Teaching Concentration Rather than Cheating

11 10 2009
There are many lessons we learn from games. When players cheat we learn about character and the expression of ethics. Perhaps games give us a clue of the true character of an individual. Like the quote from Ovid, “In our play we reveal what kind of people we are.”As a teacher I am trying to teach students to learn from games and not just play to win. Perhaps winning is the only time students have been rewarded and praised. And sadly this could lure students into cheating. As a teacher I must think of the big picture- the long view. Winning is a great feeling but learning from mistakes and building mental strength has more transferable aspects. Of course building self-esteem by winning is a fine goal but unique and honorable is the student who can pick up the pieces of a lost game and seek to learn from it.

At early ages focus and concentration are often difficult habits to learn. Rather than trying to teach winning at all costs and allow for the temptation to cheat, I am attempting to praise characteristics of staying at something and concentrating.

Here are some character defintitions to help in this goal:
Character attributes of concentration:

1. Determination: The mental act of deciding, establishing and adherence to an aim.

2. Persistence: Persevering in an effort for a considerable time regardless of seeing results.

3. Tenacity: Holding firmly to a course or direction.

4. Resoluteness: Sticking to the focus of the goal.

5. Toughness: Sustaining one’s spirit following defeats.

6. Endurance: Staying power and the ability to sustain an increased level of activity without getting distracted or discouraged.

These are honorable characteristics for games as well as for life. Perhaps these are greater lessons than playing just to win.

What We Can Learn From Games

11 10 2009

by Ben Bishop

I came across an interesting article in the Idaho Statesman two days ago. It was a great article on teaching math to students and one of the final points was to play games that emphasized math like Monopoly or Risk. I am glad that any game can be used to teach concepts; however that seems to be an oversimplification of the potential of a game. If that is all a game is (a conceptual teaching tool) then the higher levels of Bloom’s famous taxonomy are not being reached at all. I can see games like Snakes and Ladders being used for this purpose (after all that is basically a counting game) but doing this is a higher grade class like 6th grade would turn me off of math and games in general.Games are expressions of the struggles we face, a miniature version of reality without the painful loss. If they are used like a set of flash cards then the purpose is lost. Yes, I’ll learn about probability when I roll the dice, I’ll learn about trivia when I play a question game, etc… It’s the participation of play that teaches me not just the memorization of facts and figures.Here’s a link to an article that says about the same thing but in a more logical manner:

Till next time,
Ben Bishop

Lessons from Strategy Games

11 10 2009

I was just interviewed for a local newspaper concerning what we can learn from games. I was quoted saying that students may not naturally learn from games. We often say how helpful games are in teaching life lessons, math, strategy or whatever. As a teacher, I have realized that unless a teacher is explicit, students do not transfer their knowledge to other areas. Here are some ideas about drawing life lessons from games.

Here are some guidelines for guidelines:

They must be easily repeatable, quotable, meaningful, and memorable

They must be a generalization to all or a specified group

They are commands or they implies what we should do

They are short and concisely worded

Examples of Life Lessons written by my students….

-When you don’t understand the rules, you cannot play the game of life successfully.

-Be willing to learn new things so you are more equipped to make better choices and decisions.

-Commit to paying attention and reflecting upon the actions and behaviors of those around you.

-Your actions determine your outcomes.

-Your life experience is made up of the choices you make and the outcomes that accompany them each and every day.

-If you hope to have a winning life strategy you have to be honest about where your life is right now.

-Life rewards action.

-You must realize that your plans will alter and sometimes change along the way. Winners adapt to these new developments.

-A strategy requires courage, commitment and energy in order to succeed.

-When you know your goals, you will recognize which choices support them and which do not.

-Study and dissect your mistakes so you can avoid repeating them.

-Study and analyze your successes so you can repeat the behavior that has brought you positive results.

-Losers just make it up as they go along

Here is a quote that sums up my thoughts………

There are one-story intellects,
two-story intellects,
and three-story intellects with skylights.
All fact collectors who have
no aim beyond their facts
are one-story men.
Two-story men compare, reason, generalize, using the labor
of fact collectors as their own.
Three-story men idealize,
imagine, predict-
their best illumination comes
from above the skylight.
–Oliver Wendell Holmes

Life Lessons from Chess

4 10 2009
 The following is an essay by Benjamin Franklin on chess. 

THE GAME OF CHESS is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn:


1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action; for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this Piece, what will be the advantage or disadvantage of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks?”


2d, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: – the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; the dangers they are repeatedly exposed to; the several possibilities of their aiding each other; the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or that Piece; and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.



3d, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game; such as, if you touch a Piece, you must move it somewhere; if you set it down, you must let it stand.



Therefore, it would be the better way to observe these rules, as the game becomes thereby more the image of human life, and particularly of war; in which if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops, and place them more securely, but you must abide by all the consequences of your rashness.



And lastly, we learn by Chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs; the habit of hoping for a favorable chance, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory from our skill; or, at least, from the negligence of our adversary: and whoever considers, what in Chess he often sees instances of, that success is apt to produce presumption and its consequent inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage, while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by any present successes of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.

That we may therefore, be induced more frequently to choose this beneficial amusement in preference to others, which are not attended with the same advantages, every circumstance that may increase the pleasure of it should be regarded; and every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness, should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the parties, which is, to pass the time agreeable.

1st, Therefore, if it is agreed to play according to the strict rules, then those rules are to be strictly observed by both parties; and should not be insisted upon for one side, while deviated from by the other: for this is not equitable.

2d, If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgences, he should then be as willing to allow them to the other.

3d, No false move should ever be made to extricate yourself out of a difficulty, or to gain an advantage; for there can be no pleasure in playing with a man once detected in such unfair practice.

4th, If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay; not even by looking at your watch, or taking up a book to read: you should not sing, nor whistle, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may distract his attention: for all these displease, and they do not prove your skill in playing, but your craftiness and your rudeness.

5th, You ought not to endeavor to amuse and deceive your adversary by pretending to have made bad moves; and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes; for this is fraud and deceit, not skill in the game of Chess.

6th, You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expressions, nor show too much of the pleasure you feel; but endeavor to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression that may be used with truth; such as, you understand the game better than I, but you are a little inattentive, or, you play too fast; or, you had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts, and that turned it in my favor.

7th, If you are a spectator, while others play, observe the most perfect silence: for if you give advice, you offend both the parties: him against whom you give it, because it may cause him to lose the game: him in whose favor you give it, because, though it be good, and he follow it, he loses the pleasure he might have had, if you had permitted him to think till it occurred to himself. Even after a move or moves, you must not, by replacing the Pieces, show how they might have been placed better; for that displeases, and might occasion disputes or doubts about their true situation.


All talking to the players lessens or diverts their attention; and is, therefore, unpleasing; nor should you give the least hint to either party, by any kind of noise or motion; if you do, you are unworthy to be a spectator.

If you desire to exercise or show your judgment, do it in playing your own game, when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing or meddling with, or counseling the play of others.


Lastly, If the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules before mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself.



Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskilfulness or inattention; but point out to him kindly, that by such a move he places or leaves a Piece en prise unsupported; that by another, he will put his King into a dangerous situation, &c.


By this general civility (so opposite to the unfairness before forbidden) you may happen indeed to lose the game; but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his affection; together with the silent approbation and the good will of the spectators.

When a vanquished player is guilty of an untruth to cover his disgrace, as “I have not played so long, – his method of opening the game confused me, – the men were of an unusual size,” &c all such apologies, (to call them no worse) must lower him in a wise person’s eyes, both as a man and a Chess-player; and who will not suspect that he who shelters himself under such untruths in trifling matters, is no very sturdy moralist in things of greater consequence, where his fame and honor are at stake? A man of proper pride would scorn to account for his being beaten by one of these excuses, even were it true; because they have all so much the appearance, at the moment, of being untrue.


 Author: Benjamin Franklin

Quotations About Humor

25 09 2009

Almost all new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced

           -Alfred North Whitehead


People do not quit playing because they grow old.  They grow old because they quit playing

    -Oliver Wendell Holmes


You don’t stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing.

  -Michael Pritchard


You cannot deal with the most serious things in the world unless you understand  the amusing

  -Winston Churchill


Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.



Comedy is for those who think and a tragedy is for those who feel.

-Horace Walpole


Wrinkles merely indicate where smiles have been.

-Mark Twain


Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

-Victor Borge


When humor goes, there goes civilization.

-Erma  Bombeck


Mirth is God’s medicine

-Henry Beecher


Among those whom I like, I can find no common denominator: but among those I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.

-W. H. Auden


Laughter is, after speech, the chief thing that holds society together.


-Max Eastman


 He who laughs, lasts.

-Norwegian Proverb


The jester is brother to the sage.

     -Arthur  Koestler


Humor is a means of obtaining pleasure in spite of the distressing affects that interfere with it.



Humor at its best is a kind of heightened truth- a super-truth.

-E. B. White


Dictators fear laughter more than bombs

-Arthur Koestler


The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed.

-Sebastian Chamfort


When I’m happy I fell like crying, but when I’m sad don’t feel like laughing.  I think it’s better to be happy.  Then you get two feelings for the price of one.

-Lily Tomlin


Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.

-Mark Twain



A cheerful heart is good medicine

 -Proverbs 17: 22


 Half this game is 90% mental.

Danny Ozark

The Joy and Art of Problem Solving

24 09 2009



Problems are inevitable and unavoidable.


They are the means by which we grow.  They are not necessarily “bad.”


There is no such thing as a problem without a gift in it.


Problem solving is one of the critical and central activities in one’s life.


Problems come in all shapes, sizes, varieties, and levels of difficulty.


Problems grow more complex each year.


Problem solving can be easier, more effective, and more fun if you have a flexible system for solving problems.


There is no substitute for experience.  If you want to become a better problem solver, you must practice, practice, practice.  Hence, the more problem solving you do, the better problem solver you become.



Some tools for solving problems…..


A Student’s Guide

Rule 1 

If at all possible, avoid reading the problem.  Reading the problem only consumes time and causes confusion.

Rule 2

Extract the numbers from the problem in the order in which they appear. Pay no attention for numbers written in words.

Rule 3

If rule 2 yields three or more numbers, the best bet for getting the answer is adding them together.

Rule 4

If there are only two numbers which are approximately the same size, then subtraction should give the best results.

Rule 5

If there are only two numbers in the problem and one is much smaller than the other, then divide if it goes evenly-otherwise, multiply.

Rule 6

If the problem seems like it calls for a formula, pick a formula that has enough letters to use all the numbers given in the problem.

Rule 7

Never, never spend too much time solving problems.

This set of rules will get you through even the longest assignment in the minimum time with little or no thinking.



Tools That May Really Help

Problem Solving Tools You May Use 

1. Rephrasing:

Often a problem seems complex or hard to understand simply because the words used are complicated, vague, or confusing.  By rephrasing the problem in your own words, you can get it organized in your mind.  Put the problem in your own words until you feel comfortable with your understanding of the problem.

Try stating the goal in your own words and as completely as you possibly can.


2. Possibility listing:

One of the easiest and most effective ways to get control of a confused situation is simply to itemize the variables and possibilities involved.  This involves making a list of the key factors involved. In this case the further analysis of the puzzle can be transformed into a list of factors that make the puzzle a problem.

Try listing the variables and factors of the problem.


3. Identify sub goals:

When a problem is complex, breaking it down into sub problems and solving each part is helpful.  By analyzing the problem carefully and not being distracted by the first thing that comes to mind, you may be able to discover the one key factor that lies at the heart.

Try simplifying the problem or the puzzle by breaking it down into sub-problems and then solving the parts.

 4. Trial and error:

This is the weakest and often the most inefficient method.  It is randomly trying one possibility, then another, and then another. This method is also called guess and check. The correct solution is discovered by chance. This method is testing all the possibilities at random. (It is very probable you will use other methods instead of making a completely exhaustive search)

Try guessing and checking your solution


5.     Estimate, predict or project

            Get an idea what the solution would be close to. Predict the range of where the answer might be.

          Try estimating what the answer would be close to


  6.  Best first analysis:

 This searching strategy involves testing the most probable or most desirable (or promising) possibility first. This method can also be used on sub goals.  If the first method attempted fails to produce a solution the second best choice is tried.

Try the most desirable choice first.



7. Worst first analysis:

This searching strategy involves testing the least probable or desirable (or promising) possibility first. This method can also be used on sub goals.  If the first method attempted fails to produce a solution the second least desirable choice is tried.

Try the least desirable choice first.



8. Process of Elimination:

This method is organizing the possibilities by eliminating what does not work. This process may be used to solve sub goals and categorizing trial and error testing.

Try eliminating the possibilities that do not work.



9. Jump the Track:

Often problem solvers get stuck in a mental rut and do the same process over and over.  Stopping to reconsider the whole course of your attack on the problem may help.  Start again with a completely different approach or a different point of view. Enlarge the range of options to include unusual ones.

Try a totally different approach.



10. Look for patterns:

By examining the puzzle carefully, a pattern for arranging the pieces or in the solution may be observed. This may be patterns in shapes, color, size, process of steps or a hidden code.

Try looking for a hidden pattern.


11. Draw or use a diagram, table, or model:

Problems are often approached by sketching out the process on paper.  Often Athinking with a pencil@ helps clarify the thinking process.

Try looking using a pencil to sketch or keep track of your thinking process.


12. Work backwards:

When the goal is clear, you can begin there and work backwards.  Taking a completed puzzle apart piece by piece, or working a maze backwards or completing describing the finished puzzle may help in the process.

Try working backwards by understanding what the solved problem must look like.       


13. Simplify

Do a simpler problem of the same kind to understand the method.  Apply that method to the present problem.

          Try doing a simpler problem of the same kind and apply that method.


14. Logic

          When there are steps that depend on each other, decide which step goes first. After that, decide the steps that follow in a reasonable order.  Discover how the steps fit together with phrases such as: If I do this, then this will happen.

          Try breaking the steps of problem into a reasonable order.


15. Act it Out


          Often it helps to play act the problem by demonstrating the situation physically.                                                             

Try play acting the problem by demonstrating the situation.


16.  Create an equation                                                

Practice some algebra by using letters as variables to represent unknown quantities. Solving the equation leads to the solution of the problem

Try using algebra as a mathematical “shortcut”.

The Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Students

19 09 2009

Often teachers think that gifted students are those who just need more intellectual stimulation. The phase “they can take care of themselves” is often heard. There are other needs that must be addressed to serve the needs of the gifted students.  Here are just a few…………….

Perfectionism: The ability to see how one might ideally perform, combined with emotional intensity leads many gifted children to unrealistically high expectations of themselves. 


Underachievement: This is the discrepancy between potential and performance or ability and achievement. When a gifted student is not working up to his or her potential this is called underachievement.


Avoidance of risk taking: In the same way the gifted see the possibilities, they also see potential problems in undertaking those activities.  Avoidance of potential problems can mean avoidance of risk-taking, and may result in underachievement.


Uneven development: Motor skills, especially fine-motor, often lag behind cognitive conceptual abilities.  These children may see in their “minds eye” what they want to do, construct, or draw. However, motor skills do not allow them to achieve the goal.  Intense frustration and emotional outbursts may result.


Multi-potentiality: Gifted children often have advance capabilities and may be involved in diverse activities to an almost frantic degree.  Though seldom a problem for the child, this may create problems for the family, as well as quandaries when decisions must be about career selection.


Peer relationships:  Gifted students find that they often need both social and intellectual peers and they need to develop relationships with both.


Excessive self-criticism: The ability to see possibilities and alternatives may imply that youngsters see idealistic images of what they might be, and simultaneously berate themselves because they see how they are falling short of an ideal.


Emotional intensity and stress: Because of the areas stated above and the uneven coping abilities, gifted students may feel deeper and may experience intense stress.


Social Skills: Often gifted students put much emphasis on the advanced thought process to the neglect of social skills that seem to come naturally to others.  These areas could be listening skills, communication skills, and friendship skills.

Motivation Quotes from Leonardo Da Vinci

19 09 2009

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.

Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.

Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.

You do ill if you praise, but worse if you criticize, what you do not understand.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller, and more of it can be taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or portion is more readily seen.

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.

Who sows virtue reaps honor.

Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.   

Study the science of art and the art of science.

Learn how to see and remember that everything is connected to everything else.

Good students naturally thirst after knowledge.

There are three classes of people.  Those who see: those who see when they are shown: those who do not see.

Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his teacher.

Math Magician helps Students to Want to Study Numbers USA

17 09 2009

By Courtney Cobb – Journal Writer


POCATELLO, IDAHO – A new spin has been put on mathematics as Tendoy Elementary students use some magic to study various math concepts.

Bob Bishop, the Math Magician, has delighted students in kindergarten through sixth grade and teachers with his magic skills and math abilities over the past week.

“Math is so necessary in life,” he said. “It’s not just making math fun, but it’s also trying to attach some sense of understanding for students.”

Fifth grade teacher Vicki Reeder’s class had the opportunity to spend some time with Bishop while working on problem solving skills.

Students worked with calculators, the box of magic, learned how to do multiplication tables with their fingers, played a game called fast and loose and other activities.

During a game of fast and loose, Bishop produced a single chain and proceeded to fold it into a series of loops.

Students were asked to pick a loop and place their finger inside it. If they had guessed correctly the loop would stay around their finger. However, if they guessed incorrectly, the loop would slip away.

“You will win if you know mathematics, but you’ll lose if you don’t,” Bishop said.

Students learned how to follow the loops and determine the correct place to put their fingers.

Bishop has been performing for students and other audiences for 10 years and says he continually teaches students and teachers how math can be fun.

He said many students work with arithmetic but don’t fully understand problem solving skills.

With the help of a little magic, students are forced to observe the environment around them for any changes and think about possible outcomes.

“Generally students don’t really care to do math because it’s not fun,” Bishop said. “By making it interesting and proving to them they can do it, it helps to raise their self-esteem and interest level in math.”

Bishop will perform along with Tendoy Elementary students at 6:30 p.m. today for a Math Night.

Fifth grade student Quinci Shelley is acting as Bishop’s assistant during the show and said she can’t wait to perform for other students.

“I think it’s cool and it’s a good opportunity for us,” she said. “Some people don’t like math, but when they see this show it sparks their interest.”

Fifth grade student Brant Leo will lead the audience in applause, but said working with Bishop has been great because he’s learned new things.

“He’s helping students to improve their math by using cool tricks,” he said.

Bishop also worked with teachers after school and gave them various activities they can do with students in their classrooms.

“By making math fun, students will learn to enjoy it more and it will give them a sense of pride as they figure out difficult problems,” he said.

Strategy Games and Teaching Metacognition

15 09 2009

The issue of the definition of what a game is has open up many opinions. It has been said that the simplest questions are the most difficult. I would like to apply the lessons of strategy games to teaching.

Is there enough agreement of the definition of the word ‘game’ so it can be used as an adequate metaphor for life or at least some aspects of life? I believe every game has some sort of strategy.  Given that every player suspends disbelief and enters the spirit of the game, every player has a method in which they use to seek to win the game.  Can we assume that this is true with life?  Would it be too much to say that every person has a strategy for life whether they have articulated or not?  Perhaps it is easier to confine this idea to a particular task or assignment.  What is the method or strategy that a person uses to accomplish a puzzle?

I do this often with my students.  As I give them an assignment or a problem I walk around the room and ask them, “What is your method? What is your strategy?”

What I mean to do is for the student to be aware of his thinking method.  I am asking the student to practice metacognition which for many is very difficult.  When asked, “How did you arrive at that conclusion many students would say, ‘I don’t know I just did’”.

Arthur L. Costa says, “We can determine if students are becoming more aware of their own thinking if they are able to describe what goes on in their head when they think. When asked, they can describe what they know and what they need to know. They can describe their plan of action before they begin to solve a problem; they can list the steps and tell where they are in the sequence of a problem solving strategy; they can trace the pathways and blind alleys they took on the road to a problem solution.

They can apply cognitive vocabulary correctly as they describe their thinking skills and strategies. We will hear students using such terms and phrases as: “I have an hypothesis…,” “My theory is…,” “When I compare these points of view…,” “By way of summary…,” “What I need to know is…,” or “The assumptions on which I am working are…”

As an experiment start asking students what their strategy is for simple tasks and ask them the same question for more difficult tasks.  Hopefully as they become used to this and learn to articulate their mental process they can begin to see similar strategies with more complex tasks.

I started today by teaching my students some basic “row” games based on Tic Tac Toe.  We talked about how well known Tic Tac Toe was and transferred this knowledge to more complex games. We discussed how intuitive the rules of these other games were because they had a connection to this simple game.  This laid the groundwork for the principles of learning by drawing on past knowledge and applying it to new situations

Some of those games were:

Abstract Strategy Game Checklist


Dots and Boxes


L Game

3 Spot Game



Tetra Trax















Score Four



Stadium Checkers

Stay Alive

Connect Four

Rubiks Magic Strategy Game

Slide Five




Shift Tac Toe

Today’s goal was to learn how to play three games and to sense the learning process from learning the rules, playing a practice game where they learn to observe, and then to some basic strategy.  When I played one boy a game of Bolix I lead him to a double two way win to demonstrate the depth of a simple (elegant) game.  His response was, “My head hurts”.  In my chess club a similar occurrence happened when the younger students murmured, “This is too hard”. Perhaps Samuel Goldwyn said it well, “If I look confused it’s because I’m thinking.”
Knowing that my pedagogy may be some of the issue, I do recognize that many students do not understand how to learn. This brings me to the quote…..

Thinking is what you do when you do not know the answer”

Intelligent behavior is performed in response to questions and problems in which the answers are NOT immediately known.

This is one reason I teach strategy.  How a person plays a game reflects how they think in other areas.     Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Terribly Terrific Tongue Twisters

14 09 2009

Each must be said three quickly times!



