Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Are Legos Academic?

Occasionally, I'll have a parent mention to me that their son is so advanced with Legos, putting things together that are super hard and advanced in age.  Others mention that their six year old daughter reads at a graduate school level, how smart she is.

They know I'm the one person on the planet who's actually interested in what they have to say and would enjoy a conversation on that topic.

What they are really saying, besides "my child is so smart and gifted", which is true, is "what is the standard for cognitive ability and are we meeting it as a parent/child team?"  That was one of the first things I had in mind when began my research project.  What is this standard?   The assumption I have at the beginning is that if there is a standard, there is no reason why my child can't meet it.  It's just that I'm in the dark on how other parents are fairing, and I don't want either of my sons to get to graduate school at Harvard and find out that they blew it because I didn't have them read Harry Potter twice by the end of third grade.

    Before we get to Lego's, here's the brief version of some standards:
  1. The reading standard is pretty easy - read a lot.   Read to your child at least 20 minutes a day, and have them read to you or on their own at least 20 minutes a day (30 by second grade, more after that).
  2. The math standard is also fairly easy.  Have them plod along 3 times a week with a workbook that is 2 grade levels ahead, and then spend one or 2 sessions a week on age appropriate computation (adding, subtracting, multiplication, etc.)  It helps if you have 3 years of graduate math training.
  3. The music standard is having the Mom be a music major at Northwestern and teach your son classic piano.  Since there are no music majors in this family, and I need to preserve my ranking in Competitive Parent Magazine's Top Competitive Parents, I'm having my son teach himself (I'm helping as needed) until he's in the 4th grade, after which we are going to do all instruments I can find used.  Think composer.  
Back to Legos.   I just sat down with my 4 year old for the last 3 days to build the Lego Knight's Castle.

The academic skills required by the average Lego set for a young child are pretty comprehensive.  Counting, reading direction (via pictures and numbers), short term memorization and differentiating (searching in piles for a list of parts) by shape, number, and shade of color, spatial orientation, fluid intelligence, problem solving, asking for help, focus and paying attention.  Legos directly develops my favorite academic skill of all - Executive Functioning - which in this case involves seeing a long multi-step project through to completion.

At very young ages, these are valuable skills to learn, and mentoring my little Lego builder is time well spent.   For a 4 year old, I expect lots of mistakes, snack breaks, breaks to spontaneously build something, and loss of interest.   When I joined in (searching, fixing), his concentration increased substantially.  Nothing special here, but lots of good brain practice.

At later ages, there's nothing wrong with this interest.  It tends to go hand-in-hand with science and math geekdom.  But you have to raise the bar if you want your child to actually be above average.

One parent I know finds second hand stores and has amassed hundreds of thousands of Legos in various colors, shapes and sizes.   I wasn't that clever and frugal, but just ordered tens of thousands from the Lego's US headquarters.  Regardless, we recycle old sets.

The next step is to go online and find the directions of sets you haven't bought, and try to put them together from parts you don't have.  For a 7 or 8 year old to put together any of these sets quickly and flawlessly doesn't automatically equate to the 99th percentile.  I need to see some innovation.

At age 8 and up, if you want to stay ahead, plan on programming Lego robots.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why I Hate the OLSAT Classification Questions

My son is struggling with the OLSAT classification question. 

I'm not surprised or disappointed.  He won't see most of the practice questions for at least 1 1/2 years, but we've run out of the age appropriate ones and are moving on to the harder ones. 

The ones we are working on look like this.  There are 5 items.  Pick the one that doesn't belong.  A banana, an orange, an apple, a grape, and a truck.

My son will pick the orange.   Why the orange?  Because you don't get juice all over your hands from the other ones.  It doesn't work that way.  You have to follow the rules.

So I bring my older son over.   He already "passed" this test.   He'll do the same thing, only with a goofier, more far fetched answer.

For each of these question types, I have to spend a full month getting the rules down.  Then we can practice them.   I'm not sure this will help on the test, because the logic and vocabulary they are asking is also hit or miss.   My son has never seen a microwave, a 1980's computer, a wind sock.

