Why Are We Holding Back Our Brightest Kids? The Truth About Academic Acceleration and Your Gifted Child

Think of some of today’s young talented celebrities: Lebron James, Taylor Swift, Dakota Fanning. These are people whom the country has deemed to have some sort of genius—athletic, musical, or dramatic. These are people who were given permission to reach their potential as gifted people at their own pace. Imagine someone telling Lebron that he couldn’t play basketball for the NBA right out of high school because he was too young – or because we were concerned that he wouldn’t develop good social relationships with his older teammates. Imagine telling Dakota Fanning (the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award) that she wasn’t ready to be an actor because she might not fit in with her peers on the set. It sounds ridiculous, right? Yet teachers, parents, and administrators express these types of concerns about our brightest young people and hold them back based on these same presumptions each day. Most educators deeply mistrust the idea of accelerating gifted and talented children, believing (often incorrectly) that acceleration will negatively impact kids socially and academically. Today's post will explore some really important information that you should consider carefully if you are a parent or teacher of a gifted child. The majority of this post has been taken from a paper I wrote in grad school a while ago, but the information still rings so very true. 

What is acceleration?

Acceleration occurs when students are allowed to “progress through an educational program at rates faster or at ages younger than conventional” (Brown, 1993). Acceleration can apply to a wide range of strategies, beginning as young as kindergarten, and continuing through college. It can apply to 18 different strategies, including skipping entire grades, early entrance to kindergarten or first grade, subject acceleration, in which students are moved to higher grade levels only for particular subject matter, “telescoping” curriculum—that is accomplishing 3 years worth of curriculum in 2, participating in fast-paced extracurricular classes, or entering into college early (Robinson, Shore, & Enersen, 2007).  Acceleration can also take the form of continuous progress, self-paced instruction, curriculum compacting, mentoring, correspondence courses, early graduation, concurrent/dual enrollment, advanced placement, credit by examination, acceleration in college, early entrance into middle school, high school, or college (Colangelo, Assouline, & Gross, 2004). 

Why accelerate?

The need for acceleration of gifted students becomes evident when we consider several factors that we know about gifted learners. First, these students tend to learn more quickly than their peers. They can absorb and process information efficiently. Second, Gifted students are able to comprehend information in greater depth than other students. Third, talented students come to class with readiness that is different from that of average ability students. It has been noted that they come to class already knowing between 50 and 85 percent of the prescribed material (Den-Mo, 2007).

There is not much documentation on the history of acceleration. According to Brown, acceleration is a recent educational option—stating that, “the idea that children should remain with their chronological peers was not widely held before the mid-nineteenth century. It was expected that student performance would mandate where students were placed and when they graduated” (Brown, 1993, p. 3). It was not until later when school attendance increased because education for all became a mandate, and psychological theories about child development led to the creation of a more formalized age-grade structure (Brown, 1993). 

What are the effects?

The good

Much research has been conducted on the effects of acceleration in any of its forms, with benefits shown in most cases.  In A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, the authors conducted a meta-analysis of studies conducted on acceleration and found that bright students almost always benefit from accelerated programs of study (Colangelo, Assouline, & Gross, 2004, p. 29). On achievement tests, “accelerated students perform almost as well as their older classmates, even those with similar IQs—meaning that an accelerated 7-year-old with an IQ of 133 typically scores nearly as well on the same test as a 133 IQ 8-year-old who has had an extra year of school” (Cloud, Badowski, Rubiner, & Scully, 2004, p. 57). These same accelerated children far outscore their age-mates, who are equally gifted, but remained in their grade-level (Cloud, Badowski, Rubiner, & Scully, 2004). The meta-analytic studies conducted by the University of Iowa also showed that other provisions for gifted students were less effective than acceleration, with the average effect size being .41 for special programs of enrichment for gifted and talented students. The study also concludes that accelerated students are more likely to aspire to advanced degrees (Colangelo, Assouline, & Gross, 2004). 

