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Developing Self-Understanding and Resilience in Gifted Students

A Unit for Upper Elementary and Secondary Gifted Learners Heather Danforth

Introduction Gifted students have particular affective needs, partly because of their different developmental patterns and partly because of the mismatch between their development and the expectations in schools and other places that cater to the developmental norm. A good gifted program will incorporate affective instruction to help students to deal with their particular needs in productive ways, so that they can feel happy and successful. This unit is designed to provide gifted teachers and counselors with one possible way to address these needs. Through the course of this unit, students will engage in the development of three major products, as well as several smaller ones. These three products, the role model study, the reflective journal, and the group social action plan, should help teachers to assess students progress in the affective arena. This assessment is not strictly for grading purposes (how do you give an A or a B for affective growth?), although teachers can give a grade on the role model study if one is required. This assessment should help teachers to determine what next steps will be most helpful in their students continuing development. The reflective journal in particular may give teachers insight into their students thoughts and feelings. For the role model study, students should investigate a variety of gifted individuals and select one for further research. They should develop a contract with teachers that dictates what they will study, how they will present what they learn, and how they will assess their work. Then, they should engage in independent investigation of their chosen role model throughout the course of the unit, develop a high-quality product, and present their research at the conclusion of the unit. For the reflective journal, students should write an entry for each session. Although students are encouraged to write about their feelings and thoughts on the session topic, they may write about anything they choose. The social action project can be developed as a whole class or in groups, depending on the needs and interests of students. Further suggestions on this project are included in the appendix. Although this unit addresses some of the common affective needs of gifted children, teachers should feel free to modify it add, delete, or change based upon the needs of the students in the classroom. During the initial orientation session, students are invited to express different or additional concerns to those in this unit, and teachers should feel free to develop lessons based around these concerns. Flexibility is important, and it is crucial that students feel that their own concerns are heard and their own needs are met. Best Wishes, Heather Danforth

Unit At a Glance:
Lesson Goal(s) 1. Students will better understand what giftedness is and what it means to them, both in positive and negative ways. 2. Students will discuss how stereotypes and media images may make it difficult for them to be gifted, and will discuss strategies to combat this problem. 3. Students will learn how to successfully and appropriately advocate for themselves and their own needs. 4. Students will better understand perfectionism and underachievement, how they can avoid them, and strategies to cope with feelings of anxiety. 5. Students will discuss what it feels like to be different, and how to handle feelings of loneliness and depression. Supplies/Preparation Gather: chart paper and markers biographies of gifted individuals definitions of giftedness, journals for students, graphic organizers Choose and prepare monologue or poem Copy Venn diagrams Gather biographies, essays, and/or videos Invite guest panel and counselors for breakour discussions Develop problemsolving situations Gather: Chart paper and markers Supplies for poster of self-advocacy tips Invite visiting teacher Copy self-evaluation, response chart (appendix) Gather: Books with great mistakes Supplies for bulletin board and brochure or other product Gather Quotes, definitions, pictures, etc. for discussion-starters Supplies for emotional barometers and group suggestion booklets Articles Activities Discussion Brainstorming Reading and notetaking and/or completing graphic organizers Journaling Discussion Counseling groups Guest panel Journaling Products Class Charts Journal entry Group products Preliminary Role Model Research

Venn Organizer Journal entry Preliminary Role Model Research

Role play Brainstorming Guest speaker Poster development

Contracts for Role Model study Class charts Tip poster

Visualization and Meditation Art project Research Brainstorming Journaling

Brochure Journal entry Goal plan Bulletin Board Role Model study

Discussion Article study Journaling Guest counselor Research Group-building activities Role play

Journal entry Individual organizers Small group booklets Role Model study

6. Students will recognize both the positives and negatives of their multipotentiality, and will discuss a variety of options for the future. 7. Students will better understand their own spheres of influence, and how to help others through service and social action, without feeling depressed by what they cant fix. 8. Conclusion and Debrief

Invite counselor Copy organizers Prepare Celebrity Matching game (appendix) Gather stories of eminent individuals Gather supplies for individual possibilities posters Invite guest speaker(s) Gather: Supplies for sphere of influence project Chart paper and markers

Game Discussion Guest speaker(s) Reading and research Art project Journaling Art project Brainstorming Discussion Planning Budgeting Presentation and Communication skills development, etc. Discussion Presentation

Possibilities posters Journal entry Career information Report Role Model study

Journal entry Social action plan Individual assignments vary according to group plan Role Model study