I'm trying out various algorithms for him to use to organize the questions and his answers.   He's smart enough to know what an algorithm is, but we're having less fun because his stifling his creativity.   I won't publish any of these here until I've worked through the ethics of test preparation and am sure I won't get sued.

I wonder if there are much smarter kids who score poorly on these tests because they make up their own set of complicated attributes and relationships that defy what adults expect.

[Note added October 6, 2012]  We've been reviewing the COGAT classification questions lately.  These appear to be in a different format.   As a disclaimer, I'm working from a stack of published practice tests, and not the actual tests, so I can't verify the format.   So this is the presumed format.  In the COGAT version, there are 3 items in a group, like an orange, a banana, and an apple.  Which of the four choices belongs with this group?  A banana?  A car, toaster, or TV?   It's much harder to twist the question logic with the COGAT practice tests.   I should have used these as a warm up for the OLSAT.

I think that this implies that the COCAT content, the attributes that make each item a member of the group, must be much harder than the OLSAT, because the format is harder.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Competitive Parent Magazine's Parent Reading Guide

There are 3 books for GAT parenting that I think are mandatory reading.   Of course, by GAT, I mean the 80th to 90th percentile.   Parents with 99 percenters need a whole different set of books.

Nurture Shock (2003) by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  You can read their blog to get a flavor of the content of this book.  This book is great to help you understand why the stuff you are doing to give your child an advantage (the nurture) is actually making him dumber (the shock).   This is an excellent book.

Welcome to Your Child's Brain (2011) by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang.  These 2 researchers do a very thorough job in providing the latest research to help you teach your child to read, and then continue on through the rest of the developing years.  This is a great book for new parents, because it will help them not waste money on stupid stuff for their baby, or pointless activities that don't work.  You can see their blog as well.

Some of My Best Friends are Books (updated about every 5 years) by Judith Wynn Halsted.  This book discusses reading for children in depth and provides a reading list.   I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but for the march from 80% to 99%, this is the most important thing you can concentrate on, until it's time to choose a college major, and then anything math or science related is fine.   Managing this portion of my child's education is probably my #1 and #2 priority.   I borrowed this from the library and am going to buy it.  

Real Education (2008) by Charles Murray.  You will love or hate this book based on your political persuasion.  However, there are a few sections in this book that discuss an education that a GAT kid would be challenged by and compares it to what most of them get.   This part is very motivating for a parent.  Unfortunately, the curriculum that he cites requires paying.  I'm trying to find a work around.

9-30-2014 Addition - The Well Trained Mind (1999 and later) by Susan Wise Bauer.  This is my favorite book.  Like Read Education, Bauer presents a very high bar for children's educational possibilities.  I've read the first 30 pages about 5 times for inspiration, and then perused the rest of the book to get a flavor for what my children could be learning.   Mental note to self - check this annually to see if the children's formal education is measuring up, and assign books as needed to close gaps.

1-31-2015 Addition - How Children Succeed (2012) by Paul Tough.   In the tradition of Welcome to Your Child's Brain, a journalist presents research on where regulated behavior (aka character) comes from and why it has a positive impact on your child's success.    Hug your kids!  (Note:  There's not a lot of hugging going on in any of my posts.  I tend to focus on other things in my writing.)

There are quite a few gifted books written by parents who try something new and end up with children who teach literature at the college and graduate levels.   If either of my children go to graduate school at Stanford, I too will publish.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Cogat Quantative Analogy Question

The Cogat quantitative analogies are a numerical matrix where what happens on one row has to happen on the next row.  I suppose this goes by columns as well, but not in all cases.   This question will only appear on the Kindergarten/1st Grade version of the test.  After that, I think it becomes numerical.

I doubt preschoolers are given these questions.  Way too hard, although it appears on the abbreviated battery (the 15 minute version of the test.)

