side.
Reward the right emotions. Respond to screaming and anger by not responding, except to say, “Oh, come on. You can do better than that.”
Let kids win sometimes. When they present a good argument, there’s no better teaching method than rewarding them. My overreliance on the slow cooker, for instance, made my son beg for “dry” food. “Even the cat’s meals,” he said, “aren’t all wet.” Good point. I served hamburgers next. Very dry hamburgers.
Some other guidelines for interacting with kids and teaching them to argue effectively include
Listen and verbally acknowledge that you have heard what the other person has said.
Take time to think. Don’t be afraid to say you’d like to think about a point for a while and respond later. This will give time to formulate an appropriate response.
Acknowledge the other person’s points that you agree with.
Stick with the main point and don’t get sidetracked.
Don’t let feelings fester. Bring up topics sooner rather than later.
Look for a win/win solution.
When your student gets older, encourage her to join a debate club where the art of argument is fostered. According to IDEA
(The International Debate Education Association), “...debate embodies the ideals of reasoned argument, tolerance for divergent points of view, and rigorous self-examination. Debate is, above all, a way for those who hold opposing views to discuss controversial issues without descending to insult, emotional appeals, or personal bias.”
A Comprehensive Guide to the Study of Shakespeare
For those of you who teach Shakespeare or for students who study Shakespeare, there are some excellent resources available. A reader of Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog recently brought an exceptionally good link to my attention. (I always appreciate it when readers tell me about valuable resources). Naturally, I want to share it with you.
Cool Shakespeare Facts—Personal trivia, words and phrases that were created by Shakespeare, and information about the Globe Theatre.
General Shakespeare Resources—Links to five major sites that cover a multitude of facts and opinions about the famous bard.
Links to Every Single Shakespeare Work Online—Plays are divided into the categories of comedy, history, and tragedy. Shakespeare’s poems are also listed. Each link contains the complete work so you don’t have to go to the bookstore or library to get a play or sonnet.
Links to Resources that Give Notes/Info/Explanations of Shakespeare Plays—Sites that will help you interpret the writings of Shakespeare.
Shakespeare Festivals—A list of Shakespeare festivals (with Internet links) held in the United States and Canada.
For more information, consult previous blog posts on Shakespeare at this Prufrock website.
What is creativity and how should it be measured? Is it an important trait to possess?
For many years, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking
have been used to measure individuals’ divergent thinking. The tests are sometimes used to gain entrance to gifted programs. But is it enough to be deemed creative, or is creativity only a valuable trait if one can put that ability to use to make and produce new and practical products and ideas?
Tolerate “wrong” answers as children explore and fantasize.
Invite children to come up with possible solutions for everyday problems, and listen to their ideas with respect.
Ask open-ended questions and show interest in answers.
Refrain from judging kids' ideas, even if they seem crazy or naive.
Avoid paying too much attention to the outcome of kids' creative efforts. (You want them to be creative for the pure pleasure of it, not because they will receive praise.)
For numerous ideas about helping kids be creative, click on the Search Entries button in the upper right corner of this blog. Enter the Keyword “creativity,” and click on Search. This will bring up all previous blog posts on creativity.
Places to Publish for Gifted Young Writers
Gifted students need “real” audiences for their work. Those students who enjoy writing need places where they can see their words in print and find others who have the same interest.
is a place where young people, ages 13 and up, share their writing, connect with other people with similar interests, and discover new stories and authors. The website was started by Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at The New Yorker
, and Jacob Lewis, the former Managing Editor at The New Yorker
and Condé Nast Portfolio
. It contains a variety of sections that will be of interest to young authors, including
A place where they can post their writing and get feedback in the form of comments and reviews.
Advice from adults who publish young adult books.
Recommendations of recently published books for young adults.
A forum where students can connect on a variety of subjects related to their writing.
A blog which, among other things, contains interviews with published authors of books for young adults.
If your young writer is more independent, suggest that he submit his writing for publication without the feedback and interaction of a group. A Young Authors Guide
from NewPages.com provides updated lists of publications that accept submissions from young people, some from children as young as eight. It also contains a long list of writing contests, listed by month.
Paper Folding for Gifted Visual Spatial Learners
While it might jumble the brains of many bright people, the art of paper folding plays right into the strengths of gifted visual spatial learners. Once a student becomes comfortable with basic folds, she can go on to design her own models.
Here are some websites to help young people learn and improve paper folding techniques.
Some people even specialize in certain types of paper folding, such as Paper Airplanes
, which includes six different designs.
Ways to Share and Collaborate
It’s always helpful to find others with the same interests.
If your student would like to join a group of origami folders, you can find contact information at Origami USA
. International groups are also listed at this site. In addition, information is provided on forming your own group of folders.
Paper Folding Artists
If you want to show your burgeoning paper folders the possibilities of this craft, direct them to professional artists who have become masters. Here are just a few:
Lost in Lexicon—Clever, Imaginative Reading for Gifted Students
Are you looking gifted for curriculum for a literature unit, a literature/math unit, or an enrichment group? Here is a great idea.
is a physician, educator, and writer. She is creative person who has used her talents to come out with a book for young people that combines a good story with word games and mathematical thinking. The book would be good (in my opinion) to use with middle to upper elementary gifted students. Lost in Lexicon: Adventure in Words and Numbers
was originally written for Noyce’s son Damian’s ninth birthday to challenge and entertain him.
But wait...Lost in Lexicon
is both a book and a website
. The website is filled with supportive teaching material, including
Character sketches from the book
Challenging games and activities
Ideas to extend concepts in the book (i.e., Greek and Latin roots, the coordinate plane, poetic meter, mathematical slope)
Noyce’s keynote address to the Iowa Science and Mathematics Teacher Educators Summit, titled Grand Challenges and Inspiration: Lighting the Fire in the Next Generation. The address is not only inspiring, but it is also filled with some excellent resources for working with gifted kids in math and science.
From the same Iowa Summit, Noyce includes the transcript from her breakout session, Can Math and Literature Mix in the Middle School? The ideas the author presents might be used with middle school students, but could also be used with gifted students in upper elementary school. Suggestions are presented not only for Lost in Lexicon, but also for Flatland by Edwin Abbott and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
Two teacher-created units using Lost in Lexicon: "Teaching Plot Structure and Types of Conflict," and "Teaching Characterization."
Pendred Noyce also has a blog titled View from the Windowseat
. While the blog covers many different subjects, with a bit of hunting, you will find even more ideas to use with Lost in Lexicon
Three more novels in the Lexicon series are planned, along with other books for young people.
More Online Resources for Gifted Education
In the past, I have listed many excellent websites that contain compilations of resources for gifted education. Recently, several more have come to my attention.
is created and maintained by Stacia Nicole Garland, a national award-winning teacher who worked with gifted children for 16 years. She includes practical, user-friendly information for both parents and educators as well as a long list of links of "Brainy Games."
While 96 Essential Sites & Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers
is designed for homeschoolers, it also contains some great websites for children who are more traditionally educated. If you are looking for ideas that support or supplement your student’s interests and abilities, you will find many ideas here. Topics include
Related Gifted Education Web Sites
, from the American Psychological Association has an extensive alphabetical listing of gifted associations, programs, university connections, schools, research organizations, and publications.
Top 10 Gifted Education Blogs
, from OnlineDegrees.org, lists links to the best blogs in gifted education. I’m pleased to say that Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog
is included in the list.
Fun, Enriching, Science Activities for Gifted Kids
, from PBS Kids
, has some great science experiments to do in classrooms, in enrichment groups, or at home. Numerous experiments for kids are available in the following areas:
The five senses
Forces and energy
Many of these experiments are accompanied by excellent videos showing actual kids performing the activities. I started watching these videos and had a hard time stopping because they were so engaging and fun. The website also encourages viewers to send in their findings from the experiments.
Interactive Body, from The BBC, is designed for the older set. It provides engaging activities that help students learn about body parts, including
The first three activities (organs, muscles, skeleton) have the viewer rotate and place the various body parts in a virtual human being. The website also explains the various functions of the body parts.
There is also a detailed section on puberty. Some of the information in this section may even surprise some adults.
The Value of Instrumental Lessons for Gifted Kids
I am a very strong advocate of instrumental music lessons for children—especially gifted children.
I recently bought myself an excellent grand piano and was able to get it at a bargain-basement price. I was able to purchase it at such a good value for two reasons:
The poor economy is limiting people’s discretionary funds.
Since taking piano lessons is no longer the norm in American households, there is not a big demand for the instruments.
Lucky for me. Sad for those who have no interest in learning to play music. I keep trying to figure out why instrumental lessons have lost their allure. When I was young, it seemed that almost every young person I knew took piano lessons and, once they entered junior high (today’s middle school), they often took an additional band or orchestral instrument. It was all considered part of a rounded education.
I am making a plea to parents of bright kids to enroll their kids in lessons. There is so much to be gained from this instruction. In his article, The Prodigious Power of Piano Playing
, Brian Chung
lists some great reasons to take piano lessons. These reasons also apply to lessons on other instruments. Taking lessons and practicing will help the youngster learn to
pay attention to details
All of these skills can transfer to other areas of the student’s life.
I have a few extra words of advice.
Don’t expect your kids to enjoy learning music that you do not play in your own home. It may be too foreign to their ears. Play—and hopefully enjoy—a wide variety of types of music at home, including classical, jazz, folk, contemporary, and music from other cultures.
Take your children to concerts of many types, letting them hear many types of music.
Present music lessons as an honor, not a duty.
Be willing to sit with your child during practice, especially in the beginning.
Research and interview a variety of teachers before choosing one. It is very important that your child and the instructor are able to “connect” on many levels.
In Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind
, the editors of Scientific American
discuss studies showing that instrument training from an early age enables the brain to better focus, concentrate, and learn subtleties in sound, thereby enabling one to more easily learn a foreign language.
Serious practice on an instrument also helps students to acquire self-discipline. It is enormously satisfying to work very hard at something and then reap its rewards. If a student participates in playing instruments with a group, there is a great deal of teamwork involved. Above and beyond all of this, learning to play an instrument promotes a lifelong joy in music.
Puppetry for Gifted Kids
If you think that the art of puppetry is a simple subject, think again. Like any niche subject, there is a great deal more to learn than initially meets the eye.
Puppetry can be incorporated into any subject, it can be a study on its own, or it may become a lifelong hobby. It may even lead to a profession (think Jim Henson).
Learning to make puppets and stage puppet shows can be done at many levels, from very simple to very sophisticated, and incorporates a variety of skills, including math, language arts, art, advanced problem solving, and creativity. Many gifted kids will find it exciting and compelling.
Here are some puppetry websites that will help you as a teacher, a parent, or a student.
Definitions—Lists information about more than a dozen kinds of puppets.
Traditions Around the World—Traditions from 13 different countries.
Puppet Building—Books, patterns, tutorials, materials, and suppliers.
Using Puppetry—Puppet stages, plays, and scripts.
Schools, Workshops, Internships, Scholarships, and Awards—A great section for those who are seriously interested in puppetry.
Organizations—Links to organizations around the world.
Festivals—Conferences and festivals in the United States and Canada.
Exhibits and Museums—From around the world, with many in the United States.
Resources—Books, mailing lists, newsgroups, and other puppetry Web sites.
—Search on “Puppet Making Tutorial” for many options to learn how to make puppets.
is a blog for current and future puppeteers that provides information detailing puppet performances, building techniques, and positive business practices.
You may want to start searching on the Internet for puppet camps for this summer. Start with a search such as “puppet camp” combined with the name of your city.
Online Math Program Comparison for Gifted Students
If you haven’t already bookmarked the website for The Davidson Institute for Talent Development
, you should do so right now. The website contains a wealth of valuable information pertaining to gifted education. Click on the Datebase
link near the top of the page for various ways to search.
In my blog entry today, I want to draw your attention to a particularly useful website for those who are considering enrolling a student in an online math program. Online math programs may be beneficial whether the young person participates during school hours or after school. It may serve as enrichment or acceleration and may offer classes in areas that are not readily available. An online math program may also be a good choice for a student who is homeschooled. The Davidson Institute has put together an Online Math Program Comparison. The information provided is a one-stop shopping experience when considering an online class. This database presents a table of the ten most popular online math programs used by Davidson Young Scholars. Included are Internet links to each program’s website, prices (one is free), topics offered, enrollment periods, whether or not the program is self paced, financial assistance, levels/grades offered, and age/grade requirements.
One of the major benefits of studying math via an online mathematics program is the opportunity to study a subject at the right level of challenge. The student can work at his or her own pace and at the right level. One of the most difficult aspects of online math programs is that the student should be highly self-motivated and an independent learner. Some students thrive in this atmosphere, others feel isolated and find that they prefer being in a classroom setting.
If you are considering an online class for your math student, be sure to look at the comparison table offered by The Davidson Institute.
Immigration Studies for Gifted Students
Gifted students will find the controversial and relevant topic of immigration especially interesting. I have tried to find Web sites on the subject that are politically neutral and offer more facts than opinion. These sites are divided into historical immigration and current immigration.
More than 12 million immigrants arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor between 1892 and 1954. Now you can hear first-person accounts of their ocean journeys, daily life in their home countries, and experiences at the federal government’s former processing station. Ancestry.com
is a subscription genealogy Web site that contains an incredible amount of information. Some information is free, including more than 1,700 taped interviews with immigrants.
gathers together a multitude of research items. You will want to spend time clicking through the various resources on the left side of the page.
The Urban Institute
offers much statistical information on current immigration, including where immigrants are settling and information about children of immigrants.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
is the official Web site to check when wanting to enter the United States legally. Readers will discover the various ways that a person can enter the U.S. and how the application process works.
Possible Questions for Study
Why do people immigrate to other countries?
What factors are considered when immigrants choose a destination country?
In what ways has immigration been a positive influence?
In what ways has immigration been a negative influence?
How has the view of immigration changed or stayed the same over the years?
Gifted Kids Blogging about Academics
Recently I came across two blogs written by students who are "into" academics. These blogs are fun for others to read and may inspire young people to launch blogs to share their own passions.
Daphne’s Word Blog
is written by a logophile
, a person who loves words. Each entry discusses a word or words that the author finds fascinating.
Ivan’s Number Blog
includes interesting information about number patterns and problems that require time and thought to solve.
Each of these bloggers encourages readers to submit their own words, problems, and solutions.
You may want to use these two blogs with students who have an interest in vocabulary and in math, and/or you may want to use the blogs as examples of what your own young people might create. Students could construct blogs in any area of interest (e.g. The Civil War, butterflies, favorite books, creative writing, fire engines, dinosaurs, kites, careers, famous composers, etc.). Entries may be added as time permits or a routine schedule for posts can be established to encourage self-discipline.
Mentors for Gifted Students
On several other occasions I have written blogs about the virtues of finding mentors for gifted students. See
The importance of mentoring is worth revisiting over and over again. Some students have such esoteric interests that it is only through one-on-one coaching and support that they can get the intellectual nourishment that they need. So I want to bring this academic option to your attention once more with some other links available on the Internet.
Questions about Child Prodigies
If child prodigies
were never given the opportunity to discover their talents, would we know that they had the potential to excel? Is the same not true for young people who are very bright but not prodigies? By exposing a young person to as many physical activities, intellectual undertakings, and art forms as possible, you may find an area or areas where that child will excel. Even if the youngster doesn’t excel, she will still be better off for being exposed.
When we think of prodigies, men’s names often come to mind. One doesn’t hear the names of women as often. Lynn T. Goldsmith explores this and other issues in her paper titled Girl Prodigies, Some Evidence and Some Speculations
. Goldsmith cautions us when she states that prodigies are notable for their rapid mastery, but not necessarily for their lifelong contributions to the field.
Many prodigies burn out and do not make the contributions as adults that we expect. Conversely, most original adult contributors were not necessarily prodigies themselves.
Will a child naturally excel in an area or is it necessary to first expose him to that particular area of study?
What is our obligation as adults to expose children to a wide variety of interests?
Why are we far more aware of male prodigies than female prodigies?
Since child prodigies don’t necessarily go on to produce as adults, does that make them just curiosities or something more important?
Are Schooling and Learning Synonymous for Gifted Kids?
The Brave New World blog
, written by Australian Tania Sheko (parent and teacher, turned teacher librarian) raises the interesting question: Are schooling and learning synonymous? Between her comments and the comments of her readers, the following issues are raised:
When school isn’t the ideal place to educate kids, what should you do?
Should schools be responsible for completely educating young people or should they be considered supplements to education provided at home?
Are we adequately preparing kids for living and working in today’s world?
How can we foster a natural love of learning?
How can we allow and encourage young people to follow their passions, even though time consuming school assignments may make that difficult?
How can parents best communicate their educational philosophy and the needs of their kids to teachers?
How can parents play an active role in the education of their youngsters? What does “active role” mean?
What does an educated person look like?
How can parents and teachers help to keep the joy of learning alive?
How will technology change the way we learn?
These questions would be great starters for a deep discussions among teachers, parents, or students. Consider using one or more of the questions at parent or teacher meetings or with groups of students.
Brain Teasers for Gifted Kids
Looking for puzzles to exercise the minds of your students? Are you in search of interactive puzzles for your kids at home? Post a puzzle a day or a puzzle a week in your classroom. Present a puzzle to your kids while driving in the car. Create a puzzle corner at home or at school.
The Internet is full of games and puzzles that work the brain and help kids think outside the box. Just search on such terms as “brainteasers” or “puzzles.” Here are just a few sites that will keep you and your gifted kids occupied for a good long time.
is found at the Discovery Education website. Many of these are quite difficult, so are more appropriate for older students.
The Sunday Puzzle
is brought to you by NPR. Each week, puzzlemaster Will Shortz presents an on-air quiz. At this site, you will find an archive of his puzzles. These are probably the most challenging puzzles of the three sites I am listing here.
Oceans of Learning for Gifted Kids
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth's surface and contains 97 percent of the planet's water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored. Just think of what there is to discover and how exciting it will be. One of every six jobs in the United States is marine-related, so it is definitely an area to think about for a future career.
Providing an avenue for gifted kids to study the ocean may ignite their interest in exploration. Who knows where it might eventually lead.
The excellent websites listed below contain not only written information, but lesson plans, images, video, audio, and other resources.
is sponsored by The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Some of the areas covered on this website include the latest news on ocean-related topics; numerous stories, resources, and lesson plans related to ocean life and ecosystems; and information about the latest research.
National Geographic has an extensive section on the ocean. There are special sections for both kids and for educators.
has ocean material for teachers and kids of all ages.
Once your student’s interest in the study of the ocean has been invigorated, you may want to consider giving him a hands-on experience through a study program. To explore the possibilities, go to Cogito
, which is an excellent website sponsored by Johns Hopkins University. Do a search on “study at sea.” You will be amazed at the opportunities that are available, including camps and living and working on research vessels.
Space Exploration for Gifted Kids
Do you have a student who is interested in space—and who isn’t? There are some great websites available for young people to explore. Use these websites as extensions of studies at school, enrichment, or resources for independent studies.
