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About The Author  
Carol Fertig

Carol Fertig

I have been active in the education community for more than 40 years and involved in gifted education for more than 20 years. At various times, I have been a classroom teacher, gifted education teacher, consultant, writer, editor—you name it. I live in Colorado, but also spend a fair amount of time in Chicago. I have two grown boys: one in Colorado and one in California. In my spare time, I enjoy skiing, mountain biking, and golfing. I also like to read, go to plays, and watch foreign movies. Feel free to send me an e-mail.

I am also the author of Raising a Gifted Child: A Parenting Success Handbook. This book offers a large menu of strategies, resources, organizations, tips, and suggestions for parents to find optimal learning opportunities for their gifted kids, covering the gamut of talent areas, including academics, the arts, technology, creativity, music, and thinking skills.

Raising a Gifted Child

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Articles from Reading-Writing-L.A.

Summer Literacy Resources for Gifted Kids (and Their Parents)

Need some book recommendations for your children this summer? Excellent lists of recommended books can be found at

In addition to reading good books, children may enjoy creating their own books. There are a number of websites to help with this.

Q&A About the Jacob's Ladder Reading Program

Monday, March 28, 2011 - by JMcIntosh - Category: Reading-Writing-L.A., Gifted Education, Language Arts

Jacob's Ladder Reading SeriesOur best-selling Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program offers educators a wonderful tool for increasing reading comprehension and critical thinking skills among students. Whenever Prufrock Press exhibits Jacob's Ladder at education conferences, teachers ask questions about how the program works and whether the program can be used with all students in a mixed-ability classroom. I've prepared this blog entry in hopes of answering some of these questions.

Does Research Support Using the Program With All Students?

Emphatically, yes. Jacob's Ladder was developed at the College of William and Mary as part of a federally funded Department of Education research grant. Although there are many reading programs focused on developmental readers, there are very few research-based reading programs designed to teach advanced reading comprehension skills. Jacob's Ladder fills this gap.

Research conducted using Jacob's Ladder in Title 1 schools shows that the program increases reading comprehension skills for all students in a mixed-ability classroom. The researchers concluded, "when compared to students who used the basal reader only, those students who were exposed to the Jacob's Ladder curriculum showed significant gains in reading comprehension and critical thinking."

For an overview of the research supporting the use of this product, please download What Works: 20 Years of Curriculum Development and Research for Advanced Learners.

What Skill Sets Do the Ladders Represent?

The program is organized around the metaphor of ladders. There are six types of ladders representing different types of reading skills and each ladder has "steps" that represent increasingly difficult variations of the skills represented by the ladder. For example, Ladder A focuses on sequencing, implications, and consequences. At the lowest step of Ladder A, students sequence information found in a reading. At the highest level, students are asked to identify the short-term and long-term consequences of actions and events in a reading.

The types of reading skills addressed by each ladder are listed below:

  • Ladder A: sequencing, cause and effect, and consequences and implications;
  • Ladder B: identifying key details, classification, and generalizations;
  • Ladder C: literary elements, inference, and interpretation of theme or central idea;
  • Ladder D: synthesis of information through paraphrasing, summarizing, and creative synthesis;
  • Ladder E: understanding emotion, expressing emotion, and using emotion; and
  • Ladder F: planning and goal setting, monitoring and assessing, and reflecting.

How do the Readings and Ladders Work?

Each book in the Jacob's Ladder program contains between 8-10 short stories, 7-10 poems, and 4-6 nonfiction selections. Following each reading, a series of activities from the ladders are presented to students. Teachers may choose to have students complete all activities on the ladders or limit students to only certain activities presented. For example, emergent readers may be assigned activities from the lower steps of a ladder, while more advanced readers may be assigned multiple activities from the ladders.

Let's look at an example from Jacob's Ladder: Level 1: After reading one of Aesop's fables, students first encounter Ladder A, which includes the following tasks:

  • list the events that occurred in the fable (Rung A1—sequencing),
  • build a chart showing the various cause and effect relationships in the fable (Rung A2—cause and effect), and/or
  • discuss the long-term consequences of one of the main character's actions (Rung A3—consequences and implications).

Next, from Ladder B, students would be asked to:

  • discuss the mental images the fable created in their mind and list the specific details from the tale that supported the images (Rung B1—details),
  • identify the actions of one character that could be characterized as helping another character (Rung B2—classifications), and/or
  • determine the moral or "lesson" the fable is attempting to deliver (Rung B3—generalization).

Can I Use the Program With Cooperative Learning Groups?

Yes. Although the activities and readings can be done by students individually, Jacob's Ladder is ideal for small groups. The readings and activities may be used in a number of different grouping patterns. The use of small groups provides excellent opportunities for student discussion of the readings and collaborative decisions about the answers to questions posed.

Does the Program Include Assessment Tools?

Yes. Pre- and postassessments are included. The pretests should be administered, scored, and then used to guide student instruction and the selection of readings for varied ability groups. Both the pre- and postassessments, scoring rubric, and sample exemplars for each rubric category and level are included along with exemplars to guide scoring.

A Comprehensive Guide to the Study of Shakespeare

 
For those of you who teach Shakespeare or for students who study Shakespeare, there are some excellent resources available. A reader of Prufrock’s Gifted Child Information Blog recently brought an exceptionally good link to my attention. (I always appreciate it when readers tell me about valuable resources). Naturally, I want to share it with you.
 
Your Comprehensive Guide to Everything Shakespeare is just what the title suggests—comprehensive. It draws from major websites on Internet that cover the playwright and poet. The guide is divided into the following topics:
  • Cool Shakespeare Facts—Personal trivia, words and phrases that were created by Shakespeare, and information about the Globe Theatre.
  • General Shakespeare Resources—Links to five major sites that cover a multitude of facts and opinions about the famous bard.
  • Links to Every Single Shakespeare Work Online—Plays are divided into the categories of comedy, history, and tragedy. Shakespeare’s poems are also listed. Each link contains the complete work so you don’t have to go to the bookstore or library to get a play or sonnet.
  • Links to Resources that Give Notes/Info/Explanations of Shakespeare Plays—Sites that will help you interpret the writings of Shakespeare.
  • Shakespeare Festivals—A list of Shakespeare festivals (with Internet links) held in the United States and Canada.  
For more information, consult previous blog posts on Shakespeare at this Prufrock website.

Places to Publish for Gifted Young Writers

 
Gifted students need “real” audiences for their work. Those students who enjoy writing need places where they can see their words in print and find others who have the same interest.
 
Figment is a place where young people, ages 13 and up, share their writing, connect with other people with similar interests, and discover new stories and authors. The website was started by Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and Jacob Lewis, the former Managing Editor at The New Yorker and Condé Nast Portfolio. It contains a variety of sections that will be of interest to young authors, including
  • A place where they can post their writing and get feedback in the form of comments and reviews.
  • Writing contests.
  • Advice from adults who publish young adult books.
  • Recommendations of recently published books for young adults.
  • A forum where students can connect on a variety of subjects related to their writing.
  • A blog which, among other things, contains interviews with published authors of books for young adults.
If your young writer is more independent, suggest that he submit his writing for publication without the feedback and interaction of a group. A Young Authors Guide from NewPages.com provides updated lists of publications that accept submissions from young people, some from children as young as eight. It also contains a long list of writing contests, listed by month.

Lost in Lexicon—Clever, Imaginative Reading for Gifted Students

 
Are you looking gifted for curriculum for a literature unit, a literature/math unit, or an enrichment group? Here is a great idea.
 