Prepare for presentations of role model study

Role Model presentations Social Action debrief

Introductory Session: Orientation to the Unit


Introduction The introductory session is designed to provide students with an orientation to the unit. During this time, you will learn more about what your students see as concerns and fit the lesson to better meet their needs. Also during this time, students will learn more about what is expected of them during the course of the unit and will learn more about the products that will be required of them. Suggested Lesson Sequence 1. Share the Eight Great Gripes with students. Encourage them to discuss other gripes or concerns that they have about their giftedness. Share the Eight Advantages. Again, encourage students to add their own ideas to this list. Ultimately, the concerns of students should shape their affective instruction. Suggestions for lesson topics are provided in this unit, along with recommended teaching and learning activities and student products, but these can be adjusted, added to, or deleted according to student needs. Gifted students should have a hand in developing their curricula, especially their affective curricula, so that it meets their needs. 2. Provide students with an overview of the unit. You may wish to provide them with copies of the Unit at a Glance provided in the introduction. Discuss activities and products with them and allow them to make suggestions or changes as you consider appropriate. 3. Explain the products that will be required of students by the end of the unit the Role model study, journal, and social action project. In particular, the Role Model Study and the social action project may need some discussion to ensure that students know what is expected of them. A list of possible books about role models is included in the resources section. 4. Develop literature discussion groups around affective topics that are of particular interest to the students, such as perfectionism, depression, peer relationships, multipotentiality, etc. A list of possible books for discussion is included in the resources section at the end of the unit. This literature discussion groups may meet during each class period, during some class periods, or outside of class, depending on the needs of the group. Conclusion Through the course of this unit, students should not only learn more about their own affective needs and how to meet them, but should also develop relationships that make the classroom a safe and welcoming place to be. You may wish to end this orientation session with some group-building exercises. Between now and the next session, feel free to make changes in the lessons that you feel will benefit your students.

Session 1: What is giftedness and what is it not?


Introduction One of the Eight Great Gripes of gifted students is that no one ever explains what giftedness is all about. Students dont learn how or why they received this label, and they arent sure what it means for them. Is giftedness a good thing or a bad thing or both? Part of the reason that students dont receive explanations about giftedness is because adults are confused, too. There are many definitions of giftedness, and plenty of disagreement among the experts in the field. But gifted children have the right to investigate diverse definitions of giftedness and discuss what this label and the characteristics that go with it mean for them. Suggested Lesson Sequence Introduction With students, brainstorm their understanding of what giftedness is and isnt. Encourage them to share their questions about giftedness. Introduce the Eight Great Gripes of gifted students. Invite students to share other gripes, or advantages of giftedness. Record this information on chart paper, especially Our class gripes and Our questions about giftedness to post in the classroom and guide the rest of the unit. Whole Group Activities 1. Share various official definitions of giftedness with students (check out http://www.qagtc.org.au/definitions_of_giftedness.htm for a variety of definitions to share). Discuss the implications of these definitions. What do students agree with? What do they disagree with? Students might wish to choose definitions that they support more than others and defend these definitions in a discussion or debate with other class members. With the class, develop a definition of giftedness on chart paper to post in the classroom. This definition may be changed throughout the unit as students develop their understanding of giftedness. 2. Provide small groups of students with short biographies and other information about gifted children and adults. These groups should read and discuss what these biographies suggest about giftedness. They might record and discuss of characteristics of giftedness that they note in the biographies, compare these biographies with the official definitions, or discuss advantages and disadvantages of giftedness they perceive while reading. They might compare and contrast the people described in these biographies, or find examples and non-examples of gifted characteristics or behavior as they read. Students should determine how their discussions proceed. Each group should prepare some product (chart, graphic organizer, outline, etc.) to share with the group to help all students learn about these people. 3. What is good and bad about being gifted? Provide students with a graphic organizer on which they can record their opinions about the advantages and disadvantages of

giftedness. Discuss these as a class. Make a classroom list of advantages and disadvantages. Independent Activities 1. Set aside 15 or 20 minutes for students to journal about their own feelings about giftedness. What does it mean to them? What effect does this label have on their life, their relationships, or their interests? What questions do they have about what it means? What advantages and disadvantages do they see in being gifted? What is giftedness not? 2. Encourage students to pursue further research on gifted people that they find interesting. Ultimately, they should choose a gifted role model to investigate throughout the course of this unit and present on at the end of the unit. Conclusion Post class specific gripes, questions, advantages, and other thoughts about giftedness that students would like to pursue throughout the unit. As mentioned in the unit introduction, the lessons in this unit should be flexible. If student concern or interest lies in a different direction than suggestions in the unit, pursue student ideas. Encourage students to continue to research gifted people that they find interesting in preparation for their individual role model studies.

Session 2: How do I handle gender or cultural stereotypes?


Introduction Gifted children have needs and characteristics that go along with their giftedness, but these children arent only gifted. They are also a part of a gender group and a cultural group. Sometimes, the stereotypical roles that they envision they must play as a part of these groups are in direct conflict with their intellectual and creative abilities. For example, young men may feel that doing well in school is only for nerds or sissies, while they want to be seen as tough and street-smart. Young women may find their intellectual ability, particularly in math or science, conflict with the feminine image that they believe young men are looking for in a girlfriend. Students of color may fear that being gifted means sacrificing their cultural affiliation. These concerns must be addressed and affective needs met if we wish to help these children achieve at high levels. Suggested Activities Introduction Perform a monologue, first person essay, or poem in the voice of a gifted person who also belongs to a specific cultural group male, female, Latino, African American, etc. (example provided in appendix). Discuss what this voice says about being gifted and a member of a group, which may mean facing stereotypes or prejudices that conflict with giftedness. Whole Group Activities 1. Ask students to consider what groups they consider themselves a part of. What characteristics, traditions, stereotypes, etc. belong to each group? Do any of these affiliations conflict? How do they handle these conflicts? How would they like to handle these conflicts? They might consider their different affiliations in a Venn diagram (appendix). 2. Provide students with biographies, essays, videos, or other information about gifted female, male, or culturally or linguistically diverse gifted students. Students may engage in bibliotherapy or videotherapy in small, self-selected groups around these media, considering how these people speak for them, and how they do not. 3. A panel of guests, both female and male, from a variety of cultural groups may provide students with first-hand accounts of their own dilemmas and challenges with stereotypes. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns. These students may become role models and mentors for students. 4. Recruit counselors and role models to support small counseling sessions with students. In these small groups, students may discuss issues particular to their achievement/affiliation dilemmas and how they might handle them, as well support each other.

