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Thoughts on Gifted Kids and the Adults They Become

So, a while back, I wrote a post called Kids turn into adults. I elaborated on that thought on my facebook page via a status update and a meme I found yesterday, and it gained some traction. Several of my friends, who are also recovering gifted children, commented on the post. And, not surprisingly, a few parents of today’s gifted children also commented. I promised them I’d gather my thoughts and post them in a coherent way, so here it goes:

What Does It Mean To Be Gifted?

I like to think of us as a horde of divergents, haha. But, the reality is that each gifted person is unique. They think differently. They process ideas without regard to the steps normal people use. They make connections others cannot see.

Possible Problems Gifted Children Face

Here is a handy-dandy chart of the things that make us gifted in contrast to our nuerotypical counterparts, but with every amazing quality comes a possible downside. No one gifted person has all of these qualities, nor does any one person have every single one of these problems, however, we have to acknowledge that too much of a good thing can certainly be a bad thing.

The problem with gifted programs is that often, they spend so much time telling us how “smart” we are or how “rare” we are, and not enough time helping us explore who we are and how to navigate the problems that come with it. A lifetime of social isolation and misunderstanding can certainly lead to a number of other problems. The need to belong can lead to oppressive social anxiety. Seeing systemic problems and injustices creates the feeling of treading water in a world of existential dread. No wonder so many of us experience mental health crises.

Gifted Girls–The Good News

Girls often feel a need to comply with social norms (yay for the patriarchy!!!). Girls are less likely to (at least in their younger years) to have behavior issues.

Gifted Girls–The Bad News

Girls of all kids, gifted or not, get told that their performance is due to their innate abilities. “Wow! Look how smart you are!” “You are just naturally SO athletic!” “Of course it was easy; you are intelligent like your mother!”

These statements have the effect of making young women believe that work is not necessary for their success, that instead, it is simply within their natural ability. That doesn’t seem too harmful at the outset, but in adolescence, many challenges academic, mental, and physical arise. Girls often “break down” when it doesn’t come easily to them because they’ve not been taught how to approach a challenge.

Gifted Boys–The Good News

When boys fail to be successful academically or physically, the world tells them to put in a little more “elbow grease” (aka: effort, try harder!) (yay toxic masculinity!) . Challenges tend not to discourage young men, unless they lack the motivation to take it up.

Gifted Boys–The Bad News

Gifted young men are much less likely to care about maintaining social norms. Acceptable behavior is optional and caring to complete academic milestones can fall by the wayside. Graduating high school? Eh. Who cares? Gifted boys are less likely to be identified because they may not comply in class, can get poor grades, and can seem generally unmotivated.

Double Exceptionality

Exceptionalities are those “exceptions” to normal learning patterns. It is the fancy and more acceptable way to refer what we once called disabilities. Giftedness is an exceptionality. That’s right: giftedness is a type of “disability”.

Double exceptionalities occur when a person has more than one exceptionality. It is extremely common. You can be gifted AND have ADHD. And dyslexic. And be on the autism spectrum. And have alcohol fetal syndrome. and and and and and.

A person may be gifted in the area of math or logical reasoning, and at the same time, have a disability in reading.

This can confuse people; it can confuse the gifted person, and it can obstruct the ability of the person to get help for their disability, or their ability to have their giftedness recognized.

What Can We Do?

We can start by understanding the problems that gifted people face and working to educate gifted people as well as their parents and educators about those problems. We can work to educate gifted people about themselves. We can help them understand who they are and how to navigate the world as that person.

-CL

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Book Review: Crossover

I’ve not kept up with my book posts, so forgive the flood coming your way. This is #Crossover by @kwamealexander

I read the whole thing today and loved it. I was attracted to it for several reasons: I want to present diverse perspectives in my classroom library. I want to include books with literary value that young men will enjoy readying, too. And of course, books in verse have piqued my interest both personally and professionally of late. I love poetry, and I love to help my students love poetry. Most importantly, as I’ve mentioned before, books in verse reduce the burden on struggling readers because they accomplish A LOT with a lower word count. Turning pages faster builds confidence!

