Category Archives: Classroom Concerns

Skills Needed By Gifted Children

Building on what I posted the other day, I thought that if teachers begin to create activities and assignments that have rigor, then there are some skills that gifted children will need to know. Just because these children are gifted, doesn’t mean that they have acquired skills to meet those rigorous activities and assignments.

Many gifted children as they go through elementary school unchallenged, and they don’t learn skills most of their peers learn through struggling. Once they hit middle or high school the classes get more challenging, and they don’t have any coping skills to deal with the challenges. Here is just a few things I believe every gifted child in elementary and middle school should be taught.  (This isn’t a complete list, just a few.)

john-clow-stressed-out**Teachers don’t assume gifted students have these skills just because they are brilliant. These skills are essential not only in school, but also in real life beyond college and in to a career.

Study Skills: 

Before a teacher starts to use strategies that will help challenge their gifted children they should review different ways to study material. They should know how to organize information in ways in witch will meet their personality. Some students do better color coding material. Using different colored pens to match the material they are studying.

Gifted children should be taught how to use a planner. In today’s world everyone has a cell phone, or uses Google products. Both a calendar, and can be personalized to meet their needs. Having this tool at their disposal is great, but they need to know how to use it to get the benefit from it. (Some students need to use the paper version of a calendar or planner which is also alright.)

Since gifted children learn quickly, and retain huge amounts of material they don’t often learn to study for a test. Teach them strategies on how to study for a test. There are many materials on how to study for the SAT, or ACT. Use some of these ideas to help see why these skills are needed. Many of the skills needed to do well on these tests can use transferred to other tests and tasks that may take in the future.

Research/Note Taking Skills:

Many of our gifted children begin taking college level classes in middle and high school, and some wait until after high school. Regardless of when they begin taking this level of classes gifted children need to know how to research effectively. They should know how to use the library effectively. They need to know how to use the reference department, and other facets of the library.

They also need to know how to use the internet effectively. Checking on sources, knowing what is fake or not, and which sites are credible to use are important skills. Teaching our gifted children to recognize bias on different sites is also an important skill.

There are a variety of ways to take notes. Finding the system they are most comfortable with that will work for them is important. One great way that can be personalized in many different ways is the use of Cornell Notes.

I know that all students will benefit from knowing these skills.  Many teachers are under the assumption that gifted children can automatically do these skills because they are smart. Having these skills is important. For gifted students to use these skills effectively they have to be challenged and struggle. They only way that is going to happen is when teachers create activities and projects that are challenging, have stretch and complexity, and are rigorous.

If our gifted children are learning this while they are in college, or after we have failed them.

What skills do you think gifted children should know to help make them successful in and beyond school?

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Gifted Children Need Rigorous Assignments…Not More Work

workplace4-kbf-621x414livemintAs I talk to fellow teachers around my area they ask a common question: “What do I do with my gifted students since they get finished before everyone else?” Many of their first thoughts is to add more work to their plate. Many believe if they can do 25 math problems in 10 minutes than I will give them another 25 to do to fill in time. That really doesn’t do much for the gifted child. Adding more work is just a punishment particularly when they already know how to do the work.

What gifted children need isn’t more work… its more rigorous assignments. To find out what you students already know I would suggest that you start with a pretest. If your gifted children score a 100% or close to 100% then allow them to choose an aspect of that curriculum and dig deeper into it. Allow students to explore the complex nature of the content. While doing this can cause some issues with grading, because not all the students are doing the same work, which can be a common concern, as a teacher you will figure out how to fit this into your grade book.

When developing rigorous assignments for gifted children you need to include thinking skills. You should have assignments where they have to use divergent or lateral thinking to come up with an answer. The use of Blooms or DOK will help with verbs and ideas of products that students can do.

One of my favorite ways to add rigor to assignments is to make it project based or problem based. Using real world issues and ideas can help add rigor. These type of projects can have multiple answers, and allow students to use multiple skills to complete it. Using the book Project-Based Learning in the Gifted Classroom by Todd Stanley is a great place to start. You can also look to BIE.org for help on ideas, ways to set up the classroom, and other resources.

Finally, when creating rigorous assignments teach students strategies, not necessarily the answers. In the real world answers aren’t always simple, and sometimes they may never get an answer. So teaching strategies on how to get an answer is must intriguing and challenging.

Gifted children love to learn, and be challenged. When we don’t feed their mind gifted they can be discipline issues. I encourage all teachers to not give more of the same work to gifted children, but to give them rigorous, challenging, and mind stimulating projects and assignments.

