The Wisconsin Center
for Gifted Learners
Resource Archive


OPENING MINDS: A Book Not to be Missedopeningminds

This resource is an excellent work on the use of language in the classroom entitled Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives, by Peter H. Johnston, Stenhouse Publishers, 2012.

The book is a follow up to Johnston’s 2004 publication Choice Words. He has used the intervening years to solidify his thinking and clarify his descriptions and explanations of the use of language in the classroom, clearly noting how it affects a child’s overall outlook on life.

His work explicitly demonstrates how the manner in which we speak to one another can be constructive and create agency in our thoughts and actions, and how this sense of agency can be contagious. He supports anecdotal examples with current research in order to lend independent credibility to his astute observations and assertions. This book is a necessity for teachers in general, and invaluable for teachers of gifted learners, students who, without this sense of agency can too easily become mired in negative and paralyzing self-talk.

Parents of gifted learners who read this book will also benefit by gaining insight into the way their children think and how particular language can be so beneficial to a child’s development as a learner and as a person with a positive sense of self. Johnston’s recommendations, if employed, will change lives for the better.

A ten minute interview with Peter Johnston discussing the fixed versus the dynamic learning framework may be found here.

A five page document written by Johnston providing a summary of his work and effective language to use in the classroom and at home may be found here.



Delisle, J and Galbraith, J. (2002) When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers. Minneapolis, MN:Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.

This book has been a standard reference for teachers and parents of gifted learners since it was first published. The text is well organized, easy on the eyes and to read, and includes an overview of where gifted learners stand in the public education picture. (Unfortunately, very little has changed since 2002.) Practically every page contains some insight for the reader who wants to gain a better understanding of the gifted learner.

If you have consulted or read through this book in the past, it is worth returning to. A re-read every so often will reinforce for the reader the myriad of challenges gifted learners may face, and why it is so worthwhile to support them as they negotiate those challenges.


Webb, Meckstroth, and Tolan, 1982. Thirteenth printing, 1995.

This book that has stood the test of time in terms of providing sound and substantive information and advice on a variety of topics commonly encountered by gifted learners, their families, and their teachers. It is a fine starting point for anyone to gain a better understanding of gifted learners or a fine review for those who feel they are well-versed on the subject. The section on identification is now very outdated. Even so, conduct and language to use and avoid, the rights and needs of gifted learners to consider, and the wonderful qualities of gifted learners are described among many other relevant and important subjects.