Mars Exploration Program
—Sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, this site offers youth-friendly information, photos, and video about Mars.
—This is basically an online news reporting site, focusing on space. The news is presented in both articles and in videos.
—Tells about and lists calendars for space events such as sunspots, solar flares, aurora australis and aurora borealis, meteor showers, and near-Earth asteroids. It also includes some excellent links to other space weather related websites.
—A collection of articles and images from news sources on topics such as using radio signals to weigh planets, creating a map of magnetic field lines of the sun, and helping NASA choose wakeup music for the final shuttle missions.
Space for Europe
—The European Space Agency provides a global approach to the study of space, with a special section for kids. There are also many articles and all kinds of videos on topics such as survival training for astronauts, the Hubble telescope capturing images of bubbles and baby stars, and venture capital funds backing business opportunities from space.
—This Web site offers an incredible amount of written information, as well as images, video, audio, and interactive activities. There are special sections for educators and for students. There is an area describing careers at NASA, including internship opportunities.
The Planetary Society
—This is the world's largest space-interest group. It is dedicated to inspiring the public with the adventure and mystery of space exploration through projects and publications. There are quite a few activities for kids.
—One particularly interesting section of this website is "Entertainment" (click on tab near the top of the page). Here you will find articles such as How ‘Star Wars’ Changed the World
and space video game reviews.
Self-Directed Learning for Gifted Students
Taking the initiative to design one’s own learning can be used in the homeschooling environment to create enrichment at home and to extend school curriculum through independent study. When an individual learns to direct his or her own curriculum as a child, this becomes the basis for lifelong learning as an adult. It opens the door to pursuing subjects and activities that are personally interesting. Passions develop because one is able to choose the content and the timeline. The topic may or may not be a traditional academic subject, but no matter what you study, you will learn.
In a typical school situation, a student pursues what he is told to study and is given a timeline for accomplishing specific tasks. While this system builds many skills and can produce a lot of knowledge, the danger is that the young person only learns to do what she is told to do and not to love learning for learning’s sake. Parents and teachers can encourage young people to walk down the path of passion.
Some helpful websites for self-directed learning include:
—This website provides ideas for teaching self-directed learning and for becoming a self-directed learner. It also includes articles, archived newsletters, and links to other helpful websites.
—This article from ERIC includes an explanation of self-directed learning, lists its benefits, and discusses what teachers can do to help the process.
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.
Excellent Resources for Teaching Shakespeare to Gifted Students
The study of Shakespeare never grows old: his plays are counted among the greatest works in English literature, he was an outstanding observer and communicator of human character, and he expressed enduring wisdom and wit. Presented appropriately, Shakespeare fascinates students—especially gifted students—who appreciate the opportunity to study and perform his plays. There are a number of excellent resources available to help teachers and parents expose their children to this icon of literature.
The Folger Shakespeare Library is located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. It is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials. On its website, there is a Teach and Learn
section that contains a wealth of information. Teaching resources for K-12 include Shakespeare lesson plans and other materials for teachers, such as audio and video podcasts, a blog, a Teachers' Lounge forum, and an expanding list of web features. The Shakespeare for Kids section of the site offers games, activities, and creative fun. Folger is a strong advocate of performance-based teaching, which is reflected in the resources on their website.
The University of Texas at Austin created Shakespeare Kids
. It is designed for young people and also for teachers, parents, and administrators who work with students in grades K-8. The resource page contains an excellent list of Internet sites, books, and films.
In Search of Shakespeare
was developed by PBS. It contains case studies, articles, and quick tips on how to bring Shakespeare to life in the classroom; interdisciplinary lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school students; and lots of print and online resources.
Prufrock Press also has a series of books that is designed for teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) students in grades 7-12. In the series you will find
A Study of M.C. Escher for Gifted Students
was a Dutch graphic artist known for his mathematically inspired constructions that seem impossible. His artwork represents explorations of infinity, architecture, fractals, and tessellations. Gifted students find his work fascinating and love studying his prints, which are readily available in books and on the Internet. Young people also appreciate learning about the theories behind Escher's artwork and trying to replicate his techniques.
There are numerous websites on the Internet that provide collections of Escher’s art and explanations of how the art relates to mathematics, including
For sites that provide activities and lesson plans related to Escher, see
From Psychology Today—Nurturing Genius
Joseph Cardillo, a blogger at Psychology Today
, has written a series titled Gifted Children: Nurturing Genius
. In the three-part series, he voices surprise “that the population least likely to learn and achieve its potential is the highly gifted.” He pulls much of his information from the research of Jan and Bob Davidson, founders of the Davidson Institute
, a private foundation that serves profoundly gifted young people under the age of 18 through a wide variety of programs.
Cardillo explains that the category of "gifted" really covers a wide range of abilities, from those who may only need moderate academic advancement to those who may be extremely advanced—many years beyond their age peers. Even though there is a wide range of abilities, educational policies tend to view the gifted as a homogeneous group and provide the same program for all.
Furthermore, gifted education in the United States varies greatly. Some states have no mandate for gifted education, so they don’t have to serve these students. Others have a mandate, but no funding, so they’re not able to do much. Often gifted programs only provide enrichment, much like an indoor camp. Highly gifted children need so much more. Just because a child gets all A+'s does not mean that person is receiving an appropriate education. Profoundly gifted youngsters need a variety of strategies, including acceleration, extended learning at home in an area of interest, mentors, and challenging summer programs.
There is really good information on these topics in this series of blogs, which includes discussions of:
- characteristics of profoundly gifted children,
- initial signs of giftedness,
- things that parents can do to advocate for their child, and
- ways to work through the possibility of various types of homeschooling
For example, in Part 3 of the series, Jill Adrian, Director of Family Services at the Davidson Institute, has some good suggestions for how parents can advocate for their students in school. She says,
“it’s about going in there and approaching things as collaboration: asking the school, how can I help you and how can you help my child? And doing this with a little empathy about what the school system is dealing with, but ultimately, you’re asking for a favor for your children at this point in time. And so presenting cost-effective options that can work for your child and your school may work best.”
One cost-effective option that is discussed in Cardillo's blogs is acceleration. Tools such as the Iowa Acceleration Scale
guide schools in determining for whom acceleration is appropriate. In addition to grade skipping, more and more very young teens are taking college classes. Students take advantage of dual enrollment programs where they attend both high school and college classes. Using subject acceleration, a child may remain at his grade level for most subjects but take one or two subjects (e.g., math, science) in a higher grade class.
We must be careful not to lump all gifted students together. There is a wide range of abilities and needs within the group. One size does not fit all.
A Creativity Crisis in the United States
Although the subject of creativity is often among the top issues for those interested in gifted education, it should be of prime importance to everyone. As a nation, we need to pay special attention to some new findings regarding the topic.
The cover story in the July 19, 2010 issue of Newsweek
is "The Creativity Crisis"
, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. The authors define creativity as the production of something original and useful. It requires divergent thinking to generate many unique ideas and then convergent thinking to combine those ideas to find the best result.
Bronson and Merryman review the work of E. Paul Torrance that began in the 1950s, when Torrance had 400 children complete his newly designed creativity tasks. Torrance and his colleagues then spent the next 50 years tracking the children, recording all of their creative accomplishments. Through this endeavor, they found that Torrance’s creativity index was incredibly reliable for predicting creative accomplishments as adults. In fact, Jonathan Plucker of Indiana University recently reanalyzed the data and found that the correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ.
An interesting phenomenon has been discovered when comparing IQ to CQ. With each generation, IQ scores have gone up about 10 points. This was also true of creativity until about 1990 when scores started falling.
It is a well-established notion that creativity is extremely important to our country. We constantly need creative approaches to political, scientific, and social aspects of our culture. Around the world, other countries are making creativity development a national priority, with China and the European Union leading this effort.
Although some people may be born with a predisposition to be creative, it is also possible to practice the skills necessary to recruit the brain’s creative networks quicker and better. A number of universities are doing research in this area and the conclusion is that creativity can be taught. For example, the National Inventors Hall of Fame School in Akron, OH uses Donald J. Treffinger’s Creative Problem Solving (CPS) method. As mentioned in the Newsweek article, teams of fifth-grade students at the school were given 4 weeks to figure out how to reduce the noise in the library. The library’s windows faced a public space and, even when closed, let through too much noise. The problem, process, and results of this project are excellent illustrations of ways in which creativity can be incorporated into real-life problems and how it can make school relevant while still meeting all the state standards and raising test scores.
I think you will find this article worth reading. You may also want to follow up on the research of some of the authorities mentioned in the article.
Finding the Best Biographies for Gifted Readers
Reading biographies is important for many reasons.
- The genre provides students with compelling reads.
- Biographies offer role models that often emphasize specific character traits.
- Young people are able to see how real people overcome obstacles and solve problems.
- By reading several biographies about the same person, readers grow to understand how different authors may view that same individual.
Inquiry-based Learning for Gifted Kids
There is an old saying: Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. Inquiry-based learning enables students to become involved in their learning for better understanding. When using inquiry-based learning, the teacher acts as a facilitator rather that a purveyor of information. This type of learning is more engaging and exciting for students than traditional methods. Gifted kids really enjoy it because they are asked to question, to investigate, and to experiment, all while using critical thinking skills.
There are quite a few websites that explain how inquiry-based learning works and offer sample lesson plans for students K-12.
Intro to Inquiry Learning
has two particularly helpful sections: Advantages of Inquiry-Based Learning and The Art of the Question. This second section explains how to ask good questions, which may be more complicated and sophisticated than many parents and teachers realize.
