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.
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.
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.
Building Differentiated Learning Objectives With Web Tools
For some teachers, building differentiated learnings objectives, lesson plans, and units is part of the fun of teaching. It comes naturally for these teachers. For others, it can be a real challenge. For either group, writing learning objectives can require a commitment of time. As schools increasingly emphasize the use of varied, differentiated learning objectives, a teacher's planning time can be stretched.
For those wanting to save a bit of time or add a spark of creativity to their learning objectives ... enter Ian Byrd, a creative and energetic California teacher. Ian has developed a clever Web application called "The Differentiator." This is a fun little tool that allows you to use a Web interface to build learning objectives by choosing from a set of predefined thinking skills, content, resources, student products, and group sizes. For example, using Ian's site, I created the following in a matter of seconds:
Students will contrast [thinking skill] the multiple points of view of green energy [content] using newpapers [resource] to create a press conference [product] in groups of three [group size].
You may need to do a little additional editing after you build an objective.
The Differentiator is free, and it is certainly worth giving it a try.
Once Ian realized how popular The Differentiator was, he spent some time this summer building a more comprehensive tool called ExtendAMenu. This new tool allows you to build differentiated learning objectives using various types of extension menus and keep a record of those objectives stored online.
Ian has posted a screencast demonstrating the use of ExtendAMenu. ExtendAMenu costs $20.
Win a Free Set of Differentiating Instruction With Menus
Ian and I have worked up a special drawing that will allow four lucky teachers to win a free set of Laurie E. Westphal's elementary-level Differentiating Instruction With Menus or her middle school level Differentiating Instruction With Menus (each set is a $79.80 value). To enter the drawing, visit the ExtendAMenu contest page.
Finally, if you just want to read Ian's thoughts and practical ideas for the gifted education classroom, you can visit his Web site Byrdseed: Practical Ideas for Your Gifted Classroom. The Web site if full of solid information about gifted education and gifted children.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Using Search Tools on Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog
You may have noticed that the format of this blog changed a bit recently, and I want to make certain readers understand the search possibilities available. This is the 120th weekly blog that has been posted in more than 2 years, so there is a lot of information here. There are two ways to search.
· Categories—In the left column of the web page, you will find a section titled Categories. Within that section, you will see a list of more than a dozen subjects. If you click on any of these, all the articles that fit into that grouping will appear.
· Search—You can also search for words, phrases, or topics you do not see listed under Categories. With the new format of the blog, you will need to sign in to use the search function. There is a section on the upper right where you can register. Your user name and password are case sensitive.
Example—You might want to search on “underachievement.” To do this, click on the word Search either at the bottom of the Categories list or near the top of the page. Once you do this, a number of boxes will appear and you can fill in the appropriate information. (You do not need to fill in all the boxes.) Click on Search, and all of the articles will come up that meet the criteria you entered.
These are great tools, so make sure you take advantage of them.
Free Advanced Math for Gifted Children
Looking to challenge a gifted children with activities focused on statistics and probability?
Recently, I received an e-mail from the The Actuarial Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes "education and research programs that serve the public by harnessing the talents of actuaries." The foundation coordinator asked me to let my readers know about two free books developed by the foundation that support math education. The books can be downloaded from the foundation's web site.
The first is called The Math Academy, Are You Game? – Explorations in Probability and is for students in grades 3-6. This book includes hands-on activities for grades 3-6 that you can use to enhance your math instruction while staying true to the academic rigor required by state standards.
The second one is Shake, Rattle, & Roll. Using a variety of mathematical skills common to the actuarial field, lessons are designed to teach sixth to eighth grade students how to use scatterplots for data analysis and histograms to analyze the frequency of events, probability, and other functions as they are applied in determining the financial impact of randomly occurring events like flood and earthquakes and the calculation of property loss.