Independent Activities 1. Set aside 15 or 20 minutes for students to journal about how they feel as they deal with cultural, gender, or other stereotypes and giftedness. What stereotypes do they encounter about giftedness? How do these conflict with their other group affiliations? What do they do, or want to do, to handle these conflicts? What questions do they have? What assistance do they wish they had? 2. As students make a decision about their role model research projects, they may wish to choose a role model who shares their gender, cultural, or other affiliations. Provide time for students to conduct independent research and assist them in finding resources as needed. Conclusion Some students may struggle more with affiliation stereotypes than other students. Provide these students with opportunities to shadow gifted persons that share their affiliations. You may help these students to find mentors and network with others who can help assist them. Some students may wish to continue counseling or discussion groups based around their groups, and you may help to facilitate this.

Session 3: How do I advocate for myself with teachers, principals, etc. when Im bored?
Introduction Because gifted students learn more quickly and need less, if any, review of material, they often spend an unfortunate amount of their school day doing work that bores them instead of challenges them. While parents, gifted teachers and specialists, and other caring adults can help these children by serving as advocates for them in the school system, ultimately students need to take responsibility for their own learning. They need to know how to approach teachers or administrators respectfully and provide workable solutions for their educational dilemmas. They need to understand that they are not powerless in the face of boring and repetitious assignments; they have the ability to take control of their own education. As educators of gifted students, we can show them the appropriate ways to do this that are most likely to lead to success. Suggested Lesson Sequence Introduction Consider starting the lesson with an amusing poem about boredom in school and the consequences of it. Ask students: What do you do when you feel bored in school? Why? What are the consequences (positive and negative) of your choices? Discuss the responsibility that students have in their education; they are not powerless and can address feelings of boredom in a positive way. Whole Group Activities 1. Role play various situations with teachers, principals, etc. Provide students with problems, or encourage them to develop their own problem situations. Work through a variety of problem-solving strategies, discussing the positives and negatives of each one. 2. Develop a list of suggestions for How to talk to your teacher that is likely to yield success. Students may wish to develop a poster, brochure, or other product that can be shared with other students. 3. Invite a guest teacher or principal to the class to make suggestions and answer student questions about what s/he would appreciate in a request for alternate educational experiences. Students may wonder what to do if teachers say no, and a teacher is probably the best person to answer this and other questions. 4. In small groups, offer students the opportunity to problem-solve their own educational concerns. This may be a good opportunity to provide some instruction on appropriate peer counseling techniques listening, asking questions, etc. Talking through their own dilemmas may help students to feel that they have both more influence over and more responsibility for their education than they had previously imagined.

Independent Activities 1. Encourage students to develop their own educational goals and plans for meeting these goals. They may wish to record these in their journals. 2. To provide students with practice in developing independent contracts, you might have them create a contract for their independent research projects on gifted role models for this unit. 3. As they research their role model, encourage them to look for ways that this person dealt with boredom in school. What were the consequences of these choices? Are these choices that you would make? Why or why not? Conclusion End this session with a discussion about how students feelings about boredom in school have changed. Hopefully, students feel more efficacious and responsible for their own learning. You might have them consider things that they can control in their education and things that they cannot control and create a chart of the two areas.

Session 4: How do I avoid unhealthy perfectionism or underachievement?


Introduction Gifted students have the potential to achieve at high levels, but sometimes the pressure of this potential turns into an unhealthy quest for perfection. When children feel that they can never make a mistake, or when they set unreachable goals for themselves, they face anxiety and depression and feel as if they are never good enough. Sometimes, to avoid the possibility of failure, they choose underachievement, believing that if they choose not to be successful at something, they dont have to face the possibility that they might fail, at least temporarily. Both underachievement and perfectionism can hurt gifted children. They may be afraid to take risks, develop low self-esteem, and ultimately live less happy, more stressful lives. If we can help them to avoid these traps, they are more likely to find satisfaction in things they enjoy and peace as they grow up into healthy, intelligent adults. Suggested Lesson Activities Introduction Begin this lesson with some meditation and/or visualization exercises (check out http://www.susankramer.com/TeenMeditation.html and http://www.anmolmehta.com/ blog/2007/06/05/meditation-techniques-types-and-practice-a-comprehensive-guide/) for ideas. These skills are useful for dealing with anxiety, the root of cause of perfectionism and much underachievement. After finishing, ask students: What do you do when you feel stressed by your own high expectations or those of others? Whole Group Activities 1. Give students a self-evaluation for perfectionism (a good example in When Gifted Kids Dont Have All The Answers). Where do they fall on the continuum? Are they perfectionists, do they have a healthy pursuit of excellence, or do they choose to underachieve? Discuss the implications of their results, without requiring students to share their results if they dont wish to. 2. Create a Great Mistakes bulletin board. Find examples of famous people who accomplished great things after much failure, such as writers whove been rejected many times, or inventors like Thomas Edison, who had 3,000 failed attempts at inventing the light bulb before he was successful. Include examples of Great Mistakes in the classroom, by teacher and students (voluntarily submitted for the bulletin board!) that led to learning and, ultimately, success. 3. Provide students with a variety of situations, or have them develop their own situations. In small groups, have them complete a chart with possible responses of a perfectionist, a healthier pursuer of excellence, and an underachiever. 4. Discuss: What are the underlying causes of perfectionism? Underachievement? What do perfectionists and underachievers give up? Do students feel that they can only be happy when they (insert achievement expectations), so they dont appreciate their positive qualities? What can they do to avoid unhealthy perfectionism or underachievement? Develop a list of suggestions for perfectionists or underachievers

