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Gifted Education Blog

About The Author  
Joel McIntosh

Joel McIntosh
I'm the publisher at Prufrock Press. I've been involved with education for more than 20 years and hold a masters degree in gifted education. I've been a classroom teacher and a parent (still am that). In addition to this blog, you can follow me on Twitter. Feel free to contact me by e-mail if you have any questions about this blog or Prufrock Press.

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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.
 
Exquisite Minds 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
  • General Blogs for Gifted Homeschoolers
  • College Prep
  • Science
  • Math
  • Writing
  • The Arts
  • Forums 
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.

Prufrock Press Acquires Cottonwood Press

Tuesday, November 09, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, Language Arts

I would like to share some exciting news with you.

Today, my company, Prufrock Press, announced the acquisition of a wonderful publishing house, Cottonwood Press.

Colorado-based Cottonwood Press is a leading publisher of more than 85 engaging education products for the language arts classroom. Cottonwood Press' titles have been enthusiastically used in K-12 classrooms for 25 years.

This exciting and creative company built its reputation on quality language arts materials with a flair for humor and creativity. Cheryl Thurston, the publisher at Cottonwood, created a company beloved by language arts and English teachers around the country.

I am honored that Prufrock Press will be the new home for Cottonwood's excellent product line.

I invite you to learn more about our acquisition of this fine publisher of respected products. For more information, click here to read our press release about our acquisition of Cottonwood Press.

 

Social Networking for Advocates of Gifted Kids

Monday, November 08, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Technology, Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education

This year at the NAGC convention in Atlanta, GA, I'll be moderating an exciting panel discussion titled, "Social Networking for Gifted Education Advocacy, Professional Development, and Communications."

Web-based social networking tools allow parents and teachers to coordinate advocacy efforts, learn about gifted education resources, and share ideas about gifted education and parenting with a global community. Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and web-based discussion groups offer a rich source of support and information about children who are gifted. This panel discussion will explore how parents and teachers of gifted children can use these tools to coordinate advocacy efforts and improve classroom practice

The panel is comprised of some of the country's most popular gifted education social networking advocates:

Join us at the NAGC Convention for this great panel discussion:

Date: Saturday, November 13, 2010
Time: 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM  EST
Room: Atlanta Ballroom E

 

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:

More Pre-K Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs in NYC Schools

Friday, May 07, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education

More students are qualifying for gifted kindergarten programs in hyper-competitive New York City schools, but a spike in the use of tutors and test-prep programs by privileged families may be playing an outsized role.

Apparently, parents in NYC are hiring tutors and buying IQ test-preparation materials for their four-year-olds! The problem is so bad that the results from the identification instruments used are becoming invalid. In this recent New York Times article, one Prufrock author, Dr. Susan Johnsen, makes an important point: “Any test is susceptible to test preparation, and that’s why you start to invalidate those assessments.” Dr. Johnsen supports the use of a wide variety of tools for assessing giftedness in kids.

Read the full article, "More Pre-K Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs."

TONI-4: Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 4th ed., Available in May

TONI-4: Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 4th ed.

Let me give a quick notification to any gifted education coordinators, school counselors, or district-level diagnosticians involved with gifted child identification.

If you are currently using the TONI-3 as a part of your school's gifted child identification processes, please note that the TONI-4: Test of Nonverbal Intelligence, 4th ed., will be released in mid-May. The TONI-4 is a completely revised instrument and will replace the older version of the test.

The TONI-3 is no longer available, but we will be shipping the TONI-4 in just a few weeks.

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.

Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Students (Podcast)

Saturday, March 06, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, Podcasts

Differeniating Instruction for Gifted Learners in a Mixed Ability ClassroomIncreasingly, teachers grapple with the task of differentiating instruction in a way that challenges every student in a mixed-ability classroom. While there are many effective approaches to accomplishing this goal, Prufrock Press' series, Differentiating Instruction With Menus, is one of the best ready-to-use resources available on the topic.

In today’s podcast, I speak with Laurie Westphal, the author of Prufrock's Differentiating Instruction with Menus series. After teaching science for more than 15 years, both overseas and in the U.S., Laurie now works as an independent gifted education and science consultant and as a very popular Prufrock Press author.

I asked Laurie to join the podcast today to discuss the idea of adding student choice into a classroom as one way of differentiating instruction in a mixed-ability class of students.

Listen to the Podcast

Click here to listen to the podcast

(approximate length: 22 minutes)

 

Click here to listen to or subscribe* to this podcast on iTunes

(requires that you have iTunes installed on your computer)

 

* If you wish to receive notifications when new podcasts are posted, you need to subscribe to Prufrock Press' "Gifted Education Podcast" on iTunes or subscribe to the "Podcasts" RSS feed in the left column of this blog (see "Categories/RSS"). Click here to read instructions on using RSS feeds.

A "Mysterious" Way to Teach Scientific Inquiry

Thursday, March 04, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Science, Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education

Green Ghost Board Game When I was a kid, I loved mysteries and ghost stories and games. When I was about six, my parents gave me a board game called “Green Ghost.” For the life of me, I don’t remember the details of how the game was played, but I remember that the entire board game glowed in the dark. The point of the game was to make your way around a haunted house with trap doors and attacking ghouls. One fun gimmick of the game was that you had to wait until after dark to play it if you wanted to experience the glow in the dark effect.

As a teacher, I never lost my love for the good mystery. I tried to bring elements of the mysterious into the classroom. My high school students and I played with writing descriptive passages from the home of Jack the Ripper, collected local ghost stories, and discussed the ways in which mystery writers construct their tales.

Science Sleuths: Solving Mysteries Using Scientific InquiryWhen I first saw the prospectus for Science Sleuths: Solving Mysteries Using Scientific Inquiry, I was thrilled. The authors, two science teachers, wanted to develop a tool for teaching scientific literacy and inquiry using detective mysteries as their framework.

As the project developed, I became more and more excited. The authors began constructing a book with full-color “evidence” posters, crime logs, crime scene evidence, and a cast of questionable suspects. The crimes they created were intriguing—an art gallery heist, a mysterious death at a bed and breakfast (yes—they called it “Dead and Breakfast”), and a mysterious death at a software company.

Each of the activities in the book requires students to use inquiry, research, and the tools of scientific exploration to solve mysteries. Students must think and act like forensic detectives to succeed. Working in groups, students race to beat the clock as they attempt to determine which suspect should be charged with the crime.

I’m incredibly proud of this book. The authors have a knack for making science fun. The kid in me is pretty envious of the students who will get to experience Science Sleuths in their science classrooms.

Proposed Exams Could Allow Students to Graduate Two Years Early

Friday, February 19, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, College Planning

A provocative eight-state initiative that could change the way high schools work was launched this week. The National Center on Education and the Economy announced a plan to pilot a national board examination for high school students. Results of the exam would allow many students to graduate two years early and attend junior colleges or move into the work force.

Each of the eight states (Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) have pledged that in selected schools, students will be given a national board examination at the end of their tenth-grade year. Students passing the exam could graduate from high school and immediately enter junior college or the work force. Those passing students wishing to enter more rigorous four-year universities could begin taking advanced college preparation classes. Students failing the national board exam would be required to begin taking remedial classes designed to prepare them to pass the national boards the following year.

National Boards Progress Flow Chart
The junior and senior years of pilot high schools would focus on either remedial education or advanced college preparation classes exclusively.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $1.5 million planning grant to help get the program running. According to the New York Times, the project organizers expect to cover additional implementation costs by applying for a portion of the $350 million in federal stimulus money designated for improving public schools.

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this project. On the one hand, it will allow public high schools to intensely focus resources on two goals: helping struggling learners meet national standards and preparing advanced learners for the academic rigor of the university. However, it will dramatically change the way the last two years of high school are organized and experienced by students. I'm also a little less than enthusiastic about a plan that assigns struggling learners to remedial classes based on a single type of test. It is not clear how much flexibility is allowed under the plan.

Regardless, this project is incredibly interesting and has the potential to impact high schools in a significant way. It will be interesting to see if research data coming out of the pilot schools support the plan's implementation on a nationwide basis.

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.

NCLB Stagnates the Progress of Some Gifted Learners

Saturday, February 06, 2010 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education

Under NCLB, the academic progress of high-ability learners who are economically disadvantaged, English Language Learners, or historically underprivileged minorities has stagnated. That is the conclusion of a new report from the Indiana University Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. The report, Mind the (Other) Gap! The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education, concludes that after nine years of NCLB, these students "represent a smaller proportion of students scoring at the highest levels of achievement."

In fact, the report makes it clear that while high-ability students from traditionally "over-represented groups" faired relatively well under NCLB, high-ability students from traditionally under-represented groups have made little progress. The report concludes, "whatever the effectiveness of ESEA/NCLB in shrinking the achievement gap at the level of minimum competence, there appears to be little comparable improvement at the advanced level."

From the report, "the final conclusion is clear: there has been little progress in substantially reducing excellence gaps since the passage of NCLB."

Download Mind the (Other) Gap! The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education (PDF format, 1.7 MB)

Connect With Gifted Education Advocates Via Social Networking

As a teacher or parent of gifted children, you know that finding others who share your passion for gifted education can be difficult. Finding information, resources, and support for gifted children can be a struggle. However, I believe that the growth of social networks offers a way to overcome the isolation that many advocates for gifted children feel.

The opportunities to become involved with other gifted education advocates using the Internet and social networking are numerous and rapidly growing.

For example, one gifted education advocate with whom I recently corresponded, Deborah Mersino, organizes weekly online chats during which gifted supporters from across the globe join in something called a "Twitter chat." If you are interested, join Deborah for a Twitter chat tonight to discuss "Delving Into the Digital Age: Tools & Tips for Teachers and Parents of Gifted Kids" at 7:00 p.m. EST. If you miss tonight's chat, simply visit Deborah's blog to find the date and topic for the next chat. Anyone can join the discussion, and doing so is very easy. To participate in tonight's chat, simply visit TweetChat, follow the set-up instructions, and use the special "hashtag" #gtchat in step 2 of the setup process.

Yesterday afternoon at Prufrock Press, my staff and I launched two exciting opportunities for our customers to connect and discuss gifted education topics of interest. As of yesterday, we began using both Twitter and Facebook to help our customers and other gifted education supporters to reach out to one another.

Twitter
Follow the ongoing discussion about gifted education and advocacy for gifted education by following our Twitter feed. My staff and I have started posting lots of interesting ideas, resources, and comments related to gifted education. By following us on Twitter, you can join in that discussion. All you need to do is join Twitter and follow our Twitter feed. Click the icon below to join the discussion on Twitter!
Follow Prufrock Press on Twiter

Facebook
Become a fan of Prufrock Press on Facebook. We have big plans for building interesting and engaging content for our Facebook page. My editors will be encouraging discussions, posting pictures from gifted education conferences, and keeping you updated on the latest news in gifted education. We want our Facebook page to be a rich source of news and information about advocating for and teaching gifted children. However, don't just become a fan of our page--visit the page, post your ideas, and join in the discussion. Click the icon below to join the discussion on Facebook!
Follow Prufrock Press on Twiter

I want to emphasize that my staff and I want to use our Twitter and Facebook presence to help connect our customers and fans with each other. We will use these tools to build an exciting, interactive social network focused on friendships, information, resources, and support. The more gifted education supporters who join us, the more exciting the experience will be. So, get involved today by joining Ms. Mersino's weekly chats, following Prufrock Press on Twitter, or becoming a fan of our page on Facebook.

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

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.
Cogito 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.

Our Shameful National Commitment to Gifted and Talented Children

Monday, December 14, 2009 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education

The National Association for Gifted Children recently released its "State of the Nation in Gifted Education" report. The report offers a frustrating picture of this nation's commitment to providing a quality education to our most talented students.

The report concludes. . .

  • Gifted programs are embarrassingly underfunded--Gifted education is without support at the federal level, and states do a poor job of funding programs. Thirteen states have no gifted education funding at all, and most other states provide only token support.
  • Teachers are untrained and underprepared--Training in gifted education identification and teaching methods is seldom a requirement for teachers, even teachers working in specialized programs for gifted students.
  • Services offered to gifted students are haphazard and piecemeal--Gifted students often can expect fragmented and uncoordinated services and opportunities.
  • Gifted education has no accountability--Absent any reporting or accountability measures to ensure that services are delivered equitably, there is no way that local districts or states can monitor and improve gifted education services.

The report's "Executive Summary" concludes that:

Our nation needs a comprehensive, national gifted education policy in which federal, state, and local leaders work together to ensure that all gifted and talented students are identified and served by well-trained teachers using challenging curriculum to meet their advanced learning needs. Supporting teacher training and professional development, designing and sharing model identification and service programs, and eliminating policies that obstruct students from receiving appropriate instruction are core elements of a national strategy to support our most advanced learners. A greater investment in these children is a greater investment in our nation's future. (p. 4)

"Amen," I say. But I have little optimism that this problem will find its solution on the national level. My experience with gifted education over the last 20 years leads me to believe that there is little will at the national level to tackle this problem. Politicians and special interest groups discount gifted education as elitist and unnecessary, regardless of the realities that gifted kids are facing in our schools.

On the other hand, at the local level, parents of gifted children hear such nonsense and call it ridiculous. These parents have real kids who are gifted and need quality services. They push schools and administrators to implement programs at the local level. As a result, we have a patchwork of quality programs and wide disparities in gifted education from one school district (or even one school) to the next.

I wish I had more optimism about gifted education leadership and funding at the national level. However, over and over, it seems that truly effective advocacy is wielded by parents at a grassroots level. Unfortunately, this fact will continue to cause wide disparities in gifted education until we find the national will to face this country's shoddy approach to educating gifted children.

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.

Cogito, 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.
 

Three Prufrock Press Books Win Prestigious Gifted Education Awards

I'm so proud to announce that three outstanding books published by Prufrock Press have been named winners of the prestigious 2009 Legacy Book Awards, which recognize outstanding books published in the United States that have long-term potential for positively influencing the lives of gifted children. The Legacy Book Awards are sponsored each year by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT), the largest state advocacy group of its kind.

This year, the Legacy Book Awards recognized three outstanding books for educators, parents, and students. Strategies for Differentiating Instruction: Best Practices for the Classroom (2nd ed.), by Julia L. Roberts, Ed.D., and Tracy F. Inman; Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Book, by Carol Fertig; and Social-Emotional Curriculum With Gifted and Talented Students, edited by Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Ed.D., Tracy L. Cross, Ph.D., and F. Richard Olenchak, Ph.D., are the winners of the 2009 Legacy Book Awards.

For more information, visit our 2009 Legacy Book Award announcement page.

Nine Research-Supported Facts About Gifted Education

Monday, October 19, 2009 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, Teaching Gifted Children

In 2008, Dr. Sally M. Reis (University of Connecticut) prepared a National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) position paper listing facts that we know to be true about gifted education.

She limited this list to include only conclusive statements that can be supported by many years of research findings about gifted education. Certainly, she could have included others; however, the idea behind this list was to collect those statements that had so much solid support, they could be considered established facts.

As I read over Dr. Reis' list, I found it frustrating that what we do in schools diverges so radically from what we know is best for gifted kids. How many gifted children attend schools where most, if not all, of the facts listed below are ignored? How many parents have heard a school administrator reject acceleration as an option for gifted kids? How many untrained general education teachers "differentiate" for gifted students by just giving them more work? How many schools ignore high-ability learners in order to myopically focus exclusively on teaching minimum skills to struggling learners?

The NAGC position paper is helpful for gifted child advocates because it explicitly establishes what we know to be true about gifted education. Let me share the information included in Dr. Reis' report:

  1. The needs of gifted students are generally not met in American classrooms where the focus is most often on struggling learners and where most classroom teachers have not had the training necessary to meet the needs of gifted students.
  2. Grouping gifted students together for instruction increases achievement for gifted students, and in some cases, also increases achievement for students who are achieving at average and below average levels.
  3. The use of acceleration results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners.
  4. The use of enrichment and curriculum enhancement results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners, as well as other students.
  5. Classroom teachers can learn to differentiate curriculum and instruction in their regular classroom situations and to extend gifted education strategies and pedagogy to all content areas.
  6. Gifted education programs and strategies are effective at serving gifted and high-ability students in a variety of educational settings and from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic populations. Gifted education pedagogy can also reverse underachievement in these students.
  7. The curriculum and pedagogy of gifted programs can be extended to a variety of content areas resulting in higher achievement for both gifted and average students. Some enrichment pedagogy can benefit struggling and special needs students when implemented in a wide variety of settings.
  8. Some gifted students with learning disabilities who are not identified experience emotional difficulties and seek counseling. High percentages of gifted students do underachieve, but this underachievement can be reversed. Some gifted students do drop out of high school.
  9. Gifted education programs and strategies benefit gifted and talented students longitudinally, helping students increase aspirations for college and careers, determine postsecondary and career plans, develop creativity and motivation that they can apply to later work, and obtain more advanced degrees.

