Get Informed and Make a Difference

getconnected_header_724x420_2014I was talking to a few of the pre-service teachers doing some student teaching in my building about Education, and what is Gifted Education. From those few conversations I began to reflect on what should Gifted Educators do to help them, not only survive in the classroom but thrive.

  1. Classes, Webinars, and MOOCs: I would encourage teachers who teach gifted children take a few classes about Gifted Education. Even if you are a Regular Education teacher take a few classes. We all need the Credit Education Units (CEU’s) anyway to renew our certificates. There is a lot that can be gained from a class or two to give you a different perspective on gifted children and Gifted Education as a whole. If you don’t have time to do a class, there are webinars sponsored by NAGC, CEC, or SENG that can help you gain a better understanding of gifted education. Some universities off some MOOCs on Gifted Education and topics that are related to classroom management, gifted behaviors and characteristics.
  2. Use Social Media: There are a lot of people on social media that are associated with Gifted Education. Get into a Professional Learning Community (PLN), or start one yourself. Look to others for support, innovation, ideas, and information on classes, webinars, and MOOCs. Join a chat like #gtchat or #ohiogtchat to see what is going on in Gifted Education, and how you can contribute to spreading the need for Gifted Education.
  3.  Read Blogs and Watch Vlogs: To see what is going on with Gifted Education read blogs, and watch Vlogs (video blogs) . Both are a great source of help.
  4. Create a Parent / Educator Group: If you are able join a parent and educator group in your school district or in your community for support. Being a GIS can be a lonely place when you are the only one or one a few that service a large school district. If there isn’t one in your community or school district, then get with some like-minded people and start one.  Start small with chats over coffee, then add some others who mind like to join.
  5. Conferences: There are many different conferences that are offered in the Gifted Field. There are conferences for NAGC, OAGC, (and many other state conferences), SENG, and CEC. Going there will allow you meet other in the field, give you plenty of resources that will help you in the classroom.

Everyone wants to make a difference in the children they teach. They also want to make a mark in the field they teach. Being connected is a great way to do that. If you run into a teacher who is new to Gifted Education help them get connected. That way they can be informed and make a difference.



Big Dreams for 2014

If you are going to dream….dream big. I have heard that said many times. This year I am using that as a starting point. I thought I would take this post to outline some of my dreams for the year.

Dream 1: New Websites

This  year I decided that I would use technology to communicate with teachers, parents, and students. I created a class website, and as a Gifted and Talented Department we created a department website as a coordinating location with information on  what we are doing as a department for parents and teachers. I hope you can check them out. I think they look awesome, and have a lot of information.

Dream 2: Hour of Code

This year for the first semester of school I am teaching my students to Code. We will first start out with Scratch, then move on to more complex as the year goes on. After the first semester is over if students want to continue to Code then I will allow them to continue. I believe this will be something new for my students. It will stretch them, and I think that many of them will want to continue this activity throughout the year.

Dream 3: Genius Hour

The second semester I want to incorporate Genius Hour into my class. This is the one hour per week my students will get the chance to explore something they are passionate about or they want to know more about. I believe this will allow my students to be free and creative about what they want to learn.

Dream 4: Student Blogs

I decided that at some point during the school year I am going to incorporate students blogs. I want them to post once or twice a month about what they are doing. (I only have my students one day a week.) I hope that my students will continue to blog on their own more than the minimum.

I will continue to do Project Based Learning (PBL) in my classroom. My students did a great job at the projects they participated in. PBL really challenged my students last year. I streamlined many different aspects of the projects from last year which I think will help my students progress through the units a bit smoother.

Over all, I have a lot of dreams this school year. I hope that it turns out great, and it not be a nightmare. As, always, I will keep posting about my students, class, and issues that come up as the year progresses. I hope everyone has a great school year.

Dream big!

The Right Side of the Curve

Right Side of the Curve   Gifted Learning Portal


Today I am proud to announce that I am a contributor to the awesome Gifted Education Website Right Side of the Curve. I am very excited about this. You can find so many resources for parents, teachers, experts, and advocates of Gifted education. There are many other wonderful, smart and accomplished contributors that have so much to add to the conversation of Gifted Education.

