Friday, June 30, 2017

Invitation to participate.

Dear Reader, 
If you are interested... I would love to issue a challenge to you and anyone else that you would share with...  I am working on a research paper that looks at what it is about gifted teachers that make them really memorable to the learners. Everyone can remember fondly a favourite teacher who made a difference for them at school and I am collecting stories about those people and what it was that they did  to make them so  memorable. If the response is positive then I would use a selection of stories in a proposed book. ( Contributors would not be reimbursed. )  I'm looking for patterns so you don't have to provide names but it would be handy to know the class level that you were in when you encountered that teacher, and approximately how long ago it was. One of the areas I'm interested in is how long the memory of that teacher has lasted. 
If you would like to reply privately then my email contact is 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Books : The Mirrors and Windows of Diversity

Many of today’s picture books contain powerful messages that apply to today’s world and can be used to stimulate critical thinking, reflection and discussion. Books can make you feel valued by providing a mirror, or introduce you to alternatives by offering windows on diverse views.  My contention is that sophisticated picture books can provide us with curriculum etcetera for our gifted students.
E… Empathy
T… Tolerance
C… Connection

E Empathy and sensitivity in gifted go hand in hand with emotional intensity, and stories about characters dealing with anxiety and compassion help the student with exceptional ability in reading and working with text information to make sense of the world. With higher ability comes greater awareness and understanding of the bigger picture behind the text. It is not always easy to find stories that provide young gifted readers with lots of opportunity for further research, but   I can heartily recommend Emily Gravett’s book ‘Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears ‘ because it not only gives the reader a chance to reflect on his/her own fears but provides wonderful ‘big words’ to find out more about and relates to experiences that a child is likely to encounter.

Do you know what these phobias are? Read Little Mouse's book and find out!
Rupophobia. Entomophobia. Teratophobia. Clinophobia. Aichmophobia. Isolophobia
And no, I didnt know all of them either! :-)

T Tolerance  

Tolerance can be defined as an interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices and viewpoints that are different from our own and books can definitely help to increase awareness and serve as motivation for change. . In a world where it has become increasingly harder to find agreement on decisions about the future, it is necessary to generate as many alternatives as possible and to look at how these decisions will affect others. The ability to switch over and look at things in a different way is termed ‘insight.’ De Bono defines it as a shift of emphasis from proving the logical ‘rightness’ of your own point of view, and therefore the logical ‘wrongness’ of the other person’s, based on the questionable assumption that you are both looking at the same thing. Looking at things from other points of view may even cause us to refine our own ideas.


C. Connected yet disconnected
In her research into the friendships of profoundly gifted children, Miraca Gross notes that gifted children look for friends to develop close and trusting friendships at ages where their age mates are looking for play partners. Their advanced intellect may result in difficulties where there is little or no access to like-minded peers. Some react by having imaginary playmates, while others may need help to practice social skills. Books can offer insights to help young students to support the message that everyone is unique in their own way and no matter how different you are there are others in the world like you. It helps for parents and teachers of gifted children to have an understanding of age related issues to do with friendship because students who are operating at a level in advance of their chronological age will have progressed beyond their age mates but may not have the maturity to recognise what it is that is setting them apart and making it difficult to create connections. Adults need to be prepared to offer a sympathetic ear but not try to solve these problems in order to build resilience and a tolerance for frustration.
Before the age of 4 a child is egocentric.
Between 4 and 7 they become more co-operative in play and prepared to a greater or lesser degree to share belongings.

The book ‘Feelings’ by Aliki is useful for helping young children understand about the feelings they may have associated with interacting with others. It has lots of little vignettes in cartoon form.
Between the ages of 6 and 8 children begin to realise that being a friend is having similar interests and they share likes and dislikes.
Older primary age students (8-10) focus on helping each other to foster friendship.
Between the ages of 11 and 15, most students understand that there needs to be an element of give and take in any friendship and they start to build affection and support for each other.
At ages 16+ friends look for commitments to each other based on trust and acceptance.
The way in which many gifted students cope with these differences is to gravitate towards older students who are like minded peers, and to build on similar interests. One way to foster this at school level is to allow opportunities for students to get together on a voluntary basis to discuss philosophical questions. Tiffany Poirier’s book ‘Q is for Question’ provides a whole alphabet of idea starters and ideas for follow up.

There you have it.
Gifted readers have a unique ability to perceive relationships and solve problems.
As a pre-schooler I had a family of pegs and would tell stories about their difficulties with life in a peg box. I was thrilled when I found the story of the Borrowers when I got to school.

Gifted readers demonstrate keen observational skills and a unique child’s view of the world.
Conversation with a two year old…
Do trees look the same under the ground as they do on top of the ground? The tree in my book has roots that look like branches.