and put together a brochure of suggestions. Perhaps this brochure could be made available in the school counselors office, or at a local mental health center. Independent Activities 1. Set aside 15-20 minutes for students to journal about their expectations of themselves and others. Are these expectations reasonable? If not, what can they do to develop more healthy expectations of themselves? 2. Encourage students to develop goals for themselves that are realistic and rewarding. Develop plans for these goals and celebrate progress toward them, even small progress. 3. Provide research time for students on their independent role model projects. They may wish to consider ways that these role models dealt with perfectionism or underachievement. Did they have a positive view of their failures and successes? Conclusion Encourage students to try something that they have never tried before and at which they may do poorly. You might wish to try this as a class perhaps no one in the class has been ice skating before, and you could all go and try it. Discuss how even doing something poorly can be fun, and that failure is okay. Follow up on students goals and projects. If some students face particular struggles with perfectionism or underachievement, you may wish to refer them to a professional counselor with experience in these areas.

Session 6: How do I choose among my many different interests and abilities?


Introduction Because gifted students enjoy and are good at so many things, they may feel overwhelmed by the possibilities before them. Especially when they are frequently told that, You can do anything! they may look at the future not as a time of opportunity but as a time of anxiety. Their multipotentiality makes choosing specialties difficult, especially when they feel that everyone around them expects them to cure cancer or make another equally grand contribution to the world. In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed by their options and the expectations of others, they need guidance. They also need to understand that they dont have to make choices immediately and that many people are able to do a variety of different things in their lives. Hopefully, they will develop positive feelings about their many opportunities, rather than feeling burdened by them. Suggested Lesson Sequence Introduction Prepare a large scale matching game with celebrities and their educational and/or life experiences before reaching their well-known careers (example provided in appendix, from When Gifted Kids Dont Have All the Answers, Delisle and Galbraith, 2002). Challenge students to match the celebrities with their educational experiences. Discuss how, many times, gifted students feel that they must know now what they will do with their lives, and their many diverse interests and skills make it a challenge to decide. This sometimes leads to feelings of anxiety about the future, but it doesnt have to. In reality, many people take a long time to decide what they will be when they grow up in fact, many grown-ups are still unsure. Whole Group Activities 1. Provide students with stories of gifted adults who took a long time to find their paths in life, as well as those who chose to make a difference in a variety of spheres medicine, acting, homemaking, teaching, law, etc. Discuss the fact that many people, especially today, do many different things during their careers. Students do not have to choose immediately, nor do they need to feel that they must choose a highprestige career to make a positive difference in the world around them. 2. With poster board, markers, pictures, etc., encourage students to make graphic representations of their diverse interests and abilities. They may wish to portray careers that they are interested in pursuing, or at least learning more about. Prepare a class exhibit of the many different possibilities for the future and discuss activities, hobbies, and education that will allow students to prepare for a variety of options without forcing them to make immediate decisions. 3. Invite a panel of several gifted adults engaged in a variety of careers and lifestyles. Ask them to share their stories of how they developed their current interests, how they ended up where they are now, and what advice theyd share about choosing college majors, careers, etc. At least some of these people are likely to have taken an

unusual or meandering route to arrive at their current career destination probably without regrets and many probably pursue a variety of interesting hobbies in their spare time. Independent Activities 1. Set aside 15-20 minutes for students to journal about their future goals, as well as their concerns and anxieties about the future. Do they feel pressured to pursue a particular career path in order to satisfy the expectations of others? Are they overwhelmed by the many possibilities before them? 2. Encourage students to choose one career path, research it, and prepare an informational hand out about it to share with the rest of the class. While students neednt choose their career right away, knowing about possibilities may help them to feel more secure and confident when they do make decisions. 3. If students are interested in finding out more about particular career paths, provide opportunities for them to shadow adults engaged in these activities to learn more about them. Conclusion Some students may particularly struggle with uncertainty about the future. For these students, you may wish to arrange appropriate career counseling with a professional who is aware of this need for many gifted youth. Ultimately, it is important for gifted students to feel positive about the future, not burdened.

Session 7: How do I make a difference, and what do I do when I cant?