Read the entire NAGC position paper, "Research That Supports the Need for and Benefits of Gifted Education." The position paper includes references to the research studies that support each of the conclusions listed above.

NAGC Virtual Convention Delivers Captivating Speakers Live at Home

Friday, October 02, 2009 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, Parenting Gifted Children

Can't attend gifted education's largest convention? Not a problem! Now you can watch the National Association for Gifted Children's most captivating convention speakers at home on your computer.

Gifted Education Publisher, Prufrock Press, Sponsors NAGC's Virtual ConventionThis year, for the first time, NAGC is offering a convenient and inexpensive "Virtual Convention." As a virtual conference participant, you will be able to hear and see important presentations during the conference from any computer that has Internet access.

In fact, I am so excited by this concept that I contacted NAGC and offered for Prufrock Press to sponsor the Virtual Convention this year.

Don't let shrinking budgets and travel restrictions keep you from being a part of the largest and most informative national conference devoted to classroom innovation, gifted education, and high-ability learners. Register for the NAGC Virtual Convention and experience a full-day of content-rich sessions on Saturday, November 7. Attendees will have access to 17 live convention sessions. NAGC is offering three different convention strands: practical ideas for teachers, support for parents, or a focus on critical issues.

Those who register to participate virtually will also be given access to an online portal in which they can discuss topics, post documents, etc. in order to reach out to fellow attendees in advance of the live webinars.

Update [10/15/09]: NAGC Virtual Convention attendees can receive one university continuing education unit (CEU) throught the University of California at Irvine. This CEU may be used to document professional development hours and can be submitted to your district to meet requirements for salary advancement.

Visit NAGC's Virtual Convention home page for more information or to register.

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:

  • First Impression
  • Types of Literature
  • Literary Techniques
  • Themes
  • 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/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.

Music Appreciation for the Gifted

The Interactive Resources at the Carnegie Hall Web site provides a range of music appreciation instruction for young learners through advanced musicians. Here is a sampling of what is available.

A History of African American Music
Here you can trace the musical contributions of African Americans from the time of slavery to today’s popular styles. An interactive timeline organized by year and genre includes notable Carnegie Hall performances. Photos and historical information are partnered with streaming audio.
 

This section was designed to teach kids, ages 6–12 about sound, music notation, text, and instruments in a fun, interactive exploration. Teacher resources are included along with the following adventures:

  • The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, by Benjamin Britten” where students join Violet as she embarks on an instrument safari, guided by her uncle Ollie, collecting all the instruments of the orchestra.
  • “Carnegie Hall Animated History” hosted by Gino the cat who leads an adventure through Carnegie Hall from its founding in 1891 to the present day. It includes a game featuring important figures from this landmark music venue's past.
  • “Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9” teaches kids about the structure of the symphony as well as the instruments that are played. This is done with help from Dvořák himself via excerpts from his letters and instructive comments about his life. Engaging activities are also included.

This section is suited for more-advanced learners, exploring issues of technique, interpretation, and composition.

  • Leon Fleisher's master classes focus on technique, interpretation, and performance in the four late Schubert piano sonatas. This section will be best understood by advanced piano students.
  • “The Emerson String Quartet: The Bartók Quartets, A Guide for Performers and Music Lovers” is intended for performers who are preparing these pieces as well as listeners and concertgoers who wish to learn more about the Bartók quartets and about the many musical decisions that must be made in order to perform these demanding works. This section includes video footage, written commentary, and an animated score. Much of the video was taken during a workshop given by Emerson members in 2003 and has been supplemented with additional video of Emerson members and others speaking about the quartets.
In addition to these wonderfully interactive segments, the Sound Insights section of the Carnegie Hall Web site has a wealth of musical information. Additional sections include video, audio, and written material about composers, artists, and other music personalities.

David Shenk's Giftedness Controversy

 

David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us, to be released next year, has created a blog of the same title for The Atlantic magazine. The Genius in All of Us focuses on initiating and perpetuating a research-based conversation about the nature of giftedness and the institutional responses that are filtered through gifted education. Many will find Shenk’s research and resulting conclusions controversial. Some will find him threatening to their view of giftedness; others will find his views heartening. But this controversy is what makes him interesting, creating potential for field-enhancing questioning and discussion.

Shenk hopes to post blog entries several times a week and is off to a good start with the following titles:

  • The End of Giftedness
  • How Genes Really Work
  • The Truth about IQ
  • Should Kids Know Their Own IQs? 

Some of the broad areas he plans to cover in the future include:

  • How brains work
  • Where child prodigies come from
  • What nature/nurture really means
  • The creative process and work habits of high achievers
  • The roles of parents, schools, culture, and technology 
I am curious to see where Shenk goes with all of his ideas—if he makes convincing arguments for his view of intelligence, what implications this will have for future research in gifted education, and what suggestions he will make for parents and educators.

Helping Gifted Kids Become Resilient

 

We all know people who have been through a lot but are able to bounce back—emotionally strong, physically healthy, happy, and able to achieve. We also know individuals who appear to have every advantage but fall apart at the first sign of trouble. The difference is resilience. Resilient people are able to adapt, despite risk and adversity.

When things happen unexpectedly or take a wrong turn, gifted children are just as susceptible to the intense vulnerability that accompanies struggle and tragedy whether it results from something beyond their control or is simply caused by errors in judgment. Given the right tools, young people can gain control over how they react to situations. Children can learn to be more resilient by becoming more optimistic in response to difficulty.

"Seven Parenting Solutions to Help Kids Rebound from Mistakes," an article in Michele Borba's blog, Reality Check, offers some great advice for parents (teachers, these are good techniques for the classroom as well). Using colorful anecdotes, Borba lists concrete ways to teach kids to bounce back from difficult situations, see mistakes as learning opportunities, and keep trying. In addition to teaching techniques, she suggests that teachers and parents use optomistic language when addressing students in a vulnerable state. Visit her web site to read the detail behind each of the following suggestions:
  • Be an example of bouncing back;
  • Set realistic expectations;
  • Start a “bounce back!” motto;
  • Create a “Stick to It” award;
  • Help children see mistakes as opportunities;
  • Respond to errors noncritically; and
  • Offer support only when needed. 

Michele Borba's article also appears in her soon to be release book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (Published by Jossey-Bass).

In Duke Gifted Letter’s article Promoting Resilience, Maureen Neihart discusses how adults can help children develop the ability to bounce back. Neihart recommends:

  • 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. 
In Mental Toughness, Resiliency, and Endurance, Fernette and Brock Eide recommend:
  • 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.

Immediate Action Needed to Save Federal Gifted Education Funding

Thursday, July 16, 2009 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, History Education

The National Association for Gifted Children has called for "emergency" action to save federal funding for gifted education. However, if you wish to help, you must act before the end of business today.

Federal funding for gifted education is on the chopping block, and your action is needed. The only federal funding for gifted child education is known as the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act. While small in comparison to other education programs, this funding supports important programs and research focused on identifying and serving disadvantaged gifted students. These limited funds were cut out of the proposed 2010 federal budget.

Please consider e-mailing or calling your congressperson and asking that at least $7.5 million be reinstated in fiscal year 2010 for the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act.

Please suggest to your congressperson that funds currently earmarked for local special projects be directed to fund the Javits Act. These special projects funds have already been budgeted, so ask that some of these dollars be allocated toward gifted education. By simply shifting these funds, federal spending would not be increased.

The National Association for Gifted Children has posted detailed instructions related to contacting your representative in Congress.

Keep in mind that you must act today.

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:

  1. feature a character who exhibits gifted and talented characteristics
  2. 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.

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.

Do the Goals and Aspirations of Gifted Young Adults Differ by Gender?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, College Planning

As the nation embarks on high school graduation season, the New York Times blog, "The Choice," ponders several important issues raised in a study that sought to compare male and female high school valedictorians. Published last summer in Prufrock Press' journal, the Journal of Advanced Academics, the study reveals significant disparities for parents and educators to consider as we examine gender issues among gifted students.

The blog's author, Jacques Steinberg, writes:

The goal of the study, by an economics professor at Meredith College in North Carolina, was to examine the college choices, intended majors and career aspirations of high-achieving boys and girls, and see if there were any differences. Specifically, the study examined 150 valedictorians from high schools from the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, and surrounding counties.
Its main conclusion? That when stacked up against the boys, the female valedictorians tended to choose less selective colleges and plan careers in lower-paying occupations. While the girls were more likely to major in the humanities and social sciences, the boys were more likely to plan to major in math, computer science and engineering.

The results of this study seem to indicate that out-dated thinking about the education and career choices are still alive and well, even among our brightest young men and women. While this study was somewhat limited in scope, it raises important questions about how we parent and educate bright and talented females. Certainly, an excellent education can be received at less selective colleges, and majoring in the humanities and social sciences may be more about one's passions and interests than low expectations. However, these choices should be based on explicit decisions about what is best for a talented student, rather than social expectations imposed on young women by schools, parents, and the media.

Read the full text of the blog post, "Do the Ambitions of High School Valedictorians Differ by Gender?".

Arts Education and Brain Research

 
Earlier this month, Johns Hopkins School of Education hosted a summit and roundtable discussion titled Learning, Arts, and the Brain. Much of the information from this summit and roundtable can be found at the Dana Foundation Web site. Included are the following:
The Dana Foundation has just started Arts Ed on the Web, a bimonthly feature in which Web sites devoted to arts education are highlighted. You’ll want to bookmark this. In the first posting (May 26, 2009) you will find an arts integration resource site, an education portal for teachers with lesson plans and videos, and a music education project featuring Yo-Yo Ma.

School Options for Gifted Kids—Where to Begin

 
I experienced another interesting conversation yesterday while traveling to the airport in a shared van. The woman sitting next to me was flying to Tennessee to watch two of her children compete in the Global Finals for Destination ImagiNation (DI). DI is an exciting, creative enrichment program that engages kids in critical thinking, teamwork, time management, and problem solving. She told me about the wonderful enrichment teacher who works at their neighborhood school. Each year, the teacher is able to recruit parents who are willing to make the necessary time commitment to work with teams of youngsters who compete in Destination ImagiNation. What a wonderful experience for the students at this neighborhood school.
 
We then went on to have a general conversation about education, gifted education, parenting, etc. She told me that next year two of her children will attend a magnet/charter school that focuses on international studies. There, they will have a choice of languages on which to focus. Her children have decided to concentrate on Chinese. This woman had really done her research and was a very positive advocate for her kids, finding educational options that fit their needs.
 
My question to this fellow traveler was, “How do parents find out about the various choices in their school district?” It was then I realized that the shuttle driver had been listening intently to our conversation. When I asked my question, he laughed. He indicated that he had several children at home, was not pleased with their school situation, and did not realize that he had choices. He, too, had wondered how one finds out about opportunities.
 
So often, parents feel that their children are trapped in whatever educational program is closest to their home. They often cannot afford to move to a “better” neighborhood and don’t realize that there are alternatives.
 
So, I want to present you with some information. I also hope that others will comment on this blog entry, sharing possibilities that I have not listed. Right now, I will just talk about actual physical (as opposed to virtual) schools that might be available to you in your area. In my book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook I discuss many more educational options.
 
Situations vary from state to state and from district to district. You often won’t know if these possibilities exist unless you ask.
 
The Education Commission of the States (ECS) provides an online database for open enrollment.  To one degree or another, open-enrollment policies allow a student to transfer to the public school of his or her choice. There are two basic types of open-enrollment policies: intradistrict and interdistrict. The Web site cited here is an excellent resource. In many cases, students are not locked in to attending their neighborhood or even their district schools.
 
The U.S. Department of Education provides information on charter and magnet schools across the country. Charter schools are public schools that operate with freedom from many of the local and state regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Some of them have very innovative philosophies. Magnet schools are designed to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. They focus on a specific subject, such as science or the arts; follow specific themes, such as business/technology or communications/humanities/law; or operate according to certain models, such as career academies or a school-within-a-school. Once you understand the general concepts of charter and magnet schools, you can search the Web sites of your local school district and surrounding districts to see what is available.
 
It is important to know how the students in your school and in schools you are considering perform on state tests. Look at sites such as SchoolMatters where you can search for information by school or state. This Web site is also able to list schools within a state from highest scoring to lowest scoring in reading and in math. It will be much easier for your child to perform at a high level if he attends a school where the norm is to perform well.
 
Please feel free to share additional information by hitting the “Comment” button at the top of this blog entry.

Summer Archaeology Camp

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Science, Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education

Hands-On Archaeology: Real-Life Activities for KidsI've always enjoyed the subject of archaeology. In fact, one of the first science books Prufrock Press published was Hands-On Archaeology: Real-Life Activities for Kids (now in its second edition). Written by renowned archaeologist John White, Ph.D., this book shows any teacher or parent how to help kids become young archaeologists. Imagine the thrill students will experience as they discover artifacts from the past. There isn't a single student who won't love the activities in this book!

Today, I received a brochure from the Center for American Archeology advertising their 1-week to 3-week archaeology summer programs for kids. The CAA's High School Field School offers teenagers the opportunity to participate in authentic archaeological research designed to learn more about the prehistoric peoples of the Lower Illinois River Valley, one of the richest archeological regions in the Midwestern United States.  Working with the CAA staff and interns, teens will have the chance to learn the basics of field excavation, laboratory processing, and how archeologists develop their interpretations of sites based upon the information they collect.  It’s a great way to explore the field of archaeology in a hands-on manner.

The program sounds both fun and educational, and I wanted to bring it to your attention.
 
Limited scholarship support is available for girls, and students 16+ can earn college credit. For more information, visit the CAA's High School Field School information page.

Profoundly Gifted

 
There are many different levels of giftedness. Profoundly gifted kids are so advanced that they may have a very difficult time finding peers. They often skip several grades and/or begin college before they enter adolescence. This group of students makes up a very small portion of the population and resources are difficult to find. Here are some that you may find helpful:
 

Gifted Education Forums

Friday, November 21, 2008 - by CFertig - Category: Parents and Educators, Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education
 
Do you ever have specific questions about gifted education, but you don’t know where to turn? Do you want to know what gifted education issues are being discussed by others but don’t want to join a listserv that might flood your email box? An Internet forum might be just what you need. An Internet forum is an online discussion site where you can ask questions and get answers or you can just observe the questions and answers of others.
 
There are a number of forums dedicated to gifted education. Here are a few, along with some recent topics of discussion.
 
Preschool
Home—incredibly bright/School—lazy
Music and learning
 
How gifted-friendly is your state?
Exploring fine art with children
Radical acceleration and early college
 

Gifted Education 2.0

Book recommendations for gifted readers grades 4–6
Information on upcoming conferences
Recommendations for online GT endorsement programs
 

Parenting and advocacy

Identification, testing, and assessment

Grade skipping

 

Gifted - OGTOC

When to seek professional help

Enrichment

No Child Left Behind Act

 
Early entry to kindergarten policies
Web-based math programs
Compacting/Learning Contract Advice

 

Encouraging Gifted Students to Be Innovators

 
Is innovation dead? Are we encouraging our young people to be creative innovators?
 
In a podcast titled Tough Economy Doesn't Help U.S. 'Innovation Gap', author Judy Estrin is interviewed about her new book Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy. Estrin wants to encourage the renewal of innovation in America, closing the gap between where we used to be and where we are now, and between where we are now and where we could be in the future. She believes that this key trait has been stifled by the school system, by an emphasis in society on efficiency, and by the use of threats in our country to scare people rather than inspire them.
 
The author states that certain core values are needed to foster deep innovation. These core values include
  • Questioning of both self and of the ways in which we do things
  • Willingness to take risks
  • Openness
  • Patience
  • Trust
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.

Exciting Reading Program that Challenges Gifted Learners

Monday, November 10, 2008 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, Language Arts

Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension ProgramI'm very pleased to announce our newly released Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program.

