Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My view: Ten myths about gifted students and programs for gifted. By: Carolyn Coil

This article was originally published on the CNN blog, "Schools of Thought" on November 14, 2012.  Carolyn is an author and consultant for Pieces of Learning.  For more information on Carolyn's workshops and books, click here.

By Carolyn Coil, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Carolyn Coil is a speaker, educator and author. She works with teachers, administrators, parents and students, offering strategies for raising achievement, developing creative and critical thinking skills, motivating underachievers, differentiating curriculum and assessing student performance. She has taught graduate-level gifted endorsement courses for more than 20 years. You can follow her on Twitter, @CarolynCoil.

(CNN) – American educators have struggled for more than 40 years to define giftedness. Yet even now, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what it means to be gifted. U.S. federal law defines gifted students as those who perform or who show promise of performing at high levels in any one of five categories: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability or visual/performing arts.

Beyond that definition, there are no specific national criteria for identifying gifted and talented students nor does federal law provide funding or mandates for identification of these students or programming for them. This definition is left to the states.

The result has been a wide variety of state definitions and methods for the identification of gifted children. Some states have specific definitions for giftedness, while others have none. Some states require programs for gifted students, while others do not.

In other words, the availability of programs and services for gifted students depends for the most part on where a student lives and what state, school district or school he or she is in.

There is debate over how to identify and measure giftedness, whether giftedness is innate (nature) or developed (nurture) and whether giftedness is driven by intelligence test results or through other indicators.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ASCD Policy Points

From the ASCD Educator Advocates Newsletter:

To help inform educator advocates about the presidential candidates' education views, the inaugural edition of ASCD Policy Points (PDF) lays out the education platforms of President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in a nonpartisan way, compiling information from the candidates' own resources without external analysis or commentary.

The candidates have markedly different education priorities and opinions about how federal funds should best be used. ASCD Policy Points (PDF) includes quotes directly from the candidates' campaign materials on issues such as K-12 policy and funding, higher education, early childhood education, and education research. Links to all sources are provided for readers to delve more deeply into the candidates' positions.
Stay tuned for future editions of ASCD Policy Points (PDF), which will spotlight timely education issues of importance to educator advocates.

Friday, October 12, 2012

LinkedIn for Educators

With so many social networking sites available, it may be difficult to keep up with them all. You may wonder, "Why should I join LinkedIn when I have a Facebook, Twitter, etc?". LinkedIn is truly a different type of social network. It has many features that allow you to interact with leaders in the field of education while growing your network. Here are 4 good reasons every educator needs a LinkedIn profile.

1. Job Opportunities- One of the main uses for LinkedIn is job searching. More and more schools are posting job listings on LinkedIn. Your profile provides interested companies with a virtual resume. It allows you to connect with people who make the hiring decisions. Not only can you provide information about your education, career history, and qualifications, but colleagues can also endorse your skills and offer recommendations. By connecting with current employees, you get a realistic sense of the work environment

2. Groups- LinkedIn’s groups allow you the unique opportunity to discuss with other educators issues in education, share ideas, and make connections. For example, by joining the "International Gifted Education" group, you have the opportunity to discuss "the best practices and new ideas on gifted education anywhere in the world". Groups are also used to keep in touch with colleagues. Many school districts use LinkedIn to communicate between the school districts and teachers to discuss policy, post announcements, and share classroom ideas.

3. Networking- LinkedIn creates a unique opportunity to develop and maintain connections with others in the field of education. You can use LinkedIn to keep track of your connections in a forum that is more professional than Facebook or Twitter. Many of the world's leaders in the field of education are on LinkedIn. You can open many doors for yourself and your school by using the connections you make on LinkedIn.

4. Connect with former colleagues- When you join, you are given the opportunity to link yourself to your alma maters, previous employers, clubs, and professional organizations. By clicking on their names, you can see others who have also linked themselves to these organizations. Now, you can connect with colleagues with whom you may have lost touch with in a more professional setting than Facebook or Twitter.

Every educator needs an online presence. LinkedIn provides a unique and exciting platform for you to develop and use your connections to grow professionally. It is user-friendly and very self-explanatory. Now go check it out!

While you are there, be sure and follow Pieces of Learning!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Curriculum Compacting by Carolyn Coil

This article by Pieces of Learning author and consultant, Carolyn Coil, was originally published by the Florida Gifted Network in their newsletter Wavelengths from October 2012.

For more information on the Florida Gifted Network, visit

Options for Gifted Learners:
Curriculum Compacting
by Carolyn Coil

What Is Curriculum Compacting?

