“Why can’t I just choose the book I want to read? Why do I have to read what you want me to read?” the student asked. “I think this book is just right for you in your reading group” the teacher replied. The student took the book, stomped back to his desk and put his head down in frustration.
I’ve seen this scenario far too many times. What is it about reading programs? Gifted children often have early and excellent reading skills. They may read above grade level and stories beyond their age. Because of this, traditional reading programs in school can be tedious for gifted children.
Choice is very important to children because much of their world is beyond their control. The ability to select their own reading books allows choice and empowers the child in ways that impact learning across subject areas. Gifted children often want more choice than other children because of their insatiable appetite to learn. Having a teacher or parent tell them which book they must read is frustrating. Would you like to constantly read books that someone requires you to read, rather than books you want to read?
It is a difficult situation because teachers must cover such a wide-range of curricula, and although differentiation is encouraged, even required in some districts, they often have no choice in what their students read. Worksheets about reading comprehension or vocabulary development, also required in many classrooms and districts, should be very minimal for all children, but especially for gifted children because they use low-level skills. In addition, gifted children should not be doing more work, but different work. My mantra is always “Different, not more”.
What are some solutions? Differentiation may help. Talk to the teacher and work together to develop a reading list that provides challenge. If the students are required to read certain stories try to develop alternative activities so the gifted child can explore the story more in depth or from a different angle, or other ideas you, the student, and the teacher may come up with. Another way to engage the gifted student is to allow the student to use electronic books with the many ways to interact with the text. Electronic books are often far more useable than a traditional book in that the annotating, note making, dictionary/thesaurus, and other tools are ready and easily accessible, rather than searching through the entire hard copy chapter or book for the one notation the student needs at that moment. There are many apps, plus native tools for reading available on technology devices. There are many ways to differentiate reading texts and activities for gifted children. The important thing is to allow the gifted child to guide his/her own learning.
The following is a list of resources regarding gifted children and reading. As always, these are shared so you may explore the content and use what is appropriate for you, your child, and/or your students if you so choose. This is far from an exhaustive list, so be sure to search yourself, or better yet, have the student search for ideas to help make the important skill of reading fun again.
Please note you may need to copy and paste the URLs into your browser rather than clicking on the links.
Differentiation in a Reader’s Workshophttp://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/differentiation-reader39s-workshop
Differentiation Instruction for Gifted Children in the Regular Classroomhttp://www.slideshare.net/drummosh/differentiating-instruction-for-gifted-learners
Literacy Strategies for Gifted Learnershttp://www.johnston.k12.ia.us/schools/elp/documents/literacystrategiesOct2010.pdf
Differentiation Instruction for Gifted Learners https://teacher.ocps.net/deirdre.kelly/teachers/supportclsmtchrfiles/Differentiating%20for%20Gifted%20Learners%20FINAL.pdf
Helpful Education Apps List by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talentedhttp://txgifted.org/helpful-edu-apps/
August and September is a time when students return for another academic year of school. With a new school year comes many new experiences. Many school districts are stepping up their course offerings in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), while at the same time striving to teach toward 21st Century skills. What these two approaches have in common are several concepts that are common in successful gifted programs.
These concepts are a focus on critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, and innovation. In addition, gifted students require that learning have relevance to real world problems, and knowledge that they are taken seriously.
Skills of today, including STEM and 21st Century skills, are skills that are innate for many gifted children. As the new school year starts, keep watch for lessons and assignments (homework) that use these skills. Encourage your student to use these skills to enrich and further their own learning. If these skills are not promoted in your child’s classroom you and your child may want to consider suggesting it to the teacher and providing resources. The following are several websites with information on using these skills in the classroom. These are only a few of the many websites available about STEM and 21st Century skills. Do your own search, or have your child do the research online, and explore how your child’s strengths and skills may be used in school. Be sure to share what you learn with your child’s teacher. http://www.p21.org http://www.imls.gov/about/21st_century_skills_list.aspx http://www.bie.org/research/21st_century_skills http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/reference-material/5-stem-resources-online-for-teachers-in-the-classroom/ http://www.navystemfortheclassroom.com
Summer is almost here. Families spend the summer months in many different ways. That is what makes us unique. Even though we may live in the same community, state, region, or country, individual families have traditions, practices, and characteristics that are uniquely theirs.