The most frequent refrain that teachers, parents, and administrators voice about acceleration is a concern for the social-emotional well-being of the children. While acceleration, especially radical acceleration (think 11-year-olds attending college), and grade skipping can come with potential issues, the research has shown that in general the benefits outweigh the negative effects—especially when plans are made carefully and several recommended factors are considered prior to moving the student. Researchers have found that there is almost no effect on the participation in school activities. Accelerated students participate as much in extracurricular and co-curricular activities as their non-accelerated peers (Colangelo, Assouline, & Gross, 2004). 

The (temporarily) not as good

There are several issues that may arise when a child is accelerated though they have usually been deemed small and short-lived in most cases. According to the University of Iowa study, the meta-analysis showed that students may experience a slight readjustment in their self-image because of the move to a more intellectually challenging atmosphere with academic peers. The authors note that this effect usually seems to be quite small and short-lived, but that it shouldn’t be ignored, and that the profound benefits of acceleration outweigh the social risks in most cases (Colangelo, Assouline, & Gross, 2004). Some researchers have found a little-fish-big-pond effect on the self-esteem on some kids, but again, the effect is usually small and temporary. It has been speculated that this effect may even be healthy for the egos of these super-talented kids (Cloud, Badowski, Rubiner, & Scully, 2004)! In a 2010 article, researchers note, “To be clear, there is no evidence that acceleration has a negative impact on a student’s social-emotional development” (Colangelo N. , et al., 2010). This is somewhat of a contradiction to what I had previously stated, however, it may be safe to say that there is little evidence that a child’s social-emotional development will be harmed in the process of acceleration, as long as their case is carefully considered prior to making changes in their educational plan. 

How do I know if the gifted child in my life is a good candidate for acceleration?

When it comes to deciding which students are good candidates for acceleration, several factors should be considered. Feldhusen, Proctor, and Black suggest that there should be a “comprehensive psychological evaluation of the child’s intellectual functioning, academic skill levels, and social-emotional adjustment by a psychologist” (2002). Following that, they make several recommendations about the child. They should have:
  • Intellectually, an IQ of 125 or higher or have a level of mental development above the mean for the grade he or she desires to enter. 
  • Academically, the child should demonstrate skill levels above the mean for the grade desired. If the child is high in several skill levels but low in only one, they child may be advanced to the appropriate grade level as long as private tutoring is provided in the area of weakness. Conversely, some children’s academic skill levels vary considerably. If they are far advanced in math, for example, but at- or below-level in language arts, subject area acceleration may be the most appropriate option. 
  • Socially and emotionally, the child should be free of any serious adjustment problems. Additionally, the child should demonstrate a high degree of persistence and motivation for learning. However, in specific cases, there may be serious adjustment problems caused by inappropriately low grade placement. In such cases, the problem may be alleviated by grade advancement. 
  • Physically, the child should be in good health. The child’s size should only be considered to the extent that competitive sports may be viewed as important in later years. The psychologist should determine that the child does not feel unduly pressured by the parents to advance. 
  • The parents must be in favor of grade advancement, but the child should express a desire to more ahead as well. 
  • The receiving teachers must have positive attitudes toward acceleration and be willing to help the child adjust to the new situation. 
  • Transitions should generally be made at naturally occurring points throughout the school year. 
  • All cases should be arranged on a trial basis, and the child should not be made to feel he or she is a failure if it does not go well. 
All bulleted information: (Feldhusen, Proctor, & Black, 2002, pp. 170-171) 

The Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS), created by Great Potential Press, Inc. is on of the best tools to help determine whether a child is a good candidate for subject-area and/or whole-grade acceleration. This tool takes what could be a subjective decision, left up to anecdotal data and presuppositions about the child, and changes it into an objective decision by quantifying information such as the child's birth order, extracurricular involvement, his or her feelings about acceleration, his age, size, and many other factors. The IAS combines that information with scores from grade-level and above-grade-level nationally normed tests. 

It appears that the case for acceleration is very clear, supported by years of documentation of the positive effects. And yet, for the most part, general education practitioners often resist making this option available for their bright students, even though the research suggests that doing so is effective (Viadero, 2004). If we can’t provide children with neatly tailored educational packages designed only for them, then at the very least we should enable them to move ahead at a pace and to a level that meets their needs! Research finds little data to support the notion that people are affected negatively in the end. In fact, longitudinal research has shown that accelerated students attain advanced degrees, produce scholarly works, and contribute professionally at rates well above societal baselines (Feldhusen, Proctor, & Black, 2002). It is important to get the word out to educators and parents that acceleration is an option, and it is an option well worth considering. 

