Curriculum for High Ability Learners

"...and All of the Children are Above Average."

Written by Tim Pope

For those that listen to the radio show Prairie Home Companion, you immediately recognize the title of this posting as part of Garrison Keillor’s traditional description of the children of Lake Wobegon (Coincidentally, this is also the town where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking).  Our culture seems to have an insatiable need to be better than the other guy.  This need is significantly influencing education policy and the implementation of the Common Core.

The effect of exceptionalism on education is not a new concept.  Math and science education took giant strides forward in the 1960s when we feared we were losing the space race to Russia.  The emergence of high-stakes testing in Texas in the 1980s gave us the ability to put a simple number on how our school/student performance/community is better than yours.  More recently, international assessments have led to headlines such as “Poor U.S. Test Results Tied to Weak Curriculum” and “Competitors Still Beat U.S. in Tests.” 

The cultural reality of exceptionalism in America is stated without judgment.  However, the spirit of exceptionalism may have created a dynamic of delusion.  For example, while American children may struggle with math, they excel at feeling good about themselves.  More notably, as parents we feel good about how brilliant our children are (as the father of five, I am often glared at when I proudly profess my children all seem to be stunningly average).    

The collision between exceptionalism and delusional brilliance is coming to a head with the new standards and assessments.  Texas has adopted new standards and assessments (not the Common Core, as Texas has its own brand of exceptionalism).  Policy makers there are backpedaling as parents are realizing that many students will struggle with the new assessments, and Texas has now gone from requiring four years of math including Algebra 2 to simply passing the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam for graduation.  Other groups have developed resistance to the Common Core as potentially limiting the learning of gifted learners.  Everyone seems to want to define career and college ready and to have their definition a.) be better than others, and b.) work for their children.

By and large, the Common Core (and the accompanying assessments) have done and will do a fine job of advancing the quality of mathematics education in America.  Many students will struggle with the greater demand just as students struggled 15 years ago when most states determined every student should take Algebra 1 (the argument on how these courses may have been diluted to achieve success for all will have to wait).  Rather than saying the Common Core is helping to move all students to the same end point, I believe the better articulation is that the Common Core will help move the entire continuum of learners in a forward direction.  Will the Common Core enable more students to be ready for success after high school?  Yes.  Can someone somewhere write a better set of standards?  Maybe, but it’s not worth the argument.  Now, on the other hand, arguments around the assessments and how they will be interpreted….


Gifted math...and then some

Those of you who are faithful readers of our KH blog (and we appreciate that…thanks!) know that you will frequently get not only my Kendall Hunt perspective, but also my perspective as the mom of a fifth grader who is in gifted classes. This post is one of the latter. 

I received a phone call the other day from my son’s math teacher. She proceeds to tell me that he’s breezing through math, so they gave him the sixth grade math inventory test and he only missed five out of 45 questions. They’re moving him from fifth grade high math to the sixth grade high math group on Monday. I interpret this to mean three things: 1) I will not be able to help him with his math because his math abilities have now surpassed mine (there’s more than one reason I’m not an accountant!); 2) he’s pretty good at math, obviously; and 3) his school really needs a strong gifted and talented math program.

We’ve spoken many times about the lack of talented and gifted resources in some schools. But I’m wondering, even in schools that use accelerated learning resources like Kendall Hunt’s Project M3: Mentoring Mathematical Minds our newest curriculum, Project M2: Mentoring Young Mathematicians, are there still students who are moved up a grade? Or is moving them up a grade the substitute for a curriculum for high-ability learners? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Flourish with Kendall Hunt!

Today I’m welcoming back Charley Cook, Vice President of Kendall Hunt Publishing’s PreK-12 Division, as our guest blogger. Charley would like to tell you a little about our new digital initiatives. Take it away, Charley.


Kendall Hunt Publishing has a strong history of being responsive to the needs of the educational marketplace. Over the years, we’ve worked closely with educators to develop products and services that not only align to national and state standards, but can also address and meet specific district requirements in terms of content, accessibility, and academic achievement. Some of these products include our curriculum for high ability learners, high school science textbooks and programs developed with our partner, BSCS, and our grade school mathematics program, Math Trailblazers, which integrates math, science, and language arts.

Like you, Kendall Hunt Publishing is dedicated to improving education and preparing students to successfully navigate a rapidly changing, technologically advanced world. So it should come as no surprise that Kendall Hunt has taken a proactive role in pioneering the development of groundbreaking digital learning solutions designed to more effectively engage students, support teachers, and involve parents in the educational process.

