Category Archives: Education

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.

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?

 

 

What about the Label?

In a school setting there are so many labels that get tossed around (good and bad): SP.ED., jock, athlete, band-nerd, geek, teacher’s pet, cheerleader, and bully. But one that seems to get a lot of attention by many. This label that is placed on children who are different than many of their peers. That label is gifted.

cloud-giftedis2Being a student with the gifted label comes with many different connotations. Some will say that since you are gifted everything comes easy for you. Some will say you are the teachers pet since you tutor all the other students. Some will say you are embodying elitism, since you have a label that sets you apart from others.

The language people use to describe the concept of intellectual giftedness and talent shows just how comfortable they are with the label of gifted.  Our society is based on talent, and put a price on talent. If you watch any sporting event you will hear the commentators describe just how gifted and talented the athlete or team is. You can see just much talent is worth when you Google the net worth of famous athletes.

When it comes to educational talent and giftedness the words seem to be less positive. We don’t hear to often about the net worth of giftedness like we do in athletics. I think it is because it goes back to classifying children and adults. When you wear the gifted label you are expected to be a certain way. I also think the gifted label comes with a negative view of cliquicishness, and elitism. It seems when you label one group “gifted” you labeling everyone else “ungifted.”

It doesn’t matter if you like the label or not. It is part of our culture and society. There is nothing wrong with having intellectual abilities, just like there is nothing wrong with having athletic giftedness. As teachers and parents we need to prepare our children for the negative and positive connotations of the gifted label. The child will wear the label regardless. We need them to understand what the label means, and how to carry it so it doesn’t define who they are.

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.

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.