Trumpeter Tom was terribly tickled to take time today to trumpet tidy tunes.


A nosey boy annoys a nosey oyster.


Ruth’s washed roof’s wet.


We won by one run.


The spunky punk thunk the skunk stunk.


A manager of an imaginary menagerie.


Pick up a teacup and hiccup.


Cooked cupcakes


Walt wrote what Wendy read.


Luminous linoleum and voluminous aluminum.


Mrs. Muster mixed a mess of mushy mustard.  A mess of mushy mustard did Mrs, Muster mixed.  If Mrs. Muster mixed a mess of mushy mustard, where’s the mess of mushy mustard Mrs. Muster mixed?


Rooty toot two to you too.


Dust buster must bust dust.


Which witch watched which witch?


Thad thanked Theo for thwarting the worst theft.

Tongue Twisters – Brain Teasers

14 09 2009

The following unpunctuated passages are tongue twisters and brain teasers.  First see how fast you can read them aloud, then reread them with the expression of an elocution student.  Finally, explain the situations described without laughing or even smiling.  You will find this is not easy to do.

Why Went Went Without Go

Mr. Go and Mr. Went had a date to see a ball game so…Go knew Went wanted to go but it depended upon when Went went so Go went to Went to get Went to go but Went told Go to go so Go went after Go went Went went after Go to tell Go to go not knowing Go went to phone Went not to go When Went went to tell Go to go and when Go went to let Went know Go wanted Went not to go is not known and that’s why Go went without Went and Went went without Go.

See, Sore and a Seesaw

Mr.  See and Mr. Sore were old friends.  See owned a saw and Sore a seesaw Now See’s saw sawed Sore’s seesaw before Sore saw See which made Sore sore with See had Sore seen See’s saw before See’s saw sawed sore’s seesaw then See’s saw would not have sawed Sore’s seesaw.  But See saw Sore and sore’s seesaw before Sore saw See’s saw, so you see how Sore saw could saw Sore’s seesaw.  It was a shame to see See see sore so sore with See just because See’s saw sawed Sore’s seesaw.

A Tough Fight at the Fort

General Fite stormed the fort of General Fort Fite fought at Fort’s for before Fort could fight Fite but Fite’s unfortified fort enabled Fort to fight Fit better than Fite fought Fort So Fite fought Fort and Fort fought Fit at Fort’s fort and boy how Fort fought Fite If Fort had fought fite before Fite’s unfortified fort instead of fort fighting Fite before Fort’s fort then Fort and Fite might no have fought and there would be no need for Fort’s fort and Fite’s fight.

Success Quotes Collected by Elementary Students

14 09 2009

Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together.

When a collection of brilliant minds , hearts, and talents come together…expect a masterpiece.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

No problem can withstand the sustained power of great attitudes, they are like ripples in the water…they spread.

There are no shortcuts in any place worth going.  When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this…you haven’t.

The team on top of the mountain did not fall there.

Your attitude almost always determines your altitude in life.

Courage does not always roar.  Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.

The best way to predict the future is to create it.

If your are not riding the wave of change…. you will find yourself beneath it.

A ship in the harbor is safe…but that is not what ships were made for.

Only those who see the invisible can do the impossible.

It takes only a single idea, a single action to move the world.

Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.

Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.

Some people dream of success, while others wake-up and work hard at it.

The race goes not always to the swift…but to those who keep on running.

Success is a journey, not a destination.

Examples of Life Lessons from Strategy Games from Elementary Students

13 09 2009

When you don’t understand the rules, you cannot play the game of life successfully.

Be willing to learn new things so you are more equipped to make better choices and decisions.

Commit to paying attention and reflecting upon the actions and behaviors of those around you.

Your actions determine your outcomes.

Your life experience is made up of the choices you make and the outcomes that accompany them each and every day.

If you hope to have a winning life strategy you have to be honest about where your life is right now.

Life rewards action.

You must realize that your plans will alter and sometimes change along the way.  Winners adapt to these new developments.

A strategy requires courage, commitment and energy in order to succeed.

When you know your goals, you will recognize which choices support them and which do not.

Study and dissect your mistakes so you can avoid repeating them.

Study and analyze your successes so you can repeat the behavior that has brought you positive results.

Losers just make it up as they go along

The Educational Value of Strategy Games

13 09 2009

Your family has gathered around the dining room table and is playing a family game.  “Your turn”, says your daughter eagerly as she looks intently at the playing board then at you.  You know she has found your weakness.  She has learned from you how to solve a difficult situation.  She is excited about using a strategy and applying it and in doing so win a game. Most of us like this family have spent many hours playing board games as a pastime or as a rainy day activity. Teachers have also used games as educational devices or as reward activities for completing class work. We can all agree that board games have always been popular. But, is it possible for teachers and parents to take this fun activity and draw some life changing lessons from them? How can teachers and parents take more advantage of this fun teaching potential?

Some have even called this the Gaming Generation saying that even many video games, despite what many think, can prepare youths for the future. John C. Beck, a senior research fellow at the University of Southern California, and Mitchell Wade, a consultant to companies like Google and the RAND Corporation, have just published “Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever” (Harvard Business School Press). They assure us that by playing video games kids are actually training for the new world of work, not avoiding it. They are learning such lessons as: there is always an answer; you might be frustrated for a while, you might even never find it, but you know it’s there. Players are also learning willingness to take chances (60 percent of frequent gamers, compared with 45 percent of nongamers in the same age group, agree that “the best rewards come to those who take risks”). To add to this is a view that failure is a part of the game as well as a part of life.

If video games have this potential might not classic board games? Many have talked about the educational value of board games (especially Chess), but give little or no guidance on how to make them life-applicable. There are, of course, educational board games designed to teach or reinforce educational concepts such as math skills, historical trivia, etc. However, the games that may be most beneficial are those that teach creative problem solving and critical thinking.  How can we take advantage of this playful spirit and help students draw life applications from these fun activities? I believe it is possible with explicit teaching of strategy with games.

Because of instructive reasons I choose strategy board games, (two person, abstract strategy games) to begin with.  Two person games have face-to-face interaction with real people as opposed to most video games.  But, on the other hand, two person games emphasize strategy over team and social implications of multi-person games. For these reasons, strategy board games may be a more constructive choice than video games and a wonderful tool in teaching important life skills.

I will share more of these ideas in upcoming posts……..

From one thing, know ten thousand things.  When you attain the way of strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see….

if you know the way of strategy broadly you will see it in everything.

Miyamoto Musashi

A Book of Five Rings

Quotations with a Language Twist

13 09 2009

1. A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two‑tired.

2. What’s the definition of a will? (It’s a dead giveaway).

3. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

4. A backwards poet writes inverse.

5. In democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

6. She had a boyfriend with a wooden leg, but broke it off.

7. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

8. If you don’t pay your exorcist you get repossessed.

9. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

10. Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I’ll show you A‑flat minor.

11. When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.

12. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

13. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

14. You feel stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

15. Local Area Network in Australia: the LAN down under.

16. He often broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.

17. Every calendar’s days are numbered.

18. A lot of money is tainted. It taint yours and it taint mine.

19. A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

20. He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

21. A plateau is a high form of flattery.

22. The short fortune‑teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

23. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

24. Once you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.

25. Those who jump off a Paris bridge are in Seine.

26. When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye.

27. Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

28. Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

29. Acupuncture is a jab well done.

30. Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.

Killer Phrases: The Top 40

12 09 2009

from Yes, But . . . by Charles Chic Thompson

1.  Yes, but . . .

2.  We tried that before.

3.  That’s irrelevant.

4.  We haven’t got the manpower.

5.  Obviously, you misread my


6.  Don’t rock the boat!

7.  The boss (or competition) will eat you alive.

8.  Don’t waste time thinking.

9.  Great idea, but not for us.

10.  It’ll never fly.

11.  Don’t be ridiculous.

12.  People don’t want change.

13.  It’s not in the budget.

14.  Put it in writing.

15.  It will be more trouble than it’s  worth.

16.  It isn’t your responsibility.

17.  That’s not in your job


18.  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

19.  Let’s stick with what works.

20.  We’ve done all right so far.

21.  The boss will never go for it.

22.  It’s too far ahead of the times.

23. . . . laughter . . .

24. . . . suppressed laughter . . .

25. . . . condescending grin . . .

26. . . . dirty looks . . .

27.  Don’t fight city hall!

28.  I’m the one who gets paid to think.

29.  What will people say?

30.  Get a committee to look into that.

31.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

32.  You have got to be kidding.

33.  No!

34.  We’ve always done it this way.

35.  It’s all right in theory . . . but . . .

36.  Be practical!

37.  Do you realize the paperwork it will


38.  Because I said so.

39.  I’ll get back to you.

40. . . . silence . . .

What Killer Phrases do your students say?

The Journey of an Idea

12 09 2009

By Bob Bishop

With a note….

An idea is created

Flowing, splashing, giving light to its path

Radiating, illuminating, dazzling, brilliant

Pouring light into the dark caverns of the mind

Springing life from light

Bursting with new vitality

Active, joyful, beautiful, playful, and fragile

Marvelous, wonderful, extraordinary makers of change


Shadows of gloom threaten to destroy

Cracking the ground beneath

Shooting flames of doubt, fear, criticism

Exploding from everywhere to overtake, encircle and kill

Adversity pursues innovation

Clouds of overwhelming judgment and negativity attack

Building barriers, edifices of tradition

To surround and stifle that which is new


With a note

Light breaks through

Shattering the paradigms of resistance

Bursting the walls

Letting the idea fly free!

What if we had Listened?

12 09 2009

What if we had listened to these Killer Remarks?

Chanute, aviation pioneer, in 1904: AThe Octave [flying] machine will eventually be fast; they will be used in sport, but they are not to be thought of as commercial carriers.

The Literary Digest, 1889: The ordinary horseless carriage is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never come into as common use as the bicycle.

Thomas Edison, on electricity in the home: Just as certain as death, [George] Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a system of any size.

Science Digest, August 1948: Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them.

Chicken Little: AThe sky is falling.

Physicist and mathematician Lord Kelvin (1824-1907), who seemed to have a corner on the wrongheaded one-liner in his day: X rays are a hoax. Aircraft flight is impossible. Radio has no future.

Elisha Gray, inventor, 1876:  As to Bell’s talking telegraph, it only creates interest in scientific circles . . . its commercial values will be limited.

President of Remington Arms Company rejecting patent rights for the typewriter, 1897: No mere machine will replace a reliable and honest clerk.

Daryl F.  Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox, 1946: ATelevision won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months.  People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.

Charles Duell, U.S. Patent Office director, 1899: Everything that can be invented has been invented.

Robert Millikan, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, 1923: There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.

Decca Records, turning down the Beatles, 1962: Groups with guitars are on their way out.

Ken Olsen, president of Digital Equipment, 1977: There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.

Western Union, rejecting rights to Alexander Graham Bells telephone, 1878: What use could the company make of an electric toy?

Michigan Savings Bank president advising a colleague against investing in Ford Motor Company:  …the automobile is only a novelty — a fad.

Alice in Lewis Carroll=s Through the Looking Glass, 1872: There’s no use trying.  One can’t believe impossible things.

Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of IBM, 1943: The world capacity for computers is five.

Disney Corporate policy, mid-1970’s: Our cartoons will never be sold on videotape.

Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company: You can have any color you want, boys, as long as its black.

Harry Warner, president of Warner Brothers, 1927: Who wants to hear actors talk!

Tips for Teachers: Successful Strategies for Teaching Gifted Learners

10 09 2009
Davidson Institute for Talent Development

This article by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers a list of tips for teachers. It focuses on suggestions any teacher can use in the classroom to aid their gifted students and promote their achievement in positive ways. Common blunders are also discussed as well as why they can be detrimental to the gifted student.

Being a regular classroom teacher can be both an exciting and overwhelming experience. There are so many curriculums to cover, so many standards to meet, and so many things to learn. It can seem as though you’re being stretched in an infinite number of directions. And, the most challenging part generally isn’t the teaching; it is managing student behavior. Without a doubt the most difficult student in your classroom is generally the one who finishes every assignment in less than five minutes and requires constant redirection. When I first started teaching, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with these students and what I discovered was that very often, if I just adjusted my perspective and offered them more challenging experiences, the problems disappeared — like magic! This is how I became passionate about meeting the needs of gifted students. I came to see how making a few simple adjustments could change the entire culture of my classroom. With that in mind, here is a list of tried and true tips I recommend.

Tip #1: Familiarize Yourself with the Characteristics of Intellectually Gifted Students
Not all gifted students in your classroom will be identified and even those who are may not always appear to be gifted. As such, it is important that you don’t allow yourself to be distracted by false stereotypes. Gifted students come from all ethnic groups, they are both boys and girls, they live in both rural and urban areas and they aren’t always straight A students. Students who are intellectually gifted demonstrate many characteristics, including: a precocious ability to think abstractly, an extreme need for constant mental stimulation; an ability to learn and process complex information very rapidly; and a need to explore subjects in depth. Students who demonstrate these characteristics learn differently. Thus, they have unique academic needs. Imagine what your behavior and presentation would be like if, as a high school junior, you were told by the school district that you had to go back to third grade. Or, from a more historical perspective, what if you were Mozart and you were told you had to take beginning music classes because of your age. This is often the experience of the gifted child. Some choose to be successful given the constructs of public school and others choose to rebel. Either way, a few simple changes to their academic experience can dramatically improve the quality of their lives — and, mostly likely, yours!

Tip #2: Let Go of “Normal”
In order to be an effective teacher, whether it’s your first year or your 30th, the best thing you can do for yourself is to let go of the idea of “normal.” I can’t encourage you enough to offer all students the opportunity to grow from where they are, not from where your teacher training courses say they should be. You will not harm a student by offering him/her opportunities to complete work that is more advanced. Research consistently shows that curriculum based on development and ability is far more effective than curriculum based on age. And, research indicates that giftedness occurs along a continuum. As a teacher, you will likely encounter students who are moderately gifted, highly gifted and, perhaps if you’re lucky, even a few who are profoundly gifted. Strategies that work for one group of gifted students won’t necessarily work for all gifted students. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. You’re in the business of helping students to develop their abilities. Just as athletes are good at athletics, gifted students are good at thinking. We would never dream of holding back a promising athlete, so don’t be afraid to encourage your “thinketes” by providing them with opportunities to soar.

Tip #3: Conduct Informal Assessments
Meeting the needs of gifted students does not need to be an all consuming task. One of the easiest ways to better understand how to provide challenging material is to conduct informal whole class assessments on a regular basis. For example, before beginning any unit, administer the end of the unit test. Students who score above 80% should not be forced to “relearn” information they already know. Rather, these students should be given parallel opportunities that are challenging. I generally offered these students the option to complete an independent project on the topic or to substitute another experience that would meet the objectives of the assignment, i.e. taking a college/distance course.

With areas of the curriculum that are sequential, such as mathematics and spelling, I recommend giving the end of the year test during the first week of school. If you have students who can demonstrate competency at 80% or higher, you will save them an entire year of frustration and boredom if you can determine exactly what their ability level is and then offer them curriculum that allows them to move forward. Formal assessments can be extremely helpful, however, they are expensive and there is generally a back log of students waiting to be tested. Conducting informal assessments is a useful and inexpensive tool that will offer you a lot of information.

Tip #4: Re-Familiarize Yourself with Piaget & Bloom
There are many developmental theorists and it is likely that you encountered many of them during your teacher preparation course work. When it comes to teaching gifted children, I recommend taking a few moments to review the work of Jean Piaget and Benjamin Bloom. Jean Piaget offers a helpful description of developmental stages as they relate to learning. Gifted students are often in his “formal operations” stage when their peers are still in his “pre-operational” or “concrete operations” stages. When a child is developmentally advanced he/she has different learning abilities and needs. This is where Bloom’s Taxonomy can be a particularly useful. Students in the “formal operations” developmental stage need learning experiences at the upper end of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Essentially all assignments should offer the student the opportunity to utilize higher level thinking skills like analysis, synthesis and evaluation, as defined by Bloom. I recommend using the Internet to learn more about these two important theorists. A couple of websites that may be of interest include:

Piaget’s Stage Theory of Development
Bloom’s Taxonomy

Tip #5: Involve Parents as Resource Locators
Parents of gifted children are often active advocates for their children. If you are not prepared for this, it can be a bit unnerving. The good news is that, at least in my experience, what they want most is to be heard and to encounter someone who is willing to think differently. Generally, I found that if I offered to collaborate with them, rather than resist them, we were able to work together to see that their child’s needs were met. For example, if they wanted their child to have more challenging experiences in math, I would then enlist their help in finding better curriculum options. I generally conducted an informal assessment to help them determine the best place to start and then encouraged them to explore other options that could be adapted to the classroom. Most parents understood when I explained that I didn’t have the luxury of creating a customized curriculum for every student, but that I would be willing to make accommodations if they would do the research. Flexibility and a willingness to think differently helped me create many win-win situations.

Tip #6: Learn About Distance Learning Opportunities
The choices available to teachers and parents in this area have exploded in the past several years. Distance learning opportunities have dramatically increased options for meeting the needs of gifted students. Programs such as EPGY math and the Johns Hopkins Writing Tutorials as well as online high school and college courses, including online AP classes, are a great way to substitute more challenging curriculum for students who demonstrate proficiency with grade level material. Of course, these classes generally aren’t free, but they are an option. And, in my experience, they are an option that many parents are willing to fund. Search the free online Davidson Gifted Database to find resources recommended by students, parents and teachers.

Tip #7: Explore Acceleration ~ It’s Free and It Works!
Another option is to allow students to attend classes with other students who are at the same developmental level, rather than with their age peers. If a 9 year old can demonstrate that he is ready to learn algebra, why should he be forced to take fourth-grade math just because he is 9 years old? Same goes for language arts, or science, or social studies or any other area of the curriculum. Many well-meaning teachers worry that a student will run out of things to learn if they are given access to curriculum designated for older students. Whenever I hear this question I can’t help but ask — can a person ever truly run out of things to learn? Indeed, if we let Susie, a third grader, learn fifth grade math this year, then fifth grade math isn’t going to be appropriate for Susie when she gets to fifth grade. So, during fifth grade, Susie should have access to seventh grade (or higher!) math — depending upon her needs. What’s wrong with that? Susie is learning at a rate appropriate to her abilities and will continue to do so whether or not we “make” her do third grade worksheets. Why not accommodate her unique learning needs with a bit of flexibility. Susie may just be the one who discovers the cure for cancer or comes up with an alternative fuel source that is more planet-friendly. Besides, and I can only speak for myself, I don’t believe ANY student should have their opportunities limited because of their age, their race or any other factor that is beyond their control. I believe education should be about creating true learning opportunities for ALL students — including gifted students. If you have a student who is ready for fifth grade work, collaborate with the fifth grade teachers. There are great tools, such as the Iowa Acceleration Scale, that can help you to determine whether the student should be moved ahead for just a subject or two or should be grade accelerated.

Another reason that many teachers are afraid to try acceleration is that they are concerned about the student’s level of social maturity. Research has demonstrated time and time again that acceleration is effective for many reasons and that social maturity is rarely an issue. Several studies have shown that social age is correlated with mental age — not chronological age. So, not only is it generally in the student’s best interest academically to accelerate, it is in his/her best social interest as well! The same goes for students in high school. If a student is ready for college work, encourage them to take college courses or to consider an early college entrance program. Indeed the student might need a bit of tutoring to get up to speed and/or may need some extra support initially, particularly with writing and/or organization, however, gifted students learn very quickly and my experience has been that these supports can generally be removed after a reasonable adjustment period.

Tip #8: Learning from the Experiences of Others
Many well-meaning teachers innocently commit the following blunders when they encounter gifted students. Don-t feel bad if you have committed them. I know I have and I wish someone would have pointed them out to me before I had to learn about them the hard way.

Blunder Number One: Asking Your Gifted Students To Serve As Tutors For Students Who Are Struggling. Gifted children think and learn differently than other students. Asking them to serve as tutors can be a frustrating experience for all parties involved. This should also be remembered when putting together learning teams or group projects. Putting your strongest student with your students who are struggling is likely to be a painful experience for everyone. Imagine developing a cycling team with someone like Lance Armstrong as one member and then selecting other members who have either just learned to ride their bikes or are still relying on training wheels to help them gain their balance. It is unlikely that anyone in this group is going to have a positive experience.

Blunder Number Two: Giving Your Gifted Students More Work When They Finish Early. It is common practice to give students more work if they complete their assignments early. This is counterintuitive if you consider that if the student is completing his/her work in an efficient manner, it is likely that the work is too easy. Let’s once again consider our cyclist. Would you have the cyclist who finished the race first continue to ride, on a stationary bike no less, until all of the other cyclists finished the race? I hope not! What if that cyclist was given an opportunity to participate in more challenging races or had the opportunity to develop his/her talents in related areas — wouldn’t that be a better use of his/her time?

Blunder Number Three: Only Allowing Gifted Students To Move Ahead When They Complete The Grade/Age Designed Work Assignments With 100% Accuracy. It is important to remember that gifted students think and learn differently and can be extremely rebellious. No one — not adults, not children and especially not gifted children — likes to be bored! Gifted students, thanks to their ability to reason, will purposely choose not do something merely because they “must” do it, particularly if it seems pointless to them. They would rather spend their time thinking or reading than completing worksheets that are too easy. If you are truly interested in doing what’s best for your students, it is imperative that you focus on their strengths, not their shortcomings. Offer them opportunities that are consistent with their abilities — lead them from where they are. Depending how long they have been in the system, it may take them a while to trust you. So, don’t be surprised if there isn’t a miraculous overnight change. Be consistent and positive and remember, you may be the first teacher who has offered them an opportunity to actually learn, rather than regurgitate and they may not know how to handle your responsiveness. Don’t fall in to the trap of saying, “See, I told you he wasn’t gifted, I gave him one tough assignment and he failed.” Gifted students generally haven’t had to work to succeed. Give them time to build their, often atrophied, wings in a safe environment.