We just got back from exhibiting at the annual conference of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). We took plenty of these books to display and sell at the conference, and we sold out on the second day!

I heard from so many people at the conference that they are looking for a field-tested reading program that works with kids of all ability levels--including gifted children. When field-testing this program, the staff at The College of William and Mary's Center for Gifted Education found solid achievement gains among mid-level and struggling students. The key difference between this product and others is that it also showed solid gains among gifted students. So many other programs really are geared to only address the needs of struggling students. This program offer a great tool for teachers in mixed-ability and gifted classrooms.

I've created a combination pack that allows you to buy the entire series at a savings ($109.95 for the complete set).

Developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary, the Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program targets reading comprehension skills in learners by moving students through an inquiry process from basic understanding to critical analyses of texts. Students in grades 2–8 will learn to comprehend and analyze any reading passage after completing the activities in these books.

In the form of three skill ladders connected to individual readings in poetry, short stories, and nonfiction, students move from lower order, concrete thinking skills to higher order, critical thinking skills. Each book, geared to increasing grade levels, includes high-interest readings, ladders to increase reading skill development, and easy-to-implement instruction. The ladders include multiple skills necessary for academic success, covering language arts standards, such as sequencing, cause and effect, classification, making generalizations, inference, and recognizing themes and concepts.

To read more about this exciting new reading program visit the Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program product page on the Prufrock Web site.

A Different Way of Looking at Boredom of the Gifted

 
When someone is bored, they don’t like what they’re doing, but don’t know what else to do.
 
I can remember that when I was a young child, I often sat around the house saying, “I’m bored.”
 
With a little smile on his face, my father’s consistent reply was, “Carol, you’re always bored.”
 
There was nothing I felt like doing at the time. No one ever felt sorry for me, though, and no one ever tried to rescue me from my boredom. Each member of the family went about his or her business and did not consider it their responsibility to entertain me. There was plenty I could do if I chose to take on the task.
 
Today’s parents and teachers often feel that their kids must be engaged at all times. But by rescuing young people from their boredom every time it pokes its head above the surface, we may be denying them the chance to figure out their own boredom-relieving tactics.
 
Children need to understand that life isn’t always fun, that everyone gets bored occasionally—or dislikes the task at hand—and we all have to do things that we’d rather not.
 
In the article We Try Our Best to Avoid It, but Boredom Has Its Benefits. Today, It's a Lost Art Form, the author states: “As more and more people seem to recognize, the universal experience of being bored—unengaged, detached, afloat in some private torpor—may be far more precious, fruitful, and even profound than a surface apprehension might suggest.”
 
Perhaps it would be interesting to create a regular discussion group around the subject of boredom to help kids better understand it. Some possible activities follow:
  • Have students articulate their own feelings about boredom. What does it mean? Are they ever bored? If so, when? How do they handle it? Are there other ways they can handle boredom?
  • Find out how others have handled boredom. How do characters in the books they read address the subject? What about people who lived in other times?
  • Have students interview family and friends and ask them how they handle boring times. What are the similarities and differences?
  • Have students do the activities in the lesson plan, How Did Civil War Soldiers Battle Boredom? Students are asked to make a Venn diagram comparing things they do to combat boredom with the activities Civil War soldiers did to do the same.
  • Create a list of all the things one could do when bored in school or at home. Allow kids to be very creative with this.

Book Just Released on Raising a Gifted Child

 
What should you realistically expect from a gifted student, from the child’s teacher and school, and from yourself as a parent? Where can you find great resources to provide the best education possible for your young person? What are the many conventional and unconventional ways to educate a bright student?
 
I am pleased to announce that my new book, Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook, has just been released by Prufrock Press. The book addresses all of the questions above and will appeal to parents, teachers, and discussion groups.
 
Written in a very easy-going style, it is chock-full of real stories of gifted kids. One of my favorite parts of the book is the chapter titled Specific Subjects. Here, one can find a multitude of resources to either encourage or reinforce student strengths in language arts, math, science, social studies, foreign language, fine arts, technology, and thinking skills. There also is a whole chapter on nurturing creativity.
 
If you find the information on this weekly blog helpful, you also will appreciate the information available in this book.

Whales—A Fascinating Topic for Young Gifted Kids

 
Just as many children love learning about dinosaurs, they also love to learn about whales. Although there are many different types of whales, the information here focuses on the North Atlantic Right Whale.
 
Right whales were so named because early whalers considered them the "right" whale to hunt. In the early centuries of shore-based whaling, right whales were virtually the only large whales the whalers were able to catch for three reasons:
  • The right whales often were found very close to shore where they could be spotted by lookouts on the beach.
  • They were relatively slow swimmers so the whalers could catch up to them in their whaleboats.
  • Compared to other species of whale, right whales killed by harpoons were more likely float, and thus could be retrieved by the whalers and towed back to shore.
Tale of a Whale, from Smithsonian Education, has great information for teaching and learning about the North Atlantic Right Whale. Using the lessons provided, students experience work that is similar to that of real whale researchers by identifying an individual whale according to patterns of callosities and also identifying migration patterns. There also is a link to the New England Aquarium Web site where students can learn more about whale research and play an interactive whale identification game.
 
For background information and more photos, check out

Anatomy for Gifted Kids

 
There are a couple of great anatomy Web sites available for kids. The first two listed here are interactive and suitable for bright, middle to late elementary school kids. The sites can be used either at home or at school and are both entertaining and educational.
 
At this Website from the BBC, you will find interactive computer activities that teach about the organs, muscles, skeleton, senses, nervous system, and puberty. Students use drag-and-drop to place various parts of the body and learn about the function of each.
 
At this site, students can participate in virtual hip replacements and virtual knee replacements. Viewers also have the opportunity to diagnose different patients who might need knee or hip replacements. There are also videos of real people who have had the replacements, explaining what it was like before and after the surgeries. In addition, students can learn about “interesting people” who have jobs that are related to hip and knee replacements. This feature of the Web site introduces students to possible career paths.
 
At this site, there are numerous links to biology resources, several that relate directly to anatomy.

Teaching Foreign Language to Gifted Students

 
All research points to the virtues of beginning foreign language early in life—as early as preschool. Both parents and teachers appreciate ways to enrich foreign language instruction for their students who are gifted in this area.
 
As we become more and more global-centric, multilingual skills become even more important. We need to move beyond learning the traditional one foreign language to being comfortable speaking several languages.
 
The following include some helpful resources for teaching or learning a foreign language.
 
This Web site comes from the U.K. It contains ideas for enriching and extending pupils' experiences in foreign languages that include
  • using everyday classroom events as an opportunity for spontaneous speech;
  • expressing and discussing personal feelings and opinions;
  • using a range of resources, including games, songs and poems;
  • using the target language imaginatively and creatively (i.e., creating newspapers, quizzes and tongue-twisters);
  • listening, reading, or viewing for personal enjoyment short stories, short novels, poetry, fairy tales, and plays.
  • writing short stories and poetry.
Here you will find an extensive list of language camps for students of all ages.
 
This is an article in the Duke Gifted Letter, which reviews a couple of software programs that teach foreign languages.
 
If you do an Internet search on “Foreign Language Online,” you will find many free resources, including games for learning languages.

Courses and Degree Programs for Teachers of the Gifted

 
Do you want to have a more thorough understanding of gifted education so that you can better serve the needs of your students and their parents? Have you considered taking a class or two or perhaps working on a degree in gifted education? Here is a great resource for you.
 

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has put together a University Directory of Programs and Services in Gifted Education. At this site, you will find lists of

  • universities and colleges offering coursework or degree programs in gifted education by state.
  • coursework by university that leads to a certificate or endorsement, an undergraduate degree with an emphasis in gifted, an M.S., an Ed.D., or a Ph.D.
  • universities that offer online courses in gifted education.
By using this information, you can find out if there is a program close to you, and if there isn’t, where you can take online classes.

The Use of Praise and Reward in Motivating Students

 
Over the years, we have run the gamut with the role of praise and reward when working with students. When I was a young child I can remember hearing adults say, “Don’t tell him he did too good of a job or he’ll get a swelled head.” Praise was not readily given. At least in my environment, reward for tasks completed was never even considered. We were expected to do well without praise or reward.
 
When my children were young, self-esteem became a big issue. Adults became very sensitive to building the good feelings that children had about themselves. Praise, and often reward, was lavished upon these young people.
 
Today, we are offered a middle ground.
 
Both teachers and parents often are eager to motivate their kids in school. In two articles, Daniel T. Willingham, at University of Virginia, discusses the role of praise and the role of reward in motivating students.  The emphasis of Willingham’s research is the application of cognitive psychology to K–12 education.
 

Research indicates that praise can motivate and guide children—but there are circumstances under which praise is not beneficial. If you try to use praise for your own ends or even in a conscious attempt to help the student, it is likely to go wrong. If, on the other hand, praise is an honest expression meant to congratulate the student, it will likely be at least neutral or even helpful to the student. Whether or not praise is beneficial depends on when and how it is used. For praise to be helpful, it must

  • be sincere—In order to receive praise, the child must have done something praiseworthy. The content of the praise should express congratulations (rather than express a wish of something else the child should do).  
  • emphasize process, not ability—The target of the praise should be not an attribute of the child, but rather an attribute of the child’s behavior.
  • be immediate and unexpected—Praise should immediately follow the praiseworthy act; however, praise that comes like clockwork presents a potential problem: The student may start to work with the expectation of being praised.
 
Here the author tackles the question of creating an atmosphere in which students want to learn vs. one in which they do minimal work to earn a promised reward.
 
Are rewards immoral and dehumanizing? What happens when rewards stop? How can rewards decrease motivation? What makes rewards more or less effective? Are rewards worth it?
 

Willingham likens using rewards to taking out a loan. You get an immediate benefit, but you know that you will eventually have to pay up, with interest. He suggests three guidelines to the use of rewards:

  • Try to find an alternative—The obvious alternative is to make the material intrinsically interesting.
  • Use rewards for a specific reason, not as a general strategy—One example is when a student has lost confidence in himself to the point that he is no longer willing to try.
  • Plan for the ending—If students are told at the start of the rewards program when it will end, there may be fewer complaints when the goodies are no longer available.

Don't Gifted Children Play the Guitar and Sit in Their Seats!?!

Monday, September 01, 2008 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Gifted Education, Teaching Gifted Children

Last week, I spoke with a friend of mine who was in the middle of finishing two weeks of teacher orientation. On one afternoon, the teachers at her school heard a presentation about gifted children. During an afternoon break, one of my friend's table-mates commented that she imagined most gifted kids would be able to play the guitar because she only knows one gifted person, and he plays the guitar with great skill.

Another teacher explained how shocked she was to learn during the previous year that one of the boys in her class was gifted. She was shocked because "he never sat still." How could you be gifted and be out of your seat so much?

Then, last week, CNN posted an article by a free-lance journalist titled, "Is Your Kid Really Gifted? Probably Not."

The money quote from this article was:

"Gifted" has become one of the most tossed-about words in the parenting lexicon. Unfortunately—sorry, but let's get this out of the way right up front—it's also one of the most misused.

While there were many things about this article with which I disagreed, I did think this one paragraph held much truth. There is no end to the misceptions about who gifted kids are and how best to serve them.

Even among experts, there is some disagreement. Currently, there is a solid debate raging on in the gifted education community about whether we should only identify gifted kids who are performing at high levels or whether we should include kids who show potential for high performance, but do not yet (and may not ever) exhibit it.

The most infuriating aspect of this discussion is that giftedness exists along a continuum of human performance and ability. There is not a single agreed upon "line" we can draw that says, "on this side of the line you are gifted, and on that side you are not." Anytime a school or counselor makes the decision to label a child gifted, there is an element of the arbitrary in that decision. A couple of years ago, Prufrock posted an article titled "Definitions, Models, and Characteristics of Gifted Students" by Dr. Susan K. Johnsen. I invite you to read this article in its entirety. The article offers an overview of the many ways giftedness has been conceptualized and the many characteristics of gifted kids.

The article explains that there are many types of gifted individuals. For example, some exhibit gifted abilities and exceptional intelligence in many areas and some tend to exhibit gifted abilities in only specific subject areas. In other words, what a gifted child "looks" like can vary as much as snow flakes.

For example, Dr. Johnsen explains that kids with exceptional general intellectual abilities might exhibit the following characteristics to a high degree:

  • Has an extensive and detailed memory, particularly in an area of interest.
  • Has vocabulary advanced for age—precocious language.
  • Has communication skills advanced for age and is able to express ideas and feelings.
  • Asks intelligent questions.
  • Is able to identify the important characteristics of new concepts, problems.
  • Learns information quickly.
  • Uses logic in arriving at common sense answers.
  • Has a broad base of knowledge—a large quantity of information.
  • Understands abstract ideas and complex concepts.
  • Uses analogical thinking, problem solving, or reasoning.
  • Observes relationships and sees connections.
  • Finds and solves difficult and unusual problems.
  • Understands principles, forms generalizations, and uses them in new situations.
  • Wants to learn and is curious.
  • Works conscientiously and has a high degree of concentration in areas of interest.
  • Understands and uses various symbol systems.
  • Is reflective about learning.

On the other hand, according to the article, a child with exceptional talent in the specific subject area of mathematics or science might exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Is interested in numerical analysis.
  • Has a good memory for storing main features of problem and solutions.
  • Appreciates parsimony, simplicity, or economy in solutions.
  • Reasons effectively and efficiently.
  • Solves problems intuitively using insight.
  • Can reverse steps in the mental process.
  • Organizes data and experiments to discover patterns or relationships.
  • Improvises with science equipment and math methods.
  • Is flexible in solving problems.

The point I would like to make in this blog is that being gifted may look quite different from one child to the next. A little less overconfidence in our clarity about who the gifted child is and is not might be helpful as the school year begins. Let's keep that idea in mind as we look for those kids who might need special gifted education services.

Now, if you don't mind, I believe I will go back to sitting still while I play my guitar.

Philosophy for Gifted Children

 
It may surprise both parents and teachers to learn that philosophy is a very accessible topic for children of all ages. Peruse some of the sites listed below and you will see what I mean. Philosophy is especially appropriate for gifted children who benefit from the exploration of ideas. The information provided here can easily be used both at home and at school and will help adults incorporate philosophical questioning into the daily lives of their children.
 
Until recently, philosophy was thought to be too difficult and uninteresting a subject for children. It has now been found that children not only are capable of understanding philosophy but need and appreciate it for the same reasons that adults do. Philosophy offers children the chance to explore ordinary but puzzling concepts, to improve their thinking, to make more sense of their world, and to discover for themselves what is to be valued.
 
The IAPC publishes curriculum materials in Philosophy for Children for use in grades K–12. The curriculum consists of novels for students and manuals for teachers. Each novel is about 80 pages in length and is written in informal language, without technical terminology.
 
What is courage? Do the lives of kids require them to be brave? Philosophy for Children was created by Mount Holyoke College. All you need to do is to read aloud one of the children’s books suggested by the site to a group of elementary school children, and then use the question sets provided to guide the discussion of issues. 
 
Be sure to watch the short video of fifth graders discussing whether judgments about art are purely subjective, and also listen to the podcast interview with Professor Thomas Wartenberg about the often overlooked philosophical concerns of young children and the deep philosophical issues raised by children’s books. The resources section at this site contains a rich list of other Web sites that will help guide adults when teaching philosophy to kids.
 
This Web site was developed by Gary Matthews, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It poses stories and questions to guide parents or teachers in philosophical discussions with young children.
 
Books by David A. White
Questions include: “Who are your friends?” “Can computers think?” “Can something logical not make sense?” and “Can you think about nothing?” This book, designed for young people ages 10 and up, is packed with activities arranged around the topics of values, knowledge, reality, and critical thinking. The book includes activities, teaching tips, a glossary of terms, and suggestions for further reading.
 
This book, designed for students in grades 7–12, offers ways teachers can help students grapple with age-old questions about the nature of friendship (Aristotle), time (Augustine), knowledge (Plato), existence of God (Aquinas), perception (Berkeley), freedom and society (Rousseau), and many more.
 
Books by Paul Thomson and Sharon M. Kaye
In this book, created for students in grades 7–12, the authors examine some of life's biggest topics, such as lying, cheating, love, beauty, the role of government, hate, and prejudice. Both sides of the debates are covered on every issue, with information from some of the world's most noted philosophers. Each chapter includes discussion questions, thought experiments, exercises and activities, and community action steps to help students make reasoned, informed decisions about some of life's greatest debates.
 
