Book Review: Differentiating Instruction With Menus: Math

This is part 1 of 4 of this series.

20160523_101558The differentiating Instruction with Menus series is one of my favorite series. It happens to be one of my most used series to date. I have found that all gifted children are very smart, they still need some differentiation in the lessons.

I feel that giving gifted students a choice is a great idea. I want my students to feel as if they are in control of their learning, their grades, and their work. There is a lot of research that supports this idea, and Laurie discusses that in the introduction of the book.

As I began to read through the 3rd-5th grade second edition I started to get inspired about somethings I could do with the my upper grades students based off the menus Laurie has placed in this book. But, if I were a teacher who had 3rd through 5th grade students, this book series is one I would get. In regards to Math, what I like about this book are the menus. Laurie gives a short description of the type of menu along with the benefits, limitations, and time considerations. Everything that a teacher would need to know about a type of menu is there. There are also several menus that are listed that a math teacher can use in their classroom linked to State Standards.

If you do products with your students, you always need to have a rubric for your students to follow. This book has some great examples of rubrics. It also has idea for rubrics for students taught lessons, to teacher directed products. Laurie also has ideas and examples of how to get student feedback. All the menus and feedback forms are great, and can be used as is, or can be used a jumping off point.

I this book is a great resource for teachers and parents. I would hope that anyone who teaches math to gifted children would use this book. This resource can be used in a classroom setting, or homeschool setting.  Not only would I suggest you use this book, but also use the whole series. I have it, and I use it often in my teaching.


Summer is Right Around the Corner

For many of us summer is right around the corner, and school will be out. I know as an educator that having the summer is important. For me, summer is a time for family gatherings, vactions, and relaxing. It also is a time for reflection, professional development, and summer classes. Doing things out in the community, or with your family teachers always seem to stay busy during the summer.

As #ohiogtchat takes a break for the summer, I hope that you take some time for yourself to be recharged. I also hope during that time of recharging you get inspired to do somethings this coming school year that you didn’t do in past years.If you are like me, I will read several books this summer to help me get inspired.

The National Parenting Gifted Children Week is July 17-23. Check out your gifted associations for information.

Concerning #ohiogtchat:

Our next #ohiogtchat is Aug 7: Alternative placements: (Homeschools / Unschool Movement/ Online Schools) Guest Corin Goodwin and Home School Panel. I hope that you join us for this chat. I believe that it will be a very interesting topic. More and more students are being homeschooled, and participating in online schools parents of gifted children want to give their children the best education possible. So this topic is becoming more relevant than what people assume it is.

Then two weeks later we have our second chat for the month of August. On Aug 14: Classroom Prep–How do you start your school year? Creating a Classroom Environment that encourages creativity and challenge. I hope by then, many of you will have been recharged and ready for the school year to begin. So let’s talk about the classroom environment.

Have a great summer and see you in August!.

How to be Effective During Chats

As one of the moderators of #ohiogtchat I help to lead a chat that brings topics related to Gifted Education, advocacy, and gifted children and adults. Near the end of each chat we encourage those who participated in the chat follow each other. What I have noticed in past two years of moderating #ohiogtchat I have noticed that many new people are joining the Twitterverse.

One of my passions is advocating got gifted children and Gifted Education. So if I can, I want to help others who have a passion for gifted advocacy online to be more effective I will. Now, the few tips that I want to share are ones I have learned from being on Twitter and participating in chats.

Before we talk about the chats, let’s talk about your profile on Twitter. Here are a few suggestions:

Don’t be an Egg-Head. When you set up your Twitter account they give you a colored egg as your avatar. Change it. Add a picture of yourself, or use some of the online photo editors to dress up your picture as much as you want. If you don’t want to put a picture of yourself, then use a logo of something that relates to you. For example, if you graduated from a college then use their logo as your avatar. I use my favorite picture with my wife.

Screenshot_20160413-130334Create a Profile. When you create your profile, write your description of yourself that accurately describes you. When you leave it blank it doesn’t allow others to see who you are. I would also use hashtags in the descriptions of the things you like or follow. For example, to the left is mine. I tell what is important to me, about me, and share the hashtags I like to follow. I also have a link to my blog page. I also added a picture to top. That picture shows I am into sports, particularly high school sports.

Use a handle that represents you. Some people like to use their name as their handle, which is what I did. Some like to be more creative with their handle. Whatever you choose let it show people who you are. Don’t make it complicated. Don’t use your zip code or birthdate in it. For example, don’t use “jsh03maker12fght”. It’s too complicated. Just be yourself.

Remember on Twitter, pictures and tweets last forever. People will judge about you is the material that place online. So don’t post images or tweets when you are angry, drunk, or extremely tired. The posts won’t make sense most of the time, and you may say something you regret later.