They are able to grasp abstract ideas quickly but their conclusions might be more in keeping with their experience of the world.
Conversation with a two year old…
Do babies have blood inside them?
Well, how come you can’t see their veins? You can see my veins. And you can see your veins. Do they get more blue when you get old? Yes. That must be it, because babies are new. And I’m not new because I’m not a baby any more. And you can see your veins easily because you are old!

You suspect a gifted reader when a student in your class complains that he has read everything in the school library, and he may be right! Our gifted students have a lot to be thankful for with the increase and ease of technological access.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Seasoned with love.

A Handful of Lessons from the Kitchen for teachers of gifted students.

 Lesson #1. : Familiarise yourself with your ingredients.
The way that education is delivered has undergone huge change over the last twenty years and will continue to do so as access to technology is refined and improved. Success hinges on mastering the ability to do things differently, and herein lies a challenge because educator awareness of the possibilities can be a green light or a road block. As an experienced professional I am well aware that there are a great number of issues that teachers face on a daily basis and we can be overcome by the sheer volume of ingredients that we are faced with but the way in which they are put together has an effect on what happens next. Doing things differently in this case refers to expanding the status quo. There is an increased ability to use learning data to discover problems but what of the gifted artist for whom maths is a challenge in the classroom, the child with music as the centre of its being who is not in the least bit interested in history, the scientist with the curiosity and ability to change our medical views in the future?  Will our emphasis on data make a difference for them? Informal and regular assessment gives starting points for gifted students, but needs to be subject specific.   Physical, emotional, social and intellectual growth is often uneven (Asynchronous development is an interesting read.) Will they leave school with the feeling that they are unsuccessful as a result or with the determination to succeed and prove us wrong? My contention is that it depends on the teacher’s understanding that strengths and potential problems are flip sides of the same coin. Students with the need for constant mental stimulation and who are capable of processing complex information rapidly or have to explore a subject in great depth are a challenge when that passion is directed into an area of talent that is not recognised or valued 
For our students to be successful we need to understand the ingredients that are in their makeup and what is needed to enable new learning to occur, to question the appropriateness of the instruction, and to make links to the real world.  Can you familiarise yourself  with the unique talents and academic needs of students such as I have described above, or will you be distracted by false stereotypes relating to the term ‘gifted?’  Do you know your ingredients?

Lesson #2 : Strive for a well-stocked pantry..

What strategies do you have available in your teaching arsenal? Bloom’s taxonomy is useful because
developmentally advanced students need exposure to
breadth and depth of knowledge and this can be developed through offering learning experiences at the upper end of the taxonomy. Gifted children see the world differently to the way that other children see the world. Not necessarily better. Just different. Their unique viewpoints sometimes result in different ways of doing things or in taking a road less travelled website. Are you now saying… yes I hear you, but where do I start?  Examine your own pantry. Is it time to discard some elements?  

Seeing possibilities that others don’t see can be helpful, because change occurs when those who can see how things might be are in a position to do something about it. The challenge for teachers is to provide the support for this to happen. Expanding your knowledge of the strategies available is a good place to start. If you need specific help or advice then you can ask for it by joining the mailing list on the TKI gifted site.

Lesson #3: Learn from the experts 

Recipes are useful starting places. Stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before you.  Student portfolios and learning journey journals can provide authentic assessment. What makes the difference is how you cope with them. Teachers  need to know where to go for answers, and I firmly believe that today’s students  need access to  both young and experienced teaching staff and professional development providers with specific expertise  in our schools to bridge the gap because they bring different skill sets.  is the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s website offering a range of assistance from school guidelines to access to providers and papers for teachers to take to improve their qualifications in this field. is an international   portal with collections of research based information. Stephanie Tolan’s ‘Is it a cheetah?’ is still as confronting to stereotypes of gifted as it was more than twenty years ago when it was written.  The article can be found at Details for
Certificate of Effective Practice  in Gifted Education can be found on at site
Lifelong learning is a goal to ascribe to and we can all learn from each other.  There is truth in the saying that a teacher will never know the extent of his or her influence on the future, but you DO have an influence whether it be positive OR negative.  Gifted students are at the cutting edge of change. They may well be the change agents themselves.. Which side of the coin is your focus?  

Why not start with the premise that most parents do understand that teachers are not able to create a customised curriculum for an individual child and move on to developing flexibility and a willingness to explore options that can be adapted to the classroom by both parties and the student him/herself? Collaboration works. Work together to meet the child’s learning needs. Don’t be afraid to think beyond the recipe and let the student make it his/her own. Experiment with ways to help students to develop their abilities and look for experts to provide scaffolding where necessary.

