Category Archives: 2013

Challenges from Within


Each person will summarize the last 2 components (Social & Emotional Issues and Profiles of the Gifted) of today’s training in three sentences or less. Each person will need to share their summary with the rest of the group. It’s okay to refine your summary after getting input from others. Now that everyone at the table has shared, synthesize everyone’s thinking to come up with one 3-sentence summary. Add a fourth sentence, “This is important because . . .” Blog Splash the group summary in the comment section of this post.


Catching Up On My Reading


The last three weeks I really haven’t been able to read and blog like I wanted to.  Between a couple of trips and an intense work schedule, finding time to even read a picture book has been a struggle.  But, I’ve had my stack of books and have been getting back to what I love.  I can’t respond to all of them, but I thought I would tell you about some of my favorites

A Little Book of SlothA Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

The pictures in this book will make you want to get a sloth for a pet.  Really great photography and wonderful look at the Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.  You meet several of the residents of the world’s largest sloth orphanage and get a glimpse of what life is like for these rescued animals.  A good piece of non-fiction most kids will enjoy.

Papa's Mechanical Fish

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming

While not entirely true, Papa’s Mechanical Fish is based on the life of real-life inventor Lodner Phillips.  It chronicles his journey to invent an underwater fish that is made for humans.  Although he meets with several obstacles, Papa never gives up and finds inspiration in the little things his daughter says.  The factual part of the book is fantastic, but what I really loved was the message of persistence,

Bake SaleBake Sale by Sara Varon

Bake Sale just might be my favorite graphic novel yet.  The pictures and the text are clever and simple.  All of the characters are various foods; the two main characters being a cupcake and an eggplant.  Sounds completely random, but they are the best of friends.  If you haven’t delved into graphic novels yet, this is a great place to start.  Plus, there are recipes of some of Cupcake’s creations in the back of the book. Win-win!

how to

How To by Julie Morstad

I hadn’t seen this book on any of the blogs I follow, but I hope they discover it.  How To is really about how to live life and be happy.  The text is incredibly simple, including statements like how to see the wind, how to make new friends, and how to be far away.  Each statement gets its own page (sometimes it’s a two-page layout) with gorgeous illustrations full of detail.  It’s a book that will make you smile and a book that should be shared with every kid.  While it is a great read aloud or read by myself kind of book, I can also see a few instructional uses for this book.

Some of the other books I’ve recently read include:

Open This Little Book Freedom Summer Redwoods Beginners Guide to Running Away Brush of the Gods Kira-KiraFlying the Dragon

Currently listening to:

Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I haven’t started any novels yet.  I’d kind of like to catch up on picture books and professional reading first.  Then we’ll see what’s up next!  Happy reading!



WonderUse this prompt as the beginning of your response after watching the Wonder book trailer on YouTube.  Click here to view the trailer again.  Respond by posting a comment to this post.  Share this post and its comments through Twitter, Facebook, Google +, email, or LinkedIn.

After watching the Wonder trailer . . .

Once you’ve posted your comments below, take this poll.

8 Great Grips of Gifted Kids


This Quick Write is all about the 8 great gripes.  You can write about one particular gripe, or a combination of gripes.  You may have a personal connection, whether it’s with yourself, a family member, or a student.  Remember, the goal of a Quick Write is not to worry about spelling and grammar (although it should be readable).  Rather the goal is to write your initial honest reactions to the prompt.  When the timer goes off, you will have one minute to wrap up your thoughts.

Now that you’ve watched the four movies (Great Gripes Movie #1Great Gripes Movie #2Great Gripes Movie #3Great Gripes Movie #4) that highlight the 8 greatest gripes of gifted kids, it’s time to reflect on those challenges and respond.  Here are the 8 great gripes:

  1.  No one explains what being gifted is all about – it’s kept a big secret
  2. School is too easy and too boring.
  3. Parents, teachers, and friends expect us to be perfect all the time.
  4. Friends who really understand us are few and far between.
  5. Kids often tease us about being smart.
  6. We feel overwhelmed by the number of things we can do in life.
  7. We feel different and alienated.
  8. We worry about world problems and feel helpless to do anything about them.

Challenges from Within

Each person will summarize the last 2 components (Social & Emotional Issues and Profiles of the Gifted) of today’s training in three sentences or less.  Each person will need to share their summary with the rest of the group.  It’s okay to refine your summary after getting input from others.  Now that everyone at the table has shared, synthesize everyone’s thinking to come up with one 3-sentence summary.  Add a fourth sentence, “This is important because . . .”  Blog Splash the group summary in the comment section of this post.

