Author Archives: Jeffrey Shoemaker

About Jeffrey Shoemaker

I am a Gifted Intervention Specialist for the Lima City Schools District. I teach students who are in the 7th and 8th grade at West Middle School in Lima, Ohio. I am writer, blogger, speaker, and advocate for gifted children.

An Open Letter to Ohio’s Lawmakers

letter_1404675738To Ohio’s State Elected Representatives,

I am Jeffrey Shoemaker, a Gifted Intervention Specialist for the Lima City School District in Lima, Ohio. I have been teaching gifted children for 11 years of my 17 years of teaching. I wanted to give my support to giving Regular Education teachers 60 hours of Gifted Education training spread out over 2 years.

I started my teaching career in 2000 teaching urban children Social Studies. I had a wide range of intellectuals in my classroom. I had some students who were gifted, and I had some who were regular and special education students. Trying to meet the needs of my students were important to me, and it was a challenge to make sure all of my students were challenged to their intellectual abilities. I can tell you I failed at this. I took me a few years to figure out some differentiation strategies that work with some of my students.

I got into Gifted Education because I had a child at the time that was in my school district’s gifted program. I wanted to know more. I spent 2 years taking classes, and learning more and more about the complexities of gifted children. I learned teaching strategies, and theories behind gifted education. I was hooked. The more I learned about giftedness and gifted children I better understood how I was going to challenge them in my classroom.

Regular Education teachers need to further understand who gifted children are. They need to know how to challenge them. Most Regular Education teachers will see a gifted child get done with their work and reward them with more work. That’s not what to do. They need extension activities, and enrichment activities to challenge them and keep them from creating classroom disruptions. When we don’t challenge our gifted children, we rob them of their learning. We cheat them educationally. As teachers we need to fan the flames of passion with our children, not drill and kill activities that most gifted children will get fairly quickly and lose interest in.

I want to urge you to keep the mandate of 60 hours of professional development in the law. We need to have all teachers understand who are gifted children are, and how to effectively teach them. Universities and colleges do not put enough emphasis on gifted education. So it is up to the school district to make sure teachers are given the opportunity to learn effective strategies of teaching gifted children.

Educationally Yours,

Jeffrey Shoemaker, M.Ed

If you are interested in emailing your State Representatives Below are their email addresses. I will be sending this letter to all of them.

Peggy Lehner (R) – Chair

Lehner@ohiosenate.gov

Matt Huffman (R) – Vice Chair

Huffman@ohiosenate.gov

William Coley (R)

Coley@ohiosenate.gov

Randy Gardner (R)

Gardner@ohiosenate.gov

Gayle Manning (R)

Manning@ohiosenate.gov

Rob McColley (R)

McColley@ohiosenate.gov

Steve Wilson (R)

Wilson@ohiosenate.gov

Louis Terhar (R)

Terhar@ohiosenate.gov

Vernon Sykes (D)

Sykes@ohiosenate.gov

Joe Schiavoni (D)

Schiavoni@ohiosenate.gov

Cecil Thomas (D)

Thomas@ohiosenate.gov

 

 

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Encouraging Gifted Boys to Read and Write

downloadAs a middle school Gifted Intervention Specialist I feel it is my job to allow students to be challenged, find their passion, and fine tune some of their critical thinking skills. I feel that I must expose my students to various aspects of the curriculum they may not get in the regular classroom.

One thing that I have found is that gifted boys can be very particular in what they want to read. My students who are more comfortable with critical thinking, music, math, or sports will be less willing to read something that is out of their comfort zone.

On the other side of that coin is writing. They don’t particularly like writing, and find it boring. The will site writers block, or lack of creativity, or lack of interest. They find the writing process boring and a waste of time.

Writing is form of communication that from the start can one of those areas that gifted children may not want to do. When they are young a lot of teachers always want nice neat handwriting. If your gifted son has messy handwriting and can’t write straight on the lines holding that fat pencil so may early childhood classrooms have, they will get turned off.

In this day and age with technology, students don’t necessarily have to use pen and paper. There are many different technology tools that students can use to get their ideas out. We can’t let handwriting stop our gifted boys from creativity. These students can use voice recognition tools to write their ideas. They can use the computer keyboard to write them as well. What is important is to encourage them to get their ideas out, and express themselves.

Once they have figured out how to get their ideas out and on “paper” they can begin to see what kinds of literature they may connect with. They may find they like to write poetry, or song lyrics. They may find they have an interest in fantasy or fiction.