Lesson #4 : Learn from each other

As teachers we all make mistakes.  What defines us is how well we rise after falling. We may use similar tools but in different ways and we can all learn from the things that research has since debunked about the learning needs of gifted students. Here are just a few to be going on with…
 Research has found that it is counter-productive to ask gifted students to tutor students who are struggling because gifted think and learn differently and it results in a frustrating experience for both parties. This is also true of grouping students together. There is a lot of truth in the saying that birds of a feather flock together. Like minds challenge like minds.  I can’t remember who said it but I remember reading that some student’s awareness of TV is limited to the basic TV1, TV2, and TV3 channels. Others have access to expanded channels like Sky, while gifted are connected to satellite dishes. The problem is that you don’t know what you are not aware of. Lots of teachers fall into the middle group and are not aware that they are placing ceilings on their expectations because they don’t see the world as their gifted students do.

Asking students to do more of the same doesn’t provide challenge if the work was not challenging enough to begin with. Depth is not the same as breadth. Encourage students to look for patterns and trends and to support big ideas.  Delve into the ethical issues surrounding a topic. Look for other perspectives. Challenge students to find ways to deal with ambiguity by introducing unexpected limits such as reduced time, using a particular electronic application, or changing the audience.

Lesson #5:  Strive for texture and balance within the constraints of equipment and time pressure.

In order to be an effective teacher you have to strive for a balance between the sweet, the sour, the salty and the crunchy.  What is happening at the coalface and student and community aspirations make it tempting to blame the system that we work with when this goes awry for gifted kids. Teachers say that they can’t change the system. They say they haven’t got enough hours in the day to deal with individual needs. Systems are in place for good reasons but that shouldn’t stop individuals from trying to make changes when it is not working for the students that they teach. If we can teach sighted teachers to teach the blind, and hearing teachers to teach the deaf, then surely we can at least try to make some difference for gifted students with the potential to do things differently and enhance our own horizons? Medical doctors use test data, but they don’t base their diagnoses solely on results of those tests. They analyse test results in conjunction with other information obtained, such as presenting symptoms, medical history, family history, and patient interview. Meeting the needs of a gifted student is not an onerous task if informal assessments are undertaken on a regular basis. Consider discussing ways to increase the challenge of a task with the student that would still meet the learning objectives. Clearly outline the ground rules. Gifted students are generally excited 
by the opportunity that this negotiation affords and it is easier for the teacher to monitor progress.   Research clearly shows that it is far more effective to focus on stages of development than it is to deliver curriculum based on age. 

For older gifted students in particular to be successful we may need to recognise that we do not have the answers and to look at ways to move beyond the regular classroom. Distance learning and internet options greatly increase the ability to find ways to provide challenge but be aware that outcomes will vary because there is no such thing as one size fits all in education. It is 
accepted that some meals will be better than others but that shouldn’t stop us from seeing mistakes as a challenge to learn from.

You CAN make a difference.
You can give in.
You can give up.
Or you can give it all you’ve got.
It is my hope that you will choose to give it all you’ve got and season your gifted students with love. Thank you on their behalf. You could have more influence on the future than you can possibly imagine.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12 days of Christmas for teachers. Days 9,10,11,12

With school finishing for the holidays at the end of this week, there are just four days of Christmas surprises for the teachers.

Day #9 : A notebook with a Santa sticker on the cover

Day #10: Christmas wrapping paper

Day #11: A container of hand sanitizer with red black and white Santa costume wrapping

Day #12: A selection of baked Christmas goodies- Gingerbread and  a Christmas mince pie.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Days 5,6,7,8 of Christmas for teachers

Teachers pay teachers is a great place to find activities to suit the kids in your class at this time of the year. Some are free to download while others will cost a small amount. Unless it is a freebie,however, be aware that a download is for one teacher in one classroom and if you want to share schoolwide then you need to purchase a multi use license.
I'd love you to visit me there
Thinking Challenges

Here are my next four days of Christmas for Teachers...
Day 5 : An activity for kids to do in the run up to Christmas


Day 6 : A small piece of bubble wrap with a prescription note: (I found this idea on Pinterest some time ago when I searched for gag gifts).

Day 7 : A pack of mints in a tiny knitted Santa stocking.
(Ask Granny to knit the stockings for you for next year) 😊
The knitting pattern is based on a baby bootie pattern.

Day 8: A balloon with Merry Christmas printed on it to blow up, and a pair of Christmas earrings

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Twelve days of Christmas for teachers

Decided to surprise my wonderful colleagues at school this year with something 'teacher friendly' for each of the 12 days of Christmas. I'm only posting at the end of each week just in case they find my blog early!  LOL.

Do you know about the Teachers pay Teachers (TPT) website?
Visit me here
Thinking Challenges

The complete set of 12 days is on my store as a freebie.
PLEASE leave feedback if you download it and like the idea.
I only work at school four days of the week and we've only got three weeks left so the twelve days needed to start earlier than the traditional twelve days of Christmas in December. If you would like to use the idea yourself then please be aware of copyright issues and don't re-post on your own blog/ website / pinterest... unless you include a link to my blog. Thanks.

Here are the first four days...

Day 1 : A wrapped chewy sweet
Day 2: A sachet of powdered coffee (cappuccino)
Day 3: a candy cane
Day 4: Nail polish and applicator