WebQuests as a Differentiation Tool for the Gifted
As teachers, we need a bag of “educational tools” from which to draw. No one teaching method should be used when working with students: instead, we need a repertoire of techniques from which we can pick and choose according to the individual and circumstance. The use of WebQuests
is one such tool that can be used for differentiation in the classroom either with a small group or for a student to use as an independent study. WebQuests contain a list of teacher-screened Web sites that can be used to do research and complete specific tasks within a defined structure. When using these with gifted students, the tasks should be more complex than with the regular population. WebQuests are most often used with children in upper elementary and middle schools.
There are three different ways that teachers can apply WebQuests:
1. Use a WebQuest that has already been created and is available on the Internet.
2. Take a WebQuest that has been created and modify it to meet the needs of your students.
3. Create your own WebQuest.
For sources of WebQuests that are already created, take a look at
For sources to modify existing WebQuests, see
For help in creating your own WebQuests, check out
Free University Video Lectures
Click on “Science and Technology” or “Society and Culture” for a list of video lectures.
This site contains all recorded video lectures produced in the Duke University Mathematics Department Multimedia Classroom.
Webcasts of major law school lectures, conferences, panels, debates and special events.
A wide variety of lectures from the many departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Includes lectures from the Princeton Environmental Institute, Public Lecture Series, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, and others. Sample titles are “Exploration of the Great Rivers of Africa,” “Escher and the Droste Effect,” and “The Legacy of John Adams.”
Videos include course lectures, readings, and symposiums in a variety of subjects.
Free Learning Resources From Top Universities for the Mac or PC
Want your students to watch a video lecture on electro-magnetism given by one of MIT's most respected scientists? Maybe you would like to encourage your students to explore a photograhy exhibit at the University of Maryland by master photographer David Seymour. Perhaps, you would like to include a lecture from Stanford University on the topic of globalization. Want to encourage a teenager to take a video tour of a farflung college campus?
If so, I've found an exciting, free learning resource for the Mac or PC that you should explore.
Apple has recently launched "iTunes U," a dedicated area within the iTunes Store that features free content such as course lectures, language lessons, lab demonstrations, sports highlights and campus tours provided by top U.S. colleges and universities including Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, Duke University, and MIT. "iTunes U makes it easy for anyone to access amazing educational material from many of the country's most respected colleges and universities," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of iTunes. "Education is a lifelong pursuit and we're pleased to give everyone the ability to download lectures, speeches and other academic content for free."
Created in collaboration with colleges and universities, iTunes U makes it easier to extend learning, explore interests, and learn more about a school. Content from iTunes can be loaded onto an iPod with just one click and experienced on-the-go, anytime, making learning from a lecture just as simple as enjoying music.
Visit Apple's iTunes U introduction and information Web pages to learn more about this exciting learning resource.
PBS Launches Free Educational Resource
Earlier this month, PBS launched PBS Teachers
(http://www.pbs.org/teachers), a "front door" Web site for all of the educational resources and services PBS offers. The site offers plenty of quality resources for classroom teachers and home-schooling parents.
The site also provides a one-stop resource for educators searching for wide-ranging curriculum resources, video archives, and more.
The site offers lots of free teaching resources that include:
- Thousands of free standards-based lesson plans, classroom activities, interactive resources, and more—organized by subject, grade level, and curriculum topic.
- Hundreds of curriculum resources from local PBS stations—forming a local-national search, combining the best educational resources from around the country.
- PBS' newest blog, "Media Infusion" (http://www.pbs.org/teachers/mediainfusion), which will showcase ideas for and encourage conversations about using media and technology in the classroom, to be hosted by practicing classroom teachers and educational technology experts.
- Dedicated areas for early childhood educators, library media specialists, and technology coordinators.
- Showcases for public broadcasting's video content—including on-demand streaming video from selected PBS programs, customizable local PBS station TV schedules, and Shop for Teachers, a source for purchasing video programs.
At first glance, this appears to be a solid resource for teachers, especially teachers with Internet access in their classrooms (many of the lessons direct students to watch a brief streaming video from the PBS archives). Take a look at the site and let me know what you think.