Something that teachers and parents can do is to link reading with movies based on books they might be interested in. Bridge to Terabithia, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter are all great examples of books that gifted boys could get into and discuss the movie version.

Reading and writing are connected, but for gifted boys it can very disjointed. As teachers and parents we need to find our boys passion and connect them to books they might be interested in. We must also find ways to get our boys to express themselves through writing.

What do you do to get gifted boys reading more?


Resources:

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/teen_boys.htm

https://educationaloptions.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/how-gifted-kids-learn-to-read/

http://www.mensaforkids.org/achieve/excellence-in-reading/

http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10376

http://www.sylviarimm.com/column4133.html

http://giftsforlearning.com/wp/why-gifted-kids-hate-to-write-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/

Hormones, Egos, Attitudes, and Middle Schoolers

I have been a middle school teacher for almost 20 years. I have worked with some great people, and and have had some wonderful students over that time span. I love being a middle school teacher who teaches gifted children. I was called to this awesome career.

middle-school

What I love about gifted middle schoolers are their hormones, egos, and attitudes. Sometimes as a middle school teacher you have to wade through all sorts of stuff. My gifted students are all unique, but they all have to deal those three things. Traversing these issues is a something that middle school teachers face everyday.

Gifted children are very smart. They have the need and desire to have and be friends, but going through the maturation process can be rough. As gifted children get older they begin to separate from their peers emotionally and socially. This can be a complicated process. So I try to hard to allow my students time to form friendships. The culture of my classroom is that it is a safe place to be yourself. Hormonal changes are natural, and they can’t be stopped, but we as teachers can help guide them through it. Gifted students may not know why they feel the way they do, but as long as you are open to talking to them you can help make a difference for them.

Middle School gifted children can have egos. I know for some this may seem like new news, but it is true. Gifted children get used to being one of the smartest people in their class. When gifted children realize this, they can start to get an ego. Having an ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is how this ego is developed. Gifted children don’t always like to compromise, because they often feel that their ideas are the best. Gifted students need to learn art of compromising when working with a small group. In our classroom, I try place a lot of emphasis on compromising since we do a lot of group/team projects. I try to model to them that being smart is great, but leading and showing others they can effectively contribute with the group is better. Keeping a middle schooler’s ego in check isn’t easy. It takes time, but in the end they will see the value in what they can do when they work together.

Along the same lines as egos are attitudes. Middle schoolers in general can go through different emotions that can change their attitudes on a multitude of things in just a short amount of time. This is actually one of the aspects that draws me to be a middle school teacher. Gifted children have attitudes that can rival average learning students. They are quick to see the injustice of the world; they are quick to judge the decisions they deem unfair; and they also want to change the world with their ideas and viewpoints. I have seen my students rally behind a classmate who is struggling with some personal aspects. I have seen my students stand up for one another when they feel one of their classmates is treating them unfairly. I have seen the fire of debates between students, and the realization in their eyes when they realize they can impact the world around them. If you are going to be a middle school teacher you are going to deal with student attitudes good or bad.

Middle School is just that…middle school. They aren’t in elementary school, and they don’t see themselves as little kids. They aren’t in high school, but they can see themselves there. They are stuck in the middle. When you realize this group of students is awesome, it is then you realize you are middle school teacher.

What do you like about middle school?

 

 

Mental Heath and Gifted Children

unhappy-teen-150x150In the upcoming issue of the OAGC Review the central focus is going to be Gifted and Mental Health. I am a firm believer that we need to be aware of the mental health of our children. They have more avenues of stressors than what my generation had at their age, such stressor is cyber-bullying.

The Mental health and children has been a huge topic of discussion in my area of Northern Ohio after experiencing a half dozen successful suicides over the past two years. Over the past two years our community has experienced a half a dozen successful adolescent suicides. Our community has put adolescent mental health in the forefront of conversations in schools, churches, and in public forums.

At the school level, it is imperative to understand how important it is for teachers and parents to work together to know and form solid relationships with children. Teachers and parents should have an open, transparent and honest relationship when it comes to behavior change in their child. That open relationship allows both the parent and teacher to discuss issues about behavior, attitudes, grades, and social issues with their children.

When it comes to gifted children, they have experiences that only they can experience. They already see their peers and teachers differently. Some gifted children experience over-excitabilities, perfectionism, and a strong sense of not allowing themselves to fail. These stressors can contribute to a wide variety of emotions and can cause stress in the life of gifted children. These attributes, along with social and emotional development, can cause behavior change.