Give yourself and your children permission to enjoy the summer respite and laze around on hot summer days doing things your family likes to do. If you have scheduled special activities for your gifted child remember to spend some time doing nothing but being together, with time to think.
While gifted children often have vast interests they also need time to think and ponder. Sometimes parents, teachers, and other adults may accuse children of not doing something; paying attention, completing a task, or something else, when they are actually engaged in thinking. Time spent thinking is important. Children need time to absorb and comprehend what they see, hear, touch, taste, smell, feel, read, and experience. We need to give children time to do this. The brain is an organ that needs exercise just like any other part of our body. What we must realize is that work done in school does not always equate to exercising the brain, especially for gifted children. School schedules are packed with specific activities that must be completed on a strict timeframe. Even if the class is boring for the gifted child, there is no time to think and ponder.
For many gifted children time to think and ponder is almost more valuable than the act of learning because if one does not have time to think and ponder, then one cannot engage in deep learning and exploration.
Enjoy relaxing this summer. Both you and your children need time to relax, think, and have fun.
Even though we still see snow and feel cold, it is not too early to begin thinking about summer activities for our gifted children. Often, summer activities bring the challenge, excitement, and friendships our children crave, yet do not experience throughout the rest of the year. Parents often tell me that their children are able to make it through the school year only because they look forward to summer activities with like peers.
Below are several sources that list summer activities. This is by no means an inclusive list, but, rather, a place to start your exploration. You may want to share these links with your children, have them research the activities, and make a list that fits your parameters (location, cost, dates, etc.). From this list you and your child may need to complete an application to the program, many of which have due dates beginning in early May. That is why it is important to begin the exploration process now. In addition to program applications, there may be scholarship applications to complete as well. The WATG scholarship is due on April 1. This scholarship is to support gifted children’s summer activities. Here is the link for more scholarship information:
Summer activities do not need to cost anything. Many local communities offer free activities for children and adults. The public library is a great place to start, as are museums, recreation departments, zoos, parks, and other local resources unique to your community.
Enjoy thinking about summer. It will be here before we know it.
Wisconsin Summer Camps and Youth Programs
This month I am seeking your input. The purpose of this column, Ask the Dr., is to address topics that help parents maneuver parenting a gifted child. Readers have asked questions, made suggestions, and provided general topics they have wondered about. I would like to hear from you regarding your thoughts about the future direction of this column. Some have suggested continuing as it has been. Others have suggested making this a more direct discussion group with questions and replies from those who wish to participate. Please share your comments about what your needs are as you parent your gifted child. If you have a preference of one of the options above, please let me know. If you have another idea please share that as well. I welcome all ideas.
Recently some parents requested resources about studying for gifted students. The
parents were interested in finding a book or other resource that would teach their child to
study. Gifted children often go through K-12 schooling without ever having to study. Since
they know so much of the grade level curriculum already before even going to school in
each grade, few have the need to spend time studying for their classes.
One of the concerns of this fact is that when gifted children get to the point where learning
or doing a task becomes difficult, they quit rather than persevering until the learning or
job is done. There are many cases where a gifted student experienced his/her first low or
failing grade (D-F) once they got to college. By then the student may struggle with self-
doubt and their grades may go down as they experience their first encounter with failure.
It is important to give these students a chance to struggle and perhaps even fail while still
in K-12 school while there are supports in place, rather than while they are in college.
There are resources available to help students learn to study and effectively maneuver the
experience of struggling in a class. The following is a very brief list of such resources.
Study skills on the found on the Internet:www.how-to-study.comhttp://www.how-to-study.com/study-skills/en/index.asp
Browse the online catalogs of these websites to find articles and other resources about
learning to study. Publishers with resources about studying:www.freespirit.comwww.greatpotentialpress.comwww.hoagiesgifted.org
One of the most recommended books for gifted students is the survival series. The first
book for teens is entitled “The Gifted Teen Survival Guide” by Judy Galbraith and Jim
Delisle. For ages 10 and under there is “The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide” by Judy Galbraith.
These two books have sections that relate to studying. On the Free Spirit website
) there is a description of each book, plus free downloads.