Teach Creative Writing With a Bit of Humor
Guest Post by:
R.E. Myers, Ed.D.
About This Blog Entry's Guest Author
R. E. Myers, Ed.D, began his career in education as an elementary teacher in Santa Cruz County, CA. While pursuing his doctorate, he become a graduate student of the late Dr. E. Paul Torrance. That association led to a variety of experiences in the field of creative thinking. His newest book, Motivational Writing Lessons: Clever, Humorous, and Altogether Creative Lessons, is available from Prufrock Press.
There are still teachers who require students to write about their summer experiences at the start of the school year, and I suppose there are many of us who have written accounts of six or seven summers during our own school years. A number of us have also been forced to write, as everyone in our classes was required to do, a composition entitled "My Favorite Hobby" or "The Person I Admire Most." These aren't necessarily bad writing assignments when they are presented in a stimulating way and when students "get into" the subjects. On the other hand, they can be dreadful when they are introduced in a sterile and peremptory manner and when the students know that the assignment is just one more in a long series of such writing chores.
It is far better to inject some humor and excitement into your writing program by doing something a little offbeat. For example, you can put your students into hypothetical situations that evoke realistic, whimsical, or fantastic reactions from them. Below is one that focuses on sense experiences.
What would you suppose might be going on if you:
. . . walked on hot sand that burned your bare feet and felt perspiration running down your neck and looked out to the sea and saw a gigantic wave and realized your mouth was very dry?
. . . turned a corner and felt a stiff breeze that smelled strongly of garlic and heard a distant rumbling and saw hundreds of crows in the sky?
. . . climbed a hill by taking a rocky path that hurt your feet, picked up a leaf that got your hand greasy, and heard a lot of laughing and then saw a bunch of newspapers scattered everywhere?
. . . looked out of a window and saw lots and lots of ants and heard metal being scraped and smelled something burning nearby and then felt the building shaking?
By combining either logical or unusual sense experiences, you can create hypothetical situations that will stretch your students' minds—and that should be fun for them and for you.
Motivational Activities for Gifted Students
Guest Post by: Stephen Young, Ed.D.
There is an old educational adage that you can’t teach something to someone who doesn’t want to learn it. This old maxim is one reason why professional educators spend so much time on the challenge of motivation. Teachers of gifted and talented students are no less likely to face this challenge than other teachers.
There are essentially only two ways to motivate a student to learn. The first is to offer students content and skills that they see as relevant, meaningful, and important. Students will try to learn what they value as important.
When faced with teaching content and skills that do not meet this first approach, we often look for fun and exiting ways to “hook” students into our lessons. That which students find fun and interesting will also get their attention and, despite themselves, they will dive in head first simply because it’s fun. Let's face it, while we often teach content and skills that seem wonderfully relevant and important to students—sometimes the content we teach needs a little boost.
Every teacher wants each class to get off to a good start. Hook student’s attention at the beginning of a class or school day, and your chances of a successful lesson improve dramatically. One way to do this is to use something I call “hooks and grabbers.” These are short attention getting activities: games, puzzles, artifacts, quotes, mysteries, riddles, words, observations, magic tricks, and a host of other means of grabbing their attention at the starting gate and getting them involved in mind stretching activities. “Hooks and grabbers” create a frame of mind—an atmosphere of fun, curiosity, or discovery—which can successfully lead into the main content of the lesson.
During my 35 years as a public school teacher and college professor, I have accumulated a number of such activities. I've collected them in my new book, Super Smart: 180 Challenging Thinking Activities, Words, and Ideas for Advanced Students.
With this blog, I've included a few samples of actual activities included in my book. Just click on any of the images below to view these fun classroom “hooks and grabbers.” Feel free to print any of the samples below and try them out in your classroom.
Free Samples of Motivational Activities for Gifted Children
Using appropriate hooks and grabbers can give you a leg up in creating a classroom atmosphere of discovery students will look forward to each day.
