Engaged, not Overwhelmed

I have been teaching gifted children for over a decade now. I often talk to my colleagues about ideas/strategies on how to teach gifted children, but for some they don’t change. They feel that gifted children need more work to keep them busy.  They place the burden of engagement with the student. Now this isn’t all my colleagues. I work in a great school district with some great teachers, but there are those few who want to control their classroom the way they want regardless of the outcome.
We know that when gifted children are given the same work as average learners they will most likely finish it quickly since it isn’t challenging to them. Instead of using differentiation strategies like curriculum compacting, acceleratation, or independent study of a topic, they give more busy work. They feel they need to overwhelm the student with work so they don’t become an issue. When in reality they are making the situation worse. Gifted children can and often will rebel when given nonsense work to do. Gifted children need to be challenged and engaged in the learning process. 

One aspect I will work on this year is to create an environment that is safe, engaging, and challenging for students to learn in, but also colleagues can peek in and see an example of what they could do in their classrooms.

What will you do in the coming year to challenge your students, to stay engaged, and not overwhelmed with nonsense work?

Movie Review: Gifted

I want to start this post by thanking Fox Searchlight Pictures for allowing me the opportunity to see an advanced screening of Gifted. I absolutely loved this movie, and want to encourage everyone to see it.

Gifted tackles the roles of the gifted parent and the gifted child. Each role in this movie is presented in what I feel is an accurate way. Being a parent of gifted children you want to make the best choices for them academically, emotionally, and socially. It can be hard. You want your children to be challenged at school, and get the appropriate education they deserve. You also want to them to understand themselves, and understand why they feel they way they do in certain situations. As a parent you also want your children to fit in with other children, even though they may not want to be around other children their same age.

I watched the Gifted movie with my wife. We saw ourselves in this movie. We went through the emotions of laughing to crying. The writers showed a great grasp of some of the issues of raising gifted children, and who gifted children are. I was impressed with how the main character, Mary played by McKenna Grace, portrayed some of the characteristics of a highly advanced learner. Her uncle, Frank played by Chris Evans, did a great job of using everyday experiences (like being in a waiting room watching people get excited about the news of a new birth) to show her what it was like when she was born. Giving these experiences I believe was a great move by the writers.

As this movie comes out to theaters, I hope that everyone would see Gifted. This movie doesn’t depict what every gifted child goes through. It doesn’t depict what every parent goes through either. This movie gives awareness to the fact that gifted children need to be challenged not segregated, and given an appropriate education, not more work when they are finished with material they already know. It also gives awareness that parents need support from schools and from family. Schools and parents have to work together in order for children to have success.

Again, thank you to Fox Searchlight Prictures for the opportunity to see and review this movie.

Space and Science on Display

**I want to first start out by saying this post isn’t necessarily about gifted education.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go with the Lima Senior High School Moon Rover team to Huntsville, Alabama to participate in the NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge. They were the only high school in Ohio to participate. This is the first year we were able to compete with two rover teams.

IMG_1806Watching high school and college students going up against each other in a challenge was awesome. Every school had different designs, different materials, but all had to meet the same requirements.

Our students came up with a great design, and they built it. They made some alterations to the rover based on the data they collected from the course. It was all science and engineering.

20170331_102120

What was the most interesting aspect to the weekend was having the ability to go up to other teams and ask them about their rover. Teams would openly share their failures and successes. They shared what they loved most about their rover, and how they felt they did against past years from their schools. Teams also gave permission to take pictures of their rovers. The comradery amongst teams was great. They all had the shared experience of designing, building, and racing their rovers.

After two days of racing, we gave the students the chance to check out the Marshall Space Flight facilities.  They got the chance to see rockets up close, and have the opportunities to talk to real astronauts.

What I hoped our students took away from the weekend was just how important STEM, and STEAM programs are. I hope they saw that having skills like welding, carpentry, and machining are important career and technical skills. I hope they saw that engineering isn’t necessarily a single person career, but a team effort.

I hope they took away from the weekend perseverance, tenacity, and team work. I saw our students overcome some issues with their rover, and come through on the other side with a better product. They started out together as 2 teams, and left as one large team. They had goals, some were met, and some we have to try again next year.

Overall, students from all schools had an opportunity of lifetime. They raced each other, they inspired each other, and they helped to propel the idea that this generation could impact the future with their creativity, skills, and their experiences with science and engineering.

Emphasize Challenge not Success

doesnt-challenge-you-change-success-quotes-sayings-picturesAs I left the Ohio Association for Gifted Children Teacher Academy Conference last week, I was thinking about how much information I received. For the past few days I started to really digest all of the information. I found there was a theme from my notes. That theme was emphasize challenge not success.

I started to really think about that concept in my classroom this week. I feel at times I get to caught up in the process of what I am expecting students to do, that I may lose sight of the idea that I need to challenge my gifted students. On Monday I started to revamp my thinking. I started to re-evaluate my lessons plans for the week to make sure I was challenging all of my students.

To challenge my gifted students I had to first make sure the lessons I created no student could just coast through. I had to make it meaningful, and have rigor. So I added just a few  criterion my expectations and I noticed just by doing that it became a little more difficult. I have no problem allowing students to struggle a bit. I feel that it a quality teachers don’t like to see, but that’s a feeling that students have to feel now in a safe environment, because they will feel it when they are older out in the real world.

I looked back at my lessons for the week, and tried to make sure they were delivered to the students as an exciting and fun challenges. Students need to see challenges in a positive light not a negative one. They will face challenges all their lives, so they need to see a challenge as a positive experience even if they don’t succeed.  I tried to get my students to see there are different strategies to try if the first way they tried didn’t work. This is an opportunity for me to see that the struggle is a great learning opportunity for my students.