As far as the story: I loved it. It’s highs and lows. It’s wins and profound losses. It’s basketball as a metaphor for life.

For teaching: YES. There isn’t a poetry or fiction concept I couldn’t cover with this book. Rhyme scheme. Sound devices graphical elements. Foreshadowing. Figurative language. There’s even a tanka!The list goes on.

It has me wondering if maybe I should have my school order a class set. 👀❤️

#whatimreading #bookstagram #books #bookreview #weneeddiversebooks #read #ELAR #texasteacher

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Book Review: I Am Malala

#IamMalala was an amazing read! It is her memoir of living in a Taliban occupied Pakistan, fighting for her right to education, and surviving the Taliban attack on her life. Her bravery, perspective, wisdom, and faith are remarkable.

From a literary perspective, I enjoy her presentation of the politically complex context that is Pakistan. What many of us (Americans) fail to see is the complexity of any situation. We are quick to throw everything we have into one of two very problematic political buckets and go “all-in”. People from other parts of the world often have much more complex understandings of their (often paradoxical) systems. Malala beautifully presents the stark reality that sometimes there are no “good guys” in terms of political entities, or very few at the most. She examines each event from the perspectives of multiple parties to demonstrate the confusion, distrust, and chaos created by corruption and a history of violence. I firmly believe we should ALL be reading books about historical events from the perspectives of other cultures so that we can see how our county’s actions are perceived around the world.

On that note, I think she tells her story in very much the style of her culture. The caveats and trips back and forth in time to explain context can confuse a reader who isn’t familiar with this type of storytelling. I think it helped me immensely to have read books like The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. These works of fiction introduced me to cultural norms and historical context that I drew from as I read.

Give it a read! #withMalala #MalalaFund

#bookstagram #bookreview #read #whatimreading

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BOOK CLUB!!!

There’s only one rule in Book Club: YOU CAN’T TALK ABOUT BOOK CLUB.

Just kidding. These were my opening words today in our first meeting, and it got a pretty good laugh.

y’all. book club was **amazing** today. 

We had our first meeting, and it was seriously EVERYTHING. We had 10 people sign up, buy a greatly discounted book, and show up. We had 4 adults sign up, and 6 kiddos. And, once we got in the room with our lunches, it was like there was no age difference or social divisions among us at all.

It was ridiculously refreshing to be in a room with thinking humans who want to learn more and learn from each other and who were willing to share their experiences and knowledge and recommend further reading and watching. It was beautiful. I’ve never felt so encouraged and affirmed before that brief 40 minute encounter.

Here’s what we did today:

  • passed out books
  • gave a brief overview
  • had a read-aloud of the first few pages
  • discussed thoughts thus far
  • started an in-depth discussion of our prior reading, research, and watching related to the Holocaust.

Here’s the plan:

  1. The first Wednesday will be like today: intro the new book.
  2. Wednesdays #2 and 3 (and sometimes 4) will be “reading meetings”, just a quiet space to read this book or another one and eat lunch.
  3. Last Wednesday of the month will be a no-holds-barred discussion. In other words: SPOILER ALERT, we’ll discuss the book including the ending.
  4. The last 10-12 days of every month, I’ll also begin announcing our new book for the next month and taking sign ups for orders. I’ve had several kids already tell me they want in on the next one!
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Book Review: Every Soul A Star

Today I finished this book. It’s from my classroom library. I picked it up to read it so I could recommend it to my students. It is told from the perspectives of 3 very different narrators. The story follows them as they navigate relationships with family and friends through huge changes in their lives. Their lives beautifully converge during a solar eclipse. In a lot of ways, it is coming of age story. It’s about change. It’s about beauty. It’s about being comfortable in one’s own skin.

My favorite quote comes from a minor character in the book, Stella, an old lady.

“When I was your age, I knew nothing about the world or my place in it. I figured I’d be someone’s wife, then someone’s mother. It never occurred to me to be someone myself.”

