Category Archives: Classroom Concerns

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?

Are we Killing Creativity?

As the new year gets going for teachers so does the anxiety of teachers to get everything they need to teach to students taught for the state exams. The anxiety teachers feel is real. Knowing you have to be on pace to get the required material in before the test can and is overwhelming.

With that being the case, and one that probably won’t change for some time, I began to wonder: are we killing creativity in our students, and in our teachers?

killing-creativity-picTeachers

For many teachers long projects on a few topics isn’t something that will work. Instead they will do some projects that last just a day or two, and most likely don’t have the depth or complexity they would like due to time constraints.

All teachers want their students to succeed, but they also know they have to get the scores of their students up for their school, and their district. They don’t want to be “that teacher” that has the lowest scores in their building or on their team. They don’t want to be seen as not pulling their weight.

When teachers only focus on only struggling students they are missing a lot of students who could use more challenge in the classroom. I am not saying that focusing on struggling students isn’t the wrong thing to do. It is wrong when you don’t focus any of your expertise to the average and above average students. Those students aren’t getting the challenge and complexity to push them to do better on their exams.

I am not saying that I have the answers. I don’t. Each class and teacher are different. Its the idea behind the State mandated testing that is the same for everyone.

Students

As teachers focus on test material, students aren’t getting the complexity or depth they need or deserve. The state tests aren’t about creativity. They are about showing what you know on a given day.

For many students, they aren’t analytical or mathematical. They more of the “Right Brain” type of person than “Left Brain”. We need to give these students and many other students the chance to be creative. We need  allow students to use their imaginations, critical thinking and reasoning skills to be prepared for life beyond the test. We need to challenge our students to use their hands, minds, and each other. Life isn’t all about what is on a standardized test.

Students need to have hands on activities, labs, field trips, project based learning, and passion projects to be challenged. Students need to have freedom to express themselves in writing and orally. They need to be challenged to analyze and evaluate data, writing samples, and opinions from others. Students need to be challenged to use technology, social media, coding, circuitry, and engineering principles to learn new and exciting things.

In summation, I hope teachers don’t get overwhelmed with the idea that Standardized tests scores determines if they are a good teacher or not. In the long run, students will remember the awesome labs, dissections, and field trips not the awesome test questions you prepared for them to help them on their standardized test. Do as many activities as you can that allow students to use their imagination, creativity, and critical thinking skills. Give time for play and creativity in your classroom.

 

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.