About This Blog Entry's Guest Author
Stephen Young, Ed.D, recently retired from a 35-year career as public school teacher and professor of education at Morehead State University. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from MSU and Ed.S and Ed.D. degrees from Indiana University in Instructional Systems Technology. In addition to two novels in print, he is also the author of a manual for decision making via critical thinking. His newest book, Super Smart: 180 Challenging Thinking Activities, Words, and Ideas for Advanced Students, is is available from Prufrock Press.
Geography and Gifted Education
When I started working as a gifted education specialist at one elementary school, I was told that there was a second grader at the school who was a whiz at geography. Peter was a whiz-kid! His father had introduced him to the subject before he ever started public school and he had been devouring it ever since. Ask him to locate any place on the map and he could point right to it. But he wasn’t just good at place names. He could tell you the climate, the animals, and the vegetation of the area. If asked to reason why a certain event might take place in a specific country or city, he would pause and then begin his sentence very slowly with, “Let’s see…” He would then take all the information he knew about the place and reason very logically why that event might have taken place there. He might also add, “But I would also like to know…” Peter was a phenomenal reader. At second grade, he was reading at a 12th grade level. This enabled him to research easily. Peter was gifted in geography.
I often wonder how many other kids might be gifted in geography if they were just exposed to it. After all, a child can’t get excited about something to which he has never been introduced. While most students in first or second grades are learning about their neighborhoods in school, Peter was exploring the world. Peter knew that geography was not a dry subject.
Geography is much more exciting than many people think, involving far more than places and locations. Geography helps us to understand the relationship of places and people. With a little searching adults will find that there are resources available to introduce young people to this subject.
To give you an idea of the scope of geography, check out the definitions
that were compiled from participants at the Geography Summit II which was held at Southwest Texas State University in 1996 and collected by Dr. Ed Fernald of the Florida Geographic Alliance.
Great Resources for Teaching
To help people gain a greater understanding of geography, in 1984 the Joint Committee on Geographic Education of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and the Association of American Geographers (AAG) developed Five Themes of Geography.
These themes include location, place, human/environment interaction, movement, and regions. Be sure and take a look at this site as it explains each of these themes and lists fun activities to teach them. More activities for teaching the Five Themes can be found at Education World
At the National Geographic Xpeditions
site, you will find not only the U.S. National Geography Standards, but lesson plans, activities, an atlas, and an interactive learning museum.
Want to know if you have a student who is gifted in geography
? The national curriculum of England has actually set up standards.
Finally, if you would like to pursue geography on a competitive basis, take a look at GeoBee Challenge
. This site includes information for kids, parents, and teachers, including information on the National Geographic Bee.
So, have lots of resources available to students, including maps, atlases, and globes. I have a large world map hanging in my kitchen. There’s no need for me to look for it or open it up when I want it. If I read about a place and I’m not sure where it is, I can look it up. If I’m doing a crossword puzzle and one of the questions pertains to geography, I can look it up. Have maps for everything. I live in a sports oriented state, so I have maps of bike trails, hiking trails, ski area trails, and cross-country ski trails. They are fun to study. Also interesting are topographical maps, relief maps, political maps, and weather maps. Each gives different kinds of information.
If you go to the zoo, get a map of the animal locations. If you go to a museum, get a map of the exhibit locations. Have your child make a map of your house. Talk about the arrangement of the rooms and how the present locations function in your house. Then have your child create a map of his ideal house. Have him explain why he placed the rooms where he did. Is it more functional that way?
Use maps when studying history. Observe border changes. Why do they change? How does geography influence where people settle? How does it affect where people move? Discuss geography in relationship to current events. How does geography affect alliances and conflicts throughout the world? Why do the names of countries change?
Teach students how to read legends. Understand longitude and latitude and time zones. How does geography affect climate? Make geography a part of everyday life both at home and at school.
