Category Archives: Classroom Concerns

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/

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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.

middle-school

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?

 

 

Mental Heath and Gifted Children

unhappy-teen-150x150In the upcoming issue of the OAGC Review the central focus is going to be Gifted and Mental Health. I am a firm believer that we need to be aware of the mental health of our children. They have more avenues of stressors than what my generation had at their age, such stressor is cyber-bullying.

The Mental health and children has been a huge topic of discussion in my area of Northern Ohio after experiencing a half dozen successful suicides over the past two years. Over the past two years our community has experienced a half a dozen successful adolescent suicides. Our community has put adolescent mental health in the forefront of conversations in schools, churches, and in public forums.

At the school level, it is imperative to understand how important it is for teachers and parents to work together to know and form solid relationships with children. Teachers and parents should have an open, transparent and honest relationship when it comes to behavior change in their child. That open relationship allows both the parent and teacher to discuss issues about behavior, attitudes, grades, and social issues with their children.

When it comes to gifted children, they have experiences that only they can experience. They already see their peers and teachers differently. Some gifted children experience over-excitabilities, perfectionism, and a strong sense of not allowing themselves to fail. These stressors can contribute to a wide variety of emotions and can cause stress in the life of gifted children. These attributes, along with social and emotional development, can cause behavior change.

The life of a gifted child can be a roller coaster. In the early years of elementary school everyone wants to be their friend. As they grow up and move to middle and high school their ring of friends gets smaller and people begin to see them differently. They may experience bullying from others in name calling, alienation, and cyber-bullying. We know gifted children generally communicate with adults easier than with their same age peers that are in their classes. At times it may seem evident that their intellectual development doesn’t match their social and emotional development. This can cause a gifted child to feel like they have no friends or they just can’t fit in.

With these vulnerabilities, teachers and parents need to be diligent in looking for any changes in behavior such as:

  • Withdrawing from friends and/or social activities;
  • Losing interest in hobbies;
  • Giving away prized possessions;
  • Preoccupation with death and dying;
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; and
  • Losing interest in personal appearance.

The changes in behavior will be seen at home and at school. When teachers or parents start to notice these changes they need to get help to the student. But they also need to communicate with each other. We don’t want another statistic of an attempted or successful suicide.

Resources

Frazier, A. D., & Cross, T. L. (2011). Chapter 51 Debunking the Myths of Suicide in Gifted Children. Parenting Gifted Children (pp. 517-524). Waco, Texas: Prufrock Press.

Delisle, J. R. (1986). Death with Honors: Suicide Among Gifted Adolescents. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64(May), 1986. 558-560.

 

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.

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.

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?