Curriculum compacting, developed by Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Linda Smith in 1978, is a strategy that is extremely beneficial to many gifted students. It is a process by which students are pre-assessed to determine what parts of the curriculum they have already mastered. When those areas of knowledge and skills are identified, these students are not required to complete the grade-level work. Instead, they work on alternate activities. As schools adopt Common Core Standards, the Anchor Standards may be K-12 standards but the specific grade-level knowledge and skills can and should be compacted for those students who already know them.
Curriculum compacting is a particularly important strategy for gifted and other high-ability
students because they often come to school already knowing much of the grade level material. If these students are not challenged with new or different content, they waste time in school, do not learn important study skills, and do not grow as learners.

How Does Curriculum Compacting Work?
The first step in curriculum compacting is to identify the content, skill areas, standards, or benchmarks students have mastered. Compacting works particularly well in subjects or topics that are easily pre-tested such as math, spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and map skills. Questions in these subjects generally require one right answer. It is easy, therefore, to determine who knows the information and who does not.

Continue Reading...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Spy with the Wooden Leg

Congratulations to Nancy Polette, Pieces of Learning author.  Her book, The Spy with the Wooden Leg won the International Mom's Choice Award!

The International Mom’s Choice Award Gold Seal Winner for 2012 is THE SPY
WITH THE WOODEN LEG (Alma-Little Publishers 2012) by Nancy Polette,
Professor Emeritus, Lindenwood University, the true story of Virginia Hall,
winner of the Distinguished Service Cross, who in World War II rescued
downed airmen in France, risked her life to send radio messages, led three
battalions of resistance fighters to capture 500 enemy troops while at the
top of the Gestapo’s Most Wanted list. ..all this in spite of the fact this
amazing heroine had a wooden leg.
The award recognizes authors of outstanding, high quality family-friendly
children’s books.
Leading the panel of Judges, which assures expert and objective analysis
free from any publisher association,is Dr. Twila C. Liggett, founder of PBS’s
Reading Rainbow.

The Spy with the Wooden Leg
Nancy Polette

When one is undervalued due to their gender, the drive to prove them wrong
comes strongly. "The Spy with the Wooden Leg" is a biography of Virginia
Hall, a woman who jumped at the chance to serve the Allies in World War II,
overcoming gender discrimination and a wooden foot in the process. Earning
ire from the Gestapo, she significantly helped the Free French Resistance
throughout the conflict. "The Spy with the Wooden Leg" is a strongly
recommended addition to history and biography collections, not to be

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back to School Sale!

At Pieces of Learning, we are excited about back to school!  We would like to honor the educators by offering FREE SHIPPING!  Use the coupon code FREE12 on any purchase before August 20, 2012 and receive free shipping on your order.

Additionally, we would like to offer $150 off any workshop booked before the end of August.  Contact Emily at 1(800)729-5137 or for more information!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Free E-Book!

Mention Pieces of Learning in a blog post or on a website and receive a free e-book!  Just post something about our products and send me a link (  I will then send you an e-book of your choosing free of charge!  We look forward to seeing your blogs!

Monday, July 9, 2012

International Future Problem Solvers Program

Dodie Merritt, one of our educational consultants, recently led a team of young people to a competition called the International Future Problem Solvers Program.  Here, she tells us about the experience:

The International Future Problem Solving Program (FPSP) involves Global Issues Team and Individual Competitions and the Scenario Writing Competition. This year, the topics included Human Rights, Trade Barriers, and Pharmaceuticals.

In January, both Senior Division Scenario Writer Katie Gahlbeck and Junior Scenario Writer Kasey Pennington were the IL State Champions in their respective IL-FPS divisions for their short stories, The Window and ismart. In March, Senior Division Morgan Bollech medaled and became the Senior Division IL-FPS Individual Global Issues State Champion!

In early June, these three G-K FPS IL State Champions (and their coach!) competed at the FPS Internationals Competition at Indiana State University. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet, work, and compete with problem solvers from nearly every continent!

During the Opening Ceremony, Pennington (in a Lincoln top hat and beard) had to honor of carrying in the IL flag along with flag bearers from all the other affiliate states, provinces, and countries. During the Saturday night Variety Show, Kasey sang with the multinational choir after all three girls danced with a group of New Zealanders in presenting two traditional tribal dances. They were great!

