Finding Talent Through Negative Attitudes

I was talking with some teachers the other day who thought they didn’t have any gifted children in their classes because many of their students aren’t hardworking, have good behavior, and many don’t have a good work ethic.

So I thought to myself with that kind negative ideas they may see the talent these students have with a biased lens. I feel when students don’t fit the “gifted” stereotypes then there must not be gifted students. We have to educate regular education teachers to step away from preconceived notions of what a gifted child looks like. We also have to educate regular education teachers that you have to take out your biases and objectively evaluate students on their work not how they behave. We know that when gifted children get bored they can act out and can exhibit unwanted classroom behaviors.

I teach in a school district that has Title 1 services and 100 percent of the students are on free lunches. Research shows that Gifted programs have few students from minorities and low socioeconomic status families. Along with that many teachers hold negative attitudes about the educational abilities of these students, and many times will low academic expectations for them. Many times the negative behavior or unwanted classroom behaviors overshadow the talent these students have. 

Due to the issues listed above schools particularly like the one I teach in must have a strong advocacy program in place. I believe we need to have an advocacy plan that is broken down into the following:

  • Needs assessment team made of teacher teams to help teachers find gifted and talented students even though they may have unwanted classroom behaviors. 
  • An appointed Advocate for the student. This teacher should have some experience with differentiation and /or working with gifted children and understand characteristics and needs of gifted children.
  • Implementation and testing team. This is where the Gifted Intervention Specialist and School Psychologist would work together to make sure the State procedures for testing and screening are followed. If the student does qualify for gifted services then parents are notified and student is placed in the appropriate gifted services . 
  • Follow-up team of the Student advocate, Gifted Intervention Specialist and the School Psychologist follow-up with regular classroom teachers and parents to see if this student is making progress, or if there should be a change of delivery of gifted services . 

When many people are working together to make sure students are placed in the right educational setting you can take out the negative attitude toward the actions of students out of the equation and focus on the talents and strengths of the students.

What does your school do to help ensure minority and low socioeconomic status  gifted students are being identified and placed in your gifted program? what are some of the process steps you are proud of about placing students in the right educational setting?

Purposes of Grouping Gifted Students

cori_middle_school_readingOver the past weekend I read a position paper on grouping from the National Association for Gifted Children.  I thought that I would discuss some of the high points of this position paper.

Grouping gifted students is one of the foundation practices of gifted education. There are many different types of grouping strategies that can be done that can produce positive results. The optics of groups is what can be interpreted as “elitist” or creates the illusion that this group of gifted children may think too highly of themselves, or it may be perceived that grouping gifted children harms the struggling students. None of this is shown in recent research.

There are four purposes for grouping:

to ease the delivery of appropriately differentiated curriculum to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate the use of appropriately differentiated instructional strategies to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate addressing the differential affective needs of these children in the most conductive manner;

to allow for learners of similar abilities or performance levels to learn from each other.

The overall aching affect of the strategy of grouping is to create the least restrictive environment possible for learning to take place. This also allows schools to channel challenging course work to these students.

Grouping Practices

There are two types of grouping: full time and part time, and they each have strategies that can fall into performance based or abilities based groups. Performance based group option is based on grouping students with similar achievement levels. Ability based group option is based on grouping students based on intelligence, ability, or aptitude tests.

Full Time Ability group options:

  • Full time gifted program
  • Self-contained gifted classroom
  • Special / Magnet school for the gifted
  • Cluster grouping: (top 5-8 gifted students at a grade level are placed in a mixed ability classroom as a small group, and are provided with appropriate differentiated instruction.

Research shows that using full time ability grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/3 years to 2 years growth. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Part time Ability Group options

  • Pull out/send out/withdrawal/resource room enrichment groups: gifted students are removed from their regular classroom for specific time each week to work on differentiated activities such as critical thinking, problem solving, and extensions of the general curriculum.
  • Like-ability cooperative groups within classrooms: when a teacher decided to use cooperative learning groups in a mixed ability groups with usually the 3-4 highest ability students being grouped together.  They are given appropriately differentiated expectations and assessments.