No as it comes to being effective in chats, here are a few things I would suggest. 

Increase your PLN (Professional Learning Network). When you join in a chat you like, I will go through and follow those people who are active in the chat. I want to learn from others. 

Study Up. Most chats will post the questions a few days before hand. Check out the questions. Do a little bit of research so you can add to the conversation. 

Like / Retweet. During the chat like and retweet statuses of others. By liking the post, you are agreeing with them. Post your own original thoughts in a chat. It’s nice to like and retweet, but you need to add your opinion or better yet some of your research. Share the article, website, post, blog, or the handle of someone on Twitter that will add to the conversation.

Finally, help to promote your favorite chats. When the moderator posts upcoming chat times and topics share those with others. Get more people in the conversation. The more people you have, the diverse the conversation. Here is a link to several tweet chats that you may be interested in. 

I hope this helps to give you an idea of ways to be more effective on Twitter. Again you can always follow me on Twitter at @jeff_shoemaker, and check out the chat I moderate called #ohiogtchat. (This chat is sponsored by the Teacher Division of The Association for Gifted Children.)

If you have any other suggestions on how to be more effective on Twitter and during tweet chats please let me know in the comments section below.

Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities in Gifted Children

ap17 adThis Sunday , April 17th at 9pm ET, #ohiogtchat will be discussing Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilties (OE). If you are not are not familar with  Dabrowski and the traits of the OE, here is a short background.

Kazimierz Dabrowski was a Polish psychiatrist who created a framework called Theory of Positive Disintegration which is basically that conflict and inner suffering were necessary for advanced development-for movement towards a hierarchy of values based on altruism-for movement from “what is” to “what ought to be.” Dabrowski also observed that not all people move towards an advanced level of development but that innate ability/intelligence combined with overexcitability were predictive of potential for higher-level development. It is important to emphasize that not all gifted or highly gifted individuals have overexcitabilities. However we do find more people with overexcitabilities in the gifted population than in the average population.

There are five areas of overexcitabilities Dabrowski identified.


Psychomotor OE


    • Psychomotor OE is a heightened excitability of the neuromuscular system. A child who has this intensity will be very energetic, and have a love of movement for movement’s sake. They have a surplus of energy, and have  rapid speech when talking.
    • When children who are feeling emotional tense may talk impulsively, act impulsively, misbehave and act out, and display nervous habits. At times have a “workaholic” type belief towards work. These children are organized, and can become quite competitive.
    • Some strategies to help these students:
      • Allow time for physical or verbal activities
      • Provide some time for spontaneity, open-ended activities
      • Provide movement and verbal projects in the classroom


Sensual OE


    • Sensual OE is expressed as a heightened experience of sensual pleasure or displeasure through sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.
    • These students have a heightened appreciation for music, language, and art. They also like and seek tastes, smells, textures, sounds, and sights.
    • Children with this OE will at times overeat, go on buying sprees, or seek to be the center of attention.
    • Some withdraw from stimulation, such as clothing tags, classroom noise, or from certain smells
    • Some students will get so involved in their love of music or art form that the whole world ceases to exist.
    • Some strategies to help these students:
      • Create an environment that limits offensive stimuli and provides comfort
      • Allow these students the opportunity to be the center of attention periodically in musicals or in drama, or in classroom skits.

Intellectual OE

    • Intellectual OE is demonstrated by the need to seek understanding and truth. These students want to gain more knowledge through analyzing and synthesizing information.
    • These students have very active minds
    • They are curious
    • Avid readers and keen observers
    • These students have the ability to engage prolonged intellectual activities
    • Have a great visual memory
    • These students love theory and problem solving
    • Focus on moral, ethical, and fairness-issues, (some would call these “adult issues”)
    • These students are very independent
    • May appear critical and impatient
    • Some strategies to help these students:
      • Show how to find the answers to questions
      • Provide or suggest ways to help these students to act upon their moral and ethical concerns
      • If a student seems very critical then allow them opportunities to show how their intent may be perceived as cruel or disrespectful

Imaginational OE

    • Imaginational OE is displayed through heightened imagination with a rich association of images and impressions
    • They have a frequent use of metaphor and image
    • These students are use invention and fantasy, and have detailed visualization
    • Have elaborate dreams
    • Often mix truth and fiction
    • Create fictional worlds
    • Have imaginary friends
    • Have a hard time functioning in a classroom where creativity is second to academic curriculum
    • Students will write stories and draw instead of participating in class discussions
    • Strategies to help these students:
      • Help students to differentiate real and fictional world through journaling
      • Help students use their imagination to function in the real world (as an example allow students to organize a notebook based on their own organization system.)

