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.

Book Review: Boost: 12 Effective Ways to Lift up our Twice Exceptional Children

b12-final-front-cover-cmyk-201x300Over the past few days I have immersed myself in the new book by Kelly Hirt entitled Boost: 12 Effective Ways to Lift up our Twice Exceptional Children. I was excited to have the chance to read this book due to the fact that I have had an influx of twice exceptional students over the past two years.

I really appreciate the way the book is laid out. She starts out with her personal story, and why she wrote her book. To me, this is a great way to get to know the author’s intentions and background.

The twelve Boost strategies that are discussed in her book were developed by Kelly. The 12 Boost Strategies are:

  • Educate
  • Communicate
  • Investigate
  • Separate
  • Anticipate
  • Accommodate
  • Accelerate
  • Facinate
  • Participate
  • Evaluate
  • Negotiate
  • Appreciate

Each chapter discusses an individual strategy. Kelly describes the strategy, and gives some background. She also provides some application ideas that can be used to help teachers and parents understand, and use the strategy at home or in the classroom. One of the main aspects I love about this book is the fact it is written by a parent and teacher who has been living with a twice exceptional child, and shares their experiences first hand. I found this to be very comforting, and encouraging.

I found this book to be very useful. I have made a plan to use many of the strategies Kelly provided in her book in my classroom over the next week or so. I guarantee if you read this book you would also have some great ideas on how to use it in your classroom or home.

As I have said, I now have a small percentage of my gifted students are twice exceptional students. I have had a hard time trying to understand them, and their social and emotional behaviors. I feel this book has given me a better understanding of twice exceptional children, and can be used a great resource.

I truly believe that this book should be read by any educator in the classroom teacher or home school parent who has twice exceptional children.


Skills Needed By Gifted Children

Building on what I posted the other day, I thought that if teachers begin to create activities and assignments that have rigor, then there are some skills that gifted children will need to know. Just because these children are gifted, doesn’t mean that they have acquired skills to meet those rigorous activities and assignments.

Many gifted children as they go through elementary school unchallenged, and they don’t learn skills most of their peers learn through struggling. Once they hit middle or high school the classes get more challenging, and they don’t have any coping skills to deal with the challenges. Here is just a few things I believe every gifted child in elementary and middle school should be taught.  (This isn’t a complete list, just a few.)

john-clow-stressed-out**Teachers don’t assume gifted students have these skills just because they are brilliant. These skills are essential not only in school, but also in real life beyond college and in to a career.

Study Skills: 

Before a teacher starts to use strategies that will help challenge their gifted children they should review different ways to study material. They should know how to organize information in ways in witch will meet their personality. Some students do better color coding material. Using different colored pens to match the material they are studying.

Gifted children should be taught how to use a planner. In today’s world everyone has a cell phone, or uses Google products. Both a calendar, and can be personalized to meet their needs. Having this tool at their disposal is great, but they need to know how to use it to get the benefit from it. (Some students need to use the paper version of a calendar or planner which is also alright.)

Since gifted children learn quickly, and retain huge amounts of material they don’t often learn to study for a test. Teach them strategies on how to study for a test. There are many materials on how to study for the SAT, or ACT. Use some of these ideas to help see why these skills are needed. Many of the skills needed to do well on these tests can use transferred to other tests and tasks that may take in the future.

Research/Note Taking Skills:

Many of our gifted children begin taking college level classes in middle and high school, and some wait until after high school. Regardless of when they begin taking this level of classes gifted children need to know how to research effectively. They should know how to use the library effectively. They need to know how to use the reference department, and other facets of the library.

They also need to know how to use the internet effectively. Checking on sources, knowing what is fake or not, and which sites are credible to use are important skills. Teaching our gifted children to recognize bias on different sites is also an important skill.

There are a variety of ways to take notes. Finding the system they are most comfortable with that will work for them is important. One great way that can be personalized in many different ways is the use of Cornell Notes.

I know that all students will benefit from knowing these skills.  Many teachers are under the assumption that gifted children can automatically do these skills because they are smart. Having these skills is important. For gifted students to use these skills effectively they have to be challenged and struggle. They only way that is going to happen is when teachers create activities and projects that are challenging, have stretch and complexity, and are rigorous.

If our gifted children are learning this while they are in college, or after we have failed them.

What skills do you think gifted children should know to help make them successful in and beyond school?