Pendred Noyce is a physician, educator, and writer. She is creative person who has used her talents to come out with a book for young people that combines a good story with word games and mathematical thinking. The book would be good (in my opinion) to use with middle to upper elementary gifted students. Lost in Lexicon: Adventure in Words and Numbers was originally written for Noyce’s son Damian’s ninth birthday to challenge and entertain him.
 
But wait...Lost in Lexicon is both a book and a website. The website is filled with supportive teaching material, including
  • Character sketches from the book
  • Challenging games and activities
  • Ideas to extend concepts in the book (i.e., Greek and Latin roots, the coordinate plane, poetic meter, mathematical slope)
  • Word challenges
  • Discussion questions
  • Noyce’s keynote address to the Iowa Science and Mathematics Teacher Educators Summit, titled Grand Challenges and Inspiration: Lighting the Fire in the Next Generation. The address is not only inspiring, but it is also filled with some excellent resources for working with gifted kids in math and science.
  • From the same Iowa Summit, Noyce includes the transcript from her breakout session, Can Math and Literature Mix in the Middle School? The ideas the author presents might be used with middle school students, but could also be used with gifted students in upper elementary school. Suggestions are presented not only for Lost in Lexicon, but also for Flatland by Edwin Abbott and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
  • Two teacher-created units using Lost in Lexicon: "Teaching Plot Structure and Types of Conflict," and "Teaching Characterization."
Pendred Noyce also has a blog titled View from the Windowseat. While the blog covers many different subjects, with a bit of hunting, you will find even more ideas to use with Lost in Lexicon.
 
Three more novels in the Lexicon series are planned, along with other books for young people.

More Online Resources for Gifted Education

 
In the past, I have listed many excellent websites that contain compilations of resources for gifted education. Recently, several more have come to my attention.
 
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.

Educating High and Low Achievers in the Same Classroom

 
Everyone seems to agree that the American education system needs to be fixed, but the debate rages on about how it should be changed. One year research points in a direction, only to point in the opposite direction a few years later. It’s no wonder that educational programming is constantly in flux.
 
In his article All Together Now?, Hoover Institution fellow Michael Petrilli states that the greatest challenge facing America’s schools is the enormous variation in students' academic levels.
 
By the fourth grade, there may be a six-year span of reading abilities in a classroom. Addressing all of these levels is a daunting task for any teacher. Over the past four decades, schools have gone back and forth between ability grouping and tracking in reading and math to arguing that confining youngsters to lower tracks hurts their self-esteem.
 
Once policy incentives like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) were instituted, there was a shift to prioritize low-achieving students. As a result of this, the performance of the lowest 10 percent of students shot up, while the achievement of the top 10 percent of students stagnated, leaving parents of gifted students displeased.
 
The answer, according to the ed-school world, is differentiated instruction. Using this method, one teacher instructs a diverse group of students, but manages to reach each one at precisely the appropriate level. Every child receives a unique curriculum that meets that individual’s exact needs. In reality, most teachers agree that it is very difficult to accomplish this.
 
Michael Petrilli visited Piney Branch, an elementary school in Takoma Park, Maryland, where both high-ability and low-ability students have made remarkable gains on test scores. At this school, every homeroom has a mixed group of students that represents the diversity of the school. Then, during the 90-minute reading block, students spend much of their time in small groups that are appropriate for their individual reading levels. These groups are fluid. If a child in a slower reading group progresses, that youngster can get bumped up to a faster group.
 
For math, students are split into homogeneous classrooms. All the advanced math kids are in one room, middle students in another, and struggling children in a third. If capable, an advanced group of math students may work two years ahead in the curriculum.
 
During science, social studies, and specials, the students are back in heterogeneous classrooms. Even then, teachers work to differentiate instruction, offering more challenging, extended assignments to the higher-achieving students.
 
But it gets more complicated. In an effort to retain gifted students who were testing into highly gifted programs at magnet schools, Piney Branch formed cluster groups of students at each grade. Therefore, in one classroom in each grade, there are 12 or so gifted students, along with another 12 or so who are working at grade level. Teachers agree that handling these various groups requires extensive planning and training. In addition, the teacher needs to be someone who is well organized and creative.
 
There are many different ways to approach the education of gifted students. This is an example of the methods used by one successful school. In order to replicate this success, a school needs to have strong support from the district, the principal, the teachers, and the parents.

Excellent Resources for Teaching Shakespeare to Gifted Students

 
The study of Shakespeare never grows old: his plays are counted among the greatest works in English literature, he was an outstanding observer and communicator of human character, and he expressed enduring wisdom and wit. Presented appropriately, Shakespeare fascinates students—especially gifted students—who appreciate the opportunity to study and perform his plays. There are a number of excellent resources available to help teachers and parents expose their children to this icon of literature.
 
The Folger Shakespeare Library is located on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. It is home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials. On its website, there is a Teach and Learn section that contains a wealth of information. Teaching resources for K-12 include Shakespeare lesson plans and other materials for teachers, such as audio and video podcasts, a blog, a Teachers' Lounge forum, and an expanding list of web features. The Shakespeare for Kids section of the site offers games, activities, and creative fun. Folger is a strong advocate of performance-based teaching, which is reflected in the resources on their website.
 
The University of Texas at Austin created Shakespeare Kids. It is designed for young people and also for teachers, parents, and administrators who work with students in grades K-8. The resource page contains an excellent list of Internet sites, books, and films.
 
In Search of Shakespeare was developed by PBS. It contains case studies, articles, and quick tips on how to bring Shakespeare to life in the classroom; interdisciplinary lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school students; and lots of print and online resources.
 
Prufrock Press also has a series of books that is designed for teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) students in grades 7-12. In the series you will find

Finding the Best Biographies for Gifted Readers

 

Reading biographies is important for many reasons.

  • The genre provides students with compelling reads.
  • Biographies offer role models that often emphasize specific character traits.
  • Young people are able to see how real people overcome obstacles and solve problems.
  • By reading several biographies about the same person, readers grow to understand how different authors may view that same individual.

Here is a resource to help you guide students to find good biographies. In the past, I have told you about #gtchat, the weekly Twitter discussion group for parents, teachers, and gifted education advocates from across the globe. On the Ingeniosus website, you will now find a compilation of resources that were contributed during a recent #gtchat session titled Role Models: Finding the Best Biographies for Gifted Students.

Deborah Mersino (creator of Ingeniosus and #gtchat) is in the process of putting together “the best of #gtchat resources.” This compilation of biographies is the first of these lists that she has posted. The best should be valuable tools for all of us interested in advanced and gifted learners.

Summer Activities to Do at Home

  
Are you looking for some fun summer activities to do with your kids? Here are some ideas.
 
Aesop’s Fables—Professor Copper Giloth at the University of Massachusetts Amherst teaches Introduction to Computing in the Fine Arts. She assigns her students the task of illustrating the traditional Aesop's fables alongside their own retellings of the fables in a modern setting. This website showcases their work and can be used in several ways. You and your child can read the fables, you can compare the fables with versions found elsewhere, or you can use the student work as incentive for your children to illustrate stories or poems.
 
Neuroscience for Kids—Learn about all aspects of neuroscience in a format that uses helpful graphics. Try the many experiments that make use of games and activities. View questions that have been submitted and then answered by basic and clinical neuroscientists from around the world. Search the numerous links provided, sign up for the free newsletter, and much more.
 
Insects—Brought to you by the Amateur Entomologists' Society, this website helps the visitor identify bugs, learn about bugs, find out how to care for bugs as pets, and many other interesting things about insects and invertebrates. There is also information on how to become an entomologist.
 
U.S. Department of the Treasury for Kids—Here there are links to government websites especially for kids. Links lead to the White House, the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Official Kids' Portal for the U.S. Government, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
 
Brain Teasers, Optical Illusions, and Logic Links—Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page provides a very long list of links that will engage students in mental gymnastics. There are also links for rebuses, wacky wordies, frame games, and visual puns. Enjoy working some of these puzzles as a family.