Emotional OE

    • This OE is most often identified by parents. Students with this OE have intense feelings, extreme range of emotion, and can be a very affectionate.
    • These students can relate to others feelings
    • Known to have physical manifestations to responses like stomach aches, concerns for death, and often battle depression.
    • These students have been known to have deep relationships, have strong emotional attachments to places, people, and things.
    • Show compassion, empathy, and sensitivity in relationships.
    • These students are known be “over reactive” at times.
    • Their compassion and concern for others often gets into the way of daily tasks.
    • Some strategies to help these students:
      • Teachers should accept all feelings regardless of the intensity.
      • Teach students with this OE to prepare for physical and emotional responses.
      • Help students find the warning signs of their emotional stressors such as headaches and stomachaches.

As you read through the list, can you see some of your students fitting some of the characteristics? Do you get a clearer idea of why your student(s) may behave the way they do? We would love to hear some of your experiences with with gifted children who show OE behaviors. Join in the chat on Sunday April 17th. Also, leave a comment, and let me know how you help your gifted children who show some OE signs in your classroom.

A few reources for further study:



Book Review: Complex Systems in Our World

20160330_171221-1.jpgThis is part 4 of 4 in book reviews. These books are written by E.L. Strauss published by

 Part 1: Global Explorer.

Part 2: Chaos Theory Uncovered

Part 3: Our Universe Revealed

Complex Systems

I have always been interested in patters, and in relationships. Complex Systems in Our World helps to explain the science of relationships. Complex systems theory is “a transdisciplinary field of study concerned with the organization and functioning of different phenomena. The field examines the principles common to all complex systems, with the aim of discovering patterns and principles that can be applied to all types of systems, at all levels, in all fields of research.”


Like the other three books in their series, Complex Systems in Our World is structured similar. It starts by looking at interconnections, and emergence, moves to types of complexity, and finishes with superorganisms and thermodynamics. I enjoy the Questions we Ask and What we Uncover sections that help to guide the reader through the book. The outline of each chapter isn’t a traditional outline. Instead it is a series of questions that the author poses to get the reader thinking about the material they will interact with.

The book has great pictures to help the concepts of systems and their complexities. The activities that the author has connected to the material is challenging and makes the reader use their critical thinking skills.


I think Complex Systems in Our World is a great book to help students to understand how relationships work in the real world, and how communities, cities, and the environment are connected through these systems. This is a great resource for students. This book is best suited for high school students who want to get a more in-depth education of complex systems. The vocabulary is challenging. Complex Systems in Our World also requires you to use critical thinking in some of the activities that are presented to the reader.





Book Review: Our Universe Revealed


This is part 3 of 4 in book reviews. These books are written by E.L. Strauss published by

 Part 1: Global Explorer.

Part 2: Chaos Theory Uncovered

Our Universe Revealed 

I am a big fan of Cosmos. I love listening to Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson explaining the mysteries of the galaxy. If you like that show and many others like it, then you will love this book.

Our Universe Revealed is a great book that covers a multitude of topics including Antimatter, Dark Energy, Quasars, Supernovae, and Einstein’s Theories, and more. This book covers the study of Cosmology: “the scientific study of the large-scale properties of the universe; the field endeavours to use the scientific method to understand the universe’s origin, evolution, and ultimate fate.”


I love how this book is organized and structured. When you open Our Universe Revealed , you see there are a list of Questions we Ask, and a list of topics in the What we Uncover section. This gets the readers engaged in what will be coming up in the sections ahead. I also enjoy that before each chapter starts the author lays out a small time line of questions that the reader should keep in mind as they read. I believe this is a great way for students to get their critical thinking skills started.

Our Universe Revealed starts by looking at stargazing, moving to the beginning of the cosmos, how the universe is structured, and finally Relativity. I like how Our Universe Revealed has great pictures, illustrations, charts and graphs that help bring clarity to the reader on the subject at hand. Students will find these to be useful. The author also uses some illustrations made by artisits which are colorful, and detailed.


For someone who is interested in learning more about space, the galaxy, and parts of the universe then Our Universe Revealed is for you. It is very good at giving details, explaining different equations (such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Hubble’s Law to name a few), and explaining how the universe works.

After reading Our Universe Revealed, I came to realize that I had learned a lot. In the back of the book there is a list of topics that students, adults, and teachers who want to learn more about the cosmos could check into. This book is only 127 pages in length, and can be read in just a few short sittings. It also has the opportunity to be a jumping off point for science students to take a topic and go in-depth further than what is in the book.

Our Universe Revealed is a great book to use in addition to the science curriculum that is used in school and in homeschools. This book is best suited for high school students who want to get a more in-depth education of space. The vocabulary is challenging. This book also requires you to use some critical thinking in some of the activities that are presented to the reader.

Overall, Our Universe Revealed is a great book. I hope that you check it out, along with the others in this set.