Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Guest Post: Gifted Boys

This time I have asked one of my students in my summer online class on Special Populations in Gifted Education to contribute her perspective on gifted boys. Her name is Jennifer McElroy, and she stated in introducing herself to the class, "My goal is to be able to change my view in relation to stereotypes of special populations and to view these students as individuals. Each student deserves equitable treatment and by taking this class I hope to gain the skills to help the student reveal themselves as individuals to the school and to their community."

As one of her assignments, she chose to study issues surrounding the education of gifted boys and here is what she wrote on the topic:

The reason that I chose to study gifted boys is based upon personal interest. My son’s pediatrician and educators have recommended he be tested by the Spark’s program at the University of Alabama, Birmingham for both Asberger’s and giftedness. Therefore, to be supportive of my son and to educate myself on a diagnosis which may be in his future, I chose to study the gifted male. I must say that I was surprised at what I learned.

As a female, I have always felt that being smart and pretty portrayed to everyone that I was a woman of my own means who understood who I was and needed no one else to validate me. Based upon the video and the articles assigned to us, gifted males have an inward desire to maintain a positive, “cool” social image at whatever cost. Unfortunately, the cost is usually academics and the pursuit of the gifted male to be accepted socially into society is causing gifted males to underachieve academically.

I believe that the videos and articles given to us for research present separate issues. In Dr. Warren Farrell’s video clip “The Boy Crisis” (8:59 minutes) we can see the impact of the Woman’s movement upon male education and how, in order for gifted males to avoid an academic “feminine identity”, they began to do poorly in school in an effort to assert their male identify.

In the article “Managing His Image: The Challenge Facing the Gifted Male” by Thomas P. Hebert, Hebert discusses how male efforts to maintain their masculine identity result in their sacrificing of their own gifted potential which consequently leads to underachievement. Educators must now look at ways they can reverse this underachievement while helping the gifted male to maintain his identity as both male and as gifted.

The article “Mentors for Gifted Underachieving Males: Developing Potential and Realizing Promise” by Thomas P. Hebert and F. Richard Olenchak (see references at the bottom of the post) offers a solution to reversal of the underachieving male through a mentor/ protégé relationship.

The video presentation entitled “The Boy Crisis”, which is a video clip of a seminar hosted by Dr. Warren Farrell, briefly discusses the woman’s movement in the late 1960’s and the effects it had on the education of males. Dr. Farrell has been studying gender issues since the 1960’s. His first book, The Liberated Man, was published from a woman’s and feminists’ perspective. According to his biography located on his website, he began to notice the fact that males were being misrepresented and he began to write about the reasons behind the decline of the male in academia. In the video, Dr. Farrell begins by giving a brief sociological background surrounding the sociological impact of the women’s movement on males. He states that in the 1960’s, women were considered minorities in college and were receiving minority scholarships. By 1978, males had actually become a minority in college, but the scholarships were still going to females. Although he does not go into further detail, it is easy to deduct from this information that male attendance in college began to decline due to the lack of scholarships available. Therefore, gifted males, whose family could not afford college tuition, were forced to give up a college future due to a lack of funding. At this point, fewer males were going to school, therefore fathers were unable to afford to send their sons to school, and the cycle began… and the boy crises continues.

Dr. Farrell also states that from 1980-2001, there was an increase of 71% of boys who said that they did not like school. Dr. Farrell says that this is due to some schools getting rid of recess time. He specifically mentions schools disallowing dodge ball to be played if recess is allowed at school. Even though he did not come out and directly say it, I feel like he believes that schools are feminizing their programs and the product is feminized males. I have always heard a lot of commentary about the removal of dodge ball from schools and the fear some parents believe that these type of actions taken by schools are causing males to become “sissies”. In “Should Dodge Ball be Allowed in Schools?” by Chris D’Angelo, he states as follows:

The sad thing is, our overprotective society has started banning the sport in schools across the country. They feel it's too dangerous, and that it encourages bullies to pick on weaker students. I however, see the game differently. In Dodgeball, anyone can be the hero on any day, in any game. Your position does not dictate your playtime or importance.

In the article “Managing His Image: The Challenge Facing the Gifted Male” Hebert discusses what I believe to be the product of feminization of schools: gifted male identity crises which leads to underachievement. The article discusses masculine mystique which is a value system that is “…compromised of a set of beliefs that defines what our society regards as masculine. A feature of this belief is that vulnerability, weakness, and academic success in school are signs of feminism to be avoided at all costs.” (n.d.). We can ascertain from the information that gifted males are sacrificing their gifted abilities so that they will be able to maintain their masculine image. The article also reads that if academic success is not accepted in the male’s social culture, then the gifted male will sacrifice his academics to be accepted by his peers. The product of this sacrifice is underachievement.