Introduction Many gifted children have keenly developed senses of justice and morality. They are often more idealistic than their age peers, as well as more aware of things that are happening in the world. They feel strongly that certain things should be a certain way children should have enough to eat, disagreements should be solved peacefully without resort to violence, companies and individuals should protect the environment and they become distressed, sometimes even depressed, when they discover that the world is an imperfect place where things only rarely happen as they should. These children need help to understand the things they can affect and ways in which they can make positive changes within their spheres of influence, while they also need to develop resilience and coping strategies to deal with those things over which they have little or no power to change. Suggested Lesson Sequence Introduction Begin this lesson with journaling. Ask students to consider something in the world that is very important to them. How do they feel about this issue? Why is it important to them? What, if anything, have they done about it? What do they wish they could do about it? After journaling, encourage students to discuss their concerns. What problems do they see in the world that they wish they could fix, but dont know how? What does it feel like to understand these problems, but not be able to solve them? Whole Group Activities 1. Gather shoeboxes for each student in the class to develop a Sphere (or Rectangular Prism) of Influence. Provide a variety of magazines and newspapers for students to cut up. They should write and glue pictures, headlines, articles, etc. that suggest things they can influence inside of their boxes, and those that are out of their spheres of influence on the outside of their boxes. 2. After creating these, discuss as a group strategies for dealing with feelings about things that are outside of our spheres of influence, since we cant change them, at least not at this time. These may include focusing on things that are in their control, meditating, serving people in their immediate community, or learning a new skill that may help them to be more effective in the future. Students are likely to develop many more positive strategies that they can turn to when they feel discouraged by injustices that are outside of their control. 3. Even though there are some things that are outside of their control, there are many things that students can positively affect in the world around them, even if only in small ways. Brainstorm some concerns and ways that students can influence them and develop a social action plan as a class or in small groups (suggestions for this process in appendix). Putting these plans into affect gives students practice in making real social change and helps them to feel more powerful in the face of the many social injustices that they recognize in the world.

Independent Activities 1. Provide time for students to work on their individual or small group assignments for the large group social action project. This may involve budgeting, developing presentations, writing letters to the editor, or a host of other skills. Conclusion Positive changes in the world are made by people who are willing to pursue these changes and work hard to make them come about, not by people who are so paralyzed with depression by the injustices in the world that they feel guilty when good things happen to them. Help students to understand that they can be happy, even if there are people in the world who are suffering, and that they have power to change the world, even if it only in a small way. If they understand this, they are less likely to feel trapped by depression about world events that they cannot control or change.

Session 5: What do I do when I feel lonely or different or depressed?


Introduction Just as students with mental disabilities may feel as if they dont fit in, students with above average intelligence may also face feelings of isolation, especially when they are expected to associate only with children of their own age. Unfortunately, our society has mixed feelings about students of high intellectual and creative ability. On the one hand, we are impressed by their accomplishments and curious about how they manage what they do, but on the other hand we feel jealous and skeptical of these children, who may be smarter than we are. Because of this, and because they develop intellectually more quickly than their age peers, they may find that they are different than those around them and that they may not be wellaccepted. This may lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, unless we attend to the emotional needs of students who dont quite fit the accepted developmental norm. Suggested Lesson Sequence Introduction Discuss: Have any of you ever felt different from those around you? This is a common feeling among gifted students, and it may be inevitable, because your development does not fit the established norm. But it doesnt naturally follow that this difference needs to be a bad thing. What are some examples of your differentness? How do these examples make you feel? What do you do when you feel badly? What do you do when you feel good about these differences? What are some ways that you are the same as others around you? How do you feel about these? As a teacher, you may wish to have students journal about these questions before discussing them as a group. Whole Group Activities 1. Encourage students to recognize and own their feelings by creating emotion barometers. Brainstorm a list of words to describe a wide variety of emotions not just happy and sad, but surprised, exhilarated, stressed, furious, bored, and others. Each student should write these on a card and, if desired, decorate it. Laminate these cards and provide students with a paperclip to mark their current emotions. Periodically, encourage students to consider what they are feeling and mark it on their barometers. Discuss how emotions influence, but do not control, behavior, and that being aware of emotions and their causes can help to cope with them. 2. Some research indicates that there exists a connection between high intelligence and depression, while other research contradicts this. Provide students with copies of articles (some suggestions included in the resources section at the end of the unit). In small groups, they should read and discuss them and consider: Do you agree or disagree with the findings of these articles? Why? What would you change? What research might you choose to conduct? 3. Invite a counselor to visit the class and share suggestions about dealing with feelings of loneliness or depression and answer students questions.

4. In small groups, invite students to investigate a topic of their choice and develop a booklet of information about it. Topics could include depression, suicide prevention, developing positive peer relationships, etc. These booklets might be copied and distributed in the school guidance office, in a health class, or in a similar location. 5. Provide students with copies of the My Peers and/or Ways I am Different/Ways I am the Same sheets for them to fill out. These may serve as good discussion starters as students consider that they can have a variety of friends who are like them in different ways, or that all people are unique in some ways and similar to others in other ways. Independent Activities 1. Students who are working toward goals that are important to them are less likely to become lonely or depressed. Encourage students to develop both long and short term goals and engage in new and exciting activities which they enjoy. 2. Set aside 15 or 20 minutes for students to journal about their feelings and concerns about their differences. They may wish to write or draw about safe places or people and activities that give them joy being aware of these helps students to cope with feelings of depression or loneliness Conclusion Although there is no certain link between giftedness and an increase in depression in research, students who differ from the developmental norm are at risk for feeling isolated, which may lead to depression and loneliness. Gifted students may also feel distress about tragedy which they understand, but are unable to do anything about. End this session by encouraging students to seek help if they feel hopeless or unusually depressed for a period of time. They can be referred to support groups or counseling services to help them cope with their feelings.