Workshop: Inquiry-Based Learning
offers all the basics of inquiry-based learning, provides classroom demonstrations through video clips, explains how to get started, and shows how to create a facilitation plan.
lets you looks at actual units using inquiry-based learning.
Center for Inquiry-Based Learning
was created by Duke University to help North Carolina K-8 teachers learn inquiry-based teaching practices. Here you can explore the list of science kits that they recommend. You can then find these kits on the Internet by searching on both the title of the kit and the publisher’s name, which is in parentheses. Also, be sure to check out Teacher Resources, where you will find many Inquiry Exercises.
Consider using inquiry-based learning both at school and at home. Students will be actively engaged while improving their critical and creative thinking skills.
Summer Activities to Do at Home
Are you looking for some fun summer activities to do with your kids? Here are some ideas.
—Professor Copper Giloth at the University of Massachusetts Amherst teaches Introduction to Computing in the Fine Arts. She assigns her students the task of illustrating the traditional Aesop's fables alongside their own retellings of the fables in a modern setting. This website showcases their work and can be used in several ways. You and your child can read the fables, you can compare the fables with versions found elsewhere, or you can use the student work as incentive for your children to illustrate stories or poems.
Neuroscience for Kids
—Learn about all aspects of neuroscience in a format that uses helpful graphics. Try the many experiments that make use of games and activities. View questions that have been submitted and then answered by basic and clinical neuroscientists from around the world. Search the numerous links provided, sign up for the free newsletter, and much more.
—Brought to you by the Amateur Entomologists' Society, this website helps the visitor identify bugs, learn about bugs, find out how to care for bugs as pets, and many other interesting things about insects and invertebrates. There is also information on how to become an entomologist.
U.S. Department of the Treasury for Kids
—Here there are links to government websites especially for kids. Links lead to the White House, the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Official Kids' Portal for the U.S. Government, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
Brain Teasers, Optical Illusions, and Logic Links
—Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page provides a very long list of links that will engage students in mental gymnastics. There are also links for rebuses, wacky wordies, frame games, and visual puns. Enjoy working some of these puzzles as a family.
Starting a Support Group for Parents of Gifted Students
Parents of gifted students often have unique concerns, and having someone with whom to discuss these issues can be very helpful. If there is not already a parent support group in your community, you may want to start one. There is much help available to aid you in this process. By setting up such a group this summer, it will be up and running when school opens again in the fall.
How to Start a Parent Group
takes you through an 11-step process for forming a group, including finding other parents, determining the scope of the group, and advertising the group. This site also offers a number of very helpful tips.
Start a Parent Support Group
lists suggestions and links for creating a group that is proactive and has a positive influence. This page is part of the website for the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).
From my personal experience, the most valuable tip for parent support groups is to be careful not to allow meetings to become complaint sessions. The most successful groups that I’ve seen are those that share general information and excellent resources and also offer a forum for brainstorming realistic solutions.
Is Your Gifted Child a Visual-Spatial Learner?
Sit that kid down in front of a computer and she can do anything. She doesn’t need instructions to figure it all out. She not only plays computer games, but she creates them. She also blends video and music together effortlessly. She likes to take things apart, but there is no guarantee that she will put them back together in the same way. Building with Legos was always one of her favorite activities when she was younger. Now, she likes to create her own inventions and loves the cartoonist, Rube Goldberg
. Drawing comes naturally to her, and she is constantly producing her own cartoons and comic strips.
Young people who have a strong visual-spatial ability visualize and retain images in their minds and then mentally manipulate those images. Kids who have this ability may be very smart but, because they learn in a style that is different from the usual sequential and verbal style of the classroom, they may not be a good match for the typical school.
Don’t lose heart if your visual-spatial child struggles academically; instead, support his or her strengths at home and through enrichment classes. At the same time, there are techniques you can use to help your child adapt to school. For some of these suggestions, check out the Visual-Spatial Resource
. You also can find a series of articles for both parents and teachers on a variety of topics related to visual-spatial ability at Visual-Spatial Learners
. In addition, much more information can be found at the Visual-Spatial Learners
web page at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page
So, take heart. Your visual-spatial child has talents that will serve her well. She may not learn in the same way that many other kids learn, and she may need help with compensation techniques at school, but because of her strong visual-spatial ability, she will excel in areas in which others have difficulty.
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs—For Gifted Kids
The year I was born, my parents built a cabin in a remote area of northeastern Minnesota. Every August, we vacationed there. As long as I can remember, I was told to beware of the lumberman beetle. It was called a lumberman because it came out in droves when people were cutting down trees. The large insect was so light and so quiet; it could land on one’s clothes or skin without the person being aware of its presence. The beetle had a reputation for inflicting a painful pinch. When my children were young, they had many questions about the insect. We were not able to find the answers to their questions in any of our books (this was in the era before the Internet), so we placed a specimen in a bottle and took it home with us to Denver. Once home, I contacted an entomologist at the University of Colorado. The scientist was more than happy to meet with us. (As a parent or teacher, you should never be afraid to contact a specialist in any area. Specialists are usually very happy to find someone else interested in their field.) This was our own little field trip and was very interesting. The entomologist had never seen this particular beetle and was pleased to have it for his collection. He pulled out drawers and drawers of similar long-horned beetles that were carefully mounted and labeled. He provided us with a fascinating education on similar beetles. He also admonished me to never instill fear in my kids about insects; instead, he said that insects should be considered a wonder to be observed and respected.
Most young people have a natural curiosity about bugs of all sorts, and they should be encouraged to learn about them. You can start by providing children with a magnifying glass and going out in the yard to observe these creatures up close. Visit displays of bugs at museums. Go to the library and take out books on the subject. There also are many resources on the Internet that can help your child learn about bugs. Here are just a few.
Amateur Entomologists' Society
—This site from the U.K. tells how to collect and care for bugs, provides activities to learn about insects along with lots of interesting information, and talks about how to become an entomologist.
—Sponsored by the Department of Entomology at Iowa State University, this site helps you identify and classify all types of bugs. It has an incredible number of wonderful photographs.
The Lost Ladybug Project
—This site provides all kinds of activities and lesson plans about ladybugs. Scientists also ask students to help find various types of ladybugs in different areas of the country and share that information. Instructions for collecting and sharing this information are listed.
—YouTube continues to be an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and students. (Adults should always first screen content at this site for young children.) In the search box, type in words such as entomology
, and insects
, or type in specific names of bugs. You will find videos from many reputable sources.
—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find a variety of educational videos, pictures, and articles.
—Search using general or specific words having to do with bugs, and you will find colorful slide shows, thoughtful articles, videos, and more.
—Find photos of bugs that you are interested in by doing a search using relevant words.
Some offshoot topics to consider when studying entomology include insects as a food source, forensic entomology, and medical entomology.
#gtchat—A New Way to Participate in Discussions About Gifted Education
In January, Deborah Mersino
launched the weekly Twitter discussion group, #gtchat
. Every Friday at noon and 7:00 p.m. (EST), parents, teachers, and gifted education advocates from across the globe gather together on Twitter to participate in an ongoing discussion about gifted education. As Deborah notes, participants in the forum "share resources, ideas, experiences, and new ways of thinking about gifted issues."
For those of you who don’t understand the ins and outs of Twitter, that pound sign (#) before “gtchat” is called a hashtag. The hashtag is designed to identify a specific topic. (For example, whenever I post a new blog entry at the Prufrock site, I list it on Twitter using the hashtag, #gifted.) So, #gtchat identifies postings of the discussion group that Deborah hosts.
On Deborah's website, Ingeniosus, you can see a sampling of the topics
that have been covered on #gtchat so far and see transcripts
of the discussions. A system also has been created in which prospective participants can vote on the two topics to be discussed each week. Recent topics have included:
The Birth of a GT School: Making it Happen/How?
Everyday Social Life of Gifted Kids: Proactive Support
Going Crazy? Why Parenting the Gifted Can Be Tough
IQ Testing: Who, What, Where, When, Why, & How
Exploring the Power of Mentorships for Gifted Students
One of the best things that results from these Twitter chats is the number of resources that people share. For instructions on how to participate in this weekly forum, click here
. Deborah has the ability to break down difficult subjects into easy-to-understand words, so don’t feel intimidated if you’ve never used Twitter before. She makes it very user-friendly.
Response to Intervention (RtI) for Gifted Students
We all know that one size does not fit all when it comes to students' education. As advocates of gifted students, we are acutely aware that a very bright child may be advanced in one academic area, performing at grade level in another, and performing below grade level in another. Even highly gifted students cannot be expected to be advanced in all subject areas.
Response to Intervention (RtI) is a tool that was originally designed to provide services to students with achievement deficits and/or behavior problems, but had not been formally identified for special education. RtI is a tiered services model, which means that instruction and any other necessary assistance is delivered at whatever level is needed. It is an effective tool to use with very bright students who have not been formally identified as gifted and, therefore, have not been placed in a gifted program. It is only common sense that teachers constantly evaluate all students on a regular basis to determine their educational needs. Response to Intervention provides a structured method for doing this.
If you are interested in learning more about RtI's application to gifted education, you may want to check out the Summer 2009 issue of Gifted Child Today, which focuses almost exclusively on RtI and gifted education. Prufrock Press, the journal's publisher, recently began offering this issue free of charge as a downloadable PDF in response to the large number of requests from graduate students, teachers, professors, and other gifted education professionals who have used it for professional development purposes. According to Joel McIntosh, the publisher of Prufrock Press, the special issue, guest edited by Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D., and Claire E. Hughes, Ph.D., was so popular after its initial publication that "it quickly became one of the most widely-read issues in the peer-reviewed journal's history."