Success Stories

In my time teaching gifted children, I have been a part of acceleration teams in two different schools. We always used the Iowa Acceleration Scale, met with parents multiple times, had very open dialogue with the children in consideration for this academic intervention, and had honest conversations with teachers who would be receiving the accelerated children. I'm proud to say that (to my most up-to-date knowledge) every. single. case has been a success. I experienced the process both as a teacher sending the child up to a new teacher (or teachers) in the grade level above me, as well as a teacher on the receiving end of the acceleration, accepting the accelerated child into my class. Each time, I watched the acceleration play out just as the research has suggested it would. There was usually a period of adjustment in the beginning (going from the big fish/little pond scenario to the little(er) fish in a big(ger) pond),  sometimes the child was reluctant at first to have to work at learning, or disappointed to get scores on assignments or tests that were slightly lower than what they were used to getting. However, it wasn't long before the successes started happening. In each case, not only did the child quickly assimilate to the next grade level up, but they also rose to the top of that class as well. 

Do you have a success story? I would love to hear it! Leave me a comment below and tell me about your experience. 

You may be interested in reading more about people who have experienced the acceleration process. Here are some websites at which you can find more information: 
Whole grade acceleration success stories

Read more about acceleration, including the follow-up publication to A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students, titled A Nation Empowered How Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America's Brightest Students.  This website has all the latest information, including the poster below, which is an awesome summary of their research. 

Thanks for reading!


Brown, R. S. (1993). School acceleration: What does the research say? Scope , 2-9.
Cloud, J., Badowski, C., Rubiner, B., & Scully, S. (2004, September 27). Saving the smart kids. Time , pp. 56-61.
Colangelo, N., & Assouline, S. (2005). Accelerating gifted children. Principal , 62-62.
Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. U. (2004). A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students. Iowa City: The University of Iowa.
Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., Marron, M., Castellano, J. A., Clinkenbeard, P. R., Rogers, K., et al. (2010). Guidelines for developing an academic acceleration policy. Journal of Advanced Academics , 180-203.
Den-Mo, T. (2007). Differentiating curriculum for gifted students by providing accelerated options. Gifted Education International , 88-97.
Feldhusen, J. F., Proctor, T. B., & Black, K. N. (2002). Guidelines for grade advancement of precocious children. Roeper Review , 169-171.
Gross, M. U. (2006). Exceptionally gifted children: Long-term outcomes of academic acceleration and non-acceleration. Journal for the Education of the Gifted , 404-429.
Guenther, A. (1998). What parents and teachers should know about academic acceleration. National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented . Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement.
Robinson, A., Shore, B. M., & Enersen, D. L. (2007). Best Practices in Gifted Education. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press, Inc. .
Vanderkam, L., & Whitmire, R. (2009, August 12). What ever happened to grade skipping? Education Week , pp. 30-36.
Viadero, D. (2004, September 24). Report urges acceleration for gifted students. Education Week , pp. 5-5.



Helping Your Gifted Student Survive (and Thrive) During the Season of High-Stakes Testing: Fourteen Tips for Before, During, and After the Test

Feeling the Pressure

Children of all ages are starting to feel the pressure that surrounds this season of high-stakes testing.

Gifted children, in particular, may feel a great deal of pressure to achieve at the highest levels on these tests. Sometimes the pressure is self-imposed, stemming from an internal desire to live up to their "gifts." Other times, it comes from a longing to please their teachers and parents.

And, unfortunately, some school cultures, even while trying to put a positive spin on the mandatory testing, have caused our children to worry that they will somehow underperform or let their peers down if they make mistakes on the tests. I've recently even heard of schools creating test-based competitions--children with the highest scores are rewarded with parties and prizes!

While no doubt, these efforts to increase test engagement are coming from a positive place of trying to motivate the students body as a whole to try to perform well on the tests, they end up increasing the pressure exponentially for gifted students, who are looked to as the people who are "supposed" to get the best scores. After all, they're so smart, right?  And, even if you're lucky enough to be teaching in a place that doesn't place much importance on the tests, even if you give your best efforts to minimize testing pressure, your gifted students will STILL sense the weight of the tests, because of the nature of their giftedness and heightened sensitivity to external stimuli.