From: The Critical Thinking Community
There is a series of articles about how to study, read, and think critically. All have links on
These resources are only the tip of the iceberg as related to learning to study. As usual, not
all resources work for each child. You will need to explore the resources and evaluate your
child’s needs before selecting something that works for your family when a student needs
to learn how to study.
I received a question asking if gifted children are at risk. While the question did not include specifics such as “at risk for what?” there is documentation of gifted children and youth being at risk for a number of things. Gifted students may be at risk for underachievement, overachievement, perfectionism, dropping out of high school, committing crimes that lead to incarceration, and social/emotional problems such as depression or suicide. In 2008 the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement states “…that between 18-25% of high school dropouts are identified as gifted…The majority of those students being from low-socio-economic families and culturally and linguistically diverse groups.” Clearly there is more to do to meet the needs of gifted children and youth who experience any of the at risk issues.
Gifted students often endure bullying, misdiagnosis, and an educational system that does not meet their needs. On the other hand, in schools where gifted students are supported with programs that enable them to use their gifts and talents, they thrive. We must remember that giftedness does not equate to a high IQ. Giftedness includes the arts such as music, art, dance, and other areas besides academics. Gifted students often are more sensitive to the needy and feel personally responsible to solve great social problems. All of these, and other characteristics of gifted children and youth produce a heavy burden on their psyche. We must strive to meet their needs and advocate for our children so they develop the fortitude to maneuver the difficulties of growing up in a positive manner, and if at risk symptoms begin to arise, we must take action to get help from others in order to meet the needs of these students.
I could cite statistics and differing view points on all of the issues I’ve already mentioned, and add a few more, but that is not the point of this article. My point is to address a question and provide resources for readers to investigate as they see fit. Below is a list of a few resources related to gifted at risk students. I hope it is useful. Gifted At-Risk Resources Gifted and Talented Students At-Risk For Underachievement
Issue Brief, The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement
), August, 2008http://www.centerforcsri.org/files/CenterIssueBriefAug08.pdf Gifted Kids At-Risk: Who’s Listening?
Patricia A. Schulerhttp://www.sengifted.org/archives/articles/gifted-kids-at-risk-whos-listening Social/Emotional Needs: The Rage of Gifted Students
Tracy Cross, 2001http://www.sengifted.org/archives/articles/socialemotional-needs-the-rage-of-gifted-students
Supporting Emotional Needs of the Giftedwww.sengifted.org
SENG’s Article Library http://www.sengifted.org/resources/resource-library/articles-library
Hoagies Gifted Education Page
Gifted Students At Risk
List of Resources related to the topic of at risk gifted studentshttp://www.hoagiesgifted.org/at_risk.htm
The end of the school year is approaching and summer is on the horizon. There is a flurry of activities to
finish before the end of the school year, both academic, and personal. Parents often need to help their gifted children maneuver through this stressful time. Exams often present a high level of stress for gifted children who want to do well, with some who think they must get a perfect, or near perfect score. Headaches, lack of appetite, poor sleep, and other physical symptoms may present themselves and as parents, we may forget that symptoms may be caused by the stress the child feels. This stress may be actual, or self-imposed,
nonetheless, it appears and the child suffers. A good diet, plenty of sleep, plenty of water to drink, time to play or walk outside (even for older kids), and a time to relax and laugh, are important things a child needs to help cope with stress.
This is also a time to consider activities for the summer. A formal, planned program for gifted children is not necessary to provide a great summer for our children. Local activities in your area are plentiful. Check with the recreation department or library for activities, many of which are free. Most libraries have summer reading programs for children that include children from preschool through high school. Many of these programs have rewards at certain levels of reading time, with great prizes at the end. Even high school aged children
enjoy the rewards of reading programs. The local park, swimming area, or shaded tree hold many opportunities to relax and enjoy the outdoors. A trip to your local Chamber of Commerce will provide many ideas and brochures about places to explore right in your area. Often, we adults do not even know all the great things to explore right in our own locale. Enlist the help of your child in exploring local options for summer. It may be the break from stress the child needs.