Through the struggle advanced learners learn to be stretched. Many  gifted students hate to be stretched and at times will fight you for it. Some students like the path of least resistance. We need to show them by trying new and different ways they are training their brain to look at circumstances differently. By being stretched students can see, and feel the pains the of learning; and those pains are good pains.

Education isn’t all about facts. Education is about taking the knowledge you learn and applying to challenges. If you fail or succeed in the challenge isn’t as important as how you recover from the failures.

 

Don’t Give More Work…Give more challenge

rise-to-the-challengeI have made this statement several times in the past to gifted teachers and regular education teachers: Don’t give gifted children more work since they have the assigned work done earlier than others–give them more of a challenge.

A few years ago I wrote a post entitled Enrichment vs. Extension in the Regular Classroom. That post came from an conversation with a few educators wanting to have clarification on the differences between extension and enrichment activities. Listening to my students this week several have told me that they don’t get much out of a few classes they are taking. They finish their work in record time, and they get piled on more work to keep them busy. This isn’t what education should be. This type of mindset doesn’t help the gifted child.

Instead of giving more work to keep gifted students occupied, give students more of a challenge, and add depth and extension to the subject they are expected to know. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes to see if your gifted students have a handle on the material you are presenting. Instead giving more work or making the assignment longer, give them some kind of extension activity from a choice board. As I wrote in the post mentioned above:

An extension activity is an activity that extends the learning of the lesson. Extension activities can be done in small groups or by a single student. These extension activities are leveled to fit the student. For gifted students these are challenging. For struggling students these activities can be a reinforcing skill activities. Students don’t choose their extension activity like the enrichment project.

If you are at a loss of what to do with your gifted students many textbooks offer extension and enrichment ideas to help with challenging your students. The idea isn’t to bombard them with extra work. If you can see from informal observations, or pre-test scores that your gifted student can do the required work, then let them move on to an activity that will challenge them based on the skills and knowledge the rest of the class is working on. Its just a substitution of work not in addition to work. Don’t have them do both. Your gifted student can get bored, and can begin to show unwanted behaviors in class.

Gifted children love challenges, and many have a drive that needs to be challenged. What can you do to help provide gifted children challenges in the regular classroom? How can gifted intervention specialists assist in helping regular education teachers create opportunities to challenge students?

I would love to hear from you. All of us can learn from your expertise.

Why Professional Development Matters

11863319_864585353577385_5354103936493098384_n

I am the only Gifted Intervention Specialist in my building. You may be in the same in the same boat as me. So when it comes to professional development, and growing in my passion for gifted education is important to me. Since I am the only GIS, at times I have to glean as much as I can out of our district that will help me in my classroom. At times I look for professional development opportunities from NAGC or OAGC, presentations at conferences, independent studies, or university courses.

As I was thinking about the idea of professional development, I began to think: Why does professional development matter to teachers? I came up with a few ideas.

Professional development matters because:

  • It introduces teachers to new material that others are trying in their classrooms
  • It helps to spread best practices in education
  • It helps to give new teachers more practical knowledge
  • It helps to keep the spark a glow for seasoned teachers
  • It allows teachers to collaborate with others

Professional development I feel comes in to categories: Administrator developed and lead, and Teacher developed and lead. Each has is own pros and cons, but they have their place when it comes to professional development.

What do you like about professional development? Why do you think it matters? On Sunday Feb. 19th at 9pm ET #ohiogtchat will be having a chat based on why professional development matters. You can check out the questions here.

 

 

 

Working with Parents to Improve High Ability Students’ Education

middle-school

This week my school system is having their Annual Spring Parent Teacher Conferences. I feel this Spring Conference is just as important as our Fall Conferences are, but the parent turn out is noticeably lower than in the Fall. I was reminded over the weekend that Parent Teacher Conferences shouldn’t be the only time in which both parties work together to help improve the education of their children, particularly in middle school.

Middle School can be a tough transition for many students. In the elementary classes students are given their foundations, and middle school build on that foundation. In the middle school, students learn some independence and choice. Students can choose from sports, clubs, and after school activities that interest them.

When it comes to high ability learners, we have to be keenly aware that they are in the right classroom level that matches their ability. I found a joint statement that NAGC and NMSA (National Middle School Association) wrote in order to challenge schools, parents, and councilors to make sure they are meeting the needs of these learners.

To ensure that high ability learners are getting their needs met we have to look at creative ways to met them. Here are a couple examples of accommodations:

  • Long Distance Learning: If a high ability learner needs to take high school / college classes in middle school this is a great way to solve that.
  • On-Line Classes: If you high school or district offers online classes for high school credit. High ability learners would benefit from this.
  • Subject / Grade Acceleration: Moving a high ability learner a whole grade or just in a subject.
  • Independent Studies: Allowing a high ability learner to learn a subject on their on at their own pace is a great way to met the need to challenge students. (MOOCs are great for this since they are usually sponsored by a college.)
  • Participating in School and/or community based clubs: Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, Chess Clubs, Spelling and Geography Bees, Astronomy Clubs,and such: Allowing high ability learners to take part in programs listed above is a great way to met the needs of high ability learners.

All of the accommodations  listed above that would be effective and successful will only happen when parents, teachers, administrators, and councilors work together to make high ability learners challenged during school and after school. In middle school specifically, several of the accommodations listed above would work much easier the more parents and teachers talk and discuss the needs of their children.

In your middle school, what are some accommodations you have seen that have been successful? Share those in the comment sections below.