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.
Save Time and Find the Latest Web Information With RSS
If you are like me, you gather a lot of news, teaching ideas, and parenting tips from the Web. Each day, I visit several news sites, technology sites, teaching blogs, and gifted education blogs and sites. If I had to check every one of those sites to see if new content had been posted on a given day, I would spend a great deal of time checking each site individually.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this: RSS (Really Simple Syndication). An RSS "feed" is an easy way for a Web site to notify users of new content, as if to say, "I've got a new article posted. Here is the title of the article and a sample of what it is about. Would you like to read the article?" RSS offers a fantastic way to keep up to date with your favorite Web sites' most recent posts.
In fact, both of Prufrock's blogs have several handy RSS feeds located on the left side of the page (see "Categories/RSS"). The links to the RSS feeds are the little orange broadcast icons.
Finding Newly Posted Web Articles is Easy With RSS
There are several great tools out there designed to help you with RSS feeds. For example, Bloglines.com is a free, Web-based RSS reader (or "aggregator"). You set up a Bloglines account, add the RSS feeds from your favorite Web sites and blogs, and then Bloglines keeps up with new content posted to those sites. For example, in the image to the right, you can see a small sample of some Web sites I like to read. The feeds that are not in bold are sites that do not currently have new information. The ones in bold have new articles, and the number in parenthesis tells me how many. If I want to read the new articles, I simply click on a feed's title and I get a summary of all the new content.
Some browsers like Safari (Mac or PC) and Internet Explorer 7 (PC) have RSS capability built right in. Want to test if your browser can manage RSS feeds without special plug-ins? Just click this link to the RSS feed for my blog. If you get a listing of articles, you have an RSS-capable browser. If you get a bunch of code, you'll need to use a Web service like Bloglines, a browser plug-in, or a stand-alone application.
If you use Safari on your Mac or PC, Apple has posted simple instructions for using RSS feeds. If you use Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft has posted instructions as well.
There is a pretty general video overview of RSS titled, "How to Use RSS Feeds" at videojug.com. It's not detailed enough to explain everything, but it offers a nice advance organizer.
For a more thorough, step-by-step explanation, click here to read an article by Paul Stamatiou titled, "Getting Started with RSS."
Cartooning and Animation for Gifted Kids
Looking for a fun summer activity for your kids? Try cartooning and animation. An interest in this area could actually turn into a wonderful creative career opportunity.
There are some great Web sites that will help bright students learn this craft.
A set of tutorials to teach the art of animation.
An animation expert from Disney offers free online lessons in animation.
Gives kids the opportunity to create their own comic strips using templates.
Read a couple of articles from Imagine Magazine (published by Johns Hopkins University) telling about the pursuit of education and careers in computer animation
Also, check out your local library for books on cartooning and animation.
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?
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.
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.
Video Competitions for Gifted Students
As technology continues to evolve, it becomes more and more of an embedded educational tool rather than a stand alone entity. Web sites like YouTube are very popular with young people. Why not combine student interest in video as a creative device with academics? The ultimate product gives students a chance to share their research and creativity with a real-world audience. In addition, there can be the motivation of possible prizes. Entering video competitions is one way to accomplish this. If the following don’t meet your needs, continue to do online searches for video competitions or contests, as I expect there will be more and more available in the future.
Middle School Students (grades 6-8)
High School Students (grades 9-12)
This is an annual documentary competition that encourages students to think seriously about issues that affect our communities and our nation. It invites students to identify a current political topic of interest and produce a short (up to 10 minute) video documentary that creatively explores an issue.
Elementary School Students (grades 1-6)
Junior School Students (grades 7-9)
Senior School Students (grades 10-12)
Contest is open to students in the U.S. and Canada
Develop and execute an environmental, human rights, or social justice project and submit two videos about the project.
Prepare a video on positive aspects of various forms of energy, including nuclear energy.
This competition encourages students to create short, research-based videos about a global topic based on an overarching theme, which for this year is Global Health.