More Online Learning for Gifted Students

 

 

Teachers and parents alike often turn to online learning options in order to supplement and/or accelerate gifted students' learning. Does your young person have a strong interest and ability in mathematics, physics, computer programming, literature, writing, history, or foreign language? Does she want to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes that are not offered at her local high school? Or, does your student need a flexible schedule because of family circumstances, work responsibilities, or health issues?

Are you in a school district where your young person’s needs and abilities surpass the available curriculum? Do you homeschool your child, either full-time or part-time, and, as a result, need solid educational resources? Or, do you have a student who doesn't necessarily want to earn credit for extracurricular classes, but instead just wants to expose himself to different topics in order to see if any really interest him? If so, then you may want to introduce your student to the wide range of opportunities available through online learning.

For years, I have been writing about the virtues of distance learning for gifted kids. Over the past few years, the distance learning field has continued to expand. As the technology becomes more sophisticated, many distance learning programs are beginning to use not only computers for their programs, but also everyday technologies, such as cell phones.

Kids are often more comfortable with these technologies than adults. This may be one reason why traditional schools are often unable to adjust to and incorporate these new technologies into the traditional classroom. Adults (both parents and teachers) sometimes lack the expertise that young people have already learned at an early age and use every day. Perhaps it is time for adults to stop fighting these new developments and, instead, embrace them and incorporate them into student learning. Online learning is one good way to start.

If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities available to gifted kids, there is a great deal of information available at the Davidson Institute for Talent Development website and at the Distance Learning Programs page of Hoagies’ Gifted Education website.

Focused Interests for Gifted Kids: One Example

           
Decades ago, I used to edit an antiques and collectibles tabloid. The publication mainly consisted of interviews with people who studied and collected specialty items. I always was amazed at several things: the items that wound up in these collections, the groups of people who became passionate about their areas of interest, and the amount of information that could be learned from trivia that may have seemed meaningless to the rest of society. One man’s house was filled with bells of all sizes. Another person’s basement was filled with display cases of pencils. Still others collected vintage buttons. Each of these people could cite all kinds of historical facts about his collection. A visit to eBay also will reveal the number of people who collect various items and have special interest items for sale. These are not hoarders. These are people who genuinely get excited about a specialty category and then learn everything they can about it.
 
Young people also may find areas of specialty and use those as a focus for learning and collecting. Really being able to “get into” a subject builds traits that may transfer to other areas of learning and work in the future. Some of these traits include:
  • tenacity,
  • networking with others of like minds,
  • creativity,
  • stress reduction,
  • pride in one’s accomplishments, and
  • setting and working toward goals.
While there are many hobbies, collections, and special interests from which a child may choose, I will use trains as an example to illustrate my point. As parents and educators, we want to encourage young people to pursue their passions. Here are some possible ways to do that with trains.
  • Museums: When you’re traveling, take time to visit railroad museums. For a list of railroad museums across the nation and throughout the world, visit RailMuseums.com.
  • Train Stations: Click here for a list of train stations around the world. Some have historic architectural significance and some are very modern.
  • Build a Model Railroad: Building one’s own model railroad is a fantastic way to enhance creativity, work on fine motor skills, manage money, learn to read and understand detailed instructions, and plan. Such hobbies often begin in childhood and continue long into adulthood. For learning all about building a model railroad, check out Building Your Model Railroad.
  • Books: Want to learn about the history of trains and railroads and the people who were most influential in creating them? This information will help a student to understand the development of transportation and help put general history in perspective. One also can learn about today’s high-speed trains and commuter systems, the future direction of rail travel, and how that might influence societal trends. For a list of railroad books, go to sites such as RailroadBookstore or GoldenWestBooks.
  • Train Clubs and Organizations: Clubs and organizations are a great place to not only learn about your hobby, but also to meet other people with the same interest. Adult members may act as mentors to young people, providing encouragement and expertise. For a list of model railroad clubs, go to RailsUSA and search by your state.
  • Take a Ride: Consider a vacation by rail or just a ride downtown on a commuter train. See listings at TrainTraveling. Search local transportation systems such as light rail, subways, and elevated trains at local public transportation sites. 
You can take any subject in which your child shows an interest and brainstorm all of the possible ways to support that interest. You never know where it may ultimately lead. If you need help, e-mail me (see the e-mail link under my biography on the left-hand side of the page). If I think others also may be looking for ways to encourage the same interest in a child, I will use the idea for a blog entry in the future.

National Standards for the Gifted

 
For a very long time, our country has maintained a hodgepodge of educational expectations for students, often not even coming close to the standards of other developed countries. You may have read recently about the proposed national standards for math and English, which have recently been released. They are part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI)—a panel of educators convened by the nation’s governors and state school superintendents who are working to create benchmarks to bring all areas of the country in alignment with the same expectations. As reported by The New York Times, these are not without controversy. Alaska and Texas declined to participate in the standards-writing effort, arguing that they should decide locally what their children learn. After viewing the proposed standards, some states, like Massachusetts, may oppose the proposed national standards because state educators feel that they already have higher standards in place and may want to keep those.
 
Although the implementation of high academic standards is probably a good thing for our country in general, we must also be careful that the standards (if accepted) do not limit the learning of gifted students. It would be impractical to set a unique set of standards for the gifted population because these students fall on a long continuum of abilities. Instead, it is best to think of any national standards as a baseline of expectations, allowing more capable students to progress much more quickly and in greater depth.
 
Are you aware that back in 1998, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) developed and released the Pre-K - Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards designed to assist school districts in examining the quality of their programming for gifted learners? These are standards for creating and maintaining effective gifted programming in schools. At the very least, these gifted program standards should be implemented in addition to the national educational standards. The NAGC standards include:
  • program design,
  • program administration and management,
  • student identification,
  • curriculum and instruction,
  • socio-emotional guidance and counseling,
  • professional development, and
  • program evaluation.
While national educational standards are probably a good idea for the general population, they should only be considered as minimal expectations. Students who are capable should not be held back by these proposals, but allowed and encouraged to move beyond them. Pairing the proposed national standards with the NAGC program standards is a good option for able students.

Vocabulary Development for Gifted Students

 
Advanced vocabulary development is essential for students for many reasons. It not only helps students excel at college admissions tests, it also helps them succeed in a wide variety of endeavors. For example:
  • Increasing students' vocabulary encourages them to use more descriptive words when writing or speaking and enables them to communicate their thoughts more clearly.
  • Understanding the meaning of a wide range of words allows students to comprehend their reading more easily, thus increasing their retention.
  • Having a larger vocabulary helps students' verbal communication flow and helps them to avoid making unnecessary noises such as "umm" and "uhh" when they speak. 
  • Using richer and more colorful words helps students project a more intelligent image.
  • Having the right vocabulary for planning and solving problems helps students maximize their thinking skills.
 There are many ways that students can increase their storehouse of words.
  • Students can increase their vocabularly significantly by reading widely and actively, noticing and looking up new words as they read. Students should also seek out classics and other books that require them to pay close attention and think deeply about language and ideas.
  • Students looking for a fun and relaxing way to learn new words should try playing crossword puzzles and word games. These activities help students to not only learn new words, but also learn alternative meanings for words.
  • Students wishing to deepen their vocabulary further should study the meanings of root words, as well as prefixes and suffixes. These devices help students guess the meaning of words that they do not already know. They also help students gain a broad understanding of language.
  • Students who wish to experiment with the words that they use on paper should try using a thesaurus when they write. They will not only learn new words this way, but they will also gain a richer appreciation for choosing the right word in a sentence.
The following websites represent just a few of the online activities that encourage students' vocabulary development:
  • FunBrain: Rooting Out Words has good exercises for students in elementary and middle school.
  • English Games features a variety of vocabulary games for all ages, ranging from simple games for elementary school students to advanced games and quizzes for high school students who are studying for the SAT and ACT.
  • Number2.com offers free online test preparation, including a vocabulary builder. This website includes practice sessions that adapt to a student's ability level. The website requires students to set up a free account.
  • SuperKids: PSAT and SAT Vocabulary Flashcards and Matching Games allows students to study and learn more than 1,000 words that are frequently found on the PSAT and SAT exams.
  • Word Games From Merriam-Webster has more than a dozen different online word games that students may enjoy.