Created as a companion book to their first book (above), the authors examine some of life’s toughest questions, including identity, God, the universe, freedom, and the meaning of life.

Ideas for Studying the Olympics

 
We’re right in the middle of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games. Few Americans are in school right now, but parents may want to supplement their student’s summer learning using the Olympics. Teachers may want to start the school year with a review of the Olympics. Whether you are a parent or a teacher, there are lots of good resources available. When working with gifted individuals, do not feel that you need to stay with suggested grade level curricula or ideas; instead, move up one or more grade levels to find more appropriate material. Here are just a few of the wonderful resources available online.
 
The Academy of Achievement includes student materials, teacher facilitation guides for grades 4–12, and video clips of former Olympic champions.
 
Series of 16 inexpensive booklets of activities surrounding the Olympics.
 
This site is filled with the history of the Olympics and all kinds of statistical information about the 2008 Summer Olympics, including information about all participating athletes. There are also lots of photos and video clips.
 
This Web site from Australia features key Internet links and learning ideas tied into the Olympics theme. Learning ideas include drug use at the Olympics, classical Greek mythology, China, and languages that are used at the Olympics.

Shakespeare for Gifted Students

 
Shakespeare never grows old. He was an outstanding observer of life and created many immortal characters that profess and embody human natureHis characters often capture traits that are universal. He used rich literary devices, compelling plots, and had an enduring wisdom and wit. He also wrote many unforgettable lines that are imbedded in our culture. He continues to be the most-quoted author in the English language.
 
There are many resources available to help teach about Shakespeare. Here are just a few.
 
Publishers
 
Prufrock Press has a new Advanced Placement Classroom series for the upper level classroom, grades 7–12. Currently, there are three books that present background material and activities for teachers for Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet.
 
The Writing Company has an extensive collection of books, videos, posters, simulations, and other resources on William Shakespeare.
 
Curricula
 
Navigators are collections of questions and activities intended to support group or independent study of selected literary pieces. The Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary offers Navigators for three of Shakespeare’s plays: Henry IV, Part 1; Hamlet; and Twelfth Night. These Navigators are designed for students in grades 9–12.
 
Web Sites
 
Complete texts of Shakespeare’s plays, sonnets, and poems. This site also includes search tools and statistics.
 
Numerous resources on all things Shakespeare.
 
Includes Shakespeare’s will, the authorship debate, language, the Globe Theatre, Elizabethan England, and theatre companies.
 
Activities for teachers to use when teaching Shakespeare.
 
For Fun and Learning
 
This book is filled with insults that teachers can share with their students to help them really get into Shakespeare's language, such as "Your brains are useless, boil'd within thy skull."

Using Universal Themes with Gifted Students

 
Back in September 2005 I wrote a blog entry titled Universal Themes & Gifted Education. Universal themes give any unit meaning. Themes give a common reason for students to read many different books, including books on different ability levels, which is excellent for differentiation. Universal themes can be used with any subject, but they are especially suited for literature and social studies.
 
A Sampling of Universal Themes
 
Anger
Friendship
Loyalty
Bullies
Good vs. Evil
Making Choices
Belonging
Grief
Memories
Bravery
Guilt
Peace
Challenges
Honesty
Separation and Loss
Commitment
Innocence and Experience
Survival
Courage
Jealousy
Trust
Customs and Traditions
Leadership
Values
Diversity
Loneliness
Violence
Forgiveness
Love
 
 
 
Activity to Begin a Unit
Upper Elementary through Adult
 
1.      Divide students into groups of 5–7 and give each a large sheet of paper and markers. Ask the participants to brianstorm everything they can think of about the given theme. (You may want to review the rules of brainstorming before you begin this activity.) Give them plenty of time and don’t worry about silences.
2.      After sufficient time to think and write, ask the students to look at their lists and see if there are ways they can group their comments.
3.      Next, have them label each group of comments with a generalization.
4.      Have each group of students share results, allowing them time to explain their reasoning.
5.      As a class, find some common generalizations that can be used for the entire class.
 
A number of years ago, I participated in this activity while attending a conference session. At first, I was skeptical, thinking that it wouldn’t be a worthwhile exercise, but in the end, I was amazed at the depth of the discussion.
 
Next, I tried the activity with a class of gifted fifth graders. The discussions that the students had were phenomenal and gave real meaning to all the reading they did later in the unit. Each day, the kids could hardly wait to come to class to continue the discussions about the theme. I think that one of the reasons that students enjoy learning this way is because there are no right or wrong answers when discussing anything that is related to the theme. Instead, the universal themes and generalizations are used as a framework to help them think and to value their thinking. They do have to be able to support their ideas, which was far more meaningful that just spitting back facts or predetermined answers.
 
For more ideas about universal themes, check out Universal Themes and Generalizations. Remember that the generalizations listed here are only suggestions. You and your class may come up with different generalizations.

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.

 

Simulation Curricula for Gifted Kids

 

Interact is a publisher that offers curricula that is unique and creative. The units often are used as supplements in the regular classroom but can be used in a separate enrichment class. Many of the units involve interaction between students through simulations. I have seen Interact curricula used successfully in classrooms that consist of many different abilities. I knew one teacher who always had an Interact simulation going in his classroom. His students (including the gifted students) were so excited to go to school each day to work on the activities.

Each Interact unit includes a teacher's guide, purpose and overview, daily lesson plans, student materials, time management guidelines, and support materials.
 
If you do a search on “gifted” at the Interact Web site, results will show curricula particularly suited to high-ability students; however, many of the regular units also work well for students who are academically strong.
 
Unit subjects include language arts, social studies, math, science, and character building.
 
A few examples are
 
Character Matters
Grades 1–4
Up to 20 hours for preparation, planning, and performance
Description: Welcome to a monthly meeting of the Fairy Tale Advice Council. Led by Rapunzel, a handsome prince, and a recovering wicked witch, the council offers help in character building to folk and fairy tale creatures. In this fun and humorous musical, the Big Bad Wolf learns the Golden Rule, Cinderella gets help in managing her anger at her bullying stepsisters, and Jack and the Giant discover that their differences are cool. Will Humpty Dumpty take responsibility for his fall? Can Baby Bear forgive Goldilocks? And will the magic mirrors tell the evil queen the truth about who is "the fairest of them all?"
 
Game Factory
Grades 3–7
A flexible structure allows for lengthening or shortening the time required
Description: Cheatum Swindle is running the Goodwin's game factory into the ground by producing unfair games, and it's up to your students to use their arithmetic skills to save the company! Students work in pairs performing hands-on experiments with spinners, dice, coins, and cards to test the probabilities of Cheatum's games. The flip of a coin or the roll of the die determines the moves they make as they advance through the factory, examining games for fairness. As they find problems, they make modifications and record reasons for their decisions. In the final push to save the company's reputation, student pairs design their own games and present them with an explanation of their fairness.
 
Advanced Placement Short Story: Challenging Approaches for Honors, Gifted, and AP English Classes
Description: A sophisticated collection of 36 teacher plans and student handouts based on seven short stories (included) by well-known writers. The activities may be used in many ways. They may heighten awareness of how plot, theme, character, setting, point of view, and style interconnect; they may give students practice in answering the sort of multiple-choice and essay questions they will meet on the AP exams; or they may simply illuminate the art of the short story as practiced by some of its masters: E.B. White, Katherine Mansfield, Langston Hughes, Tillie Olsen, Raymond Carver, Sean O'Faolain, and Bernard Malamud. Index. Supplemental reading list.
 
Black Gold
Grades 5–8
Up to 15 hours of instruction
Description: Black Gold is a challenging, multi-disciplinary study of petroleum and our reliance upon this vanishing fossil fuel. The science, geography, research, mathematics, and language arts activities center around the global dynamics of petroleum production and consumption. Your students will
  • create a map of the world showing the magnitude of petroleum reserves and consumption, and trace major transportation routes and techniques;
  • use a variety of research tools, analyze information, and present and defend their conclusion;
  • buy and sell crude oil at a commodity market (at their desks or via e-mail); and
  • devise techniques to clean up a disastrous oil spill.

 

Cartooning and Animation for Gifted Kids

Looking for a fun summer activity for your kids? Try cartooning and animation. An interest in this area could actually turn into a wonderful creative career opportunity.

There are some great Web sites that will help bright students learn this craft. 

A set of tutorials to teach the art of animation.
 
An animation expert from Disney offers free online lessons in animation.
 
Gives kids the opportunity to create their own comic strips using templates.
 
Read a couple of articles from Imagine Magazine (published by Johns Hopkins University) telling about the pursuit of education and careers in computer animation
Also, check out your local library for books on cartooning and animation.

Online Resources for Twice Exceptional Students

 
An oxymoron it is not—twice exceptional, 2e, GT/LD, gifted with learning disabilities—these are all labels given to people who are very bright, yet have learning difficulties. The phenomenon is much more common than most people realize.
 
There are online resources to help parents and teachers better understand and work with students who fit into this category.
 
2e Newsletter: Lots of free articles and an online newsletter to which one can subscribe.
 
Twice Gifted: Lists characteristics of children who are gifted but are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or have physical disabilities. Suggests strategies to use with students who are twice exceptional. The Web site also discusses savants, those with Asperger’s syndrome, and gifted students who suffer from depression.
 
Uniquely Gifted: There are many resources, including articles and personal experiences of both parents and students. A long list of types of disabilities is presented with links to supporting information. Also included are treatments, training, and therapies to use with twice exceptional students. Numerous support groups and email lists are given.
 
Explore these resources for a better understanding of kids with learning difficulties and suggestions of ways to help them compensate, while taking advantage of their wonderful strengths.

Gifted Preschoolers

 
Mary Anne was perplexed by her preschooler. The child seemed quite precocious at times and Mary Anne wasn’t sure what to do about it. Should the child be tested to see what her true abilities might be? Should Mary Anne be looking at gifted school opportunities? Should she be doing anything special at home?
 
The American Association for Gifted Children at Duke University has suggestions for parents with questions like those of Mary Anne. At this site, you will find information about characteristics of very young gifted children, appropriate activities that stimulate learning, identification and testing, and preparing your child for school.
 
At the Augusta Web site from Australia, you will find the article Parenting Gifted Preschoolers, which lists both normal and advanced development in very young children as well as a list of activities to do with gifted preschoolers.
 
Each of the above Web sites will give you lots of fun ideas for working with your precocious preschooler.

SCAMPER Your Way to Creativity

 
SCAMPER is an acronym for a list of words that can help you and your students think differently about a problem area and enhance creativity.
 
S
Substitute
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?
C
Combine
What materials, features, processes, people, products, or components can be combined?
A
Adapt
Is there anything that can be changed? What else is like this? What could be copied?
M
Modify, Magnify, or Minify
Can you change the meaning, color, motion, sound, smell, form, or shape? Can you distort it?
P
Put to Other Uses
Are there new ways to use or reuse it? Is there another market?
E
Eliminate
Can you reduce time, effort, or cost? Can you remove part of it?
R
Rearrange
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.
 
  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. Take a current social or political problem and discuss how elements of SCAMPER might be applied to come up with possible solutions.
  4. Use SCMAPER to analyze a Web site or a brochure. Can you find ways that the Web site or brochure might be improved?
  5. Take any common object—a penny, a shoe, a table. How can you apply the elements of SCAMPER to come up with a new and creative use of the object?

New Tests of Giftedness

 
The ongoing discussion of the definition of intelligence and how to measure it continues with a recent article in Education Week.
 
Robert J. Sternberg is a nationally known psychologist who has spent much of his career designing new measures that might more accurately capture the full range of students’ intellectual potential. He believes that conventional assessments measure only a narrow subset—memory and analytical skills—and do not necessarily measure all the abilities students need to succeed in life, namely a combination of practical, creative, and analytical skills.
 
While traditional assessments are frequently good predictors of success, plenty of people succeed without ever fitting that pattern—people like Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson or filmmaker Steven Spielberg, both of whom were high school dropouts.
 
A team of Yale University researchers is taking Sternberg’s ideas and rethinking tests that schools use to identify students for gifted and talented programs. Dubbed Aurora Battery for the colorful spectrums created by the northern and southern lights, the assessment is being translated and tested with tens of thousands of students between 9 and 12 in the United States, England, India, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and other countries. Aurora is a comprehensive battery that includes a group-administered paper-and-pencil test, a parent interview, a scale for teacher rating of students, and some observation items.
 
With the Aurora assessments, scholars hope to get a read on the skills that make the Bransons and Spielbergs of the world successful, as well as the academic skills that intelligence tests have traditionally measured.
 
The new assessment could yield a very different pool of gifted students—one that includes a higher proportion of those from traditionally underrepresented minority groups. It also has the potential to capture a population of students with a more varied and better-qualified array of skills.

Gifted 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
  • Blogs
  • Organizations
  • Mailing lists
  • Books and publications
  • Nationwide distance and short-term residential programs for gifted children
  • Regional resources
  • 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?
 
American Rhetoric 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.

Asynchronous Development in Young Gifted Students

 
Asynchronous is a term that describes uneven development. It can mean uneven development academically, physically, and/or emotionally (i.e., a student is a whiz kid at science, but can’t throw a ball). It can describe uneven development between subjects (i.e., a student reads years ahead of his classmates, but is at grade level in math).
 
We often expect children to meet certain development standards. We know that they should begin to crawl by a certain age, and then go on to walk and run. We expect them to talk when the baby books say they should talk and then recognize colors and shapes, begin reading, learn to share toys, etc. Teachers also have both academic and social expectations at each grade level. But, children do not necessarily develop just as expected.
 
In Nurturing Giftedness in Young Children, Wendy C. Roedell states
 
Versions of the following conversation can often be heard when young gifted children start school. "Bill doesn't belong in kindergarten!" the parent cries. "Look, he's reading at the fourth-grade level and has already learned two-column addition." The teacher or principal, having already decided this is a 'pushy parent,' replies, "Well, Mrs. Smith, Bill certainly doesn't belong in first grade; he hasn't learned to tie his shoelaces, and he can't hold a pencil properly, and he had a tantrum yesterday in the hall."
 
The problem is that both parties are probably correct. This story is an example of asynchronous, or uneven, development. Few children meet developmental expectations across all areas each year of school; however, the disparity can be exacerbated when a child has especially high abilities in one or more academic areas.
 
It is especially difficult for teachers in primary grades to address advanced academics in children who are socially immature. It is easier to differentiate in a classroom where students are older because they are often socially mature and able to work independently or in small groups without constant supervision.
 
Parents and teachers may need to get very creative when trying to meet the needs of young children with asynchronous development, especially in the early grades. A combination of techniques may be employed, including the use of volunteers in the classroom, moving students to a higher grade for part of the day, and small group work with motor and social skills.

Summer Institute for the Gifted

There are many summer opportunities for gifted students. (See previous posts from the blogs available at the Prufrock Web site: Quality Summer Opportunities for Gifted Students, Language Immersion Programs for the Gifted, and Summer Programs for the Gifted.)

Still one more opportunity is the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG), which runs eleven three-week residential sessions in seven states. It also offers several non-residential day programs. In 2007, the Institute served over 2,000 academically gifted students in grades K–11.
 
All applicants to SIG programs require evidence of high academic ability and/or achievement. Documentation includes the following:
  • Participation in Academic Talent Search Programs
  • A score at the 95th percentile or above in at least one major content area or ability section of a nationally-normed standardized test, or at the highest performance level on a state test
  • Score in the gifted range on the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or SSATB
  • Be identified as gifted and/or have participated successfully in a local or school gifted program
  • If none of the above are available, two letters of recommendation can be submitted.
Residential programs for students in grades 4–11 will be held this summer at the following locations. (You can click on each school to find out more information.)
 
Day programs for students in grades K-6 will be held at:

Developing Talent in Artistically Gifted Kids

 
Jan Brett is a popular author/illustrator of children’s books. She is especially fond of drawing animals. At her Web site is a series of videos that could easily be used at school, at home, or through a homeschooling experience to encourage artistic talent.

From the time Brett was in Kindergarten, she knew she wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books. The videos include interviews that share how this talented lady became interested in drawing, and the events in her youth that inspired her. She also talks about how she gets the ideas for the books she publishes now.

