Category Archives: Creativity

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?

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Presentations and Passion in the Gifted Classroom

This week my 7th and 8th grade students are practicing presenting their passion projects to the class. As a class we sat and listened to each group give their presentation, and gave them some feed back to help improve their presentations.

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I know these group of students real well. I have had them for multiple years, and have built up a report with them that allows me to be straight forward with them in regards to their work. I think they appreciate it, and it helps us move on and get some productive changes done.

When in comes to their passion projects I told them to present their material in any form they want to, and that they feel most comfortable doing. Most are doing Google Slides, some are doing dioramas, and some are doing some short videos they made with some commentary.

What seems to be common among my gifted students is the fact they don’t have confidence in themselves. They know the material frontwards and backwards, but when it comes to communicating it to others they often revert to just giving the basic monotone presentation.

I have seen my students be passionate about the projects they chose. I have heard the passionate conversations between classmates that have turned into debates. I have seen the side of my students where they push one another to strive for the best their presentation can be. I wish I could get that passion in front of an audience.

I am sure part of it the issue is their age, and their personalities. But I know my students, when pushed or motivated can do so much more than they can realize themselves.

I am looking for some advice. If you know of a resource, or strategy to help me bring out the passion in my students presentations please let me know.

 

 

 

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/

Fostering Creativity in a Gifted Ed Classroom

Last Sunday #ohiogtchat  had a chat centered around fostering creativity in a gifted education classroom. You can read the transcript here.

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After thinking more about fostering creativity, I was wondering what I do in my classroom that fosters creativity for my middle schoolers in my gifted program. I realized I did a few different aspects of fostering creativity, but I may not be doing enough.

What I do:
incorporate creativity as a central theme in all of the projects and units that I do with my gifted students.  I feel that in every project students should be solving, designing, or creating something. I feel that creativity is a skill that should be developed every possible way.
I get students to talk more about the steps of their design process or how they came to a solution to an issue or problem. I feel like students need to talk about why they are creating / solving something a certain way. I feel like it promotes good communication skills, but also opens up dialogue with others students as to why they may done something differently.
I support my students by giving meaningful feedback, and allowing students to collaborate with each other. Peer to peer feedback I feel is important in the learning process.
What I need to do more of:
I feel like I need to give my students more projects that promote divergent thinking. I want my students to feel like they have solved an issue or a real life problem that could have multiple answers.
I like Project Based Learning, and I feel like I need to do more that would relate real world issues or problems to the classroom. Students need to see that what they learn in the classroom should be used in the real world.
Gifted children need to be challenged, and intellectually stimulated. They need to have an outlet to put their passion into practice. I hope that I can instill that in them. I hope that as they continue to grow intellectually as well as older they will come to appreciate the skills they have developed or honed in on through the projects we did in class.
What do you do to foster creativity in the classroom?

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.

 

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?

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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.