Gifted Children Need Rigorous Assignments…Not More Work

workplace4-kbf-621x414livemintAs I talk to fellow teachers around my area they ask a common question: “What do I do with my gifted students since they get finished before everyone else?” Many of their first thoughts is to add more work to their plate. Many believe if they can do 25 math problems in 10 minutes than I will give them another 25 to do to fill in time. That really doesn’t do much for the gifted child. Adding more work is just a punishment particularly when they already know how to do the work.

What gifted children need isn’t more work… its more rigorous assignments. To find out what you students already know I would suggest that you start with a pretest. If your gifted children score a 100% or close to 100% then allow them to choose an aspect of that curriculum and dig deeper into it. Allow students to explore the complex nature of the content. While doing this can cause some issues with grading, because not all the students are doing the same work, which can be a common concern, as a teacher you will figure out how to fit this into your grade book.

When developing rigorous assignments for gifted children you need to include thinking skills. You should have assignments where they have to use divergent or lateral thinking to come up with an answer. The use of Blooms or DOK will help with verbs and ideas of products that students can do.

One of my favorite ways to add rigor to assignments is to make it project based or problem based. Using real world issues and ideas can help add rigor. These type of projects can have multiple answers, and allow students to use multiple skills to complete it. Using the book Project-Based Learning in the Gifted Classroom by Todd Stanley is a great place to start. You can also look to for help on ideas, ways to set up the classroom, and other resources.

Finally, when creating rigorous assignments teach students strategies, not necessarily the answers. In the real world answers aren’t always simple, and sometimes they may never get an answer. So teaching strategies on how to get an answer is must intriguing and challenging.

Gifted children love to learn, and be challenged. When we don’t feed their mind gifted they can be discipline issues. I encourage all teachers to not give more of the same work to gifted children, but to give them rigorous, challenging, and mind stimulating projects and assignments.

What do you do to add rigor to your assignments for gifted children in your classroom?

Hidden Truths in Plain Sight

2015-06-22-1434996537-2661880-thinkstockphotos186213710-thumb-jpg_1_20171218-703Sometimes the truth about gifted children is hidden in plain sight. Just knowing some of these truths can help a gifted child be successful in a gifted or regular classroom, a school, or at home.

Many gifted children are idealist, and many times perfectionistic. Gifted children can sometimes equate self-worth and self-esteem with how well they do in school or in a subject. Sometimes having this view of themselves can lead to fear of failure and can interfere with achievement.

Gifted children can have a sense of heightened sensitivity to their own expectations and others. Sometimes they can feel guilt over their grades they perceived to be too low. Sometimes gifted children may see success as getting an “A”, but failure can be anything less. This can lead gifted children trying to avoid anything they know they won’t be able to get a perfect score on, or have a certain level of guaranteed success.

A hidden truth of gifted children is the fact that many gifted children are problem solvers. Many of my units are open-ended, interdisciplinary problems, and real-world embedded. I try to allow students to use community resources as much as possible. Gifted children need to be challenged, and many are self motivated to succeed beyond grades.

An other hidden truth of gifted children is the fact that gifted students can think abstractly and with complexity. Sometimes they may need help to think concretely. Many don’t have good study skills or test taking skills. They haven’t developed those skills due to not being as challenged as they should, or the material just came to them so easily. Creating tests that help to foster abstract thinking can help give challenges to gifted children.

For regular education teachers who have gifted children in their classes you may have to change how you teach. Add some complexity to your lessons for differentiation for your gifted children. Add in some activities that can have multiple answers, or add in a passion project, project or problem based learning activities.

Just knowing some of these truths can help teachers to better understand our gifted children, and help them to be challenged and successful.

What hidden truths do you know that you would like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Taking off the Behavioral Masks that Gifted Children Hide Behind

paper_mache_plain_masksSometimes it seems so simple to identify the gifted children in your classroom. They answer all the questions, they read very well, and can make friends very easy. Sometimes they are labeled “teacher pleasers” or the “teacher’s pet.” But there are those that don’t fit this mold or the stereotypical nerdy child you see in the movies or on television.

It is my goal in this post to shed some light on some of the areas or masks that gifted children hide behind that may cause them to not be identified as gifted. This list isn’t a complete end all be all type of list. These are just a few that I feel that are most common.

Asynchronous Development 

  • Many gifted children function at a very high level in one or more areas, but socially and emotionally they may be functioning at much lower level. You may see very smart children acting what would be perceived as immature for their ability.

Lack of study skills or habits

  • As you may know gifted children are very smart. Many don’t struggle until later in high school. Passing through elementary and middle school without having to put much effort into their studying. Once that struggle comes many gifted students don’t know how to handle it. Their self concept can get damaged. Many gifted children will shut down. This doesn’t always happen in high school. It happens in the early grades as well.