Tip #9: Utilize Outside Resources
There is a lot of information in this article, and it is likely you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed! Here is the best news so far…you are not alone and you don’t have to come up with all of the answers by yourself. There are several national organizations devoted entirely to assisting gifted young people and the professionals who serve them. The three most notable organizations are the National Association for Gifted Children, Belin – Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the Davidson Institute for Talent Development. As a first step, I recommend joining the Davidson Institute’s free Educator’s Guild. Members have access to private electronic mailing lists and bulletin boards to exchange ideas, locate resources and discuss issues with educators all over the country. Members also have access to the Davidson Institute’s in-house team of professionals for personalized assistance with identification, assessment, exploration of educational options, creation of Individual Educational Plans, and location and development of curriculum for highly gifted learners. All you have to do is call to receive answers to your questions — completely free of charge. And, the Davidson Institute also provides participants of the Davidson Young Scholars program and their parents, free services as well. In addition to investigating these national organizations, you may also wish to investigate organizations at the state and local level that focus on meeting the needs of gifted students. It isn’t necessary to turn your world upside down to be an effective teacher of gifted students, you just have to be flexible, knowledgeable, and be willing to try new things. Gifted students cannot fend for themselves and I wish you the best of luck as you begin the exciting adventure of making a difference to the gifted students in your classroom! After all, one person can and does make a difference.
Permission Statement

© 2003 Davidson Institute for Talent Development

This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people under 18. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.

The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute’s Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.

Humorous Questions That Make You Think Twice Part #1

8 09 2009

 Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?

Since bread is square, then why is sandwich meat round?

Why do you have to “put your two cents in” . . . but it’s only a penny for your thoughts?”   Where’s that extra penny going?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a movie, but you are ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

How come we choose from just two people for President and fifty for Miss America?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They’re going to see you  naked anyway.

I signed up for an exercise class and was told to wear loose‑fitting clothing. If I HAD any loose‑fitting clothing, I wouldn’t have signed up  in  the first place!!!

Wouldn’t it be nice if whenever we messed up our life we could simply  press ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’ and start all over?

Why is it that our children can’t read a Bible in school, but they can in prison?

Brain cells come and brain cells go, but why do fat cells live forever?

How can you tell when you run out of invisible ink?

Could someone ever get addicted to counseling? If so, how could you treat them?

Can you be a closet claustrophobic?

Did Adam and Eve have navels?

Does anyone ever vanish with a trace? Or disappear in fat air instead of thin air?

How does the guy who drives the snowplow get to work in the mornings?

If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

If Fed Ex and UPS merge, would they call it Fed UP?

If a chronic liar tells you he is a chronic liar do you believe him?

If a mute child swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, do the other trees make fun of it?

If all those psychics know the winning lottery numbers, why are they all still working?

If nothing ever sticks to TEFLON, how do they make TEFLON stick to the pan?

If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?

What would a chair look like if your knees bent the other way?

If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?

If quitters never win, and winners never quit, who came up with, “Quit while you’re still ahead?”

If the Energizer Bunny attacks someone, is it charged with battery?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

What did we do before the Law of Gravity was passed?

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

Why are we afraid of falling? Shouldn’t we be afraid of the sudden stop?

Why do airlines call flights nonstop? Don’t they all stop eventually?

Why is the alphabet in that order?

Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

You know how most packages say “Open here” What is the protocol if the package says, “Open somewhere else?”

You know that little indestructible black box that is used on planes, why can’t they make the whole plane with the same substance?

How do you know when it’s time to tune your bagpipes?

What would happen if you put a slinky on the Aup@ escalator?

Where does the light go when the light goes out?

How can I stop payment on a reality check?

Is it true cannibals won’t eat clowns because they taste funny?

I you were invited to a party by a psychic…would you have to RSVP?

Why aren’t apartments called togetherments?

If a stealth bomber crashes in the woods, does it make a sound?

Have you ever stopped to think…..and forgot to start again?

What happens when you get scared half to death a second time?

When do you use a solar flashlight?

If you arrest a mime does he have the right to remain silent?

If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

Why do we say something is out of whack?  What is a whack?

Why does “slow down” and “slow up” mean the same thing?

Why does “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing?

Why are they called “stands” when they are made for sitting?

Why is it call “after dark” when it really is “after light”?

Doesn’t “expecting the unexpected” make the unexpected expected?

Why are a “wise man” and a “wise guy” opposites?

Why do “overlook” and “oversee” mean opposite things?

If work is so terrific, why do they have to pay you to do it?

If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

Why do you press harder on the buttons of a remote control when you know the batteries are dead?

Why do we put suits in garment bags and garments in a suitcase?

How come abbreviated is such a long word?

Why do we wash bath towels? Aren’t we clean when we use them?

Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

How come when you call a wrong number, someone is always home?

Do people in Australia call the rest of the world ‘up over’?

Does that screwdriver really belong to Philip?

Does killing time damage eternity?

Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?

Why is it called lipstick if you can still move your lips?

Why is it that night falls but day breaks?

For information on having Bob as a guest speaker or for products see his website at……..


The Risks of Rewards

8 09 2009
By Alfie Kohn

Many educators are acutely aware that punishment and threats are counterproductive. Making children suffer in order to alter their future behavior can often elicit temporary compliance, but this strategy is unlikely to help children become ethical, compassionate decision makers. Punishment, even if referred to euphemistically as “consequences,” tends to generate anger, defiance, and a desire for revenge. Moreover, it models the use of power rather than reason and ruptures the important relationship between adult and child.

Of those teachers and parents who make a point of not punishing children, a significant proportion turn instead to the use of rewards. The ways in which rewards are used, as well as the values that are considered important, differ among (and within) cultures. This digest, however, deals with typical practices in classrooms in the United States, where stickers and stars, A’s and praise, awards and privileges, are routinely used to induce children to learn or comply with an adult’s demands (Fantuzzo et al., 1991). As with punishments, the offer of rewards can elicit temporary compliance in many cases. Unfortunately, carrots turn out to be no more effective than sticks at helping children to become caring, responsible people or lifelong, self-directed learners.


Studies over many years have found that behavior modification programs are rarely successful at producing lasting changes in attitudes or even behavior. When the rewards stop, people usually return to the way they acted before the program began. More disturbingly, researchers have recently discovered that children whose parents make frequent use of rewards tend to be less generous than their peers (Fabes et al., 1989; Grusec, 1991; Kohn 1990).

Indeed, extrinsic motivators do not alter the emotional or cognitive commitments that underlie behavior–at least not in a desirable direction. A child promised a treat for learning or acting responsibly has been given every reason to stop doing so when there is no longer a reward to be gained.

Research and logic suggest that punishment and rewards are not really opposites, but two sides of the same coin. Both strategies amount to ways of trying to manipulate someone’s behavior–in one case, prompting the question, “What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don’t do it?”, and in the other instance, leading a child to ask, “What do they want me to do, and what do I get for doing it?” Neither strategy helps children to grapple with the question, “What kind of person do I want to be?”


Rewards are no more helpful at enhancing achievement than they are at fostering good values. At least two dozen studies have shown that people expecting to receive a reward for completing a task (or for doing it successfully) simply do not perform as well as those who expect nothing (Kohn, 1993). This effect is robust for young children, older children, and adults; for males and females; for rewards of all kinds; and for tasks ranging from memorizing facts to designing collages to solving problems. In general, the more cognitive sophistication and open-ended thinking that is required for a task, the worse people tend to do when they have been led to perform that task for a reward.

There are several plausible explanations for this puzzling but remarkably consistent finding. The most compelling of these is that rewards cause people to lose interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing. This phenomenon, which has been demonstrated in scores of studies (Kohn, 1993), makes sense given that “motivation” is not a single characteristic that an individual possesses to a greater or lesser degree. Rather, intrinsic motivation (an interest in the task for its own sake) is qualitatively different from extrinsic motivation (in which completion of the task is seen chiefly as a prerequisite for obtaining something else) (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Therefore, the question educators need to ask is not how motivated their students are, but how their students are motivated.

In one representative study, young children were introduced to an unfamiliar beverage called kefir. Some were just asked to drink it; others were praised lavishly for doing so; a third group was promised treats if they drank enough. Those children who received either verbal or tangible rewards consumed more of the beverage than other children, as one might predict. But a week later these children found it significantly less appealing than they did before, whereas children who were offered no rewards liked it just as much as, if not more than, they had earlier (Birch et al., 1984). If we substitute reading or doing math or acting generously for drinking kefir, we begin to glimpse the destructive power of rewards. The data suggest that the more we want children to want to do something, the more counterproductive it will be to reward them for doing it.

Deci and Ryan (1985) describe the use of rewards as “control through seduction.” Control, whether by threats or bribes, amounts to doing things to children rather than working with them. This ultimately frays relationships, both among students (leading to reduced interest in working with peers) and between students and adults (insofar as asking for help may reduce the probability of receiving a reward).

Moreover, students who are encouraged to think about grades, stickers, or other “goodies” become less inclined to explore ideas, think creatively, and take chances. At least ten studies have shown that people offered a reward generally choose the easiest possible task (Kohn, 1993). In the absence of rewards, by contrast, children are inclined to pick tasks that are just beyond their current level of ability.


The implications of this analysis and these data are troubling. If the question is “Do rewards motivate students?”, the answer is, “Absolutely: they motivate students to get rewards.” Unfortunately, that sort of motivation often comes at the expense of interest in, and excellence at, whatever they are doing. What is required, then, is nothing short of a transformation of our schools.

First, classroom management programs that rely on rewards and consequences ought to be avoided by any educator who wants students to take responsibility for their own (and others’) behavior–and by any educator who places internalization of positive values ahead of mindless obedience. The alternative to bribes and threats is to work toward creating a caring community whose members solve problems collaboratively and decide together how they want their classroom to be (DeVries & Zan, 1994; Solomon et al., 1992).

Second, grades in particular have been found to have a detrimental effect on creative thinking, long-term retention, interest in learning, and preference for challenging tasks (Butler & Nisan, 1986; Grolnick & Ryan, 1987). These detrimental effects are not the result of too many bad grades, too many good grades, or the wrong formula for calculating grades. Rather, they result from the practice of grading itself, and the extrinsic orientation it promotes. Parental use of rewards or consequences to induce children to do well in school has a similarly negative effect on enjoyment of learning and, ultimately, on achievement (Gottfried et al., 1994). Avoiding these effects requires assessment practices geared toward helping students experience success and failure not as reward and punishment, but as information.

Finally, this distinction between reward and information might be applied to positive feedback as well. While it can be useful to hear about one’s successes, and highly desirable to receive support and encouragement from adults, most praise is tantamount to verbal reward. Rather than helping children to develop their own criteria for successful learning or desirable behavior, praise can create a growing dependence on securing someone else’s approval. Rather than offering unconditional support, praise makes a positive response conditional on doing what the adult demands. Rather than heightening interest in a task, the learning is devalued insofar as it comes to be seen as a prerequisite for receiving the teacher’s approval (Kohn, 1993).


In short, good values have to be grown from the inside out. Attempts to short-circuit this process by dangling rewards in front of children are at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive. Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. Rewards–like punishments–are unnecessary when these things are present, and are ultimately destructive in any case.


Birch, L.L., D.W. Marlin, and J. Rotter. (1984). Eating as the ‘Means’ Activity in a Contingency: Effects on Young Children’s Food Preference. CHILD DEVELOPMENT 55(2, Apr): 431-439. EJ 303 231.

Butler, R., and M. Nisan. (1986). Effects of No Feedback, Task-Related Comments, and Grades on Intrinsic Motivation and Performance. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 78(3, June): 210-216. EJ 336 917.



Fabes, R.A., J. Fultz, N. Eisenberg, T. May-Plumlee, and F.S. Christopher. (1989). Effects of Rewards on Children’s Prosocial Motivation: A Socialization Study. DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 25(4, Jul): 509-515. EJ 396 958.

Fantuzzo, J.W., C.A. Rohrbeck, A.D. Hightower, and W.C. Work. (1991). Teachers’ Use and Children’s Preferences of Rewards in Elementary School. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS 28(2, Apr): 175-181. EJ 430 936.

Gottfried, A.E., J.S. Fleming, and A.W. Gottfried. (1994). Role of Parental Motivational Practices in Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation and Achievement. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 86(1): 104-113.

Grolnick, W.S., and R.M. Ryan. (1987). Autonomy in Children’s Learning: An Experimental and Individual Difference Investigation. JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 52: 890-898.

Grusec, J.E. (1991). Socializing Concern for Others in the Home. DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 27(2, Mar): 338-342. EJ 431 672.



Solomon, D., M. Watson, V. Battistich, E. Schaps, and K. Delucchi. (1992). Creating a Caring Community: Educational Practices That Promote Children’s Prosocial Development. In F.K. Oser, A. Dick, and J.L. Patry (Eds.), EFFECTIVE AND RESPONSIBLE TEACHING: THE NEW SYNTHESIS. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Copyright © 1994 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact Us page.

What to Look for in a Classroom

8 09 2009

By Alfie Kohn

An earlier version of this chart was published in the September 1996 issue of Educational Leadership, and reprinted as the title essay in the anthology What to Look for in a Classroom…And Other Essays .

This revised version appeared as Appendix B of The Schools Our Children Deserve




FURNITURE Chairs around tables to facilitate interaction 

Comfortable areas for learning, including multiple “activity centers”

Open space for gathering

Chairs all facing forward or (even worse) desks in rows
ON THE WALLS Covered with students’ projects 

Evidence of student collaboration


Signs, exhibits, or lists obviously created by students rather than by the teacher


Information about, and personal mementos of, the people who spend time together in this classroom


Commercial posters


Students’ assignments displayed, but they are (a) suspiciously flawless, (b) only from “the best” students, or (c) virtually all alike


List of rules created by an adult and/or list of punitive consequences for misbehavior


Sticker (or star) chart — or other evidence that students are rewarded or ranked

STUDENTS’ FACES Eager, engaged Blank, bored
SOUNDS Frequent hum of activity and ideas being exchanged Frequent periods of silence 

The teacher’s voice is the loudest or most often heard


LOCATION OF TEACHER Typically working with students so it takes a few seconds to find her Typically front and center 
TEACHER’S VOICE Respectful, genuine, warm Controlling and imperious 

Condescending and saccharine-sweet

STUDENTS’ REACTION TO VISITOR Welcoming; eager to explain or demonstrate what they’re doing or to use visitor as a resource Either unresponsive or hoping to be distracted from what they’re doing
CLASS DISCUSSION Students often address one another directly 

Emphasis on thoughtful exploration of complicated issues


Students ask questions at least as often as the teacher does

All exchanges involve (or are directed by) the teacher; students wait to be called on 

Emphasis on facts and right answers


Students race to be first to answer teacher’s “Who can tell me…?” queries

STUFF Room overflowing with good books, art supplies, animals and plants, science apparatus; “sense of purposeful clutter” Textbooks, worksheets, and other packaged instructional materials predominate; sense of enforced orderliness
TASKS Different activities often take place simultaneously 

Activities frequently completed by pairs or groups of students

All students usually doing the same thing 

When students aren’t listening to the teacher, they’re working alone

AROUND THE SCHOOL Appealing atmosphere: a place where people would want to spend time 

Students’ projects fill the hallways


Library well-stocked and comfortable


Bathrooms in good condition


Faculty lounge warm and inviting


Office staff welcoming toward visitors and students


Students helping in lunchroom, library, and with other school functions

Stark, institutional feel 

Awards, trophies, and prizes displayed, suggesting an emphasis on triumph rather than community



Copyright © 1996, 1999 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact Us page.

The Game of Chess as a Class Motivator

7 09 2009

The game of Chess is a great motivator in the classroom. Today after a tournament a teacher colleague were discussing mutual benefits of chess with lessons taught in the regular classroom.  We mentioned ideas like paying attention, planning ahead and cooperation.  But two points stood out in our discussion.

1.  Many student play chess like children play in a sandbox.  When young children play they exhibit parallel play in that they activity does not show interaction, proactive strategic thinking, and responding to the previous move of the other player. They make a plan and try to carry it out with the flexible “jazz” thinking that involves, responds to, and interacts with the other person.  Perhaps game playing is parallel to the maturity of a child who grows more aware of his place in the community of human interaction.  We see this in the classroom when a student does not see how his or her actions effects and benefits others and that interacting with other people could be helpful in learning.

2.  When asked why a student should take notes of their game many students thought it was a dead end assignment in penmanship or writing ability and when asked to review these notes they thought it was to please the coach.  I had to explicitly teach that winning a game would make me happy and losing would make me happy.  But what I like the most is when students learn from their mistakes and upon reviewing their game seed how they can improve and grow.  Here a mother who was listening in mentioned that this is like her child who now just understands the connection from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn.  Just as in life there are lessons we can learn if we keep our mind in gear.

I have been chewing on these ideas and want to expand upon them but for now here are some more general benefits of chess.

Christine Palm of the New York City Schools Chess Program says:

Chess instills in young players a sense of self-confidence and self-worth

Chess dramatically improves a child’s ability to think rationally

Chess increases cognitive skills

Chess builds a sense of team spirit while emphasizing the ability of the individual

Chess makes a child realize that he or she is responsible for his or her own actions and must accept the consequences.

Chess teaches children to try their best to win, while accepting defeat with grace.

Chess allows girls to compete with boys on a non-threatening, socially acceptable plane.

Chess teaches the value of hard work, concentration and commitment.

Ron Wallace of Hill Street Public school in Corunna, Ontario says:

What can chess teach our students?


-long range planning

-predicting outcomes

-drawing conclusions

-memory skills

-quiet activities can be fun

-importance of controlling numerous variables

-analyzing situations

-spirit of true sportsmanship

-value of changing one’s point of view to find solutions

The National Scholastic Chess Foundation says that Chess education is extremely effective with children because:

Chess involves all levels of critical thinking (knowledge, comprehension, analysis, evaluation)

Chess requires forethought and cultivates visualization skills

Chess improves problem solving skills

Chess encourages children to overcome the fear of risk-taking

Chess teaches concentration and self-discipline

Chess enables children to assume responsibility for their decisions

Chess rewards determination and perseverance

Chess raises self-esteem and promotes good sportsmanship

Chess encourages socialization skills that extend across cultures and generations

Daniel Brown inventor of PI Chess says that most of a child’s most enduring lessons come from playing games and interacting with others.  He lists these as the skills and the values that can be developed from playing chess and especially PI Chess (a way to extend Chess to multiple players).

-Problem-solving-establishing an efficient step-by-step method that can be applied to all situations

-Critical Thinking- analytical, deductive and inductive reasoning

Recognition and Evaluation of Choices and Options- comparisons of alternatives, relative values

Evaluation of the Results of a Decision-recognition of consequences and avoiding futures errors

-Partnership and Teamwork-learning to work as part of an effective team

-Non-violent conflict resolution-working out disputes by discussion

-Recognition and respect for Rules and Codes of Behavior in a Social Group-society

-Impulse Resistant-impulsive or angry moves are always a mistake

-Decision making and having the courage to ac decisively

-Goal Orientation-sometimes with multiple and simultaneous goals.

-Patience and Self-control-sitting still and quiet while others are thinking

-Personal Discipline-self-restraint and internal rather than external control

-Perseverance-even in the face of setbacks-determination to succeed

-Positive Social Values- friendship, honesty, fairness, justice, integrity

-Respect for others-both teammates and opponents

-Politeness, courtesy and manners-social conditioning to get along in society

-Civilized and socially-accepted behavior

-Coping with success (with magnanimity and grace) and failure (with fortitude and perseverance)

– Developing communication skills – communicating ideas with confidence in one’s abilities

-Tolerance- learning to inter-relate with others of different backgrounds and abilities

Chess Spells STRATEGY

S – Safe environment

Chess provides a safe environment to practice decision making, problem solving skills, and new tactics.                                                                                                                                                       Did you try something new?

T – Thinking skills

Chess teaches efficient methods in thinking by managing impulsivity and acting with forethought.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Did you take your time?

R – Rules

Chess teaches respect for rules of behavior.                                                          Did you play by the rules?

A – Adeptability

Chess gives opportunities to demonstrate competence. This builds confidence in ability to correct mistakes and improve performance.                                                                                                                        Did you improve?

T – Taking risks

Chess gives occasions to risk and to learn the consequences of choices. Chess provides opportunities for courageous decision making.                                                                                                                                              Did you show initiative?

E – Everyday applications

Chess applies habits of many everyday activities such as planning ahead, decision-making, setting priorities, and dealing with people with different goals.

Can you apply these skills at home or school?

G – Gracefulness

Chess teaches sportsmanship. Chess gives opportunity for winning and losing gracefully.

Did you practice good sportsmanship?

Y – Yardstick

Chess enables children to experience the gap between what they think they know and what really is accurate.  Chess acts as a yardstick to measure this self-discovery.

Did you learn something new?

In this way, Chess spells STRATEGY and teaches students how to think.

Chess—Chess Helps Every Student Succeed

Children Learn What They Live (an educational adaptation)

3 09 2009

of Children Learn What They Live by Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with books, storytelling, and reading aloud on his parents’ laps he learns to enjoy reading.

If a child lives with notes and letters exchanged in the course of his family life, he learns to enjoy writing.

If a child has conversation with parents and siblings around the dinner table, and while working and playing together, he learns good language and listening skills.

If a child has time and encouragement to develop his own plans and carry our projects, he learns initiative.