#whatimreading #bookrecommendations #bookreview #elar #teacher #read #bookstagram #book

Posted in English escapades, Lesson plan component, teaching, Uncategorized

It’s Magic

For the last few school years, I’ve shared this poem with each of my English classes. In these last few years of teaching English Language Arts & Reading, I’ve learned a whole lot that I didn’t know before. I’ve learned that some of us have voices in our heads, and some of us don’t:

magic poem.jpeg

And, I use this poem to find out who has a voice, and who doesn’t in my classes. I tell my classes that I might be the only teacher that ever hopes they have the voices in their head. Why? Because reading is easier and makes infinitely more sense if you have a reading voice in your head.

And, for the kiddos who don’t, I spend the year helping them develop theirs. I read passages, books, and poems aloud to them to model my reading voice and teach their brains how a good one sounds. I let them whisper read their independent reading and work because if they don’t have voices in their head, they can use their real one.

***

This week we’ve been examining elements of story telling with the purpose of identifying patterns that play out across genres. So far this week, we’ve looked at songs, poems, news articles, short stories, scripts, and shorts (film). And it’s only Wednesday!

Today’s Agenda:

10 minutes of independent reading to start the class.

Today this poem was their Quick Write.

We took notes on conflict (internal/ external/ Man vs. (person vs.) _____)

I introduced our first annotation strategy (thoughts– just writing whatever you are thinking on the text) and read aloud a quick short story: Boar Out There

Students identified the conflict in the passage, found text evidence, and categorized the type of conflict (internal/ external & person vs.___)

The text had a simple conflict. We ended class with the short “The Present“, and students worked to identify the many conflicts between/ among all of the different characters as an exit ticket.

Here’s my current unit plan overview: 

Unit 1
What is a story?
  • students will explore the elements of story-telling across genres (fiction, biography, autobiography, memoir, personal narrative, narrative poetry, drama and more)
What is my story?
  • students will use the elements of story-telling in their own reflective writing
What is our story?
  • students will explore historical and personal stories to answer the question: What does it mean to be an American?
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Sharing

Today when giving my students a chance to share their writing with their tables, I said, “Writing can be like speaking. We speak to be heard. Sometimes we write to be read. You are welcome to share if you want to. Writing can also be something we do just for ourselves. If it’s something private, you don’t have to share.”

I didn’t know I was saying something profound when I said it, but I haven’t been able to put it out of my mind. I keep coming back to it.

How is speaking different than writing? Why is writing for oneself so powerful, even if no one was ever meant to read it? Why is the act of getting words out of one’s brain so important? What does it say about us when we write to be read? How does writing to be read form a social experience? Writing and speaking are both productive modes of communication. In that way, they are lumped together. However, it’s clear that their purposes, though they often overlap, can be quite distinct.

When I ask kids to share their writing, some of the kids share a gist of what they wrote, and others read word for word from their page. What does that mean, I know it means something, but what? Is it important? Is it confidence? Do the kids who share a gist of what they wrote conceal something about their writing when they do that? Are the kids who share their exact wording relying on their exact wording to get them through the social act of sharing? Or are those kids genuinely sharing the craft of their writing? Does it depend on the kid?

Just thoughts.

-CL

Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Shout

Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Whoa. There is a lot to unpack here. I borrowed this book from the library, but I love it so much and plan to use some of the poems in my units next year, so I’m going to have to buy it.

I have a lot to say, but I want to split my thoughts up into sections that make sense because all of my thoughts are jumbled.

Classroom Use/ Library

This book and other books that address abuse, trauma, sexual violence etc. should absolutely sit on our shelves. I’ve written several times in this series of posts that our kids need to have access to books that they can 1.) see themselves in and 2.) see others in. What I love most about this book is that the reader can see what becomes of the survivor. She grows up and becomes an author and tells her story and raises kids and lives her life. Our kids who’ve suffered horrible things need to know that this can be in the cards for them, too.

If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is a memoir in verse<– two things our students probably don’t read enough of, but will fall in love with if they do. Memoir is a powerful genre that our students should be reading and writing in, and verse is an amazing vehicle for it. I find that reading in verse can lower the burden of length for students who don’t view themselves as successful readers. The pages flip faster, and this builds confidence. A student who likes this book might pick up other books from the author.

Personal Reflection

This book was both hard for me to read and too easy for me to understand. It is hard to relive familiar experiences. It’s easy for me to empathize with things I already know too well. I suspect that will be the case for many of my students who pick it up.