Oh, Sweet Clementine!


ClementineIf you haven’t yet met Clementine, you really should. She’s a fabulous 3rd grader full of vim & vigor. I think a lot of people would read Clementine and think, “Oh, that kids needs some meds.” She can’t focus, she’s always in trouble, and she doesn’t always think things through. But, I don’t think it’s ADHD, I think it’s a part of her giftedness. And it’s an element of giftedness that a lot of kids (and adults) struggle with, especially because so few people understand them.

I appreciated what the author, Sara Pennypacker, did with the ever popular command, “Pay attention!” As Clementine explains, she is paying attention. She’s just paying attention to totally different things, things which interest her and are relevant to her. That is so common with gifted learners. As educators, we expect students to hang on to our every word, to want to learn what we are teaching. But the reality is, for gifted kids, that’s not always the case. So many times a gifted learner already knows what we are “teaching” them. And in the case of Clementine, she has so many other thoughts and ideas running through her brain, she doesn’t see the relevance of what someone else thinks is important.

Clementine definitely has creative problem solving skills. Whether she’s trying to fix a hairy situation with her best friend or getting the pigeons on her apartment building to roost elsewhere, Clementine takes the initiative and discovers unconventional solutions for her problems.

This third grader also has a unique sense of perspective. She’s a little upset with her parents. After all, she is named after a fruit, while her little brother has a normal, non-food name. I don’t think we ever learn the brother’s name because every time she references him, she calls him by a vegetable. (I think my favorite name was rutabaga.)  Another interesting example of her sense of perspective is how she views herself in comparison to her baby brother. He’s the “easy one” and she’s the “hard one.” And when she overhears her parents having a conversation about how one is enough, she just knows they’ve decided to get rid of the “hard one.” What an great reminder for us that perspective is powerful.

I’m so glad to see that there is more than one Clementine book. I listened to the audio version and it made for a fabulous commute to work for a couple of days. I’ll definitely be picking up the others from my public library on my next visit. I hope you’ll give Clementine a chance, too. She will definitely bring a smile to your day.

Click here to see a book trailer.

I Love Amy Krouse Rosenthal!


Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeI first learned about Amy Krouse Rosenthal when I picked up Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life about four years ago.  I needed something for a family vacation to Florida and I somehow, thankfully, ended up with that book.  I have very exact memories of reading it while laying out at the pool.  While I don’t remember all the details of that book, I do remember feeling very connected to the stories and everyday life happenings that Rosenthal wrote about.  An fabulous and well-written book, I still have it.  It doesn’t ever come close to making the “Take to Half-Price Books Pile.” And it is one that I will reread, and probably more than once.

Than a couple of years later I came across Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons. I think I saw it at Barnes & Noble and realized it would make the perfect gift for one of my best friends.  I hadn’t made the author connection at this point.  Shortly after that, a colleague introduced me to Spoon, which I immediately feel in love with.  This time I decided to take note of the author and then it hit me! I was already a fan of the author; I just hadn’t connected all the dots.  Because all of the books I had read to this point were pretty different, including who the intended audience was.  And since I’ve made that discovery, with every new book I read by Rosenthal, I become a bigger and bigger fan.  Last week I read Chopsticks and it was at that point that I knew I had to espouse my love and admiration for Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Chopsticks, which is similar to Spoon, is the ultimate example of personification and great word play.  The premise is about two chopsticks who have always been inseparable, doing everything together and just having a great time.  With any good story, conflict soon arises  and one of the chopsticks is injured and needs time to heal.  Of course, there is sadness and even nervousness, as the two friends become a little less inseparable and learn to venture out on their own.  They do reunite at the end, both bringing a new and more worldly perspective to their friendship.  A wonderful, heartfelt message to the reader, but done with such a sense of humor and wonderful word play, In fact, Rosenthal’s writing is so masterful and entertaining, that you might  not even realize there was a message until you get to the end of the book.  To me, that’s a sign of a well-written and engaging book; enjoying the book on multiple levels, during and after reading.

If you’ve never read anything by  Amy Krouse Rosenthal, please go to your public library or local bookstore today and find one of these books.  I promise, you won’t regret it!