I am asking you to check out this wonderful website. Teachers and advocates let parents know this resource is out there. Take part in this website. It is well worth it.

Infusing Project Based Learning into the Gifted Classroom

This is an article I wrote for the OAGC Review. It was published in the Spring 2013 edition 

Being a Gifted Intervention Specialist for the past 8 years in an urban school district, I have found that my students are looking for real life experiences that can be translated into experiences outside of the classroom. I feel that our students need to be taught the skills to handle experiences outside of the classroom. I believe that we as GIS, need to focus on four overarching skills (you may tweak them based on your students), and technology skills. These skills will help students to be successful in a Project Based Learning classroom.

Before we can begin to discuss how to infuse Project Based Learning into the classroom, we first need to discuss what it is. According to  Project Based Learning (PBL) is “a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real world problems and challenges. With this type of active and engaged learning,  students are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of subjects they’re studying.” Every teacher should want this from their students.There is a difference from doing projects and PBL. The major difference is that when you do PBL you are teaching through a project, not so much teaching to do a project. You are developing skills while working in PBL.

Why would PBL be good for Gifted Education? There are several reasons. One such reason is the obvious, it is engaging and goes in depth. The addition of the complexity it adds to the depth of study is one of my favorite aspects of PBL. For example, if your student’s project requires them to do research you may have to teach them how to collect data, organize data, and how to use that data in a way that makes sense.

PBL also adds choices for students. Students can take a variety of ways to answer the overall driving question of the unit.

Another reason PBL is important to Gifted Education is the fact it makes the student accountable for their learning and teaches them organization. I feel these go together, because keeping a journal, portfolio, or using a plain old manilla folder to hold all of your work is important. It saves time and keeps students from re-doing unnecessary work.

Finally, PBL incorporates real world skills into the classroom. By doing some of the same type of collaboration, study, and testing that professionals do in their field in the classroom makes PBL come to life for students.

On the other side of that engaging and in depth learning comes the need to know and use technology. In our day and age we are surrounded by technology that keeps improving every day. So we need to not only teach our students how to use technology we need to teach them how to use them in the context of learning. I feel there are four major skills that we need to impart in our gifted children. They are organization skills, collaboration skills, interpersonal skills, and divergent and convergent thinking skills. We know many of the characteristics of gifted children. One of them is the fact that so many are unorganized. Many find it mundane, and not needed. But in the real world, organization skills can help you get a job done faster and more efficient.  Teachers along with myself, need to show students the importance of good record keeping, labeling data, and organizing all of this into a portfolio of some sort so they can get to what they need at any time.

Collaboration skills and interpersonal skills are connected. Gifted students need to know how to collaborate in a group. They need to know they don’t have all of the good ideas, but by listening to the ideas of others, and collaborating with each other they can all come up with several good ideas. Those interpersonal skills are so important. Gifted students have to know when they can take control of a collaboration session, and when not to. We need to show them not to sit back and listen too much and not contribute to a session, because they don’t like the trajectory of the conversation. They need to know that everyone may have an idea, some just need more revision than others. As a side note, if they fail, the group as a whole fails. Many gifted students fall apart when they fail. They take that failure as they did something wrong. Sometimes by going back to a point and seeing where the failure stemmed from and being able to fix it can be a success. They need to be shown that.

Finally, divergent and convergent thinking skills are important for the fact that many gifted students can do these well by themselves, but demonstrating that for a group or in a group can be a bit difficult. Which is why all the other skills mentioned above, I believe, are so important. To me they build on each other. Divergent thinking is defined as “out-of-the-box thinking; thinking that moves away in diverging directions so as to involve a variety of aspects and which sometimes lead to novel ideas and solutions; associated with creativity” according to Wordnet. Also, convergent thinking is defined as “thinking that brings together information focussed on solving a problem; especially solving problems that have a single correct solution.” Both of these have to be used to solve problems in the real world. So we need to show our students how to use these skills effectively.  By being able to use these skills gifted students can investigate a topic in depth.