  • Underachievement is basically when a child simply chooses not to perform to expectations of their teachers, peers, or parents. There could be some psychological reasons for this, some may have to do with personal preference with the subject, project, or environment they are in. This disengagement can lead to many gifted children not being identified correctly. They may be actually gifted, but teachers may see them as lazy.

Communication with Peers and Adults 

  • One aspect of gifted children have is ability to communicate. Gifted children tend to communicate more frequently with adults. Gifted children have the ability to think in the abstract, have a divergent thinking paradigm, and have comprehensive vocabularies. Sometimes this leads to less communicating with peers and more with adults. With a majority of their communication with adults gifted children can socially isolate themselves from their peers.

Social Isolation

  • Gifted children can feel very isolated from their peers. Peers may not understand their interests,  have trouble following their intricate games, and not understand them due to their large vocabulary. Finding true friends can be very difficult. Due to this many gifted children find it easier to do things on their own.

These are just a few behavioral masks that gifted children tend to wear. As gifted intervention specialists, parents and teachers we need to help our gifted children in different situations so they can be successful.

Have you seen some of these behaviors in your classroom? How are you supporting your gifted children?

Presentations and Passion in the Gifted Classroom

This week my 7th and 8th grade students are practicing presenting their passion projects to the class. As a class we sat and listened to each group give their presentation, and gave them some feed back to help improve their presentations.


I know these group of students real well. I have had them for multiple years, and have built up a report with them that allows me to be straight forward with them in regards to their work. I think they appreciate it, and it helps us move on and get some productive changes done.

When in comes to their passion projects I told them to present their material in any form they want to, and that they feel most comfortable doing. Most are doing Google Slides, some are doing dioramas, and some are doing some short videos they made with some commentary.

What seems to be common among my gifted students is the fact they don’t have confidence in themselves. They know the material frontwards and backwards, but when it comes to communicating it to others they often revert to just giving the basic monotone presentation.

I have seen my students be passionate about the projects they chose. I have heard the passionate conversations between classmates that have turned into debates. I have seen the side of my students where they push one another to strive for the best their presentation can be. I wish I could get that passion in front of an audience.

I am sure part of it the issue is their age, and their personalities. But I know my students, when pushed or motivated can do so much more than they can realize themselves.

I am looking for some advice. If you know of a resource, or strategy to help me bring out the passion in my students presentations please let me know.




From Teacher to Facilitator

facilitator_groupOne thing that I am continuing to learning about gifted children is sometimes I need to get out of their way and let them use their abilities to solve problems, be creative, and come up with a different vision than most would see.

I am charged with teaching gifted children five small groups of gifted children in a pull out program for one day week. So we spend around 5 straight hours together. I absolutely love it. We do projects that cover various topics and subjects. I usually try to build a theme that lasts for 9-12 weeks. I give them short projects on that topic that last 3-5 weeks, and then we present them, or we do some sort of demonstration.

There is a difference between being a teacher and a facilitator. Here is how I see the difference, and how it can impact your teaching.

A teacher is one who is the controller of all information going forth to the students. They may see themselves as the “sage on the stage.” There is guidelines for how work is done, and all work is done closely the same way for all students. There is nothing wrong if you see yourself this way as long as you are differentiating for your high and low students, and they are growing academically and they are being challenged.

A facilitator is one who presents the information, but allows students to take that information and use to fit their vision of their final product. Instead of lecturing, the art of asking the right pointed questions at the right time is king. (Socrates had something right in way of facilitating learning.) The art of asking questions to draw out assessments as students are doing projects or in the design phase of projects can be tough to learn. You can’t point out obvious flaws, but you have to allow students to find the flaws themselves. You also have to allow students to struggle and fail, but give them time to redeem themselves.

For a long time I was the teacher who controlled the flow of learning in my classroom. I needed a change. When you move to facilitator you give up a lot of control. When you are being a facilitator you are allowing students to take risks, use skills they may need in the real world, and allow them come up with projects that will differ from each other. Your classroom becomes an active environment that can a safe and inviting place where students come to appreciate, and be challenged.

I know this type of philosophy can work in all classrooms, but I know it does work with gifted children. My students love challenges, and they like when they can have control over how they do their final projects look like. I will tell you I use rubrics as assessment tools. Sometimes students come up with the rubric and other times I make the rubric.

In any regards, sometimes you just have to get out of the way, have some faith in your guidelines and procedures for an open and safe classroom, and allow your students to learn and explore.

How do you see yourself? Teacher or facilitator?