Mentoring Gifted Children

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As the school year starts, one thing that my school does is a very good program called “Little Spartans, Big Spartans.” This program is designed after the Little Brothers, Big Brothers program. I really this program for the fact that it gives our high school students the chance to volunteer their time during the school day and work with children in middle and elementary school.

As this program gets rolling it out I started to think about the type of mentorships that would be successful for gifted children. Before you can begin to set up mentorships for gifted children we have to make sure the child is mature enough. The student should be an independent learner, a  diligent worker, and have a passion to learn more about a subject matter that is beyond the school walls. The student must have the temperament to understand that the person mentoring them is a profession in the field they are interested in and go in wanting to learn from them as much as possible. When the student takes this into view the mentorship will be successful.

The benefits of being in a mentor / mentee relationship are many, but here are a few that I feel are most important:

Benefits for the Mentee:

  • Student gets real world experience
  • Students get an increased knowledge base of the topic or subject
  • Students can get an increased passion for the topic or subject
  • Student gets a role model
  • Student can show growth in an area of giftedness (academic, leadership, creativity, visual arts, and / or performing arts)

Benefits for the Menor:

  • Mentor can have the opportunity to share their passion for their area or interest
  • Mentor can have the satisfaction of helping another who may be interested in going into the same field as them, which makes someone’s life better
  • Mentor gets the chance the chance to have a 1- on-1 relationship with a young person
  • Mentor gets the chance to mold a young person’s perception of their area or passion

To have a successful mentor program, students and mentors just can’t be thrown together. There must be set goals, and objectives that must be met so success can be measured. Communication must be open between mentor and mentee.

Mentorships can be a very successful program within your school or community. It has to be done carefully, purposefully, and with the utmost importance. It needs to be gotten tight the first time.

 

Working Through the Middle School Years

I have been a middle school teacher now for 16 years. It is a population group that I enjoy being with, and teaching. For the past few years I have been mentoring new teachers in our district. I try to share my knowledge and expertise with new teachers in the hopes that they would not make some of the same mistakes that I have made in the past.

One aspect that I feel that I have to continue to educate new teachers on is how to work with middle school gifted children. There are a few things that I stress to new teachers that I feel they need to know.

New teachers need to understand that there are parts of gifted children’s personalities that are not like theirs. Gifted children, like all children, have various personalities. Some are unorganized, some are perfectionists, and some fall somewhere on in the middle. For teachers when you see a student who is unorganized and messy, and your classroom is meticulously organized please don’t stress over it. Let them be who they are. Give students expectations and stick to them, but also let them be who they are. 

Focus on the positives when it comes to gifted children. Some gifted children may come across as crass, especially when they point out a mistake made by you. Don’t let that get to you. It may be just who they are. Instead, focus on the positives. Look for the good in each and every student you have. That will keep you from being a “negative nelly”. 

Allow gifted students to struggle a little bit. Don’t rush in to save the day. Allow them to work through their frustration. By doing that you making them rely on themselves more and you less. If you are continuously helping them too much too fast they won’t have the opportunity to feel the stress and frustration that goes along with building a good work ethic.

Finally, design lessons that have stretch included. This gives my gifted students a chance to grow. If you always plan your lessons with the middle students in mind those gifted students will become discipline problems. They get bored, and you will have to rush to find something for them to do. That ends up being more busy work, and they will still be come a discipline problem.

Navigate the middle years carefully. They will be rocky filled with ups and downs, but they are definitely worth it.

Not all Gifted Children Test Well

istock_000042615630_large_redford_new_sat-jpg-736x0_q85The beginning of the  school year is always busy for me. This is the time of year many parents contact me to test their child to see if they qualify for gifted services. Many parents tell me their child is gifted, but tests don’t always show it. I always try to reassure parents that I try to create a peaceful and stress free environment. After testing and scoring, I come to the same result as the parent. The child didn’t test well. So I have to use more than just one instrument to see if a child is gifted or not.

But, how can a child who is gifted not test well? There are several ideas as to why a child doesn’t test well. Parents and teachers know some students don’t test well, but know they are smarter than the test results.

If you know a child is gifted, and isn’t a great test taker here are some ideas as to why they may not test well.

  1. Motivation. Some students have motivation and some don’t. If a student has a lack of motivation then doing well on a test is the last thing the child will do well on.
  2. Intra-Stress. Sometimes a student will not test well, because inside they are too stressed out. It doesn’t matter that the environment is peaceful and stress-free, some students will still battle their own stress.
  3. Perfectionism. Some students feel they need to be perfect in everything. This particularly comes out during timed testing. Children who suffer from perfectionism want to answer every question correctly sometimes will not test well. They get stuck on a question and can’t move on.
  4. Over-thinking. Gifted children are smart, but sometimes they overthink things. Students who overthink on tests don’t do well on multiple choice tests (which most gifted tests are). Gifted children make connections differently. When they can’t use their thinking skills to create something unique, they struggle.

 

To help children overcome these aspects teachers and parents need to help them overcome these shortfalls. When dealing with motivation or lack thereof, try to spark intrinsic motivation. Use their hobbies and passions to your advantage. Use the idea that doing well now will help them in the future to get into a college or university they are interested in going to.