Continuing on the technology side of things. Teachers need to give our students skills they need to be successful in today’s society and in tomorrow’s world. One of those skills needed in a PBL classroom is research skills. We all use Google, but do your students do it effectively? Teach your students how to use the advanced search option. This will help to keep down the unusable websites.

Another aspect of technology that students need to master is using the cloud. Cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive are great examples.  These services are free and they are easy to use.

Students should be taught how to collaborate using wikis, Google Docs, Twitter,  Facebook,  Skype,  or Google Hangouts.  All of these allow for interaction between students in and outside of the classroom.  Gifted students need to know that learning isn’t confined to a classroom. It can be anywhere.

Finally, we need to teach our gifted students to communicate.  In our society,  communication is important. In a PBL classroom students use real audiences. They should be encouraged to blog, create YouTube videos, or podcasts using Voicethread or Soundcloud.  Interaction with a real audience is important.  It gives real feedback. That’s where real learning is experienced.

In conclusion,  if we are expecting our gifted students to lead and succeed in the 21st century then we need to give them real life, engaging and diverse experiences along with the skills needed. There needs to be some choice in their learning. Gifted students need to be given the opportunity to see there is more than one solution, and more than one way to get an answer for a project. That’s the gift of Project Based Learning.





Project Based Learning for Gifted Students: A Handbook for the 21st century classroom by Todd Stanley

A Rising Tide Lifts All Ships

There is an old  saying “a rising tide lifts all ships.” I heard that saying a long time ago, but it didn’t really hit me until this month. As many of you know, or may not know, I am trying to get Gifted Blog Hop off the ground (#gtbloghop). I love to blog, when I get the chance, and when I feel I have something to say that I think is worthwhile for someone to read. My passion is to be the best Gifted Intervention Specialist (GIS) that I can be. Part of that passion is being an advocate for my gifted students, and for making awareness of the issues of Gifted Education in the ears of those who either have gifted children, teach gifted students, or have a desire to teach gifted children.

The point of #gtbloghop is to lift the awareness of not only gifted issues, but also to lift up those who are in the trenches of Gifted Education. You may be just like me, in the fact that as an educator you want the best for your students. You want those around you to have an understanding of what your passion is. That’s the point of #gtbloghop. To bring together the posts about Gifted Education from those in and around Gifted Education. Each sharing their points of view on the issues and trends of Gifted Education.

If you want to be part of the tide that raises everyone up, then I am encouraging you to take part in #gtblohop. Gifted blog hopping is going to make a big difference. It can help spread information on those issues and aspects of Gifted Education that may not be so well-known outside the Gifted Education circles.

Click to know more about #gtbloghop.

Blog Hopping for #Gifted Education

I was looking through my feed this morning trying to get a feel for what was out there in the blogosphere. I scrolled down through the several hundred blogs I follow and a few thoughts hit me. One thought  was the fact that I follow some of the most talented bloggers on the face of the earth in the fields of Education and Gifted Education. The other thought was a little more profound:  what would happen if a large handful of these talented bloggers coordinate their skill and talent to flood the blogosphere with blogs based on a theme.

Last October or November I participated in a Blog Hop. Basically a blog hop is volunteers would submit a blog post based on a theme to one central place and then people could hop through the blogs. This is a great way for people to read the ideas of others on a theme. It also helps to gain more readers and followers of your blog.

So if this works, then I think I will host one every month all based on a theme. I will put out a twtpoll the first week of the month to get some ideas out there of what everyone would like to blog about. Once you have your chosen blog topic you write about it. You can do one of the following in regards to posting your blog:

1. Post your blog on your website, and email ( or tweet (@jeff_shoemaker) a link to me, and I will create a post with everyone’s blog link.

2. You can write your post and email ( it to me. I will post it to my blog as you being the guest blogger.

I hope that you join me in doing this. I can’t wait to read, share, and learn with you as these blogs go live.

So for this month, to kick things off here is your challenge:

Topic: What is your favorite aspects of teaching gifted children?