Teachers and parents can try to say that the test scores don't matter, but if there is even a hint of inauthenticity to those statements, you can bet your gifted child or student is going to pick up on it. 

I know that my gifted students, particularly my fourth and fifth graders, consistently expressed their worry about upcoming state tests, despite the daily reminders that these high-stakes tests were largely worthless, only measuring accurately the average income levels of students' parents, not a big deal. They had gotten the notion in their heads that if they were to underperform on the exams, they wouldn't be gifted anymore, and then they wouldn't be able to come to my classes any longer.

Can you imagine if that were true? Sorry, kids. You can't come to the place where your academic (and social-emotional) needs are truly being met. It's not illogical thinking, though, is it? After all, didn't a test get them into "the program"? So, we had many, many talks about how the results of the tests would be used, and how none of those uses included being used to disqualify them from being labeled as gifted.*

Telling the children these facts helped to ease some of their fears a little, but there are some important things we need to know about our gifted children as they face any testing scenario.  I also have some suggestions for ways to help your anxiety-ridden child cope with their worries. 

Tried and True Tips for Facing Testing Fears and Moving Forward

There are some important and helpful things you can do to help ease your gifted child's fears. Many of these are things I did in my gifted classroom with my students, so I've learned from experience that they really do help!

Before the Test

1. First, no matter whether it is a high-stakes testing scenario or a pop quiz in your math class, it is important to acknowledge that the anxiety that your gifted student is experiencing is real. When a person experiences this type of anxiety, it can cause the body's fight or flight response to be triggered, which in essence renders the brain's critical thinking areas far less effective than normal. It's important that we recognize these real fears and real physiological responses instead of trying to minimize them or brush them off. 

2.  Help your gifted student become familiar with the test. It's easy to assume that your students already know the answers to many of these questions, but remember, when they're stressed, their critical thinking skills aren't functioning like they normally do! Allow your children to ask every. single. question. they have, and please don't make them feel silly for asking (see number one above). Here are some examples of things you may want to discuss about the test itself.

  • What is the format of the test? What types of questions will they encounter?
  • How long will the test take? How many questions will there be?
  • Is it timed or do they have as long as they need to finish?
  • Can they skip questions and come back? 
  • If the test is on a computer, what will happen if the computer has a problem? 
  • If the test is a pencil/paper test, what will happen if they forget a pencil? What if the pencil breaks? 
3. See if you can help the child identify their own internal dialogue--what are they fearful of exactly? What is that pesky little voice inside saying to them? Once you get to the bottom of what they're telling themselves, work toward changing the dialogue to something more positive.** Below are some examples of common things I heard my gifted students say:
  • "If I don't pass the test, I might get kicked out of the gifted program at school." 
  • "What if Johnny Gifted-Peer gets a higher score than me?" Or worse, "What if Suzy Not-Gifted-Peer gets a better score than me?" 
  • "I'm afraid that my mom (teacher, dad, etc.) will be disappointed in me if I mess up."
  • "I'm not good at taking tests."

4. If the child is being tested on something he or she finds challenging, it's a great time to teach proper study skills like making flash cards, recopying notes, devising mnemonic devices, etc.  If they feel really well prepared for the tests, the anxiety can be lessened. 

5. Help your student practice asking for help if they need it. I know that this can be particularly difficult (I know this from my own experience! I didn't (and still don't) like asking for help). I found it helpful to develop a quiet signal that a student and I could use if they needed help. Sometimes it was as simple as placing a sticky note in a particular area on their desk or computer, maybe it was a baseball-coach-style ear tug or nose wiggle. Whatever it was, if the student was willing to ask for help after we minimized the risk of drawing attention to themselves for needing help, I was a happy camper. 

6. Prepare physically for the test. This includes getting proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise in the days leading up to the test. 

During the Test

1. Have your student or child use breathing strategies to help ease the body's physical response.
2. Allow (and encourage) them to take breaks as needed. 
3. Make them hydrate! There is scientific evidence that water acts like a mental lubricant--increasing brain efficiency and function. 
4. Allow your gifted student to keep a small stress ball or other small comfort object nearby or in a pocket.
5. Help your child decide on a short phrase, an affirmation of sorts, to visualize or whisper as needed.  

