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

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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.

DeVos…Unqualified?

betsy-devos-hearingTomorrow Tuesday Feb. 7th the Senate will vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. I have to tell you I am not surprised by President Trump’s choice for this position. She is a millionaire, and has very little experience in education other than volunteering in a school.

I have some reservations about her confirmation. Here is just a few…

Mrs. DeVos, herself never attended public school. Her children never attended public school. It makes sense that to over look an agency that a majority of the job is understanding public schools you should have some experience with public schools either as a teacher, administrator, board member, or parent.

Mrs. DeVos never had to take out student loans for herself or children, and yet she is responsible for administrating student loans, Pell Grants, and much more. Knowing how the process works is something that is an asset to the job. She has no experience in leading a large budget like this, and there for the job should not be hers.

Mrs. DeVos in her Senate hearing could not articulate the difference between student proficiency and student growth. This is a fundamental conversation that has been going on for many years. It should be understood since she is gong to help make or drive policy on these concepts.

Honestly, I have issues with her take on vouchers. I feel that changing schools doesn’t always make the change that a student needs. The best school in an area may be close, but the student may not feel they fit in with the climate or culture. I also find it ironic that the largest population of people who voted for Trump were rural areas. School vouchers and school choice is much harder in areas where schools are spread out many miles apart.

There are many more instances where I feel that Mrs. DeVos is not qualified to be Sectary of Education. They are just too numerous to point out. I feel that if the States and Federal Government require me to be highly qualified in the area that I am teaching, then the person who is being recommended to be the leader of the Department of Education should also be highly qualified.

If you have reservations like I do, please contact your U.S. Senator and let them know. If you think what I said was garbage and you feel that Mrs. DeVos should be the next Secretary of Education then you let your Senator know.

Click here for instructions on contacting your Senator.

Here is a few websites to read up on Mrs. DeVos

http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/betsy-devos-9-facts-sum-everything-you-need-know-1764143159

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-01-25/5-reasons-to-oppose-betsy-devos-for-donald-trumps-secretary-of-education

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/11/23/5-things-know-trumps-education-secretary-pick-betsy-devos/94360110/

https://www.conservativereview.com/commentary/2016/11/betsy-devos-as-education-secretary-what-you-need-to-know-about-trumps-pick

 

 

Importance of Teaching Self Advocacy

self-advocacyI teach middle school children. I love their spunk, jokes, personality, and stage of life. Middle school children have a lot of insecurities. They have to deal with their hormones changing and figuring out life as a middle schooler. I believe the more I am with middle school children the more I understand them.

One aspect of middle school children is the fact they complain. Sometimes the complaint is valid, and sometimes it is just to voice an opinion. When it comes to them knowing they need to have a chance at being challenged more because they are either bored, or feel they can do the next level of work middle schoolers can be hesitant. They don’t want to be seen as “that kid.” So we need to teach them it is alright to want to be challenged, and want to help come up with a solution.

I feel it is important to to teach gifted children to ask and question the right people at the right time and place about their education. It should start with a conversation with their parents. They need to talk to their parents about why they feel they should be accelerated or able to do independent studies to be more challenged. The parent should help to gather some information with the child. They should compile a list of issues they have. Try to stick with aspects that can proven with test scores, home work scores, or project scores. Helping the child know themselves is a great place to start.

After that conversation the gifted child should talk to the school councilor. Talking with the school councilor they can ask for a career placement survey to see what their personality matches. It would be a good thing for students to also know their learning style. The school councilor can help with as well. A great resource that can be used is a document from Richard Felder and Barbra Solomon on learning styles and strategies. During this meeting the student could ask for their cumulative record. Most schools have it in electronic form. It should have all the state test scores, and gifted screening scores in it along with grades cards. This data would be good to use and to know for the student and councilor to determine the best route for change. If the councilor is unwilling to share it, then a parent needs to step in and ask for it.

For self advocacy to be taken seriously the student should have good character. The student should take their education, and their work they turn in seriously. If they are just complaining they are bored just to complain self advocacy could be difficult. They may have to be more intervention with the gifted intervention specialist helping the student.

For self advocacy to be effective the student must have support from parents, teachers, and the school councilor. Once everyone has bought into the fact that the student is ready to be tested, or a committee formed for acceleration of whole grade or subject.