If a child learns to finish jobs at home and to get his school work and homework done readily, he learns responsibility and task-commitment.

If a child is taught to be organized with his books and possessions at home, he learns to be reliable with the hundreds of handouts, tests and materials that cross his desk at school.

If a child’s learning style and strengths are discovered and respected, he becomes an active learner and grows in confidence.

If a child’s questions are encouraged, his curiosity flourishes and he has a sense of wonder about the world.

If a child has stability and security at home, he had inner stability and can focus and concentrate on his studies and achieve in school tasks.

If a child lives with positive expectations and has success in meeting them, he gains motivation for the challenges ahead.

Creative Thoughts About Creativity #7

3 09 2009

Picture1There’s no future in believing something can’t be done.  The future is in making it happen.

TRW advertisement

 It’s always fun to do the impossible.

Walt Disney

 Dixie Cups, Life Savers…were conceived, failed and reborn thanks to ingenuity, enthusiasm and determination.

Michael Gershman

 If an idea does not appear bizarre, there is no hope for it.

Niels Bohr

 No idea is born perfect.  Give it a chance to grow.

Rapp Collins Marcoa

 Truth emerges from the clash of adverse ideas.

John Stuart Mill


 The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

John Maynard Keynes


Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.

Benjamin Franklin


99% of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.

George Washington Carver


A mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes


Initiative can neither be created nor delegated.

It can only spring from the self determining individual,

who decides that the wisdom of others is not always better than his own. 

   R.  Buckminster Fuller


Intelligence is not what you know….but what you do when you don’t know what to do

                   Jerome Bruner


The best way to escape from a problem is to solve it.

   Brendan Francis


Those who have no fire in themselves cannot warm others.



Being bored is an insult to oneself.

Jules Renald


Most students treat knowledge as a liquid to be swallowed rather than as a solid to be chewed, and then wonder why it provides so little nourishment.

Sydney Harris


He who slings mud generally loses ground.

           Adlai Stevenson

Gifted Children’s Friendships

3 09 2009

by Miraca Gross, Ph. D
Source: Davidson Institute for Talent Development
Topics: Social-Emotional Well-Being and Gifted Youth

Linda Silverman wrote, in her wonderful book Counseling the Gifted and Talented, that “When gifted children are asked what they most desire, the answer is often ‘a friend’. The children’s experience of school is completely colored by the presence or absence of friends” (Silverman, 1993).

Exceptionally and profoundly gifted children differ from their age-peers not only in their intellectual development but also in many aspects of their social and emotional development. Emotional maturity is much more closely linked to mental age than to chronological age and this is particularly noticeable with children of very high IQ.

In general, children choose friends on the basis of similarities – like drawing to like. Gifted children generally gravitate towards “maturity peers” – children who are at similar stages of intellectual and emotional development. In general, they prefer to work and socialize with age peers who are also maturity peers. However, when ability peers of their own age are not readily available, as is usually the case with EG and PG children, they may seek the company of children several years older who are of above average ability – children who resemble them somewhat in mental age and emotional maturity. Unfortunately, teachers often misunderstand this and assume that the child who does not easily form friendships with age-peers is “emotionally immature”. Ironically, the difficulties stem from emotional maturity rather than immaturity.

  • Gifted children may become aware at an early age that they are “different” from their age-peers and they often worry about this. Parents may consider discussing the chronological age/mental age/ emotional age discrepancy with their children and reassuring them that individual differences are a part of life.
  • Talk to the child’s teacher about the gravitation towards mental age peers. She has probably seen this in children who are developmentally delayed; explain to her that it is also a characteristic of children who are developmentally advanced.

A study which I conducted with 700 children aged 5-12 found that children’s conceptions of friendship form a developmental hierarchy of age-related stages, with expectations of friendship, and beliefs about friendship, becoming more sophisticated and complex with age (Gross, 2002). The five stages appear in order as follows, from the lowest to the highest level in terms of age and conceptual complexity:

Stage 1: “Play Partner”: In the earliest stage of friendship, the relationship is based on “play-partnership”. A friend is seen as someone who engages the child in play and permits the child to use or borrow her playthings.

Stage 2: “People to chat to”: The sharing of interests becomes an important element in friendship choice. Conversations between “friends” are no longer related simply to the game or activity in which the children are directly engaged.

Stage 3: “Help and encouragement”: At this stage the friend is seen as someone who will offer help, support or encouragement. However, the advantages of friendship flow in one direction; the child does not yet see himself as having the obligation to provide help or support in return.

Stage 4: “Intimacy/empathy”: The child now realizes that in friendship the need and obligation to give comfort and support flows both ways and, indeed, the giving of affection, as well as receiving it, becomes an important element in the relationship. This stage sees a deepening of intimacy; an emotional sharing and bonding.

Stage 5: “The sure shelter”: The title comes from a passage in one of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. “A faithful friend is a sure shelter: whoever finds one has found a rare treasure” (Ecclesiasticus, 6:14). At this stage friendship is perceived as a deep and lasting relationship of trust, fidelity and unconditional acceptance. A 12-year-old boy in my longitudinal study of children of IQ 160+ (Gross, 2003) told me: “A friend is a place you go to when you need to take off the masks. You can take off your camouflage with a friend and still feel safe.”

In my friendship study I was able to compare the friendship conceptions of children of average intellectual ability, moderately gifted children and children of IQ 160+. The study demonstrated strongly that what children look for in friends is dictated not so much by chronological age as by mental age. A strong relationship was found between children’s levels of intellectual ability and their conceptions of friendship. In general, intellectually gifted children were found to be substantially further along the hierarchy of stages of friendship than were their age-peers of average ability. Gifted children were beginning to look for friends with whom they could develop close and trusting relationships, at ages when their age-peers of average ability were looking for play partners.

However, the differences between gifted children and their average ability age-peers were much larger in the primary school years, and in the early years of elementary school, than in the later years. In grades 3 and 4, even moderately gifted children have the conceptions of friendship which characterize average ability children three or more years older.

As stated earlier, many previous studies have suggested that intellectually gifted children look for friends among other gifted children of approximately their own age, or older children of above average ability. This new study suggests that they may not only be seeking the intellectual compatibility of mental age peers; they may also be looking for children whose conceptions and expectations of friendship are similar to their own.

Leta Hollingworth (1936) believed that the social isolation experienced by many highly gifted children was most acute between the ages of 4 and 9. My own findings strongly support this. Children of IQ 160+ tend to begin the search for “the sure shelter” – friendships of complete trust, honesty and fidelity – four or five years before their age-peers even enter this stage. Indeed, in my study exceptionally and profoundly gifted girls aged 6 and 7 already displayed conceptions of friendship which do not develop in children of average ability until age 11 or 12. No wonder these children encounter difficulties with socialization. There is little common ground between a 6-year-old who is seeking the “sure shelter” and an age-peer who is looking for a “play partner”.

  • It can be useful for parents to discuss the hierarchy of friendship conceptions with their gifted children. Because gifted children begin to make social comparisons earlier than their age-peers, they can become acutely aware that they seem to be looking for different things in friendship than are their age-peers. A frank but sensitive discussion of this can help ameliorate the feelings of “strangeness”.

Substantial gender differences appeared in my study. At all levels of ability, and at all ages, girls were, on average, significantly further along the developmental scale of friendship conceptions than boys. This suggests that exceptionally gifted boys who begin the search for intimacy at unusually early ages may be at even greater risk of social isolation than girls of similar ability, as they will appear so dramatically different from the majority of boys of their age. This may explain why, in the early years of school, highly gifted boys sometimes prefer the company of girls.

Such are the differences in the friendship conceptions held by average and gifted students in the earlier years of primary school that it is at this level that gifted children are most likely to have difficulty in finding other children who have similar expectations of friendship.

Another characteristic of exceptionally and profoundly gifted children is that they seem to prefer the company of a few close friends rather than large, looser groups. This is also a characteristic of children who are introverts rather than extroverts. Highly gifted children who are introverts (and there seems to be a growing body of literature which connects the two – read Silverman, 1993, for example) may have a double “need” for a few closer relationships rather than many more “surface” relationships.

  • It’s okay if your gifted child prefers to link with one “special” friend rather than “play the field”. Parents sometimes worry that the child seems to be putting all his or her friendship “eggs” in the one basket – but we must remember that because the quality of gifted children’s friendships is different, they have an earlier need for the exchange of confidences and the discovery of mutual bonds. This is more easily achieved in pairs than in larger groups. It’s actually quite common for gifted children to prefer a close in-depth relationship with one friend rather than a range of lighter, more “surface” relationships with a range of acquaintances. It’s natural that you are worried that your son or daughter is spending so much time with only one other child, but think of it this way: in finding good friends children are learning two things: firstly that they are acceptable to other children and, secondly, that they themselves can be a good friend. These are great lessons for all kids to learn but they are especially essential for children who may have, earlier, been rather socially isolated. It’s lovely to see children who have previously been “loners” beginning to loosen up and move out towards other children. It’s the self-confidence that they have gained from this first “good friendship” that is making them see themselves as someone who can search out to others without the fear of being rejected.

The hobbies, interests and play preferences of gifted children can also “set them apart” from their age-peers. Children’s play interests are strongly determined by their stage of cognitive development and the play preferences of intellectually gifted children tend to resemble those of children some years older. For example, gifted children tend to enjoy games with rules at earlier ages than other children. They often prefer games where ideas and strategies are matched against each other and where new proposals can be trialed, whereas the average child prefers games where such rules as exist are clearly defined and closely adhered to. This can cause conflict when the highly able child, who may see the illogicality or irrelevance of the rules, seeks to overturn them, either to improve the game or simply for the intellectual stimulation of the ensuing argument!

Because of these factors, the play of highly gifted children tends to be an uneasy compromise between their own interests and abilities and their desire to be accepted into a social group. Children who are less willing or less able to make such a compromise often become ‘loners’, preferring to invent solitary intellectual games which often center on fantasy and imagined adventure.

Teachers need to be aware that they may not observe the true play preferences of gifted children if they are not provided with companions who share their play interests. Solitary play in gifted children, rather than indicating social maladjustment or peer rejection, can simply signal the unavailability of children who share their interests.

  • It can be perplexing and indeed infuriating to gifted children that their age-peers don’t become excited by the types of games that they find fascinating. It may be necessary to remind them that a few months (or years) ago they didn’t find these games fascinating either! People’s play interests develop and change at different rates.
  • Hobby and interest clubs can be a great way of finding, for your gifted children, other children who share their interests. This can often lead to the development of friendships; after all, friendships begin through having something of interest to talk about. Do you have a local gifted children’s association which has weekend activities? That can often help to bring a shy gifted student out of her shell as the children who attend these programs are more likely to have the sort of interests your daughter shares.
  • It can sometimes be useful to ask your gifted child to describe her “ideal friend” – and then privately ask his or her teacher whether there is anyone in the class who bears some resemblances. Is there anyone in her class that your child likes better than s/he likes the other children? Could the teacher facilitate the development of a “beginning friendship” by getting the two kids to work together on a class project, a book report or something?
  • Some gifted children very much prefer the companionship of children a couple of years older – children who are closer to their level of intellectual and emotional maturity. Could that be the case with your child – and does s/he have access to older children?
  • The intellectual and emotional maturity of exceptionally and profoundly gifted children makes them ideal candidates for acceleration. Placing these children with older children who are closer to their mental and emotional age can facilitate the development and maintenance of friendships.
  • In some cases this may be the first time the gifted child has ever truly realized both the extent of her ability and the extent of her difference. Parents may find that their EG and PG children may become a little less satisfied with the more surface level games, conversations and friendships that they have had before. They have now had the opportunity to experience both the “more” that is in them and the “more” that can be in friendships.
  • On the other hand, however, some gifted students who do have a close friend with whom they have a happy and fulfilling relationship seem to adapt quite happily to the needs and level of the other kids in their class or district. It’s a kind of “social generosity”. Because the gifted student is getting the intellectual stimulation and loving companionship he or she needs from the close friendship, he subconsciously feels he has “time left over” to drop down for a while to the level of the other children whose needs are different. (If the gifted child *wasn’t* having his intellectual needs fulfilled, and was consequently intellectually frustrated, it might be a very different picture!

Something else we should think about a little more carefully than we currently do is the importance, in friendship development, of a shared sense of humor. There is quite a lot of research that shows that gifted students tend to have a more mature sense of humor than their age-peers.

Gifted kids tend to be “a stage ahead” in their perceptions of humor. Some humor theorists hold that humor derives from an appreciation of incongruity. In the early years of school, humor derives from visual incongruity – a clown is funny, a man walking under a ladder and a paint pot falling on his head is funny. Later – often about age 8-10 – they are more into verbal incongruities – dreadful puns, knock-knock jokes, etc. Finally, in adolescence, humor ends up as derived from incongruity of ideas. The Monty Python series is an example of this, as is Seinfeld and the Gary Larson “Far Side” cartoons. Gifted kids *tend to* (it’s not always so) go through these stages earlier and faster. That can lead to problems. If you are 5 and into puns and your classmates have no idea what you are talking about or finding funny, this can lead to loneliness!

It’s not the other kids’ fault; they genuinely just can’t connect with what the gifted kid is enjoying. It can be particularly problematic when the gifted kid has reached abstract humor (soup usually equates with warmth and mothering but Seinfeld gives us a soup Nazi!) that he may appreciate on many different levels but he may not be able to explain to his age-peers just what it is about the idea he finds so rewarding/amusing/weird etc.

It’s difficult to bond in friendship with people we can’t laugh with!


Gross, M.U.M. (2002) Gifted children and the gift of friendship. Understanding Our Gifted, 14(3), 27-29.

&Gross, M.U.M. (2003). Exceptionally gifted children: Second edition. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Hollingworth, L.S. (1936). The development of personality in highly intelligent children. National Elementary Principal, 15, 272-281.

Silverman, L.K. (1993). Counseling the gifted and talented. Denver: Love

Permission Statement: ©2006 The Davidson Institute for Talent Development.

This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit operating foundation, which nurtures and supports profoundly intelligent young people and to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents and to make a positive difference. For more information, please visit http://www.davidson-institute.org, or call (775) 852-3483.

The Educational Value of Strategy Games

3 09 2009

Your family has gathered around the dining room table and is playing a family game.  “Your turn”, says your daughter eagerly as she looks intently at the playing board then at you.  You know she has found your weakness.  She has learned from you how to solve a difficult situation.  She is excited about using a strategy and applying it and in doing so win a game. Most of us like this family have spent many hours playing board games as a pastime or as a rainy day activity. Teachers have also used games as educational devices or as reward activities for completing class work. We can all agree that board games have always been popular. But, is it possible for teachers and parents to take this fun activity and draw some life changing lessons from them? How can teachers and parents take more advantage of this fun teaching potential?

Some have even called this the Gaming Generation saying that even many video games, despite what many think, can prepare youths for the future. John C. Beck, a senior research fellow at the University of Southern California, and Mitchell Wade, a consultant to companies like Google and the RAND Corporation, have just published “Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever” (Harvard Business School Press). They assure us that by playing video games kids are actually training for the new world of work, not avoiding it. They are learning such lessons as: there is always an answer; you might be frustrated for a while, you might even never find it, but you know it’s there. Players are also learning willingness to take chances (60 percent of frequent gamers, compared with 45 percent of nongamers in the same age group, agree that “the best rewards come to those who take risks”). To add to this is a view that failure is a part of the game as well as a part of life.

If video games have this potential might not classic board games? Many have talked about the educational value of board games (especially Chess), but give little or no guidance on how to make them life-applicable. There are, of course, educational board games designed to teach or reinforce educational concepts such as math skills, historical trivia, etc. However, the games that may be most beneficial are those that teach creative problem solving and critical thinking.  How can we take advantage of this Aplayful@ spirit and help students draw life applications from these fun activities? I believe this work you have before you will open this door of potential.

Because of instructive reasons we have chosen strategy board games, (two person, abstract strategy games) to begin with.  Two person games have face-to-face interaction with real people as opposed to most video games.  But, on the other hand, two person games emphasize strategy over team and social implications of multi-person games. For these reasons, strategy board games may be a more constructive choice than video games and a wonderful tool in teaching important life skills.  We will also present some group strategy games.

From one thing, know ten thousand things.  When you attain the way of strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see….

if you know the way of strategy broadly you will see it in everything.

Miyamoto Musashi

A Book of Five Rings

Even More Motivational Quotes by Students

2 09 2009


If you truly understood your passion, you would know everything about it.       To me, that seems boring.

Aaron Williard (5th grade student)

Passion is a journey with no boundaries.   It takes you to a land you have never known.

Brian Sorensen (5th grade student)

Following a passion is not easy, and to fulfill your dreams needs drive and inspiration.

Michael Hungerford (6th grade student)

Passion is a necessity, an inspiration, a thing that adds zest and hope to your life.

Dylan Goldade (6th grade student)

A true artist does not paint because he is forced to, rather because he is full of passion and love for what she is doing.

Dylan Goldade (6th grade student)

Life is full of problems and solutions, and the more you know about one thing, the better equipped you are for other things.

Michael Hungerford (6th grade student)


To do things that are significant in life, you need to have a passion.  Without a passion yo would be aimlessly wandering around, accomplishing nothing. With a passion you know what you love and you do things to help you know more about you passion.

Abby Miller (6th grade student)

You must try diving into responsibility before saying you can’t swim.

Emily Fisher (6th grade student)

To have a true passion you must have the will and the perseverence to pursue it.

Michael Hungerford (6th grade student)

Why All Students Need Visual-Spatial Methods

2 09 2009

Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.

The first child I observed with unusual visual-spatial abilities was profoundly gifted (above 175 IQ). So I assumed that visual-spatial learners were profoundly gifted. Then, I discovered that children who fit the characteristics of giftedness, but did not test in the gifted range due to hidden learning disabilities, were usually visual-spatial learners. So I thought that visual-spatial learners were either profoundly gifted or twice exceptional (gifted with learning disabilities).

In 1991, I was asked to create a video on visual-spatial learners for the state of Missouri; the Director of Curriculum was convinced that the information would be applicable in all subject areas and at all grade levels, from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I was uncertain at the time, but he turned out to be right.

When we developed the Visual-Spatial Identifier, a process that began in 1992 and took the better part of a decade, we still thought that a small percentage of the population would be visual-spatial learners. The results of the second validation study of our Identifier, in 2001, astounded us. Approximately one-third of the 750 students we had assessed in two schools were strongly visual-spatial and another 30% were moderately visual-spatial. That represented the majority of the school population!

As I was completing Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, published at the end of 2002, I realized more clearly what Dr. Jerre Levy had said: “Unless the right hemisphere is activated and engaged, attention is low and learning is poor.” She was talking about every student in the classroom.

Throughout the book I hinted that the visual-spatial learner might soon have the edge in gaining employment. Tom West (1991), author of In the Mind’s Eye, suggests that in the 21st century employees will require strong visual skills: “ready recognition of larger patterns, intuition, a sense of proportion, imaginative vision, the original and unexpected approach, and the apt connection between apparently unrelated things” (p. 88).

Daniel H. Pink (2005), author of A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, proposes that, now that information is readily available on the Internet, success in today’s world is dependent on empathy, intuition, spirituality and right hemispheric-directed abilities.

“In the United States, the number of graphic designers has increased tenfold in a decade; graphic designers outnumber chemical engineers by four to one. Since 1970, the United States has 30% more people earning a living as writers and 50% more earning a living by composing or performing music. … More Americans today work in arts, entertainment and design than work as lawyers, accountants and auditors.” (p. 55)

I began thinking about how schools are preparing students for success in their careers. It is very likely that until the modern age the skills emphasized in school were necessary for achievement in adult life. However, the world is changing very quickly and our educational systems are not keeping pace. Success in school still depends upon:

– Following directions

– Turning in assigned work on time

-Memorization of facts

– Fast recall

– Showing steps of work

– Neat, legible handwriting

– Accurate spelling


– Good organization; tidiness

What positions require the skills so heavily prized in school? These auditory-sequential skills are actually limiting the potential of all students to gain employment in today’s world. Citizens of the 21st century are rewarded beyond school for:

– Ability to predict trends

– Grasping the big picture

– Thinking outside the box

– Risk-taking

– Problem-finding and problem-solving skills

– Combining one’s strengths with others’ to build a strong team

– Computer literacy

– Dealing with complexity

– Ability to read people well

Isn’t it time we recognize the importance of right-hemispheric abilities and provide all students the opportunity to develop their visual-spatial skills? These skills are essential to their success in adult life. To continue to prepare students for jobs in the 1950s is limiting their potential instead of enhancing it. One of the central functions of school has always been to prepare the citizenry for gainful employment.

Are we missing the mark?

Teaching Good Study Habits

1 09 2009

by Sylvia Rimm,Ph.D.

The key to your child’s success

Perhaps the most important skill your child can learn in school is how to study effectively. By learning how to take notes, read for content, actively listen and study for exams, your child will not only achieve more in school but she’ll take these skills with her to college and into her career. Bad study habits, on the other hand, interfere with learning. If your daughter loses confidence in her abilities as a student, the resulting insecurity might cause her to limit her future options in college or the workplace.

Clearly, it’s in the best interest of your children to teach them good study skills–but changing bad habits can be challenging. Some children have no difficulty letting go of their bad habits; others consistently fight any change. Either way, with the right techniques and plenty of perseverance, it is possible to transform a study-phobic child into an organized, efficient student.

Read on to learn how to cater to your child’s particular learning style and to find tips on creating study schedules.

A Time and a Place

The key to your child’s success

Good study habits begin with an appropriate time and place for study. Setting a routine time for study is key. Find a time that fits both your schedule and your child’s. Study time may need to be flexible in families in which parents aren’t home when kids come home from school; however, some general rules can guide you in setting a proper time and place.

