Category Archives: Middle School

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.

 

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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?

 

 

Why Giftedness Matters

When you think about the word giftedness, you may come up with the several different pictures in your mind. You may envision a nerdy guy with classes, a little girl reading some very think books beyond her grade level, or maybe you may be  a middle school student taking high school and college classes.

Giftedness has many different aspects, along with many different visions of identifying and servicing gifted children. According to the Columbus Group

Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm.  This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity.  The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally.  (The Columbus Group, 1991)

Gifted children aren’t the same. They may have similar qualities and characteristics, but they are very different. There are many different theories about giftedness. Here are a few.

The Cattell-Horn-Carroll Theory is a theory that that helps to test your child to find out which of the 9 cognitive abilities your child is strongest in.

chc-theory-of-cognitive-abilities

Another is the Dabrowski Sensitivity Theory. There are five different sensitivities your gifted child could fall into. Each has a different characteristics and methods of assisting children who are living with these sensitivities.dabrowskis-sensitivities

There are more theories about giftedness such as ones from Joseph Renzulli and Gagnes which I hope that you will check out as well.

So why did I go through all of that? Because Giftedness Matters! Our gifted children are a unique student population that needs attention, understanding, and our time. Our gifted children need to be challenged, pushed, prodded, and at times let to fail. We all have these stereotypes of what we think gifted children are, but that’s what they are…stereotypes. Gifted children are real people, who live with the perceived advantages and disadvantages of being gifted every day.

Giftedness matters because of how they are taught matters. Gifted children need to be taught in a different way than other children. They need to be stimulated and challenged in many different ways. Teachers can’t teach to the average or below average children, and think that gifted children will show yearly growth. If they aren’t challenged they won’t grow. Instead, they will show behaviors that are unwanted in the classroom.

Giftedness matters because the educational setting matters. Some students need a small groups, large classrooms, and others need to be schooled at home. Whatever the appropriate setting to met the needs of the gifted child are they should be done.

The #ohiogtchat is having a discussion on this on Nov. 6th at 9pm ET. I hope that you can join this chat and further the conversation with us and our guest Celi Trepanier, author of Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling and blog Crushing Tall Poppies. I wrote a review on this blog about her book. You can read it here.

Follow @jeff_shoemaker and @HeatherCachat  to get more information on this chat. You can also go to the #ohiogtchat website for more information as well.

Working Through the Middle School Years

I have been a middle school teacher now for 16 years. It is a population group that I enjoy being with, and teaching. For the past few years I have been mentoring new teachers in our district. I try to share my knowledge and expertise with new teachers in the hopes that they would not make some of the same mistakes that I have made in the past.

One aspect that I feel that I have to continue to educate new teachers on is how to work with middle school gifted children. There are a few things that I stress to new teachers that I feel they need to know.

New teachers need to understand that there are parts of gifted children’s personalities that are not like theirs. Gifted children, like all children, have various personalities. Some are unorganized, some are perfectionists, and some fall somewhere on in the middle. For teachers when you see a student who is unorganized and messy, and your classroom is meticulously organized please don’t stress over it. Let them be who they are. Give students expectations and stick to them, but also let them be who they are. 

Focus on the positives when it comes to gifted children. Some gifted children may come across as crass, especially when they point out a mistake made by you. Don’t let that get to you. It may be just who they are. Instead, focus on the positives. Look for the good in each and every student you have. That will keep you from being a “negative nelly”. 

Allow gifted students to struggle a little bit. Don’t rush in to save the day. Allow them to work through their frustration. By doing that you making them rely on themselves more and you less. If you are continuously helping them too much too fast they won’t have the opportunity to feel the stress and frustration that goes along with building a good work ethic.

Finally, design lessons that have stretch included. This gives my gifted students a chance to grow. If you always plan your lessons with the middle students in mind those gifted students will become discipline problems. They get bored, and you will have to rush to find something for them to do. That ends up being more busy work, and they will still be come a discipline problem.

Navigate the middle years carefully. They will be rocky filled with ups and downs, but they are definitely worth it.