Hidden Truths in Plain Sight

2015-06-22-1434996537-2661880-thinkstockphotos186213710-thumb-jpg_1_20171218-703Sometimes the truth about gifted children is hidden in plain sight. Just knowing some of these truths can help a gifted child be successful in a gifted or regular classroom, a school, or at home.

Many gifted children are idealist, and many times perfectionistic. Gifted children can sometimes equate self-worth and self-esteem with how well they do in school or in a subject. Sometimes having this view of themselves can lead to fear of failure and can interfere with achievement.

Gifted children can have a sense of heightened sensitivity to their own expectations and others. Sometimes they can feel guilt over their grades they perceived to be too low. Sometimes gifted children may see success as getting an “A”, but failure can be anything less. This can lead gifted children trying to avoid anything they know they won’t be able to get a perfect score on, or have a certain level of guaranteed success.

A hidden truth of gifted children is the fact that many gifted children are problem solvers. Many of my units are open-ended, interdisciplinary problems, and real-world embedded. I try to allow students to use community resources as much as possible. Gifted children need to be challenged, and many are self motivated to succeed beyond grades.

An other hidden truth of gifted children is the fact that gifted students can think abstractly and with complexity. Sometimes they may need help to think concretely. Many don’t have good study skills or test taking skills. They haven’t developed those skills due to not being as challenged as they should, or the material just came to them so easily. Creating tests that help to foster abstract thinking can help give challenges to gifted children.

For regular education teachers who have gifted children in their classes you may have to change how you teach. Add some complexity to your lessons for differentiation for your gifted children. Add in some activities that can have multiple answers, or add in a passion project, project or problem based learning activities.

Just knowing some of these truths can help teachers to better understand our gifted children, and help them to be challenged and successful.

What hidden truths do you know that you would like to share? Let me know in the comments.

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Taking off the Behavioral Masks that Gifted Children Hide Behind

paper_mache_plain_masksSometimes it seems so simple to identify the gifted children in your classroom. They answer all the questions, they read very well, and can make friends very easy. Sometimes they are labeled “teacher pleasers” or the “teacher’s pet.” But there are those that don’t fit this mold or the stereotypical nerdy child you see in the movies or on television.

It is my goal in this post to shed some light on some of the areas or masks that gifted children hide behind that may cause them to not be identified as gifted. This list isn’t a complete end all be all type of list. These are just a few that I feel that are most common.

Asynchronous Development 

  • Many gifted children function at a very high level in one or more areas, but socially and emotionally they may be functioning at much lower level. You may see very smart children acting what would be perceived as immature for their ability.

Lack of study skills or habits

  • As you may know gifted children are very smart. Many don’t struggle until later in high school. Passing through elementary and middle school without having to put much effort into their studying. Once that struggle comes many gifted students don’t know how to handle it. Their self concept can get damaged. Many gifted children will shut down. This doesn’t always happen in high school. It happens in the early grades as well.

Underachievement

  • Underachievement is basically when a child simply chooses not to perform to expectations of their teachers, peers, or parents. There could be some psychological reasons for this, some may have to do with personal preference with the subject, project, or environment they are in. This disengagement can lead to many gifted children not being identified correctly. They may be actually gifted, but teachers may see them as lazy.

Communication with Peers and Adults 

  • One aspect of gifted children have is ability to communicate. Gifted children tend to communicate more frequently with adults. Gifted children have the ability to think in the abstract, have a divergent thinking paradigm, and have comprehensive vocabularies. Sometimes this leads to less communicating with peers and more with adults. With a majority of their communication with adults gifted children can socially isolate themselves from their peers.

Social Isolation

  • Gifted children can feel very isolated from their peers. Peers may not understand their interests,  have trouble following their intricate games, and not understand them due to their large vocabulary. Finding true friends can be very difficult. Due to this many gifted children find it easier to do things on their own.

These are just a few behavioral masks that gifted children tend to wear. As gifted intervention specialists, parents and teachers we need to help our gifted children in different situations so they can be successful.

Have you seen some of these behaviors in your classroom? How are you supporting your gifted children?

Presentations and Passion in the Gifted Classroom

This week my 7th and 8th grade students are practicing presenting their passion projects to the class. As a class we sat and listened to each group give their presentation, and gave them some feed back to help improve their presentations.

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I know these group of students real well. I have had them for multiple years, and have built up a report with them that allows me to be straight forward with them in regards to their work. I think they appreciate it, and it helps us move on and get some productive changes done.

When in comes to their passion projects I told them to present their material in any form they want to, and that they feel most comfortable doing. Most are doing Google Slides, some are doing dioramas, and some are doing some short videos they made with some commentary.

What seems to be common among my gifted students is the fact they don’t have confidence in themselves. They know the material frontwards and backwards, but when it comes to communicating it to others they often revert to just giving the basic monotone presentation.

I have seen my students be passionate about the projects they chose. I have heard the passionate conversations between classmates that have turned into debates. I have seen the side of my students where they push one another to strive for the best their presentation can be. I wish I could get that passion in front of an audience.