How responsible is your child? If he accomplishes homework independently and studies in a timely manner, there’s no need for you to specify a time for study. On the other hand, if he hasn’t studied enough, you should help him structure his time. The amount of time will vary with their grade and school requirements. Elementary school children should study from 15 minutes to one hour; middle school children need one to two hours; and high school students require between two and three hours each evening.

If your child isn’t used to spending time studying, use a timer and hold her to a specified and agreed upon amount of time. If she says she’s completed all of her homework far before the allotted time is up, have her use the remainder for review, organizing notes or doing extra reading for future book reports or for pleasure. Remind your kids that the timer and prescriptive study times are only a temporary measure to help them manage their study time independently. For children who love to read, permitting them to do pleasure reading during study time may be counterproductive. Writing or math study could complete their study time. Inform them that when their achievement habits improve, you’ll be more flexible and allow them to set their own study schedule.

There should be a break immediately after school for children to have a snack and some physical and social activity. Children often believe they should use that break to watch television. However, television will put them into a passive mode, and they’re unlikely to want to stop watching to begin studying. It’s better to insist that television follow study and homework. Your children may say, “But I need to relax after school.” Assure them that they will get to relax. Exercise is both relaxing and energizing and more appropriate after a day of sitting in school. Certainly, having time to chat or clown around or play is appropriate for after school, but television is not.

In determining the right time for study, keep in mind that kids need something to look forward to after study. If possible, at least part of children’s study time should take place before the evening meal, leaving time for play or television after study. If the study time is set late in the evening, study will be less efficient and there won’t be time afterwards for play. With only bedtime to follow, kids aren’t motivated toward efficiency. Homework or study may also become an excuse to stay up late if it is scheduled just before bedtime. (For some reason unknown to adults, few children enjoy going to sleep!) They often look for ways to stay up as long as adults are awake.

Having a designated study place is equally important for helping children learn efficiently. A desk in your child’s own room, with a STUDENT AT WORK sign posted on the door, is ideal. Many kids have desks, although they may be cluttered with junk. If kids don’t have their own rooms, there are other good alternatives: the kitchen, dining room or basement are reasonable places as long as no one else is in the same room, and the kids are out of listening and viewing range of the TV while they’re studying.

Different Learning Styles

The key to your child’s success

We know that children’s learning styles vary. Some children learn more efficiently visually, others are more effective listeners and prefer auditory learning, and still others learn best by tactile senses or through hands-on activities. Stories that involve feelings or emotions enhance learning for most children. Using all four styles can encourage your children to utilize their strengths and improve on their weaknesses.

VISUAL LEARNERS should use writing, copying, drawing or collecting pictures to reinforce their memory.

AUDITORY LEARNERS can best improve their memory by listening to and talking on tapes, as well as oral repetition.

KINESTHETIC LEARNERS learn most effectively when manipulating counters, markers or flash cards.

All kinds of learners benefit from making up stories, rhymes or mnemonic devices. These techniques involve children’s feelings, which help improve their memories. Let your children discover what works best for them.

Keeping Track of Assignments

The key to your child’s success

Sometimes the best way to keep track of assignments is to simply set up a system with your child. For example, use a full-size spiral notebook for assignments. Each day’s assignments can be on a fresh page. The page is torn out when all assignments are complete. The advantages are: 1) The notebook is less likely to be lost because of size; 2) the child derives satisfaction from tearing out completed pages and showing them to parents or teacher; and 3) the new assignments are always on the top page. One disadvantage is that it’s somewhat wasteful of paper.
Some other ideas:

• Assignment notebooks that students consider cool are more apt to be used.

• Don’t use small assignment notebooks. They almost always get lost.

• Teachers sometimes prepare special assignment forms that children can place in their loose-leaf notebooks. Teachers should assign time at the end of the day for children to copy assignments in the appropriate place and gather necessary books.

• Some children find it helpful to use double-sided folders for each subject. Unfinished work goes on one side. Completed work is saved in the other side. On the weekend, children review their folder, save what they need and toss the rest.

• Children can be permitted to create their own assignment-reminder strategies. Some children are very inventive, and once they invest themselves in their own devices, they’re more likely to remain committed.

Sylvia Rimm, Ph.D., is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and the author of 12 books.

When Bright Kids Get Bad Grades

1 09 2009

by Adria Steinberg

In elementary school, no one worried about Rhonda. Her sixth-grade teachers found her bright and capable and expected her to do well in junior high. Although sometimes anxious in class, Rhonda was aware of being one of the smartest kids–especially when she go another 100 on a spelling test or was the first to finish a math packet.

But seventh grade was more of a trial for Rhonda than anyone had predicted. Some B’s slipped onto her report card, and her attitude toward school changed dramatically. Most upsetting to her parents was her declaration, after getting a 75 on a pre-algebra test, that she was not good at math and would probably put off taking algebra.

Most teachers and parents expect a child’s grades and achievement test scores in sixth grade to be fairly accurate predictors of success in junior high. But, as Rhonda’s story illustrates, this is not necessarily the case.

Why do some bright children start avoiding academic challenges when they reach junior high and stop liking some or all of their classes? Carol Dweck of Columbia University has discovered three areas in which students who continue to meet or exceed expectations differ from those who become “underachievers”: their beliefs about intelligence, their responses to difficult academic tasks, and the rewards they look for from schoolwork.

Born or Made?

Most children, according to Dweck, start out with an “incremental” view of intelligence: they think a person gets smarter by learning things and trying hard. But by third or fourth grade kids have encountered–and many have begun to hold–an “entity” theory. According to this view, you are born with a certain amount of native ability that determines how smart you are.

The question is whether these beliefs about intelligence affect students’ performance in school. Although Dweck has found a difference between the ways incremental and entity theorists approach academic tasks, she has not found a link between beliefs and elementary school grades. But there is evidence from a recent study that such a link develops when students move on into junior high.

Dweck and Valanne Henderson of the University of Illinois questioned 229 entering seventh grades about intelligence. Nearly two-thirds (139) showed a consistent preference for either an entity or an incremental theory. The researchers then used another measure to divide the students in each group into those with high and low confidence in their own abilities.

Comparing students’ grades and achievement test scores in sixth grade with their seventh-grade report cards, Henderson and Dweck found some surprises. They expected that entity theorists who had been low achievers would remain so. But in fact many of those who had performed well in sixth grade–and had entered seventh confident of their abilities–were now receiving grades below those predicted by previous performance.

Meanwhile, incrementalists maintained their performance at a level equivalent to or better than their elementary school grades. Even those who had not done especially well in sixth grade–and had begun seventh with low confidence–matched or exceeded their predicted performance. Perhaps most surprising, the low-confidence incrementalists earned higher grades than the high-confidence entity theorists.

In fact, students who held entity theories and had high confidence at the start of seventh grade showed the most pronounced decline of any group. When Henderson did a follow-up study of these same kids at the end of eighth grade, she found continued low performance. They had not recovered from the seventh-grade slump.

I Think I Can’t

To explain this decline, Dweck looks at the way children answer the question “When do you feel smart?” Incrementalists cite times when they put effort into something, when they don’t understand something and then get it, or when they figure out something new. In contrast, entity theorists point to times when a task is easy for the, when not much effort is required, when they do not make mistakes, or when they finish first.

Insofar as learning involves putting effort into challenging tasks, entity theorists are caught in a serious bind. What they do to feel smart and what they must do to learn new things are at odds.

For the past decade, Dweck and her colleagues have investigated why and how some children end up in this bind. Dweck has identified two distinct, coherent patterns in the ways children approach difficult academic tasks.

In the maladaptive or “helpless” pattern, children define themselves as having failed soon after reaching a difficult problem, usually attributing their difficulties to a lack of ability and predicting poor future performance. In one experiment they even had distorted recall of past successes: more than a third believed that if the earlier problems were administered again they would have trouble with ones that in fact they had successfully solved.

Children manifesting a more mastery-oriented, adaptive pattern respond to difficulty by issuing more self-instructions and by planning strategies to overcome failures. In the same experiment, many of these students spontaneously expressed confidence that they would succeed in the future. Twenty-five percent began to use more sophisticated problem-solving strategies than evidenced in earlier, simpler tasks, in all, 80 percent of the mastery-oriented children maintained or improved their strategies as the tasks got more difficult.

No Pain, No Gain

In trying to explain these two patterns, Dweck discovered that the two groups focus on different goals, which can lead them to construe and react to events differently. Those who believe that intelligence is a fixed trait tent to pursue the aim or proving they have it. Setting what Dweck calls performance goals, entity theorists seek positive evaluations of their abilities and try to avoid negative ones.

In one experiment, children who focused on performance goals rejected the chance to learn something new if it involved any risk of error or confusion. They seemed very vulnerable to losing confidence in themselves and thus to falling into the helpless pattern.

In contrast, children who focus on mastery and hence set learning goals are likely to persist in the face of difficulty. They see effort as something that activates ability rather than as an indicator of low ability. When facing challenging academic tasks, they view these as opportunities to get smarter–a much more adaptive response.

Girls at Risk

While most of Dweck’s studies involve the upper elementary grades, she and Henderson emphasize that early adolescence is the period most likely to bring out and solidify maladaptive patterns of achievement. The increased importance and uncertainty of success in junior high create a climate in which students want to avoid academic challenges.

What can teachers or parents do to allay anxiety about school and encourage young people to invest effort and pursue challenging studies? One important step is to recognize who may be vulnerable to the helpless pattern.

Asked to single out children with motivation problems, teachers will generally point to those who are not doing well. But the research shows that fifth or sixth graders can be doing fine in school while at the same time holding beliefs and goals that will later make them vulnerable.

Girls may be especially at risk. In one study, brighter girls were twice as likely as bright boys to endorse an entity theory. Three-fourths of the bright girls, but none of the bright boys, preferred academic tasks easy enough to ensure success.

How to Help

Both performance and learning goals, Henderson and Dweck note, are in everyone’s repertoire. In one study, Dweck influenced a group of children to focus on performance by heightening the evaluative aspects of the situation, and got another group to focus on learning goals by emphasizing the value of the task to be learned. In other experiments she successfully trained children to attribute failures to lack of effort rather than to low ability.

But can teachers have a similar influence on students in the classroom? Carol Ames of the University of Illinois warns against simplistic applications of motivation research to classroom practice.

For example, one lesson teachers have drawn from research is that they should provide children with success experiences and plenty of positive feedback. Although this may often by a good strategy, it is not equally helpful for all children in all situations.

When the work becomes more difficult, children who have come to expect a string of successes may fall apart. In the long run it may be better for students to learn to view their mistakes–and the feedback that accompanies these–as sources of information for future efforts rather than as evidence of low ability.

We spend too much time looking at motivation as an individual trait, says Ames, and not enough looking at “how the organization and structure of the classroom shapes and socializes adaptive and maladaptive motivation patterns.” In her work in the Champaign-Urbana schools, Ames asks teachers to investigate the possible negative effects of such daily occurrences as “public evaluation practices, normative comparisons, extrinsic rewards, ability grouping, and emphasis on production, speed, and perfection.”

What can teachers do instead? Some teachers and researchers are finding that portfolio assessment encourages students to focus more on their own learning and less on how they compare with others in the class or how the teacher judges their work.

This appears to be particularly true when self-assessment is built into portfolio work. Students write comments about their own work as they produce it and then participate in selecting certain pieces–and explaining the selections in writing–for inclusion in their final portfolio.

Charges with the responsibility for tracking their own progress, students become, in an sense, the chroniclers and judges of their own work. Perhaps, if portfolio assessment becomes widespread, more students will be able to retain their initial incremental views of intelligence and avoid falling into a helpless pattern when they reach work that is difficult for them.

For Further Information

C. Ames. “Motivation: What Teachers Need to Know.” Teachers College Record, Spring 1990.

C. Ames and J. Archer. “Achievement Goals in the Classroom: Student Learning Strategies and Motivational Processes.” Journal of Educational Psychology 76 (1984).

C.S. Dweck. “Motivational Processes Affecting Learning.” American Psychologist 41 (1986).

C.S. Dweck. “Self Theories and Goals: Their Role in Motivation, Personality and Development. In R.A. Dienstbier, ed., Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 1990. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

V.L. Henderson.” Self Conceptions of Intelligence and Developmental Transitions.” Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Children Development, Seattle, April 1991.

V.L. Henderson and C.S. Dweck. “Motivation and Achievement.” In S.S. Feldman and G.R. Elliot, eds., At the Threshold: The Developing Adolescent, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Harvard Education Letter

Helping Children Discover Their Interests

31 08 2009

b y S a l l y M . R e i s

Sally Reis, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut where she serves as a Principal Investigator at the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. She is a former teacher and is a member of the NAGC Board of Directors.

For over 10 years, I worked in a school district as the coordinator of a K-12 enrichment program, and during this time the most frequently asked questions by parents of children with high potential related to how they could help their child develop his or her abilities. After 20 years of conducting research about talented young people, I am more firmly convinced than ever that the answer lies in actively seeking to identify your child’s natural interests and then spending time with your child to develop those interests. From the current success of Tiger Woods in golf to the research completed by educator Benjamin Bloom on talent development in young people, we have learned that when a child has both an interest and a talent in the interest area, that talent can be developed with the help of involved and committed parents and diligent teachers.

Some Background Research

Many different research studies demonstrate that learning is enhanced when a child is able to work in an area of his or her own selection and when interests become a major part of learning. Cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget argued that all intellectual functioning depends on the essential role played by “affective” processes such as interest. He used the term “energetic” to describe the relationship between intellectual functioning and affective processes. Other researchers believe that interests interact with personality and that it is within interest areas that the individualized and creative components of one’s personality emerge. Cognitive theorist H. Gruber postulates the “self construction of the extraordinary,” indicating that the main force in learning is a person’s own activities and interests. Gruber points out that the way a person shapes a creative life may involve the pursuit of interests rather than achievement in school or precocity in intellectual tasks.

As a parent, it is a good idea to think about your own interests and the ways you model your pursuit of these interests. Perhaps major interests you held in childhood have developed into the work you now do. If so, talk to your child about the importance of enjoying your work and pursuing your interests so he or she begins to understand the critical link between interests and future careers. These questions may help you consider current interests:

Do you have hobbies or interests that your child has watched you pursue?

Do you spend time reading books about a certain topic or interest area?

What type of creative work do you do in your spare time?

Help your child understand that you also have interests and pursue some of these together. Actively pursing interests together will provide the best possible role modeling and help your child learn that interests both enrich life and guide future career decisions.

How to Spark and Nurture Interests

If your child does not seem to have interests at the present time, there are numerous ways to spark interests. The best way is to show an interest in your child’s school experiences and in what he or she has been doing, reading, and watching on television. Ask questions and work to maintain communication about what your child is doing in school and at home. Trips to museums, art galleries, libraries, zoos, and musical and theatrical performances can all help to develop interests. Library books about a variety of topics can help you ignite potential interests in your child. Magazines cover numerous topics and offer enrichment opportunities to spark children’s interests. The same goals can be accomplished by high-quality video tapes, films, and television shows such as those available on the Discovery, Learning, and History Channels.

Once your child discovers areas of interest, you can help develop and nurture those interests. In the case of a child interested in history, you can encourage him or her to read historical fiction as well as nonfiction books including biographies, autobiographies, and other historical works. As a family, you can visit historically significant sites, the state historical society, or historical libraries. Local historical societies often have ideas for projects, such the University of  Connecticut have learned that the single best predictor of college majors and career choices made by talented youngsters has been their intensive involvement in self-selected projects based on their interests. We found that very young children with high levels of interest in computers, mathematics, or science often retain their interests even when they are encouraged by parents and teachers to do other things in order to be “well-rounded.”

Educational psychologist Joseph Renzulli defines giftedness as the interaction between above-average (but not necessarily superior) ability, task commitment, and creativity. Renzulli asserts that we develop giftedness in young people by enabling them to bring ability, commitment, and creativity to bear upon an area of intense interest.

Identifying Your Child’s Interests

How do we find and develop intense interests in young people?

Some general areas of interest usually found in children include performing arts, creative writing and journalism, mathematics, business management, athletics, history, social action, fine arts and crafts, science, and technology.

In 1977 Renzulli developed the Interest-a-Lyzer, an instrument designed to help young people identify their interests. This brief questionnaire also enables parents and teachers to learn more about their children’s interests and opens up communication between the child and his or her parents and teachers. My Way, An Expression Style Inventory, is a brief questionnaire designed by Karen Kettle to help parents and teachers learn more about how a child likes to pursue his or her interests based on the following ways of expressing interests: written, oral, artistic, computer, audio/visual, commercial, service, dramatization, manipulative, and musical. A 7-year-old who develops an interest in dinosaurs may not want to write a book about dinosaurs, but may be interested in constructing a diorama or a model of his or her favorite dinosaurs. Using My Way, students indicate their level of interest by channeling their interests into certain types of products such as designing a computer software project, acting in a play, writing stories, or filming and editing a video. For example, a 10-year-old boy with a learning disability, who is very bright but has not been doing well in school, recently completed My Way. His profile indicated that his preferred method of learning involved doing audio-visual, computer, and artistic work. The products he most frequently completed in school consistently involved written and oral work. That his preferred method of learning and the projects he completed in school did not mesh may be one important reason he was not doing well in school. The questions on the Interest-A-Lyzer and My Way are almost all open-ended or require simple check marks to complete. A few sample questions from the Interest-A-Lyzer follow. Try these out on the whole family and compare responses.

“Imagine that you have become a famous author of a well-known book.

What is the general subject of your book?

What will it be about?

What would be a good title for your book?”

“Imagine that you can spend a week shadowing any person in your community to investigate a career you might like to have in the future. List the occupations of the persons you would select.”

“Imagine that a time machine has been invented that will allow famous people from the past to travel through time. If you could invite some of these people to visit your class, who would you invite?”

One 8-year-old-girl’s response to the last question included Harriet Tubman, George Washington, John F. Kennedy, and Lee Harvey Oswald. It seemed clear that she had history as a primary area of interest, and when asked about Lee Harvey Oswald, she explained, “I don’t believe what people say happened in Dallas really happened, and I’d like to ask Oswald a few questions.”

Teachers also have developed simple questionnaires to help you identify your child’s interests. Many school districts use these parent inventories of children’s interests for planning enrichment experiences that will help develop interests. Sample questions follow. Think how you would answer these about your child.

• Describe any collections or hobbies your child has.

• What are your child’s pastimes at home or after school (trips, lessons, clubs, groups, etc.)?

• Has your child discussed any career interests with you? If so what?

• Have you noticed any talents or unusual interests, skills, or accomplishments at home?

• What types of books or television shows does your child choose to read or watch?

If you want to support your child’s interest you can work collaboratively on projects or research topics with your youngster. In addition to reading nonfiction books and visiting interesting places, children can also use “mentors-in-print” or how-to books to develop their interests in

an advanced and authentic way. Methodological books can help children learn how to do work in an area as junior professionals. If a student has an interest in history, some excellent how-to books in history include How to Trace your Family Tree (American Genealogical Research Institute Staff, 1973), How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies (Zimmerman, 1992), My

Backyard History Book (Weitzman, 1975), and Pursuing the Past (Provenzo, Provenzo & Zorn, 1984.)

Another excellent resource for students in upper elementary grades or middle school who are interested in history is History Day, a competition sponsored by each state historical society. In this annual event, students pursue topics of historical interest to them in a number of ways: individual or small-group projects, performances, or audio-visual projects, or by writing research papers. Students who are interested in history or social science research can also use The Artifact Box Network (P.O. Box 9402, Bolton, CT 06043; phone: 860-643-1514).

Teachers work with students to create a box of local artifacts that is exchanged with another class from another part of the country or world. The clues put in the box result in research about the local site as the class tries to identify the location of the artifacts from the classroom with whom they have exchanged boxes. Within each content area, many different ways exist to promote and develop interests. Science, language arts, mathematics and social studies consultants from each state department of education can usually help parents locate various clubs, organizations, or societies that can help children develop interests within these content areas.

The World Wide Web has numerous ways to help students pursue their interests. My own 8-year-old daughter recently developed an interest in hummingbirds and was able to locate a website on hummingbirds that included dozens of resources, recent photographs, and many interesting facts which she used to prepare an alphabet book on hummingbirds. You can help ignite and nurture your child’s interests. In so doing, you unlock your youngster’s high potential and pave the way for enjoyment and success. What more can a parent do?!


As you and your child embark on a journey to uncover and develop your child’s special interests, here are a few questions you can discuss together to help you begin to learn more about your child’s unique interests. To add a creative element to the conversation, pretend you are a reporter interviewing your child for a newspaper article.

1. When you take your child to the bookstore or library, what books would he or she buy or check out (mystery, biography, poetry . . .)?

2. What is your child’s favorite subject (math, science, social studies, language arts . . .)? Describe any specific interests your child has within a subject. For example, if your child enjoys language arts, he or she may get especially excited about creative writing.

3. Describe any lessons your child currently takes or has requested to take.

4. Which clubs, teams, or groups (inside or outside school) does you child belong to or has requested to join?

5. Describe any hobbies or collections your child has or has indicated an interest in starting.

6. Describe any trips your child has especially enjoyed or has requested to take (historical house, aquarium, nature hike, art museum . . . ).

7. What is your child’s favorite game?

8. What is your child’s favorite movie?

9. What is your child’s favorite TV show?

10. Has your child expressed any career interests? If so, what are they?

Twenty Preliminary Igniters for Creative Thinkers

31 08 2009

1.  Surround Yourself with Creativity

Surround yourself with creative people and reminders of creativity.   Decorate your workplace with peripherals of excellence and catalysts for creativity.  These could be pictures, quotes, or past projects.  This can be called the Ray Bradbury approach or the Sistine Chapel approach.  Find or create the work environment that ignites your creativity.  Just as important are the people that surround you.  People become more creative when they surround themselves with stimulating and creative people. This is true in the lives of Michelangelo as well as Einstein.

