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Spoiler Alert!

From "The Hannah Montana Movie" to "Angels and Demons," from "X-Men Origins" to "Star Trek," the summer blockbuster movie line-up suggests a wild ride this year. The way our movie rating system works, it's clear which movies are appropriate for younger kids (G/PG) and older kids (PG-13/R). But what about the kids in the middle?

Since I teach middle school, this topic worries me a lot. I have conversations in class where I'm trying to compare something in older literature to something more modern to which the students can relate. Then, I make the comment, "Oh, but you aren't old enough to see that yet." ALWAYS someone says, "Oh yes, I have seen it already." All I can do is shake my head and move on.

What many parents and teachers do not know is that gifted students have a different kind of filter on their five senses. This new CGI is even more stimulating to a gifted person who gets excited during the "Star Wars" X-Wing fighter battle and terrified during a gruesome scene in "Saw." As brain cells flash faster in a gifted person's mind, there's no going back once some of these moments have been seen, heard, and felt in movies. Gifted and creative people are more likely to "live" the movie instead of just watching the movie. Their hearts break more deeply, their sadness is more depressing, and their comedic laughter is more effervescent.

Therefore, I am compelled to advocate for our young "middle-aged" students, usually grades 5 to 7. To both parents and teachers, choose these movies wisely. PG-13 is "13" for a reason, and not all moments are even suitable for 13-year-olds.

Teachers should really rethink the decision to get parents waivers to show movies with unsuitable ratings for their students. Besides, sometimes it is more appropriate to show clips of movies. Teachers shouldn't always take the time to show the entire two-hour movie. Clips can be chosen purposefully and carefully, which solves our initial problem of appropriateness for students.

On the other hand, choosing appropriate, inspiring movies that encourage students to be empathetic to the world around them is EXACTLY what gifted students need. Not only can we move their hearts, but we can inspire them to go out and do some good in our world. "Music from the Heart" is a great movie to encourage our young musicians to keep practicing. "Stand and Deliver" can inspire young mathematicians in all walks of life - even during testing time. "Rudy" or "Remember the Titans" are great choices for the classroom to inspire perseverance and leadership.

To all the adults who are in a position to shape a child's mind, please choose wisely!

Professional Development in Your Pajamas

Have you seen Scholastic's videos online? If you go to this page, you will find the videos arranged into categories, one of which is "Professional Development." I was intrigued by the video with Roger Essley on using visual tools because I LOVE using storyboards with my gifted students. When we read stories, the best tool to use to explain elements of plot is the storyboard, which I call a comic strip with a purpose. Students are required to identify only the main pieces of the plot because they can't fit ALL the action into only 8 or 12 boxes. Gifted students struggle with narrowing down details as they see all the action as important, so a storyboard helps them target the main ideas.

I also use storyboarding to demonstrate to students how to take notes and create study guides in their content area classes. Especially with cause and effect elements of history and steps in a scientific process, storyboards enhance the student's level of understanding the sequence of events. Math teachers should consider using storyboards with gifted students who often work problems in their heads because this strategy requires them to illustrate or notate all steps involved in the mathematical process.

When you have some time, watch this great video - or find another that fits your area of interest. There are many from which to choose. Just browse around the site!

Dr. Maya Angelou

I am SO excited to see Scholastic featuring Dr. Angelou on their website. Have you seen these videos? Check this out: Celebrate Diversity with Dream in Color

I always target February for our annual poetry unit because of the many perspectives and cultures I can explore with my students. Maya Angelou is the centerpiece of part of my unit because of what a great example she is for gifted girls. I believe Dr. Angelou has a very high IQ, based on the fact that after some of her trauma early in life she stopped talking because she saw a cause/effect relationship with the power of words. Not many kids would make a connection like that. So, I believe, had she been born in a different time and maybe in a bigger town than Stamps, AR, she would have been included in a GT program.

In spite of her hardships in life, Dr. Angelou has achieved her greatest life goals. She has taken conflict and allowed her spirit to grow from the journey. What a superb example for our gifted girls who struggle with perfectionism on a daily basis! Many gifted girls take their fear of losing control to the extreme of self-inducing issues like eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, underachievement, and more. When I can use Dr. Angelou as an example in the classroom, my students are in awe of all she has accomplished. If you decide to use her in your own classroom, here are a few tips I would like to share based on my years of trial and error:

1. Be sure to show the video of her Inaugural Address for President Clinton, "On the Pulse of the Morning." Especially after our recent Inauguration, it'll give you goosebumps to see how our country has grown - plus, it's not often students get to see a poet read aloud one of his/her own poems. So special! (I found the video on YouTube.)

2. Discuss the title of her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and teach the poem by the same title. Discuss the extended metaphor of the caged bird to any person who has limitations, not just people who were enslaved at some point. Middle school students can also relate if they've ever been grounded. Be sure to include a comparison of this poem to the poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar called "Sympathy," as this poem inspired Angelou's poem.

3. My favorite project of the year is done during this unit. We read "Woman Work" by Angelou, and I read a parody of the poem that I wrote called "Teacher Work." (You can get a copy on Teachers Pay Teachers in my Angelou unit if this project sounds interesting to you.) I have the students write their own parody called "Student Work." These are SO much fun to read!

Most importantly, showing a video of Angelou will help the students relate to her and see her as a person. Sometimes students don't realize writing comes from a person - or the writers seem "dead" to them. Use one of the videos on Scholastic - the "Why Do You Write Poetry?" video is only 2 minutes long. Your students will love studying Maya Angelou, and she is such a great role model for all of us.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Strategies for Gifted Learners are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.