Students work in teams to research Global Health issues, and then create their presentations.
Using Fluency to Stimulate Creativity
There are a number of elements of creativity that teachers and parents can use to stimulate their students (and themselves). Fluency—the ability to come up with many ideas—is one of those elements. It is difficult to find innovative ideas if one can’t generate many from which to choose. You can have a lot of fun with these activities. The exercises fill odd moments (waiting in line, driving in the car) with stimulation and can also help generate ideas for projects.
techniques are used when working on fluency. When brainstorming,
- No criticism is allowed. Defer any judgment until a large number of alternatives have been produced. (If you judge too quickly, you risk shutting people down.)
- Freewheeling is desired. The wilder the ideas, the better. (From those crazy ideas might come some very sensible ones.)
- Quantity is desired. Include the small, obvious alternatives, as well as the wild, unusual, clever ones. (The more ideas one can generate, the greater the chances that one of those ideas will be a good one.)
- Combine alternatives and hitchhike upon alternatives to produce even more ideas. (Often young children will complain: “He stole my idea.” But, it’s a compliment to take someone else’s idea and change it slightly or expand upon it.)
For fun activities try some of the following:
- List all of the words you can think of that begin with a certain letter, certain two letters, certain three letters, etc.
- List all of the synonyms/antonyms you can thing of for a certain word.
- Name all the objects you can think of that are white and edible, or mean and yet soft.
- Name uses for a bale of hay or a needle or a broom.
- What are all of the uses (conventional or nonconventional) you can think of for a fork?
- Think of all of the possible presents you could give to a person if you had no money.
If you ask at your local bookstore, you will find books that list suggested topics for brainstorming.
Some ideas for using brainstorming for academic subjects include:
How many aspects are similar/different between two books?
How many ways did WWII affect the culture of the U.S.?
List as many equations as you can where the answer is 6. (3 + 3, 2 x 3, 26 – 20, etc.)
Name as many kinds of penguins as you can and their natural habitats.
List all the possible settings for a scary story.
How many different techniques can you think of to make a presentation to the class?
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.
Your Own Clipping Service for Gifted Education
This is the 117th
blog I have written since its inception. It’s challenging to keep up-to-date on all things gifted and to come up with new ideas. Like everyone else, I need resources to help me achieve this. One of the many resources I use falls under the category of Web feed aggregators
. You may also find these helpful.
Are you a parent of a young child who is gifted? Do you feel isolated in this role and wish you could get regular advice and also hear from other parents of young gifted children?
Are you a teacher who wants to better understand your high-ability students and improve differentiation techniques?
In the not too distant past, high-ranking individuals would hire clipping services to cull the newspapers for articles that might be of interest to a particular industry or geographic area. Now this collection of data is automated through the Internet and can be used by a much wider variety of people. One application is gifted education. Rather than hiring a clipping service or spending a lot of personal time and money buying and going through various news resources, individuals can now subscribe (for free) to Web feed aggregators.
and My Yahoo
are just two examples of aggregators. You can use a search engine to find more possibilities. When you sign on to any of these aggregators, you can add specific Web sites and be notified every they add new content.
Any time you see the letters RSS on a Web site (notice the RSS feeds under Categories in the left column of this Web page), you know that the creaters of the Web site want people to know whenever it is updated. Blogs and forums are great examples of this.
If you go to any aggregator and add Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog or Prufrock’s Gifted Education Blog, you will be notified on your personal page every time either of these blogs is updated.
You can also do a search on a Web feed aggregator for specific words or topics, just as you would on a regular search engine to find and add Web sites to your list.
is another tool that you can use. This is still in the beta stage. I have told the engine that I want to see all articles that are posted on the Internet using words such as Gifted Education
, Gifted Child
, Gifted Student
, etc. I also told the system that I want to be notified every day about new articles that are posted. A list of articles then appears each day in my email inbox. This is probably be overwhelming to most people, but I want to keep on top of all information that has to do with giftedness so that I can keep you informed.
