Tag Archives: gifts

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Stories of Inspirational Females

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

For this post I am going to recommend two books.  One is fiction and the other is not.  Both have amazing illustrations.  Both champion scientific discovery.  And both feature strong females who are curious, persistent, and determined to pursue their interests despite costs and sacrifices.

I saw a comment about one of these books where the writer said, “If I had a daughter, I would give her this book.”  That’s fine – but there’s no reason a son shouldn’t receive either of these as a gift.  Yes, we need to increase the number of women in scientific fields.  But that doesn’t mean that we need to exclude males from them.  And, if our belief is that stereotypes should be eradicated, won’t this be helped even more by young men learning about inspiring females and males?

Ada Twist, Scientist
Ada Twist, Scientist

Ada Twist, Scientist is a delightful book by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts about a young girl who exasperates and amazes the adults in her life with her quests to find the right answer.  This picture book is one that I reviewed a few months ago here, and part of a series of brilliant stories about children who refuse to allow life to just happen to them.

Women in Science
Women in Science

Women in Science, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky, has caught my eye on so many “Best Of…” lists that I finally had to order it.  It says quite a bit about my education (and my memory) that I only recognize the names of 4 of the 50 female scientists described in this book.  To be read independently, this book would be best for ages 8 and up.  As a read-aloud, however, I don’t see any reason that parents or teachers couldn’t start earlier – maybe choosing one scientist a day to study.  The graphics, colors, and font of this book separate it from the stodgy biographies that would immediately elicit yawns, and Ignotofsky has done a wonderful job of succinctly describing each scientists contributions in laymen’s terms.

With the upcoming Hidden Figures film and books like these, women in STEM careers are finally receiving real recognition.  None of this negates the amazing feats of men in these fields.  Instead, we are getting a richer picture of our history and more motivation to play significant roles in the future.

A List of More Lists You Just Can’t Resist

It is, of course, impossible to review all of the amazing educational toys out there.  My Gifts for the Gifted series is not nearly as expansive as some of the other lists that you can find this time of year.  Just in case you don’t find something that you think your child/student/niece/nephew/ would like on my list, here are some others that I plan to use for my own shopping ideas:

Stay tuned on Friday for another installment of this year’s Gifts for the Gifted!

Design Your Own Marble Maze
Design Your Own Marble Maze

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Clue Master

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

My annual “Gifts for the Gifted” lists wouldn’t be complete without at least one game from ThinkFun.  This company is one of my favorite sources for entertaining educational games and my students always enjoy reviewing new ones as well as playing the classics.

Clue Master is one of ThinkFun’s newer products.  It’s a “logical deduction” game that is somewhat like Sudoku.  Although it is labeled as a single-player game, my students and I like to play in pairs, alternating puzzles.  Designed for ages 8 and up, it does one of the things that ThinkFun does best with games like this – scaffolding. The challenges slowly increase in difficulty so that anyone can work through them at their own pace without feeling bored or frustrated.

The game puzzles and solutions are contained in a sturdy book, and you will also find 9 magnetic tokens, a game grid, and instructions in the box.  Each challenge gives you a picture of the grid with some clues to the locations of each of the tokens.  The player’s job is to use the clues to deduce where all of the tokens should be placed.

The graphics have the pixelated look of Minecraft, which immediately draws the attention of young people.  Don’t be fooled, however.  Adults will have just as much fun trying to solve the challenges once they skip through the beginning puzzles.  Spatial reasoning is definitely a requirement in addition to logic, and many of us can use a bit more practice in both.

With these types of games, I’ve found that part of the appeal to my young partners is for them to see me struggle through it.  I also enjoy when they verbalize their thought processes and come to the realization that all of these can be solved through reasoning – not guess & check.  This is why I would recommend that, if you purchase Clue Master as a gift, you make plans to enjoy it with the recipient instead of expecting him or her to go off an play it alone.  Both of you will find the experience much more rewarding.

For more game recommendations, check out my Pinterest Board, which includes more products from ThinkFun as well as other great companies.

Clue Master from ThinkFun
Clue Master from ThinkFun

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Anaxi

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

I found Anaxi at Marbles: the Brain Store when I was hunting for a gift for my 13-year-old daughter.  We both love word games, so Anaxi caught my eye with its, “Connecting Words in Surprising Ways” subtitle.

Anaxi is for 2-6 players, ages 8-99.  I could actually see it being played in the classroom, especially with my gifted students, with some minor rule adjustments (particularly the time limit).

In the box you will find a 1-minute-timer, instructions, and round, translucent cards in 3 different colors.  There are also 2 “base” cards to help you place the colored cards in the correct positions for each round of play.

A round consists of choosing a card of each color, placing them on the base card so they form a Venn diagram, and then trying to name as many people, places, or things that you can which connect overlapping cards.  After a minute is up (which I recommend changing to longer time periods if the players are elementary school age), you receive a point for each answer that connects 2 overlapping cards, and 4 points for the ones that connect all 3 cards – but you only receive points for unique answers.  If anyone else has the same answer, it is eliminated.  You can see a more detailed explanation in the video below.