Here is the simple version of the question:

Usually, the bottom right square will be blank.  The proper way to do this question is to first see that the circles increase by 2 in the top row.  The solution is to have the squares increase by 2 in the bottom row, and the end result is 5 squares in the empty box.  The figures in each box vary, and there are plenty of ways to make this wickedly hard.

We tried this out six months ago.  I could not get my son to understand that the top row was adding 2 circles from left to right.  So I created a series of questions on my testing software that only had the top row, and the answer choices were "-2 -1 0 +1 +2".   We did about 50 of these until he saw that I wanted to know what the quantitative change was from left to right in the top row.

Anyway, we came back to these recently.  He now spatially recognizes which circles arrive or leave in between the first and second boxes, and knows the top part on sight, which is kind of cool, even though he could probably do the arithmetic on his fingers.    What a great way to learn math.

When it comes to the bottom row, it's a disaster again.   In the top example, he would note that 2 triangles were added to the top row, but since the bottom row already has 3 squares, we don't need any more to get to 3.  In other words, he has his own set of rules on how this can work.  He's come up with other alternative rules as well.  Makes me wonder if this is a predictor of academic ability or of lameness, said the bitter parent.

So, I set aside our 10 minutes a day of academic work to see if we can lick these.  I really don't think this is going to matter on the CPS test.   I have my doubts that these questions are included.  But the mountain is there.

So we spent an hour (after bedtime, no less) going through about 15 of these, which he got wrong even though I explained to him how to do it and what the answer is and let him try again.  I wonder how many actual gifted kids slip through the cracks because of thinking like this.  However - note this other competitive parents - he didn't cry or give up the whole time.  He didn't get frustrated or annoyed, even though my voice got louder and I was visibly frustrated.  How weird is that?

The next night we tried again with little luck. 

The third night, he wrote his own matrix and explained it to me, and got it wrong.

I'm starting to wonder if he is going to win the argument about how to do these.

Well, thanks for reading this far.  Here's the solution.  From experience, I know that all I have to do is set this aside for a month and he'll magically get it.  Academically speaking, that works on everything, and is the secret to not getting mad at your children when they totally don't get something that they should.

But I also know that the questions on the exam are going to be super hard, so it's more important to work on those basic academic skills like paying attention than trying to devise every permutation of this question and having Jr. memorize them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Homework Trap for GAT

I've been reviewing The Homework Trap, see

This looks like must reading for the average parent, and dives into some extreme cases of bright students falling way behind, into C or D range, and how to get them back to A's.

I think main thesis of the of this is very useful to GAT students.  In the CPS system, these kids are identified as having high abilities at age 4 or 5, and then thrown into an accelerated program with lots of projects and field trips.   At some point which varies by program, they get hit with lots of homework.  My son got hit in the 1st grade, 1 to 2 hours a night, and projects on Saturday morning.  I hear this drops off in 2nd and 3rd grade.  Other programs have their designated "trial by fire" year.

The Homework Trap notes 3 things that I think are relevant here.  #1 Homework should be timed.  #2 The parent should control the workload within the home.   #3  Don't punish or discourage the child during the homework process or you will make things worse.   I learned this the hard way.

Of course, it's too late to do any of this when the child has to write 12 sentences (hell for certain first graders) and the work is due tomorrow.

What I accidentally stumbled upon solved this problem without having to resort to directly addressing school assigned homework.   The Homework Trap has explained to me why this worked.

Seeing my child struggle through Everyday math, I thought I knew the issue from other parents.   Everyday math teaches kids lots of things, and all the while, little by little, the kid forgets how to add and subtract.  So I created some worksheets, posted in one of my permanent pages here, and gave my son 10 minutes each night to see how many he could do.   The other thing I did was switch his piano practice from 5 times a song to 20 minutes.   I would vary the length and content based on how bad a day he was having.

According to the Homework Trap, what I was doing was changing his attitude toward assigned work according to their theory and methodology.