Yes Day Wumbers Spoon  Exclamation Mark Duck! Rabbit! Chopsticks

Life's Little Equations

Jefferson’s Sons


Jefferson's SonsJefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is an incredible piece of historical fiction that will leave readers with unanswered questions.  Based on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, readers are brought into the world of slavery at Monticello during the first quarter of the nineteenth century.  Sally Hemings had four children with Jefferson, three boys and 1 girl; three of those children were light-skinned enough to one day pass for white.  The story occurs over the course of about twenty-one years with the two oldest sons (Beverly and Madison) as well as a third boy close to the family, taking turns serving as the central figure throughout the story.  Even though everyone knows who their father is, the children are taught that it should never be brought up as to any tension it may create.  Especially since Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, and her children live at Monticello, and they are constantly receiving guests.  The family does receive special considerations; violin lessons for the boys, Madison learns to read, apprenticeships, new shoes, yet the children struggle with knowing who their father is and not being able to have that kind of relationship with him.

I listened to the audiobook and I can ‘t help but think that this would make wonderful (but lengthy) read aloud.  There are so many times in which a character asks why?  Such great natural stopping points for kids to have some amazing discussions about right and wrong and the contradictions we find in life.  As a reader, I constantly found myself asking why.  And of course, the age-old question of Jefferson’s character comes up.  How can the man who penned the Declaration of Independence, the man who helped to create a new country, upon his death have 130 slaves at Monticello?  Five of those slaves were set free upon his death, two of whom were his youngest children.  But the wife and children of one of those freed slaves were sold at auction, being dispersed across Virginia.

I found this book in an elementary library.  I’m not sure if that is the best place for it.  Only because the reader really should have a good understanding of slavery in the early 1800s and some of the content could be considered fairly intense.  That being said, I can think of some former 5th grade students who would have devoured this book.  It would probably make better sense in a middle school or high school library.  There would be several jumping off points into different aspects of American History – the life of Thomas Jefferson after his presidency, Monticello, slavery, freed slaves living in the North, just to name a few.  Jefferson’s Sons would be a wonderful addition to any U.S. History class.

I don’t know that I’ve done this book justice.  It’s one of those books that is so amazing it really doesn’t matter what I write.  I can’t find enough words to tell you that this is a must read and it will stay with you long after you’ve read it.



A Tangle of Knots


A Tanglle of KnotsA Tangle of Knots was a fun, easy whimsical read. The premise is that everyone has a Talent. Some people find their Talent early in life and others discover their Talent far into adulthood. And a few, the Fair, never discover their Talent. This is one of those books where there are a few stories going on and from the beginning I was constantly wondering how the different stories were related. To me, this is really a great example of why it’s so important to get kids to be engaged in their reading. If you read A Tangle of Knots without truly engaging in the different stories, it’s just a random collection of stories and it’s not nearly as enjoyable. That being said, this book isn’t for everyone. It will require attention and commitment.

This book is about family and fitting in.  A Tangle of Knots is also about finding your way in the world.  It’s adventure and fantasy with a touch of mystery.  I think it would appeal to both boys and girls.  Even though the main character is a girl, there are so many unique characters that most kids will find someone to connect with.  It would definitely make a fun read aloud and I think could make for some really interesting class discussions.  I would be interested in hearing from teachers of gifted learners about what their students think of this novel.

As someone whose career is based on the needs of gifted and talented students, I had to really think about this premise. There is always the debate about why gifted programs aren’t even necessary; after all, doesn’t everyone have a gift or a talent? And of course, to many, gifted education is considered elitist. Both of these are actually highly perpetuated myths. Gifted learners, like second language learners and students with disabilities, require a special set of learning circumstances because of who they are and how they learn. In some places, I would say that gifted education is elitist because of how students are identified and served. Done correctly, though, gifted identification and services should cut across all cultures, languages, and economic levels, thus removing that label.  I don’t think the author is using the term Talent to mean the same thing as when we say Gifted and Talented. When we talk about a student who needs Gifted and Talented services, we’re talking about someone who learns in a different way. They can typically look at something from multiple perspectives, they may learn more quickly, and can think more abstractly and complexly. I think Lisa Graff’s perspective is that everyone has a skill that they embrace and are particularly good at. In some cases, they may be quite passionate about it. And sometimes those talents are obvious, but sometimes it is our circumstances which lead us to our passions.