I love the complex characterization of her parents. Humanity is complex. We are complex. We forget that about people. I want to explore this more with my students. How can we love someone we know is flawed? What does it mean to love someone? Does it mean we should put ourselves in danger? (no).

In a lot of ways, I feel like she wrote the book I’ve wanted to write about my life. Of course, the books would be different. But she said so much of what I wanted the world to hear. Does that mean that I can breathe deep and move on? Or does the world need all of our stories?

I feel an uncomfortable dichotomy. When people suffer trauma and they don’t recover, others view them as victims, or they view them as weak. After a time, empathy breaks down. (If they ever received it at all, since so many people never report abuse and sexual violence). When people suffer trauma and manage to survive and even thrive, others minimize their pain. It frustrates me to the point of wanting to scream, but that would make me “weak”, so I’ll stick to blogs instead. 

CL

Posted in English escapades, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Dear Martin

So, as I started reading this one, I didn’t love it initially. I’m a language person, but the language isn’t particularly beautiful. There isn’t a line in this book that rocked me or made me need it as a tattoo. I struggled with the male protagonist because of how he objectifies his female counterparts. In the first 10 pages, it was *almost* enough to turn me off completely.

But then…

I gave it a chance.

  • The male’s thoughts are pretty authentic. Honestly, it’s what I hear come out of the mouths of high school students in the hallway. I wish it weren’t the case, but here I am in 2019 admitting that people actually talk about others that way. If nothing else, it is an entry point for a conversation about how we talk about others. As I read the book, I tracked the character’s evolution not only in his ideas about his identity, but also in the way he related to his girlfriends and spoke/ thought about them. It was refreshing to see him grow in that way.
  • The language isn’t beautiful, but it isn’t bad. There is a LOT that a teacher could use in the classroom from this book.
    • The book is code-switching heaven. For any teacher wanting to focus on dialogue an dialect, this would be a great read. The narration is primarily in standard English, but the dialogue ranges from “teen speak” to various levels of cultural interaction depending on the social context of the scene.
    • The book is a mix of typical narrative writing/ script-style dialogue/ and of course, the letters to MLK Jr. Introducing students to books written in mix-ed genres is always fun, and a great way to cover multiple genres with one text.
    • The situations are realistic. The bring up questions that society and teenagers are asking. What does racism look like today? Who’s fault is it? What is “my” identity? Why does it matter? How does poverty affect my education? Am I a traitor if I…? If I am successful, am I betraying my family, my culture, etc.? There’s a lot of substance here. And it’s worth exploring.

Once I decided to give it a chance, I couldn’t put it down. There were points that it seemed like the protagonist just couldn’t “catch a break”. One might say that is for dramatic effect or to add to the plot, but I know for a fact that life really breaks that way for some people. Some of those people are my own students who just never seem to be able to break the cycle that was started long before they were born.

Here’s to them, and the strength to change what we can.

#bookreview #books #ELAR #English #BlackLivesMatter #WeNeedDiverseBooks #Teachers #Education

-CL

Posted in English escapades, professional development, teaching, Uncategorized

Summer Reading Series: Freak The Mighty

My 6th graders and I started this book as a read aloud, but then I missed 3 days of school for a family funeral and I assigned the rest of the book as independent reading. Little did they know I hadn’t read the book 😬😬😬 Kids read at different speeds, so as they got to the climax and began to then finish the book, I could tell it was GOOD! I kept telling them to remember not to spoil it for “the rest of the class” aka: me 😬😂 I finally had time to finish it this summer.

This one was really good. There were several things I didn’t see coming at all, and to be honest, after reading as many books as I have, patterns emerge. This one does some things I didn’t expect.

Another thought: I’ve seen that several #ELAR teachers read this book during their Hero’s Journey unit. In a way, I could see it being a best companion book to a literary analysis unit also… not just as a piece to analyze, but as a piece to learn from. The author weaves a King Arthur allusion throughout the book, but more importantly, the allusions are broken down and explained along the way. The piece analyzes itself in many ways. What could our students learn from that? 

-CL