So how do we reverse underachievement? Hebert suggests that educators can form support groups where gifted males meet with similar peers to discuss how to balance giftedness and the ability to maintain both their male and social identity. Hubert also recommends that gifted males read biographies of other gifted men who have faced similar situations and research how these men were able to reverse the process of underachievement.

A more in depth study of reversal of underachievement is discussed in the article “Mentors for Gifted Underachieving Males: Developing Potential and Realizing Promise” by Thomas P. Hebert and F. Richard Olenchak (See reference below). The article focused on the results of a study which was conducted in order to examine the lives of three gifted young men and to understand how a significant adult engaged each subject in a relationship that ultimately reversed underachievement via a mentor/ protégé relationship.

The criteria for the study subjects were: 1. subjects were male, 2. recognized and referred during his public schools years for gifted characteristics, and 3. currently underachieving academically as reflected by a preponderance of grades of C or lower. The core results of the study were the influence of a significant adult on a young person. Three subcategories were 1. reinforced the importance of the mentor’s open minded and non judgmental characteristics, 2. mentor’s consistent and personalized social/emotional support and advocacy, and 3. mentors strength and interest-based strategies for intervention to reverse underachievement.

The statement I most connected with in the article was actually an implication, not a direct result of the study. One of the things I have learned in this class is that parental support of gifted children is essential to successful attainment of identity and full academic potential. The authors state that, “The case reinforces the notion that parents are often so overwhelmed with their own circumstances that they are unable to provide such opportunities.” This statement reinforces what I feel that I have learned throughout this class. Parents, rather over worked or simply not interested in the furtherment of education, are not able to provide their gifted children with experiences that a mentor could provide. Therefore, in communities where male leadership is scarce, mentorship is a necessary and effective tool to the prevention of underachievement in males.

Now that we have seen how gifted males struggle with identity can lead to underachievement, we need to look at how gender affects underachievement. In the article “Gender and Genius” by Barbara Kerr, Kerr discusses how prescribed gender roles limit the career choices of gifted boys and girls. Instead of focusing on the career choices, I am going to focus on two factors: 1. Factors that destroy giftedness in each gender, and 2. Periods at which each gender is at the highest potential of underachievment.

A danger for gifted boys is what Kerr refers to as “kindergarten red-shirting”. This practice refers to the act of the parents delaying their sons entry into kindergarten so that he can grow in mass and therefore be bigger than the others children in his class and better in sports. The danger in this practice is that parents are putting their sons in schools past their point of learning readiness and late arrival in school coupled with a parent’s focus on athletics over academics is almost certain to cause a gifted male to underachieve.

The most prevalent time for male underachievement is late primary through the high school years. The reason for this goes back to our early discussion of how gifted males struggle with their identity as both gifted and as a male. Males feel that they must sacrifice high academics for a masculine, athletic image. They fear that embracing academic giftedness would make them look weak, feminine or fear the possibility of being labeled a nerd.

The danger for gifted girls concerns the area of early reading development. Girls, having earlier reading readiness than boys, can be denied the ability to develop early reading abilities due to schools beginning reading instruction at the time when boys are ready. Most girls are ready to read a year earlier than boys so the schools miss the period at which girls are at the peak of readiness to begin to learn how to read.

Gifted girls' highest period of underachievement is during her college years and young adulthood. During this time, the gifted female becomes more concerned with the interests of her boyfriend or husband and she is willing to abandon her interest in order to support his. Therefore, the gifted female accepts her role as submissive, supporting female and sacrifices her own academic future.

In conclusion, the downfall of gifted boys is their struggle with their male identity. The articles have discussed many ways to help reverse underachievement in males. Since I am not yet a teacher, I am not aware of any support programs that my local school has to support gifted males. However, if I were a teacher, and were asked to provide some type of support group or program to assist gifted males, I would suggest the following ways. Since programs are adjusted to support age and maturity level, I will focus on the age I hope to teach one day, ages 15-18.


The best way to avoid underachievement is to prevent it. Therefore, a system of checks and balances might help gifted males from falling into the traps of underachievement.

1st step: Each student must write individual goals.

2nd step: Students are placed into groups based upon goals and common interest.

3rd step: A leader is chosen from the group. The leader monitors and follows up with each team member with the progress of their goals. If the student leader becomes concerned that someone in their group is not meeting their goals, they plan mediation between the student, the student leader, and the teacher.

If it is discovered in mediation that a student is starting to underachieve, the student would no longer be allowed to work with the group until all issues are resolved. However, it would be the responsibility of the teacher to help the gifted male in every way.

1st: Approach- Approach the student and see if they are going through a difficult time in their life that is keeping them from obtaining their goals.

2nd: Counsel- If the student is going through a personal situation, recommend counseling.