In addition to the interviews, there are more than a dozen videos where Brett shows how to draw various animals and objects, breaking down the process into small, easy-to-follow steps. She includes a dolphin, rhinoceros, creature of the deep, lion, baby polar bear, hedgehog, chick, African okapi, bunny, elephant, horse, and Siberian husky.  

This Web site is an excellent resource for students who want to do an in-depth study on a children’s author/illustrator. It could also serve as an inspiration for those who would someday like to publish their own work.
 
After watching the videos, students may want to create their own illustrated books for fun.

Identification of Creatively Gifted Students

 
Recently, I had a request from a teacher about how to identify creatively gifted students at her school. The Center for Creative Learning has in-depth information on this subject.
·         Assessing Creativity: A Guide for Educators. This 121 page PDF file was originally published by the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, at the University of Connecticut.
·         Database of more than 70 instruments used to assess creativity.
 
However, before considering the assessment of student creativity, one should ask a few basic questions.
1.      What is the purpose of the identification?
2.      If a child is identified, will that child be treated differently?
3.      What areas of creativity are you assessing (i.e., scientific, art, music, school project development, general problem solving, oration)?
4.      Is your assumption that children are born creative or that only certain young people have that potential?
 
When we talk about someone being generally gifted, it is best to state the area of high ability. The same is true for describing a person who is creatively gifted. We simply can’t expect any individual to be creative in everything. So, we must ask ourselves, what information do we expect to gain from these formal assessments?
 
As students advance in age and abilities, it is probably most accurate to have experts in specific fields determine creativity, as only they will have enough knowledge compare these students with the general population.
 
Pairing youngsters with others who are creative in similar ways is beneficial as these students will appreciate one another and feed off of one another’s ideas. (Aside: Remember that it is possible to be creative in ways that are not acceptable, in which case you wouldn’t want to pair kids.)
 
We should not forget that it is very beneficial for all young people to frequently be offered opportunities to be creative both at home and at school. Creativity is not a static attribute.
 
For more information on aspects of creativity, be sure and visit previous blogs.

Economics for Gifted Students

 
Resources for teaching economics to students is not something we hear a lot about, and yet knowledge in this area is something that is vital for one’s entire life. Strategies for teaching this are available for all ages. As a teacher, parent, or student, here are some you might want to investigate.
 
There’s an article in The Duke Gifted Letter that reviews two board games for parents who are interested in teaching their children the complexities of the stock market: Bull Market, by the Great Canadian Game Company Inc. for ages 8 to adult, and Stock Market Tycoon, by Vida Games LLC for ages 12 to adult.
 
There are also lots of links to Web sites for students of all ages at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page.
 
The National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) offers much information for teachers in grades K–12. There are both free materials and those that can be ordered from their catalog.
 
TheCollege Board offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics. These courses may or may not be available at your local high school, but you can find detailed information on each course on this site. Very bright, highly motivated students can also take AP classes online through institutions such as Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development.
 
The National Economics Challenge is a competition that takes place in 35 different states. There are two different divisions: one for high school students taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, honors, college level, or two-semester classes; the other for students enrolled in all other general or one-semester economics classes. There are monetary prizes for both students and teachers.
 
It is possible for a student to have dual enrollment in high school and college, remaining with his age peers at his home school while taking one or more classes at a local college. You can read about an unusual partnership that was created between an Illinois high school and university to provide duel enrollment courses in economics that actually took place on the high school campus. Through the school partnership, administrators and teachers recognized that the high school audiences present special challenges for methods used most frequently on the college campus. Through this partnership, economics courses were taught by a tenure-track university faculty member and limited to honors students. Details are provided about the modifications made, especially in regards to disciplinary actions, grading policies, and scheduling.

Speech and Debate for Gifted Students

 
The Chicago Tribune recently ran an article titled Can 100 Students Agree on Complex Foreign Policy? It's Debatable telling about a competition where more than 100 students in grades 5-8 from six schools debated the following topic: Should the federal government increase its public-health aid to sub-Saharan Africa? Every claim made by students had to be supported by a quotation from a public source, so the kids really had to do their homework before the competition.

We don’t hear a lot about speech and debate competitions for middle and high school students, but where they exist, they provide young people with real-world issues to research and open-ended questions to answer. Speech and debate can greatly improve critical thinking, communication skills, and self confidence in the public arena. 

There are several speech and/or debate organizations you might want to look at. Even if your school does not sponsor these opportunities, the Web sites have great resources that can be implemented in the classroom or in family discussions.

This is the nation's oldest and largest debate and speech honor society.
 
This organization currently works with 311 urban high schools and 51 urban middle schools in school systems with approximately 87% people of color and 78% low-income student populations. Urban Debate Leagues have proven to increase literacy scores by 25%, to improve grade-point averages by 8 to 10%, to achieve high school graduation rates of nearly 100%, and to produce college matriculation rates of 71–91%.
 
IDEA develops, organizes and promotes debate and debate-related activities in communities throughout the world.

Overprotection of Gifted Students

 
 
The primary role and responsibility of parents is to protect their children from physical, social, and emotional harm, but author Debra Troxclair believes that parents of gifted children tend to have a propensity for overprotection.
 
Gifted children often
·         are very sensitive to the expectations of others, causing them to feel different.
·         have a strong sense of idealism and justice.
·         have high expectations of themselves and others, sometimes causing frustration.
·         possess strong emotional depth and intensity.
·         are sensitive to inconsistency between ideals and behaviors.
 
Since it can be very difficult for parents to watch their children struggle with these traits, the adults may automatically and unconsciously step in to make their kids feel better. This may be the exact opposite of what is needed.
 
There are two types of overprotective parents:
·         indulgent—characterized by guilty, anxious parental attachment
·         controlling—characterized by high supervision, discouraging independent behavior
 
One thing that can be especially detrimental to a child is overhearing parents point out errors made by teachers, principals, and school districts. Hearing these comments can cause the young person to become confused about the natural balance of roles, giving the child too much power.
 
When coming to a child’s aid, parents need to consider if they are really meeting the needs of their youngster or if they’re really trying to satisfy their own fears.

Thoughts on Individualized Learning for the Gifted or Nongifted

 
Individualized learning can help a person of any age move through a subject at his or her own pace. Neither kids nor parents need to wait for their schools to figure out how to arrange for individualized learning. There are other choices, including private lessons, technology (much of it costing no more than an Internet connection), and mentors.
 
I am personally rediscovering how individualized learning works. For quite a few years I’ve been thinking about becoming proficient in several languages and also studying piano. A couple of months ago I took the plunge.
 
For a foreign language, I decided to start with French. The last time I studied a language was in college. Technology has totally changed the way I can now learn. Rather than spend a lot of money on a class that has a set time schedule and curriculum, I’ve subscribed to a couple of French podcasts over iTunes (free). The podcasts include pdf files on vocabulary and grammar, which I download and print out to accompany the audio podcasts. That way, I can both see and hear the language. I’ve also signed up for an online class at LiveMocha. I learned about this Web site from an article in The New York Times, titled Learning from a Native Speaker, without Leaving Home. I can progress through the LiveMocha course at my own pace with both visuals and audio. I also have the opportunity to communicate with real native speakers by writing, talking together, and even using a Webcam. Once I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the language, I will join a group in my community that gets together with the sole purpose of speaking the language.
 
The second thing I’m doing is studying piano. (I had taken lessons as a child, under duress, and had never done very well.) I knew that I needed formal, private instruction for this. I interviewed four different piano teachers. Each had a very different style. I am very pleased with the person I chose. He is explaining techniques to me that no one had ever explained before. My teacher does not write lesson plans before working with me; instead, he listens to what I have practiced and watches the way I am using my hands, and then teaches me according to my performance on lesson day. While there is a general plan for the areas we will cover, the real value is in discovering where I am with my studies at a particular time and figuring out what needs to be taught. I can’t think of a better way to learn.
 
Before starting on either of these learning pursuits, I made a commitment to myself to work hard and enjoy each. The coupling of motivation, plus the individualized learning seems to be the perfect match. When hearing my enthusiasm for French and piano, some of my friends have used the words “obsessive” or “highly focused.” Sometimes, in gifted education, we more kindly say a person has a real passion.
 
We hear so much about the benefits of individualized instruction, but it isn’t easy to accomplish in a school setting. At least for some subjects, individualized instruction is the best way to learn. Remember that there are options outside the school setting to learn at one’s own pace.

Can Critical Thinking Really Be Taught?

 

The Washington Post published an interesting article this week on teaching critical thinking skills. The term seems to mean different things to different people. It might mean

  • reading deeper into what is written.
  • understanding why historical events happened, rather than simply memorizing facts.
  • using analysis, synthesis, application, and reflection.
  • discerning judgment.
All kinds of organizations are devoted to studying critical thinking.
 

According to the educational nonprofit group Foundation for Critical Thinking, a practiced critical thinker will

  • raise vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely.
  • gather and assess relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret effectively.
  • reach well-reasoned conclusions and solutions and test them against relevant criteria and standards.
  • think open-mindedly within alternative systems of thought.
  • communicate effectively with others to solve complex problems.
A controversy seems to be whether critical thinking can be taught without content knowledge, and whether the skills can be transferred from one situation to another.
 
As Daniel T. Willingham, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, says, “To understand the structure and the nature of poetry, you need to read a lot of poems. It’s the same thing with mathematics and science.”
 
Teachers and parents need to make certain that students know the difference between memorizing material and understanding it, that they are open to different ways of thinking, and that they learn as much as they can about as much as they can.
 
“The easiest way to encourage critical thinking is to force [students] to question everything,” said Michael Tabachnick, professor of physics at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, PA, who teaches a course in it.
 
“Question me, question their parents, their pastor, everything,” he said. “It doesn't mean you can’t believe, but you must question. Is it true? Is it opinion? Is it justified by fact? . . . Students eventually learn to analyze. Some will do it better than others, but you can always get them to at least question.”

The Gifted Introvert

In society today there is a great emphasis on being social and having lots of friends, but some people savor being alone and are most productive in this state.

There are many ways to consider learning styles and personality types. One way is to classify a person as either an extrovert or an introvert. The extrovert's main interests are with the outer world of people and things, while the introvert is more involved with the inner world of concepts and ideas. Well developed introverts can deal competently with the world around them when necessary, but they do their best work inside their heads, in reflection.
 
According to The Gifted Introvert, extroverts outnumber introverts 3 to 1.
 
Many teachers (and parents) are extroverts. It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert. Therefore, an adult may see the introverted student as someone with a problem, not as simply someone with a different personality type. This may lead to attempts to get the young person to be “friendlier,” to work in large groups, to talk more often and more spontaneously, and to be more outgoing and interactive.
 
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert. It does not need to be cured. It simply needs to be understood and accepted. Of course adults need to be able to tell when the introversion (or extraversion) is dysfunctional, but normally introverted students don't need to be changed to match other students.
 
Introversion: The Often Forgotten Factor Impacting the Gifted lists some of the characteristics of introverts.
  • Are territorial—desire private space and time
  • Are happy to be alone—they can be lonely in a crowd
  • Become drained around large groups of people; dislike attending parties
  • Need time alone to recharge
  • Prefer to work on own rather than do group work
  • Act cautiously in meeting people
  • Are reserved, quiet and deliberate
  • Do not enjoy being the center of attention
  • Do not share private thoughts with just anyone
  • Form a few deep attachments
  • Think carefully before speaking (practice in their heads before they speak)
  • See reflection as very important
  • Concentrate well and deeply
  • Become absorbed in thoughts and ideas
  • Limit their interests but explore deeply
  • Communicate best one-on-one
  • Get agitated and irritated without enough time alone or undisturbed
  • Select activities carefully and thoughtfully
So, don’t try to change kids who are introverts. Don’t think there is something wrong with them.

There are many advantages to being an introvert. Introverts

  • don’t always need to have people around.
  • are quite happy to entertain themselves or to learn on their own.
  • are potentially more productive, because they can get right to the task at hand rather than being distracted by others.

Black History Month Resources for Gifted Kids

 
February is Black History Month and there are rich resources available to learn about important African Americans and their contributions to history. With a click of the computer mouse, teachers and students can access audio interviews, music, video, photographs, text, and Internet links from reputable sources. You can read biographies, listen to live performances of spirituals, hear great speeches and discussions about cultural influences, learn about important movements, and view study guides.
 
Here are just a few of the resources available.
If you are an iTunes user, go to iTunes U and see the free downloads on Black History Month that are available for your computer or MP3 player.

Enhancing Creativity through Elaboration

There are several different elements of creativity. I have talked about a couple of those elements in past blogs. Using Fluency to Stimulate Creativity and Creative Flexibility: Bending Gifted Minds offer important explanations and suggested activities.

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.

Prufrock Acquires a Line of Books Formerly Published by Zephyr Press

Thursday, January 24, 2008 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, News From Prufrock Press

I am thrilled to announce that Prufrock Press has acquired a group of selected titles formerly published by Zephyr Press. Some of these books are fairly recent releases and some are classics. I always felt that Zephyr had some wonderful titles, and I wanted to bring a select group of them over to Prufrock. I felt that they would be great additions to our growing line of products supporting gifted and advanced learners. I had been working for almost a year to get these titles, and I'm proud to announce that the agreement is complete and the books are in our warehouse!

You can see the entire line of products in a special area of our online catalog devoted to the titles formerly published by Zephyr Press.

However, let me take a bit of time to tell you about some of these exciting books.

Strategies for Great Teaching: Maximize Learning MomentsStrategies for Great Teaching

This is a fun book filled with quick and creative teachings ideas that help students make connections with the content you are teaching. For example, this book offers lessons in which students

  • play the part of television reporters, interviewing other students about content they have learned;
  • create visually complex pictures and graphs to represent information or concepts;
  • use mathematical symbols to capture their understanding of relationship and events inherent in the content; and
  • play a classroom version of the old television game show, "The $10,000 Pyramid," to identify patterns and seek meaning.

I like the practical, teacher-friendly way the authors share their strategies. They provide lots of examples to illustrate the teaching ideas they share.

 

A Kid's Guide to Creating Web PagesA Kid's Guide to Creating Web Pages

I love this book. Written for kids who want to create their own Web pages, the language and instructions are easy to follow and straightforward. The book leads readers step-by-step through the basics of building a Web page. This is an exciting book for any kid who wants to move beyond the basics of "canned" Web 2.0 Internet tools. The emphasis for this book in on fun and creativity.

Also, the lead author of this book is a teenager! Literally written by a kid for kids, this book is a great guide for young Web designers.

 

Brain Food: 100+ Games That Make Kids ThinkBrain Food: 100+ Games that Make Kids Think

All about fun ways to get kids to stretch their brains in creative and complex ways, this book contains more than 100 mental exercises guaranteed to make kids think. The book includes

  • word games,
  • math games,
  • logic games,
  • memory games, and
  • much more!

I like the fact that this book has a bit of an international flavor. It is filled with fun games from around the world that challenge and stimulate young minds. From the Japanese strategy game Hasami Shogi, the traditional African game Wari, to the deductive game Witch Hunt, to the word challenge Wordbuilder, this book is packed with mind stretching tools that encourage complex thinking skills.

 

Learning vs. Testing: Strategies That Bridge the GapLearning vs Testing

Okay, I'm not a fan of the cover, but what is inside this book makes it a real winner. As teachers and parents, we all know bright kids who just don't perform well on tests. There seems to be a disconnect between the child's learning and their ability to perform well on typical school assessments. Yet, for better or worse, these assessments are a part of their educational experience.

In this book, the author offers practical strategies to help students learn how to learn and process information in ways that more closely match how they are being tested. Intended for teachers and parents wanting to help raise student grades and test scores in reading, spelling, math, and vocabulary, the strategies provided are designed to bridge the gap between how students learn and how they are tested.

 

More Exciting Books ...

That is just four of the twelve books we acquired. For the sake of brevity, I'll save my discussion of the other titles for a future blog post. However, I will tell you that these additional titles include some spectacular books for social studies teachers, math teachers, and teachers interested in employing problem-based units in their classroom.

Stay Tuned to hear more about these new titles!

Financial Aid for Top Universities

 
In the not so distant past, spots in elite schools in the United States were reserved only for the wealthy. Even today, many very capable students and parents of capable students feel that any college education, let alone at one of the nation’s top schools, is out of reach. Some students with great potential see no point in working hard in school because they feel they will have no opportunity to go on to a higher education, believing it simply can’t happen financially. 
 
