Gifted And Talented Survival Guide

I'm thrilled that my child is in a program that challenges him academically, where he has peers with a lot in common, and is happy.  I'm a little freaked out by the two kids with 170 IQ's that he sits in between, and I don't want this thing to turn out poorly.  So I keep this program in my back pocket.

This is for a 1st grader and should work until about 5th grade.

Sports and Extracurricular Activities
Drop all of these immediately, especially if you have more than one child.  In forth grade, I'll hire a baseball coach to catch up.   I won't need a math or reading coach.  Those are your options.

Spelling starts in 1st grade (with 3rd grade lists) and gets worse in 2nd grade at our school.  In second grade, the kids do the 20 4th grade spelling words each week, the 5 challenge words, and 5 super challenge words that 4th graders around the country don't have to do.  This is a lot of work each week.

So, in the interest of taking shortcuts (think survive), I googled the spelling words for "4th grade Unit 3 [insert the list here]", and viola, I found the standard curriculum, with the challenge words at some school, but not the super challenge words.

This gives us the option of starting on Saturday, 2 days ahead of schedule.  My goal is simply to make Wednesdays and Thursdays a bit easier, because not only do we have to cram for the spelling test, but there may be other time consuming assignments on those days as well.

I do two things in math, both with an eye toward a lifetime of math enjoyment and job prospects.
Many school systems including our own use Every Day Math by U of C.  When he was in Kindergarten, I handed him Journal 1 and 2 of EDM for 2nd graders and had him do 1 or 2 pages a night.   After that hell, everything else is fun.   I'm going to repeat each summer.  I'm not so much concerned that he learns math, but that he is used to jumping in without a life jacket.  Since I've already got a set of books at home, if he should have any problem during the year, I'll just look up the content.  30$ well spent.  If a child didn't have an aptitude for problem solving, I would recommend a different workbook.  You can sample material at for free.

During the school year, about 3 times a week, I give him 25 problems off of a worksheet like this. My version of Kumon.   Usually the same 25 problems every night, or about 5 or 10 minutes worth. 

Lately, I just keep a spare copy of the Home Links workbook at home in case he brings home the wrong page.

All Science text books are required in California to be matched up against FOSS topics.  So all publishers have this info available.   We're lucky to use FOSS directly.   So, when he gets to a new topic in science, I go to the FOSS website and download the vocabulary and hand it to him to learn.   Then I go to the library where there are age appropriate books on topic that are written directly to the FOSS content for fun, extra reading.   Once you've seen the vocab list, you'll know.  Look for recent publish dates.

In this way he goes into a section with the framework and vocabulary, then can spend the next few weeks learning instead of struggling.

Reading and Vocabulary
There is a section in the Evanston, IL library with series that are popular with kids, like Magic Tree House, 39 Clues, a dozen series about dragons, whatever.   At each grade level.  So I bring home a bag of books, throw them at him, and take back what doesn't stick.  And of course, while we are there, he can pick up anything else he wants.

This is more for the summer and for the pre-school brother.  GAT programs are over the top on this topic so I generally do nothing extra.

GAT programs are 50% creativity, inspiration, innovation, writing, speaking, and projects.   My initial attraction to the program was motivated by a kid who is a performer and an artist.   So we don't sweat this category, but it's probably a big challenge for some people.

I can picture a math wiz kid who is in dire need of help in this area, which is why I included it.  For this guy, he obviously doesn't need summer math hell - he needs summer art hell.  I am writing for him.

Creativity and innovation can be taught - at least according to the research I studied at length in grad school.   I haven't found a good guide at the early elementary level - all I know is marketing, product innovation and corporate strategy.   But I see child development research has recently come to the same conclusion for children.

My recommendation is to stock up on art material - including a 5 pound bag of oiled modeling clay, one of every thing in the paper section, and then send your kid to art camp.   Take the legos away.  Take away things that use fluid intelligence and spacial relationships or quantitative physics.   Hand him paint.


  1. Where do you download FOSS vocabulary from? Didn't find it on Thanks

  2. Good question, because the FOSS website is like a maze. It is Go to About Foss from the Top Menu, and select FOSS Modules. Click the module you want, and then from the module, select "Go to The Module Detail" link under the little picture. At the bottom of this page, crawl under the laser alarm and cut the chain link fence. You will see Vocabulary at the very bottom. Click this and select Vocabulary definitions. This is called making learning accessible.