You will want to view the articles made available to learn more about this important technique. For additional information on Response to Intervention, you also may consult the following websites:
Teaching Tolerance to the Gifted
We are a nation of many skin colors, religions, types of family units, economic levels, languages, physical and mental abilities, political persuasions, ethnicities, customs, and so forth. It is important that young people learn to understand those who may not look, act, or think the same as they do. That does not mean that they always need to agree with those who are different, but it also doesn’t mean that they should belittle or bully people who are not the same. Instead, kids need to discover what they can learn from one another. By incorporating tolerance at home and at school, we develop environments where young people feel safe and appreciated. We also open up their minds to different cultures and ideas. All of this enhances general learning.
There are some excellent websites that help both parents and educators teach kids tolerance. Here are a few.
Teaching Your Child Tolerance
—Explains to parents why their own discomfort with the subject of tolerance should not get in the way, why tolerance is important, and how it can be taught at home.
—A wealth of information is provided to use with students of all ages. The current featured activity is Discrimination on the Menu
. Discrimination on the Menu
provides lesson plans for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Discussion questions are challenging and thought provoking for even your brightest students. In other sections of the website, you will find articles from past issues of Teaching Tolerance
magazine, classroom activities, teaching kits, and recommended resources.
RaceBridges for Schools
—This website provides videos, theatre games, lesson plans, and resources that build relationships and promote understanding of many different ethnicities. Be sure and scroll to the bottom of the first page of the website and click on “Other RaceBridges Projects” for even more ideas.
Teachers who are beginning to plan for the next school year will find many community-building activities at these websites. The activities are valuable no matter what your teaching environment may be—regular classroom, gifted classroom, or gifted pullout.
Explore Firefighting with Gifted Kids
Firefighting has always fascinated young children. Firefighters dress in special clothes, ride in special vehicles, and perform unusual tasks. They save people and structures. They are our heroes at a time when there is an absence of heroes. If your child is interested in this subject, there are many ways you can help him or her learn more.
There are firefighter museums all over the country. Do an Internet search for “firefighter museum” in your hometown or any place where you plan to travel. Visit these sites and see if they have any special programs for kids.
Local fire stations often allow visitors to tour the facility, talk with firefighters, and find out what their days look like. Schedule a visit with your young people.
Find out about firefighting worldwide
. How is firefighting managed differently and how do the jobs of firefighters vary in different countries?
has many videos
that you can watch about firefighting. You can search on firefighter training, firefighting tools, forest fire, fire fighting airplanes, and fire boats to name a few. (Notice that firefighting can be spelled as either one or two words, so try both with your searches.) If you have young children, screen the videos to make certain that they are appropriate.
Branch out and think of subjects related to firefighting—clothing, vehicles, tools, types of fires, types of firefighting, famous fires, fire departments, layouts of fire stations, life at a fire station, special training for firefighters, ways to keep your home safe, what to do in case of a fire, ways to put out different types of fires, and how firefighters protect themselves. Brainstorm as many ideas as possible.
Encourage kids to make their own creations focusing on firefighters. Perhaps they could make a book or develop a game to teach others about firefighting. Or, they might draw pictures and write stories.
Entrepreneurship for Gifted, Low-Income Students
Make learning relevant. That’s one of the battle cries of American education today. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)
makes education relevant by helping young people from low-income communities build skills and unlock their creativity while emphasizing individuality, initiative, and community. The organization partners with schools and community-based organizations to link the educational and business worlds in the classroom and beyond. NFTE currently has programs in 21 states and 12 countries.This is one of many avenues that has the potential to encourage and allow underprivileged students to demonstrate their otherwise undiscovered gifts.
NFTE was founded in 1987 by Steve Mariotti (a former business executive and entrepreneur) while he was a public high school teacher in New York City’s South Bronx. Mariotti discovered that when low-income youth are given the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, their innate “street smarts” easily develop into “academic smarts” and “business smarts.” Through entrepreneurship, youth discover that what they are learning in the classroom is relevant to the real world.
NFTE’s programs teach entrepreneurship using a curriculum, which can be purchased. There are versions for both middle school and high school. The curriculum may be used in a semester- or year-long entrepreneurship course, integrated into an existing course, or used for an after-school program.
Students learn business concepts, practice skills such as negotiation and pricing, and work on plans for their own individual businesses. Business plan competitions are held at local, regional, and national levels. Winning students at the national level receive a trip to the annual awards dinner in New York City and a grant to apply toward their business or college expenses.
BizCamp is a 2-week, intensive entrepreneurship summer program for students, ages 13-18. The day camp includes field trips and guest speakers focused on providing students with a solid understanding of business. At the end of the camp, students compete for cash awards to fund their businesses.
At the NFTE website, you can find information about the organization’s locations and licensed partners. You also can find out how to become involved with the organization or how to start one in your area.
Parents and Teachers—Get the Most Out of a Gifted Summer Conference
Attending a conference is always a good way for parents and educators to learn about gifted education, network with others who share similar interests and concerns, and find out about curricula, materials, and effective teaching techniques at home and at school. Because summer is often a less hurried time of year, it may be an especially good time to go to one of these events. You can learn about upcoming opportunities at:
Once you decide on a conference to attend, plan your conference well so that you will maximize the benefits that you reap.
If possible, choose sessions ahead of time and have alternatives ready in case a session is full. If a session does not meet your needs, leave immediately and go to one of your alternative choices.
Write down the questions that you’d like to ask or goals that you’d like to accomplish. During sessions, ask general questions that will benefit everyone. Save questions that are specific to you for a time when you can speak to someone one-on-one.
Print personal “business” cards. You may find that you want to exchange contact information with others that you meet.
Wear a nametag so that people can more easily approach you. Look at other people’s nametags and start conversations with them. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to speakers and vendors, as well as attendees. You never know who you’ll meet and how they might be helpful to you. Here are a few opening lines:
Be sure to visit the vendors. You may learn about new programs, curricula, and ideas. There also may be prize drawings or freebies.
Once you get home, follow through on contacting people you said you would contact, and check out those interesting products, services, and websites that you learned about. Share the information you learned with other parents or teachers.
Helping Underserved Gifted Students Grow
I recently was privy to a conversation that some well educated and well-to-do parents had about their two high school children who were trying to gain admission to several highly selective colleges. Their students had high grades, high test scores, were active in many extracurricular activities, came from privileged backgrounds, and had parents who had actively supported their years in school. Despite all of this, the parents still felt that it was necessary to hire a college coach to guide them through the process of admission. I couldn’t help but think about how extremely difficult it must be to come from a family who doesn’t know all the ins and outs of choosing and getting into a good college.
Too few bright young people from underrepresented groups, particularly those from lower-income families, receive the support and preparation they need to be highly qualified applicants for selective colleges. The Next Generation Venture Fund (NGVF)
is working to change that by offering financial help and academic resources to qualified students, beginning in eighth grade and continuing throughout high school.
NGVF is a joint venture of:
In addition, The Goldman Sachs Foundation
and other companies, foundations, and individuals provide financial support for the venture. An investment of approximately $22,000 is made in each student, providing a five-year program consisting of:
individualized education planning and counseling;
advanced and college-level courses focusing on analytical, quantitative, writing, and reasoning skills;
summer school programs on a participating college campus;
a peer network of talented students to foster a culture of achievement; and
career and leadership development programs to "encourage aspirations."
The nation’s three major university-based Talent Searches at Duke, Northwestern, and Johns Hopkins and the Center for Bright Kids in Colorado recruit eighth graders from schools across the United States based on high test scores, financial need, and motivation to succeed. Region-based contact information is provided
so that you will know what institution to contact for your area of the country.
Parents and teachers should be aware of this program so that they can make certain that their schools are participating in the talent search.
Kudos for My Book and Blog
Patti Ghezzi wrote an article titled, Help Your Gifted Child Succeed in School,
for the online magazine School Family.com
. The article referred extensively to Raising a Gifted Child
and provided advice from the book.
The goal of both this blog and my book, Raising a Gifted Child, is to provide teachers and parents with a wide variety of options for working with gifted kids. Both are filled with tips, ideas, and resources for every topic imaginable associated with gifted education.
Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog has been in existence since March 2005. That’s five years of weekly entries, totaling approximately 260 offerings. A search function is available at the website, making it easy for you to search for topics of personal interest. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, e-mail me (an e-mail link is provided at the bottom of my biography) and make a request.
Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook is a compilation of the first three years of this blog, organized by topic and sprinkled with real stories of gifted kids and their families. Perhaps the most useful part of the book is the chapter on specific subjects. This is the place to turn if you have a child who has a high aptitude or passion for a subject. For instance, if your student is especially good at math, you will find a number of suggestions for teaching methods, distance learning, supplementary materials, and competitions.
Hopefully, all of these resources will help to support the very bright children with whom you live or work. There is so much out there, but it’s difficult to find the time to search these resources out. I hope that you will let me do some of the work for you. Tell me what you need and I will do my best to find it for you.
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.
Focused Interests for Gifted Kids: One Example
Decades ago, I used to edit an antiques and collectibles tabloid. The publication mainly consisted of interviews with people who studied and collected specialty items. I always was amazed at several things: the items that wound up in these collections, the groups of people who became passionate about their areas of interest, and the amount of information that could be learned from trivia that may have seemed meaningless to the rest of society. One man’s house was filled with bells of all sizes. Another person’s basement was filled with display cases of pencils. Still others collected vintage buttons. Each of these people could cite all kinds of historical facts about his collection. A visit to eBay also will reveal the number of people who collect various items and have special interest items for sale. These are not hoarders. These are people who genuinely get excited about a specialty category and then learn everything they can about it.
