brother and sister sitting together on podium and reading from digital pad
K-12, Language Arts, Reading

Young Mensan Magazine

Young Mensan Magazine is a digital magazine for students that is free and available online. Though the target audience is children who are part of Mensa, a non-profit organization open to people who score in the 98th %ile or above on certain IQ tests, the magazine is not restricted to members, and should appeal to students with a variety of interests. It has jokes (the latest edition includes a Mad-Lib type of activity), puzzles, and human interest stores that are contributed by children who are members of Mensa around the world. There are also contests, such as the “Create a Cryptid Contest” (deadline September 30), as well as poems and well-written articles.

Though Young Mensan is a quarterly magazine, you can also access the archive online — dozens of previous issues that go all of the way back to 2009 when the magazine was originally titled, Fred. Some of the themes you’ll find are: “Numbers Game,” “Time Tales,” “2E,” and, “Zombies.”

Whether you assign an article or poem to be read, offer this as an option for “first finishers,” or recommend it to parents of children who are always hungry for new things to read, definitely keep the Young Mensan Magazine in mind as a great option for students searching for engaging and relevant reading material.

crop african american student studying craters of moon on tablet at observatory
Photo by on
Paradoxing prompts from Imaginarium
Creative Thinking, K-12, Teaching Tools

Imaginariums for Creative Thinking from Susan Maynor

Stop what you are doing and read this post about Imaginariums for creative thinking from Susan Maynor! If you are looking for a free resource that will inspire creativity for your students, Susan Maynor (@shmaynor on Twitter) has THE absolutely perfect solution for you. You can use her Imaginariums as warm-ups, in centers, for fast-finishers, for gifted students, for ANYONE in your class — one set for each month, and all FREE!

I didn’t just stumble, but completely tripped over last week’s #AppleEDULeaderChat (Thursdays at 6-6:30 Pacific Time), and just started bookmarking everything I saw because it was all so great! I’ll share a few more links that I think you’ll like during the next week, but I had to start with this one because I could totally see using it in my classroom immediately. When I asked Susan if I could share her resource (right after I hit the “Follow” button), here was her response, “Absolutely! I created them in Apple Pages so could easily be used with iPad – but also in PDF so could be device agnostic. Each Imaginarium is packed with creative practice including everything from elaboration to original thinking to ideation to prototyping to reflection to more and then some :)” Below is an example of one of the thirty-three pages in her February Imaginarium packet.

from Susan Maynor’s February Imaginarium Pack

Quite honestly, I can’t believe these are free, and would pay for a book of these, though I am thrilled that Susan Maynor offers them for zero cents. You can see more incredible work from Susan on her LinkTree:

So, to recap: download these Imaginariums tout suite, check out the #AppleEduLeaderChat every Thursday night, and stay tuned for more nuggets I picked up from last week’s chat!

I’ll be adding this post to my “Fun Stuff” Wakelet. Check out that one and more collections at


10 Ideas for Early Finishers

This is definitely not the first time that I’ve written about this topic. In 2014, I posted an article called, “It’s Not Enough,” where I admitted that I had resorted to the same plan that many teachers use for students who finish quickly — let them read a book or help other students. I understand that many teachers are in survival mode right now, so those options are even more attractive. But this does a disservice to those students who have demonstrated mastery of the material (possibly before you even taught it). Students who are careless and rush should receive guidance on how to improve their work, while students who don’t need more practice should be challenged.

Having dealt with these situations many times over my 29 years of teaching, I am the first to admit that it’s a difficult balance to keep students challenged without doing what Lisa Van Gemert calls “moreferentiation”, but if you are not in a situation where students can test out of doing grade level assignments and move to more advanced work here are some ideas I gleaned from a Twitter thread asking for advice last month.

  • Students who finish early can design a game (can be digital like Kahoot or just questions on index cards) for the class to play that reviews the concepts.
  • Twitter user Chris Clark (@clar1344) has this “Coming to a Consensus” idea:
  • Jigsaw puzzle table and/or building center (Legos, Magnatiles, Keva Planks Challenges, etc…)
  • An “I’m Done, Now What?” choice board, similar to this one from Megan Balduf (@MBalduf) I also have Choice Board collections on this page.
  • Similar to choice boards, JC4Ed (@JC4_ed) suggests, “digital enrichment folders with content/related games and virtual field trips”
  • Puzzle of the Day, such as one of these Wordle Variations or these other brainteasers and puzzles, or possibly even an interactive Sudoku Bulletin Board or station like this one from Jocelyn Lawrence (@HFFifthGrade):
  • Sonia Karmily (@KarmilySonia) has this recommendation:
  • Create with a purpose as this teacher suggests:
  • Prepare a presentation for a PowerPoint Party
  • Ask students to make suggestions. Depending on ability level, they could each have their own customized list of things to do when finished.

I’d like to thank Gretchen (@offgridteacher) for originally posing this question on Twitter. You can go here to see her question and read the thread of responses.

P.S. I do want to make a note here that I deliberately did not include Genius Hour in my suggestions. In my experience, it was difficult for students to work on Genius Hour projects when they finished early because there just wasn’t enough time for them to “get into it” before we were moving on to the next activity. Genius Hour always worked better in my classroom when it was allotted its own time. However, quite a few people did mention it in the thread, so it must work in some classrooms.


G/T Awareness Week

It’s G/T Awareness Week in Texas (April 5-9, 2021). You can learn more about it from Texas Association for Gifted and Talented here. They are asking people to share our stories about why G/T matters to us, and I thought I would write a bit about that today.