  3. Awesome, thanks so much! I am the 'Anonymous' above.
    I still had trouble following the instruction "crawl under the laser alarm and cut the chain link fence". But I am presuming that on the module detail page, if I click Vocabulary dropdown, then 'Vocabulary' under it opened "Vocabulary/Glossary Terms"...which is what you probably meant by "science vocabulary".
    I am probably the 1st & only human (and not a robot!:) ) who just got done reading your entire blog...which was about 150 or so pages in print...yes thats how I read it - like a book! WOW, I cannot believe what a gold mine I have struck. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I am the happiest person on earth who does not have to worry about reinventing the wheel as I take my 2 kids through school years - 6 yrs & 10 months. All your tips that I missed doing for my 6 yr old, I will try to follow for my 10 month I still have 2 months before I should officially start reading to the baby every day.
    I am now gathering my head around all the tons of precious information & resources you provided. And I will ask you all my questions at once - when I look up the entire list online to see what you are referring to. Although you have summarized some easy lookup guides/lists, you did have a lot of gems scattered throughout your blogs. So I have collected all that info to put together for an easy age-appropriate reference list for myself.
    I am again going to say "Thanks Norwood"!

  4. Thanks for your comments. As a matter of fact, there is a small group of similarly insane people who read the whole thing, as poorly written as it is in 20 minutes a week.

    My results are that child #1 has every reason to succeed with what I found, but child #2, who went through this in its entirety from age 3, can read, write, do math and problem solving at the 99.9% level (for now). It would be nice if every child in the country could do this.

  5. Hi Norwood, I am so overwhelmed with all of this wonderful information. Could you please recommend what I should prep my second grader with? We live in Jacksonville, Florida and he will be taking his gifted test soon. PLEASE HELP!

    1. I have a little bit of research to do first on Jacksonville and then I'll let you know. When I went through this with my first son, and didn't have a clue, I gave him SAT test prep for 2 grades up and anything hard I could find having to deal with shapes. My blog aside, this turned out to be the right thing to do under the circumstances. Will get back to you soon.

    2. OK, got it finally. Am making post.

  6. How to prepare 2nd grader for 3nd grade GT program to be able to get into 4th and 5th grade. Which books would you suggest?
    Thank you

  7. Hi Norwood,

    What a wonderful compilation. Appreciate your work and you may not be aware how much pressure you have relieved many moms from. Thank you for the time, effort and energy.

    We lives in Houston and zoned to Fortbend ISD. Appreciate if you could let me know if the Kindergarten GT test preparation would be the same as HISD and would it suffice to follow what you have listed in the "GT Test Preparation Curriculum" post? Greatly appreciate your help.

    1. Sorry for the late response. Your school district isn't telling me which test they use. From a survey of other Texas school districts, your test prep would be closer to what I am proposing for the first grade test prep. I think your test is harder than the Chicago test for Kindergarten. Also, you may have an achievement test, but I am not sure. Possibly the Weschler or an IQ test.

  8. I agree with a lot on this site, but I disagree regarding the sports and extracurriculars. Our oldest is in third in a "GAT" that required 98% on the CogAT and 95% on the achievement. She does: (1) year-round select soccer; (2) choir + piano; (3) girls scouts (hang out time with friends); (4) art class once a month. Its a lot, but she's always done a lot. Other years she did chess club, ballet, t-ball. All of the activities (except her piano lessons) include other kids from her GAT program. If she had to choose, I'm sure the first to go would be the piano because of having to practice. The rest she loves, especially because they are with friends.

  9. Hi Norwood,
    What do you recommend for 4th grade math and english test.My student's test is in a month.Thanks!
    Love this information

    1. At this point, I would get a reading comprehension book for grade 4 or 5 and practice these. The standardized tests are 75% what you learned last year, and 25% cognitive skills like reading the question carefully and checking all of the answers. Since it's a lit late to learn a lot, focus on the skills. Reading comprehension is really good for this.

  10. I realized that my kids are weaker on reading comprehension (grade 3 and 5) so really need tips and resources that I can help them with? Any specific books? thank you

    1. I recommend Reading Comprehension Level C and Reading Comprehension Level E by continental press. Pretty boring names for books, but these are the ones you want. Reading Comprehension "tips" needs a whole articles which I will write soon. I can see the look on your kids' faces when you hand them these books.

  11. I don't know how exactly I stumbled across this blog, but this is exactly what I've been looking for! After learning how much environment influences intelligence I have been somewhat obsessed with doing anything I can for my young children while their brain is rapidly developing. Truly, thank you.

    1. Turns out that their brains never stop rapidly developing, but if inject the right verbal and math stimulation at the right time, it makes a big difference and makes the rest of the job easier thereafter.