Young people also may find areas of specialty and use those as a focus for learning and collecting. Really being able to “get into” a subject builds traits that may transfer to other areas of learning and work in the future. Some of these traits include:
networking with others of like minds,
pride in one’s accomplishments, and
setting and working toward goals.
While there are many hobbies, collections, and special interests from which a child may choose, I will use trains as an example to illustrate my point. As parents and educators, we want to encourage young people to pursue their passions. Here are some possible ways to do that with trains.
Museums: When you’re traveling, take time to visit railroad museums. For a list of railroad museums across the nation and throughout the world, visit RailMuseums.com
Train Stations: Click here
for a list of train stations around the world. Some have historic architectural significance and some are very modern.
Build a Model Railroad: Building one’s own model railroad is a fantastic way to enhance creativity, work on fine motor skills, manage money, learn to read and understand detailed instructions, and plan. Such hobbies often begin in childhood and continue long into adulthood. For learning all about building a model railroad, check out Building Your Model Railroad
Books: Want to learn about the history of trains and railroads and the people who were most influential in creating them? This information will help a student to understand the development of transportation and help put general history in perspective. One also can learn about today’s high-speed trains and commuter systems, the future direction of rail travel, and how that might influence societal trends. For a list of railroad books, go to sites such as RailroadBookstore
Train Clubs and Organizations: Clubs and organizations are a great place to not only learn about your hobby, but also to meet other people with the same interest. Adult members may act as mentors to young people, providing encouragement and expertise. For a list of model railroad clubs, go to RailsUSA
and search by your state.
Take a Ride: Consider a vacation by rail or just a ride downtown on a commuter train. See listings at TrainTraveling
. Search local transportation systems such as light rail, subways, and elevated trains at local public transportation sites.
You can take any subject in which your child shows an interest and brainstorm all of the possible ways to support that interest. You never know where it may ultimately lead. If you need help, e-mail me (see the e-mail link under my biography on the left-hand side of the page). If I think others also may be looking for ways to encourage the same interest in a child, I will use the idea for a blog entry in the future.
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.
The Art, Math, and Science of Snowflakes
With recent winter storms plaguing the country, now is the perfect time to introduce students to the study of snowflakes and crystals. Perhaps you thought that gazing at and trying to understand these beautiful creations was just a fun way to spend a few moments outside. However, some people dedicate their entire lives to studying these gifts from nature.
was created by Kenneth G. Libbrecht, professor of physics and chairman of the Physics Department at Caltec
. At this website, which is very well laid out and easy to follow, you will find:
incredible galleries of snowflake photos,
the classification of different types of snowflakes,
books about snowflakes,
information about the physics of snowflakes,
snowflake activities, and
tips on where to go to view the best snow crystals.
The Electron Microscopy Unit Snow Page
, created by the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) offers a series of annotated photos of snowflakes taken with a Low Temperature Scanning Electron Microscope (LT-SEM). This website describes:
the special microscope that is used,
the procedure for collecting the specimens, and
an elaborate system for classifying snow crystals.
It is so easy to get caught up in the required curriculum and ignore the everyday wonders that surround us. But by introducing students to a wide variety of subjects and interests that may be outside of the regular curriculum, we may just spark an interest in kids that will carry them forward to additional paths of inquiry.
The Science Behind Olympic Competition
NBC Learn has teamed up with NBC Olympics and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a 16-part online video series
that highlights the science behind winter sports, demonstrating how athletes preparing for the Vancouver Winter Games ski, skate, jump, and curl their way to Olympic gold. Each video illustrates how scientific principles apply to competitive sports. This is a great opportunity for educators to incorporate the Olympics into the classroom. It will engage both athletes and non-athletes alike with video titles such as:
In each video, an NSF-supported scientist explains how a specific scientific principle applies to the sport. The athlete’s movements are captured on high-speed camera and then slowed down to illustrate scientific principles such as Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum, friction drag, speed, and velocity.
Athletes who are featured in the videos include:
(hockey)—two-time Olympic medalist and Harvard graduate
(short track speed skating)—2010 Olympic hopeful
Do You Want a Gifted or a Hard-Working Child?
Psychology Today recently featured a provocative article on its website, titled, Parenting: Do You Want a Gifted or Hard-Working Child? This particular article caught my eye because it presents an alternative way of thinking about parenting gifted kids. I wanted to share it with the gifted education community because it provides some food for thought. The author of the article, Jim Taylor, notes that although "the world is full of gifted failures," parents continue to "hope beyond hope that their children are gifted."
Kids often feel the same way. According to Taylor, whenever he asks a group of kids whether they would rather be gifted or hard working, almost all of them say that they would rather be gifted. In their view, being gifted means that that they are not only destined for success, they won't have to work that hard for it either.
Hard work and perseverance are crucial components of success. However, many people tend to negate the importance of hard work and practice and instead believe that achievement is based on ability alone. This is a dangerous misconception, particularly for gifted kids.
Because learning comes so easily to them when they are young, gifted kids often fail to learn that there is an important link between effort and outcome. They assume that their achievements are a result of their natural ability and that, conversely, their failures are a result of their ability, as well. As Taylor writes: "If gifted children attribute their successes to their ability, when they fail--which they inevitably will sooner or later--they must attribute their failures to their lack of ability (they must be stupid or untalented)." Unfortunately, this kind of misguided thinking can lead kids to give up on a task prematurely because they fear that they aren't good enough. They don't understand that effort is just as important to success as ability.
If these kids continue to succeed with limited effort, they will eventually find themselves in an environment (such as a selective college or university) where nearly everyone is gifted. As Taylor writes: "At this point, giftedness isn't what ultimately determines who becomes truly successful. What separates those children who are simply gifted from those who are gifted and successful is whether they possess the skills to maximize their gifts. Unfortunately, these children will find that their inborn talent is no longer sufficient to be successful. Because everything comes so easily to them, many never learn the skills--hard work, persistence, patience, perseverance, discipline--that will enable them to become truly successful."
Taylor even goes so far as to say that parents should not tell their children that they’re gifted because it will put an unnecessary burden upon them. As Taylor writes: "Instead of emphasizing your children's giftedness, you should talk to them about the attitudes and skills--which are under their control--that they will need to fully realize their talents." Taylor also believes that we should not tell a child that he or she has great potential because having potential means that a youngster has done nothing yet. Potential implies eventual adult success, and, as Taylor writes, we are simply not very good at predicting who will become successful in life.
According to Dr. Anders Ericcson
, a professor at Florida State University who has studied expert performance in sports, music, mathematics, and other activities, the single greatest predictor for success is how many hours a person has practiced an activity. The more hours one practices, the better he or she is. (Remember the 10,000 hours rule that Malcolm Gladwell championed in his book, Outliers
? That rule is based on a study that Ericcson conducted. According to the 10,000 hours rule, it takes approximately 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve mastery.) As Taylor writes: "Hard work means children putting in the necessary time, sticking with it when it's not always fun, persevering in the face of setbacks and failures, and developing all of the skills necessary to become successful."
And so now we have one more way of looking at the capabilities and possibilities of young people. Be sure to check out the comments section at the bottom of Taylor's article for an ongoing discussion of his viewpoints.
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
Vocabulary Development for Gifted Students
Advanced vocabulary development is essential for students for many reasons. It not only helps students excel at college admissions tests, it also helps them succeed in a wide variety of endeavors. For example:
Increasing students' vocabulary encourages them to use more descriptive words when writing or speaking and enables them to communicate their thoughts more clearly.
Understanding the meaning of a wide range of words allows students to comprehend their reading more easily, thus increasing their retention.
Having a larger vocabulary helps students' verbal communication flow and helps them to avoid making unnecessary noises such as "umm" and "uhh" when they speak.
Using richer and more colorful words helps students project a more intelligent image.
Having the right vocabulary for planning and solving problems helps students maximize their thinking skills.
There are many ways that students can increase their storehouse of words.
Students can increase their vocabularly significantly by reading widely and actively, noticing and looking up new words as they read. Students should also seek out classics and other books that require them to pay close attention and think deeply about language and ideas.
Students looking for a fun and relaxing way to learn new words should try playing crossword puzzles and word games. These activities help students to not only learn new words, but also learn alternative meanings for words.
Students wishing to deepen their vocabulary further should study the meanings of root words, as well as prefixes and suffixes. These devices help students guess the meaning of words that they do not already know. They also help students gain a broad understanding of language.
Students who wish to experiment with the words that they use on paper should try using a thesaurus when they write. They will not only learn new words this way, but they will also gain a richer appreciation for choosing the right word in a sentence.
The following websites represent just a few of the online activities that encourage students' vocabulary development:
features a variety of vocabulary games for all ages, ranging from simple games for elementary school students to advanced games and quizzes for high school students who are studying for the SAT and ACT.
offers free online test preparation, including a vocabulary builder. This website includes practice sessions that adapt to a student's ability level. The website requires students to set up a free account.
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.
Paper Art for the Gifted
Do you have a budding young artist at home or at school? Or do you know one that you would like to inspire? Try paper art. Students can easily experiment with this medium at home or at school, using inexpensive, easy-to-find materials to create fanciful pieces of art.
Depending on the project, the process of working with paper art may include copying another artist's previous designs or techniques. There’s nothing wrong with learning paper techniques by copying. The creative part comes when individuals take those copied techniques and use them in different ways to generate fresh interpretations.
Here are some great places to look for inspiration and ideas, whether your student is copying another artist's techniques or creating her own:
—Search for “Paper Art,” or “Origami,” or “Paper Folding,” to name just a few, and you will find all kinds of videos showing how to create paper art.