Revisiting Bloom’s Taxonomy for the Gifted

 

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy was widely used (and often misused) in classrooms. It was misused when educators assumed that if they taught the highest levels on the taxonomy, then all of the needs of the gifted would be addressed. It was also misused when educators assumed that they could jump right to the highest levels, negating the importance of the lower levels. For example, an educator might ask a student to read a book and evaluate the character's actions, but not ask the student to support his or her conclusions with evidence from the book.

Bloom’s Taxonomy was eventually updated, or revised, in 2001.Whether you apply the original version or the revised version, Bloom’s Taxonomy is still a good tool when used appropriately because it encourages higher level thinking skills. Some websites that are helpful when trying to understand and use Bloom’s Taxonomy include:

Bring Speakers (Based on Student Interest) Into Gifted Classrooms

 
Bringing weekly speakers into the classroom broadens the interests of gifted students and encourages individual passions. It also makes it possible for some students to find an exciting new area of passion. By inviting speakers to your classroom, you will:
  • expose your students to a wide range of subjects and people,
  • show them that their interests and ideas are valued, and
  • help them to begin their career education at an early age.
The classroom is also a much more intimate and valuable setting than a school assembly.
 
Here are a few examples of speakers that I used at the elementary school level in the Denver, CO, area:
 
Student interest: Astronomy
Speaker: A female scientist from The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) brought a wonderful slide show on solar flares and explained their many effects to students.
 
Student interest: Animation
Speaker: The owner of a local animation company brought in a short video about his company, presented some animation production cels, showed the kids how to make flip books using their own animations, talked about jobs in animation, and explained the education that one should have in order to follow a career in animation.
 
Student interest: Snakes
Speaker: A member of the local herpetological society brought in some live snakes and talked about his own personal interest in the animals, their life habits, and what we should all know and understand about snakes.
 
Because it can be very time consuming for teachers to find speakers, parents can play a vital role with the teacher's guidance. Here are some suggestions for setting up a similar program:
  • Survey students to find out areas of interest that they would like to learn more about. Do not give them a list of possibilities to check off. Instead, just have each child write on a piece of paper at least three things that he or she would like to explore. These ideas do not have to be academic.
  • Have a small group of volunteer parents sort through the students' ideas and try to group them. Are there some recurring themes?
  • Have the same group of parents brainstorm about places where they might find speakers that would address student interests.
  • After discussing their ideas with you first, parents can begin making contacts.
  • Once schedules are set up for speakers, ask parents to contact the speaker again a week or two in advance to confirm the date and time and find out if there is anything special that the speaker will need.
  • Make sure that parents keep you informed of any communication that occurs between them and the speakers. 
Locating Potential Speakers
  • Start close to home. Are there people you know personally that would match a student's interest?
  • Are there parents at the school that have a strong personal interest or profession that would match another student's chosen topic?
  • What are some of the companies in your community that might have individuals that could present? Many larger companies actually have speaker bureaus.
  • What about people who work at museums, theaters, orchestras, or universities? Or, what about individuals who work as mathematicians, authors, or cartographers? No matter what the interests of the students may be, you can probably find a speaker nearby if you live in a large metropolitan area.
  • Don't be afraid to approach people. They can always say no, but I think you will be surprised by the people who say yes.  
Setting Up Guidelines for Speakers
  • Decide what day and time you would like to have the speaker. (I always chose Friday afternoons, because it was a nice end-of-the-week activity.) We tried to have a speaker every week that it was possible.
  • Be clear about exactly what time you need the speaker to start, the physical condition of the classroom, the types of students that they will be working with, and whether or not you want the talk to be interactive. Sometimes those outside the school system don't understand the difficulties that are presented when an expected person doesn't show up right on time, and so be careful to explain all of that.  
Making the Speaker Feel Welcomed
  • Make certain that the class has reviewed appropriate behavior for honoring a guest in the classroom. Remind them that this is a special occasion and a privilege.
  • Have someone meet the speaker at the front door of the school building. This could be a parent and/or student (depending on the grade level). Let the speaker know how much the class is looking forward to the presentation.
  • Have the student or students who chose the area of interest briefly explain to the class why they selected that particular topic.
  • Decide on a way to thank the speaker for taking time to come to the classroom. Students may write letters, draw pictures, create something to send to the speaker, or anything else that you feel suits the situation. 
It takes quite a bit of time and organization to set up a program like this in a classroom, but I know that you will find it well worth the effort.

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.

Increasing Depth and Complexity in Curriculum for the Gifted

 
 
I have always been a big fan of Sandra Kaplan at the University of Southern California. She has created wonderful techniques for increasing depth and complexity of curriculum—attributes that are at the core of gifted education.
 
Kaplan’s chart, Facilitating the Understanding of DEPTH and COMPLEXITY, presents teachers with easy-to-follow prompts, key questions, thinking skills, and resources that provide ideas for differentiating curriculum. These ideas can be applied to many subjects including language arts, science, social studies, and math. The prompts and key questions are very helpful when developing universal themes. A few examples include:
 
Prompt
Key Questions
Thinking Skills
Resources
Patterns
What are the reoccurring events?
 
What elements, events, ideas, are repeated over time?
 
What was the order of events?
How can we predict what will come next?
·Determine relevant vs. irrelevant
·Summarize
·Make analogies
·Discriminate between same and different
·Relate
Timelines
 
Other chronological lists
Ethics
What dilemmas or controversies are involved in this area/topic/study/discipline?
 
What elements can be identified that reflect bias, prejudice, and discrimination?
·Judge with criteria
·Determine bias
Editorials
 
Essays
 
Autobiographies
 
Journals
Over Time
How are the ideas related between the past, present, and future?
 
How are these ideas related within or during a particular time period?
 
How has time affected the information?
 
How and why do things change or remain the same?
·Relate
·Sequence
·Order
Timelines
 
Text
 
Biographies
 
Autobiographies
 
Historical documents
 

View the entire chart at the link above and use it as a guide when developing curriculum for the gifted or when differentiating lessons in the regular classroom.

If you have used Kaplan's material in developing units or lessons, please share them through comments at this post.

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.

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.

Notes That Apply to the Gifted from The Last Lecture

 
When I read a book that has special meaning for me, I often write down quotes that I feel are important. Such was true with The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow. Pausch was a very successful professor of Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University. When he wrote the book, he knew he would die in a matter of months. He wanted to leave something for his young children that would show them who he was and teach the things that he would not be there to teach them as they grew up. The book is filled with wonderful stories of the author’s childhood and sprinkled with bits of wisdom that he gleaned over the years. While Pausch was an accomplished computer scientist, the things he says about parenting and education are very applicable to the gifted community. Some of my favorite quotes are…
 
We didn’t buy much. But we thought about everything. That’s because my dad had this infectious inquisitiveness about current events, history, our lives. In fact, growing up, I thought there were two types of families:
1.     Those who need a dictionary to get through dinner.
2.     Those who don’t.
 