I am sure part of it the issue is their age, and their personalities. But I know my students, when pushed or motivated can do so much more than they can realize themselves.

I am looking for some advice. If you know of a resource, or strategy to help me bring out the passion in my students presentations please let me know.

 

 

 

From Teacher to Facilitator

facilitator_groupOne thing that I am continuing to learning about gifted children is sometimes I need to get out of their way and let them use their abilities to solve problems, be creative, and come up with a different vision than most would see.

I am charged with teaching gifted children five small groups of gifted children in a pull out program for one day week. So we spend around 5 straight hours together. I absolutely love it. We do projects that cover various topics and subjects. I usually try to build a theme that lasts for 9-12 weeks. I give them short projects on that topic that last 3-5 weeks, and then we present them, or we do some sort of demonstration.

There is a difference between being a teacher and a facilitator. Here is how I see the difference, and how it can impact your teaching.

A teacher is one who is the controller of all information going forth to the students. They may see themselves as the “sage on the stage.” There is guidelines for how work is done, and all work is done closely the same way for all students. There is nothing wrong if you see yourself this way as long as you are differentiating for your high and low students, and they are growing academically and they are being challenged.

A facilitator is one who presents the information, but allows students to take that information and use to fit their vision of their final product. Instead of lecturing, the art of asking the right pointed questions at the right time is king. (Socrates had something right in way of facilitating learning.) The art of asking questions to draw out assessments as students are doing projects or in the design phase of projects can be tough to learn. You can’t point out obvious flaws, but you have to allow students to find the flaws themselves. You also have to allow students to struggle and fail, but give them time to redeem themselves.

For a long time I was the teacher who controlled the flow of learning in my classroom. I needed a change. When you move to facilitator you give up a lot of control. When you are being a facilitator you are allowing students to take risks, use skills they may need in the real world, and allow them come up with projects that will differ from each other. Your classroom becomes an active environment that can a safe and inviting place where students come to appreciate, and be challenged.

I know this type of philosophy can work in all classrooms, but I know it does work with gifted children. My students love challenges, and they like when they can have control over how they do their final projects look like. I will tell you I use rubrics as assessment tools. Sometimes students come up with the rubric and other times I make the rubric.

In any regards, sometimes you just have to get out of the way, have some faith in your guidelines and procedures for an open and safe classroom, and allow your students to learn and explore.

How do you see yourself? Teacher or facilitator?

An Open Letter to Ohio’s Lawmakers

letter_1404675738To Ohio’s State Elected Representatives,

I am Jeffrey Shoemaker, a Gifted Intervention Specialist for the Lima City School District in Lima, Ohio. I have been teaching gifted children for 11 years of my 17 years of teaching. I wanted to give my support to giving Regular Education teachers 60 hours of Gifted Education training spread out over 2 years.

I started my teaching career in 2000 teaching urban children Social Studies. I had a wide range of intellectuals in my classroom. I had some students who were gifted, and I had some who were regular and special education students. Trying to meet the needs of my students were important to me, and it was a challenge to make sure all of my students were challenged to their intellectual abilities. I can tell you I failed at this. I took me a few years to figure out some differentiation strategies that work with some of my students.

I got into Gifted Education because I had a child at the time that was in my school district’s gifted program. I wanted to know more. I spent 2 years taking classes, and learning more and more about the complexities of gifted children. I learned teaching strategies, and theories behind gifted education. I was hooked. The more I learned about giftedness and gifted children I better understood how I was going to challenge them in my classroom.

Regular Education teachers need to further understand who gifted children are. They need to know how to challenge them. Most Regular Education teachers will see a gifted child get done with their work and reward them with more work. That’s not what to do. They need extension activities, and enrichment activities to challenge them and keep them from creating classroom disruptions. When we don’t challenge our gifted children, we rob them of their learning. We cheat them educationally. As teachers we need to fan the flames of passion with our children, not drill and kill activities that most gifted children will get fairly quickly and lose interest in.

I want to urge you to keep the mandate of 60 hours of professional development in the law. We need to have all teachers understand who are gifted children are, and how to effectively teach them. Universities and colleges do not put enough emphasis on gifted education. So it is up to the school district to make sure teachers are given the opportunity to learn effective strategies of teaching gifted children.

Educationally Yours,

Jeffrey Shoemaker, M.Ed

If you are interested in emailing your State Representatives Below are their email addresses. I will be sending this letter to all of them.