To help a student who has stress issues teach them techniques that will help them center themselves. Help them to recognize when the internal stress is creeping up, and how to control it.

A student who has an issue with perfectionism needs to understand that making mistakes isn’t a big of deal they perceived it to be. To help them understand this place the student in simulations that they will make mistakes or fail. They will see and feel that they survived. This idea isn’t just with tests. This is an aspect of life. Children who suffer with perfectionism need to know at some point they will make mistakes in life. It matters how they handle the mistake and move on.

For students who  just overthink things on tests help them understand they don’t have to fish for an answer. Most multiple choice tests are straightforward. Just as in life, somethings are just that…straightforward. Once the test is over students will look back, and realize not fishing for a unique answer was the best decision.

As the school year goes on, and you begin to see some of the aspects listed above I hope that you can give these children, and parents some help.

What are some other aspects do you find in students who don’t test well.

For this post, I used the awesome resource Parenting Gifted Children by Jennifer L. Jolly, Ph.D., Donald J. Treffinger, Ph.D., Tracy Ford Inman, and Joan Franklin Smutny, Ph.D.

2016 OAGC Parent Day

Dear Families and Educators:
I hope everyone’s school year is off to a great start! I wanted to reach out and personally invite you to our OAGC Parent Day on Sunday, October 16.  This day is always a great jam-packed day and it only costs $5!!! 

* Jonathan Plucker, professor from John Hopkins  Center for Talented Youth will present a keynote on: Success in College and Life:  A Professor’s Perspective

* We will then have fabulous breakout sessions from some of the best speakers in the field on topics including:

  • Great Books for Great Young Minds
  • Top 10 Things Gifted Parents Need To Know Before HS
  • Beyond Instant Information: Engaging Generation Z Gifted Students
  • Safe Havens: Providing Support for Stressed-Out Gifted Children

Parent Day is a great opportunity to network and learn from other families–and often the educational/game vendors have set up early so you can buy from them.

Thanks for your help in promoting Parent Day. Attached is a flier to email around and also attached is a photo you can use to post on social media. You also can get these attachments online:
http://www.oagc.com/files/OAGC%20Parent%20Day2016%20Registration.6.22.16.pdf

 

Microsoft Word - OAGC Parent Day2016 Registration.docx

Book Review: Differentiating Instruction With Menus: Math

This is part 1 of 4 of this series.

20160523_101558The differentiating Instruction with Menus series is one of my favorite series. It happens to be one of my most used series to date. I have found that all gifted children are very smart, they still need some differentiation in the lessons.

I feel that giving gifted students a choice is a great idea. I want my students to feel as if they are in control of their learning, their grades, and their work. There is a lot of research that supports this idea, and Laurie discusses that in the introduction of the book.

As I began to read through the 3rd-5th grade second edition I started to get inspired about somethings I could do with the my upper grades students based off the menus Laurie has placed in this book. But, if I were a teacher who had 3rd through 5th grade students, this book series is one I would get. In regards to Math, what I like about this book are the menus. Laurie gives a short description of the type of menu along with the benefits, limitations, and time considerations. Everything that a teacher would need to know about a type of menu is there. There are also several menus that are listed that a math teacher can use in their classroom linked to State Standards.

If you do products with your students, you always need to have a rubric for your students to follow. This book has some great examples of rubrics. It also has idea for rubrics for students taught lessons, to teacher directed products. Laurie also has ideas and examples of how to get student feedback. All the menus and feedback forms are great, and can be used as is, or can be used a jumping off point.

I this book is a great resource for teachers and parents. I would hope that anyone who teaches math to gifted children would use this book. This resource can be used in a classroom setting, or homeschool setting.  Not only would I suggest you use this book, but also use the whole series. I have it, and I use it often in my teaching.

 

Summer is Right Around the Corner

For many of us summer is right around the corner, and school will be out. I know as an educator that having the summer is important. For me, summer is a time for family gatherings, vactions, and relaxing. It also is a time for reflection, professional development, and summer classes. Doing things out in the community, or with your family teachers always seem to stay busy during the summer.

As #ohiogtchat takes a break for the summer, I hope that you take some time for yourself to be recharged. I also hope during that time of recharging you get inspired to do somethings this coming school year that you didn’t do in past years.If you are like me, I will read several books this summer to help me get inspired.

The National Parenting Gifted Children Week is July 17-23. Check out your gifted associations for information.

Concerning #ohiogtchat:

Our next #ohiogtchat is Aug 7: Alternative placements: (Homeschools / Unschool Movement/ Online Schools) Guest Corin Goodwin and Home School Panel. I hope that you join us for this chat. I believe that it will be a very interesting topic. More and more students are being homeschooled, and participating in online schools parents of gifted children want to give their children the best education possible. So this topic is becoming more relevant than what people assume it is.

Then two weeks later we have our second chat for the month of August. On Aug 14: Classroom Prep–How do you start your school year? Creating a Classroom Environment that encourages creativity and challenge. I hope by then, many of you will have been recharged and ready for the school year to begin. So let’s talk about the classroom environment.

Have a great summer and see you in August!.