We were No. 1… “If you have a question,” my folks would say, “then find the answer.”
 
The instinct in our house was never to sit around like slobs and wonder. We knew a better way: Open the encyclopedia. Open the dictionary. Open your mind. (p. 22)
 
All my life, she (his mother) saw it as part of her mission to keep my cockiness in check. I’m grateful for that now. Even these days, if someone asks her what I was like as a kid, she describes me as “alert, but not terribly precocious.” We now live in an age when parents praise every child as a genius. And here’s my mother, figuring “alert” ought to suffice as a compliment. (p. 23)
 
Coach Graham worked in a no-coddling zone. Self-esteem? He knew there was really only one way to teach kids how to develop it: You give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it, and you just keep repeating the process. (p. 37)
 
Getting people to welcome feedback was the hardest thing I ever had to do as an educator…It saddens me that so many parents and educators have given up on this. When they talk of building self-esteem, they often resort to empty flattery rather than character-building honesty. I’ve heard so many people talk of a downward spiral in our educational system, and I think one key factor is that there is too much stroking and too little real feedback. (p. 113)
 
There are no better role models than people like Jackie Robinson and Sandy Blatt. The message in their stories is this: Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier. (p. 139)
 
This is an excellent book to read with older kids, perhaps starting at upper elementary school through high school. Take a look at The Last Lecture Web site, click on Online Extras and then The Last Lecture Educator’s Guide for some excellent discussion questions and writing ideas.

Summer Reading and Media Lists for Gifted Students

 
It’s that time of year again. Summer is upon us and I know many of you are looking for good books for your kids to read as well as notable recordings, videos, and software. Here are some links that will offer guidance.
 
Lists book and media awards, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, Wilder, Carnegie, Batchelder, Belpré, Geisel, and Odyssey awards and the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Includes Children’s Notable Lists, identifying the best of the best in children's books, recordings, videos, and computer software.
 
Includes book awards lists in various categories along with a number of lists dedicated to audiobook and film recommendations for accelerated young adults.
 
A teacher of gifted students lists books that, over the years, “were requested the most often, provoked the most interesting discussions, and were remembered and mentioned years after they were read.”
 
Information about goal-oriented summer reading programs from Scholastic and Barnes and Noble.

Summer Apprenticeship Program for Gifted Students

 

The Institute for Educational Advancement (IEA) offers three- and four-week summer apprenticeship programs for gifted high school students. Each year, the program places high school freshmen, sophmores and juniors in challenging, hands-on learning experiences provided by an esteemed group of participating mentors in various professions. This year's participants are located at several sites in Southern California and include the Los Angeles Superior Court, Art Center College of Design, and the Japanese American National Museum. 

The programs run from July 12 through August 8. During this time, apprentices spend weekdays working with their mentors on pre-arranged projects. At the end of the program, they will present their work to fellow participants and other interested parties. Apprentices live on the Occidental College campus and IEA staff transport the students to and from apprentice locations. In addition, IEA will provide enriching evening and weekend activities, as well as other general opportunites for apprentices to socialize with their intellectual peers. Past program participants rave about their experiences and many have gone on to attend prestigious universities.

The original application deadline for this program has past, but there are still some spaces available. Call 626-403-8900 if you are interested in applying. IEA will continue to accept applications until all spots are full.

Specific information on the program, including apprenticeship sites and participating mentors can be found here. Financial aid is available.

This truly sounds like a wonderful opportunity. I urge you to explore this program.

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.

Journalism for Gifted Students

 
The way in which we get our news is morphing, with a heavy emphasis on technology. As journalism changes, newspapers remain important primary document resources. Archives of print media help us trace trends and ideas in history. There are numerous resources available to teach students about the value of journalism and how to be critical consumers of news. Here are a few.
  • Newseum is an interactive museum in Washington D.C. that offers five centuries of news history. There are also links at the Newseum Web site that have good teaching tools. Under the Education link, the section titled Teacher Resources has some great lesson plans for grades 6-12 that highlight the headlines and front pages of newspapers. Today’s Front Pages is a very interesting section where you will find the day’s front pages from 767 newspapers, across 72 countries.
  • High School Journalism: Lesson Archive is sponsored by the American Society of News Editors. Here you will find lots of ideas to teach about advertising, bias, copy editing, critical thinking about the media, decision-making, design, diversity, editing, editorial cartoons, editorial writing, entertainment journalism, features, First Amendment, graphics and design, interviewing, journalism ethics, journalism history, libel, news values, online journalism, photography, reporting, story ideas, and more. If you truncate the URL as I have here, you will find even more great information.
  • The New York Times Daily Lesson Plan is an archive of lesson plans that blends daily news with higher-level thinking skills. There are some excellent ideas for teaching students to analyze what they read and see.
As always, remember that very bright students are capable of working beyond the suggested grade levels of lesson plans. The Web sites here are designed for teachers, but parents will also get many ideas for working with young people at home.
 
Is your student interested in a career in journalism? Have him check out some of these sites.

Dragons in Literature

 
Gifted kids relish theme-oriented studies. These studies allow students to study a topic in-depth and at a higher-level of thinking than many traditional units.
 
One fun, interesting, and non-conventional theme for study is Dragons in Children’s Literature. If you have a student who might find this topic interesting, there are some good resources available.
 
Tina L. Hanlon, Associate Professor of English at Ferrum College in Virginia, has assembled an annotated bibliography on Dragon’s in Children’s Literature. Included in the bibliography are picture books, novels, poems, background resources, and a paper/essay (the essay is particularly interesting) that Hanlon presented at the Children’s Literature Association Conference in June 2002. Using the extensive information that Hanlon offers could be a basis for a wonderful study of dragons (from those in Beowulf to Harry Potter) and their role in literature. Sometimes dragons are regarded as a symbol of evil and, as Hanlon states, sometimes as ”watered-down images resulting from the attempts of modern Americans to protect innocent children from the violence in traditional literature.”
 
Links to additional supportive materials can be found at The Dragon Theme Page, created by the Educational Technology Center at Kennesaw University in Georgia.
 
Material on the Web sites listed above could be a basis of study for very young children through high school students and beyond.

Free Curriculum on Investigating Systems

 
In past blog entries, I have talked about the importance of teaching universal themes and using essential questions. (Use Search Entries button on the right to find and read these previous entries.) I continue that discussion here.
 
Marion Brady who, over the span of his career, has been a teacher, administrator, and author, is a person with strong ideas about what our educational system should look like. He feels that traditional curriculum is fragmented, emphasizing the need to "cover the material," without providing an umbrella under which students can understand and apply their learning. Brady offers this umbrella through his curriculum titled, Investigating Systems (IS).
 
In the spirit of the current movement to offer open sourceware (free classroom materials online), the author provides IS for download. (You do have to register, listing personal identification information, to be able to download the curriculum.)
 
To give you an idea of the content of the curriculum, I am including its Table of Contents.
  • Organizing Information (Investigating Patterns, Investigating Relationships, Analytical Categories)
  • Analyzing Systems (Systems with Human Components)
  • Major Human Systems: Societies
  • Investigations of Structure
  • Investigations of Environment
  • Investigations of Patterns of Action
  • Investigations of Shared Ideas
  • The Dynamics of Change
  • Change and Stress
  • Constructing New Knowledge
In addition to the free curriculum, there is also a place for online comments and discussions. Rather than viewing this curriculum as fully finished, Brady sees it as a work in progress; therefore, input from those who use the material is valued.
 
Whether you are a teacher or a parent, whether or not you choose to use the curriculum in its entirety, you will find that this curriculum will help you better understand the concepts of universal themes and essential questions and how to use these in the education of students at home and at school.