We’re extremely excited to announce the launch of Flourish, Kendall Hunt’s new digital learning network for students, teachers, and parents. Flourish integrates technology into all aspects of teaching and learning, and helps equip students with the skills they need to become productive citizens in the 21st century. Flourish is comprehensive, interactive, and economical, and features rich, research-based educational content along with a variety of tools that enhance learning, facilitate teaching, and increase communication both in the classroom and in the home. We hope you’ll take the time to explore its many features and benefits, because we know you will believe, as we do, that it can truly change the face of classroom learning.

Flourish is the first of many new, technology-driven products you can expect to see from Kendall Hunt in the near future.


Books, books, and more books – all for gifted language arts!

Since one of the hats I wear is the one of content manager for the Kendall Hunt Publishing website, I always have the scoop on our latest and greatest. And if you haven’t checked out our language arts curriculum for high ability learners since, oh, yesterday, you’ll want to check it out now! 

I think I’ve spoken here about the fact that we’re in the process of rolling out a new edition of all the materials for the Center for Gifted Education’s Language Arts program. Well, it’s coming in fast and furiously now. Just yesterday and today I loaded covers and descriptions for all the outstanding trade books that the new edition features. Such books as Amelia Bedelia for the younger set, Chasing Vermeer (a book my son has read and LOVED) for the little bit older ones, and Huck Finn for those in search of a classic.

There are books for gifted students at every level from Grade 1 through Grade 12. I think I counted somewhere in the neighborhood of 54 new trade books that I added, with about another 15-20 yet to come. The new student and teacher guides are rolling out as well, with new ones popping up every couple of weeks. Check it out when you get a chance!


Have I told you about K-2 gifted math?

I'm pretty excited, we now have a complete line-up of gifted education books for grades K-5. You know about Project M³: Mentoring Mathematical Minds, our gifted math curriculum for grades 3-5. Now we're announcing the availability of Project M²: Mentoring Young Mathematicians, a curriculum for high ability learners in the math area for grades K-2.

Brought to you by the same people who developed Project M³Project M²: Mentoring Young Mathematicians is a series of six curriculum units designed to foster inquiry and engage students in critical thinking, problem solving and communication.

Project M² builds upon the success of Project M³, a grade 3-5 advanced curriculum study. Studies investigating this curriculum found statistically significant gains on open-response, criterion-referenced, and standardized tests.

The Project M² units will be focused on "in-depth" mathematics using research-based practices and standards in mathematics education and early childhood education. One unit at each grade K-2 will focus on geometry and the other on measurement, both concepts that recently were identified in theCurriculum Focal Points (NCTM, 2006) as key areas to be emphasized in these grades.

As scores on national and international assessments indicate, not much attention is presently devoted to geometry or measurement in primary level curriculum. Project M² can change that!

0 Comments »'s just around the corner!

Will you be at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference beginning tomorrow in San Diego? If so, first, I’m jealous, I love San Diego, but second and more importantly, don’t forget to visit Kendall Hunt Publishing at Booth #523. You’ll be able to check out all of our gifted education books and accelerated learning resources, including Project M3: Mentoring Mathematical Minds, and the brand new Project M2: Mentoring Young Mathematicians.

Project M3 is a math curriculum for high ability learners in grades 3-5, while Project M2 meets needs of gifted math students from Kindergarten through Grade 2.


The following workshops by our authors, will take place during the conference:

Math Innovations, presented by Kathy Gavin, Friday, April 23rd, 10:00a-11:00a, Room 1B in the San Diego Convention Center.

We Discover Math, P-K, presented by Carol Inzerillo, Friday, April 23rd, 11:30a-12:30p, Room 1B in the Sand Diego Convention Center.

Math Innovations, presented by Kathy Gavin, Friday, April 23rd, 1:00p-2:00p, Room 1B in the San Diego Convention Center.

M3 and M2, presented by Kathy Gavin, Friday, April 23rd, 2:30p-3:30p, Room 1B in the San Diego Convention Center.

After the conference, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment and let me know what you think!


Unwrapping the Gifted Education Myths

A colleague found a great article from Teacher Magazine dispelling myths about gifted students and gifted education. You can find it here: It includes a link to a video that shows students tackling some of the myths discussed in the article.

