Monday, January 14, 2013

coping with curiosity

Several weeks (months!) ago I wrote a post titled 'THAT explains a lot!'.  In the post I described several common characteristics of gifted learners and some of the possible positive and negative behaviors/attitudes we associate with those characteristics; today, I'll address how we, as parents and teachers, can go about addressing one of those characteristics.  We'll take a look at all of them eventually, but today we'll focus on curiosity:

Characteristiccurious, has a variety of interests
Possible Positive Behaviors/Attitudes: asks deep and probing questions; gets excited about ideas; conducts individual research independent of assignments
Possible Negative Behaviors/Attitudes: goes on tangents; no follow-through; has difficulty making academic and social decisions

Teacher: Rather than discouraging creative ideas, work as with students as individually as possible to refine their ideas and help them focus those ideas into channels which accomplish the intent of the assignment.  Gifted students may face particular frustration when their ideas don't translate into the product they hoped to see.  According to Lovecky (1992), "The child needs to know that there is something to be learned from any idea, and doing something that does not turn out may lead in the future to another idea".  If the student is still unhappy with the results of those investigations, validate their feelings but continue to emphasize Lovecky's point.  Remember, the intent of grades is to measure mastery of the material, which can still happen even if the intended ends were a complete failure.

Parent: NEVER discourage your child from asking questions, even if those questions are beyond your ability to answer!  Instead, validate her/his interests and assist your child in locating the resources needed for the question at hand.  Encourage individual investigation, and make sure you familiarize yourself with your child's interest; there's no need to become an expert, but you should know enough to be a sounding board.

When your child has a decision to make, ask her/him about the intended results, and help your child work backward in a logical fashion.  For example, "So you want to go to veterinary school?  Okay, what are the requirements to get in?  What kind of classes will you need to take as an undergraduate?  In order to take those particular classes, which college or university do you think would be the best choice?  What are the admission requirements, and what classes will you need to take in high school?  In order to take those classes, what classes do you need to get right now, in middle school?" and so on...

This goes for all issues related to your child's academic needs: when you are unhappy with your child's teacher or school, speak up!  Please understand that teachers and administrators are doing their best with their available resources, but they may not be aware of your child's needs or know how to help.  Many states have no requirements for teachers to receive training in gifted education, so it may be helpful to meet your child's teacher with prepared articles or resource lists.  Never be afraid to advocate for your child's interests, but remember that concrete suggestions are much better than a list of complaints.


Clark, B. (2004).  Tips for parents: Helping parents understand their profoundly gifted children.  Davidson Institute for Talent Development.  Retrieved from

Lovecky, D. (1992).  Exploring social and emotional aspects of giftedness in children.  Roeper Review.  15(1) 18-25.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

THAT explains a lot.

"S/he couldn't be gifted; her/his grades are terrible."
"S/he couldn't be gifted; s/he distracts others and is a negative influence."
"S/he couldn't be gifted; s/he never does homework or anything beyond the minimum."


I've spoken with teachers who say all of these things to me (and more), and I've spoken with parents of gifted kids who find themselves completely at a loss to understand their children's behavior.  Even though the list below doesn't provide specific strategies to help with some of these negative behaviors and attitudes, hopefully it will help teachers and parents (and students, themselves!) understand why they do what they do.  I'll come back to strategies in a later post.

No gifted child displays ALL of these characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes ALL the time, but most gifted children display SOME of them SOME or MOST of the time.

Characteristics of the Potentially Gifted Student
(without a documented disability)

Characteristic: learns rapidly
Possible Positive Behaviors/Attitudes: memorizes and masters basic facts quickly; needs 1 to 3 repetitions to master
Possible Negative Behaviors/Attitudes: gets bored easily; resists drill; disturbs others; refuses to complete work on concepts already mastered; resents helping peers

C: advanced vocabulary
PPB/A: communicates ideas well; expresses self in a more mature manner than peers
PNB/A: shows off; invokes peer resentment; purposefully “dumbs down” speech with peers

C: retains a large quantity of information
PPB/A: ready recall and responses; is an "expert" in some topic(s)
PNB/A: monopolizes discussions; resists projects out of academic comfort zone

C: long attention span
PPB/A: sticks with a task or project
PNB/A: disrupts routine tasks; dislikes interruptions

C: curious, has a variety of interests
PPB/A: asks deep and probing questions; gets excited about ideas; conducts individual research independent of assignments
PNB/A: goes on tangents; no follow-through; has difficulty making academic and social decisions

C: works independently
PPB/A: creates and invents beyond assigned tasks; develops products which are very different from those of other students
PNB/A: refuses to work with others; products are extremely eccentric, sometimes to the point of being indecipherable; dominates group projects

C: alert and observant
PPB/A: recognizes problems; is aware of things unnoticed by other students
PNB/A: impolitely corrects adults; ridicules peers for observation failures

C: has a good sense of humor
PPB/A: able to laugh at self
PNB/A: plays cruel jokes or tricks on others