Final Session: Conclusion


Introduction Students need the opportunity to debrief their experiences. During this final session, students should present their products and discoveries from their Role Model study, discuss what they learned during the course of their social action project, and share new learning about the various topics that have been covered during the unit. Students might wish to revise some of the charts that theyve made through the course of the unit, such as their Classroom Gripes, Questions, or Positives about giftedness, or their definitions of what giftedness means. This might be too much to finish in one session, so it can be spread out if this is more convenient. Take as much time as students need to feel that they have closure on their experiences, and feel free to use their learning to develop new questions to pursue as a class. Suggested Lesson Sequence For the final session, discuss with students what will be most beneficial to them in closing this unit. Perhaps theyd like to have an evening with refreshments to share their role model studies, or would like to conduct a roundtable discussion in which they share bits from their journals, or invite others from the community who participated in their social action project to a discussion of the results of the project and plans for the future. The skys the limit!

Additional topics for journals, class discussions, lessons, etc: Why do I feel mature and capable in some areas, but not in others?
Although gifted children develop very quickly in some areas, they may not develop at the same rate in all areas. This asynchronous development may cause these children some difficulties. For example, adults may have unreasonable expectations of children who show exceptional maturity in some areas, but act like their age peers in other areas. They may have ideas that they havent the small motor skills to write down, or they may intellectually understand abstract concepts such as death without being emotionally ready to deal with them. Because they develop unevenly, they may feel as if they are 10 years old in one area, while they feel 25 in another. They need assistance to understand and cope with this asynchrony, and parents and teachers may need help to understand and cope with their uneven development as well.

Why do I feel things more intensely than others, and what can I do about it?
Gifted children often seem to be more sensitive than their age peers, not only intellectually, but also emotionally and physically. Kazimierz Dabrowski, a psychologist, developed a theory of positive disintegration that is often applied to gifted youth. He describes the overexcitabilities of people of high potential, which cause unusual sensitivity experiences such as movement, sensory experiences, and feelings. While this extreme sensitivity is not a problem in itself, it make lead to challenges for gifted students who do not know how to regulate these sensitivities and need guidance from adults in coping with feelings or experiences that may be overwhelming. Knowing that they are not alone can help students, as can developing strategies for dealing with intense emotional reactions.

How can I get along better with my family and friends?


Although this topic may be covered briefly in the lesson on being different and feeling lonely and/or depressed, students may wish to pursue this topic further. Gifted children may have difficulty with social and family relationships, because they do not follow the developmental norm. But they also have many assets that can help them to deal with low social self-esteem or frustrations with parents and siblings. They often have a sophisticated sense of humor, and they may be able to get along well with adults or older children, who are their intellectual peers. Learning more about developing relationships and maintaining them may help students feel more confident and help them to have happier, longer-lasting relationships.

Resources

Books for Role Model Studies (This list compiled by Bertie Kingore, PhD) http://www.bertiekingore.com/biographies.htm 1. Adler, B. (1986). The Cosby Wit: His Life and Humor. New York: Morrow. 2. Adler, D. (1992). Benjamin Franklin Printer, Inventor, Statesman: A First Biography. New York: Holiday House. 3. Adler, D. (1989). A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Holiday House. 4. Bedard, M. (1992). Emily. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell. 5. Blue, R. & Naden, C. (1991). Colin Powell: Straight to the Top. New York: Harcourt Brace. 6. Dravecky, D. & Stafford, T. (1990). Come Back. New York: Harper & Row. 7. Freedman, R. (1993). Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery. New York: Clarion Books. 8. Freedman, R. (1991). The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane. New York: Holiday House. 9. Freedman, R. (1987). Lincoln: A Photobiography. New York: Atheneum. 10. Gherman, B. (1992). E. B. White: Some Writer! New York: Atheneum. 11. Highfield, R. & Carter, P. (1995). The Private Lives of Albert Einstein. New York: St. Martin's. 12. Huber, P. (1990). Sandra Day O'Connor: Supreme Court Justice. New York: Chelsea House. 13. Krull, K. (1996). Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. 14. Lester, H. (1997). Author: A True Story. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 15. Lovell, J. & Kluger, J. (1995). Apollo 13. New York: Simon and Schuster. 16. Martin, J.B. (1998). Snowflake Bentley. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 17. McMullan, J.B. (1991). The Story of Harriet Tubman, Conductor of the Underground Railroad. New York: Yearling Book. 18. Parks, R. & Haskins, J. (1992). Rosa Parks: My Story. New York: Penguin. 19. Pinkney, A.D. (1993). Alvin Ailey. New York: Hyperion Books for Children. 20. Stanley, D. & Vennems, P. (1992). Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare. New York: Morrow Junior Books. 21. Thomas, B. (1994). Walt Disney: An American Original. New York: Hyperion. 22. White, M. & Gribbin, J. (1995). Einstein: A Life in Science. New York: Plume. Perfectionism 1. Antony, M.M. & Swinson, R.P. (1998). When Perfect Isnt Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2. Adderholt-Elliot, M. (1987). Perfectionism: Whats Bad About Being Too Good. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 3. Basco, M.R. (1999). Never Good Enough: Freeing Yourself from the Chains of Perfectionism. New York: The Free Press.