What do you do to add rigor to your assignments for gifted children in your classroom?

Taking off the Behavioral Masks that Gifted Children Hide Behind

paper_mache_plain_masksSometimes it seems so simple to identify the gifted children in your classroom. They answer all the questions, they read very well, and can make friends very easy. Sometimes they are labeled “teacher pleasers” or the “teacher’s pet.” But there are those that don’t fit this mold or the stereotypical nerdy child you see in the movies or on television.

It is my goal in this post to shed some light on some of the areas or masks that gifted children hide behind that may cause them to not be identified as gifted. This list isn’t a complete end all be all type of list. These are just a few that I feel that are most common.

Asynchronous Development 

  • Many gifted children function at a very high level in one or more areas, but socially and emotionally they may be functioning at much lower level. You may see very smart children acting what would be perceived as immature for their ability.

Lack of study skills or habits

  • As you may know gifted children are very smart. Many don’t struggle until later in high school. Passing through elementary and middle school without having to put much effort into their studying. Once that struggle comes many gifted students don’t know how to handle it. Their self concept can get damaged. Many gifted children will shut down. This doesn’t always happen in high school. It happens in the early grades as well.

Underachievement

  • Underachievement is basically when a child simply chooses not to perform to expectations of their teachers, peers, or parents. There could be some psychological reasons for this, some may have to do with personal preference with the subject, project, or environment they are in. This disengagement can lead to many gifted children not being identified correctly. They may be actually gifted, but teachers may see them as lazy.

Communication with Peers and Adults 

  • One aspect of gifted children have is ability to communicate. Gifted children tend to communicate more frequently with adults. Gifted children have the ability to think in the abstract, have a divergent thinking paradigm, and have comprehensive vocabularies. Sometimes this leads to less communicating with peers and more with adults. With a majority of their communication with adults gifted children can socially isolate themselves from their peers.

Social Isolation

  • Gifted children can feel very isolated from their peers. Peers may not understand their interests,  have trouble following their intricate games, and not understand them due to their large vocabulary. Finding true friends can be very difficult. Due to this many gifted children find it easier to do things on their own.

These are just a few behavioral masks that gifted children tend to wear. As gifted intervention specialists, parents and teachers we need to help our gifted children in different situations so they can be successful.

Have you seen some of these behaviors in your classroom? How are you supporting your gifted children?

From Teacher to Facilitator

facilitator_groupOne thing that I am continuing to learning about gifted children is sometimes I need to get out of their way and let them use their abilities to solve problems, be creative, and come up with a different vision than most would see.

I am charged with teaching gifted children five small groups of gifted children in a pull out program for one day week. So we spend around 5 straight hours together. I absolutely love it. We do projects that cover various topics and subjects. I usually try to build a theme that lasts for 9-12 weeks. I give them short projects on that topic that last 3-5 weeks, and then we present them, or we do some sort of demonstration.

There is a difference between being a teacher and a facilitator. Here is how I see the difference, and how it can impact your teaching.

A teacher is one who is the controller of all information going forth to the students. They may see themselves as the “sage on the stage.” There is guidelines for how work is done, and all work is done closely the same way for all students. There is nothing wrong if you see yourself this way as long as you are differentiating for your high and low students, and they are growing academically and they are being challenged.

A facilitator is one who presents the information, but allows students to take that information and use to fit their vision of their final product. Instead of lecturing, the art of asking the right pointed questions at the right time is king. (Socrates had something right in way of facilitating learning.) The art of asking questions to draw out assessments as students are doing projects or in the design phase of projects can be tough to learn. You can’t point out obvious flaws, but you have to allow students to find the flaws themselves. You also have to allow students to struggle and fail, but give them time to redeem themselves.

For a long time I was the teacher who controlled the flow of learning in my classroom. I needed a change. When you move to facilitator you give up a lot of control. When you are being a facilitator you are allowing students to take risks, use skills they may need in the real world, and allow them come up with projects that will differ from each other. Your classroom becomes an active environment that can a safe and inviting place where students come to appreciate, and be challenged.

I know this type of philosophy can work in all classrooms, but I know it does work with gifted children. My students love challenges, and they like when they can have control over how they do their final projects look like. I will tell you I use rubrics as assessment tools. Sometimes students come up with the rubric and other times I make the rubric.

In any regards, sometimes you just have to get out of the way, have some faith in your guidelines and procedures for an open and safe classroom, and allow your students to learn and explore.

How do you see yourself? Teacher or facilitator?

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/

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.