How the Words of Leaders Help Gifted Children
Guest Post by: Philip Steinbacher
Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)
In addition to their advanced intellect, it’s not unusual for gifted children to show evidence of high levels of ethical sensitivity and leadership ability at early ages. Studies suggest that many gifted children demonstrate advanced levels of empathy, compassion, idealism, concern about world issues, and the condition of others well before their age-level peers. (Discuss the current calamity in New Orleans with a gifted child, and you’ll know what I mean.) We've all heard stories of the gifted kid who defends an underdog against injustice, stands up to the older, bigger bully who terrorizes on the playground, or sacrifices her own allowance to help the needy or advance some social cause.
Because of this, gifted children have a tendency to admire and identify with historical figures whose leadership and ethical characteristics mirror their own. Not only does this identification with great figures inspire and motivate these children to work toward achieving their own potential and accomplishing great things themselves, it also provides them with an anchor. Gifted children, who often feel isolated, misunderstood, self-critical, and out of step because of their advanced intellectual and ethical development, need to feel they belong, and will revel in finding out about others of similar ilk from the past -- especially the successful ones. "If they did it, so can I," becomes the mantra for gifted children who have someone they can relate to and emulate. Ask any true leader what motivates them and they will surely mention a figure from history. (Indeed, Martin Luther King, Jr. cites Gandhi as inspiration for his nonviolent protests during the civil rights era.)
In order to meet their social and emotional needs it is important for gifted children to have exposure to the men and women of the past and to learn about the industrious and humanitarian qualities that led to their success, be they politician, artist, inventor, sports hero, or everyday man on the street. Giving children access to the thoughts, words, and deeds of important figures from history is one of the reasons I wrote Quotation Quizzlers: Puzzling Your Way Through Famous Quotations. I wanted to create a fun "hook" that would introduce kids to these important individuals and their thoughts. Using quotations from the likes of Maya Angelou, Thomas Jefferson, Chief Joseph, Albert Einstein, Margaret Mead, and more than forty others, Quotation Quizzlers is a resource that integrates the study of famous figures and what they said and did with the challenge of an engaging brainteaser.
You can download free sample pages from Quotation Quizzlers by visiting the Quotation Quizzlers product page on the online Prufrock Press catalog. If you're interested in a free suggestion sheet for a variety of ways to use Quotation Quizzlers, or to find out how to get a free customized Quotation Quizzler for your own class, e-mail me at writer@ServesYouWrite.com. I welcome and enjoy e-mails and questions from parents, educators, and students, and I am happy to dialogue with teachers about using Quotation Quizzlers in their classrooms.
About this Blog Entry's Guest Author
Philip Steinbacher currently serves as the curriculum coordinator for a K-5 school in Kapa'a, Hawai'i and is the author of Quotation Quizzlers: Puzzling Your Way Through Famous Quotations. His newest title, Vocabulary Ladders: Climbing Toward Better Language Skills, will be available from Prufrock Press in spring 2006. Philip holds an MA in Elementary Education, and has completed 18 additional graduate hours in gifted education. Philip has taught in Hawai'i, Florida, North Carolina, and Illinois, where he served as gifted program coordinator for a small public school district in the Chicago suburbs for five years. Philip invites you to visit him at his personal web site, www.ServesYouWrite.com.
Fun and Quick Public Speaking Activities
Guest Post by:
Katherine Pebley O'Neal
It's no secret that public speaking can be a a nerve racking experience for kids unaccustomed to making an oral presentation. However, with a couple of fun, low-anxiety activities your students can build confidence and reduce their anxieties about public speaking.
Here are two easy ways to introduce public speaking techniques in your classroom. The first is an activity I call "Letter Lecture." Have your students take turns "lecturing" the class by reciting the alphabet or counting to fifty. Without having to think about what they are saying, the students can concentrate on making eye contact, gesturing for emphasis, and moving around the room. Give them the goals of putting different inflections on the letters or numbers, as though they are really saying something, and of meeting each classmate's eyes at least once. As an extended challenge, have them add an opening or closing of their own creation. The "lecture" might go like this:
"Welcome, and thank you for coming to this presentation. A, BCD! E, F, G, H? I, JKL- M. NOP! Q, R, S, T, UVW? X. Y, Z? Thank you so much for your attention. Are there any questions?"