4. Dewyze, J. & Mallinger A. (1992). Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of Control. New York: Ballantine Books. Depression 1. Garland, E.J. (1997). Depression is the Pits, but Im Getting Better: A Guide for Adolescents. Washington, D.C.: Magination Press. 2. Luciani, J.J. (2007). Self-coaching: The Powerful Program to Beat Anxiety and Depression. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons. 3. OConnor, R. (1997). Undoing Depression. New York: Little, Brown and Company. Peer Relationships 1. Espeland, P. & Verdick, E. (2006). Making Choices and Making Friends: The Social Competencies Assets. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 2. Michelle, L. (2000). How Kids Make Friends: Secrets for Making Lots of Friends, No Matter How Shy You Are. Evanston: Freedom Publishing Company. 3. Olson, D.H., Defrain, J., & Olson, A.K. (1999). Building Relationships: Developing Skills for Life. Minneapolis: Life Innovations, Inc. 4. Schmidt, J.J. (1997). Making and Keeping Friends: Ready-to-use Lessons, Stories, and Activities for Building Relationships. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Social Action 1. Kaye, C.B. (2007). A Kids Guide to Hunger and Homelessness: How to Take Action! Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 2. Kielburger, M. & Kielburger, C. (2002). Take Action! A Guide to Active Citizenship. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons. 3. Lewis, B.A., Espeland, P., & Pernu, C. (1991). The Kids Guide to Social Action: How to Solve the Social Problems You Choose and Turn Creative Thinking into Positive Action. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 4. Lewis, B.A. (2008). The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect With Others (Near and Far) to Create Social Change. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. Giftedness 1. Davidson, J., Davidson B., & Vanderkam, L. (2004). Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2. Galbraith, J. & Delisle, J. (1996). The Gifted Kids Survival Guide: A Teen Handbook. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 3. Galbraith, J. & Espeland, P. (1999). The Gifted Kids Survival Guide for Ages 10&under. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 4. Schultz, R.A. & Delisle, J.R. (2007). More than a Test Score: Teens Talk About Being Gifted, Talented, or Otherwise Extra-ordinary. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 5. Schultz, R.A. & Delisle, J.R. (2006). Smart Talk: What Kids Say About Growing Up Gifted. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc. 6. Walker, S.Y. (2002). The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids: How to Understand, Live With, and Stick Up for your Gifted Child. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.

Appendix

The appendix includes handouts and reproducible masters for use with the lessons in the unit. The Celebrity Majors Match-up page, recommended in lesson 6, comes directly from When Gifted Kids Dont Have All the Answers, and can be found there, or can be created from information found on the World Wide Web. Lesson 1 The Eight Great Gripes of Gifted Kids Lesson 2 Venn Diagram Pattern Maya Angelou poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Biographical sketch Lesson 4 Responses of Lesson 5 My Peers Ways that I am Lesson 7 Suggestions for developing a Social Action Plan

Eight Great Gripes of Gifted Kids.


1. No one explains what being gifted is all about its kept a big secret. 2. School is too easy and too boring. 3. Parents, teachers, and friends expect us to be perfect all the time. 4. Friends who really understand us are few and far between. 5. Kids often tease us about being smart. 6. We feel overwhelmed by the number of things we can do in life. 7. We feel different and alienated. 8. We worry about world problems and feel helpless to do anything about them.
(Delisle, J. and Galbraith, J. 2002)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings By: Maya Angelou The free bird leaps on the back of the win and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the sky. But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage can seldom see through his bars of rage his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing. The caged bird sings with fearful trill of the things unknown but longed for still and is tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom The free bird thinks of another breeze an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn and he names the sky his own. But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream his wings are clipped and his feet are tied so he opens his throat to sing The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill

for the caged bird sings of freedom. Brief Biography of Maya Angelou Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson at the beginning of the depression in California. Her mother, Vivian Baxter, was separated from her father, Bailey Johnson, when Maya and her brother were three and four years old; and at that time they were sent to live with their paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Maya and her adored brother, Bailey, were to spend most of their childhood in this small, completely segregated town. Maya could remember very little contact with whites at all, although she remembers being infuriated that white children called her grandmother by her first name. Her grandmother kept a general store that managed, through her determination and good direction, to stay afloat during the depression and beyond. Maya and Bailey were brought up strictly and piously; their lives centered on schooling and church. Maya loved to read, although her reading material also reflected her isolation from whites: she read almost exclusively black authors. She remembers trying to pass off Shakespeare, whom she loved, as black. Maya and Bailey played adventurous games, and Maya dreamed of a more exciting life, chafing as a child against the racial prejudice that dampened her dreams. Mayas teen years were sometimes difficult and unsettled. She lived at various points with her father in California, her mother in San Francisco, and with nobody at all as a runaway in a junkyard. In San Francisco, where she spent her adolescent years, she won a scholarship to the California Labor School, where she showed a great flair for the dance and drama courses she took in the evenings while she attended high school. She received high marks, and loved school so much that she hid the fact of an unexpected pregnancy until her graduation, when her baby was almost full term. At sixteen, she was a mother with a need to support herself and her son. She tried work as a streetcar conductor, a cook, and a waitress. She says she got cocky and tried to manage a house of ill repute. Trapped by her desire for a man to take care of her, she established a relationship with an older man who seduced her and persuaded her to work for him as a prostitute. Maya sank lower and lower into a state of cynical degradation, held there by her belief in her mans love. When he clearly showed himself to be a pimp and a hypocrite, she felt betrayed and alone. At this point, she might have lost forever the chance to realize the potential of her intelligence and strength; she considered using heroin. Only the concern of a hopeless addict, who wanted to show her the final, horrid consequences of being a user, saved her. He took her to a hit joint where miserable and dying addicts lie himself were a graphic example of where she was headed. Maya decided to return instead to work and to lessons, learning all she could about dancing, singing, and acting. She sang with a number of bands and hoped to land a serious acting job. Her break was a chance to play in Porgy and Bess for the touring company scheduled to entertain in Europe for the

U.S. State Department. Just imagine how I felt, she said in an interview: Me, a poor black girl, in Paris. From this point on, Mayas life became a series of challenges that she met with vigor and intelligence. She became a citizen of the world, teaching dance in Rome and Tel Aviv. Maya decided to move with her son to the likeliest place for success in her field: Hollywood. There she sang and danced at the top night clubs, and there she met Billie Holliday, who at the end of her career, felt a sad attraction to Mayas stability and spent a great deal of time in Mayas home. Eventually, Maya decided to go to Ghana, where her son could attend an excellent university. There, among free black people, she felt all the traces of humiliation of her upbringing in a racist society fall away. She worked for a newspaper in Ghana and committed herself to her career as a writer. Her autobiographical books written in the late sixties and seventies beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings along with her poetry established Maya as a major American writer. She has been called a Renaissance woman; she believes that she is one of the few who was fortunate enough to have her gifts released while many suffered in silence. Excerpted from: Kerr, B.A. (1985). Smart Girls, Gifted Women. Columbus: Ohio Psychology Publishing Company.

Responses of
A Healthy Pursuer of Excellence A Perfectionist An Underachiever

My Peers
1. ____________________________ is my peer and friend for ____________________________. I like _______________________ because ___________ _______________________________________________ ______________________________________________. 2. ____________________________ is my peer and friend for ____________________________. I like _______________________ because ___________ _______________________________________________ ______________________________________________. 3. ____________________________ is my peer and friend for ____________________________. I like _______________________ because ___________ _______________________________________________ ______________________________________________. 4. ____________________________ is my peer and friend for ____________________________. I like _______________________ because ___________ _______________________________________________ ______________________________________________. 5. ____________________________ is my peer and friend for ____________________________. I like _______________________ because ___________ _______________________________________________ ______________________________________________.

Ways that I am
Different the Same

Developing a Social Action Plan


1. Brainstorm social and/or environmental problems. First, students should brainstorm ideas of social and/or environmental issues which they are interested in addressing. Social issues might include community health, homelessness, racism, or literacy, or any other problems that interest students. Environmental issues might include air or water pollution, litter, school impact on the environment, etc. 2. Discuss and decide on a problem to act on to create change. Once students have listed a variety of problems that concern them, they should discuss the problems on the list. Students should offer reasons why they believe particular issues are appropriate or inappropriate choices for the class to address. After discussion, students should decide together on a problem that they wish to act on. Depending on the size of the class, more than one problem may be selected. 3. Research your problem and discuss possible ways that you might respond. Once a problem has been selected, students will need to conduct research. For example, if students have chosen to improve the environmental impact of the school, they might survey the school. They could determine types of lights used (fluorescent or incandescent), whether recycling bins are available and used, what cleaning products are used and how they are disposed of, etc. Student may also do library or Internet research to learn more about the problem they have chosen to address. 4. Decide on your course of action. Make individual and/or team assignments. After students have developed a strong understanding of the problem, they should brainstorm possible courses of action and discuss their pros and cons. As a group, they should decide on what they will do to change the problem.

They might write letters to newspapers or political leaders, prepare posters or videos to educate the public, organize a community clean-up or a charity food drive, or whatever they decide will best impact the problem they have selected. They should make individual and/or team assignments, perhaps based on students individual strengths. 5. Complete assignments. Engage in action for positive change. Students should complete their assignments, with regular check-ins at classroom meetings to share progress, discuss obstacles, and help each other. As they complete their assignments, students should feel that they are enacting positive changes in their community, nation, or world. 6. Reflect and plan for future action. Student activism is never really finished. As students reach the culmination of this project, they should meet together to discuss their successes and failures and reflect on what they may do in the future, either on this issue or on other social or environmental issues.