Particularly interesting amongst the myths are “Gifted education requires abundant resources,” and “Gifted students don’t need help; they’ll do fine on their own.” Any of you out there who are charged with creating lesson plans for gifted and talented students, and who don’t have the resources to purchase a curriculum for high ability learners know that it’s possible to create a gifted program on a shoestring budget if you have no other choice. And as to that other myth about gifted students not needing help, as the parent of a gifted child I know that sometimes they need more help simply because more is expected of them and less help is provided because some people assume they don’t need it.


I see a gifted theme developing...

It thought today I’d talk about inquiry based science AND gifted science – two birds, one stone, if you will. Continuing with the discussion of the curriculum for high ability learners available from Kendall Hunt Publishing and the Center for Gifted Education (CFGE) at The College of William & Mary, there’s also an inquiry based science program available. It has seven problem-based units on such topics as coastal erosion, natural and cultural systems, electricity, nuclear energy, and animal populations. With units for grades 1 through 8, it supports all levels with challenging, hands-on scientific issues.

For instance, in Where’s the Beach? plans for building a children's camp at the beach are on hold because the town council is worried about beach erosion. Since the camp received a large donation to develop nature-themed experiences designed to teach children how to protect the environment, the camp manager wants to cooperate with the council. The problem is that she must begin construction quickly to be ready for the summer season. Acting as members of the town council, the students must develop scientifically-based regulations that will satisfy the long-term needs of the town and the plans for the new camp.

How great is that? It puts students in a real life situation that they can imagine affecting their lives and helps them use scientific concepts to find solutions. These are no ordinary books for gifted students…


Since we’re on the subject of gifted education resources...

…let’s talk about Language Arts. In my last post I highlighted the Social Studies program from the Center for Gifted Education (CFGE) at The College of William & Mary that we at Kendall Hunt Publishing offer. I thought I’d feature another of CFGE’s programs today…their Language Arts Curriculum for High Ability Learners.

This CFGE program includes modules for grades 1-11, nice because it keeps the learning consistent for students all the way through. Among others, it includes these topics: 

  • Journeys & Destinations
  • Autobiographies
  • Persuasion
  • The 1940s: A Decade of Change
  • Threads of Change in 19th Century American Literature

Each module includes implementation support, unit vocabulary lists, a glossary of literary terms, and bibliographies of student reading and teacher resources. After reading the literary selections, students engage in literary response and persuasive writing activities. Grammar, vocabulary, reasoning and research are also embedded in the unit activities. It’s so much more than just gifted education books.

One Virginia teacher has been using this curriculum for high ability learners for two years, and emailed us to tell us that, “the units are absolutely wonderful.”

You can find the program, along with samples from each module on the Kendall Hunt Publishing website:

Tell me what you think!


Gifted Social Studies…Hard to Find? Not at KH!

At home the other night we were hard at work on a Social Studies project when I got to thinking about social studies resources for gifted students. I know that these materials can be hard to find and many teachers create their own gifted and talented lesson plans.

But there’s a great social studies curriculum for high ability learners: the Center for Gifted Education (CFGE) at The College of William & Mary. Have you checked it out? You can find it here on the Kendall Hunt Publishing website:

CFGE Social Studies offers great topics, including these, just to name a few:

  • Gift of the Nile
  • Ancient China
  • The Civil War: It’s Causes and Effects
  • The Road to the White House: Electing the American President
  • Defining Nations: Cultural Identity and Political Tensions

And the program meets the needs of Grades 2 through 12. It even includes implementation support such as guidelines, learning centers and teaching models, along with additional resources. Where else can you find this? As the world gets smaller and smaller, it seems to me at least that our kids really need to learn about these things. Many gifted education books offer science and reading programs, but it seems social studies is a little harder to find.
Do your schools have talented and gifted resources for social studies? Tell me what you’re using and how you use them, I’d be really interested to know.


Private School Education

Did you know that 99% of private school students graduate?
And of them, 90% attend 4-year colleges?

With statistics like that, it is vital private schools meet the needs of their students by providing curriculum for all students including high ability learners. Creating lesson plans for gifted and talented is never an easy when you are first meeting the needs of main stream students.  

Kendall Hunt is one of the leading publishers in talented and gifted resources for mathematics, science, social studies and language arts.  To learn more about the following programs, click on the links below...I know these will help nurture intellectual growth, challenge students and help prepare them for success at the next level.

Project M3: Mentoring Mathematical Minds
The Center for Gifted Education from The College of William & Mary

What's the latest from Professional Development?

Have you visited our Professional Development area? KH offers professional development support for many of our programs, including our accelerated learning resources. Here’s some news on a recent conference from our Professional Development Manager, Laura Lottes:

The Talented and Gifted Professional Development Conference held in Columbia, South Carolina November 18th and 19th was a big success! 