I did one more thing.   I assigned my son 1 or 2 pages out of the Everyday math journal workbooks for grade 2 from start to finish until all of book #1 and most of book #2 were complete.   We started Christmas of Kindergarten, and I let my son know up front I didn't expect him to know any of it because he hadn't seen any of it before.  Boy was that hell.  It was like Boot Camp for about 6 months.  Sometimes he got all of the answers incorrect.  We didn't have dramatic problems after that because any time he said "This is too hard" or "I am too tired" I would just pull out these completed books and ask him if there is another student in country who did every page in next year's math workbook, including the kids in the 2nd grade?

So now I've got four theories of how we survived the 1st grade with a student who had a great attitude and didn't get wiped out by up to 2 hours of homework a day, 5 days a week:

1)   I corrected the deficiencies in Everyday Math using calculation worksheets, ala Kumon.   (Homework trap would say that I used the timed homework method on content that I controlled as a parent in the home.)   I did not care about the results (addressing Homework Trap recommendations on incentives.)   I would say that I was merely helping him succeed in one academic area, and let the confidence and learned work ethic spill over into other subjects.

2)  I gave him timed work in math and more recently music.  This is classic Homework Trap methodology.   My thinking all along is that math is a great subject to tackle study habits with because the child can succeed at new challenges without maturity issues.  I wouldn't try this with Chemistry or Moby Dick.  So in effect, I was implementing the Homework Trap solution.

3)  Using math outside of academic work, I made him do 2 pages a day and we went through the hell until it worked. (Homework Trap would say I controlled the homework.)   If he got everything wrong on a given day, I would take him out for ice cream or some suitable reward for surviving material over his head. (Homework Trap would say this is the reverse incentive problem handled properly in my style).   I did not time this, and some days the 2 pages would take an hour.

4)  There's a forth possibility here, and that is the 1st grade teacher, with about 20 years experience, at the first GAT program in the CPS, knows what she is doing.   The kids have to do 100% of the homework with the parent, at least initially, and this puts the parent and the child in the game together.  The parent also has to make lots of decisions on what to do each week, and help the child choose which assignments to complete from the options.  Again, Homework Trap would say this puts the parent in the driver's seat, which is true somewhat.

So without some researcher volunteering a controlled experiment that has the possibility of scarring the control group for life, I can not conclude that the Homework Trap methodology worked, or if I was just teaching him to succeed by trial and error, or if I fixed the math problem using Kumon methods and this engendered confidence in other areas.

I think I can conclude that math is critically important to this whole endeavor.   Math is the go-to subject to fix not only the homework problem specifically but also a love for academics in general.  It builds character.  It builds confidence.  It creates attitude and study habits.   It does not matter whether or not he will become a math major, which is not likely.  It does not require intellectual, social or emotional maturity, like language arts might.  It just requires jumping in and sticking it out.

I know kids who are super readers, and I won't discount this method, but I don't think the wide variety of challenges that math provides.  Plus, math and science majors have a 98% employment rate coming out of college.  So there.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sanity Check on TOOLS

I've been reviewing the TOOL program for pre-school which I learned about from reading Nurture Shock.   I'm especially interested the high percentage of seats in GAT programs taken by  preschool TOOL alumni.

You can read it on this web site for more details, but the gist of it is a play, scenario, and activity based curriculum, as a precursor to reading, math, or critical thinking.  There are elements also seen in Waldorf and Montessori.

My GAT prep curriculum is reading, math, and critical thinking based for kid #2.   For kid #1, I didn't have one, and I do remember us spending hours working on various projects, mainly building and scenario play from age 2 until now.  Then when he got into a GAT program, I made a list of the attributes and characteristics of the other kids, and put together a program to foster these in kid #2 so that they could hopefully go to the same school some day.

If TOOLS does such a great job fostering concentration, motivation, as well as general "giftedness" as defined by CPS, should I move toward that?   Should I develop a play based home study curriculum?

Or, can I just teach advanced reading, math, and critical thinking and worry about projects later?

Maybe the path to GAT doesn't have to be so painful.  Maybe it can just involve playing.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nurture Shock on Kintergarden Testing

I'm not thrilled with Po Bronsons conclusions in the chapter on testing pre-schoolers for a slot in a GAT kintergarden program.  Sure, there's some randomness, and the tests aren't perfect, and the testing process is not a very net thorough for gifted kids.  Sounds pretty bad if this is what was actually happening.