We need to let these students know that it is possible for them to get the best education at the best schools. They need a reason to work hard and explore options for learning. That may include going beyond the traditional school system. (See the many posts at this blog for possibilities beyond a traditional education.)
 
There actually seems to be a competition now among some of the elite schools of higher learning to recruit students from low and middle class homes. At some of these schools, if the family earns less than $60,000/year, the students pay no tuition.
 
Some of the schools that are making it possible for more students of lower incomes to attend include Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. My guess is that more will follow.

This is all part of a growing national movement to combat the rapidly rising cost of higher education and to ensure that elite universities don't shut out all but the wealthiest students. Tuition at many private colleges and universities has risen so much in recent decades that even families earning close to $200,000 a year may struggle to afford it.

Under the plan announced by Drew Faust, president of Harvard, families earning more than $60,000 will be expected to pay a small percentage of their annual income for tuition and room and board, rising to 10% for those earning between $120,000 and $180,000 a year. All families that qualify for financial aid will receive that aid in grants, rather than being required to take out loans.

So let’s get the word out and give capable students an incentive to set high academic goals.

Creative and Critical Thinking for Gifted Students through FPSPI

Teaching critical and creative thinking is vital to the future of our youth. The Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI) is a program that really hones in on this subject.

We all have problems we’d like to solve. Some people aren’t very good at math. Some people have nosy neighbors. Some people go to bed hungry at night. No matter how small or how big the problems are, we’d like to solve them. It’s hard to solve a problem, though, unless we understand the problem very well. Who is involved in the problem? What is the problem? When and where does the problem occur? Why does the problem happen? How does it occur? The first step in successful problem solving is defining and describing the problem.

This is just one type of thinking fostered by FPSPI. The program (for students in grades 4–12) stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and encourages young people to develop visions for the future through both individual and team activities. It nurtures global awareness not only through choice of topics, but by knowing that the same problems are being studied by over 250,000 students annually, including those from Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.
 
Curricular and co-curricular competitive activities, as well as non-competitive activities are offered.
 
Through FPSPI, students learn to
  • formulate and attack complex, ambiguous problems
  • analyze and better understand material
  • improve in oral and written communication
  • work together in a team.
You can get an idea of the scope of current and future topics by reading their descriptions at the program’s Web site.
 
2007-2008 Topics
Body Enhancement
Simulations Technology
Neurotechnology
Debt in Developing Countries
Child Labor
 
2008-2009 Topics
Olympic Games
Cyber Conflict
Space Junk
Counterfeit Economy
Pandemic
 
Even if your student never participates in the formal program, the organization’s website contains good instructional materials for creative and critical thinking. Materials include both written offerings available for purchase and also links to other Web sites.

Trends in Gifted Education

 
The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Convention was held in November. Each year, I like to read through the entire catalog of presentations so that I can form general impressions about categories that were considered important.
 
Disclaimer: I do not have access to information about presentation proposals that were submitted nor do I have information about how the presentations were chosen. I do not look at this information to make judgments; only to observe trends.
 
Like everything else in society, certain topics wax and wane. Someone else may interpret this very differently than I do. But, for the record, this is what I see.
 
Some of the topics that were considered top priorities in the past 10-30 years that I see no longer getting the same attention include
  • Underachievement
  • Multiple Intelligences
  • Pullout/enrichment
  • Advocacy
  • GT resource teachers
  • Affective issues
  • Identification
  • Learning Styles
  • Differentiation
  • Theory of giftedness
Topic trends that I do see increasing are
  • The integration of technology into the curriculum rather than treatment as a separate subject
  • Interest of programs on an international level (in fact, at the NAGC convention this year, a strand was added titled “International”)
  • Special schools and programs
  • Less talk about specifically meeting the needs of the gifted and more emphasis on the need for an increase in general academic rigor, including the need to let students advance at a faster speed
I would love to hear the ideas of others on these trends. You can always leave a comment at this blog entry or email me if you would prefer that others do not see your comments.

Science OCW Geared to AP Courses and Beyond

Lately, we seem to be on a roll with more and more tools becoming available for advanced science students. (Click on the Science category in the column on the left of this Web page to see recent entries.) And now, yet another resource is available.

More and more very reputable universities are making available free video and audio clips, animations, lecture notes, and assignments online. Now MIT has taken that concept one step further and created Highlights for High Schools. This new site takes the information that MIT had already made available through what’s known as OpenCourseWare and has created a site that categorizes that information to match the Advanced Placement (AP) physics, biology, and calculus curricula.
 
The site also has just plain interesting, free courses appropriate for gifted high school students, including a class that teaches how to design sets for theater and one on designing toys (both under the heading of Knowledge in Action: Build Stuff).
 
There are also high school courses created by MIT students such as Guitar Building; a course exploring Gödel, Escher, and Bach; and Combinatorics, a fascinating branch of mathematics that applies to problems ranging from card games to quantum physics to the Internet.
 
You can also subscribe to an online newsletter that will keep you up-to-date on new courses and other information.
 
An estimated 10,000 U.S. high school teachers and 5,000 U.S. high school students already visit MIT OpenCourseWare each month, and MIT expects Highlights for High School to make MIT’s course materials even more useful to these audiences.

Acceleration of Gifted Students

Acceleration—moving students ahead at a faster pace than normal—is probably the most effective way of accommodating the abilities of highly able students. While we often think of acceleration in terms of grade skipping, that is only one of many ways to advance a student.

If you are interested in more information on acceleration, or support materials for your advocacy in this area, you will want to view the information posted at the Web site for the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (IRPA) at the Belin-Blank Center. The comprehensive site is divided into the following sections:
 
Questions and answers about acceleration—There are general Q&As as well as specific Q&As for parents, teachers, and administrators.
 
Research—Currently, there is a substantial annotated bibliography posted on acceleration.
 
Stories of acceleration—Numerous stories of students are listed. There is also a place to submit your own personal stories of acceleration.
 
Information about staff members at the center
 
Resources—Listed with Internet links are information on various centers and organizations across the country that support acceleration; early entrance programs; distance learning; policies and practices; and the Iowa Acceleration Scale, which is designed to help decision makers determine if grade acceleration is appropriate for a particular child.
 
Information on grants—Grants are available for new research on acceleration and also to assist in the dissemination of existing research.
 
Slide presentation—Available for download, this presentation can be used when giving talks on acceleration.

Just What Are the Capabilities of Gifted High School Science Students?

 
The Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology, one of the nation's most prestigious student science contests, gives young people the opportunity to demonstrate and be rewarded for their intense research. Awards were announced Dec. 3, and girls walked away with top honors in both individual and team categories.
 
Sixteen-year-old Isha Jain, a senior at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $100,000 scholarship for her studies of bone growth in zebra fish. The tail fins of the zebra fish grow in spurts, similar to the way child’s bones do.
 
Janelle Schlossberger and Amanda Marinoff, both 17-year-old seniors at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, New York, will split a $100,000 scholarship for creating a molecule that helps block the reproduction of drug-resistant tuberculosis bacteria.
 
Alicia Darnell, a 17-year-old senior at Pelham Memorial High School in Pelham, New York, won a $50,000, second place for research that identified genetic defects that could play a role in the development of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
 
This year, 48% of the contestants and 11 of the 20 finalists were female. It was the first year that girls outnumbered boys in the final round.
 
Eighty percent of the competitors were from public high schools. One team of finalists consisted of home-schooled girls.
 
The interest in science for many of the competitors began at home and they began working with mentors at early ages. Three-quarters of the finalists have a parent who is a scientist. Many of the schools whose students were represented have close ties to nearby universities or research labs. As James Whaley, Siemens Foundation President notes, “There are very few [high] schools that have the resources or labs to support this high level of research.”
 
For more information, see the following:
 
 
 
A podcast that can be downloaded to your computer from the Scientific American. In this podcast, winner Isha Himani Jain and team titlist Janelle Schlossberger each discuss their projects. Joseph Taylor, lead judge and winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, talks about the competition and also his life and work.

Science Video Sharing for Gifted Students

 

There are more and more groups of professionals who are committed to making information freely available to the public through the Internet. Many universities and scientists are willing to share their lectures and expertise. Instructional videos are available for students of all ages—elementary through graduate school.

SciVee is operated in partnership with the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). It has a relatively new Web site that contains some material for elementary students and larger quantities of material for older students through scientists. Young people who are interested in careers in science will be fascinated by the various topics being studied. Just seeing what is going on at different universities may help students focus on their future objectives.
 
Examples of videos available at the site include Where Does Water Go When It Rains? Dissections, and Freezing by Boiling. There is also much information on highly sophisticated topics that will be appealing for highly able high school students.
 
Bio-Alive Life Science is another open access Web site. Available here are university lectures and videos on the human skeletal system, tissue engineering, and aging genes to name just a few.
 
Some scientists have been amazed at the number of people who are watching university lectures on the Internet now. Viewers come from a wide age range: Some are elementary school children, many are high school students, and others are adults who want to know more about science for a myriad of reasons.
 
Remember that these new uses of technology are still in their infancy; they are certainly on the verge of exploding, changing the way we learn.

Gifted Students Publishing Historical Academic Papers

When I took my first serious history course in college, the president of the university (a history buff himself) spoke to our class and encouraged us to submit our papers to various journals for publication. Being rather inexperienced, it had never occurred to me to submit anything I had ever written to anyone for publication. In my mind, I was "just" a student and couldn't imagine anyone being interested in what I wrote. 

Now it is possible not only for serious college students to publish their work, but for serious high school history students to publish the papers that they have researched. The Concord Review gives young people this opportunity. The Review is the only quarterly journal in the world to publish the academic expository research papers of secondary history students. Papers may be on any historical topic, ancient or modern, foreign or domestic, and may be submitted in two categories: short (1,500-2,500 words) and long (4,000-6,000 words).
 
Many of these young authors have sent reprints of their papers along with their college application materials. Their research has helped them to gain admission to some of the nation’s (and world’s) best universities.
 
High school teachers also use The Concord Review in their classes to provide examples of good historical writing. What a wonderful opportunity for students to see the work of age peers who have taken their work seriously.
 
Included on The Concord Review Web site are more than 60 sample essays for both students and teachers to view so they can get an idea of the quality of work accepted.
 
At this site, you also will find information about The National Writing Board, an independent assessment service for the academic writing of high school students of history. Each submission is assessed by two readers who know nothing about the author. These readers spend more than 3 hours on each paper. Three-page evaluations, with scores and comments, are then sent, at the request of the authors, to Deans of Admissions at the colleges to which they apply.

Video Competitions for Gifted Students

As technology continues to evolve, it becomes more and more of an embedded educational tool rather than a stand alone entity. Web sites like YouTube are very popular with young people. Why not combine student interest in video as a creative device with academics? The ultimate product gives students a chance to share their research and creativity with a real-world audience. In addition, there can be the motivation of possible prizes. Entering video competitions is one way to accomplish this. If the following don’t meet your needs, continue to do online searches for video competitions or contests, as I expect there will be more and more available in the future.

Middle School Students (grades 6-8)
High School Students (grades 9-12)
This is an annual documentary competition that encourages students to think seriously about issues that affect our communities and our nation. It invites students to identify a current political topic of interest and produce a short (up to 10 minute) video documentary that creatively explores an issue.
 
Elementary School Students (grades 1-6)
Junior School Students (grades 7-9)
Senior School Students (grades 10-12)
Contest is open to students in the U.S. and Canada
Develop and execute an environmental, human rights, or social justice project and submit two videos about the project.

 

Middle School
High School
Prepare a video on positive aspects of various forms of energy, including nuclear energy.
 
Grades 6-12
This competition encourages students to create short, research-based videos about a global topic based on an overarching theme, which for this year is Global Health.
Students work in teams to research Global Health issues, and then create their presentations.

Creative Flexibility: Bending Gifted Minds

 
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about using fluency to stimulate creativity. Flexibility is yet another element to be considered when encouraging creative thought and actions. While fluent thinkers try to come up with many ideas, flexible thinkers look for great variety.
 
Flexible thinkers go beyond the bounds of orthodox thinking and look for alternatives others fail to see. While rules are used as guidelines, they are not used as straightjackets that curb thinking. Flexible thinkers are those who are creative problem solvers.
 
Flexibility requires that people escape from ruts and try new things. These thinkers are able to shift gears easily. They look for new ideas everywhere. They are not afraid of change.
 
Flexible thinking also can help a person move through difficult situations more easily. Imagine a violent wind. Some of the older trees are large and rigid and are able to withstand the gale-force winds, but sometimes that same rigidity causes them to snap and break. The younger, smaller trees are very flexible. Their coping mechanism for survival is to bend with the wind. This bending gives them resilience, and they are able to withstand great adversity. People are much like the trees. At some time during one’s lifespan, everyone has to endure difficult times. Sometimes it is helpful to be strong and rigid, but other times it is flexibility that allows one to be resilient—to bounce back more quickly—to see that there are choices and that there are different ways to look at problems and solutions—to be creative.
 

Student activities for practicing flexibility

  • Take a concrete object, such as a table, and have students imagine what it would look like from the point of view of an insect, a baby, an adult, and an elephant.
  •  List as many unusual family vacations as possible. The wilder and wackier the better (i.e., trip to the moon, vacation in a cave or underwater sea area, visit different amusement parks and ride all the roller coasters).
  • Share fairy tales that have been written from different points of view.
  • Read books such as history, biographies, or political accounts that are written from different points of view and discuss.
  • What are all the ways you could make it fun to clean your room or do other chores? (i.e., have a race with a timer, give yourself a small reward every half hour, pretend you are preparing for the visit of a queen)
  • When trying to resolve a conflict between students, have each young person analyze the disagreement from the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Give students a list of 50 inventors (or any other groups of people, animals, objects, etc.). How many ways can they categorize this group? (Examples for inventors: male/female, century in which the inventor lived, types of inventions, native countries, last names that begin with the same letter)
  • Discuss the way one family member’s actions might be interpreted by other members of the household. (Kids being noisy at bedtime might be seen as fun for the children but disturbing for the parents. Mom or dad telling kids to go out and play might feel like a healthy suggestion for the parents but rejection for the youngsters. Kids not wanting to eat certain foods may feel like an exertion of choice for the children but rudeness to the cook.) Try to explore these options in a nonjudgmental manner. You may find the different interpretations interesting.
  • Practice switching activities quickly and efficiently (i.e., school, to home, to piano lessons, to soccer practice, to dinner, to homework, to bedtime).

Your Gifted Students Could Be Featured in a New Book

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children

Two of my most respected authors are hard at work on the revision of their best-selling book, The Ultimate Guide for Student Product Development & Evaluation, and they are requesting your students' participation.

This book, released more than 7 years ago, offers a step-by-step introduction to confidently using creative projects in your classroom. The authors give ideas for integrating projects into your existing curriculum, ways to help students plan and create their projects, and easy, effective evaluation strategies. The book also provides strategies for making sure that your students' hard work is noticed by other students, parents, and community members. As an additional part of this book, the authors feature several students and the exciting products they've created.

Now, it's time to revise this best-selling book with new products and expanded evaluation rubrics. The new edition will also feature several new students and the creative projects they have completed.

Seeking Students With Creative Classroom Projects and Products

If you know a student who would like to be featured in this book, please click the link below to download a PDF of the authors' invitation for inclusion in the book.

Click here to download a PDF of the authors' invitation for students to submit a summary of their project.

The submission deadline for this project is February 1, 2008.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the authors: Frances Karnes, Ph.D., or Kristen Stephens, Ph.D.

Language Arts Curricula for Gifted Students

 

I am a great fan of the various language arts curricula that has come out of the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. It is truly geared towards the gifted learner, employing high level thinking skills and a strong writing component. Two relatively new types of units are Navigators and Jacobs Ladder.

Navigators are collections of questions and activities for group or independent study that use selected novels or picture books. Navigators are designed for grades 1-12. These novel studies encourage advanced readers to develop their skills for analyzing and interpreting literature through structured questions and activities that highlight themes and concepts, literary elements, and real world connections. They also help students to develop vocabulary and writing skills by exploring and emulating the language and style used by authors.

Several Navigators for grades 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, 3-5, 3-6, and 4-6 are available online, for free, so you can get a taste of the structure and questioning techniques used.