After the Test

1. Debrief, but focus on the positive. What do they feel went well? (Teachers, be careful. Unfortunately, you will need to be sure you stick to generalities here. If you've ever proctored a high-stakes test, you know that the testing protocols are usually QUITE strict about not allowing any discussion of the tests' content whatsoever.) 
2. Rest. Test-taking is difficult for everyone, but it can really take a physical toll on children with high levels of anxiety. Allow time for your students to rest and relax. They need it (and you probably do, to!)
3. Move on. It's over now. There's nothing left to do. Remind your gifted child that they've done their absolute best and no matter what, your opinion of them won't change. Remind them that you're proud of them for facing their fears and getting through a tough time in their life!

Phew! You made it to the bottom of the post! And good thing you did, because I have a FREEBIE just for you! Click on the image on the right to sign up for access a handout that contains the tips above written in student-friendly language. It's ready for you to print and use, then send home for parents to read with their kids! *Just to be clear, by clicking to get the freebie (and instant access to the growing collection of free resources in my library of subscriber exclusives), you're also agreeing to be added to my email list, where I'll send occasional messages with fresh ideas, tips, and other resources straight to your inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time.*

Thank you so VERY much for reading. I do appreciate it! If you like what you're reading, don't miss a post! Click the subscribe button on the right to get emails with my blog posts delivered right to your inbox!
*Thankfully, in Ohio the law protects children from the removal of the gifted label. The law is written so that once they are identified as gifted, they will always carry the gifted label.*

**It's important to recognize that while you can help a child practice changing the dialogue, they may really benefit from a visit to the school counselor or therapist who is better equipped to handle these things. Don't be afraid to refer the child for more help!

Tips for taming test anxiety (because even gifted kids get anxious), by Gail Post, Ph.D.
Keeping a Healthy Perspective on Stress and Test Anxiety, by Vidisha Patel
Gifted Students...Scared of Tests? Part 2, by Christopher Taibbi, M.A.T.
Why Your Brain Needs Water, by Joshua Gowin Ph.D



How I Use Bloom's Taxonomy To Reach All the Learners in My Classroom

If you're a teacher, there is a 99.234% chance that you've heard about that guy named Benjamin Bloom, creator of the infamous Bloom's Taxonomy. But have you actually used the taxonomy in your classroom? Like, really, thoughtfully used it? It's a great framework for educators to implement while planning for instruction and creating assessments that are aligned to the standards. First, though, it's important to have more than a vague idea not only of what each of the six levels of the taxonomy are, but what it means to create and implement lessons and activities that are both aligned with the consistently reach the highest levels of the taxonomy. Gifted learners NEED this consistency, and they really need to spend the majority of their learning time in the highest levels of the taxonomy. Due to their very nature as high-ability learners, it's likely that ( if they don't already know it) gifted children will move very quickly through the lowest levels of the hierarchy. In order to meet their needs, they need to be interacting with content and skills in deeper, more meaningful ways. Let's explore the taxonomy a little, and then consider some ways to strengthen the implementation of the taxonomy in your own lesson and assessment design.
hierarchy of learning,  and reaching towards allowing students to

Bloom's 101

First a little crash/refresher course, a Bloom's 101-ish type review of the important aspects of where the taxonomy originated, and how it has evolved.

Benjamin Bloom and some colleagues first published their framework for learning in 1956. Their motivation was really creating a way to categorize educational goals. They called it "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives", but eventually it became more widely known as Bloom's Taxonomy. (Am I the only one who feels bad for the colleagues of his who don't get much credit for this creation? Sorry, I digress.) It was created with six categories: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The Comprehension level and every level above that Bloom considered to be skills and abilities; they were things that could only be achieved after the knowledge was already in place.