What is happening is that Chicago and New York desperately need to retain kids on the upper end of the performance spectrum in their public schools, or they will loose not only these kids, but more kids as their overall stats decline and their are less options for parents for this group.

Once a child or a family is established in a school, it's hard on both kids and parents to make a switch.   So, they get one shot, in competition with private schools, for academia's performers.

The best predictor of academic ability - not giftedness, not current reading or math level, but ability - is current academic ability.   Vocabulary is also a great predictor.   This is about the best a test can do, to measure current ability.  And it will fill a room up with our best guess as to who the brightest kids are, in terms of academic performance.

I'm also disappointed with Bronson's ability to lie with statistics.   By thrid grade, 73% of the children who tested as gifted in kintergarden will not be tested as gifted in 3rd grade.   Let me rephrase this so it is not lying with statistics.   Because of the "regression to the mean" phenomenon that affects all tests of this nature, 73% of children scoring 98% or above would score 97% or below on the next test.  Big deal.  As Bronson points out in chapter eight, "children who were above average in IQ and excutive functioning (concentration and self control) were 300% more likely to do well in math class than children who just had a high IQ alone."   In other words, by 3rd grade, or high school, IQ takes a back seat to other traits, like motivation, creativity, and work ethic.  How do we determine if these children have this trait at age 4 or 5?  Watch them concetrate on an abilities test.

For the school, this is critical.  If they loose this group, they risk spiraling downward.

For a parent, it has a few implications.  The biggest problem with these tests is the variability from one day to the next in a single child's performance on a test.   It can be a 24 month range in intelligence.   (Your 5 year old could have such a bad day he performs like a 3 year old).  You've got to take that out of the equation.  I should write about that some day.

The other implication, for those who read this far, is more cynical.  If you understand this program as putting kids in a single classroom who can pass a test, then it takes on a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What I Think About Kumon Part 2

Well, this is a complex issue, but I'm going to help you sort out whether or not you should do Kumon. 

#1  The practice and mastery is not enforced in school and is necessary to perform in  high school AP (advanced placement) classes (which for the rest of the world are NP - normal placement).

I think people acknowledge that daily reading is important for a child, but this daily practice applies double to math (which is much harder for some), yet who asks their child to pick up a worksheet each day?

#2  The best elementary school math program is University of Chicago's Everyday Math, but kids not in the top 1% to 5% forget how to add and subtract as they go through the curriculum.  It emphasizes conceptual frameworks and deep understanding but sacrifices how-to.  Basically, kids forget how to add and subtract by the 2nd grade.  Thus Kumon as the gap filler.

 #3  In Kumon, the child takes a challenging subject (Math) and starts out struggling with easy problems.  A year or two later, the child can see for himself that he (or she) can now do much harder problems quickly.   All because of the child's own efforts.

That's why I like Math so much.   It's not necessarily what the child wants to do for the rest of his/her life, but it shows the kid that they can master a difficult/baffling/impossible subject on their own.  Later, turn them loose on other topics - science, literature, history, solving poverty, world peace....

#4  No one likes to practice the piano, but everyone likes to play Bach or The Piano Man in concert to rousing applause.   Same for math.

#5  The math standards in this country are abysmal, and I think statistically, most schools fall short.  Then your child gets to upper grades, or high school, and are shocked at how hard things are.

I think Kumon addresses each of these well.

OK, now the darker side.

#1   What's the problem with people?   Why do they have to pay for everything, and who in their right mind is going to outsource parenting?  What ever happened to saving?   People can't even make a cup of coffee anymore.   On this topic, coffee, when did the world decide that it must have gourmet everything?  What ever happened to saving?

#2  Next, discipline.   Do you as a parent have the discipline to turn over the TV and get your whiny complainy child to cry through 15 minutes of math a day?   Because if you do, I guarantee that 3 months later, if you show that you expect this from your child, they will do the work silently without complaining in about 2 or 3 months.

