Summer Plans and Gifted Children


Q. My sixth-grader is in a gifted program at his school. He just loves the challenge of this class. What do I do with him this summer?

— Decision Time


A. With all children, it’s important to ask: What would be a perfect summer for you? What projects do you want to do? What family trips would you like to take locally or elsewhere? Would you like to take some classes? Who would you like to spend time with? What interests would you like to explore?

Listen carefully to what your gifted child says. Try to include many of his preferences in your summer plans for him. Summer should be a time for gifted children to explore new and old interests, and grow intellectually. He may or may not opt for a formal academic program.

Be sure that your son has both structured and free time. In fact, all children need this during the summer. Be careful that free time does not just mean TV or computer time. This time should be limited.

We have long advocated that all families have a reading time each day. Everyone in the house can gather in one room and read for a designated time (hour or half hour). No discussion of what to read is necessary. Even gifted children may not do enough reading without a formal time period for it.


Q. Next year, my daughter will be going into second grade. She is a poor speller. What words should she have learned to spell in first grade? I want to help her learn these words this summer.

— Want to Help


A. We have a list of words that your daughter should have learned to spell in first grade. It is based on the research of Steven Graham, Karen R. Harris and Connie Loynachan. The idea behind their research was to help educators know which words should be taught to children in grades one through five. The list contains 850 words that account for 80 percent of the words children use in their writing. Readers can find the complete list of spelling words for grades one through five online at

You will find the words for first grade below. They are arranged in alphabetical order. The words marked with an asterisk are the ones that cause trouble. When your daughter masters this list, you can go online and get the list for second grade so she will become familiar with some of those words.

dad, day*, did, do, dog*, fat, for, fun*, get*, go, good*, got*, had*, hat, he*, hen, here, him*, his*, home*, hot, I*, if, in*, into*, is, it*, its*, let, like*, look, man, may, me*, mom, my*, no*, not, of, oh, old, on*, one*, out*, pan, pet, pig, play*, ran, rat, red, ride, run, sat, see, she, sit, six, so, stop, sun, ten, the*, this, to*, top, toy, two*, up, us, was*, we*, will*, yes, you*

Because it’s summer, make learning these spelling words fun. Don’t just drill her on them, but use them in simple games so learning the words will be fun. For example, select five words such as go, dog, not, hat and like. Then read together “Go, Dog. Go!” having her read these words. Or you can make single or double cards for each word, and use a few at a time to play your version of Old Maid or Memory. Also, you can use Scrabble or Bananagram letters to have her spell some of the words. For older children mastering more advanced words, try these games as well as Hangman.


Send questions to Dear Teacher, in care of Charlotte Parent, PO Box 395, Carmel, IN 46082-0395; or e-mail or ask them on the columnists’ Web site at