Another summer event July 13-14 is the international conference of the organization Supporting Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG). This year the conference is in Brookfield, WI. There is a children’s program for students ages 8-18 coordinated by our own Sarah Kasprowicz. This conference provides an opportunity
for parents to get together with other parents of gifted children from around the country and the globe to attend workshops. The children’s program gives gifted children the opportunity to be with others like themselves while exploring interesting topics in the local area. My family had positive experiences when attending several SENG conferences in the past, including the children’s program. Check out the SENG website for further information and registration: http://www.sengifted.org/
As we come to the end of the school year, take a moment for you and your children to stop, take a deep breath out in the sunshine and fresh air, and say thank you to those who have helped over the past nine months, while looking forward to the summer and time to just Be.
Often parents comment to me about the intensity with which their gifted child lives life. For some parents their child appears overly sensitive or emotional. For others there may be endless discussions that border on arguing about seemingly everything that is said. Still others find their child is in constant motion. All of these are usually found in most children who are developing on a ‘normal’ scale. The difference for gifted children is the intensity with which the child experiences these stimuli.
Many gifted children experience these stimuli as over-excitabilities. Dabrowski is well known for his interpretation of the excitabilities. It is generally a relief for many parents of gifted children when they discover Dabrowski’s over-excitabilities. They find their own child described within the scope of one or more over-excitabilities. For many parents learning about Dabrowski’s over-excitabilities brings relief that there isn’t something serious plaguing their child; however, even with a description, many gifted children continue to have difficulty fitting in with age-peers. Most of the time the problem isn’t that age-peers are not interested in playing with the gifted child; it is that gifted children may display over-excitability behaviors other children do not understand. This is where the asynchronous development of gifted children comes in. There are times when gifted children tend to seek out others like themselves regardless of age. Yet, there are still times when the child wants to play like other eight-year-olds. It is sometimes difficult for adults to remember that.
A great source of information about Dabrowski’s over-excitabilities is the web site Hoagie’s Gifted: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/positive_disint.htm
Recently I’ve had many questions from parents regarding testing their gifted child. Some parents have asked why testing is necessary when they know their child is gifted and schools may not use the testing information for in depth educational planning; others question the value of testing because this year’s teacher is doing a good job meeting the needs of their child.
The reasons for testing a child are different for every family. Some families choose to have their child tested by the school so they are identified as gifted and receive appropriate placement in class. Other families seek private testing outside of the school, or choose to have their child tested through networks such as NUMATS (Northwestern University Midwest Academic Talent Search) at Northwestern University. Some parents wish to pursue testing for their own use, to learn their child’s capabilities so they can plan how to address these needs as the child grows. Still others choose to forego testing and work with the school or at home to provide the necessary challenge and/or enrichment for their child.
If a family chooses the testing option, there are a wide variety of measurements to consider.
Assessments such as the EXPLORE, and Woodcock Johnson are achievement tests. They measure knowledge in key areas, usually including verbal and mathematical skills, and/or specific academic areas such as reading, writing, vocabulary, math and others. Tests such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) assess intellectual ability and provide IQ and other scores. It is important to know the difference between these two types of tests. Achievement tests measure skills and academic achievement. Intelligence tests measure intellect.
One of the advantages of the EXPLORE test through NUMATS, and other similar out-of-level tests, is that these tests are given to children younger than the intended population of the test. Because of this, children can demonstrate their knowledge in specific areas and not hit a ceiling, or the top range of questions on a test that won’t let them go beyond their age or grade level. These tests allow students to show what they know beyond their age/grade level. When seeking achievement testing in your local school district, be sure to ask what test they are using and if it allows students to show what they know beyond their age/grade level; in other words parents should as whether the test has a ceiling, and if so, what it is.
In Wisconsin, standard t requires multiple measures for gifted identification in all five areas of giftedness (intellectual, academic, creativity, leadership, and the visual and performing arts). That means that testing-be it achievement or intelligence testing-are only one measure for gifted identification in these areas. There should be many other measures that are also considered, and parents should consider asking what measures are used.
Though public schools are not required to accept testing from outside sources such as private practitioners or NUMATS, many do. It is wise for parents to determine the purpose and need for testing in their particular situation.
There is not a one-size-fits all approach to testing gifted children. Each family situation is different, and families should be prepared to ask questions before and after having their gifted child/ren tested.