3rd: Differentiate- Allow a differentiation in the student’s program until their personal conflict is resolved. For instance, if the student feels that working with others would be beneficial, allow them to go back to their original group on a part time bases.

4th: Respect- Never give up on a student! No matter how long it takes, keep modifying their curriculum, keep up with counseling, keep providing services such as mentorship, etc… until the student is once again able to reach their full potential.


Hebert, T., & Olenchak, R. (2000). Mentors for gifted underachieving males: Developing potential and realizing promise. Gifted Child Quarterly, 44(3).

A New Era in my Gifted Blogging

I know I have been off the air for a long time. Today I am starting anew and I hope you will find the posts of interest.

I received in the mail this week, the latest edition of Gifted Child Today. It is probably the premier journal for practitioners (read "teachers") in gifted education. An annual subscription is $40 and it might just be the best $40 you spend in your professional life. It will also be of great benefit for teachers in all kinds of education, not just gifted education.

The previous edition has several good articles that will benefit you, like "Teaching Science to Gifted Children in the Primary Grades."

And another that you should read straight away by Kevin Besnoy, is called "Using Public Relations Strategies to Advocate for Gifted Programming at your School."

The new edition has an excellent article by Hebert and Pagnani, called, "Engaging Gifted Boys in New Literacies." This article talks about the issues faced by parents and teachers in engaging boys in reading and ends with 4 pages of excellent resources an boy-friendly books. It is not yet available online, but check back at the Gifted Child Today website regularly, because they invariably publish some of the articles online. This one is sure to be a winner and will almost certainly be published online.

Do yourself a favor - Get Gifted Child Today (not to be confused with Gifted Child Quarterly, which is a research journal - not the same at all). It is always chockful of practical, research based strategies to improve your teaching and engage your students, whether they are identified gifted or not. I know I sound like an advertisement for Prufrock Press who publishes the Journal, but if a product is helpful, I want you to know about it.

Enjoy the last of the summer. School starts soon :)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Irony of Support for Gifted Kids

Today I am highlighting a newspaper article that deals with the financial support for gifted programs. While the government continues to claim their support for the emphasis on education of advanced students, especially in math and science, they continue to cut funding for such programs.

The article entitled Report Finds Wide Disparities in Gifted Education, was written by Dorie Turner of the Associated Press on November 21, 2009. It is an excellent treatment of the problem we are facing in gifted education.

If you wish to get involved with advocacy efforts in your town, state, or federally, please go to the website of the National Association for Gifted Children. They have excellent resources and guidance. See their Advocacy Toolkit here.

Also contact your state organization to see what they are doing in this regard. You can find a list of state organizations here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Traveling Trunks for Teachers

A long time ago I created a blog about traveling trunks - collections of teacher resources put together by organizations around specific themes and topics. Usually, teachers can rent or sign out a trunk for a period of 2 or 3 weeks. The trunks will contain everything a teacher needs to teach this topic - including primary sources and lesson plans.

Access an article about how to use traveling trunks. Basically, a traveling trunks is a fieldtrip come to your classroom.
The photo is from the Prehistoric Archaeology and Mississippi trunk available from the Museum of Mississippi History.

Here follows a partial list of science and history traveling trunks. To find one in your area, google "traveling trunks" or "teaching trunks" and your area. You can also google "traveling trunks" and your topic. You will be surprised to find how many organizations are eager to assist you in learning about their topic of interest.


1. Alabama Power Science Inquiry Kits

2. Minnesota SeaGrant Traveling Trunks on: Exotic Equatics, and Zebra Mussel Mania

3. ND Early Childhood Science Kits for children 3 - 7 years. Small fee.

4. National Parks Service: Variety of Science and Environment Trunks. Small fee for postage.

5. Montana Environmental Educational Association Guide to Northern Rockies Trunks

6. Monmouth Museum Science and History Trunks


1. Kansas State Historical Society - Rental fee

2. Montana Lewis and Clark Bicentennial

3. Idaho Lewis and Clark Resources

4. Gettysburg Trunks

5. Washington Holocaust Education Resource Center

6. Atlanta History Center

There is no need to ever be a boring teacher. Plan ahead and enjoy teaching with professionally assembled materials and great ideas for lesson plans and/or activities

Friday, September 04, 2009

Research Request

If you are an Alabama teacher, I need your help.

I am conducting research on Alabama teachers' beliefs about culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse gifted students. Responses to the survey will be anonymous and risk-free.
To participate in the study, please go to http://bit.ly/18fyGl

To find out more about the study, contact me at

Please also pass this information on to as many Alabama teachers as possible.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New book for parents

We are pleased to announce the publication of Light Up Your Child's Mind. In this book written especially for parents, Drs. Renzulli and Reis illustrate the crucial role that parents can play in their children's development. Parents can uncover the hidden potential of daydreamers, rebels and one-track minds, and gifted behaviors-basic smarts, high levels of task commitment, and creativity-can be fostered in bright children, even unmotivated ones.