2.  Watch for Brain Traps

These are the emotional triggers that turn off the creativity in your mind. They could be the snap judgments, statements of fear, confusion, frustration or the prison guard of Brain traps-“I can’t”.  Try putting up a sign in your class that says, “No brain chains allowed”.

3.  Target Your Goal

There will be a time that creativity must be focused.  Ideas without goals are like climbing stairs without progress. Do you have a well-defined goal?  Keep the main thing the main thing.

4. Lean into Your Challenges

Learn to take intelligent risks in your thinking.  Bob Metcalfe (Founder of 3Com and Inventor of Ethernet) said, “Innovation requires gambling and risk taking.  We tell each other to make at least 10 mistakes a day.  If they are not making ten mistakes a day, they are not trying hard enough.”   Michelangelo’s motto in life was, “I took it as a challenge” when his father opposed his low career as a sculptor, when he carved the colossal David from a ruined piece of rock, and when he painted the Sistine Chapel.

5. Crave Inquisitiveness

Naquib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize winner) said, “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”

Isaac Newton

by Calvin Miller

Sir Isaac Newton sure was smart,

Beneath the apple tree.

When one fell off and hit his head,

He said, “Wow, gravity!

For Newton was a genius

And not a common slouch.

A genius cries, “Gravity!”

Most others just say “ouch!”

6. Challenge Assumptions

Often we are hindered in our creativity because of assumptions we make.  Ask what you are assuming and challenge it.  “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

7.   Generate Alternatives

Emile Chartier said, “Nothing is more dangerous than one idea when it’s the only one you have”.   A Monomaniac is a person who has an inordinate or obsessive zeal for or interest in a single thing, idea, subject, or the like.  Expand your reading and interests.  Look for the second right answer. “If the only tool is a hammer you’ll see everything as a nail.” Abraham Maslow

8.  Lavish Symbolic Attention

If you want creativity, talk about it, talk it, and promote it. Find many ways to research and talk about it.

9.  Adjust Your Mental Blinds

Charles Kettering said, “You’ll never get a view from the bottom of a rut”.  Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them,” says Albert Einstein.

10.  Discern Similarities

Make connections and associations between topics and ideas.  Ask, “How is this like that?”

11.  Slice Up Your Elephant

Learn how to break down large dreams, problems and tasks.  When asked “Can you eat this elephant?” You can if you have the desire, time and when you slice it up into bite-size pieces.

12.  Juggle Peripheral Thinking

Learn not only to tolerate but enjoy ambiguity and complexity.  Learn to live with the unresolved.  When you think, plan to cook ideas on the side burner and the back burner. Sometimes you mind is on a ‘searching’ mode and then, while you are consciously thinking of something else your subconscious mind is on the ‘finding’ ode.

13.  Develop Ancillary Use Thinking

Ask yourself “What else can this be used for?” George Washington Carver found 300 uses for the peanut.  He called this “chemergy”.  Let the raw materials from unusual items and places combine into something creative.

14.  Abandon Conventional thinking

One person made this observation about Einstein, “Part of his genius was his inability to understand the obvious”.  Practice iconoclastic thinking and learn to trust your crazy ideas.

15.  Plan Serendipitous Developments

Many of the great inventions and discoveries were accidents.  But many of these so-called accidents were after hard work and an open mind.  Be open to new directions.

16.  Listen Naively

Listen without expert ears.  Stop thinking or saying that you have heard an idea before.  Listen as if you are hearing an idea for the first time without prejudgment.  Talk to someone outside of the field who is not familiar with the project.

17.  Latch on to Breaking Trends

Catch the wave of futuristic thinking.  “The best ideas are not years ahead of their time but 15 minutes before their time.”  Woody Allen

18.  Make Innovation and Change a Continuous Event

Be prepared and create innovations which are large sweeping and dramatic changes as well as Kaizen (From the Japanese Kai meaning change and zen meaning good) which are continual incremental improvements.

19.  Revitalize Procedures

Learn the difference between effective and efficient   Effective is accomplishing a task decisively but with possible excess of time, material, and/or effort. Efficient is accomplishing a task with precision, economically with little or no excess of time, material and/or effort. Learn when it is the right time to use each of these.  What time wasting activities keep you from creativity?

20.    Cultivate the five powers of mental concentration


The mental act of deciding, establishing and adherence to an aim


Persevering in an effort for a considerable time regardless of seeing results


Hold firmly to a course or direction


Sticking to the focus of the goal


Sustaining one’s spirit following defeats

A Passion for Books

30 08 2009




No matter what his rank or position may be, the lover of books is the richest and the happiest of all.

John Alfred Langford


I have sought for happiness everywhere, but I have found it nowhere except in a little corner with a little book.

     Thomas A Kempis


It is from books that wise people derive consolation in the troubles of life.

   Victor Hugo


When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before: you see more in you than was there before.

                     Clifton Fadiman


The result of reading is not more books but more life.

      Holbrook Jackson


Just the knowledge that a good book is waiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.

          Kathleen Norris 



It is the books we read before middle life that do most to mold our character and influence our lives.

            Robert Pitman


My early and invincible love of reading,…..I would not exchange for the treasures of India.

         Edward Gibbon 


When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue- you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night-there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.

               Christopher Morley


The person who does not read good books has no advantage over the person who can’t read them.

               Mark Twain


Every person who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting.

                       Aldous Huxley


 The love of reading enables a person to exchange the wearisome hours of life, which come to every one, for hours of delight.



The first time I read an excellent book, it is to me just as if I had gained a new friend.  When I read over a book I have perused before, it resembles the meeting with an old one.

       Oliver Goldsmith


I never remain passive in the process of reading: while I read I am engaged in a constant creative activity, which leads me to remember not so much the actual matter of the book as the thoughts evoked in my mind by it, directly or indirectly.

                                        Nicholas Berdyaev               


My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.

        Abraham Lincoln


We use books like mirrors, gazing into them only to discover ourselves.

           Joseph Epstein


A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age.

      Robertson Davies


It is chiefly through books that we enjoy conversation with superior minds….In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours.

                    William Ellery Channing


A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

                     Chinese Proverb


Books are the compass and telescopes and sextants and charts which other people have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.

                  Jesse Lee Bennett


Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.  As by the one, health is preserved, strengthened, and invigorated: by the other, virtue (which is the health of the mind) is kept alive, cherished, and confirmed.

                     Joseph Addison


Books are the quietest and most constant friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and most patient of teachers.

                                Charles W. Eliot


Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed , and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

                       Francis Bacon


Only three things are necessary to make life happy: the blessing of God, books , and a friend.



30 08 2009

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade named BOOK

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits,

….no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on!!!

It’s so easy to use, even a child can operate it. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere — even sitting in an armchair by the fire — yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Here’s how it works:

BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence. Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKS with more information simply use more pages.

Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it.

BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, though like other display devices it can become unusable if dropped overboard. The “browse” feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an “index” feature, which
pin-points the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval. An optional “BOOKmark” accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session — even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOK markers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK.

You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with an optional programming tool, the Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Stylus (PENCILS).

Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. Also, BOOK’s appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking. Look for a flood of new titles soon!!!

Traits of Creative People

30 08 2009

from Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

by Mihaly Csikszentmaihalyi

The Ten Dimensions of Complexity

Are there traits that distinguish creative people? If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it would be complexity…… It involves the ability to move from one extreme to the other as the occasion requires.  But creative persons definitely know both extremes and experience both with equal intensity and without inner conflict. It might be easier to illustrate this conclusion in terms of ten pairs of apparently antithetical traits that are often both present in such individuals and integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

1.  Creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.

2.  Creative individual tend to be smart, yet naive at the same time.  Why a low intelligence interferes with creative accomplishment is quite obvious.  But being intellectually brilliant can also be detrimental to creativity.  Some people with high IQs get complacent, and , secure in their mental superiority, they lose the curiosity essential to achieving anything new.  Learning facts, playing by the existing rules of domains, may come so easily to a high-IQ person that be or she never has any incentive to question, doubt, and improve on existing knowledge.  This is probably why Goethe, among other, said that naivete is the most important attribute of genius.

3.  The third paradoxical trait refers to the related combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.

4.  Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other.

5.  Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.

6.  Creative individuals are also remarkably humble and proud at the same time. Another way of expressing this duality is to see it as a contrast between ambition and selfishness, or competition and cooperation.

7.  Creative individuals to a certain extent escape this gender role stereotyping.

…….Creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

8.  Creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent, Yet it is impossible to be creative without having first internalized a domain of culture.  A person must believe in the importance of such a domain in order to learn its rules: hence, he or she must be to a certain extent a traditionalist. It is difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the some time rebellious and iconoclastic. The willingness take risks, to break with the safety of tradition, is also necessary. The economist George Stigler is very emphatic in this regard: I’d say one of the most common failure of able people is a lack of nerve, They’ll play safe games…

9.  Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.  The energy generated by this conflict between attachment and detachment has been mentioned by many as being an important part of their work.

10.  Finally, the openness and sensitivity of creativity individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.  (58-76)

Creating an Environment Where Creativity Flourishes

29 08 2009

by Wayne Morris

This entire article is in a previous post

Creativity in the classroom – what does it look like?

When students are being creative in the classroom they are likely to:

· question and challenge. Creative pupils are curious, question and challenge, and don’t necessarily follow the rules.

· make connections and see relationships. Creative pupils think laterally and make associations between things that are not usually connected.

· envision want might be. They imagine, see possibilities, ask ‘what if?’, picture alternatives, and look at things from different view points.

· explore ideas and options. Creative pupils play with ideas, try alternatives  and fresh approaches, keep open minds and modify their ideas to achieve creative results

· reflect critically on ideas, actions and outcomes. They review progress, invite and use  feedback, criticize constructively and make perceptive observations.

 “The most powerful way to develop creativity in your students is to be a role model. Children develop creativity not when you tell them to, but when you show them.”

Source: Robert J Sternberg, How to develop student creativity


Carolyn Edwards and Kay Springate in their article “The lion comes out of the stone:

Helping young children achieve their creative potential” [Dimensions of Early Childhood] give the following suggestions on encouraging student creativity:

 · Give students extended, unhurried time to explore and do their best work. Don’t interfere when students are productively engaged and motivated to complete tasks in which they are fully engaged.

 · Create an inviting and exciting classroom environment. Provide students with space to leave unfinished work for later completion and quiet space for contemplation.

 · Provide an abundant supply of interesting and useful materials and resources.

 · Create a classroom climate where students feel mistakes are acceptable and risk taking is encouraged. Appropriate noise, mess and autonomy are accepted.

More Motivational Quotes by Students

29 08 2009

hat&wand1You can enjoy life so much more if you honestly have a true passion.

 Olivia Ware (4th grade student)


When you have a passion, you may have trouble ding it, but the good thing is that you feel energized by it.  It is true because, although it can be difficult, it feels good, I think that passion is nice because of the energizing part. 

 Steve Maier (5th grade student)


I believe that if I push myself and go beyond the limit, I will succeed and go farther in life.

    Dylan Miller-Forbes (5th grade student)


Thinking lets me write better stories, but I don’t have to think after my pencil begins its work.  The pencil just moves.

    Connor Boland (5th grade student)


You get bored with things that come easily, but like things that you work for.

       Krystal Bruce (5th grade student)


Passion may have obstacles.  If it truly is a passion. The obstacles are overwhelmed by the passion.

                                                                Aaron Williard (5th grade student)

 In order to succeed in something, you have to have a passion for that thing.  Also, in life, if you want to succeed, you must have a passion for life.

                                                   Dylan Miller-Forbes (5th grade student)

 It is possible to satiate one’s stomach, but impossible to satiate one=s mind.

                                                             Felix Fritsch (5th grade student)

 If you have altered someone’s life you have an impact on the world.

                                                          Felix Fritsch (5th grade student)

One must be able to try new things and raise the bar to have a passion.

                                                         Aaron Williard (5th grade student)

If you really want to live, you should do your best.

                                                                        Krystal Bruce (5th grade student)

If you aim at something you know you can easily get, why aim for it?

                                                                          Krystal Bruce (5th grade student)

Fun Questions for Your Students

29 08 2009

Can you cry under water?

If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?

Since bread is square, then why is sandwich meat round?

Why do you have to “put your two cents in” . . . but it’s only a penny for your thoughts?” Where’s that extra penny going?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a movie, but you are ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

How come we choose from just two people for President and fifty for Miss America?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They’re going to see you  naked anyway.

Why when I signed up for an exercise class was I told to wear loose‑fitting clothing? If I HAD any loose‑fitting clothing, I wouldn’t have  signed up in the first place!!!

Wouldn’t it be nice if whenever we messed up our life we could simply  press ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’ and start all over?

Why is it that our children can’t read a Bible in school, but they can in prison?

Brain cells come and brain cells go, but why do fat cells live forever?

How can you tell when you run out of invisible ink?

Could someone ever get addicted to counseling? If so, how could you treat them?

Can you be a closet claustrophobic?

Did Adam and Eve have navels?

Does anyone ever vanish with a trace?

How does the guy who drives the snowplow get to work in the mornings?

If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

If Fed Ex and UPS merge, would they call it Fed UP?

If a chronic liar tells you he is a chronic liar do you believe him?

If a mute child swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, do the other trees make fun of it?

If all those psychics know the winning lottery numbers, why are they all still working?

If nothing ever sticks to TEFLON, how do they make TEFLON stick to the pan?

If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?

What would a chair look like if your knees bent the other way?

If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?

If quitters never win, and winners never quit, who came up with, “Quit while you’re still ahead?”

If the Energizer Bunny attacks someone, is it charged with battery?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

What did we do before the Law of Gravity was passed?

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

Why are we afraid of falling? Shouldn’t we be afraid of the sudden stop?

Do jellyfish get gas from eating jellybeans?

Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

You know how most packages say “Open here” What is the protocol if the package says, “Open somewhere else?”

There is a little indestructible black box that is used on planes, why can’t they make the whole plane with the same substance?

How do you know when it’s time to tune your bagpipes?

What would happen if you put a slinky on the Aup@ escalator?

Where does the light go when the light goes out?

How can I stop payment on a reality check?

Is it true cannibals won’t eat clowns because they taste funny?

I you were invited to a party by a psychic…would you have to RSVP?

How Can Teachers Develop Students’ Motivation– and Success?

29 08 2009

 An Interview with Carol Dweck

What can teachers do to help develop students who will face challenges rather than be overwhelmed by them?

Why is it that many students seem to fall apart when they get to junior high or middle school?

Can the “gifted” label do more harm than good?

Do early lessons set girls up for failure?

Is self-esteem something that teachers can or should “give” to students?

Those are some of the questions Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Columbia University, answers this week for Education World. Some of her responses will surprise you! Carol S. Dweck is a professor of psychology at Columbia University. She is a leader in the field of motivation, personality, and developmental psychology, and her research contributions have been widely recognized.

Her most recent book, Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development, is published by Psychology Press. This week, Dweck shares with Education World readers some of her thoughts about the role of motivation in learning. Education World: Some students are mastery-oriented; they readily seek challenges and pour effort into them. Others are not.

Have you been able to pinpoint in your research any direct associations between students’ abilities or intelligence and the development of mastery-oriented qualities?

Carol Dweck: This is a really interesting question, and the answer is surprising. There is no relation between students’ abilities or intelligence and the development of mastery-oriented qualities. Some of the very brightest students avoid challenges, dislike effort, and wilt in the face of difficulty. And some of the less bright students are real go-getters, thriving on challenge, persisting intensely when things get difficult, and accomplishing more than you expected. This is something that really intrigued me from the beginning. It shows that being mastery-oriented is about having the right mind-set. It is not about how smart you are. However, having the mastery-oriented mind-set will help students become more able over time.

EW: What can teachers do to help develop mastery-oriented students — students who will face a challenge rather than be overwhelmed by it?

Dweck: Students who are mastery-oriented think about learning, not about proving how smart they are. When they experience a setback, they focus on effort and strategies instead of worrying that they are incompetent. This leads directly to what teachers can do to help students become more master-oriented: Teachers should focus on students’ efforts and not on their abilities. When students succeed, teachers should praise their efforts or their strategies, not their intelligence. (Contrary to popular opinion, praising intelligence backfires by making students overly concerned with how smart they are and overly vulnerable to failure.) When students fail, teachers should also give feedback about effort or strategies — what the student did wrong and what he or she could do now. We have shown that this is a key ingredient in creating mastery-oriented students. In other words, teachers should help students value effort. Too many students think effort is only for the inept. Yet sustained effort over time is the key to outstanding achievement. In a related vein, teachers should teach students to relish a challenge. Rather than praising students for doing well on easy tasks, they should convey that doing easy tasks is a waste of time. They should transmit the joy of confronting a challenge and of struggling to find strategies that work. Finally, teachers can help students focus on and value learning. Too many students are hung up on grades and on proving their worth through grades. Grades are important, but learning is more important.

EW: In your latest book, Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development, you share the story of a conversation you overheard between two college students, Charles and Bob. Could you share that story with Education World’s readers?

Dweck: Charles and Bob were two college students on a bus who were discussing their school experiences and their plans for the future (while I listened attentively). They both had struggled through an exceedingly difficult computer science course. One had to take it twice before he earned a decent grade. Yet they were seriously discussing whether to major in computer science! And for them the decision rested on whether they wanted to pursue something that required so much effort. The question of “ability” never entered into their discussion. Not once did either of them entertain the idea that he might not be good at computer science. For them, it was simply a matter of what they were willing to put into it. Charles and Bob were very different from how I had been at their age. Had I needed two attempts to master a course, I would not have aired this fact in public. Nor would I have remotely considered pursuing that course of study in the future. I greatly admired Charles and Bob for their mastery-oriented qualities, and had no doubt that if they went into computer science, they would do what it took to succeed.

EW: Learning goals were obviously more important to Charles and Bob than grades and test results (performance goals) were. Are Charles and Bob typical of most college students you meet? Or do more students seem to be performance goal-oriented? Is either of those groups of students better off?

Dweck: It’s true that Charles and Bob were very learning-oriented and seemed not to be too concerned with their grade point averages. We find that many students value learning above grades. They tell us directly that it is more important to them to learn and be challenged than it is to earn the best grades. Many other students, however, tell us the reverse. They care far more about their grades than they do about learning anything or being challenged. To my mind, it’s the balance that counts — keeping a balance between valuing learning and performance. Let’s face it, grades often matter a lot, and many students who want to go on to top graduate and professional schools need good grades. Problems arise when students come to care so much about their performance that they sacrifice important learning opportunities and limit their intellectual growth. Problems also arise when students equate their grades with their intelligence or their worth. This can be very damaging, for when they hit difficulty, they may quickly feel inadequate, become discouraged and lose their ability or their desire to perform well in that area. For me the best mix is a combination of (a) valuing learning and challenge and (b) valuing grades but seeing them as merely an index of your current performance, not a sign of your intelligence or worth.

EW: Some students see intelligence as a fixed characteristic; it is a quality that people are born with and little can be done to change it. Others hold a more changeable view of intelligence; they think most anyone can learn new things and “stretch” their intelligence. Clearly, it seems that students with a changeable view of intelligence might fare better when faced with a learning challenge. But can anything be done to change those students who have a fixed view of their intelligence so that they might do better when facing a challenging learning task?

Dweck: You’re right. Students who believe that intelligence is a potential that they can develop do fare better when faced with challenge. For example, they often blossom across a challenging school transition when their fellow students with the fixed view are busy doubting themselves and losing their edge. We have found with students of all ages, from early grade school through college, that the changeable view can be taught. Students can be taught that their intellectual skills are things that can be cultivated — through their hard work, reading, education, confronting of challenges, etc. When they are taught this, they seem naturally to become more eager for challenges, harder working, and more able to cope with obstacles. Researchers (for example, Joshua Aronson of the University of Texas) have even shown that college students’ grade point averages go up when they are taught that intelligence can be developed. It is interesting to me that these beliefs about intelligence seem to be fairly stable individual differences when left to themselves. But they also can be changed fairly readily when students are confronted with the alternative view in an explicit and compelling way.

EW: Can a classroom that is very performance-oriented succeed in developing learners who willingly face new learning challenges?

Dweck: A classroom that teaches students to equate their intelligence and their worth with their performance will, in general, stifle the desire to learn and will make students afraid of challenges. After all, the next challenge may show you up and lead you to be branded as less intelligent or less worthy. When I was in sixth grade, my teacher seemed to equate our worth with our IQ scores. We were seated around the room in IQ order. If you didn’t have a high IQ, she wouldn’t let you clean the blackboard erasers, carry the flag in the assembly, or carry a note to the principal. She let us know that in her mind, a high IQ reflected not only basic intelligence but also character. The lower-IQ students felt terrible, and the higher IQ-students lived in fear that they would take another IQ test and lose their status. It was not an atmosphere that fostered love of learning and challenge. However, this doesn’t mean that a classroom that stresses performance can’t also stress the importance of facing learning challenges. First and foremost, it must be made clear to students that their performance reflects their current skills and efforts, not their intelligence or worth. In this case, if students are disappointed in their performance, there is a clear and constructive implication: Work harder, avail yourself of more learning opportunities, learn how to study better, ask the teacher for more help, and so on. Students who are taught that their performance simply measures their current skills can still relish learning challenges, for mistakes and setbacks should not be undermining. By the way, this stance characterizes many top athletes. They are very performance-oriented during a game or match. However, they do not see a negative outcome as reflecting their underlying skills or potential to learn. Moreover, in between games they are very learning-oriented. They review tapes of their past game, trying to learn from their mistakes, they talk to their coaches about how to improve, and they work ceaselessly on new skills.