The life of a gifted child can be a roller coaster. In the early years of elementary school everyone wants to be their friend. As they grow up and move to middle and high school their ring of friends gets smaller and people begin to see them differently. They may experience bullying from others in name calling, alienation, and cyber-bullying. We know gifted children generally communicate with adults easier than with their same age peers that are in their classes. At times it may seem evident that their intellectual development doesn’t match their social and emotional development. This can cause a gifted child to feel like they have no friends or they just can’t fit in.

With these vulnerabilities, teachers and parents need to be diligent in looking for any changes in behavior such as:

  • Withdrawing from friends and/or social activities;
  • Losing interest in hobbies;
  • Giving away prized possessions;
  • Preoccupation with death and dying;
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; and
  • Losing interest in personal appearance.

The changes in behavior will be seen at home and at school. When teachers or parents start to notice these changes they need to get help to the student. But they also need to communicate with each other. We don’t want another statistic of an attempted or successful suicide.

Resources

Frazier, A. D., & Cross, T. L. (2011). Chapter 51 Debunking the Myths of Suicide in Gifted Children. Parenting Gifted Children (pp. 517-524). Waco, Texas: Prufrock Press.

Delisle, J. R. (1986). Death with Honors: Suicide Among Gifted Adolescents. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64(May), 1986. 558-560.

 

Fostering Creativity in a Gifted Ed Classroom

Last Sunday #ohiogtchat  had a chat centered around fostering creativity in a gifted education classroom. You can read the transcript here.

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After thinking more about fostering creativity, I was wondering what I do in my classroom that fosters creativity for my middle schoolers in my gifted program. I realized I did a few different aspects of fostering creativity, but I may not be doing enough.

What I do:
incorporate creativity as a central theme in all of the projects and units that I do with my gifted students.  I feel that in every project students should be solving, designing, or creating something. I feel that creativity is a skill that should be developed every possible way.
I get students to talk more about the steps of their design process or how they came to a solution to an issue or problem. I feel like students need to talk about why they are creating / solving something a certain way. I feel like it promotes good communication skills, but also opens up dialogue with others students as to why they may done something differently.
I support my students by giving meaningful feedback, and allowing students to collaborate with each other. Peer to peer feedback I feel is important in the learning process.
What I need to do more of:
I feel like I need to give my students more projects that promote divergent thinking. I want my students to feel like they have solved an issue or a real life problem that could have multiple answers.
I like Project Based Learning, and I feel like I need to do more that would relate real world issues or problems to the classroom. Students need to see that what they learn in the classroom should be used in the real world.
Gifted children need to be challenged, and intellectually stimulated. They need to have an outlet to put their passion into practice. I hope that I can instill that in them. I hope that as they continue to grow intellectually as well as older they will come to appreciate the skills they have developed or honed in on through the projects we did in class.
What do you do to foster creativity in the classroom?

Learning Communities

After reading a few replies from a post I did this past summer, Marti Pike posted a link to a very good Tedx Talk by John Green and the importance of learning and learning communities.

Is your classroom a learning community? Do your gifted students feel like they are part of a learning community? Do you you encourage your gifted students to take part in some of the on-line learning communities on Reddit, or on YouTube?

We know gifted children have a drive to learn. We know that if they get bored they can be a handful to say the least. So why not introduce them to learning communities that can help them learn more about a topic or subject they have an interest in.

What learning communities do you as a teacher enjoy that helps you stay connected to learning as a teacher? What learning communities do your gifted students like to engage in? Post those to the comment section below.

Engaged, not Overwhelmed

I have been teaching gifted children for over a decade now. I often talk to my colleagues about ideas/strategies on how to teach gifted children, but for some they don’t change. They feel that gifted children need more work to keep them busy.  They place the burden of engagement with the student. Now this isn’t all my colleagues. I work in a great school district with some great teachers, but there are those few who want to control their classroom the way they want regardless of the outcome.
We know that when gifted children are given the same work as average learners they will most likely finish it quickly since it isn’t challenging to them. Instead of using differentiation strategies like curriculum compacting, acceleratation, or independent study of a topic, they give more busy work. They feel they need to overwhelm the student with work so they don’t become an issue. When in reality they are making the situation worse. Gifted children can and often will rebel when given nonsense work to do. Gifted children need to be challenged and engaged in the learning process. 

One aspect I will work on this year is to create an environment that is safe, engaging, and challenging for students to learn in, but also colleagues can peek in and see an example of what they could do in their classrooms.

What will you do in the coming year to challenge your students, to stay engaged, and not overwhelmed with nonsense work?