Jacobs Ladder targets reading comprehension skills in highly able learners in grades 3-5. The three skill ladders use individual readings in poetry, myths/fables, and nonfiction. Students move through an inquiry process from basic understanding to critical analyses. Ladder rungs are organized to increase complexity in intellectual demand. They are all based on Paul’s (1992) Elements of Reasoning Model.

Here is an order form for materials.

Concomitant Characteristics of the Gifted

Patrick was consistently the first to raise his hand in class and he always had the correct answer. The problem was, he never gave anyone else a chance to contribute. Can we show Patrick other ways to demonstrate his knowledge? Should he be moved to a class that is more challenging?

Both at home and at school, Joslin had a terrible time moving from one activity to another. She would get so “into” whatever she was doing that she hated it when her parents or teacher would ask her to switch to something else. Would it help to give her advanced notice of when to expect a change, with several reminders?

Seneca was curious about everything, so he had lots of questions. The problem was that he had so many questions that it was annoying and often intimidating to others. Can we give Seneca projects that require a lot of idea generation? Should he be taught skills for finding his own answers rather than asking everyone else?

Every behavioral characteristic has its positive and negative side. This includes characteristics that gifted children tend to have. These two-sided attributes are known as concomitant characteristics.

While we should not excuse bad behavior, we can help direct kids to positive outcomes. We also can learn to be more tolerant ourselves by understanding that someone else’s seemingly irritating behavior also may have a very positive side.

Some examples are:
 
Characteristic
Positive Aspect
Negative Aspect

Verbal proficiency

Good at articulating

Dominates the conversation

Accelerated pace of learning

Can move through material quickly

Gets frustrated with the pace of learning

Ability to concentrate and persist

Is able to focus on a task and learn in depth

Resists interruption

Seeks order

Likes to plan ahead and keep everything neat

Difficulty with spontaneity

Sense of humor

Entertaining and resilient

Uses humor in inappropriate ways that distract or offend

Heightened self-awareness; feels different

Realizes the potential of being unique

Feels isolated and self-consciousness

High expectations

Sets high standards

Critical of self and/or others when high expectations are not met

Self-confident, leader

Able to influence others

Perceived as bossy

Huge store of facts and long memory

Learns quickly

Becomes bored and impatient with others

Creative

Innovative thinker

Disruptive

Many interests

Has many possibilities in life

Has difficulty choosing between interests

Goal oriented

Gets tasks done

Viewed as stubborn and inflexible 

Deep thinker

Conceptualizes on a greater level

Hates deadlines

Perfectionist

Does everything well

Avoids tasks for fear of not doing them perfectly

 

Using Fluency to Stimulate Creativity

There are a number of elements of creativity that teachers and parents can use to stimulate their students (and themselves). Fluency—the ability to come up with many ideas—is one of those elements. It is difficult to find innovative ideas if one can’t generate many from which to choose. You can have a lot of fun with these activities. The exercises fill odd moments (waiting in line, driving in the car) with stimulation and can also help generate ideas for projects.

Brainstorming 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?
For some great ideas for “take offs” on basic brainstorming, see Tools for Creating Ideas.

Social Studies for Gifted Students

 
Teaching advanced levels of social studies often is sorely neglected until more complex classes are offered in high school. However, teachers should be aware that there are excellent, research-based curricula available developed by the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary  and made available by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. Every teacher I know who has used any of the units has raved about them. They are not only written at a much higher level than regular curriculum, but they really get kids excited about learning.
 

The units:

  • are interdisciplinary;
  • use abstract concepts such as systems, cause and effect, and how things change over time;
  • place heavy emphasis on higher order reasoning;
  • provide historical analysis using primary sources;
  • include in-depth study of content; and
  • employ the skills of discussion, writing, and research.
There are a couple of cautions. When a grade level is given for a unit, teachers need to understand that it is truly for gifted students at that level. Don’t be fooled into thinking you should get a unit that is at a higher grade level. Also, the units typically provide a list of resources that you will need to purchase elsewhere, so don’t assume that the expense of the curriculum is the entire cost of teaching the unit.
 
It would be well worth your time to visit the Kendall/Hunt Web site and investigate the units that would be appropriate for your grade level.
 
Units include
 
Grades 2-3:     

Gift of the Nile

 

Ancient China: The Middle Kingdom

Grades 4-5:     

Building a New System: Colonial America 1607-1763

 

The World Turned Upside Down: The American Revolution

Grades 5-6:     

A House Divided? The Civil War: Its Causes and Effects

Grades 6-7:     

The 1920s in America: A Decade of Tensions

 

The 1930s in America: Facing Depression

Grades 6-8:     

The Road to the White House: Electing the American President

Grades 10-12

Defining Nations: Cultural Identity and Political Tensions

 

Post-Colonialism in the 20th Century

 

Primary Sources and Historical Analysis

 

The Renaissance and Reformation in Europe

 

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.
 
Pat Limbach, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Cincinnati, has also written an interesting article about mentoring titled Mentoring Minority Science Students: Can a White Male Really Be an Effective Mentor? Limbach has successfully mentored many minority students. In his article he describes the importance of understanding cultural differences, including family and personal expectations.
 
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

Ning 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;
  • creativity;
  • preschoolers;
  • parenting;
  • elementary education;
  • middle school education; and
  • high school education.
Remember. This technology is in its infancy. Add your own discussion groups or reply to existing postings and watch it grow.

Should Gifted Students Learn an Instrument?

When I was a young child I was forced into piano lessons. Each time I protested, my mother said, “You will thank us when you get older.” The funny thing is that I do now thank my parents, but it took me many years to get to that stage.
 
With my own children, I took a different approach. I told each of them that they would only be allowed to take piano as long as they practiced. One of them took me up on it and one did not.
 
If you do an Internet search on “children music lessons benefits” you will find a plethora of reasons why young people should pursue an instrument. At the very least, learning an instrument helps round out a young person’s general experiences, helps him to better understand the music that is heard every day, promotes discipline and persistence, and helps with motor skills. Gifted children have the potential to gain a lot from music lessons.
 
In Lessons for Life, Matthew Erikson, a Star-Telegram staff writer, discusses the value of having a child learn an instrument. He also acknowledges the difficulty parents have working their way through the maze of choices. Some of the points he covers are:
 
When do you know if your child is ready for music lessons?

First, your young person should be able to:

  • follow instructions,
  • count,
  • recite the alphabet, and
  • concentrate for 30 minutes.

Parents need to be:

  • ready for a long-term commitment, including weekly trips to the teacher’s studio and supervising at-home practice; and
  • willing to stick with lessons for 6-12 months to evaluate the child’s progress.

How do you choose the right instrument for your child?

  • Parents should expose young children to a wide variety of sounds. Kids often gravitate toward musical instruments they’ve been around. Family concerts performed by orchestras are good venues for exposure.
  • Wind and brass instruments can be a poor match for a young child’s small lips.
  • Some people believe that the piano offers a good foundation.
  • Don’t get caught up in stereotypes of boys playing big, noisy instruments and girls playing softer, more delicate instruments.
  • Respect your child’s choice.
  • Be practical. What kind of instruction is available in your area and how far are you willing to drive?
How much will it cost?

Costs of instruments can vary widely.

  • Decent upright piano--$1,000
  • Violin--$300
  • Flute--$1,000
Many band instruments can be rented from music stores for $20-30/month, with the option to buy.
 
A very cheap instrument can actually be harder to play.
 
Lessons will probably run $30-60/hour, but may be a lot more in some areas of the country. A good teacher will be much more skilled at instructing your child.
 
How do you find the right teacher?
The first teacher your child has is essential in setting the right tone and establishing good playing habits, so research this well.
 
You and your youngster may want to first observe a lesson to make certain you are comfortable with the way the teacher interacts with students.
 
To find a teacher, check out the Web site for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) for a list of questions to ask. On the same Web page, you will find a box to fill out to find a certified music teacher in your area.

Quality Summer Opportunities for Gifted Students

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children

Prufrock press catalog provides exciting materials for teaching advanced learners, gifted children, and gifted studentsI'm so excited to tell you about Prufrock's newest release, The Ultimate Guide to Summer Opportunities for Teens: 200 Programs That Prepare You for College Success. I think this book is a fantastic addition to our line because it focuses on quality summer learning experiences.

Record numbers of teens are applying to selective universities and the competition to gain entrance into college is tougher than ever before. With today's teens becoming increasingly more involved in college preparation, their summers are no longer filled with days by the pool or hours of TV and video games. The Ultimate Guide to Summer Opportunities for Teens: 200 Programs That Prepare You for College Success helps teenagers find the coolest, most exciting, and most fulfilling summer programs across the United States.

The author, college-planning expert Sandra L. Berger, provides students and parents with advice on using summer opportunities to help gain entrance into selective universities, and guidance on researching, choosing, applying for, and making the most out of summer programs.

In this directory, students will be able to explore more than 200 of the best summer opportunities in the areas of

  • academic enrichment;
  • fine arts;
  • internships and paid positions;
  • leadership and service;
  • math, science, computer science, and technology; and
  • study abroad or international travel.

In preparing this book, my staff helped the author build a database of more than 1,000 great programs for kids. Then, through careful evaluation by the author, that list was culled down to a little more than 200 exemplary programs for teens.

I'm proud to announce this fine new resource for parents, teachers, counselors, and students that features the very best programs designed for college-bound teens.

The Label of Gifted Education

 
About 2 ½ years ago, one of my blog entries was titled The Label of Gifted: Is There a Better Way?  You might want to revisit it and also look at the reader comments that follow the article. Today I am no closer to an answer to the question about the label of “gifted.”
 
In a recent Washington Post article, Labels Aren’t What Kids Need, high school English teacher Patrick Welsh brought up a number of issues about identification and programming for gifted education that are worth considering.
 
One of the problems with the term is that educators and parents often look at kids as gifted or not gifted, rather than looking at abilities on a continuum. Can a gifted program meet the needs of all able children? Can the needs of a highly gifted child be met in a regular gifted program? What happens to the child who is very capable in math but not in language arts? What happens to the youngster who is intensely interested in geography, but the gifted program is designed for more mainstream subjects?
 
Kids who are selected for a particular program often are given enrichment activities, from which all students would probably benefit. While the students in the gifted program may be capable of moving more quickly or studying a topic more in depth, can you understand why the parent of a “regular student” may want his less capable child to also be exposed to this enrichment?
 
How does a school handle the problem of some parents regarding the label of gifted as a status symbol? (Note: I am not saying that the kids are not very capable, but I am saying that SOME parents regard the label as a status symbol without truly understanding the real needs of a small percentage of students.)
 
How do we handle the affective consequences of labeling, both for students who are identified and students who are not? As Welsh states in his article, “When we apply this tag to a tiny group of children . . . we are in effect saying that the rest are ungifted and untalented. We’re denigrating hard work and perseverance, telling children that no matter how much effort they put forth, they just can’t measure up to their special peers.”
 
“Just as bad, we’re telling those on whom we deign to bestow the coveted label that they have it made; we’re giving them an overblown sense of their intellectual abilities and setting them up to fall short when they face real challenges later . . . What most parents don’t realize is that the gifted label can harm not only those who don’t receive it, but also those who do.” (See the research of Carol Dweck.)
 

Welsh goes on to suggest a highly sensitive topic: “. . . school administrators are caught in a political and moral trap. They have to assure mostly white middle-class parents, who provide most of the tax dollars for the schools, that their children can progress academically without being held back by lower-income kids.” Can we be honest with ourselves? How much of this is true?

When I was a kid, the term gifted was foreign to my ear. Everyone did, however, agree that some kids were very smart in some areas. Some kids were even very smart in all areas. At least in the district where I went to school, the system may have done a better job of trying to challenge all of the students all of the time.
 
There obviously is no perfect solution to the controversy of the label “gifted” and how it should be handled. But, let’s not shut the door on some of the realities of the dilemma by feigning to believe that there must be a perfect solution.

SAT Exam, Taken at Age 13, Can Predict Career Path of Gifted


A new study from Vanderbilt University finds that the future career path and creative direction of gifted youth can be predicted well by their performance on the SAT at age 13. The study offers insights into how best to identify the nation’s most talented youth, offering opportunities for educators and policymakers to develop programs to cultivate these individuals.

The current study looked at the educational and professional accomplishments of 2,409 adults who had been identified as being in the top 1% of ability 25 years earlier at age 13. Significant differences in the creative and career paths of individuals were found, with those showing more ability in math having greater accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, while those showing greatest ability on the verbal portion of the test going on to excel in art, history, literature, languages, drama, and related fields.

The key was to administer the SAT at a young age. When students take the test in high school, the most able students all score near the top, and individual differences are harder to see. Using the test with gifted students at a young age creates the potential to help shape that person’s education.

Overall, the creative potential of these participants was extraordinary, with individuals earning 817 patents and publishing 93 books.

With this knowledge, the policy question becomes: How best can we support these individuals, especially during their formative years?

 For more information, see:

New Gifted Blog from Teacher Magazine

 
Blogging about gifted education is growing. Unwrapping the Gifted, written by Tamara Fisher and published by Teacher Magazine, is the latest to hit the scene. Each new blog that is created (scroll down in column on left to find a list with links) approaches gifted education from a slightly different perspective, and each is a valuable resource for a different reason. I really encourage you to visit the different blogs often.
 
Tamara Fisher is a K-12 gifted education specialist in northwestern Montana and president-elect of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education. With Karen Isaacson, she is also coauthor of Intelligent Life in the Classroom: Smart Kids and Their Teachers. In her blog, Fisher discusses news and developments in the gifted education community and offers advice for teachers on working with gifted students. She presents some interesting analogies about understanding and working with this population of kids, as well as thought-provoking questions. Her aim is to “generate some timely thought, reflection, discussion, and questions.” She does a good job of modeling higher-level thinking questions by posing open-ended questions for teachers to consider.
 
Be sure and read through reader comments after each post as they offer a variety of perspectives on gifted education and also offer strategies that other teachers have used successfully.
 
The two most recent posts on Unwrapping the Gifted are about the meaning of the term “gifted” and how gifted kids may be “shut out of class participation because they’re perceived as being ‘already where they need to be.’”

Gifted Children Leaving Some Public Schools Because of NCLB

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children, Teaching Gifted Children

On Monday, August 27, 2007, the Washington Post ran an interesting column titled "The Gifted Children Left Behind." The piece focused on the impact that the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative is having on gifted children in many public schools. From the article:

The law is causing many concerned parents [of gifted children] to abandon public schools ... These parents are fleeing public schools not only because, as documented by a recent University of Chicago study, the act pushes teachers to ignore high-ability students through its exclusive focus on bringing students to minimum proficiency. Worse than this benign neglect, No Child forces a fundamental educational approach so inappropriate for high-ability students that it destroys their interest in learning, as school becomes an endless chain of basic lessons aimed at low-performing students.

I'm excited to see this issue beginning to get the attention it deserves. NCLB's emphasis on ensuring that all students meet minimum standards is having a devastating impact on gifted children and their experience in many schools.

Are We Failing Our Geniuses?

 
The August 16 issue of TIME Magazine features an article titled Are We Failing Our Geniuses? In the article, John Cloud criticizes the American school system, saying that it “has little idea how to cultivate its most promising students” and that it spends a disproportionate amount of money on students with learning disabilities, often ignoring the need for money to meet the needs of gifted students.
 
He cites that “many school systems are wary of grade skipping even though research shows that it usually works well both academically and socially for gifted students—and that holding them back can lead to isolation and underachievement.”
 
While I agree with much of what Cloud says in this article, I do question some of his conclusions. He states that, while the most recent data indicate that U.S. universities are awarding more doctorates than ever before, the rate of annual increase has fallen dramatically. In 1979 it hit nearly 15% for the year, but for more than a decade now, the number has grown less than 3.5% a year. His assumption is that we are now coasting and the implication is that this is because we are not adequately attending to the education of the gifted. While it may be true that there was a dramatic increase in the number of doctoral candidates following the post-Sputnik era, I question whether the number of students seeking advanced degrees should be expected to increase by high percentages every year. Are there that many people who would benefit from a doctorate? Is a doctorate important to all high-level professions? Is this really a valid measure of opportunities available for gifted students?
 
Cloud also states that the year after President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, Illinois and Michigan cut large amounts of funding from gifted education. Yet, he offers no documentation explaining the link between the cuts and NCLB. Although there may be a link, he did not provide evidence. He just came to that conclusion on his own.
 