Finally, on Sunday morning at the final Awards Ceremony, Katie’s on-site multi-affiliate scenario writing team took FIRST PLACE in the Senior Division! What an incredible thrill! What amazing memories!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review of Curiosita Teaching

This is a review by Ian Byrd on the book Curiosita Teaching.  To view Ian Byrd's blog visit,


I received a copy of Curiosita Teaching from the folks at Pieces of Learning. Here are my thoughts:


Written by Patti Garrett Shade and Dr. Richard Shade, Curiosita Teachingattempts to develop a system for teachers to build students toward creativity. The book uses a collection of great ideas from many great thinkers including Edward DeBono, Carol Ann Tomlinson, and Sir Ken Robinson.
Creativity and curiosity are dear to my heart, and I was encouraged by the large number of ideas offered in this book, especially the variety of sizes: quick ideas to implement immediately as well as big ideas to build a whole year around.
If you’re new to thinking about how to bring creativity into your classroom, this book will bring you up to speed on many concepts in the field and give you structure for incorporating creativity into teaching.


Curiosita Teaching opens with an inventory to give students. This is called a “Creative Multibilities Inventory,” and looks to evaluate the various levels and types of creativity across a classroom. This would be helpful to establish an early understanding of your students’ present levels. The “multibilities” past of this inventory also reveals what’s to come next: analyzing creativity and breaking it down into elements.


In the next section, Curiosita Teaching unpacks the abstract idea of creativity using a variety of models. The authors explain the Elements of Creativity: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration. They also introduce a “Creativity Fan,” which breaks creativity into six components.
I appreciate the multiple models offered in this book for analyzing creativity and separating it into understandable chunks. As a teacher, these frameworks provide structure for an otherwise nebulous concept. I can see these also helping those students who shudder when asked to think outside the box. It gives them specific ways to stretch their thinking.


The authors then dive into specific ways teachers can support creativity in the classroom. This includes developing classroom expectation for “Knock-My-Socks-Off” products. There is also a list of questions to help promote creativity, rules for successful brainstorming, and a list of “Kreativity Killer” phrases to avoid.
I found this section of the book the most useful as a grab-and-go resource for teachers. Ideas are segmented nicely, making it easy for teachers to implement one set at a time. I could easily see teachers developing a list of “Kreativity Killers” with their class while also collaborating on a list of phrases to encourage creativity.


The next section of Curiosita Teaching looks at the larger picture of integrating creativity into instruction. While focusing initially on lesson planning, the authors go on to define a scope and sequence to help teachers purposefully introduce the many concepts outlined in the book.
In defining this scope and sequence, the authors continue sharing a wide variety of creativity ideas from many sources. These include:
* A "think tank" story-writing activity using dice
* PMQ: Plus, Minus, Question
* Creativity Product Based Learning
The book wraps up with a discussion on assessing creativity, including both self-assessments and teacher-developed feedback.


My copy of Curiosita Teaching also arrived with a matching Handbook of Instructional Strategies. While Curiosita Teaching is about looking at a larger framework, the handbook delivers pre-made lessons, assessments, and activities.
The handbook includes:
  • Four “Learning and Thinking Style” Activities
  • Seven flexibility and perception activities
  • An entire unit on animation
  • Activities to develop brainstorming abilities
  • Four activities for creative and critical thinking
Plus, all of these activities come as PDFs on a CD. There are over two hundred PDFs to print and use in your class. This is a pretty awesome resource for teachers looking for specific ways to begin integrating creativity.


Curiosita Teaching is an ideal resource for someone beginning the journey to integrate curiosity with teaching. Drawing upon many works, this book synthesizes information, arranges it into frameworks designed for teachers, and offers resources for further research. However, if you’ve already done your own research into bringing creativity and curiosity into your class, you’ve probably seen some of the specific topics presented in this book before.
The frameworks developed by the authors were my biggest takeaway, and the specific activities included in The Handbook are priceless for a busy teacher who wants to help their students increase their creativity.
Curiosita Teaching and the handbook are available in a package for $50. Separately, they’re $30 each.
For more information on Curiosita Teaching visit our website at

Monday, June 25, 2012

Landmark Grammar

Have you ever had trouble getting your students excited about grammar?  Teachers all over the country are having the same problem.  What if you could let your student explore far away places while studying grammar?  What if learning grammar could be an adventure?  That's exactly what you get with one of our newest books from author, Pam McAneny.  Landmark Grammar is great resource for any teacher.  Students get to learn about grammar while visiting landmarks such as:  Easter Island, Mt. Rushmore, The Liberty Bell, and The Eiffel Tower!  Follow this link,, to check it out!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Welcome to the Piece by Piece blog!  This blog is designed to keep everyone up to date on Pieces of Learning.  We will be using this blog to make announcements, post relevant articles, and tell you about our great products and specials!  Follow us by e-mail so you don't miss anything Pieces of Learning has to offer!