CBS Seeking Gifted Kids for Primetime Game Show
I thought this opportunity sounded so fun and exciting that I couldn't wait to tell you about it.
CBS is currently in production on a new one-hour primetime game show for the CBS television network. According to a letter I received from the show's casting director, "In this one-hour unique and positive game show, one adult stakes his or her pride and reputation against a team of talented and gifted kids. Our purpose is to celebrate young people and education by making role models out of kids who are working hard to fulfill their educational goals.
"From geography to sports, history to movies, the kids will defend their intellectual capital against these grown up challengers, combining their academic talents to challenge the adult and send him or her packing."
The casting director went on to say, "We are looking for academically accelerated and gifted children nationwide to participate in our new kids game show. We are targeting well-rounded children of diverse backgrounds with unique interests."
If you know of a gifted child (grades 3–7) who might be interested in this opportunity, the following information will be helpful (each document is a PDF file and requires Adobe Acrobat Reader for viewing):
Casting Director's Overview of the Program
CBS Parental Consent Form
KGS Audition Video Submission Outline
Please note: The deadline mentioned in the "Casting Director's Overview of the Program" has been extended to February 19, 2007.
Educator Savings Week at Borders and Waldenbooks
For those of you looking to save a bit on your book purchases, stop by your local Borders or Waldenbooks stores during "Educator Savings Week."
According to an e-mail I received from a marketing manager at Borders, during the week of October 12-17, 2006:
Current and retired educators save 25% on most purchases for personal and classroom use. Just bring proof of educator status. Some restrictions apply to discount, see stores for details.
If you live near a Borders superstore, you can receive some additional benefits:
Special Cafe Reception at Borders superstores on Friday, October 13, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Food, fun, and prizes! Educators should stop by our Welcome table when visiting the store during Educator Savings Week, check out our selection of giveaways, and register to win a $500 Borders gift card! Contact your local Borders superstore for scheduled events and other details.
Homeschooling Gifted Children Award
I just got some exciting news. Homeschooling Parent just announced their "Homeschool Friendly Stamp of Approval" award winners. Prufrock Press is named as one of the top publishers in the nation that supports the homeschooling community with quality educational products.
Of Prufrock Press, the judges said, "As homeschoolers we are always hunting for new and unusual teaching tools to stimulate our children and its high time we get acquainted with Prufrock Press -- a publisher that specializes in resources and information for educating gifted and talented children. We love their materials and even though intended for gifted students, we believe they are definitely suitable for most students in a homeschooling environment. ... If you are looking from creative learning materials, there's no better place to start than Prufrock Press! We've let the cat out of the bag -- you heard it here first!"
Thanks Homeschooling Parent! We are proud to receive this prestigious award.
$10,000 Grants for Science Teachers
Science teachers can apply for a 2006 Toyota TAPESTRY grant and receive up to $10,000. Each year Toyota partners with the National Science Teachers Association to fund the Toyota TAPESTRY program, the largest K-12 science teacher grant program in the nation. Grants worth up to $10,000 are given to those teachers who make science come alive with their creativity and vision.
Open to K-12 teachers of science residing in the United States or U.S. territories or possessions. All middle and high school science teachers and elementary teachers who teach some science in the classroom are eligible.
Proposals must describe a project including its potential impact on students, and a budget up to $10,000 (up to $2,500 for mini-grants). Toyota TAPESTRY grants are awarded in three categories:
- Environmental Science Education
- Physical Science Applications
- Literacy and Science Education
For more information, visit the National Science Teachers Association's TAPESTRY web site.
If you would like to discover other exciting ways to raise money for your classroom, consider Prufrock's soon to be released, Frances A. Karnes, Ph.D. and Kristen R. Stephens, Ph.D., offer a step-by-step guide to grant writing; fun, success-proven fund-raising ideas; and a practical how-to for long-term fund development.