Many times when a student says their bored it can be a complaint. Many times it a cry for help. As a teacher you need to investigate it. Is the student bored because they don’t like the content, or is it because they already know the content. As educators we can down play when a student is crying for help. We don’t always know the answers. We have to genuinely listen to our students.

What do you do to teach gifted children it is alright to self advocate?

 

 

Ten Things Gifted Teachers Should Consider in Their Classrooms

top-tenI was talking to a few teachers this week, and the conversation of classroom climate and management came up. So from that conversation I came up with ten take-a-ways that gifted teachers should consider.

  1. Teachers set the climate of the classroom. Teachers set up the goals, expectations, and we challenge the students to meet and exceed those challenges.
  2. Form relationships with your students. Make time in your daily routine to have a short class meeting. In that meeting allow students to talk, share, and express themselves with you and others.
  3. Know your students. When pairing students together know who is an extrovert and an introvert. Do some learning inventories and pair students that way.
  4. Let students take ownership of projects. Give your students some leeway to put their personality stamp on projects that you do in your classroom.
  5. Listen to your students. Many students have passions they want to explore. Give time in your weekly schedule to allow students to explore these topics. Give them the opportunity and materials they need to effectively explore their passions.
  6. Create a classroom library. This goes along with number 5, but as you are listening to your students see what interests them in their reading. Get those books for your classroom library. If students like books along the lines of Harry Potter then try to get those books for your classroom. If you see that some students are interested in paleontology then get books on dinosaurs and such. The better stacked your library is the more opportunities you give your students to explore new and exciting topics.
  7. Climate of creativity. Allow your students to be creative. Do projects that multiple answers. Incorporate into your classroom passion projects or project based learning projects. By doing these you are giving your students some real world learning.
  8. Incorporate technology and social media. Just about every student has some experience with technology.Use that as often as it is appropriate. Along with that use social media (age appropriate as well) in your lessons. Allow students to use Twitter or Facebook to post thoughts, videos, and links to assignments.
  9. Co-Teach with regular education teachers. Sometimes it is good to go into the regular classroom to see how your students perform. Work with as many regular education teachers to help deepen the content for your students and for regular education students.
  10. Differentiate your curriculum. Even though all of your students are gifted, you still need to differentiate your instruction.

Did I miss anything that you feel I should add to this list? If you let me know in the comment section below.

Minorities in Gifted Programs

I love teaching in my urban school district. I have been teaching gifted children for over a dozen years now, and more often than not, I find that my classes are different year after year. Some years I have quite a few minorities, and some years I don’t.

I have been reading several blogs and research papers to get my head around this idea that minorities aren’t represented accurately in gifted programming. I truly do feel that this is a valid issue that needs to have attention brought to it.

So here is a few things I have found in my readings about minorities in gifted programming in urban settings:

  1. Gifted minorities may not test well due to language barriers
  2. Gifted minorities may not test well due to lack of life experiences
  3. Many gifted minorities have parents who never went to college or finished high school; they may be the first to do this in their family, so education may not be high on the list
  4. The test used to screen many urban minorities may not be the correct one to accurately screen for minorities

When you look across your gifted classes as a GIS, or as a coordinator does the percent of minorities that are in you school meet the percent of minorities in your gifted classes? If not, are you concerned? What can you do to help fix this problem?

A few suggestions that I have to help fix this problem are:

  1. Check your screener tests. Is there a better one that could help with identifying gifted children of minorities?
  2. Talk to regular education teachers to see if there are minorities who may be showing signs they are gifted, but it isn’t obvious
  3. Talk to regular education teachers, and express to them negative classroom behaviors may be a sign of a bored child that may be gifted

As a GIS, my passion is to see as many gifted children succeed in class, and ultimately in life. I feel that a great gifted program takes into account all the factors that limit students chances of getting and succeeding in a gifted classroom. Sometimes it changing tests, test scores, or culture. Teaching regular education teachers characteristics of gifted children will always help.  Staying in contact with regular education teachers and helping them see some obvious and latent behaviors that can help them recognize and ultimately recommend these students for gifted testing.

What are some things your school district does to ensure gifted minorities are being identified and serviced?