Research shows that using part time ability grouping strategies  could yield students growth levels of growth of more than a year in creativity, and critical thinking skills in subjects that are focused on during the pull out. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Performance groupings that meet daily (subject specific)

  • Cluster performance grouping: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject like math or language arts are placed in a mixed ability classroom and are provided with differentiated instruction in that core subject.
  • Regrouping for specific instruction: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject are placed in a high performance classroom and provided with accelerated and enriched content and skills from that core subject.

Research shows that using performance based grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 years to 1 3/4 years growth depending on the content that is .

Performance grouping options that do not meet daily:

  • Within-class / flexible grouping: a teacher of a mixed ability class divides the class into groups according to their “readiness” for the curriculum to be taught.
  • Like-performing cooperative learning groups: when a teacher decides to use cooperative learning groups places the highest 3-4 performing students in their own group receiving differentiated instruction and assessments.
  • Performance based pull out/ send out/ withdrawal/ resource room enrichment classes: the top performing students in a core subject are removed from the regular classroom to work on more challenging and complex content and skills based on the core subject.

Research shows that using part time performance grouping strategies for specific subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years growth depending on the subject.

Schools should have many grouping options available to students from pre-school to high school. How schools decide to group will be based on what is the culture of the school. The options chosen by schools and teachers will have to fit the culture of the school. What ever option that is chosen is ensure that gifted students achieve at their highest potential.

Grouping students together is a way to allow gifted students access to learning at the level and complexity that is needed. It allows gifted students to make social connections with same aged peers who think and learn like them.

Common Characteristics of Gifted Children

The last few weeks, I have been reminded of the importance of regular education teachers knowing some basics of Gifted Education. So this post is more for those teachers who need to know a bit more about gifted children. I posted this to our district Gifted Education Page. I thought that this is such an important topic that it needed to be seen by a larger audience.

Let’s start with the definition of what Gifted means. According to the National Association for Gifted Children‘s definition is:

“Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).”

According to the State of Ohio giftedness means:

Gifted” means students who perform or show potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared to others of their age, experience or environment and who are identified under division (A), (B), (C), or (D) of section 3324.03 of the Revised Code. OH Admin. Code 3301-51-15

To see what other states are defining gifted as click here. 

According to Dr. Jim Delisle and his book When Gifted Kids Don’t have the Answers there are 14 general characteristics of Gifted Children (Pages 6-7).

  1. “Shows superior reasoning powers and marked ability to handle ideas; can generalize readily from specific facts and can see subtle relationships; has outstanding problem-solving ability.
  2. Shows persistent intellectual curiosity; asks searching questions; shows exceptional interest in the nature of mankind and in the universe.
  3. Has a wide range of interests, often of an intellectual kind; develops one or more interests to considerable depth.
  4. Is markedly superior in quality and quantity of written and/or spoken vocabulary; is interested in subtleties of words and their uses.
  5. Reads avidly and absorbs books well beyond his or her years.
  6. Learns quickly and easily and retains what is learned; recalls important details, concepts, and principles; comprehends readily.
  7. Shows insight into arithmetical problems that require careful reasoning and grasps mathematical concepts readily.
  8. Shows creative ability or imaginative expression in such things as music, art, dance, drama, shows sensitivity and finesse in rhythm, movement, and bodily control.
  9. Sustains concentration for lengthy periods and shows outstanding responsibility and independence in classroom work.
  10. Sets realistically high standards for self; is self-critical in evaluating and correcting his or her own efforts.
  11. Shows initiative and originality in intellectual work; shows flexibility in thinking and considers problems from a number of viewpoints.
  12. Observes keenly and is responsive to new ideas.
  13. Shows social poise and an ability to communicate with adults in a mature way.
  14. Gets excitement and pleasure from intellectual challenge; shows an alert and subtle sense of humor.”

To add to this list there are few other points that need to be shared. Gifted children sometimes are more sensitive than most kids. They begin to develop a sense of empathy a lot sooner than average learner children do. They also have a social-conscience-which means that have an intense awareness of the world’s problems. They worry about the world, the environment, wars and conflicts, hunger and homelessness.