—Create an original mosaic using a paper plate and cut up magazine pieces.
100 Extraordinary Examples of Paper Art
—I promise that you will love this website. Here, 13 artists showcase their amazing pieces of paper art. Some of the artists featured here use simple materials, while others resort to the unexpected to create stunning work.
—Here, more artists showcase their paper art. There are some repeats from the preceding website, but this website is still worth viewing.
Jen Stark's Paper Art
—Here is a video showing how one artist uses very inexpensive materials to create wonderful examples of paper art.
Revisiting Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Gifted
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy was widely used (and often misused) in classrooms. It was misused when educators assumed that if they taught the highest levels on the taxonomy, then all of the needs of the gifted would be addressed. It was also misused when educators assumed that they could jump right to the highest levels, negating the importance of the lower levels. For example, an educator might ask a student to read a book and evaluate the character's actions, but not ask the student to support his or her conclusions with evidence from the book.
Bloom’s Taxonomy was eventually updated, or revised, in 2001.Whether you apply the original version or the revised version, Bloom’s Taxonomy is still a good tool when used appropriately because it encourages higher level thinking skills. Some websites that are helpful when trying to understand and use Bloom’s Taxonomy include:
Justice as a Theme for Critical Thinking
Harvard University professor and noted political philosopher, Michael Sandel, has taught his legendary moral reasoning course, Justice, for nearly 30 years. Now, Harvard has made this excellent course available (free) over the Internet.
This course is a real exercise in critical thinking. Sandel prods his students to not only think deeply about some of the thorniest moral dilemmas that humans face, but to also rethink their positions from an alternative perspective. After all, important moral questions are "never black and white."
As noted on the website:
"Sorting out these contradictions sharpens our own moral convictions and gives us the moral clarity to better understand the opposing views that we confront in a democracy. . . Professor Sandel believes the process of thinking one's way through the difficult moral questions of our day—figuring out what we think, and why—helps make us better citizens."
If gifted students are mature enough to discuss deep moral dilemmas and examine their own thinking, then this course will be well worth their time. The course also presents an excellent opportunity for gifted students to engage in challenging discussions, both at school and at home.
The Internet version of Justice includes 12 very interesting lectures. During the lectures, Professor Sandel engages his students at Harvard by calling upon them in class and asking for responses to the dilemmas that he presents.
Before viewing a lecture, students can read a synopsis on the website. Then, after viewing the lecture, they can create a private Discussion Circle online and invite their peers to post answers to Sandel's questions. For those who want to extend their learning even further, several of the lectures offer additional readings that can be found right on the website—no need to buy books or search for materials—in addition to interactive quizzes and discussion guides for beginning and advanced students.
If you know of a mature, gifted student who would benefit from this course, I highly recommend that you take a look at all the materials available. The Justice lecture series also can be found on some public television networks.
What Can Homeschooling Teach the Rest of Us?
I am not an advocate for one educational method over another. Instead, I prefer to look at the attributes of various models and apply what works best. After all, what works for one family, or for one child, may not work for another. If you read my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook, you will see that my mission is to inform students, parents, and teachers about the many educational possibilities that are available to them so that they can make better choices in the future.
Whether or not you homeschool your child, you will find that many helpful ideas come from homeschooling networks. Parents choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons. One common reason is that they have found that their children's academic needs are simply not being met through traditional schooling.
At A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling
, there is an entire section dedicated to homeschooling gifted children
. This website provides answers to the following questions:
Why do some parents choose to homeschool their gifted students?
How does one know where to begin the process of homeschooling?
Where can one find mentors?
Where can one find good distance learning programs?
What problems might one encounter when homeschooling gifted students?
How can the social needs of a homeschooled gifted child be met?
Where can high-quality resources such as books, forums, and e-mail lists be found?
Much of this information can be important to both parents who homeschool their children and to parents who offer their children a more traditional education. Parents and teachers should remember that it is possible to combine traditional schooling with homeschooling. For example, a young person may attend regular school for part of the day and then be homeschooled in an area of particular strength after school.
Math Circles for the Gifted
Are you looking for meaningful enrichment for your math student? Do you have a young person who is capable of more in-depth math reasoning than is offered in the regular school environment? Do you have a youngster who is excited about mathematics and you want to encourage that excitement? Math circles may offer the stimulation that your student needs.
The programs place precollege students and mathematical professionals together in informal settings. Some math circles focus on high school students, while others focus on students as young as 5. There are also math circles for teachers available that help classroom teachers learn to use high-level problems and questioning techniques.
All of these groups meet after school or on weekends in informal environments where they work together on interesting problems. Some math circles prepare students for high-level competitions, and some avoid competition completely. The groups introduce members to deep mathematical ideas that are not normally covered in classrooms, and they encourage students to tackle tough mathematical questions for themselves.
This concept of study originated in Hungary more than a century ago and soon spread over Eastern Europe and Asia. It is widely believed that it is the presence of these circles that has enabled the youth of countries such as Russia, Bulgaria, and Romania to outperform the United States on average at the International Mathematical Olympiad
. Only recently have math circles started in the United States.
To learn more, visit the website for the National Association of Math Circles
. At this site, you will find a list of existing circles in 26 states; information about summer programs; and lots of resources, including a database of sample problems. There are some excellent videos that you will want to watch that demonstrate the hows and whys of the program. If you are not able to find a math circle in your area, you can read through the detailed tutorial on how to establish one. Math circles may be initiated by teachers, parents, or universities. Ambitious students may also get a program rolling.
Math circles are just one more of the many options available for able students. Never accept the idea that you are limited to the resources available in your immediate school community.
Video Gaming for the Gifted
Playing video games is often a big part of the lives of today’s youth. Why not capitalize on this trend from an educational standpoint? Many gifted students will enjoy learning about the history and development of video games, and they may also enjoy learning about potential careers in the field.
Like so many other advances in technology, video games began for pure amusement; but their applications have spilled over into the broad fields of information sharing and education, including in the military and in many corporations.
Some websites that your student may enjoy exploring include:
The Video Game Revolution—This PBS site explores the history of gaming, how a game is made, and the impact of gaming on the world. It also offers personal stories about gaming (both positive and negative), quizzes, and retro games that kids can actually experience. The site contains both audio and video, and is interactive.
, the math and science website sponsored by Johns Hopkins University that I can’t say enough good things about, has some excellent resources on video gaming, including camps and workshops, competitions, and information about careers. Search on a variety of terms, including “careers in video games.”
For older, serious students, there is the annual Game Developers Conference
where attendees can avoid the expensive full access registration by purchasing a pass for just the Game Career Seminar. The Game Career Seminar is a full day program designed for students and individuals interested in learning how to break into the video game industry.
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.
Increasing Depth and Complexity in Curriculum for the Gifted
I have always been a big fan of Sandra Kaplan at the University of Southern California. She has created wonderful techniques for increasing depth and complexity of curriculum—attributes that are at the core of gifted education.
Kaplan’s chart, Facilitating the Understanding of DEPTH and COMPLEXITY
, presents teachers with easy-to-follow prompts, key questions, thinking skills, and resources that provide ideas for differentiating curriculum. These ideas can be applied to many subjects including language arts, science, social studies, and math. The prompts and key questions are very helpful when developing universal themes. A few examples include:
What are the reoccurring events?
What elements, events, ideas, are repeated over time?
What was the order of events?
How can we predict what will come next?
·Determine relevant vs. irrelevant
·Discriminate between same and different
Other chronological lists
What dilemmas or controversies are involved in this area/topic/study/discipline?
What elements can be identified that reflect bias, prejudice, and discrimination?
·Judge with criteria
How are the ideas related between the past, present, and future?
How are these ideas related within or during a particular time period?
How has time affected the information?
How and why do things change or remain the same?
View the entire chart at the link above and use it as a guide when developing curriculum for the gifted or when differentiating lessons in the regular classroom.
If you have used Kaplan's material in developing units or lessons, please share them through comments at this post.
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.
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 Reading and Media Lists for Gifted Students
It’s that time of year again. Summer is upon us and I know many of you are looking for good books for your kids to read as well as notable recordings, videos, and software. Here are some links that will offer guidance.
Lists book and media awards, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, Wilder, Carnegie, Batchelder, Belpré, Geisel, and Odyssey awards and the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Includes Children’s Notable Lists, identifying the best of the best in children's books, recordings, videos, and computer software.
Includes book awards lists in various categories along with a number of lists dedicated to audiobook and film recommendations for accelerated young adults.
A teacher of gifted students lists books that, over the years, “were requested the most often, provoked the most interesting discussions, and were remembered and mentioned years after they were read.”
Information about goal-oriented summer reading programs from Scholastic and Barnes and Noble.
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.
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.
Dragons in Literature
Gifted kids relish theme-oriented studies. These studies allow students to study a topic in-depth and at a higher-level of thinking than many traditional units.
One fun, interesting, and non-conventional theme for study is Dragons in Children’s Literature. If you have a student who might find this topic interesting, there are some good resources available.
Tina L. Hanlon
, Associate Professor of English at Ferrum College in Virginia, has assembled an annotated bibliography on Dragon’s in Children’s Literature
. Included in the bibliography are picture books, novels, poems, background resources, and a paper/essay (the essay is particularly interesting) that Hanlon presented at the Children’s Literature Association Conference in June 2002. Using the extensive information that Hanlon offers could be a basis for a wonderful study of dragons (from those in Beowulf to Harry Potter) and their role in literature. Sometimes dragons are regarded as a symbol of evil and, as Hanlon states, sometimes as ”watered-down images resulting from the attempts of modern Americans to protect innocent children from the violence in traditional literature.”