These are the big issues.   In my situation, I have 3 years of graduate math and my wife hates TV.  You on the other hand, may have strengths in different areas and therefore might need a little help in this one.   In this case, I think Kumon might fit the bill.

And for 2 working parents, you only get about 3 minutes of downtime with your kids from the time you get home, make dinner, do school projects, bath, getting ready for bed, and reading to your child.  By the time you get to the worksheet it's 8:00 p.m. and the child is tired.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review of COGAT and OLSAT Test Prep Material

[Aug 2017] There are a new books on the market that need reviewing.  Please look for a summary in Gifted and Talented Test Prep curriculum.

[June 2014]  The COGAT test prep books are reviewed in June 2014 in more detail after I used them again.   These comments from 2 years before still hold true.  

[Jan 2012]  Note to reader:  I get so many hits on this post that I just moved my list of test prep curriculum to one of the permanent pages on the right called Gifted and Talented Test Prep curriculum.  This post was simply asking whether the high price of test prep books is worth it, not a prescription for test prep.   I think my final conclusion is yes at age 4, and then after then it gets much harder to find good material.  

Well, I've had a bias against spending money.   I feel bad giving advice about this without more research.  So I went out and bought a stack of practice tests for OLSAT and COGAT.

I was horribly disappointed, although they might be appropriate for you as I point out below.

The problem with these books is that they must meet the ethical guidelines for the industry:  To not help your student "cheat" the test by performing above ability and to not show you any actual content from the test.   Therefore, they are easier than the test and are not training material.

Nonetheless, I learned 3 important things.   The biggest thing I learned is that other parents are right - if you have an hour to spend, spend it on general abilities training (aka workbooks on math, shapes, vocabulary) or read to your child to improve their vocabulary.   So any of the recommendations you see on workbooks will probably fit.   I've plodded through some of these and they are consistent with the skills needed to take these tests.

OK, now the practice tests themselves.  These are in the format of the test.  They are pretty easy.  And the material I saw is similar to that you can download for free.  The OLSAT from the nyc school site and the cogat from their site.   The additional practice tests are more of the same.

Let's talk about reasons why you might buy these:
1.  To see where your kid is strong or weak and focus on what is needed from that point on.   If this were your goal, I'm not sure you need a practice test to do this but it can't hurt.   But the normal activities you are doing should uncover this anyway.

2.  To find out which type of questions are on the test and see if your child understands them.   Here, I learned a lot.
a)  If a banana shows up on a classification question (which one doesn't belong?) my son always picks it because you can't peel the other ones.   Well, it took a while, but I got him to understand that the rules don't work that way.  You have to find 3 items that all have something in common and pick the odd one out.   If 3 items are yellow, including the banana, then it's the apple.
b)  If Billy has 2 fish and you give him 2 more, how many does he have?  I hated these problems in high school and I was on a math competition team.   I found out we have a little work to do, even though Kindergartners will only see a few of these.
c)  A is to B as C is to D.   The little guy came up with all sorts of ways to answer this problem, including making up his own analogies instead of answering the question.

3.  To make sure you kid doesn't have the jitters.    Ok, this is valid.   See the nyc school page for gifted and download the practice tests.   It doesn't matter that this is the OLSAT.

4.   How to get your child with innate ability of say, 130, to score 150 so he can get into a options school in round 1 of the selection process so you don't have to drive to 2 different schools to drop your kids off?   OK, this is the bottom line here.   I'm willing to bet that almost all of the parents looking at the practice tests are asking a question like this.   Here, the practice test approach fails miserably.   They are designed specifically not to help you do this, and if they did, they would be whacked with Copyright and Ethics violations by the test makers.

To accomplish #4 with practice tests, I'm guessing you need some sort of a test prep course that starts out with really easy questions "Billy has one fish.  How many does he have?"  "What happens if he gets another one?" and continues through each permutation of answer and question and skill level until you child has memorized 1000's of question types and answers - none of which may actually be on the test.