The premises of Cloud's article revolve around The Davidson Academy, a public school for profoundly gifted students that has received a lot of press. But, this is not perfect either. The school’s admission policy relies on test scores. One consequence of this is that its population does not mirror the population of our country. Both girls and African Americans are represented in disproportionately small numbers.
 
A couple of forum threads from The Math Forum@Drexel Website discuss Cloud’s article.
 
One discusses the question of who should be adapting to differences in ability, geniuses or average people? “Special schools for genius children? If the genius child is not adequately exposed to the rest of society, how then will she/he cope later in life?

What about educating all of us 'average people' more effectively, so that we can learn how to live with and work with real genius, giving them adequate emotional support at least, even if we cannot quite match them intellectually? This route is barely explored anywhere in any society or school.”
 
The other questions some commonly used terms or phrases. “The continued assertions that a) there is some monolith called the ‘education industry’ and b) a bias against exceptionally bright students remain, as far as I can see, undefined and unsupported, especially the former.”

New Book Explores Giftedness at Stuyvesant High School

 
 
In the spring of 2006, author and Washington Post reporter Alec Klein—a Stuyvesant alum—spent a semester with the teachers, students, and parents of the school to find out what makes it so special. (The New York City public school is so selective, that it admits only 3 percent of the kids who take its intense entrance exam.) The school is well-known academically and its alumni include several Nobel laureates, Academy Award winners, and luminaries in the arts, business, and public service.
 
The book is filled with personal stories of students and educators, whose stories are hilarious, sad, and powerfully moving. The book also tackles the question of elitism in public education.
 
Some of the high schoolers at Stuyvesant are off the charts with their abilities. One student profiled in the book is incredibly gifted, but unable to cope with her devastating addiction to heroin.
 
What can other schools learn from the success of Stuyvesant? The author touches on the importance of parental involvement, regardless of family wealth. (Many are immigrants who run delis or drive taxis.) The level of trust within the school creates a home away from home for students.
 
To get a feel for the author’s style, you can read an excerpt from the book.

Neuroscience for Gifted Kids

 
There is a great Web site available for students (elementary through high school) and teachers titled Neuroscience for Kids. The site, maintained by Eric H. Chudler at University of Washington, provides a wealth of information on the brain in fun, clear, easy-to-understand terms and illustrations. Not only is there great information, but there also are experiments, activities, questions and answers, other links and resources, and a place to sign up for a free newsletter.
 

The table of contents includes (click on "Explore" to find this)

  • The World of Neuroscience
  • Brain Basics
  • “Higher” Functions
  • The Spinal Cord
  • The Peripheral Nervous System
  • The Neuron
  • Sensory Systems
  • Neuroscience Methods and Techniques
  • The Effects of Drugs on the Nervous System
  • Neurological and Mental Disorders
I have had so much fun exploring this Web site and finding interesting, complicated information presented in an understandable manner. It would be a great site for students to use for an independent study or as an extension of a school science topic.
 
Portions of the site are in Portuguese, Slovene, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Turkish.

Language Immersion Programs for the Gifted

 
I was at a wedding reception this last week, talking to one of the guests and asking how her kids were enjoying the summer.
 
“Our son had the most incredible experience this summer,” she told me. He’s a bright kid, but hadn’t done well in his French class the last year. “We decided to enroll him at a language immersion camp at Concordia College in MN. The entire time he was there, nothing was spoken except French. All possible ways of communicating in any other fashion were taken away, including cell phones and computers.” She said he absolutely loved the experience.
 
The Concordia Language Villages are located in Moorhead, Minnesota. They teach 14 languages (including Chinese, Finnish, Arabic, Korean, and Russian) and have sessions ranging from one weekend to 4 weeks for students 7-18 years of age. All levels from beginner through advanced are welcome.
 
Day camps are available at several locations for children 4-8 years of age to learn languages such as Norwegian, German, and Spanish.
 
Concordia also has an immersion program for children from countries around the world who want to learn English.
 
Scholarships and financial aid are available. Nearly 15% of the villagers receive scholarships.
 
I found out they also have immersion programs for adults and am going to look into that for myself. Wouldn’t it be fun to learn a different language every year?

Using Search Tools on Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog

You may have noticed that the format of this blog changed a bit recently, and I want to make certain readers understand the search possibilities available. This is the 120th weekly blog that has been posted in more than 2 years, so there is a lot of information here. There are two ways to search.
·         Categories—In the left column of the web page, you will find a section titled Categories. Within that section, you will see a list of more than a dozen subjects. If you click on any of these, all the articles that fit into that grouping will appear.
·         Search—You can also search for words, phrases, or topics you do not see listed under Categories. With the new format of the blog, you will need to sign in to use the search function. There is a section on the upper right where you can register. Your user name and password are case sensitive.
 
Example—You might want to search on “underachievement.” To do this, click on the word Search either at the bottom of the Categories list or near the top of the page. Once you do this, a number of boxes will appear and you can fill in the appropriate information. (You do not need to fill in all the boxes.) Click on Search, and all of the articles will come up that meet the criteria you entered.
 
These are great tools, so make sure you take advantage of them.

WebQuests as a Differentiation Tool for the Gifted

 

Imagine you’re a middle school social studies teacher and your assignment is U.S. history. You have a small group of students who are quite capable of learning more than the standard fare. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to design and lead them through a separate curriculum. An alternative would be to compact their curriculum  and present them with a WebQuest, such as The Effects of the Cotton Gin on Life in the United States: Different Perspectives.  

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

Gifted Underachievers

Perhaps we should stop trying to put square pegs in round holes. Both parents and teachers feel very frustrated by intelligent students who do not perform in school. They assume that the kids are just plain lazy or that the school personnel are not trying hard enough. We label these students gifted underachievers. Instead of everyone casting blame, perhaps we should look at this dilemma in a different way.

I recently ran into the former teacher of one such student. Ms. Dignan said that Thomas was obviously very smart and a nice boy, but was not a producer.
 
Thomas is now in his early 30s, very much a producer, and very successful at his job. Ms. Dignan was right—Thomas was and still is very smart. But I don’t think he had problems because he was lazy or because school personnel were not trying. I think it was because he has a style of learning that cannot be readily taught. He was, and still is, extremely visual-spatial and learns through experimentation. (I tried to find a good link to explain visual-spatial learners, but every Web site I found placed people in neat little boxes again. I find that neat little boxes are only useful in theory and close off our minds too much.)
 
I had a conversation with Thomas last week. He said that the way he learns is so visually oriented that he is not able to explain to others how his mind works. Though he is a happy and content person now, it is obvious that this used to trouble him, and he has given all of this a great deal of thought over the years. In fact, that’s one of his real strengths. He is able to analyze situations very thoroughly (both at work and in his personal life) and problem solve more effectively than most.
 
Rather than beat our heads against the wall trying to fit this type of student into a system that we feel is necessary for life, we should consider alternatives. What is the young person interested in, academic or nonacademic? There are many valuable careers that do not use traditionally academic subjects. As a young person, Thomas’s interests were in computers, film (both watching and making), and individual sports. He loved it when his parents read to him, but he did not enjoy reading himself unless it was fantasy. He learned to play the guitar and did quite well with it. He seemed to be born knowing how to draw well and combined this with a well-developed sense of humor to create cartoons. He enjoyed being with peers who were deep thinkers, often because they admired his strong creativity.
 
Foster and value the interests of the young person even if you can’t see down what productive path these may lead. Explore together career possibilities that might use these strengths.
 
Thomas was a disaster in school. He rebelled strongly against authority and resented people trying to fit him into the traditional mold. His parents feared that he would never finish high school. However, he did finish and also spent a few years in and out of college. He wandered around in jobs trying to find something that would fit his interests. Finally, in his mid-20s, he landed on just that. He got back into computers in a way that could use his very developed visual-spatial sense and excellent problem solving ability. He presently works for a small company that builds and maintains computer systems. He has a great deal of responsibility, and loves being in charge. He thrives on complex problems much as a lawyer would welcome the challenge of a court scene. He makes a good salary, has lots of friends, and is a very caring person.
 
In “the real world” (a term I really dislike), Thomas is hardly an underachiever. In fact, he has achieved far more than many of his classmates who were excellent students. But Thomas is pretty much self-taught. In fact, looking back on the situation, there is probably no way that anyone could have taught him. His mind does just not respond to traditional school. He used to be a square peg who everyone was trying to fit into a round hole. If the adults in his life had just allowed him to be the square peg, life may have been a little easier as he was growing up.

Your Own Clipping Service for Gifted Education

 
This is the 117th blog I have written since its inception. It’s challenging to keep up-to-date on all things gifted and to come up with new ideas. Like everyone else, I need resources to help me achieve this. One of the many resources I use falls under the category of Web feed aggregators. You may also find these helpful.
 
Are you a parent of a young child who is gifted? Do you feel isolated in this role and wish you could get regular advice and also hear from other parents of young gifted children?
 
Are you a teacher who wants to better understand your high-ability students and improve differentiation techniques?
 
In the not too distant past, high-ranking individuals would hire clipping services to cull the newspapers for articles that might be of interest to a particular industry or geographic area. Now this collection of data is automated through the Internet and can be used by a much wider variety of people. One application is gifted education. Rather than hiring a clipping service or spending a lot of personal time and money buying and going through various news resources, individuals can now subscribe (for free) to Web feed aggregators.
 
Google Reader 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.
 
Google Alerts 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.

Is Homeschooling an Option for Gifted Children?

Sunday, December 10, 2006 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children

HomeEducator.com recently ran a short article titled, Gifted Children and Homeschooling by Kathi Kearney. I think the article offers a balanced and thoughtful overview of the topic. From the article:

Not every parent should consider homeschooling for a gifted child and not every gifted child should be homeschooled. That said, homeschooling is an excellent alternative for many gifted children at some point in their development.

Homeschooling is an especially important option in situations where a child’s school can’t—or won’t—provide appropriate services and, as a result, the child’s social-emotional development, behavior or school achievement starts to deteriorate.

Kearney feels that homeschooling can offer greater flexibility in curriculum pacing (acceleration strategies) and in the depth and type of enrichment activities that can be offered gifted children. She also points to some of the pitfalls that homeschooling parents may experience. For example, she says that many homeschooling families may find the "canned" curricula offered for sale to homeschooling families fall short where gifted children are concerned.

A View Into the World of a Gifted Child

Saturday, October 07, 2006 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children

As parents and educators of gifted children, we know that, at times, gifted kids can feel isolated and "different." We look for ways to help break that isolation--to help gifted kids realize that there are others who share their views and ways of thinking.

To this end, I would like to suggest that you visit Gifted Gear Reviews. Here you will find an insightful running narrative by Stephen, who describes himself as "a gifted and talented 10-year-old who likes anime, manga, rock and roll, and theoretical physics and who has a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome."  I had to Google "manga" (Japanese comics).

Stephen's blog offers a unique view into the world of a gifted child. I believe you will enjoy reading his blog. I'm learning a lot about the inner world of a gifted 10-year-old. The author has a talent for introspection, and the blog is filled with good humor and insights into being gifted and having Asperger's syndrome.

Drop by Stephen's Gifted Gear Reviews and leave a note of encouragement in the form of a posted comment. I'm sure he would enjoy getting some feedback from you.

Recommend Gifted Gear Reviews to a Gifted Child

More important, I think that many gifted kids will find Stephen's blog of interest. A gifted child with Asperger's may find this blog especially valuable. A feeling of isolation can be so hard for kids, and getting to read and comment on a blog by an open and insightful kid like Stephen can be quite helpful.

Davidson Fellow Scholarships for Extraordinary Achievers

Sunday, June 04, 2006 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children


The Davidson Institute for Talent Development is offering high achieving young people across the country the opportunity to be named as 2007 Davidson Fellows, an honor accompanied by a $50,000, $25,000 or $10,000 scholarship in recognition of a significant piece of work in science, technology, mathematics, music, literature, philosophy, or something "outside the box."
 
To be eligible, applicants must be under the age of 18 as of Oct. 1, 2007, and a U.S. citizen or permanent U.S. resident residing in the United States. There is no minimum age for eligibility.
 
The deadline to apply is March 30, 2007. Applicants must submit an original piece of work recognized by experts in the field as significant, with the potential to make a positive contribution to society.
 
The scholarship must be used at an accredited institute of learning. For more information on the Davidson Fellows, or to download an application, please visit the Davidson Fellows Web site.

Gifted Children Especially Vulnerable to Effects of Bullying

Saturday, April 22, 2006 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children
Gifted Children are Vulnerable to the Effects of BullyingThis morning I came across an article from the Purdue University News Service. The article was titled "Gifted Children Especially Vulnerable to Effects of Bullying," and it summarized research findings coming from a study by Dr. Jean S. Peterson and Ms. Karen E. Ray at Purdue University.

Quoting from the article:
    In what is believed to be the first major study of bullying and gifted students, researchers found that by eighth grade, more than two-thirds of gifted students had been victims.

    "All children are affected adversely by bullying, but gifted children differ from other children in significant ways," says Jean Sunde Peterson, an associate professor of educational studies in Purdue's College of Education.

    "Many are intense, sensitive, and stressed by their own and others' high expectations, and their ability, interests, and behavior may make them vulnerable. Additionally, social justice issues are very important to them, and they struggle to make sense of cruelty and aggression. Perfectionists may become even more self-critical, trying to avoid mistakes that might draw attention to themselves."
It does strike me that gifted children might find the effects of bullying especially difficult to manage. It is generally accepted that gifted children often have heightened emotional sensitivities. It makes a lot of sense that, in turn, gifted children respond more strongly to something as unfair and cruel as bullying.

In the article, Dr. Peterson offers some suggestions for parents concerned about this issue. "We found that the vast majority of students who were bullied were silent about it because they thought others would see them as weak or because they believed they wouldn't be taken seriously. That's why it's crucial that adults take an interest in their child's life and pay attention if they mention they're being picked on."

Dr. Peterson explains that if a parent suspects their child is being bullied, the first step is to talk with school officials. "Most bullying probably happens under the radar, and teachers may not be aware of it. It is important that all school personnel agree that bullying can be either or both verbal and physical, and it needs to be addressed in and outside of the classroom whenever it occurs."

The findings of this study will be published in two separate articles scheduled to appear in the Spring 2006 and Summer 2006 issues of Gifted Child Quarterly.

Resources About Bulling and What to Do About It

I'm not terribly well versed in this subject, and I don't publish any books on the topic. However, I respect the folks over at Free Spirit Publishing, and they have published several books on this topic. The reviews for their books on this issue are very positive.

Teachers concerned about bullying in their classroom and school may wish to take a look at The Bully Free Classroom: Over 100 Tips and Strategies for Teachers K-8.

Free Spirit also publishes a book for kids on this subject titled, Bullies are a Pain in the Brain. This book looks like a really good resource for kids during the elementary years.

Feel free to suggest other resources or insights on this topic using the "Add Comment" button below.

BBC Seeking Gifted Children to Produce Video Diaries

Friday, February 03, 2006 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Gifted and Talented Children
Gifted Children Film Video Diaries

I got a call today from a producer at BBC-America (the US branch of the British Broadcasting Company) about a really interesting opportunity for kids between the ages of 7-11. TLC (The Learning Channel) and the BBC are seeking 7- to 11-year-old children of all backgrounds and personalities from across the U.S. to film a video diary of their lives for approximately 3 months. The producer I spoke to said that they are seeking gifted and talented children of all kinds to participate.

Are you the parent or teacher of a 7- to 11-year-old gifted and talented child who might find this intriguing? Know a gifted child who has an interesting story to tell, a wonderful imagination, or a unique view of life? Whether the child you have in mind is shy or outgoing, funny or serious, stubborn or cooperative, the BBC would love to learn more about them!

This innovative documentary series aims to capture American life through the eyes of 7- to 11-year-olds who film video diaries of their lives for approximately 3 months.

BBC and TLC will train the kids to use the camera and then give them the freedom to decide what to film and what to discuss. If you are interested in learning more, please call the BBC's My Life as a Child office at (212) 974-9050, ext. 221, or e-mail them at mylifeasachild@bbcnyproduction.com.

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.
 
More resources can be found at the education section of National Geographic, including lesson plans and maps and photos.
 
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.
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