Category Archives: Education

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?

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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?

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?

Learning Communities

After reading a few replies from a post I did this past summer, Marti Pike posted a link to a very good Tedx Talk by John Green and the importance of learning and learning communities.

Is your classroom a learning community? Do your gifted students feel like they are part of a learning community? Do you you encourage your gifted students to take part in some of the on-line learning communities on Reddit, or on YouTube?

We know gifted children have a drive to learn. We know that if they get bored they can be a handful to say the least. So why not introduce them to learning communities that can help them learn more about a topic or subject they have an interest in.

What learning communities do you as a teacher enjoy that helps you stay connected to learning as a teacher? What learning communities do your gifted students like to engage in? Post those to the comment section below.

Space and Science on Display

**I want to first start out by saying this post isn’t necessarily about gifted education.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go with the Lima Senior High School Moon Rover team to Huntsville, Alabama to participate in the NASA’s Human Exploration Rover Challenge. They were the only high school in Ohio to participate. This is the first year we were able to compete with two rover teams.

IMG_1806Watching high school and college students going up against each other in a challenge was awesome. Every school had different designs, different materials, but all had to meet the same requirements.

Our students came up with a great design, and they built it. They made some alterations to the rover based on the data they collected from the course. It was all science and engineering.

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What was the most interesting aspect to the weekend was having the ability to go up to other teams and ask them about their rover. Teams would openly share their failures and successes. They shared what they loved most about their rover, and how they felt they did against past years from their schools. Teams also gave permission to take pictures of their rovers. The comradery amongst teams was great. They all had the shared experience of designing, building, and racing their rovers.

After two days of racing, we gave the students the chance to check out the Marshall Space Flight facilities.  They got the chance to see rockets up close, and have the opportunities to talk to real astronauts.

What I hoped our students took away from the weekend was just how important STEM, and STEAM programs are. I hope they saw that having skills like welding, carpentry, and machining are important career and technical skills. I hope they saw that engineering isn’t necessarily a single person career, but a team effort.

I hope they took away from the weekend perseverance, tenacity, and team work. I saw our students overcome some issues with their rover, and come through on the other side with a better product. They started out together as 2 teams, and left as one large team. They had goals, some were met, and some we have to try again next year.

Overall, students from all schools had an opportunity of lifetime. They raced each other, they inspired each other, and they helped to propel the idea that this generation could impact the future with their creativity, skills, and their experiences with science and engineering.

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.