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?

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.