Getting Your Classroom Ideas Published
For the last few years at the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented's
annual conference, I've been asked to do a presentation on how teachers of gifted kids can get their great ideas published. I like giving the presentation because everyone who comes to the session is excited about the topic. In this blog, I'll try to mention a few of the most important tips for getting published that I've shared in those presentations.
I can't speak for other publishing companies (but if I could, I would say "We are evil, and you should only buy from Prufrock Press!"), so the tips below are specific to how I like to work with authors.
When considering which companies to approach with your project, pick publishing companies that focus on the kind of material and topics you wish to develop. Most publishers have a niche in which they specialize. It does no good to submit even the best book idea on a topic to a publisher that doesn't publish books on that topic. I can't tell you how many proposals I get for topics such as "psychic phenomena explained," "nature poetry," and "phonics for young readers." Prufrock publishes exclusively for teachers and parents of gifted children and high-ability learners. We really can't consider proposals that are off-topic.
Once you've identified a handful of publishers that might be interested in your work, visit their Web site and see if they have online author support and guidance. If they don't, you can send them an SASE with a request for their author submission guidelines. At Prufrock, we have an area of our Web site devoted to helping authors get started. Of most benefit to a new author in this area are two downloadable documents. The first, "Topics and Areas for Acquisition," outlines the topics we're interested in having authors write about. The document gives you a general idea of the kinds of products we see ourselves publishing in the near future. The second is our "Book Prospectus Preparation Guidelines. These guidelines tell exactly what information should be included in a prospectus sent to us. It is so helpful for our editors when we receive a prospectus that conforms to these guidelines.
Prepare your prospectus with the marketplace in mind. Try to find the intersection of the topic you want to write about and what educators are buying. Here is a suggestion: Review the online catalog of the publisher to which you plan to submit your prospectus. Check out the publisher's bestsellers -- that's a good indication of what the education market is looking for.
Once you have a marketable education product in mind and a publisher's prospectus guidelines in hand, you can develop your proposal. Now, write your proposal and send it in. So many teachers talk to me about writing an activity book over the summer, but they never get around to sending in a prospectus. Take the leap, prepare you prospectus, and sent it in.
I wish you the best in getting published. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them.
A Free Thinking Skills Puzzle for Gifted Kids
Okay, here is a cool thinking skills puzzle you can do with your gifted students. The thinking skills puzzle below comes from this book (you can't order the book yet; we're still editing it and laying it out -- I'll let you know when it's available for preorders). Anyway, try this with your kids this week -- it's a good "hook" (what the author calls his thinking challenges) to get a classroom thinking.
Hook: You have two identical beakers, each holding an identical amount of fluid. One beaker holds red fluid, the other blue fluid. You take 1 tablespoon of the red fluid, drop it into the blue fluid and mix it up thoroughly. You then take 1 tablespoon of this mixture, drop it back into the red fluid and mix it up thoroughly. Question: Do you now have more red fluid in the predominantly blue beaker, more blue fluid in the predominantly red beaker, or are there equal amounts in each?
Solution: Equal amounts. Although the quantity in each beaker is irrelevant, let us assume, that, to begin with, each beaker has 9 tablespoons of fluid. In step one we transfer 1 tablespoon of red fluid to the blue beaker. We now have 10 tablespoons of fluid in that beaker, one-tenth of which is red and nine-tenths of which is blue. We now transfer 1 tablespoon of that mixture back into the red beaker. That tablespoon is one-tenth red and nine-tenths blue, so we have actually transferred one-tenth of a tablespoon of red fluid back intothe red container, making the net amount of red fluid left in the blue container nine-tenths of a tablespoon. When we transferred the mixture into the red container, that tablespoon was one-tenth red and nine-tenths blue, so the net amount of blue we transferred into the red container was also ninetenths of a tablespoon. Not as easy as it seemed at first, eh?
Visit Prufrock Press' online catalog to see our entire selection of thinking skills activity books.