C: comprehends, recognizes relationships
PPB/A: able to solve social problems alone; ponders with depth and multiple perspectives; infers and connects concepts; demonstrates keen sense of fairness
PNB/A: interferes in the affairs of others; is sarcastic or impatient with peers; manipulates information; struggles to move past issues of fairness

C: high academic ability
PPB/A: does school work well; works above peers by 2 grade levels or more
PNB/A: brags; egotistical; impatient with others; deliberately works below ability

C: fluent, verbal facility
PPB/A: forceful with words, numbers; leads peers in positive ways
PNB/A: leads others into negative behavior

C: individualistic
PPB/A: asserts self and ideas; has a sense of own uniqueness; displays spontaneous intellectual outcomes and conclusions
PNB/A: has few friends; irrationally stubborn in beliefs

C: self-motivated, self-sufficient
PPB/A: requires minimum teacher direction or help; is self-critical; is unmotivated by grades
PNB/A: is overly aggressive in challenging authority; is excessively perfectionistic; does not follow through on assignments; does not demonstrate neatness or order in work

Characteristics of the Twice-Exceptional Student
(gifted with a learning or other disability)

Exhibits extensive and high-level spoken vocabulary, but much simpler written vocabulary
Excels in reading comprehension but struggles with or refuses written work (or vice versa)
Has extremely creative ideas, but written expression is very poor (bad spelling, illegible handwriting, etc.)
Obvious brightness is not matched by work produced
Appears unmotivated or unwilling to work when a direct conversation indicates high interest in the topic
Mismatch between parental reports of interests/activities and effort/products in school
Exhibits severe discrepancies between potential and performance

Characteristics of the High Achiever

Completes all the work
Not a risk-taker
Very knowledgeable
Very good at lower levels of thinking
Weak at higher levels of thinking
Usually punctual with assignments
Asks primarily “safe” questions
Usually an A student
Scores close to/in the 90th percentile on standardized tests
Needs 6 to 8 repetitions to master
Memorizes well
Works up to 1 grade level above peers
Helpful, likeable, and well-mannered

Volunteers quickly
Follows the rules carefully


Adapted from:

Goldstein, L.F. (2001). Diamond in the rough. Education Week.

Kingore, B. (2004). Differentiation: simplified, realistic, and effective. Austin, TX: Professional Associates.

Mittan, K. (2006). Teacher pleaser or potentially gifted?: a guide for teachers. Hawthorne, NJ: Educational Impressions, Inc.

Ohio Association for Gifted Children (n.d.). Characteristics of gifted children - positive and negative behaviors which may be exhibited. Retrieved from

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dig It!

We're currently in the midst of an archaeology unit for 6th and 7th grades, and the students are working on excavation and field lab methods, as well as observation and pathology studies.  Back in August, I contacted Potash Corporation in Aurora, NC to ask about getting some of the waste material from their mine, which is full of marine fossils like bivalves, fish bones, and teeth from sharks, dolphins, and sperm whales.

Just for kicks, when the students asked where I got the dirt, my first answer was, "In three 5-gallon buckets from FedEx".

Anyway, these fossils are 19-20 million years old, and they washed down to the North Carolina coastal plain from the Appalachian mountain system (which includes the Blue Ridge mountains).  This means, of course, that the Blue Ridge mountains were once under the ocean!

Click here to go to Marine Biology Web and learn more about lots of topics related to ocean life.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is DNA as accurate as we think???

Those interested in following my eighth-graders' journey through It's Not Fair!, our justice unit, might like to take a look at the essay linked below.  Renzulli Learning has this description:

What is the likelihood that someone on trial for murder is innocent, if the odds are a billion to one against anyone else in the world sharing the DNA found at the crime scene? It's more likely than you might think, if you take all the odds into consideration!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Let's vote!

In case you aren't aware, there's an election in a few months :)
Many of my students are deeply, emotionally involved in the political process.  Since we're located near the District, part of this fascination is probably because of sheer proximity, but I do have quite a few students with parents who are politicians or who work with politicians and public policy.  Many gifted students also have a keen sense of fairness, an interest in leadership, or a personal connection with a particular issue, so they tend to pay more attention to politics than the average student.

This one's for you!

With this link, you can explore both the history and the math behind the Electoral College, and then work with a computer model and an imaginary country to see whether you can devise a system that would be more fair:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I'm a little embarrassed...

I'm awfully sorry, everyone.  It's been almost a year since my last post, and I can't believe how quickly it got away from me.  I've started to write so many things, but then something comes up  and I have a meeting or there are stacks of essays to assess or my classroom needs work or there are justsomanyotherthings which are important RIGHT NOW and, before I know it, it's been months.

So, all that to say I'm sorry, please forgive me, and I'll do better, I promise.

Since I have to go assess the aforementioned essays, I'll leave you with a really neat link related to the archaeology unit my 6th- and 7th-graders have just begun.  Enjoy!


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