In the nearly 30 years that I spent in education in Texas, I saw a lot of progress being made. Students who would have been written off as impossible to teach in 1990 have many safeguards and supports in place now that didn’t exist my first years in the classroom. (Though some of us may debate whether these were improvements), achievement expectations were raised and accountability measures were established.

But while our state has struggled to raise up students who struggle academically, it has, in many ways, exiled those who are ready to learn more. Systemic issues, and the emphasis on helping some groups of students has led to neglect of others. There are those who would argue that these “others,” ones who begin school years already at or above grade level, will do fine. Some do. They learn to tune out repetitive lessons, do practice work they don’t need, and ace tests that require little study. Others become “behavior problems.” In the meantime, as they grow older, they become less enthusiastic about attending school and less likely to seek out challenges or independent learning because they rarely had the opportunity to learn something new or the need to learn how to solve difficult problems.

Ideally, all students would be able to learn at their own pace with just enough support to keep them from getting frustrated and plenty of motivation to continue their studies. But the reality of a system that prioritizes grades and test scores over new learning, overloads teachers with too many students and extraneous responsibilities, and rarely offers pre-service or in-service training aimed toward serving students who are academically gifted, makes it more important than ever that we continue to raise the bar for students who exceed expectations instead of bombarding them with the message that they’ve gone as far as they need to go.

G/T matters because every student matters. And we need to put just as much effort into providing new learning to students who are ahead of many of their peers as we hope the academically gifted will put into learning and achieving throughout their lives.

Education, Motivation

The Desire to Learn

I teach students who have been identified as “gifted.”  Yet I know that there are many kinds of giftedness that may not be measured by the tests we give.  I also know that there are students who qualify for my program who sometimes have difficulty in school – and in life.  Being labeled “gifted” does not guarantee success; not being “gifted” does not doom one to failure.

When my daughter entered school, we had the choice of whether or not to have her take a test that might qualify her to skip kindergarten.  One of the people I asked for advice said, “Well, it depends.  Many of the students who skip a grade don’t end up qualifying for the gifted program.  How important is it for your child to be ‘gifted?’  At this point, she may always be at the top of her class, but if she skips kindergarten she may not stand out so much.”

We let her take the test.  It was more important for me to make sure she would be at a level appropriate to her ability most of the time than for her to receive a label that would only guarantee a couple of hours a week of advanced curriculum.

She passed the test and moved to 1st grade her second week of school.  When she was tested for Gifted and Talented later that year, she did not qualify.

I’ll admit that it stung a bit.  I teach gifted and talented students and, like many parents, I was pretty proud of my own child’s intelligence.  But she had an incredible first grade teacher (thanks, Mrs. Whitworth!) and it was clear that my daughter was well-suited for the academics she encountered.  The only time I’ve regretted the decision for her to skip kindergarten is when I realized that it meant I had one less year to save for college – and to prepare for an empty nest.

My daughter eventually qualified for the Gifted and Talented program.  I was happy because I knew she would learn even more great things from the teacher, Mrs. Balbert.  I was even fortunate to have my daughter in my own GT class her last year of elementary school.

But I would have been fine if she had not ever been identified as gifted.  Because what I admire most about my daughter is not her grades or her label.  It is her desire to learn.  She is intrinsically motivated and willing to try new things. She chooses activities and classes that interest her, and works hard because they were her choices.

This is what I tell parents of students who do not qualify for our program – just as GT does not equal accomplishment, not being in a GT program does not condemn a student to an average life.  In fact, according to the Fullerton Longitudinal Study, which you can read about here, it is the “motivationally gifted” who seem to reap the most benefits when it comes to advanced academic degrees and leadership potential.  And, as you’ve probably guessed, not many GT programs test for intrinsic motivation.

The good news – and the bad news – is that the desire to learn can be fostered in any child when parents and educators shift the focus of learning to encouraging curiosity and the development of strengths and away from the emphasis on grade point averages.

Parents, do your child a favor by disregarding class rank, and work with the school to find courses that interest him or her.  Model your own enjoyment of learning new things and taking calculated risks.  Help your child to understand what it feels like to pursue a difficult challenge because it is interesting instead of because it will look good on a transcript.

Educators, think about what you can do to contribute to providing environments that nurture the desire to learn.  (Shift This, by Joy Kirr, is a great book to help you get started.) Cultivate student interests and strengths whenever you have the opportunity.

GT, Honors, AP, straight A’s, should not be badges of honor – or shame.  I was devastated when I wasn’t first in my class in high school, but it hasn’t made a speck of difference in my success or lack of it.  Fortunately, I never lost my desire to learn. Just a few months ago, I learned how to change my own flat tire, and it felt pretty good.  Until my daughter clocked me in the head with the car door.  “Car-ma” for being a little too proud of my own accomplishment.  Is it possible to be overly intrinsically motivated?  Maybe that should be the follow-up study…


Creative Thinking, Education, K-12, Motivation, Problem Solving

It’s a Nerd’s World

photo credit: Domain Barnyard via photopin cc

“It’s a Nerd’s World” is a fabulous article to which many GT students will relate.  The mother/author, Miranda Gargasz, recounts a time when her son was stung by being called a “nerd” by one of his friends.  The mother’s reaction, and her son’s subsequent response to his friend, will warm your heart.  My class of GT 5th graders actually stood up and cheered at the end of the story!  I think that this is a great follow-up to the “Bias Against Creativity” article that I referenced in yesterday’s post.