Saturday, June 22, 2013

Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Gifted Child Busy This Summer

Whether you are a teacher of gifted children or the parent of one (or <<gasp>>, more than one!), you know that it takes talent to keep gifted kids busy--and out of your hair--during the summer months.  Here is a compilation of ideas for keeping your smarty-pants smartly engaged:

1.  Whether the gifted child is six or sixteen, one thing can probably engage them all:  ART.  Introduce your child to many different forms of visual art--paint, pastels, chalk, collages, mosaics, clay.  Use whatever you can find.  It doesn't have to be expensive; just use leftover magazines and make collages.  Or dig out paints and copy paper.  Or break old plates and use the pieces for mosaics.  I have even cut out little squares of construction paper to make mosaic patterns.  Most importantly, let them take the lead.  Don't let them just copy what you are doing.  

2.  If you have a tech nerd, photography might be an interesting choice for a summer activity.  It might even grow into a life-long love.  Depending on the age of the child, photography could include taking a digital camera outside to snag some shots of the neighbors' new petunias or it could be a self-taught tutorial in Photoshop.  Most of us have a digital camera of some type that we could allow our kids to use, but even brand-new ones are inexpensive for a beginner model.  Possibly giving your child an "assignment" would be better; for example, having them create scrapbook pages digitally via Shutterfly.  All of these ideas could give your smarty a chance to be creative.

3.  One question that drives me nuts basically everyday is this one--"What's for dinner?"  Well, heck, I don't know!  Why not put these kids to work?  Again, depending on their ages, this could involve just helping with recipes to planning and producing dinner for a week!  Wouldn't that be wonderful? :)  But, in reality, cooking can teach kids many different skills, from math (measurements, fractions, multiplication) to science (how heat or cold can change liquids to solids and back) to creativity (hmmm, we have hamburger meat and asparagus.  What can we make?) to the basic skill of feeding oneself.  And it's fun!  If you want to be really creative, let them help with food presentation.  They could decorate the plates with a sauce the way chefs do in fancy restaurants.

4.  I've been hearing all this information lately about the additives and harmful ingredients in the food that we purchase in the grocery store.  Why not grow your own food, free of all these cooties?  Let the whole family choose some of the veggies to grow.  Maybe your son could be in charge of the watering schedule, or your daughter could make sure that the weeds had been pulled.  Even if you don't have room for a real garden, you could always plant an herb garden in the window.  Kids could help add the herbs to their favorite dishes!        If it were my garden, I would absolutely have to have those cute little garden stakes labeled with the appropriate veggie so that everyone would know what goodies lie in store for us!

5.  If your little brainiac has an entrepreneurial spirit, summer could be the perfect time for him to start his own business.  Kids of practically every age are capable of producing some type of product or service that is valuable to others.  Many gifted kids are also inspired by the problems of the world.  Your child might want to start a business to benefit the local animal shelter or to help kids with cancer.  Helping others can be a powerful motivator for our gifted kids.  But even if your child only wants to add more "Miss Me" jeans to her closet, starting a business can be an important teacher for her.  It will teach her about profit margins, costs of producing a product, advertising, and it will definitely challenge her creativity, math skills, problem-solving, and perseverance!

Hopefully this list has given you a few ideas for keeping your child's brain and imagination engaged this summer.  I know there are lots more ideas out there.  Share your ideas with us in the comments below!

Friday, March 8, 2013

With Liberty and Assessment for All...

Well, it's assessment season.  At least the standardized variety.  What do you think about assessments?  It seems like right now we all detest assessments.  It seems like every week we are giving some type of mandatory standardized test.  Right now in our school district, we are giving the D2SC.  And that just seems like a practice test for the biggie around here--benchmark testing and the ITBS.

For the past couple of days, I've been off work for recuperating from oral surgery.  Today, I participated in a webinar about assessment, given by Carolyn Coil.  Have you heard of her?  She is an amazing author who strives to help all of us with differentiation.  Differentiation is so necessary for the growth of all students, but it is sooooo much work, right?  Ms. Coil has written several books on easy differentiation for students, both high and low ability.  As I watched the webinar, I knew that I wanted to review the high points for you.

One of the pillars of true differentiation is in assessing our students.  The first step is the pre-test.  In my opinion, this is the most important place to start.  There are several ways to easily do this, either formally or informally.  Formally, you can do several different assessments in order to see individually where your students are in their learning readiness.  Are they ready to learn?  Do they need some remediation before beginning something new?  Or do they already know everything you are about to teach??  Yikes!  You probably already realize that several of your students DO already know.  How do you know for sure?

I want to share some of her ideas that really seem simple.  Ya ready?  Here we go:

  • Give your final exam on a topic as a pre-assessment.  This would be a fairly simple method of pre-testing, particularly since you probably already have a test created for that purpose.
  • Have students fill out a web or concept map.  This is a super-simple idea.  Use a pre-printed concept map with nothing filled out except the topic written in the center.  They can even create their own web, if you like.  This will give you great information on your students' knowledge level!
  • I thought this one was interesting, and so easy!  In math, normally the last few problems on an assignment are the most difficult.  So, as a pre-test, have students complete the last 3-5 problems.  If they get them all right (prior to any instruction) why in the world would they have to do the easier one?  That would be such a motivator for them!  
Over the next week or two, I'll be giving some ideas for how to use the information you've gathered on student knowledge and skills.  Let's work together to make teaching easier and better for us AND our students!  Please share your ideas as well!

Be sure to check out Carolyn Coil's resources at