EW: Based on that story, it would seem that our nation’s current emphasis on testing might contradict the goal of developing students who are excited about learning and who will go on to be lifelong learners.

Dweck: I think that undue emphasis on testing can be harmful if it conveys to students that the whole point of school is to do well on these tests and if it conveys to them that how well they do on these tests sums up their intelligence or their worth as a student. The same tests might not be so harmful if they were simply seen by educators and students as assessing students’ skills at that point in time and as indicating what skills students need to work on in the future. In this case, the tests needn’t dampen students’ excitement about learning. The current zeal for higher standards and more testing follows a period in which many educators believed that giving students lots of successes would boost their self-esteem and love of learning. This did not work. Instead students became used to low effort and became uninterested in challenges. Their self-esteem did not rise. So, many educators are clamoring to forget about self-esteem and return to the good old days of high standards, with the risk of widespread failure. What’s the answer? Are these the only two alternatives? There is another alternative, one that addresses students’ achievement and their self-esteem: Teaching students to value hard work, learning, and challenges; teaching them how to cope with disappointing performance by planning for new strategies and more effort; and providing them with the study skills that will put them more in charge of their own learning. In this way, educators can be highly demanding of students but not run the risk that large numbers of students will be labeled as failures.

EW: Why is it that many students who succeed throughout their elementary school years suddenly seem to fall apart when they get to junior high or middle school?

Dweck: Many students look fine when things are easy and all is going well. But many students, even very bright ones, are not equipped to deal with challenges. When they hit more difficult work, as they often do when they get to junior high school or middle school, they begin to doubt their intelligence, they withdraw their effort, and their performance suffers. We have seen this happen to students who were top students in grade school — they seem to lose their confidence, their liking for school, and their determination to do well. Why is this? I have found through my research that these students hold a certain belief that undermines them at this crucial point. They believe that intelligence is a fixed trait — that some people have it and others don’t — and that their intelligence is reflected in their performance. Basically, these are students who thought they were really smart in grade school, when they were doing well, but now they are frightened that they are not. They are scared that the difficulty they are experiencing means that they are in fact dumb. Furthermore, they are worried that if they try hard and still do poorly, they will really prove they’re dumb. So instead of digging in and doing what it takes to succeed, they start withdrawing from school and devaluing academics. The students who blossom at this time are the ones who believe that intellectual skills are things they can develop. They see the more difficult schoolwork as a challenge to be mastered through hard work, and they are determined to do what it takes to meet these new challenges.

EW: In your research, have you seen a distinct correlation between a student’s history of success and his or her ability to face future challenges?

Dweck: This is really fascinating. You might expect a correlation between a history of success and the ability to face challenges. You might think that students who had a history of success would be the ones who loved challenges and had the ability to face them constructively. After all, shouldn’t past successes boost their confidence in their abilities and give them what it takes to confront difficulty? But in fact, there is no relation between a history of success and seeking or coping with challenges. This is one of the great surprises in my research, and it goes to show that the ability to face challenges is not about your actual skills; it’s about the mind-set you bring to a challenge. Some students, even some very successful ones, feel threatened by challenge, believe that mistakes mean you’re not smart, and wilt when things become difficult. They stop enjoying the task, and they stop doing well on it. Other students, even many who have not done particularly well in an area, love challenge. They see it as an opportunity to learn, they view mistakes as valuable information, and they really rev up when things get difficult.

EW: Most educators want to help students see themselves as “smart.” They praise students’ intelligence because they believe that helping them feel smart will help them achieve their potential. But are there different or better messages educators could be sending them?

Dweck: I was aware of the widespread belief that praising students’ intelligence would help them feel smart and fulfill their potential. Yet, I had years of research showing that students who were vulnerable (who had fragile self-esteem and motivation) were the ones who were obsessed with their intelligence. They worried about it all the time: Will this task make me look smart? Will that task show I’m dumb? So it struck us that praising intelligence could actually do harm by putting the spotlight on intelligence and conveying to students that this important quality can be measured from their performance. We set out to test this in our research. Claudia Mueller and I conducted six studies, all with powerful results. In these studies, later grade school students worked on a task, succeeded nicely on the first set of problems, and received praise. Some received praise for their intelligence, and others received praise for their effort. It turned out that praising students’ intelligence, even after truly admirable performance, made them feel good in the short run, but it had many, many negative effects. In contrast, praising students’ effort had many positive effects. First, when students were praised for their intelligence, they became so invested in looking smart that they became afraid of challenge. Most of them preferred a sure-fire success over a challenging opportunity to learn something important. When students were praised for their effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging learning opportunity. Second, when students then experienced a second, difficult set of problems, those who had been praised for their intelligence now told us they felt dumb. In other words, if the success meant they were smart, the failure meant to them that they were dumb. Any self-esteem that had been promoted by the praise was very, very fragile. In contrast, the students who had been praised for their effort saw the setback not as a condemnation of their intellect, but as simply a signal for more effort. They realized that a harder task means harder work. Third, the students who were praised for their intelligence told us that they no longer enjoyed the task, and no longer wished to take problems home to practice. A feeling of failure made them turn away from a chance to practice their skills and improve. In contrast, the ones who were praised for their effort enjoyed the task just as much as before and were just as eager to take problems home to practice. In fact, some of them liked the task even better when it got hard and were more determined to master it. Fourth, we gave the students a third set of problems, similar to the first set (the one on which they had succeeded). How did they do on these problems? The students who were praised for their intelligence now did significantly worse than they had initially, whereas the students who were praised for their effort did significantly better than they had done before. This means that two groups of students, who had started off with similar performance, were now very far apart. And finally, when given a chance to write to a student in another school about the task, 40 percent of the students who received intelligence praise lied about their score. They revised it upward. Very few effort-praised students did so. This suggests that when students are praised for their intelligence, they become so over-identified with their performance, so personally humiliated by setbacks, that they can’t tell the truth even to an anonymous peer they will never meet. In short, intelligence praise made students feel good in the moment, but it made them afraid of challenge and unable to cope with setbacks. Effort praise seemed to give students a more hardy sense of themselves as learners, a more healthy desire for challenge, and the skills to cope effectively with setbacks. What does this mean? Does it mean we shouldn’t praise out students? By no means. We should praise all we want to, but we should praise the right things. We should praise the process (the effort, the strategies, the ideas, what went into the work), not the person.

EW: If praising for intelligence can be a negative thing, what about labeling kids as “gifted”? Could that do more harm than good?

Dweck: Labeling kids as gifted can sometimes do more harm than good. The label “gifted” implies that you have received some magical quality (the gift) that makes you special and more worthy than others. Some students are in danger of getting hung up on this label. They may become so concerned with deserving the label and so worried about losing it that they may lose their love of challenge and learning. They may begin to prefer only things they can do easily and perfectly, thus limiting their intellectual growth. Psychologists who study creative geniuses point out that the single most important factor in creative achievement is willingness to put in tremendous amounts of effort and to sustain this effort in the face of obstacles. It would be a tragedy if by labeling students as gifted, we limited their creative contributions. However, we can prevent this by making clear to students that “gifted” simply means that if they work hard and keep on learning and stretching themselves, they will be capable of noteworthy accomplishments. Of course, that is true of many, many people.

EW: IQ scores are a way of measuring students’ skills. But are they a reliable measure of students’ real abilities and potential?

Dweck: IQ tests can measure current skills, but nothing can measure someone’s potential. It is impossible to tell what people are capable of in the future if they catch fire and apply themselves. I will never forget a story I read in The New York Times. It told of a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who, later in life, got hold of his school records and saw his IQ score. According to him, it was not high. He freely admitted that had he seen this score earlier, he would not have tried to become a scientist and he would never have tried to make path-breaking discoveries. Research on creative geniuses shows that many of them seemed like fairly ordinary children. Yet at some point, they became obsessed with something and pursued it avidly over a long period of time, leading to unique and amazing contributions. Many of these contributions could not have been predicted by IQ scores.

EW: Some of your research seems to indicate that girls get more praise early in their schooling than boys do. During the early years, boys tend to be lectured more about paying attention and making more effort. Could it be that this dichotomy sets boys up with some valuable lessons and skills?

Dweck: Yes, boys have a much worse time than girls in grade school, but ironically, this may result in their learning some valuable lessons. They get a lot of messages about the importance of effort, which serve them well later. They also learn that criticism isn’t the end of the world. Girls, according to most teachers, are much more wonderful students in the early school years. So they are not lectured about effort, and they do not receive that much criticism. Unfortunately, they do not learn the lesson that mistakes carry a message about effort, and they often believe that mistakes or criticism tell them they have low ability. This may not hamper them in grade school where the challenges are often not great, but it can hamper them later when school becomes more difficult. In fact, this tendency to see mistakes as a measure of your abilities may be one reason many bright girls remain afraid of math and science and withdraw from them even when they have exceptional ability in those areas.

EW: Is self-esteem something that teachers can or should “give” to students?

Dweck: For the most part, self-esteem is not something teachers can hand to students. Many teachers believe that if they praise students’ intelligence, they can give their students high self-esteem. My work shows this is not true. I certainly think it is important for teachers to show students respect and give them a sense they are cared for, but apart from that, the best thing teachers can do for students is to put them in charge of their own self-esteem. This is by teaching students how to love challenges and learning and how to cope with and capitalize on setbacks. When students learn to thrive on difficulty and get a charge from mastering new skills, they can boost their own self-esteem in constructive ways throughout their lives.

EW: In all your years of research, what findings have intrigued you the most?

Dweck: What has intrigued me most in my 30 years of research is the power of motivation. Motivation is often more important than your initial ability in determining whether you succeed in the long run. In fact [as I mentioned earlier], many creative geniuses were not born that way. They were often fairly ordinary people who became extraordinarily motivated. By motivation, I mean not only the desire to achieve but also the love of learning, the love of challenge, and the ability to thrive on obstacles. These are the greatest gifts we can give our students.

Article by Gary Hopkins Education World® Editor-in-Chief

Motivational Brain Bite #7

29 08 2009

Creating a Questioning Climate

brainBefore you ask questions, use these options to create a better climate of success.  Pick the one(s) you’re most comfortable with using:

Assert that there may be multiple answers to your question.

Check in before asking questions to insure learner readiness.

Everyone may get a partner or learning buddy to serve as consultant.         

Give a multiple choice menu with the question.

Ask who is ready and has a possible answer.

Provide more wait time — respect the more kinesthetic learning styles.

Be more selective in calling on participants…only those that know it.

Utilize team and group cooperative responses.

Do a drawing for learner names from a globe or hat.

Tell & show them at start of class all the questions to be asked.

Do Jeopardy turnaround — participants have answer, ask you the questions.

Ask questions when you are really interested in a student=s thoughts.

Practice what you preach by modeling good questioning in your own life.

Ask questions that relate to student’s life experiences and interests.


When the answer was different than expected,

choose any of the following responses that you like:

Prompt them for a better answer…Do the hotter & colder game.

Ask the learner to say more about their answer to clarify what they mean.

Ask for a follow-up comment in 5 minutes…check back then.

Give more non-verbal or verbal clues to coax the learner.

Walk them through the steps of learning or logic to get a better answer.

Say your answer is a good contribution or good effort and move on.

Change the question to make the problem more understandable.

Put the answer on hold and ask if others would like to add or comment.

Change your question to make their answer right.

Give the correct answer indirectly within 20-90 seconds, but only after attention is switched away from learner

Make humor out of the situation…but never, never, never at the learner.

Use a confirmatory phrase such as Aso your answer is…are you sure?

Class rule: all answers are temporary until we validate them.

Have learner find others who agree with his answer & re-contribute.

Re-assign the problem again, change one variable.

When you get the answer you like,

choose any of the following responses that you=re comfortable using:

Repeat it in their words to validate what was said, avoid improving on it.

Ask “Can you tie the answer into what other classmates have said?”

Ask “Can you expand on what was given?” 

Motivational Brain Bite #6

29 08 2009

brainWays to Encourage Questions                      

A teacher cannot encourage questions solely by standing at the front of the class and asking, “Are there any questions?” There is so much pressure forcing students NOT to ask questions that it cannot be overcome by this single act.

The only way to encourage questions is to create a complete “question-asking environment” in the classroom. You must encourage questions constantly, using a variety of techniques.

The most important technique that you can use to encourage questions is to always answer questions kindly. Even if you have answered the same question three times already, the fourth answer should be friendly, and should include a new example. The student may have been copying something down, or may have been daydreaming. But normally questions occur multiple times because students cannot understand the language you are speaking. Until the students understand the vocabulary, all of those answers will be completely meaningless. A student asking a question for the fourth time has just come to understand the vocabulary him/herself, and only then can understand the answer when you give it.

Here are some other ways to promote questions:

 1.    Make students who ask questions feel like they have done you a favor by asking a question. Reward students for asking a question. Try saying, “That’s a great question” for every new question you get.

2.  Leave gaps for questions that are long enough for students to actually formulate questions. Rustle through your notes or drop a pencil or erase the board – leave good sized gaps throughout your lectures.

3.  Do not insult students, even subtly, when answering a question. Take a tape recorder to class one day, and then play it back and listen to how you answer questions. How do you come across? Would you like to be talked to in that way? Put yourself in your students’ shoes. Also listen to the answers you give – do you answer the questions?

4.   Use questionnaires at the end of class. Ask your students to write down one thing that they don’t understand from that day’s class. Then go over those questions at the beginning of the next class. Once students realize that everyone has questions, they will be more inclined to ask questions vocally during class.

5.   Have your students work problems during class. Put a problem on the board and let students work it in their notes. Then show them the right answer. You can do examples all day, but nothing is learned until the students do a problem themselves. It shows them exactly what they don’t understand, and this often leads to questions.

6.   Make lists of questions that you get asked during your office hours, and then repeat those questions to everyone during the next class.

7.   Give homework assignments that force students to think about and question the material, and make time available in class to answer homework questions. If a homework assignment generates no questions, then it is probably useless.

8.  Use tests to find out where you have been unclear, and where questions remain. A well designed and well graded test tells you as much about your teaching as it does about your students.

9.   Start each class by briefly reviewing the material from the previous class.

10.   Introduce a difficult concept for 5 minutes at the end of class. Then cover the concept fully during the next class. Students will have a day or two to become familiar with the concept, and will be more inclined to ask questions when they see it again.


Creative Thoughts about Creativity #6

28 08 2009

Picture1The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.  It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.  He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause and stand wrapped up in wonder is as good as dead.  His eyes are closed.

Albert Einstein

 Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.

Charles Kettering

 Reason can answer questions, but imagination has to ask them!

alph W.  Gerard

 A person who never makes a mistake never tried anything.


 When you refuse to accept the obvious, you’ve taken your first giant step toward creativity.


 Inspiration is the impact of a fact on a prepared mind.

Louis Pasteur

Enthusiasm is the most important single factor toward making a person creative.

                                                                                              Robert E.  Mueller

 Serendipity or the happy discovery, happens only when you are actually seeking something.

M.  O.  Edwards

 The real mark of the creative person is that the unforseen problem is a joy and not a curse.

Norman H.  Mackworth

The creative mind is seldom bored.

Gordon A.  Macleod

 There are certain things that our age needs.  It needs, above all, courageous hope and the impulse to creativeness.

Bertrand Russell

Nothing is as powerful as a good idea, but nothing is so powerfully sure-fire as a good idea whose time has come.

G.  Herbert True


28 08 2009

By Wayne Morris

“The roots of a creative society are in basic education. The sheer volume of facts to be digested by the students of today leaves little time for a deeper interrogation of their moral worth. The result has been a generation of technicians rather than visionaries, each one taking a career rather than an idea seriously. The answer must be reform in our educational methods so that students are encouraged to ask about “know-why” as well as “know-how”. Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.”

Source: On Arts: Creative New Zealand. Michael D. Higgins, the former Irish Minister for Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht


But is it enough to focus on the arts as the source of creativity in education?

Is there a much broader role for creativity in education?


“All our futures: Creativity, culture and education”, the UK National Advisory Committees report [DfEE, 1999] defines creativity as:


“First, they [the characteristics of creativity] always involve thinking or behaving imaginatively.


Second, overall this imaginative activity is purposeful: that is, it is directed to achieving an objective.  


Third, these processes must generate something original.


Fourth, the outcome must be of value in relation to the objective.”


 This from the UK. From the US – the Creative Classroom Project was a collaboration between Project Zero and the Disney Worldwide Outreach to produce materials that help teachers explore and understand:

1. The role of creativity and innovation in teaching and learning

2. The importance of developing classroom and school environments that can bring out the best in teachers and students, and

3. Methods for making classrooms more engaging places


The following quote, from one of the teachers involved in the project, adds to the UK definition.

“Although most people might look for signs of creativity in the appearance of the bulletin boards, student made projects, centers and displays in the classroom, I feel the truly creative classroom goes way beyond what can be seen with the eyes. It is a place where bodies and minds actively pursue new knowledge. Having a creative classroom means that the teacher takes risks on a daily basis and encourages his/her students to do the same.” Source: Pann Baltz quoted in Creativity in the Classroom: An exploration.


Why should we bother?

· Our school system is a thinly disguised conspiracy to quash creativity.

· We are at an inflection point. We seem to be re-inventing everything – except the school system, which should [in theory] underpin, even leads, the rest.

· The main crisis in schools today is irrelevance.

  · Our educational thinking is concerned with; ‘what is’. It is not good at designing ‘what can be’.

The above from Tom Peter’s book Re-imagine. Peter’s is very critical of our present ways of educating and although focused on American education his comments could relate to most education systems across the world.


Peter’s vision:

– a school system that recognizes that learning is natural, that a love of learning is normal, and that real learning is passionate learning

– a school curriculum that values questions above answers, creativity above fact regurgitation, individuality above uniformity and excellence above standardized performance

– a society that respects its teachers and principals, pays them well, and grants them the autonomy to do their job as the creative individuals they are, and for the creative individuals in their charge.


Is this a vision that you could buy into?

Robert Fritz comments that “The most important developments in civilization have come through the creative process, but ironically, most people have not been taught to be creative.”

 Source: Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance, 1994.


Is it important to our futures that creativity be taught?

What place should creativity have in our education systems?

Should we teach creatively or teach for creativity?


“By providing rich and varied contexts for pupils to acquire, develop and apply a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills, the curriculum should enable pupils to think creatively and critically, to solve problems and to make a difference for the better. It should give them the opportunity to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership to equip them for their future lives as workers and citizens. It should enable pupils to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, to manage risk and cope with change and adversity.”  Source: UK National Curriculum Handbook [p 11-12]:


Creative students lead richer lives and, in the longer term, make a valuable contribution to society. Surely those are reasons enough to bother.


Creativity in the classroom – what does it look like?

When students are being creative in the classroom they are likely to:

· question and challenge. Creative pupils are curious, question and challenge, and don’t necessarily follow the rules.

· make connections and see relationships. Creative pupils think laterally and make associations between things that are not usually connected.

· envision want might be. They imagine, see possibilities, ask ‘what if?’, picture alternatives, and look at things from different view points.

· explore ideas and options. Creative pupils play with ideas, try alternatives  and fresh approaches, keep open minds and modify their ideas to achieve creative results

· reflect critically on ideas, actions and outcomes. They review progress, invite and use  feedback, criticize constructively and make perceptive observations.


To encourage the above is likely to require a change in the way schools are run and the way teachers teach.

“The most powerful way to develop creativity in your students is to be a role model. Children develop creativity not when you tell them to, but when you show them.”

Source: Robert J Sternberg, How to develop student creativity


Creative Teaching

We humans have not yet achieved our full creative potential primarily because every child’s creativity is not properly nurtured. The critical role of imagination, discovery and creativity in a child’s education is only beginning to come to light and, even within the educational community, many still do not appreciate or realize its vital importance.” Source: Ashfaq Ishaq International Child Art Foundation www.creativity-portal.com


Creative teaching may be defined in two ways: firstly, teaching creatively and secondly, teaching for creativity.  Teaching creatively might be described as teachers using imaginative approaches to make learning more interesting, engaging, exciting and effective. Teaching for creativity might best be described as using forms of teaching that are intended to develop students own creative thinking and behavior. However it would be fair to say that teaching for creativity must involve creative teaching. Teachers cannot develop the creative abilities of their students if their own creative abilities are undiscovered or suppressed.


“My wife and I went to a [kindergarten] parent-teacher conference and were informed that our budding refrigerator artist, Christopher, would be receiving a grade of unsatisfactory in art. We were shocked. How could any child – let alone our child – receive a poor grade in art at such a young age? His teacher informed us that he refused to color within the lines, which was a state requirement for demonstrating ‘grade level motor skills.” Source: Jordan Ayan, AHA!


Teaching with creativity and teaching for creativity include all the characteristics of good teaching – including high motivation, high expectations, the ability to communicate and listen and the ability to interest, engage and inspire. Creative teachers need expertise in their particular fields but they need more than this. They need techniques that stimulate curiosity and raise self esteem and confidence. They must recognize when encouragement is needed and confidence threatened. They must balance structured learning with opportunities for self-direction; and the management of groups while giving attention to individuals. Teaching for creativity is not an easy option, but it can be enjoyable and deeply fulfilling. It

can involve more time and planning to generate and develop ideas and to evaluate whether they have worked. It involves confidence to improvise and take detours, to pick up unexpected opportunities for learning; to live with uncertainty and to risk admitting that an idea led nowhere. Creative teachers are always willing to experiment but they recognize the need to learn from experience. All of this requires more, not less, expertise of teachers.