Integrated Curriculum for Gifted Students

 
Curriculum is meaningful when students can relate it to other aspects of their lives. This is more likely when material is taught using themes that integrate many subjects.
 
Integrated curriculum organizes education so that it links together the humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, social studies, music, and art. It views learning and teaching in a holistic way, reflecting the real world and prepares children for lifelong learning. Integrated curriculum includes
  • A combination of subjects
  • An emphasis on projects
  • Sources that go beyond textbooks
  • Relationships among concepts
  • Thematic units as organizing principles
  • Flexible schedules
  • Flexible student groupings
Teachers often learn the theory behind good curriculum development, but they are too often expected to create their own materials. It is difficult to find enough time to keep “reinventing the wheel.” There are a couple of very good resources for integrated curriculum that contain already-developed teaching units that target gifted students.
 
In my blog, I have frequently mentioned the units developed by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary. These units contain in-depth activities that develop high-level thinking skills and encourage students to relate the material to their own lives. I have personally used several of these units and know teachers who have used others. The material is excellent! Units are available for elementary through high school. Titles include The Weather Reporter, Spatial Reasoning, Patterns of Change, and Defining Nations: Cultural Identity and Political Tensions.
 
The units developed by the Ricks Center for Gifted Children at University of Denver use critical thinking, problem finding, problem solving, and evaluating as an overlay for the content areas included in each topic. Multiple teaching strategies are used to address specific learning styles, individual needs, and intellectual abilities. Units are available for pre-kindergarten through grade 8. Titles include Arctic/Antarctic, Architecture, Natural Disasters, and United Nations.

Questioning Techniques for the Gifted

 
As parents and teachers, we want to stimulate the thinking of gifted kids by posing open questions and teaching students how to create their own open questions. A closed question is one that can be answered with either a single word or a short phrase (i.e., "How old are you?" or "Where do you live?" or any  question that can be answered with either "yes" or "no"). An open question, however, requires a longer, more involved response and does not have one correct answer; instead, it causes the respondent to think and reflect.
 
There are several resources available for teachers to create open questions in the classroom. Parents can use these same resources to guide interesting conversations with their children and promote good problem-solving skills.
 
Open questioning techniques include essential questions and critical thinking questions.  
 
This Web site lists seven key components that essential questions have in common.
 
Examples of essential questions include:
  • What are the ramifications of cloning?
  • What is intelligence?
  • Are we really free?
  • Where does perception end and reality begin?
  • Does history really repeat itself?
  • Are there any absolutes?
  • Are there other more pressing issues that deserve consideration before space exploration?
  • What was the greatest invention of the 20th Century?

Although the information provided at this site is designed for college students, most gifted students are fully capable of using the techniques. I especially like the generic questioning stems, such as:

  • What are the implications of …?
  • How does … tie in with what we have learned before?
  • Do you agree or disagree with this statement? What evidence is there to support your answer?
There are also very good suggestions for using critical thinking in student writing. The act of writing requires students to focus and clarify their thoughts before putting them down on paper.
 

Questioning in the Classroom

Although this Web site was developed specifically to identify questions to be asked in science or math, the concepts can easily be transferred to many other subjects. Questions are divided into four groups: direct information, relational, divergent, and evaluation. Questions are also posed to reflect critical thinking.

Examples include:

  • What can you change to try to make ____ work/happen?
  • Where have you seen something like this before?
  • How can you use what you’ve learned?
The form at this Web site can be used to generate essential questions to be used in class.

Using Universal Themes to Promote Higher Level Thinking

 
The use of universal themes has been discussed in this blog on a couple of occasions:
 
The topic is so important for gifted students and so sought after by parents and teachers that I want to visit it again.
 
In education, we are often accused of delivering a curriculum that is not relevant to today’s students. If we teach (or have discussions at home) using universal themes, the material presented does become relevant.
 
A universal theme is a timeless, broad, abstract idea that can be used to tie together literary works or understand broad concepts in history. It is one to which all people can relate. It transcends race, gender, and creed.
 
In good literature, themes are implied rather than directly stated. By looking carefully at a universal theme, students are able to explore what that theme reveals about people, about their relationships, and about life in general. What motivates people to action? What causes a person to change? What human weaknesses and strengths do we see in others? Powerful universal themes explore concepts in depth. For example, rather than just study the facts of war/conflict, it is more interesting and meaningful to figure out how conflict changes the lives of all people involved.
 
If you visit the previous blogs mentioned above, you will find many ideas for using universal themes as well as many potential concepts that can be used as universal themes. Below are additional possibilities. 
  • Conformity/Nonconformity
  • Free will vs. fate
  • Growing up
  • Hate
  • Hypocrisy
  • Martyrdom
  • Restrictions of society
  • Temptation
By using universal themes, you will make learning relevant, provide umbrellas under which details become easier to remember, and give students a framework of understanding that they can carry with them the rest of their lives.

Teaching Gifted Students to Analyze Literature

 
Whether you are a parent or a teacher, there are some great resources to help you encourage students to think analytically about the books they read.
 
From University of Connecticut’s Schoolwide Enrichment Model Reading program, comes Using the SEM-R Bookmarks. I like the suggestions provided at this Web site because they explain how adults can model the thinking they want to develop in children. For example:
 
How would the problem change if the story took place elsewhere?

The teacher could say, ‘I’ll show you how I might answer that question. First I would think of a different place or setting—maybe here in Willimantic. Then I would think about what is different between Willimantic and the setting in the book. (She could talk about some of these differences.) Now I would think about how these differences might change the problem.”

By modeling all behavior, we help students to better understand.

Be sure and download the “Bookmarks” provided at the beginning of the article. These bookmarks provide 28 pages of good higher level questions to pose when discussing books of all types. Even if you haven’t read the book that the child is discussing, you can elicit a conversation with these questions.
 
Thinking about Thinking: What Makes a Good Question? provides a unit that builds on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Higher Order Thinking Skills. The five session unit helps students understand what makes a “fat,” or open-ended question. Young people then take that understanding and critique existing questions that have been written for literature units. Finally, the kids practice writing their own good questions for books that they read.

Etymology for Gifted Students

 
 
Etymology is the study of the history of words. It explains when a word entered a language, from what source, and how its form and meaning has changed over time. It is fun, interesting, and helps to build vocabulary.
 
Internet sites
This Web site takes words from mythology, explains their meanings, and helps students understand the influence of those words on today’s vocabulary. This is accomplished through interactive exercises and worksheets.
 
Students can search the origins of their names and that of friends and relatives.
 
Books
English from the Roots Up (Vols. 1 & 2 and also flashcards)
The system explained in these books can be used at home or at school to teach the Greek and Latin roots of words. It is a valuable system for students in elementary school through high school. The system helps students develop their vocabulary and enables them to recognize roots that will help them decipher the meanings of new words.
 
Students improve their mastery of the English language and acquire the keys for understanding thousands of words by studying Greek and Latin word parts (prefixes, root words, and suffixes).
 
Each of these books build understanding of vocabulary and help boost SSAT and SAT scores.

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.

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.

 

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.

African American National Biography: An Incredible Resource for the Gifted

 
The most extensive compilation of African American biographies ever written has recently become available and promises to be an excellent resource for gifted students who want to learn about the heritage and contributions of this group. This resource is sure to be a treasure trove for independent study, classroom projects, or just plain interesting reading. Watch the ten-minute PBS interview in which editors Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham (both from Harvard) talk about their work on The African American National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2008). The interview is excellent and will give you a real feel for the project.
 