Here is a simple graphic I found that shows the original taxonomy:

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching has a great article outlining the six levels of the taxonomy. Here is an excerpt of their definitions of the levels, based on their interpretation of the original publication:

"Here are the authors’ brief explanations of these main categories in from the appendix of Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (Handbook One, pp. 201-207):

  • Knowledge “involves the recall of specifics and universals, the recall of methods and processes, or the recall of a pattern, structure, or setting.”
  • Comprehension “refers to a type of understanding or apprehension such that the individual knows what is being communicated and can make use of the material or idea being communicated without necessarily relating it to other material or seeing its fullest implications.”
  • Application refers to the “use of abstractions in particular and concrete situations.”
  • Analysis represents the “breakdown of a communication into its constituent elements or parts such that the relative hierarchy of ideas is made clear and/or the relations between ideas expressed are made explicit.”
  • Synthesis involves the “putting together of elements and parts so as to form a whole.”
  • Evaluation engenders “judgments about the value of material and methods for given purposes.”

The 1984 edition of Handbook One is available in the CFT Library in Calhoun 116. See itsACORN record for call number and availability."
In 2001, a former student of Bloom's decided to revise the taxonomy to include verbs as descriptors instead of nouns for each of the levels, because verbs imply action, and are more fitting to the fact that learning is an active process.

The revised taxonomy is summarized beautifully in this table from Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching. It's easy to see how the cognitive process moves from lower order thinking skills like remembering and understanding up into the highest levels of thinking: evaluating and creating.

So, now what?

Now that you remember and perhaps understand the taxonomy, it's time to learn how to apply the learning. Start by analyzing what you're doing in your classroom already-- evaluate your current curricular materials, including your learning objectives and assessments. Are they helping you to reach the highest levels of the taxonomy? There is a good chance that the materials you're using are not going much beyond the first three levels of the hierarchy. So, now it's time to create materials and build lessons and objectives that help your students learn and achieve at the highest levels. 

Getting into the habit

Crafting Questions, Lessons, and Assessments That Employ Higher Order Thinking 

One of the first things I found helpful when I set a goal for myself to be more mindful of reaching for those higher order thinking skills with more intention was to first teach the taxonomy to my students. Yep. I said it. Teach it. To them

You know how you have accountability partners when you start a new workout plan, or you have certain people in your life that you ask to help keep you on track when you're trying to reach new goals you've set for yourself? Well, aside from a teacher friend in your building to whom you can talk each day about how you think you did, or an administrator who can tell you how they think you're doing, there is an easy, effective solution to help get you started and keep you going. And the solution happens to be sitting right in front of you. Times 25. I'm serious. You can teach Bloom's Taxonomy to your students, and they will help you stick with it. 

When I taught the taxonomy to my students, I used an analogy from one of my favorite teacher authors, Jen Jones from Hello Literacy.  She has a passion for literacy instruction, but she also has a background in gifted education, which is how I stumbled upon her years ago. She created a set of posters that equate Bloom's taxonomy to cell phone signal strength. So smart, right? It is probably difficult to find a child, even in the youngest classrooms, who isn't at least aware of those little bars on the mobile phone, right? Take a look at what the posters look like in my classroom: 

Here is a closer look, right from Jen Jones' blog, Hello Literacy: 

SO great, right? (You can link to her blog by clicking on the picture directly above, and you can buy her posters for yourself here.) The nice thing for me about the posters, aside from how they made a really dynamic display on my classroom wall, is that they were a constant reminder for me and my students about our goal to strive for the highest levels of thinking each and every day. It's a little tricky to see in the picture, but there are verbs on each of the poster that also help us to do things like creating questions easily during a discussion of ANY topic, and design activities while lesson planning, keeping the levels in mind all the while. And the best part about using this in your classroom and getting the students involved? They will help you. With practice, they will use the display when developing their own questions, they will recognize when you are doing activities in the upper levels, and they might even call you out if they see you spending too much time on lower order thinking. It truly is amazing (and helpful) to involve your students on this journey. 

Another thing that helped me design better lessons, activities, questions, and assessments was by having a (bigger) list of those verbs, along with a set of question stems and possible activities right in my plan book. One important thing to keep in mind as you're planning--it's really important when you're designing (or finding) curriculum and assessments for your students that you match the verbs in the standards to the verbs in your objectives and assessments. You can locate the verb on the Bloom's chart, and then make sure that at a very minimum, your students are able to complete tasks that are aligned in their depth and complexity with the expectations of your standards.