Links to additional supportive materials can be found at The Dragon Theme Page
, created by the Educational Technology Center at Kennesaw University in Georgia.
Material on the Web sites listed above could be a basis of study for very young children through high school students and beyond.
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.
Integrated Curriculum for Gifted Students
Curriculum is meaningful when students can relate it to other aspects of their lives. This is more likely when material is taught using themes that integrate many subjects.
organizes education so that it links together the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, social studies, music, and art. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way, reflecting the real world and prepares children for lifelong learning. Integrated curriculum includes
A combination of subjects
An emphasis on projects
Sources that go beyond textbooks
Relationships among concepts
Thematic units as organizing principles
Flexible student groupings
Teachers often learn the theory behind good curriculum development, but they are too often expected to create their own materials. It is difficult to find enough time to keep “reinventing the wheel.” There are a couple of very good resources for integrated curriculum that contain already-developed teaching units that target gifted students.
In my blog, I have frequently mentioned the units developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. These units contain in-depth activities that develop high-level thinking skills and encourage students to relate the material to their own lives. I have personally used several of these units and know teachers who have used others. The material is excellent! Units are available for elementary through high school. Titles include The Weather Reporter, Spatial Reasoning, Patterns of Change, and Defining Nations: Cultural Identity and Political Tensions.
The units developed by the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at University of Denver use critical thinking, problem finding, problem solving, and evaluating as an overlay for the content areas included in each topic. Multiple teaching strategies are used to address specific learning styles, individual needs, and intellectual abilities. Units are available for pre-kindergarten through grade 8. Titles include Arctic/Antarctic, Architecture, Natural Disasters, and United Nations.
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.
Archaeology for Gifted Kids
Archaeology is the scientific study of the history of human cultures. It can be a compelling topic of interest for gifted kids and is often not included in school curriculum. Below are Internet links for students of all ages.
Archaeology is the publication of the Archaeological Institute of America. This site includes articles, reviews, information on local shows, interviews, breaking news, a blog, interactive digs, and videos.
Search for “Archaeology” and you will find a few good links on becoming an archaeologist as well as an interview with Tristan Barako, the senior researcher for the NOVA/PBS documentary, The Bible's Buried Secrets. A link is provided to watch all 13 episodes of this program on your computer.
Located in southwestern Colorado, this center has a wonderful reputation for education. Click on Archaeology Adventures and you will find information on middle school and high school summer camps.
Created by Cobblestone Publishing Company, this site offers information on this magazine, which is designed for the younger set. There is also information—state-by-state—of archaeological activities and a section titled Ask Dr. Dig where readers can ask questions of a real archaeologist.
Written by a museum teacher at the Royal Ontario Museum, the author tells how to pursue the field of archaeology as a profession, beginning in elementary school.
Another site designed for younger kids, students are guided through games, puzzles, and a virtual archaeological tour to understand how people at a farmstead survived 150 years ago.
A newsfeed on the ancient world, including articles, photos, and videos.
Search for “Archaeology” for all kinds of information related to the high- quality programs that appear on the PBS program, NOVA.
Search for “Archaeology” and you will find all kinds of free lesson plans.
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.
Using Universal Themes to Promote Higher Level Thinking
The use of universal themes has been discussed in this blog on a couple of occasions:
The topic is so important for gifted students and so sought after by parents and teachers that I want to visit it again.
In education, we are often accused of delivering a curriculum that is not relevant to today’s students. If we teach (or have discussions at home) using universal themes, the material presented does become relevant.
A universal theme is a timeless, broad, abstract idea that can be used to tie together literary works or understand broad concepts in history. It is one to which all people can relate. It transcends race, gender, and creed.
In good literature, themes are implied rather than directly stated. By looking carefully at a universal theme, students are able to explore what that theme reveals about people, about their relationships, and about life in general. What motivates people to action? What causes a person to change? What human weaknesses and strengths do we see in others? Powerful universal themes explore concepts in depth. For example, rather than just study the facts of war/conflict, it is more interesting and meaningful to figure out how conflict changes the lives of all people involved.
If you visit the previous blogs mentioned above, you will find many ideas for using universal themes as well as many potential concepts that can be used as universal themes. Below are additional possibilities.
Free will vs. fate
Restrictions of society
By using universal themes, you will make learning relevant, provide umbrellas under which details become easier to remember, and give students a framework of understanding that they can carry with them the rest of their lives.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Presidential Election Curricula for the Gifted
As the excitement builds this fall with the upcoming election, teachers and parents will want to have good resources at hand to help gifted students understand the election process. Here are just a few resourses. If you have other good resources to share, please list them in the comments area of this blog entry.
Rutherford Public Schools in New Jersey has developed curricula for their gifted program, grades 7–8
. The information is very general and includes objectives, course outline, curriculum content standards, assessments, resources, and activities.
One of the resources used in the Rutherford Public Schools curriculum is the Interact simulation The Presidential Election Process
. Interact recommends this curriculum for grades 5–8. If you scroll down on this page, you will see that Interact materials were recommended in my June 28, 2008 blog entry.
Fact Monster from Information Please
explains how a president gets elected. Follow links on the left side of the page to find extensive information on Campaign 2008, presidential conventions, and facts about U.S. elections.
monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.
rates the accuracy of candidates' statements on their records, attacks on opponents, and organizes statements by issue/topic.
College Entrance for Gifted Homeschoolers
In the not-too-distant past, homeschoolers had valid concerns about applying for college admission. How would they be able convince higher education officials of their accomplishments and capabilities? But in recent years, the homeschooling movement has grown by leaps and bounds and even the most select institutions of higher learning now have procedures in place for admission of this group of independent learners. A recent example was cited in the Chicago Tribune article "From Home School to Top Schools." Chelsea Link, homeschooled beginning at age 5, was recently accepted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, University of Chicago, Stanford, and Northwestern. Of course, she has a stellar résumé with perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, and also aced all of her AP exams. In addition, she is the reigning world Irish harp champion. Chelsea also augmented her home learning with enrichment classes, lots of travel, and immersion in Chicago’s rich arts scene.
Almost two million American students are educated at home, and more than 80% of colleges have formal policies for assessing these applicants—up from 52% in 2000.
Homeschoolers are learning to package themselves. One way they do this is to rely more on outside sources to document scholastic rigor. This may include credits for college classes, online instruction from such credible groups as Stanford University’s Education Program for Gifted Youth, and recommendations from tutors and mentors. It also is important for homeschoolers to prepare detailed course descriptions of their independent course of study.
Colleges and universities are most impressed by a student’s genuine intellectual curiosity, which can’t be faked. Chelsea certainly has demonstrated this intellectual curiosity. She most likely would excel no matter what her environment because of her intense interest in learning. She loves literature and theater. For the last three years, she has taught Shakespeare classes to 40 youngsters. She studied the harp in Ireland most summers since she was ten. She also is intensely fond of French and reaps praises from her French tutor of ten years.
There are not many students like Chelsea, who have a strong intellectual interest, tenacity, and support of parents, but for those who fit into this category, the possibilities are unlimited.
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?
Gifted Homeschoolers’ Forum
Not every school is a good match for every child. Homeschooling can be an ideal academic alternative for gifted children because it provides an education tailored to individual intellectual, social, and emotional needs. The flexibility of homeschooling allows children to set the pace of learning and work from a wide variety of educational materials. It also allows more time to pursue interests not covered in the classroom and to find experts willing to share their specialized knowledge. All of these attributes are beneficial to very bright children.
Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (GHF)
is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that works to support, educate, and advocate for families choosing alternative educational paths for their gifted children. It was originally founded to support gifted homeschoolers in California but, because of technology, is now able to make its information available to everyone. This Web site has many resources that are beneficial to parents who homeschool their children. Links include the following:
Favorite traditional and non-traditional curriculum resources
Information about twice-exceptional (2E) kids
Books and publications
Nationwide distance and short-term residential programs for gifted children
Articles about homeschooling
If you are considering homeschooling your child or you already are a homeschooling parent, you will likely find lots of helpful information at this Web site.
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.
Gifted Student College Application Rejected
There was an interesting interchange this past week on the Washington Post Web site. In What to Do With Gifted Students?, staff writer Jay Mathews talks about a letter he received from a mother of a very gifted student. (The boy was reading a college-level book in third grade.) Mathews admits that he has not been very sympathetic with parents of gifted students, but this one is an exception. In fact, he was so sympathetic, he invited readers to respond.
In a nutshell, the student in question had received rejections from a number of colleges/universities. The parents had focused on learning, not grades. The boy’s standardized test scores were very high and he had taken many advanced courses and scored very well on final tests. However, his grades were not great. He often didn’t do all of his assigned work, so received zeros. The classes didn’t move fast enough for him, so he did different work on his own and handed notes to the teacher and classmates.
After college rejections, the parents and student found out that many schools of higher learning do not look at things like AP scores until after students are admitted. (The boy had so many high scores on AP tests, that he would be qualified to place out of about a year of college.) The fact that his GPA (3.275) was low, in the minds of the admissions department, indicated to those decision makers that the boy is lazy.
In retrospect, the mother wishes that she had homeschooled her son. If he had been homeschooled, the colleges would have looked at the same scores that they now ignore.
The conversation of reader responses to this dilemma is worth reviewing. Since the staff writer who put all this together selected the responses to include, he was able to offer a variety of ideas by articulate people. You will not have to wade through a lot of the same comments written in a poor fashion. This article and letter responses would make a great discussion point for a group of parents, educators, or graduate students. I highly recommend that you read it.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.