African American National Biography includes biographies of more than 4,000 African Americans throughout 500 years, dating back to the arrival of Esteban, the first recorded African explorer to set foot in North America. Entries range from Aaron, a former slave without a last name, through Paul Burgess Zuber, a 20th century lawyer and professor. The series includes national heroes and historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass. But the biographies also include Sissieretta Joyner Jones, a 19th century opera singer; Richard Potter, a magician, sword swallower, and ventriloquist who owned 175 acres in New Hampshire and died in 1835; and the pistol-packing, fist-fighting Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary, of the late 19th century.
 
The entries were written by more than 1,700 contributors in response to a call that was put forth in 2001. In addition to those names published in the printed series, an additional 2,000 names will be included in a forthcoming online database, as part of the African American Studies Center digital archive, available through the Oxford University Press Web site. Gates and Higginbotham have compiled a massive database that includes 12,500 names.
 
The 8-volume set of African American National Biography is expensive—just under $1,000, so encourage your schools and libraries to make the purchase.

Developing Talent in Artistically Gifted Kids

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

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

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

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

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.

Black History Month Resources for Gifted Kids

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

A System of Organizing Books for Gifted Students

Keeping track of all the books I read has always been a problem. I’ve floated from one system to another. Recently, a friend told me about GoodReads. At first I was skeptical because I figured it was just another gimmicky Web site, but I tried it and now I am hooked. I think it would also work for gifted kids. In fact, in addition to students using it as a way to keep track of books they’ve read, it also encourages them to write and to communicate with others about their reading.

The Web site is free and you can keep recorded information as private as you want. Right now, I am only sharing my input with one other person, though I’ve invited a couple of friends who are also avid readers to join.
 
As a parent, you would want to monitor the way in which your young person uses the site. While GoodReads is a useful tool for any age, like any public site, it is probably most appropriate for emotionally mature students who will use it appropriately. If you have elementary or middle school children, you may want to first test it with your own books to see if you are comfortable with it.
 

Let me tell you the parts I really like:

  • I can list all the books I have read and rate each on a scale of one to five.
  • I can list the dates on which I finished each book.
  • I can easily access a summary of a book or information on the author. This is good, because sometimes I can’t immediately recall the theme of a book if I read it several years ago.
  • By clicking on edit, I can record anything I want about the book. Sometimes, I find it helpful to write down meaningful quotations or passages. Sometimes, I just want to remember a particular impression I had, or cite what I learned from the book. I can also write my own review of the book.
  • By clicking on the title of a book I’ve read, I can see comments that others have made after reading it themselves and click again to see threads of discussion about the book. I can also rate the reviews of others. 
  • I am also able to list books I am in the process of reading and books I want to read.
For those who like to organize information, this is a great way to do it. The books I read become my friends, and when I go back years later and review some of the things I have written, the words bring back warm memories.
 
If I choose to become “friends” with others on GoodReads, I receive an email every time these people post books they have just finished, or reviews they have written. That way, I can keep up with the interests of others.
 
A group of readers can be formed by a parent or teacher to discuss books read in class or through a homeschool group. GoodReads is one way to be able to organize and voice opinions outside of class.

 

Aside: If you had access to my section of GoodReads, you would see that I just finished reading Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri and am a little more than half way through War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. Both are well worth reading.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

Challenging Gifted Readers

Saturday, June 02, 2007 - by CFertig - Category: Parents and Educators, Reading-Writing-L.A.
Do you have a child who is an excellent reader, but is not picking up books on her own? Do you wish you had a way to help your student choose books that will enrich his life? Do you want to give a gift of a book to a precocious reader, but don’t know where to start?
 
In many districts, school librarians no longer exist. In efforts to cut costs, aids with little training often replace these import figures in student education. Yet librarians, parents, and teachers are so important in guiding precocious readers to appropriate choices. In order to maintain interest in reading, students often need help in finding books that inspire them.
 
Debbie Abilock points out in Lighting the Gifted Reader’s Journey—the Parent-Librarian Partnership ways in which parents can support and encourage school librarians and how the librarian’s knowledge of books can be used to point young readers in the right direction.
 
Rita Soltan advises other librarians how to advise gifted readers in her article titled Precocious Readers. She recommends that first librarians find out areas of interest to the young person. Next, those interests should be matched to books that contain at least some of the following criteria:
  • Language that is rich, varied, precise, complex and exciting
  • A story that is open-ended and inspires contemplative behavior
  • A book that will leave the reader with as many questions as answers
  • Fiction complex enough to allow interpretive and evaluative behavior
  • Non-fiction that helps a student build problem-solving skills and develop methods of productive thinking
  • Characters that are portrayed as intelligent, talented, resourceful, and/or inventive
In Challenging Gifted Readers, Patricia Austin discusses reading elements that challenge strong readers, including language, structure, perspective or point of view, ambiguous endings, and content. Reading well-written books about professional role models is also important, especially if the books enable readers to view the work of a scientist, historian, activist, or other contributor to society. In addition, books with gifted protagonists help bright readers better see their own lives, struggles, and feelings mirrored in the characters. While gifted readers may not naturally gravitate towards these books, adults can certainly steer them in that direction. Austin goes on to elaborate on each of these elements and also provides an annotated bibliography of suggested books. Suggested grade levels are provided.
 
Bertie Kingore has some excellent reading discussion questions for young people—even very young learners in Reading Instruction for the Primary Gifted Learner. These questions will help students to think about their thinking.
  • What can you tell me about your reading?
  • What did you think was easy to do and hard to do?
  • What changes would you want to make?
  • What is the most important thing you learned from this?
  • What do you do when you are reading and you find a word you do not know?
  • When might it be a good idea to reread something?
  • Why do you think that is so?
  • How did the author cause you to infer/conclude that?
  • What evidence can you use to support that?
  • If you did not know, what would you do to get the most information?

Teaching Writing to Gifted High Schoolers

Friday, May 25, 2007 - by CFertig - Category: Parents and Educators, Reading-Writing-L.A.
 
Writing is something I’ve enjoyed all my life, but I am glad that I never had to teach a writing class. When assignments of any length are given to students in high school, one of three things often happens:
  • The paper is full of discouraging correction marks.
  • The paper has few comments that are really helpful.
  • The assignment is never returned to the student.
Learning to write well is a very personal experience and, to be helpful, teachers need to offer specific feedback while still providing encouragement. Praise needs to be both sincere and specific. There’s nothing I hate more than having someone praise me in general terms. The words feel empty and dishonest. I do, however, appreciate it if someone provides me with very specific positive or negative feedback in a kind and caring manner. That is helpful!!
 
The problem is that it takes a great deal of time for a teacher to give adequate attention to each student when evaluating writing assignments. This is why I am glad that it was never my task. I knew that if I had to give each student the time needed, I would have no life outside of school. It just takes too much. I also believe that only giving written feedback is not enough. To really help a writer develop, a verbal discussion needs to take place.
 
Publishing adults who are already good writers often belong to writers’ groups where everyone in the group reads one another’s work and comments over and over until each piece is polished. Even good writers continue to learn.
 
When teachers are responsible for critiquing the writing assignments of large numbers of students, the task becomes impossible.
 
So, is there a solution? I do have some suggestions. While your student should still do and hand in assignments and look carefully at comments written by the teachers, this is not enough. The student needs to
  • Write often. Write letters, emails, keep a journal, etc. It is important to become comfortable with writing by producing.
  • Buy a copy of The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. Originally written in 1957, this book has been revised. It remains the bible for writers. Read and study it.
  • Read books by writers about how they write. A few that come to mind are On Writing, by Stephen King; How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, by Janet Evanovich; and Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury.
  • Find an adult who you know is a good writer and ask that person to read and critique your writing. This person can be a parent if the student will listen with an open mind.
  • Find an adult writers’ group and sit in on discussions. You may be able to find a group by searching online and adding the name of your city. Your local public librarian may also know about groups.
  • Consider taking an online writing course from EPGY (Education Program for Gifted Youth), the Stanford University EPGY Online High School, or a junior college.
Writing is such an important skill. It will open doors of opportunity in many areas as a student matures. In addition, it’s just plain fun!!!