Send a link, or tweet me your link to your blog post by Thursday Feb. 20th. 




The Real Struggles of Gifted Teens

Sometimes you never know what will impact someone when they read your blog. Its a great feeling to know that someone is reading your thoughts. That’s what happened over the weekend. I want to share something with you that really pulled at my heart strings. This is the comment she made to a guest blog spot I did on the High Ability Blog.

“I am actually in 6th grade myself. I am now at a new school that doesn’t have a gifted program, but my old school did and I was diagnosed as gifted. At my old school a lot of people were gifted or bright, and the people who were slightly less smart were ostracized. Here it is the complete opposite. The magority of the class are average or below average students, and they ostracize the more smart people. Right now, being new, a lot of people haven’t passes judgement on me, or at least I thought so until last Friday. I was talking to one of my sort of friends (people who hang out with me just to cheat of off me) and I told her that I was staying in for lunch to help one of my other sort of friends with her exponenents because she didn’t understand them when another girl that I’d never talked to in my life came up to me and said, “You’re confused with exponents?” I explained what I had really said and she said “Yeah, becasuse aren’t you some sort of genius or something? I don’t think that you would get confused.” First of all, I am no genius. I may be smart, but not that smart! Also, I get confused a lot.

Anyway, I don’t really get teased much, just used. However, the leader of the sort of friends is just getting worse and worse. Yesterday she was giving me the silent treatment (I don’t know why) until she realized that she needed help on her homework and came over to me for the answer. The problem is that it is really hard to keep myself from giving out answers because they will just keep begging me for them. Anyway, I gave her the answer, and then she went back to not helping me again. She calls me a nerd and a genius (which is a derogatory term to her) almost daily. I am panicking about going back to school because we have to present our book reports, and mine is 8 pages long. I have a feeling that the situation is not going to get any better.”

As educators, and advocates we constantly talk about what makes the Gifted Child different; how to give Gifted students the right classroom environment; and we talk about the issues of funding. But, one aspect that is at times, ignored (which I am guilty of) is not spending enough time talking about the real struggles of Gifted children. Sometimes we need to focus on the emotional side of Gifted.

I believe what this young lady has written is something that happens more often than we would like to admit. So, what can we do for this young lady as well as others who are in the same situation? I don’t want to claim that I have the answers, becuase I don’t. But, I do feel that there is a few things that we as educators and advocates can do.

Watch Out and Listen

As educators we need to watch the interactions of all students. We need to keep an eye out for bully behaviors. Most times, the smart ones are bullied first, and most often, along with the smaller students. We need to watch how these students interact with others in and out of the classroom and common areas, such as lunchroom, hallways, restrooms, and library. Once the bully behaviors have been seen, as an educator or advocate you need to take swift action to remedy the issues.

We also need to listen to the conversations of students. When you hear phrases that could sound deroggatory toward a student or group of students then you need to make sure to take sift action, I understand someone may be trying to make an innocent comment, but the other person may take it as an insult. We to model to students how to talk to students. Sometimes role playing is a great way to show points.


We need to support our Gifted students emotionally. As educators and advocates, we need allow our Gifted students be themsleves. They need to know and feel that how they learn, and the products they do is normal for them. If they do a book report and its 8 pages long, then they need to know that its alright. Just like we need to show those who do a book report that is only 2 pages that it also alright.

We need to show support for them by giving them a curriculum that matches their learning progression. But we also need to make sure that they don’t feel like they stick out “like a sour thumb” when they present their products to the class. Some students embrace their giftedness, and some try not to allow others to see their giftedness. As educators we need to be sensitive to that.

Educate Ourselves

One thing that can help Gifted students become more educated about Gifted and Talented students. Teachers and advocates can do this by taking classes and siminars, joining Gifted Associations, or joining Twitter chats, Facebook discussions, or Google Plus hangouts about Gifted students and issues. The more regular education teachers know about the tendies of Gifted students, the more Gifted students will be successful in the regular classroom.

I know, I don’t have all the answers. You already may be doing many of the suggestions above. So, here is my question: what are you doing to support your Gifted students?