If you search Bloom's question stems, you'll come up with TONS of search results, but here are a couple of quick links: 

Bloom's Taxonomy --These are aligned to the older version of Bloom's, but still very valuable, as the document contains questions, activities, and assessment ideas. 

What kinds of activities are aligned with Bloom's? 

The activities for the lowest levels of the hierarchy are fairly straightforward and likely to happen in the duration of a regular day. You know these ones--making lists, reading fact charts, doing worksheets, writing summaries, etc. So, in order to help get your wheels turning a little more here are some examples of activities I've done in my classroom that employed higher order thinking skills and, side note--these activities are FUN! And when children have fun in the classroom, they learn better! (You can read more about that here.)

Here, my fifth-grade students are playing with peer-invented board games.  The games included the creation of complex math problems that aligned to whatever math topic we were studying at the time. And you better believe that they were not allowed to create problems that were lower than the application level of Bloom's!

Below, students are also playing another student-created board game. They LOVED creating the games, and they also really loved playing the games on game day. I loved the activities because they were working on the highest levels of the taxonomy, meeting learning standards, getting extra practice with math skills, and of course, having FUN!

The picture below is of an art project that a dear colleague and fellow creative thinker, Mrs. Scalli and I worked on implementing. We found the idea on NCTM's Illuminations website and adapted it for our classrooms. Students had a list of "must include" geometrical ideas that they put into their paintings. We integrated a little art history lesson about an artist named Wassily Kandinsky, whose paintings were often created as interpretations of feelings he had while listening to music. Students also had to write an artist's statement to describe to us how their geometry elements and colors helped create the mood of their painting, using mathematically accurate and relevant vocabulary. Again, students were engaged in high-level thinking, with a fun and creative activity and the results were awesome, as you can see.

Finally,  like I've mentioned in previous posts, part of my mission is to help others use strategies in their classroom that are relevant and meaningful in meeting the needs of gifted learners, I will share with you here a book unit that I just created, with activities for EACH of the level in Bloom's Taxonomy.

Using picture books with Bloom's activities is a really great way to reach your gifted learners, particularly in the lower to mid-elementary age, because there are many picture books that are filled with rich vocabulary and complex concepts and ideas that your gifted children will really enjoy working with.

The added bonus is that some of the best picture books for young children are actually written at higher readability levels so you can give your littlest students books that are aligned with their instructional reading level. The other thing I love about using notable picture books with gifted children is that although the books are sometimes written at a fourth- or fifth-grade reading level, the content in the book is generally more appropriate than some of the other options. If you have been working with a gifted student (or you have one living with you at home), you are likely very familiar with the difficulty of finding content-appropriate books for your advanced readers (it can be SO hard sometimes, right?).
I created the unit based on an Irish Folktale, "Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato," by Tomie DePaola, which is a story about a lazy man who gets tricked by a leprechaun into taking a magic potato seed instead of his pot of gold. It has lower level activities in it, like making a timeline of the story's events and answering comprehension questions, but it also has higher level activities like using descriptive language to create a soundscape for a favorite scene in the book. Children can also write a book review, but it has to be in the style (and length) of a tweet. Holding a debate, creating a board game, or developing an advertisement for the leprechaun's magic seed are also tasks that encourage lots of creative and critical thinking. You can click on the picture below if you want to know more. This is the first in a series I will be creating, so if you find yourself liking this product, make sure you follow my store, Soaring with Snyder, on Teacherspayteachers.com.

If you're into offering students choices and powering up their learning by using Bloom's Taxonomy in your classroom, here are just a few of the time-saving resources that are ready to print and go to work for you! Click on the pictures below to access these documents and others. 



Take Time to Celebrate (and Still Meet Your State Standards)!

It's no secret that I love any excuse for a celebration! Especially at this time of year, when teachers are in the throes of test prep, taking the time to celebrate something special can be a welcome (and needed) respite.

Holidays can be a really great topic for exploration with gifted students, and there really are so many things you can do to celebrate a holiday, while still working on meeting necessary standards.

Why Holidays?