“Thousands of years of history suggest that the schoolhouse a we know it is an absurd way to rear our young: it’s contrary to everything we know about what it is to be a human being. For example, we know that doing and talking are what most successful people are very good at – that’s where they truly show their stuff. “ Source: Deborah Meier, in Dennis Littkys The Big Picture


Creative teachers need confidence in their disciplines and in themselves. There are many highly creative teachers in our schools and many schools where creative approaches to teaching and learning are encouraged. But many schools and teachers do not have access to the necessary practical support and guidance in developing these approaches. Consequently there are important issues of staff development. It is important to reduce or eliminate the factors which inhibit the creative activity of teachers and learners and give priority to those that encourage it. There are, in education, extraordinarily high levels of prescription in relation to content and teaching methods. There are huge risks of de-skilling teachers and encouraging conformity and passivity in some. We have an interesting paradox. We have industry commentators saying that, for a successful future, we need people who think, are creative and innovative and yet our education systems seem to be working against this. At a national level government has a responsibility to reduce these risks and to promote higher levels of teacher autonomy and creativity in teaching and learning.


“Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource.”

Source: Richard Florida The Rise of the Creative Class


“Over the past decade the biggest employment gains came in occupations that rely on people skills and emotional intelligence .. and among jobs that require imagination and creativity. Trying to preserve existing jobs will prove futile – trade and technology will transform the economy whether we like it or not.” Source: Michael Cox, Richard Alm and Nigel Holmes Where the jobs are – New York Times 13/05/04


“The past few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind – computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBA’s who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people – artist, inventors, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”

Source: Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind


 Teachers encouraging creativity

Carolyn Edwards and Kay Springate in their article “The lion comes out of the stone:

Helping young children achieve their creative potential” [Dimensions of Early Childhood] give the following suggestions on encouraging student creativity:


· Give students extended, unhurried time to explore and do their best work. Don’t interfere when students are productively engaged and motivated to complete tasks in which they are fully engaged.


· Create an inviting and exciting classroom environment. Provide students with space to leave unfinished work for later completion and quiet space for contemplation.


· Provide an abundant supply of interesting and useful materials and resources.


· Create a classroom climate where students feel mistakes are acceptable and risk taking is encouraged. Appropriate noise, mess and autonomy are accepted.


The UK National Curriculum in Action web-site offers suggestions as to how teachers can encourage pupil’s creativity. The site includes short video clips of teachers discussing their approaches to encouraging creativity and then demonstrating these approaches. Examples are given of encouraging creativity while planning, introducing activities, teaching and revising work.


They are well worth viewing. [www.ncaction.org.uk/creativity]

Individual teachers can have a huge influence on encouraging students to be creative but for creativity to flourish it needs to be built into the whole school ethos. This is the domain of the principal and other school leaders. School leaders encouraging creativity.  Teachers can do a lot to encourage creativity in their classes but it’s a job only half done without the support of the school leadership. School leaders have the ability to build an expectation of creativity into a school’s learning and teaching strategies. They can encourage, recognize and reward creativity in both pupils and teachers. School leaders have the ability to provide resources for creative endeavors; to involve teachers and pupils in creating stimulating environments; to tap the creativity of staff, parents and the local community and much more. They have the ability to make creativity art of the staff development program; to include creativity in everyone’s performance reviews; to invite creative people into the school and most important of all, to lead by example!!


The last word[s]

“Steve Jobs has done more Cool Stuff than anybody else in Silicon Valley. . . . one of his success secrets is loading every development team with artist … and historians … and poets … and musicians … and dramatists. He says he wants to bring to bear, on each project, the best of human cultural accomplishment. So how come schools don’t get it? Budget crunch? First programmes to be cut? Art and Music. I say … the hell with the math budget [I really don’t mean that.] Let’s enhance the art budget and inflate the music budget. Training in Creativity is important, in general. But it is absolutely essential in this Age of Intangibles and Intellectual Capital.”

 Source: Tom Peters, Re-imagine

Do you agree and are you doing anything about it? I’d love to hear from you.

Motivational Quotes by Students

28 08 2009

If you quit at your passion because it got too hard and you failed at it, you shall be a failure at many things.

    Van Jones (3rd grade student)


Even if you don’t do well at first, keep pursuing your passions, you will get better at them.

        Charlie Squire (3rd grade student)


At first passions are difficult.  But they give you energy.

              Charlie Squire (3rd grade student)


The more and more you explore something…

You get more and more out of it.

                    Olivia Ware (4th grade student)


Passion is something you like to do.

Passion isn’t something someone makes you do.

I am glad that we can choose our own passions

and someone doesn’t need to make us do them.

           Laurel Larsen (4th grade student)


If we did not take risks we would not be able to accomplish anything.

 Shannon Williams (4th grade student)


In your work you work to find your passion.

    Ali Burton (4th grade student)


When you aim high or you goals are extremely high, you are much more likely to succeed.

 Olivia Ware (4th grade student)


There is an enjoyable feeling of working hard on something that challenges you.

                                                     Shannon Williams (4th grade student) 


I think it is good if you do something you do not like because you could start liking it so much it could become one of your passions.

                                                                         Blake Krawl (4th grade student)

It’s About Time!!

28 08 2009

(based on an idea by Joel Barker)

Here is a story for those who have more than a passing interest in time.


About 400 years ago there was a battle over time.  You see, it was around the 1600’s when the first pocket watch was introduced.  Now people had time on their hands. But there were many who thought clocks were meant to be in towers, not in trousers.  Perhaps it was because the first model was the size and shape of a lemon.  For the stylish gentleman this meant the convenience of knowing the precise time but did create a rather unsightly bulge in his trousers.


As time passed, it became the fashion to spend time designing thinner watches.  Watch designers worked around the clock and even put in overtime in this race against time to create the thinnest watch.  By the 1700’s the French and British compressed the timepiece to 1 2 inches thick.  One hundred years later they squeezed the mechanism to : of an inch.  By 1850 manufacturers bottomed out at 3 of an inch.  You could say they were pressed for time.  Surprisingly this is still the thickness of most watches today.


As thinness reached its limit, the watch industry started to rotate the crank turning the gears of price and performance; lower price, more accuracy, lower price, more accuracy.  But, like clockwork, a new battle was about to begin.  It was only a matter of time when the pendulum would swing to a new battlefront.


Allow me to explain.  Before WWII the Swiss owned 90% of the watch market.  And even up to 1968 they still enveloped most of the world market share.  But time was running out for the Swiss. In ten years their corner on the market plummeted to almost nothing and they even had to release most of their workers.  This was the original time release formula of downsizing.  What happened?  What time bomb hit the Swiss?  They themselves were enveloped and wrapped up in their old way of thinking.  You might say that they were stitched in time.


A new nation soon dominated the watch making industry.  In the past this nation was unknown for watches.  But now Japan led the watch industry.  How could the Swiss, who controlled watch making for the entire 20th century, known for excellence and innovation, experience such a timely demise?  Were they just killing time?  What was the key to the failure of the Swiss and the success of Japan?


 The answer was profoundly simple.  The Swiss were put back to ground zero by a paradigm shift — a paradigm gear shift. Many of you are wearing this paradigm shift on your wrist right now if you took time to put them on.  The quartz movement watch is totally electronic using only one moving part.  It is one thousand times more accurate, more versatile and even thinner than the mechanical watch.


Who made time to invent this wonderful idea of using Quartz crystals for time keeping?  Some of you already know the answer.  The Quartz crystal watch was invented by the Swiss themselves in Neuchatel at their research laboratories. But when the researchers presented this idea to their manufacturers they were closed to the idea.  Their minds were locked. How did the engineers feel about this rejection?  I bet it really ticked them off.  I bet they really wanted to clean their clock.


They may have heard the manufacturers say these timeless killer phrases:

“It doesn’t have any gears to mesh with what we have always done”,

“We don’t have time for this”,

“This won’t wind up anywhere”,

“What a waste of time”,

“It just doesn’t tick”.


So confident were they, so locked in their mental box — in their Aparabox. They didn’t protect their idea.  They were not watching out for the possible time change.  They must have been Ahalf past out.  Texas instruments of America and Seiko of Japan took one look and the rest was history.  You see, they made the time.  For them it was good time management, perfect timingTime was definitely on their side.  They were having the time of their lives.  They were on a Rollex.


But for the Swiss . . . they had no time share in this.  And now they were living on borrowed time.  Things were winding down.  Soon their time would be up.  Yes, they were out of time.  They couldn’t beat the clock. They took a licking, and kept on ticking. They virtually disappeared from the marketplace.  They were locked in their old way of thinking — in a box, in a time capsule.  They refused to set their clocks to one of the biggest changes in the history of timekeeping. They were trying to make time stand still.  But you can’t turn back the clock when times change.  The rules had changed.  Not even the best watchmakers of the world could stop time.  They couldn’t call time out to progress.


There is a message here for all of us for all time that will help us remember the moral of this timely parable . . . that will help us be more clockwise. Don’t let old timeworn paradigms imprison your ideas in a box like serving time in a prison cage!! We need to break through the walls to create new ideas and not be behind the times.  Only then can we spring open the doors to the future and get outside of the paradigm box!!!

Myths of Giftedness

28 08 2009

         The following is from Special Education in Canada (Volume 56 #1 Fall Issue)

 and The Gifted Kid’s Survival Guide by Judy Galbraith

 Myth: Gifted children will make it on their own.


Reality: Everyone needs help, encouragement and appropriate learning experiences in order to make the most of themselves.  Many learners with gifted abilities have disabilities or are underachievers and some will become dropouts from learning or from school unless they receive guidance and challenge.



Myth: Gifted children can be handled adequately in a regular classroom.


Reality: Gifted children process information much faster and in different ways than other students.  Classroom teachers are notably producing differentiated curriculum but do not always have the time to develop quantitatively different programs for each learner for all curriculum.  Classroom teachers need help and resources to deal adequately with children who are no in the learning mainstream.  Just giving more work or asking them to teach others does not educate a child at his or her own level.


Myth: If gifted children are grouped together or given special programs they will become an elite group.


Reality: By derivation, elite means the choice, or the best, or superior part of a body or class of persons.  However, time and an overemphasis on egalitarianism have imparted a negative connotation to the word, implying snobbishness, selectivity, and unfair special attention.  Like a Jazz band or a Basketball team, we often group children according to their talents.  We expect children will achieve their best at their own level.  We should provide some grouping for gifted children, not so they can learn to be snobs, but so they can experience working with children most like themselves. In fact, gifted children are elite in the same way that anyone becomes a champion, a record- holder, a soloist, an inventor, or a leader in important realms of human endeavor. Linda Silverman adds that it is stressful raising a child with any type of exceptionality, but parents of gifted children have the added stress of being continuously discounted.  There are great emotional risks in going to the principal and saying, “I believe my child is gifted and has special needs.”  Too often they hear the patronizing reply, “Yes, Mrs. Maxwell, all our parents think their children are gifted.” Parents of disabled children do not receive this kind of treatment. Therefore, parents have a distinct responsibility to challenge those who cry “elitism” and explain to them the true meaning of the term.

Myth: Programs for gifted children are good for all children.


Reality: Possibly true if only content is considered.  We often hear that all students should be exposed to the topics taught to the gifted.  However the pace and depth of understanding and exploration is different for gifted children and is not equal or the same for all learners.  In many cases mainstream students would not want and would not be able to handle the issues addressed in a gifted class.



Myth: Gifted children must learn to get along with their peers


Reality: A great goal —  but which peers? social peers? chronological peers? economic peers? intellectual peers?  We should look at all sides of a societal goal. Many times all provisions for the gifted student — ability grouping, acceleration, pull-out programs, full day programs, special schools — are held suspect on the grounds that they will “prevent the children’s social adjustment.” Indeed, the remarkable emphasis on the school as an agent of socialization makes one wonder if anyone really cares about the development of these children’s abilities or if all that is important is whether they fit in! Gifted children find their intellectual and talented peers stimulating and should be allowed some time to get along and work in their atmosphere as well as in a regular classroom. Studies by Feldhsen, Kulik and Kulik and Oakes confirm what…educators have known for years: gifted students benefit cognitively and affectively from working with other gifted students.



Myth: Everyone is gifted


Reality: True.  And we are all athletic and musical to a degree.  But we cannot all achieve at the same level all of the time.  If we could, Olympic medals would be as common as dollar coins and we could all hold concerts to draw international audiences.  Let us be realistic, we cannot believe that everyone is at the same learning in the classroom all the time.

Creative Thoughts about Creativity #5

25 08 2009


To recapture childhood’s wonder is to secure a driving force for grown-up thoughts.

Charles Sherrington

Our creativity is limited only by our beliefs.

Willis Harmon

Fear of failure is the most devastating block to creativity.


It hinders the creative work of the mind if the intellect examines too closely the ideas as they pour in.

Friedrich von Schiller

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.

Edward de Bono

Play teaches children to master the world.

Jean Piaget

The idea is there, locked inside.  All you have to do is remove the excess stone.


The mere foundation of a problem is often far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.


To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.

Albert Einstein

Just as we can throttle our imagination, we can likewise accelerate it.  As in any other art, individual creativity can be implemented by certain techniques.

Alex Osborn

Discipline and focused awareness contribute to the act of creation.

John Poppy

Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”

25 08 2009

By Alfie Kohn

NOTE: An abridged version of this article was published in Parents magazine in May 2000 with the title “Hooked on Praise.” For a more detailed look at the issues discussed here — as well as a comprehensive list of citations to relevant research — please see the books Punished by Rewards and Unconditional Parenting.

Hang out at a playground, visit a school, or show up at a child’s birthday party, and there’s one phrase you can count on hearing repeatedly: “Good job!” Even tiny infants are praised for smacking their hands together (“Good clapping!”). Many of us blurt out these judgments of our children to the point that it has become almost a verbal tic.

Plenty of books and articles advise us against relying on punishment, from spanking to forcible isolation (“time out”). Occasionally someone will even ask us to rethink the practice of bribing children with stickers or food. But you’ll have to look awfully hard to find a discouraging word about what is euphemistically called positive reinforcement.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, the point here is not to call into question the importance of supporting and encouraging children, the need to love them and hug them and help them feel good about themselves. Praise, however, is a different story entirely. Here’s why.

1. Manipulating children. Suppose you offer a verbal reward to reinforce the behavior of a two-year-old who eats without spilling, or a five-year-old who cleans up her art supplies. Who benefits from this? Is it possible that telling kids they’ve done a good job may have less to do with their emotional needs than with our convenience?

Rheta DeVries, a professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, refers to this as “sugar-coated control.” Very much like tangible rewards – or, for that matter, punishments – it’s a way of doing something to children to get them to comply with our wishes. It may be effective at producing this result (at least for a while), but it’s very different from working with kids – for example, by engaging them in conversation about what makes a classroom (or family) function smoothly, or how other people are affected by what we have done — or failed to do. The latter approach is not only more respectful but more likely to help kids become thoughtful people.

The reason praise can work in the short run is that young children are hungry for our approval. But we have a responsibility not to exploit that dependence for our own convenience. A “Good job!” to reinforce something that makes our lives a little easier can be an example of taking advantage of children’s dependence. Kids may also come to feel manipulated by this, even if they can’t quite explain why.

2. Creating praise junkies. To be sure, not every use of praise is a calculated tactic to control children’s behavior. Sometimes we compliment kids just because we’re genuinely pleased by what they’ve done. Even then, however, it’s worth looking more closely. Rather than bolstering a child’s self-esteem, praise may increase kids’ dependence on us. The more we say, “I like the way you….” or “Good ______ing,” the more kids come to rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what’s good and bad, rather than learning to form their own judgments. It leads them to measure their worth in terms of what will lead us to smile and dole out some more approval.

Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher at the University of Florida, discovered that students who were praised lavishly by their teachers were more tentative in their responses, more apt to answer in a questioning tone of voice (“Um, seven?”). They tended to back off from an idea they had proposed as soon as an adult disagreed with them. And they were less likely to persist with difficult tasks or share their ideas with other students.

In short, “Good job!” doesn’t reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK. Surely this is not what we want for our daughters and sons.

3. Stealing a child’s pleasure. Apart from the issue of dependence, a child deserves to take delight in her accomplishments, to feel pride in what she’s learned how to do. She also deserves to decide when to feel that way. Every time we say, “Good job!”, though, we’re telling a child how to feel.

To be sure, there are times when our evaluations are appropriate and our guidance is necessary — especially with toddlers and preschoolers. But a constant stream of value judgments is neither necessary nor useful for children’s development. Unfortunately, we may not have realized that “Good job!” is just as much an evaluation as “Bad job!” The most notable feature of a positive judgment isn’t that it’s positive, but that it’s a judgment. And people, including kids, don’t like being judged.

I cherish the occasions when my daughter manages to do something for the first time, or does something better than she’s ever done it before. But I try to resist the knee-jerk tendency to say, “Good job!” because I don’t want to dilute her joy. I want her to share her pleasure with me, not look to me for a verdict. I want her to exclaim, “I did it!” (which she often does) instead of asking me uncertainly, “Was that good?”

4. Losing interest. “Good painting!” may get children to keep painting for as long as we keep watching and praising. But, warns Lilian Katz, one of the country’s leading authorities on early childhood education, “once attention is withdrawn, many kids won’t touch the activity again.” Indeed, an impressive body of scientific research has shown that the more we reward people for doing something, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward. Now the point isn’t to draw, to read, to think, to create – the point is to get the goody, whether it’s an ice cream, a sticker, or a “Good job!”

In a troubling study conducted by Joan Grusec at the University of Toronto, young children who were frequently praised for displays of generosity tended to be slightly less generous on an everyday basis than other children were. Every time they had heard “Good sharing!” or “I’m so proud of you for helping,” they became a little less interested in sharing or helping. Those actions came to be seen not as something valuable in their own right but as something they had to do to get that reaction again from an adult. Generosity became a means to an end.

Does praise motivate kids? Sure. It motivates kids to get praise. Alas, that’s often at the expense of commitment to whatever they were doing that prompted the praise.

5. Reducing achievement. As if it weren’t bad enough that “Good job!” can undermine independence, pleasure, and interest, it can also interfere with how good a job children actually do. Researchers keep finding that kids who are praised for doing well at a creative task tend to stumble at the next task – and they don’t do as well as children who weren’t praised to begin with.

Why does this happen? Partly because the praise creates pressure to “keep up the good work” that gets in the way of doing so. Partly because their interest in what they’re doing may have declined. Partly because they become less likely to take risks – a prerequisite for creativity – once they start thinking about how to keep those positive comments coming.

More generally, “Good job!” is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviors that can be seen and measured. Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise, or as a way of making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future.


Once you start to see praise for what it is – and what it does – these constant little evaluative eruptions from adults start to produce the same effect as fingernails being dragged down a blackboard. You begin to root for a child to give his teachers or parents a taste of their own treacle by turning around to them and saying (in the same saccharine tone of voice), “Good praising!”

Still, it’s not an easy habit to break. It can seem strange, at least at first, to stop praising; it can feel as though you’re being chilly or withholding something. But that, it soon becomes clear, suggests that we praise more because we need to say it than because children need to hear it. Whenever that’s true, it’s time to rethink what we’re doing.

What kids do need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. “Good job!” is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops, for doing things that please us.

This point, you’ll notice, is very different from a criticism that some people offer to the effect that we give kids too much approval, or give it too easily. They recommend that we become more miserly with our praise and demand that kids “earn” it. But the real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised for everything they do these days. It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.

So what’s the alternative? That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, “Good job!” isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, “Good job!” won’t help.

If we’re praising positive actions as a way of discouraging misbehavior, this is unlikely to be effective for long. Even when it works, we can’t really say the child is now “behaving himself”; it would be more accurate to say the praise is behaving him. The alternative is to work with the child, to figure out the reasons he’s acting that way. We may have to reconsider our own requests rather than just looking for a way to get kids to obey. (Instead of using “Good job!” to get a four-year-old to sit quietly through a long class meeting or family dinner, perhaps we should ask whether it’s reasonable to expect a child to do so.)

We also need to bring kids in on the process of making decisions. If a child is doing something that disturbs others, then sitting down with her later and asking, “What do you think we can do to solve this problem?” will likely be more effective than bribes or threats. It also helps a child learn how to solve problems and teaches that her ideas and feelings are important. Of course, this process takes time and talent, care and courage. Tossing off a “Good job!” when the child acts in the way we deem appropriate takes none of those things, which helps to explain why “doing to” strategies are a lot more popular than “working with” strategies.

And what can we say when kids just do something impressive? Consider three possible responses:

* Say nothing. Some people insist a helpful act must be “reinforced” because, secretly or unconsciously, they believe it was a fluke. If children are basically evil, then they have to be given an artificial reason for being nice (namely, to get a verbal reward). But if that cynicism is unfounded – and a lot of research suggests that it is – then praise may not be necessary.

* Say what you saw. A simple, evaluation-free statement (“You put your shoes on by yourself” or even just “You did it”) tells your child that you noticed. It also lets her take pride in what she did. In other cases, a more elaborate description may make sense. If your child draws a picture, you might provide feedback – not judgment – about what you noticed: “This mountain is huge!” “Boy, you sure used a lot of purple today!”

If a child does something caring or generous, you might gently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: “Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack.” This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing

* Talk less, ask more. Even better than descriptions are questions. Why tell him what part of his drawing impressed you when you can ask him what he likes best about it? Asking “What was the hardest part to draw?” or “How did you figure out how to make the feet the right size?” is likely to nourish his interest in drawing. Saying “Good job!”, as we’ve seen, may have exactly the opposite effect.

This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful. We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life — or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head

It’s not a matter of memorizing a new script, but of keeping in mind our long-term goals for our children and watching for the effects of what we say. The bad news is that the use of positive reinforcement really isn’t so positive. The good news is that you don’t have to evaluate in order to encourage.

Copyright © 2001 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact page at www.alfiekohn.org.