As you teach your  gifted children begin to identify some some of these qualities in your students. How do these general characteristics manifest themselves in your classroom?

Some more resources to look at:

Getting it Right

One aspect of Gifted Education is to find, identify, and service children who are gifted. To follow the mentioned sequence gifted intervention specialists need to work with classroom teachers to to get as much input on a student as possible.

Gifted intervention specialists should look to classroom teachers to help with finding talent, and to help with the placement of students. I was reading Dr. Jim Delisle’s book When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers, and he gives 3 tips for successful placements of gifted children:

  1. All placements in a gifted program should be considered tentative, with the fit between the child’s needs and the program’s offerings being the bottom line criterion for continued placement. Bad match? Look for something better.
  2. All placements in a gifted program should be considered voluntary.  No one should have to act gifted if they don’t want to.
  3. The names of students selected for a gifted program should be shared with the students’ teachers, who should be asked if they know of any other children who might be considered for placement. Teachers cannot remove a student’s name from this list, since this is a sure way to eliminate perceived underachievers and troublemakers.

My personal feeling is that this is correct. I believe that we have to be an advocate for gifted children. Not all gifted children will benefit from a pullout program, or a placement in a full grade or subject acceleration. We need to be flexible, and looking out for the best placement for the success of gifted children.

Once the placement process is complete, we need to make sure we are supportive of the student. When a student is in a pullout program the student will miss some classroom instruction. It doesn’t help when classroom teachers dump all the work that a student missed while in a pull out program. Teachers both Regular Education and Gifted Education need to come up with a common sense solution to help gifted students not get over whelmed with the a ton of extra work. When students are in a pull out program classroom teachers may need to readjust when they plan to take tests or quizzes. I would also suggest the use of pre-tests to see what material all students have mastered. This may help with some curriculum compacting for gifted students during a unit the teacher is covering.

For students who are not in pullout programs,but in an accelerated placement classroom teachers need to monitor the academic progress of the student for several weeks. How the student fits in emotionally also needs to be monitored. If it seems the student isn’t mature enough of handle the new accelerated class placement, then a new placement will need to be provided as an alternative.

What we need to remember that if the placement doesn’t fit we need to change it right away. Success of the student in a placement that will challenge the student is what is important.

Knowing Where you Stand about Gifted Education

This post will be focusing on getting to know the gifted child so we can better understand who these children are, where they are coming from, and how they see themselves. Gifted children are so different. You won’t really find two that are the same. Many have the same qualities, but not necessarily in the same way.

Identifying who are gifted children are is the first step. Below is a chart that will help us first see the difference between a high achiever, a gifted learner, and a creative thinker. Each of these students are different. A high achiever is someone who is very smart; a gifted learner is one who is gifted; and a creative thinker is another type of gifted child. Each have their own characteristics. I would urge you to read through this chart and see if you can spot children in your classroom with some of these characteristics.chart-of-gifted-thinker

It is important to know who your gifted children are. They have many different complicated sides about them. Gifted children will often where masks that will allow them to hide. To the left is a short handout I received several years ago and have shared this with many around the district. Sometimes students don’t fit the mold of gifted child that many have come to think of. There are 5 areas that students can hid that will keep them from fitting that stereotype or mold:

  • Asynchronous Development: These are students who can learn much more quickly than the average student, by socially they are not there. Mind and maturity have not met yet.
  • Intensity:  Some students are much more intense than others. There is a popular theorist named Kazimierz Dabrowski who created a theory that gifted children fall into 5 different Intensities, or Overexcitabilities as he called them. You can read more about that here.
  • masks-of-the-gifted-1Social Isolation: Many times gifted children feel more isolated from their peers because of their advanced vocabulary, interests, and at times find their peers to be difficult to be around.
  • Underachievement: This is when a child chooses not to perform to expectations of either the peers around them.
  • Communication: Gifted children and average learners find it difficult to get along because of the gap in vocabulary and interest. Gifted children will often prefer to talk to adults than classmates.