If there's one thing you've probably noticed about gifted children, it's their innate curiosity. They are full of wonder and questions! They want to know how things work, why we do certain things. Cause and effect. They start their questions with phrases like, "I wonder...," and, "Why...," and, "But how...," right? One topic my students always enjoyed exploring was the origin of holidays and the roots of the customs that have become part of a typical holiday celebration. It's fun to stop and consider things like, why do we have Christmas trees, or why do we set off fireworks on the Independence Day?

Especially as the testing season is closing in upon us, it's easy to convince ourselves that we don't have time to spend "exploring" silly things like holidays, right? It's easy to get into the mindset that teaching to the standards or preparing for tests and having fun are mutually exclusive ideas. Well, I have good news for you! You can celebrate the holidays and still help your students prepare for the tests. You can help satiate their desire for exploration and learning while still meeting state standards. You can support the gifted child's need for choice and autonomy while developing critical thinking and close reading skills. One way to do that is to find (or create) high-interest reading material, and then create (or find) questions or activities that encourage high-level critical and creative thinking, analysis, and evaluative thinking skills.

I know that creating your own materials can be really difficult and time-consuming, which is why I've made it part of my mission not only to help educate people about the nature and needs of gifted children but also to spend time creating materials that teachers can use in their classrooms to help meet the special needs of this population of kids, while still meeting the standards. I'm not on this journey to become rich and famous--I truly want to help people learn about and serve gifted children.

An Illustration of How We Celebrate One Holiday in My Classroom 

To help you understand how I made holiday celebrations in my classroom, I'll tell you about how we celebrated St. Patrick's Day.

Before starting, I spent time researching St. Patrick's Day and the traditional customs that we have in the United States--things like wearing green clothes, decorating with shamrocks, drinking green milkshakes, and going to big parades. As it turns out, many of the things we think we're doing because we're emulating or celebrating Ireland and Irish culture are actually rooted in America. Did you know that St. Patrick wasn't Irish!? He wasn't even born in Ireland! And he didn't wear green, he wore BLUE! I also learned that while we celebrate this day in March with raucous parades and green drinks, the holiday in Ireland was really a pretty somber occasion spent in reflection of the life of a non-Irish missionary on the day of his death. I don't know about you, but I find things like this to be fascinating, and I'll bet your students will, too.

After researching the information about St. Patty's Day, I wrote three reading passages. They're all about the same topics and facts, but they're written on the 4th, 6th, and 8th-grade reading levels, so that the children in my class could access them on (at least close to) their independent reading level.

I also created a pre- and post-reading comprehension activity in which children read statements prior to reading the text, and make predictions about which statements they think will be true or false. Students read the text and then come back to the activity sheet to determine whether they still think the statements are true or false. They have to change the statements so that they are all true and cite the location of text evidence. I wrote these activity sheets on three different levels as well.

Finally (and this is my favorite part), I created a set of eight task cards based on the three highest levels of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy (analyze, evaluate, and create). The task cards include questions for reflection, writing, creating, and/or discussion. For example: Have you ever thought about a how holiday celebration gets invented? How do you think people get a new idea for a holiday? How to they decide the ways they celebrate the day? Another card suggests the students design a flow chart showing how St. Patrick's day has changed over time (past, present, and future predictions). Recently, I revised the file to also include activity sheets/recording pages for each of the eight tasks.

The beauty of engaging in activities like this is that teachers have tons of flexibility with how they employ them in their classrooms. There are eight different cards, so children could have a choice about doing one, two, or more. They could work independently, in pairs, in small groups, or as an entire class. Some of the cards could even be a jumping-off point for research. One of the cards asks students to research and reflect on how and why holidays aside from St. Patrick's day have changed over time. They can answer from personal reflection and observation, but they could also research how holidays have evolved over long periods of time. This would require more reading and text analysis, and if they use internet sources for their research, of course, you could throw in a mini-lesson about source credibility. All of these things are reinforcing standards in reading, writing, and social studies, engaging students in something they're interested in learning about, activating analytical and creative thinking skills, and allowing them choices about how they interact with the materials.

If you're interested in a closer look, you can link to the activity in my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking the St. Patrick's Day picture, you can take a peek at my entire store right here or check out how we celebrated some other holidays by clicking the pictures below.

Let me know if you have questions! Do you think you can see something like this fitting into your lesson plans?

Thanks for reading!


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