A second public speaking idea is to have your students chose from a list of imaginary creatures you have made up and put on note cards. Put a quick list of questions on the board:
- What does it look like (size, teeth, fur, scales, nose, claws, color, tail, etc)?
- Is it a mammal, reptile, amphibian, marsupial?
- What does it eat? What eats it?
- What kind of habitat does it live in?
- Does it make a sound?
- What survival characteristics does it have (flies, swims, runs, digs, camouflages, fights, etc.)
Give your students about ten minutes to make up the descriptions of their imaginary animals using your questions as a guideline, and then have them present their short reports on these creatures. The goals should be eye contact, clear speech, and confidence (content isn't important since they are the only "experts" on their subjects!). If you have extra time, they can make a picture or diagram to use as a visual aid.
If you are interested in giving your students more tools for successful public speaking, try Public Speaking: A Student Guide to Writing and Delivering a Great Speech a handy resource from Prufrock Press that explains how to write and deliver an outstanding speech in seven easy steps, written by Katherine Pebley O'Neal (that's me!) or try Speakers' Club: Public Speaking for Young People, a Toastmaster's style curriculum, also from Prufrock Press.
About this Blog Entry's Guest Author
Katherine Pebley O'Neal is a fifth grade teacher who believes that any written report deserves to become a dynamic oral presentation. She holds a master's degree in education from The Colorado College. She is the author of Prufrock's popular public speaking book, Public Speaking: A Student Guide to Writing and Delivering a Great Speech, and she is the author of four books in Simon & Schuster's The Stink Squad series. Look for short stories from Katherine Pebley O'Neal in lots of magazines for young people, and a new series of family picture books, available in 2006 from Zonderkidz, HarperCollins.
Samples of Gifted Education Classroom Activities
When I'm shopping for classroom materials, I get so frustrated by online catalog descriptions. Every product is "exciting," "challenging," and "guaranteed to regrow lost hair." Oh wait ... that last one was from another site I was ... um ... researching ... for a friend.
This kind of thing happens because most education marketers love their products. I write most of the advertising copy at Prufrock. I'm also the final say on what we publish, so if we publish a product, you can bet that I think it's great. That shows through in our advertising copy. However, you may think differently. Every teacher has varied expectations for what a product should accomplish and how it will fit within a curriculum.
Download free samples of Prufrock Press' gifted education books.
I want our customers to feel that the products they are buying from Prufrock are exactly right for them. For this reason, we've been working hard to allow you to download free sample pages from our products. Just visit our online catalog of resources for advanced and gifted learners and click on a product that you find of interest. At the bottom of our product description pages you'll find links to downloadable sample pages.
You can download sample pages from any books published by Prufrock Press. Later this summer, we will include sample pages from books published by other publishers.
Go ahead, download a few pages! You can even print them from your browser and try them out with your students.
Creative Writing Activities for Gifted Children
Here is a fantastic, fun, and free activity that teaches about using figurative language (like alliteration -- get it?). Last summer, I wanted to launch a line of activity books for gifted children and advanced learners. Rather than approach professional education writers who commonly haven't set foot in a real classroom, I approached classroom teachers of gifted students and asked them to spend some of their summer putting together some of their favorite activities.
The result is a series of great little activity books that we released in January of 2005. Creative Writing: Using Fairy Tales to Enrich Writing Skills (Grades 4-8) is an exciting book in the series by Teresa Cannon Hackett. Teresa does a great job of teaching creative writing skills identified as important by the National Council for Teachers of English and does so in a fun and interesting way.
Download a free creative writing activity from the book and use it with your students (the PDF file is about 600K so give it a few seconds to download). I added a footnote on the bottom of the activity sheets that gives you permission to reproduce the pages for classroom use. Let me know what you think. I'm always interested in getting your feedback.