Anaxi slightly reminds me of Apples to Apples as both games require the players to make connections, and there is opportunity for a lot of creativity.  There is also opportunity for a lot of arguing, which you might want to address before you begin a game.

Anaxi would be fun for a family game night – maybe giving adults a one-minute time limit and giving children 5 minutes to level the playing field.

You can find Anaxi at Marbles: the Brain Store
You can find Anaxi at Marbles: the Brain Store

Gifts for the Gifted 2016 – Fish in a Tree

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program.  Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

gifts

When a new student entered our 3rd grade gifted and talented class this year a few weeks after we’d begun classes, I thought we might need to spend some time filling her in on what she had missed so far. I was wrong.  Growth mindset, the importance of stretching your brain, systems thinking – she had already covered these topics at her previous school.  One day, we were talking about how, if you don’t learn about how to deal with challenges you might begin to avoid them altogether because you don’t want people to think you aren’t smart and she said, “This reminds me of Fish in a Tree!”  She was so excited about the connection between this library book that she was reading and our discussion that I said, “I would like to read that book, too!”

“There’s extra copies in the library!” she exclaimed!

“Well, let’s all read it, then!” I said, completely caught up in her exuberance and not at all concerned that I had just committed our small class to reading a book that I hadn’t previewed yet and that the “recommender” hadn’t even finished.  We went straight to the library and checked it out.

My student was right.  Fish in a Tree is the perfect supplement to our classroom discussions.  In the story, the main character, Ally, covers up her difficulty with reading.  She eventually finds out, due to a dedicated teacher, that she has dyslexia.  Along the way, she learns that making good friends is more worthwhile than trying to fit in, and that her imagination, perseverance, and courage are truly admirable.

The other young characters in the story, especially the new friends that Ally makes, remind me of many of the students I’ve taught over the years.  Ally’s teacher exemplifies so many of the caring colleagues I have had the honor of working with during my career.

In the book, Ally’s use of figurative language – particularly similes – offers a lot of opportunities for discussion along with great mental images that make the story come to life.Fish in a Tree

If you are a parent, I encourage you to buy this book for your child, and read it together.  If you are a teacher, read it along with your class (and here are some classroom activities to go along with it).  It’s a heartwarming novel that emphasizes kindness, understanding, and individuality.

 

Gifts for the Gifted – Time With You

Our classroom just received a 3D printer through Donors Choose.  It has been amazing, and I am certain that it will be getting a lot of use for our Genius Hour projects.  During this entire week, I have been planning to recommend this printer in my “Gifts for the Gifted” series because it has impressed me so much.  As you can see, however, I changed my mind.

Today is my last “Gifts for the Gifted” post for this year, and I really wanted to make sure it would be helpful to those who are still searching for the perfect gift for a special child.  And so, I’m going to suggest something that isn’t revolutionary and isn’t very creative; I suggest that you give that child time.

if-you-want-your-children...

Many will agree with me that time is valuable, and something that seems to slip through our fingers all too easily.  But how often do we consciously make the effort to “be in the moment,” and to show children how important it is to us to just be around them?

I can tell you without a moment’s hesitation that the fastest way to connect with  children is to let them be heard, and to assure them that you are listening and find their thoughts and contributions valuable.  I do this for my students and for my own daughter.  I wouldn’t be surprised if 90% of all behavior issues could be traced back to the lack of time an important adult has spent: listening, explaining, playing, and laughing.

How can you give this gift in a meaningful way?  If you are a parent, look at websites like DIY.org or Design Squad for projects you can do with your child.  If you have some down time during the next two weeks, try my Winter Break Challenge.  When your child does something well, like bringing home a great report card or succeeding in a competition, don’t give him or her money or a trip to get ice cream.  Take your child ice-skating or to play miniature golf.  Learn a language together with Duolingo or go to a museum and discuss the art.  Bake together, read a book with each other, or work on a scrapbook of memorable photos.

This post may come across as preachy, or you might be disappointed because you are looking for something tangible to put under the tree.  But I really can’t emphasize enough the difference it makes when children realize how much you enjoy being with them.  Helping them to realize how much you value them as people can be the most important gift they ever receive.

If you are looking for other gift suggestions, please check out the rest of my “Gifts for the Gifted” series.  Always keep in mind, though, that these gifts make much more of an impact if you enjoy them together.

gifts

My List of Lists That Can’t Be Missed

Shockingly, I’m not the only person with the idea of making gift recommendations during this time of year.  I’ve run across a few other great lists in the past few weeks that have helped me to add to my own growing wish list.  Just in case you don’t spend as much time combing the internet for more lists, here are some you should definitely check out:

I can't believe I haven't added this littleBits kit to our classroom inventory yet.
I can’t believe I haven’t added this littleBits kit to our classroom inventory yet.  Check out TKSST Guide for more great suggestions.