The conference was designed to provide training to both users and non-users of Kendall Hunt talented and gifted resources and curricula for high ability learners.  Eighty-six teachers from 29 elementary schools and administrators from the South Carolina Department of Education participated in the two-day event.  The participants had four topics to choose from including Math, Science, Language Arts and Social Studies.  Our author groups from Project M3 and the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William & Mary provided us with the resources for content of the workshops.

We are so grateful to our dedicated customers, as well as our future customers, who believe in life long learning and continuing education for their staff!


A Mother’s Mantra to Her Child Each October: “There’d better not be any surprises at your conference!”

Yesterday was our son’s conference, and fortunately for him, there were no surprises. In fact, in fourth grade he reads at the 7th grade level, so I’m thrilled and very proud of him.

Then I met with the gifted teacher, who showed me some of his work and sung his praises as well. We bemoaned the lack of accelerated learning resources (both in terms of books for gifted students and teacher time) and discussed my last column about students falling through the cracks. She has an interesting POV as she’s taught both ends of the spectrum, “special ed” and gifted. She says as different as the levels are, there are so many similarities. Certainly that is due largely to the fact that both are the minorities, so they don’t have a great deal of resources.  Each school has to buy elementary school science books, but not necessarily a curriculum for high ability learners. The lack of resources and teachers is also exacerbated by the fact that it’s a small school in a small district.  

That said, they do a remarkable job with what they have, the number of students, and the range of abilities. This seems like a good time of year to thank each teacher who gives their heart and soul to make a difference in the futures of my child and all the others out there!


Come to a NSTA Conference

Looking to learn about more about what science education textbook publishers had to offer for your classroom?  Want to attend some content specific professional development workshops?

A great opportunity to do both is just around the corner.  Take time to head out to one of three NSTA regional area conferences going on in the next two months. 

2009 NSTA Area Conferences (

  • Minneapolis: Oct. 29–31
  • Ft. Lauderdale: Nov. 12–14
  • Phoenix: Dec. 3–5


Here is a great list from NSTA of why you should attend one of their conferences:

Top 10 Reasons for Attending an NSTA Conference

  1. Performance—You and your students deserve to be excellent in science
  2. Leadership—Because new skills, knowledge and activities help build educational leaders who influence others to do extraordinary things
  3. Discovery—Because looking at the world with a new perspective brings innovation and creativity in the classroom
  4. Motivation—Because expert speakers, educators, and scientists serve to inspire and stimulate
  5. Passion—Because sharing it with your peers, your mentors, and the leaders in science education is contagious
  6. Expertise—Because educators are the best when they are well versed in their field
  7. Inspiration—Because you will hear stories from the likes of renowned author Richard Louv that will move you to act.
  8. Growth—Because your conference experience will expand your world personally and professionally
  9. Freebies—Because exhibiting companies from across the nation will offer you hundreds of classroom giveaways, new products and samples
  10. . Connections—Because you’ll meet peers, mentors, leaders, and acquaintances for support and friendship

Stop by the Kendall Hunt booths to see the different textbooks for elementary school, middle and high school. This includes science curriculum for high ability learners.   


Who's Falling Through the Cracks Now?

Here’s my question…as a teacher, what do your gifted students do during RTI time? It used to be that the students who struggled or had behavioral issues were the ones who “fell through the cracks.” More and more I feel like it’s now the gifted or advanced students who fall through. Of course, in a perfect world, no one would fall through the cracks. And I give all the credit in the world to the classroom teacher who is trying to balance the needs of 20-30 students with vastly differing needs, levels and abilities. 

I know that in my son’s school, everyday they have a half hour of RTI time. During this time, the other students are engaged in group reading. For some students, that group reading is beneficial, for the more advanced students, they are bored. As I’ve indicated here before, his school doesn’t have a lot of accelerated learning resources or books for gifted students - they don’t even have a curriculum for high ability learners. And they only go to their gifted class twice a week. So what’s the answer for these students?

I did give the principal one suggestion when I spoke with him earlier today (first time in five years that I’ve actually felt the need to call him, and I didn’t want to just call and complain without offering at least one solution). I said the teacher create a couple groups of the other students, give them a research topic or question, and tell them that they must make a presentation, complete with visual aids, in two weeks. It would at least put that RTI time to good use for them.