Peggy Lehner (R) – Chair

Lehner@ohiosenate.gov

Matt Huffman (R) – Vice Chair

Huffman@ohiosenate.gov

William Coley (R)

Coley@ohiosenate.gov

Randy Gardner (R)

Gardner@ohiosenate.gov

Gayle Manning (R)

Manning@ohiosenate.gov

Rob McColley (R)

McColley@ohiosenate.gov

Steve Wilson (R)

Wilson@ohiosenate.gov

Louis Terhar (R)

Terhar@ohiosenate.gov

Vernon Sykes (D)

Sykes@ohiosenate.gov

Joe Schiavoni (D)

Schiavoni@ohiosenate.gov

Cecil Thomas (D)

Thomas@ohiosenate.gov

 

 

Encouraging Gifted Boys to Read and Write

downloadAs a middle school Gifted Intervention Specialist I feel it is my job to allow students to be challenged, find their passion, and fine tune some of their critical thinking skills. I feel that I must expose my students to various aspects of the curriculum they may not get in the regular classroom.

One thing that I have found is that gifted boys can be very particular in what they want to read. My students who are more comfortable with critical thinking, music, math, or sports will be less willing to read something that is out of their comfort zone.

On the other side of that coin is writing. They don’t particularly like writing, and find it boring. The will site writers block, or lack of creativity, or lack of interest. They find the writing process boring and a waste of time.

Writing is form of communication that from the start can one of those areas that gifted children may not want to do. When they are young a lot of teachers always want nice neat handwriting. If your gifted son has messy handwriting and can’t write straight on the lines holding that fat pencil so may early childhood classrooms have, they will get turned off.

In this day and age with technology, students don’t necessarily have to use pen and paper. There are many different technology tools that students can use to get their ideas out. We can’t let handwriting stop our gifted boys from creativity. These students can use voice recognition tools to write their ideas. They can use the computer keyboard to write them as well. What is important is to encourage them to get their ideas out, and express themselves.

Once they have figured out how to get their ideas out and on “paper” they can begin to see what kinds of literature they may connect with. They may find they like to write poetry, or song lyrics. They may find they have an interest in fantasy or fiction.

Something that teachers and parents can do is to link reading with movies based on books they might be interested in. Bridge to Terabithia, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter are all great examples of books that gifted boys could get into and discuss the movie version.

Reading and writing are connected, but for gifted boys it can very disjointed. As teachers and parents we need to find our boys passion and connect them to books they might be interested in. We must also find ways to get our boys to express themselves through writing.

What do you do to get gifted boys reading more?


Resources:

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/teen_boys.htm

https://educationaloptions.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/how-gifted-kids-learn-to-read/

http://www.mensaforkids.org/achieve/excellence-in-reading/

http://www.davidsongifted.org/Search-Database/entry/A10376

http://www.sylviarimm.com/column4133.html

http://giftsforlearning.com/wp/why-gifted-kids-hate-to-write-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/

Hormones, Egos, Attitudes, and Middle Schoolers

I have been a middle school teacher for almost 20 years. I have worked with some great people, and and have had some wonderful students over that time span. I love being a middle school teacher who teaches gifted children. I was called to this awesome career.

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What I love about gifted middle schoolers are their hormones, egos, and attitudes. Sometimes as a middle school teacher you have to wade through all sorts of stuff. My gifted students are all unique, but they all have to deal those three things. Traversing these issues is a something that middle school teachers face everyday.

Gifted children are very smart. They have the need and desire to have and be friends, but going through the maturation process can be rough. As gifted children get older they begin to separate from their peers emotionally and socially. This can be a complicated process. So I try to hard to allow my students time to form friendships. The culture of my classroom is that it is a safe place to be yourself. Hormonal changes are natural, and they can’t be stopped, but we as teachers can help guide them through it. Gifted students may not know why they feel the way they do, but as long as you are open to talking to them you can help make a difference for them.

Middle School gifted children can have egos. I know for some this may seem like new news, but it is true. Gifted children get used to being one of the smartest people in their class. When gifted children realize this, they can start to get an ego. Having an ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is how this ego is developed. Gifted children don’t always like to compromise, because they often feel that their ideas are the best. Gifted students need to learn art of compromising when working with a small group. In our classroom, I try place a lot of emphasis on compromising since we do a lot of group/team projects. I try to model to them that being smart is great, but leading and showing others they can effectively contribute with the group is better. Keeping a middle schooler’s ego in check isn’t easy. It takes time, but in the end they will see the value in what they can do when they work together.

Along the same lines as egos are attitudes. Middle schoolers in general can go through different emotions that can change their attitudes on a multitude of things in just a short amount of time. This is actually one of the aspects that draws me to be a middle school teacher. Gifted children have attitudes that can rival average learning students. They are quick to see the injustice of the world; they are quick to judge the decisions they deem unfair; and they also want to change the world with their ideas and viewpoints. I have seen my students rally behind a classmate who is struggling with some personal aspects. I have seen my students stand up for one another when they feel one of their classmates is treating them unfairly. I have seen the fire of debates between students, and the realization in their eyes when they realize they can impact the world around them. If you are going to be a middle school teacher you are going to deal with student attitudes good or bad.

Middle School is just that…middle school. They aren’t in elementary school, and they don’t see themselves as little kids. They aren’t in high school, but they can see themselves there. They are stuck in the middle. When you realize this group of students is awesome, it is then you realize you are middle school teacher.

What do you like about middle school?