And, in conclusion, I'd say all of the stress and arguments on sites like about how unfair it is that some parents spend lots of money prepping their children is completely unfounded.  I don't think it works.  I'll start my next post with that.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Creativity Training for Gifted and Talented Kids

Introducing Creativity

I'm working on creativity training for Gifted and Talented preparation.   I'm working it into the vocabulary section and am going to acquire materials in the coming months for it's own Gifted and Talented test preparation series, which with all of my home schooling training, I'm making available for free on this site's curriculum pages.

I read a few research papers on meta-cognition and creativity.   It appears that creativity is not correlated at all with giftedness, but I think it is worthwhile to introduce these concepts as part of gifted and talented training, and also gifted and talented test training.

This is not based on much scientific research, but here is my reasoning.
1.  The purpose of the test is to present the child with a novel problem and have them solve it, thus demonstrating reasoning ability.  I think a child who is used to novel problems might be more comfortable with these tests.
2.  I think creativity is a learned trait, or at least one that is more conducive to nurture than nature.  I studied innovation in my MBA program (ok, I just lost academic credibility), of which creativity is a key part, and it can definitely be fostered if not taught outright.
3.  A "creativity" approach to test prep or learning is a lot more fun for the child than other approaches.
4.  A "creativity" approach to learning opens up different parts of the brain.
5.  From what I see, a GAT program requires a high degree of creativity, for the projects and writing assignments if nothing else.  

So here is an example of questions on a creativity quotient (CQ) test:  Name things that are red.   1 point for each item, 1 point if 90% of the test takers didn't mention it, 2 points if 97% didn't mention it, 3 points if 99% didn't mention it.

This is opening new doors in our preparation.   Here are some example questions along these lines:  Name things made out of glass, metal, wood.   (Science).   Name things that are round, circular, cylindrical, etc. (Math).   What are the similarities and differences between a dinning room and a car?   Name parts of the tree, or things on a tree.   What are the things that every room needs?  This last one was a lot of fun.  The answer is a ceiling, a floor, a number of walls (arguing between 1 and 4), and a door or doorway (another argument).  I like these questions because they open the doors to classification, comparison, differences, vocabulary, and other fields of learning for a small child.

My 3 year old and 1st grader are both having fun and responding to this.  I'm looking for them to transition from things they can see to things that they can't see, and also from standard answers to silly answers.  After day 1, not much yet.

Here are some other questions?  How would a tree walk?   How many ways can you get a used cup into a garbage can?  These are fun, but the above questions have dual purpose so I tend to stick with them.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gifted and Talented Vocabulary Practice

[March 2013: After a year of research, I have settled on Saldlier-Oxfords' to tackle this issue, and started my wee one on the Red Book.  My older child is on Green.  They love it.   We start Saturday mornings with a new unit, and then I post the word list on the fridge for the week.  I'm going to be posting about this a lot.]

[Feb 2015:  A few months after Jan 2013 I went back to Vocabulary Workshop.  The kids love it, and it teaches a variety of skills that are identical to taking the SAT.   I quickly learned that vocabulary was #1 for test prep.   What was I thinking in my last update?   I think I had low credibility during this R&D stage.  We've done Vocab ever since and it is a fixture in my Supplementary At Home Schooling Curriculum.  This has paid off in a big way, probably bigger than additional math, and provides a huge benefit in all school subjects.]

Introducing Vocabulary

I'm putting together a 12 month vocabulary course for my pre-pre K kid.   Each week, 20 vocabulary words and a test format including some preclassification questions, sentence completion, and analogies.  In this post, I'm going to explain why this is priority #1 for gifted and talented preparation.