Smithsonian Resources for the Gifted

 
In 1826, James Smithson, a British scientist, drew up his last will and testament, naming his nephew as beneficiary. Smithson stipulated that, should the nephew die without heirs (as he would in 1835), the estate should go “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” Since its founding, the Smithsonian Institution has grown to be the world's largest museum complex and research organization. The Internet has enabled the institution to grow even more and avail its resources more readily to people around the world.
 
A specific area of the institution’s site, Smithsonian Education, is of particular interest to gifted students, their families, and educators.
 
The section for educators (my favorite) includes extensive lesson plans and suggestions for uses of technology in the classroom. (Currently, the Web site shows how student podcasting can be used as a learning tool.) Lesson plans are divided into the categories of Art & Design, Science & Technology, History & Culture, and Language Arts. The many lesson plans and resources within each of these categories can be used as wonderful differentiation tools. Individual or small groups can be formed to investigate the various subjects, using primary sources on the Internet. The wonderful part is that it’s free and already developed for teachers.
 
The family section provides information for those who want to visit one of the museums in person. It has suggestions for before, during, and after activities to make a family visit most enjoyable and educational.
 
The section for students includes many interactive modules to help young people learn in the areas of Everything Art, Science & Nature, History & Culture, and People & Places. You might want to spend a little time looking at this section. Although there are activities for many different levels of ability, it may take a little hunting to find a section that is most appropriate for your student. 
 
In addition to the Internet resources, Smithsonian Education also offers a free e-mail newsletter that is filled with interesting information. You can view a sample copy before signing up for the newsletter.
 
This may be one of the best distance learning sites on the Internet.

Grammar Is Key for Gifted Students

Friday, March 02, 2007 - by CFertig - Category: Parents and Educators, Reading-Writing-L.A.
 
Grammar is no longer taught in K-12 schools as it was when I was growing up. In fact, many younger teachers are very uncomfortable broaching the subject, as it was not something that they were adequately taught when they were students. As I looked for links on the Internet about grammar, I found that many basic grammar sites based out of universities contain the same information people of my generation were taught in junior high. Because of the absence of this subject in schools, all students, including gifted students, are missing out on a key component of their education.
 
To many, grammar is a boring subject, but if you don’t have a good grasp of it, you will probably use words incorrectly. It really doesn’t have to be boring. I remember Miss Johnson, my fifth- and sixth-grade English teacher making diagramming sentences fun and exciting. Writing in her class was a real treat. Grammar is an essential tool for speaking, and writing, and it is also very helpful with SAT and ACT tests.
 
If grammar is not imbedded in the curriculum at your child’s school, make sure you understand the rules and teach them at home. There are a number of Internet resources that are helpful.
 
At this site, there is information on grammar, punctuation, and spelling, along with computer-driven exercises.
 
Included are quizzes and an online reference book. There is even a grammar blog.
 
This link includes all kinds of information on grammar, including words that are often confused, such as affect vs. effect, its vs. it’s, and lie vs. lay.
 
Please don’t make grammar a chore for your kids. If they sense that you feel it is not interesting, they will pick up on that. If you hear your children make grammar mistakes as they converse with you, gently correct them on the spot and try to give them a way to remember the rule.

Word Enrichment for Gifted Kids

Thursday, September 29, 2005 - by CFertig - Category: Reading-Writing-L.A.
 
There are so many ways to enrich vocabulary and word usage at home. These should be fun and challenging activities for everyone.
 
Begin reading out loud to children at an early age, and don’t stop as the kids develop their own reading skills. Shared reading is beneficial into the teenage years and beyond. In addition to reading aloud, share with one another the interesting parts of books that each member of the family reads. Excitement about reading is contagious.
 
Use big words at the dinner table. Don’t talk down to children. It is only by hearing big words that they become familiar. Young people will figure out the meanings of many words through context. They can ask you about the meanings of the ones they don’t understand.
 
Play family word games together like Scrabble, Boggle, and UpWords. Crossword puzzles and other word puzzles are also fun to do together. They also increase vocabulary and help one to look at words in unusual ways. Inexpensive word puzzle books are available in the magazine sections of grocery stores and drug stores.
 
Interactive computer word games can be found at

Publishing for Gifted Children

Thursday, June 23, 2005 - by CFertig - Category: Reading-Writing-L.A.
 
Do you have students who would like to see their writing published? Publishing student writing encourages the reluctant writer, strengthens kids' self-confidence, and rewards interest. Here are some resources that you will find helpful.
 
Publish in Magazines and Books
The nation's largest magazine by and for kids
 
This site is created by Vangar, a publisher of books by children
 
A magazine by young writers and artists
Publish on the Internet
Numerous opportunities for student publishing on the Internet.
 
43,000 stories written by and for children
 
Links to sites that publish student writing
Suggestions for Students Who Want to Get Their Writing Published
The only resource for teen writers from the viewpoint of two successful, nationally published teen writers
Suggestions for Teachers Who Want to Publish Student Writing
Teachers help students to gain an understanding of good content and style by having them edit of their own web pages
 
Practical information teachers need to find authentic audiences for their students' writing and advice for making their students feel successful as writers
 
Opportunities for teachers to get student works published

Summer Reading Lists for Gifted Children

Saturday, May 21, 2005 - by CFertig - Category: Reading-Writing-L.A.
 
As summer approaches each year, parents ask for summer reading suggestions for their children and teachers ask for suggestions for their students. Precocious readers look forward to blocks of time when they can pursue their interests with fewer interruptions.
 
When helping gifted readers choose books, whether fiction or non-fiction, include the following:
  • Enriching vocabulary
  • Books that cause the reader to ponder issues
  • Ethnic diversity of subjects and authors
  • Creative approaches to topics
The following are booklists you may want to consider:
 
The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, honors excellent books each year in a variety of categories. These awards include
  • The Newberry Medal—most distinguished contribution to American literature for children
  • The Caldecott Medal—artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal—an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children
  • Mildred L. Batchelder Award—an American publisher for a children's book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States
  • Pura Belpré Award—a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose works best portray, affirm, and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth
  • Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal—the author of the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year
Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, includes awards and book lists for teenagers. The awards and lists include
  • Alex Awards—adult books that appeal to teen readers
  • Best Books for Young Adults—annual recommendations for this age group
  • Margaret A. Edwards Award—recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world
  • Michael L. Printz Award—an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature
  • Outstanding Books for the College Bound and Lifelong Learners—books on this list offer opportunities to discover new ideas, and provide an introduction to a fascinating variety of subjects within an academic discipline.  Readers gain an understanding of our diverse world and build a foundation to deepen their response to that world.
Biographies for Gifted Students—compiled by Jerry Flack and Deirdre Lovecky
 
Gifted Kids, Gifted Characters, and Great Books—compiled by Bertie Kingore, these books are written by authors of merit. Each book contains well-developed characters who display gifted behaviors. The stories include thought-provoking problem situations, issues, or personal needs with which gifted students can identify. 
 
Good Books for Good Readers—books are grouped into categories such as Books with Gifted Characters, Long Books and Long Books with Sequels for Kids who read too fast, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Real History, Science Fiction, Survival, Math, Poetry, Biographies, etc.
 
Summer Reading Recommendations from Imagine Magazine—suggestions for young adults from a magazine published by Johns Hopkins University
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