Category Archives: Gifted

Mental Heath and Gifted Children

unhappy-teen-150x150In the upcoming issue of the OAGC Review the central focus is going to be Gifted and Mental Health. I am a firm believer that we need to be aware of the mental health of our children. They have more avenues of stressors than what my generation had at their age, such stressor is cyber-bullying.

The Mental health and children has been a huge topic of discussion in my area of Northern Ohio after experiencing a half dozen successful suicides over the past two years. Over the past two years our community has experienced a half a dozen successful adolescent suicides. Our community has put adolescent mental health in the forefront of conversations in schools, churches, and in public forums.

At the school level, it is imperative to understand how important it is for teachers and parents to work together to know and form solid relationships with children. Teachers and parents should have an open, transparent and honest relationship when it comes to behavior change in their child. That open relationship allows both the parent and teacher to discuss issues about behavior, attitudes, grades, and social issues with their children.

When it comes to gifted children, they have experiences that only they can experience. They already see their peers and teachers differently. Some gifted children experience over-excitabilities, perfectionism, and a strong sense of not allowing themselves to fail. These stressors can contribute to a wide variety of emotions and can cause stress in the life of gifted children. These attributes, along with social and emotional development, can cause behavior change.

The life of a gifted child can be a roller coaster. In the early years of elementary school everyone wants to be their friend. As they grow up and move to middle and high school their ring of friends gets smaller and people begin to see them differently. They may experience bullying from others in name calling, alienation, and cyber-bullying. We know gifted children generally communicate with adults easier than with their same age peers that are in their classes. At times it may seem evident that their intellectual development doesn’t match their social and emotional development. This can cause a gifted child to feel like they have no friends or they just can’t fit in.

With these vulnerabilities, teachers and parents need to be diligent in looking for any changes in behavior such as:

  • Withdrawing from friends and/or social activities;
  • Losing interest in hobbies;
  • Giving away prized possessions;
  • Preoccupation with death and dying;
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs; and
  • Losing interest in personal appearance.

The changes in behavior will be seen at home and at school. When teachers or parents start to notice these changes they need to get help to the student. But they also need to communicate with each other. We don’t want another statistic of an attempted or successful suicide.

Resources

Frazier, A. D., & Cross, T. L. (2011). Chapter 51 Debunking the Myths of Suicide in Gifted Children. Parenting Gifted Children (pp. 517-524). Waco, Texas: Prufrock Press.

Delisle, J. R. (1986). Death with Honors: Suicide Among Gifted Adolescents. Journal of Counseling and Development, 64(May), 1986. 558-560.

 

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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.

Engaged, not Overwhelmed

I have been teaching gifted children for over a decade now. I often talk to my colleagues about ideas/strategies on how to teach gifted children, but for some they don’t change. They feel that gifted children need more work to keep them busy.  They place the burden of engagement with the student. Now this isn’t all my colleagues. I work in a great school district with some great teachers, but there are those few who want to control their classroom the way they want regardless of the outcome.
We know that when gifted children are given the same work as average learners they will most likely finish it quickly since it isn’t challenging to them. Instead of using differentiation strategies like curriculum compacting, acceleratation, or independent study of a topic, they give more busy work. They feel they need to overwhelm the student with work so they don’t become an issue. When in reality they are making the situation worse. Gifted children can and often will rebel when given nonsense work to do. Gifted children need to be challenged and engaged in the learning process. 

One aspect I will work on this year is to create an environment that is safe, engaging, and challenging for students to learn in, but also colleagues can peek in and see an example of what they could do in their classrooms.

What will you do in the coming year to challenge your students, to stay engaged, and not overwhelmed with nonsense work?

Movie Review: Gifted

I want to start this post by thanking Fox Searchlight Pictures for allowing me the opportunity to see an advanced screening of Gifted. I absolutely loved this movie, and want to encourage everyone to see it.

Gifted tackles the roles of the gifted parent and the gifted child. Each role in this movie is presented in what I feel is an accurate way. Being a parent of gifted children you want to make the best choices for them academically, emotionally, and socially. It can be hard. You want your children to be challenged at school, and get the appropriate education they deserve. You also want to them to understand themselves, and understand why they feel they way they do in certain situations. As a parent you also want your children to fit in with other children, even though they may not want to be around other children their same age.

I watched the Gifted movie with my wife. We saw ourselves in this movie. We went through the emotions of laughing to crying. The writers showed a great grasp of some of the issues of raising gifted children, and who gifted children are. I was impressed with how the main character, Mary played by McKenna Grace, portrayed some of the characteristics of a highly advanced learner. Her uncle, Frank played by Chris Evans, did a great job of using everyday experiences (like being in a waiting room watching people get excited about the news of a new birth) to show her what it was like when she was born. Giving these experiences I believe was a great move by the writers.

As this movie comes out to theaters, I hope that everyone would see Gifted. This movie doesn’t depict what every gifted child goes through. It doesn’t depict what every parent goes through either. This movie gives awareness to the fact that gifted children need to be challenged not segregated, and given an appropriate education, not more work when they are finished with material they already know. It also gives awareness that parents need support from schools and from family. Schools and parents have to work together in order for children to have success.

Again, thank you to Fox Searchlight Prictures for the opportunity to see and review this movie.

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.