Knowing the gifted children in your class, and them knowing themselves is an important aspect. Dr. Jim Delisle has come up with a short questionnaire that would help to understand where these children are coming from, and how they see themselves. Understanding how you see  the giftedness of your students, and knowing how they see their own giftedness is a big deal. I hope that you check out the Teacher and Student Inventory below. It isn’t very long, but I believe it will be very helpful.

You can access this Teacher and Student Inventory by clicking on the link below.

teacher-and-student-gifted-inventory-from-jim-delisle-book

I would love to hear what some of your thoughts are about this inventory and if it was helpful in your classroom.

Have you tried SOLE?

The more I have been reading about SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environments) the more I starting to realize that in a pull out program like the one I run it may be the best fit.

So what is SOLE? SOLE was designed by Sugata Mitra a TEDPrise Winner  and has a belief that an education paradigm called Child Driven Learning.

Child Driven Learning is:

  • Self Organized
  • Curious
  • Engaged
  • Social
  • Collaborative
  • Motivated by peer-interest
  • Fueled by adult encouragement and admiration

The basic parameters of a SOLE are the following:

  • Children can choose their own groups of around 4 members
  • Children can change groups at any time
  • Children can look to see what other groups are doing and take that information back to their own group
  • Children can move around freely
  • Children are encouraged to talk and discuss with other groups
  • Children have the opportunity to share out what they learned in their friends in their groups and from other groups.

Here is a short video on how to set this up:

I will be experimenting with this concept over the school year. I am hoping that it is successful with the group of students that I have. I will start with my 5th and 6th grade students to see how this works with them. I will be sharing back over the next several weeks to explain what is going on.

I believe this is a great way for gifted students to work together, and learn from each other. I want my students to feel that they have a great control and direction of their learning. I will start by giving them some direction, and see where this takes us.

This is an exciting aspect of teaching a pull out program. Wish me luck!

Why Giftedness Matters

When you think about the word giftedness, you may come up with the several different pictures in your mind. You may envision a nerdy guy with classes, a little girl reading some very think books beyond her grade level, or maybe you may be  a middle school student taking high school and college classes.

Giftedness has many different aspects, along with many different visions of identifying and servicing gifted children. According to the Columbus Group

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.  (The Columbus Group, 1991)

Gifted children aren’t the same. They may have similar qualities and characteristics, but they are very different. There are many different theories about giftedness. Here are a few.

The Cattell-Horn-Carroll Theory is a theory that that helps to test your child to find out which of the 9 cognitive abilities your child is strongest in.

chc-theory-of-cognitive-abilities

Another is the Dabrowski Sensitivity Theory. There are five different sensitivities your gifted child could fall into. Each has a different characteristics and methods of assisting children who are living with these sensitivities.dabrowskis-sensitivities

There are more theories about giftedness such as ones from Joseph Renzulli and Gagnes which I hope that you will check out as well.

So why did I go through all of that? Because Giftedness Matters! Our gifted children are a unique student population that needs attention, understanding, and our time. Our gifted children need to be challenged, pushed, prodded, and at times let to fail. We all have these stereotypes of what we think gifted children are, but that’s what they are…stereotypes. Gifted children are real people, who live with the perceived advantages and disadvantages of being gifted every day.

Giftedness matters because of how they are taught matters. Gifted children need to be taught in a different way than other children. They need to be stimulated and challenged in many different ways. Teachers can’t teach to the average or below average children, and think that gifted children will show yearly growth. If they aren’t challenged they won’t grow. Instead, they will show behaviors that are unwanted in the classroom.

Giftedness matters because the educational setting matters. Some students need a small groups, large classrooms, and others need to be schooled at home. Whatever the appropriate setting to met the needs of the gifted child are they should be done.

The #ohiogtchat is having a discussion on this on Nov. 6th at 9pm ET. I hope that you can join this chat and further the conversation with us and our guest Celi Trepanier, author of Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling and blog Crushing Tall Poppies. I wrote a review on this blog about her book. You can read it here.

Follow @jeff_shoemaker and @HeatherCachat  to get more information on this chat. You can also go to the #ohiogtchat website for more information as well.