 I’d love to hear from teachers who have this same dilemma. I know many schools don’t have gifted education books in class, and some lack even the basic talented and gifted resources. So what do you do?


Lesson Plans - Gifted and Talented - How Do You Plan?

I got to wondering this week, is creating lesson plans based on books for gifted students different than planning for a regular class?  What brought this to mind was a discussion with my fourth grader about the work teachers must put into their jobs beyond the classroom. We talked about grading papers, creating parent newsletters, where tests based on, say, elementary school science textbooks come from, and lesson plans.

This then led to a discussion of what lesson plans are and how they come to be.  I explained that many primary school textbooks offer guidance in this area, but he wondered how his gifted teacher (note to self: review sentence structure rules...while I feel all his teachers are gifted, I'm referring to the one who teaches the gifted classes) does it when they don't have gifted education books or a curriculum for high ability learners in his school. :-(  I told him I was sure she probably uses the Internet for ideas and planning, but I thought I'd ask you all...those of you who do it without a "program" - how do you create your lesson plans for gifted and talented classes?  I'd love to know! 

School's In!

School started today for my 4th grader.  Last night we went to "Back to School Night" so he could meet the teacher, take his supplies and start to get settled in.  First thing I went for, being in the science textbook publishing business, was the elementary school science textbook sitting on his desk.  Felt like a brand new one too.  Love those new books!

Then we stopped by the GATE room where the teacher showed me some of the new accelerated learning resources that she was able to purchase with some stimulus funds, including a few Kendall Hunt items from our Project M3 program, a math curriculum for high ability learners.  She also found some new lesson plans for gifted and talented classes that she's going to try out this year.  Project M3 has some great modules, like "At the Mall with Algebra" that let students use real life experience to learn math.  They're not just gifted education books, they're gifted education adventures.

Here a Gifted Book, There a Gifted Book, Everywhere a Gifted Book

It seems like the last few years there has been a veritable explosion of accelerated learning resources flooding the market. Maybe it’s because our own offerings in books for gifted student have grown so much. We now have talented and gifted resources available for:

And I’m not just talking about a book or two for each subject. Each is a robust curriculum for high ability learners. What about your talented and gifted resources? Are they books…curriculum programs? And how does your school choose…does the gifted teacher decide on his/her own? What role do the principal and the district play? 


Science Experiments by the Hundreds (yes, hundreds!)

Science Experiments by the Hundreds - An Inquiry Based Science Textbook for Middle SchoolOne of my favorite books is out with a brand new edition - the third edition, in fact.  It is an inquiry based science book entitled Science Experiments by the Hundreds.  It starts out with an experiment that lets students figure out whether the speed of the flow ketchup is affected by its temperature (personally, I think the speed of ketchup is most affected by how hungry the person waiting for the ketchup is!), and ends with an experiment involving a toy truck and the impact extra weight in the truck has on its ability to go up an incline.  I think this book and the other books related to it could easily be used in earlier grades as talented and gifted resources or as part of a curriculum for high ability learners.

The really great thing is that as students are doing the many "investigations," they are also learning the proper way to do an experiment, solving the issues in a systematic way.  You don't have to spend a bunch of money on special equipment, most of the objects and supplies are commonly found at home or in the classroom.  Best of all, the kids are learning through inquiry based science without even being aware that they're learning.  How can you beat that!  Check it out when you have a chance!


Step 2: Cover Design

You can preview most of our K12 textbooks at Kendall Hunt Publishing Company's website.

In the previous article, I spoke about the beginning stages of creating a high school science textbook: acquisition and planning, as well as the development of the manuscript and art package. In this article, I'll introduce the design process that we, as an educational publishing company, use.

Around the same time that the copy-editing is being done, we coordinate with a designer to develop the cover image/design. When selecting a cover image for a high school biology textbook, high school chemistry textbook, or any of our textbooks, we look for a good balance of gender and ethnicity in an photos of people that we use. We also consider age-appropriateness for grade-level, whether it’s a primary school textbook vs. secondary school textbooks and whether it’s a product targeted to a specific ability, such as a curriculum for high ability learners.

The cover image needs to be strong and eye-catching and express the concept that we are trying to project for our target market. We want to draw the student into the content. The text/logo-type needs to be nicely balanced and eye-catching as well. We usually request 3-4 choices and may go through several "proofs" to complete the front/spine/back panels of the cover. The text on the back cover is another tool used to interest and draw students into the content. The saying, "you can't judge a book by its cover" is certainly true, however, we need to show something dynamic in order to have potential customers review our products in the first place!