First, why vocabulary as my primary focus?  A variety of reasons.
1.  From prior posts, I stumbled upon research that links high vocabulary to accelerated learning.  The more vocab words, the more tools and concepts a child has to use to explore his world.  This is why I use the term "gifted and talented preparation" above and not gifted and talented "test" preparation.
2.  I've read that girls tend to score higher than boys on these tests at an early age because girls pick up vocabulary faster in early stages of development than boys, and I have a boy.
3.  I noted in a prior post that test makers know that scores on vocabulary tests are highly correlated with scores on intelligence tests, and researchers think there is a feedback loop.  
4.  The recommendation for the WISC-IV for gifted and talented testing is only 6 subtests:  vocabulary, Similarities, Comprehension, Matrix Reasoning, Picture Concepts and Block Design.  ("Who are the Gifted Using the New WISC-IV?", Silverman, gilman, Falk.  I think you can read this on the Hogie's web site.)  It appears to me that improving vocabulary directly addresses the first 3, and indirectly addresses the next 2 subtests.
5.  "...the Verbal Knowledge subtest Vocabulary contributes half of the score to the Abbreviated Battery IQ (ABIQ)..." (Use of the SB5 in the Assessment of High Abilities, Ruf).   Some think that the SB5 ABIQ is used to test kids for entrance to Kindergarten GAT programs at the CPS.

The course I'm putting together is very simple.  Each week, I take 20 vocabulary words and create matrices, sentence completion, and pre-classification exercises.   I print this out and read the questions to my kindergartner.  My first grader gets to answer the questions after the little guy takes a shot.  The little guy gets some right, but many wrong, and I need to rephrase the analogies to help out.   So for example, I say "frog is to fly as squirrel is to ?" and he stares at me blankly.   Then I say "A frog eats flies, and a squirrel eats..."

I do this on Monday or Tuesday.  On Saturday, I use the test sheet to do this again, and during the week try to use some of the vocab.   Amazingly, he is picking up much of the vocab.  I think pictures with multiple choice answers like a real test would be easier for him, but I don't have time to create 7,000 pictures.  My goal is 1,000 words in 50 weeks, and for each word, a real test would have 3 pictures in a matrix and 4 pictures in the candidate answer set.

For vocabulary words, I've been trolling through lists of kindergarten, first grade, and second grade vocabulary and spelling lists, and tossing in some math and science concepts.  I try to pick words that are interesting in some way for critical thinking, classification, relationships, etc.   But bottom line, I'm working on that area of the brain that picks up and uses vocabulary, so I am assuming he'll begin to pick up words on his.  Choice of word is probably not critical.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

More on the COGAT

It's hard to find any material on the Cogat.  So I thought I'd investigate secondary sources, which include the published material of the owner or creator of the Cogat Test, David Lohman.   His web page is on the University of Iowa site, the king of testing.   This is lots of cool stuff.

What I want to point out in particular is one page in a presentation called "Problems in using nonverbal ability tests to identify gifted students."  This is very cool stuff.   I would love to have heard the actual presentation.  I think it's based on this article:  The Role of Nonverbal Ability Tests.  Bottom line, as I've repeated before, emphasize reading.

Anyway, there are 3 sections on the COGAT, verbal, nonverbal, and quantitative.   Since CPS tests start at age 4, one would think that the nonverbal section would be heavily emphasized on this test.  Well, on a slide entitled "Disadvantages" in the referenced presentation is this bullet point:  "Large practice effect".  That's good news.

I showed my son a few of the sample questions and asked if he recognized these.  Couldn't remember.  Where there any pictures on this test?  "Bunches".

The Cogat has been updated so that the ceiling is no longer 150 but 160.  So if parents start reporting scores above 150, we may be on to something.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What is on the Gifted and Talented Test for CPS - Update

I read an old article where the group at IIT who gives the test, and maintains an impenetrable wall of secrecy, comments on the testing process.

While reading tea leaves, I noted that the director of the program made this comment (I'm paraphrasing): the best predictor of future academic success is current academic success.   I'm going to interpret that to mean that there is a correlation between the content and experience of the test and the content and experience of the gifted program.

Research consistently shows that the best statistical measure of future academic performance is current academic performance. 

In a recent post, I laid out my current strategy for Gifted and Talented test preparation.  This strategy is based squarely my theory that there is a correlation between the GAT test and the GAT program.