The concrete guidelines in Light Up Your Child's Mind will inspire parents to help their kids identify their strengths and interests, foster a love of learning, and set them on the path to a rewarding future..

The book is available on Amazon and also on the web site below where you can read an excerpt from it. Please help us to spread the word about Light Up Your Child's Mind to interested parents. To learn more about the book, please visit: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780316003988.htm

Monday, April 06, 2009

Discussion tools

Once you have set up a Wiki, you might want to conduct a virtual class discussion with your students about any number of topics.

You might have discussions on readings, or topics you have been covering in class, or perhaps you can facilitate an advising or counseling discussion for the emotional and social well being of your students.

Education research indicates that class discussions can achieve several learning goals in a classroom, whether you do it in person, in groups, or virtually. "Well-designed discussion tasks lead to progressive knowledge-seeking inquiry (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1994) or expansive learning (Engeström, 1999) where learners are actively synthesizing new information with prior knowledge and experiences in the process of creating not only new knowledge but also new understanding of the learning process" (Karen Ngeow and Yoon-San Kong). Well designed discussions can increase debate, critical inquiry, and reflection.

There are different kinds of discussion:

* Guided discussion tasks, where the teacher poses a question, and students respond to the question, as well as other students' responses by making comments or asing questions.

* Inquiry-based discussion tasks, where the teacher poses an issue and asks a series of questions that lead students to delve deeply into the topic. Students also have to evaluate information and other students' contributions, and synthesize supporting and opposing ideas relevant to the issue.

* Reflective discussion tasks, where students are required to think about their own roles in learning and discussion. Alternatively, students think about what they are learning and how it relates to their lives and the literature they are studying.

* Exploratory discussion tasks, where students use analytical skills to come up with alternative explanations of real life situations. This requires investigating personal assumptions or opinions and coming up with alternatives.

Depending on the wikisite used in your class, your wiki could have a variety of functions useful in discussions.

You could
- let each student create a page and journal/blog their reflection and then allow others to comment if your wiki allows for adding comments. Google sites has this feature, as does PBWiki, now called PBWorks.

- let students contribute to a threaded discussion, or start a new threaded discussion. Wetpaint has this built in capability.

- let students contribute to a Voicethread, a website that allows chat-style discussion, audio discussion, and video discussion.

There are as many ways to discuss books, topics, people, film, music, and events as there are ideas in your head. Try something and your students will be sure to help you with more ideas.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ideas for Using a Wiki

I have just returned from a panel discussion on wikis by faculty of the Arts and Sciences Department. I have been using wikis for three years in my classes, but I learned an enormous amount from these professors.

What I saw, was that there are probably at least 4 ways in which to use a wiki:

1. Use a wiki as a course management tool instead of something like Blackboard or Moodle. An excellent example is Miss Baker's Biology Class. This wiki won the the Edublogs award for Single Subject Teacher Wiki.

2. Use a wiki as a single topic collaborative project. A great example is Salks Periodic Table . This is another prize winner. It won the Edublogs award for single topic wiki.

3. Use the wiki as blog, a discussion board, or place where people can collaborate on a creative project. See the English Advertising Class wiki. It was nominated for an Edublogs award.

4. Educational Consultant's Informational Wiki: Clif's Wiki. It is a great collection of resources on education and technology.

Check out these wikis for ideas. They were all nominated for the Edublogs Awards - Best Educational Wiki category.

Happy wiki'ing

How to get started using a Wiki

It could not be easier.

First, why do want the wiki? What is the purpose? What will be the topic?

Second, do you want a public or private wiki? Do you want any one to read what is on there or do you want to restrict membership? Make sure you check your school's policy. If you are going to have personal information or photos of students on the wiki, you should probably go with a private wiki.

Third, you have to plan what you want on your wiki. All wikis give you the opportunity to create a variety of pages, just like on a website. So, decide what pages you are going to want initially. You can always add and delete pages as you go along, but any endeavor is easier with a little planning ahead.

Now you can investigate the many wikis available to you. Do not consider the order in which I give these as signifying preference. I googles "education wikis" and this is the list I got:

Wetpaint: http://wikisineducation.wetpaint.com/?t=anon

Free, ad-free wiki pages with easy to use templates, and education help.

PBWiki: http://pbwiki.com/academic.wiki
Free wikis dedicated to teachers. Good security features.

Wikispaces: http://www.wikispaces.com
Free to educators, easy to navigate, great technical support.

Wikidot: http://www.wikidot.com/learnmore:education
Free basic services, advanced services available for fee.

Google Sites: http://www.google.com/sites
Free, 10GB space, easy to use with other Google services.

Happy wiki-ing!