Category Archives: Parent Support

Working with Parents to Improve High Ability Students’ Education

middle-school

This week my school system is having their Annual Spring Parent Teacher Conferences. I feel this Spring Conference is just as important as our Fall Conferences are, but the parent turn out is noticeably lower than in the Fall. I was reminded over the weekend that Parent Teacher Conferences shouldn’t be the only time in which both parties work together to help improve the education of their children, particularly in middle school.

Middle School can be a tough transition for many students. In the elementary classes students are given their foundations, and middle school build on that foundation. In the middle school, students learn some independence and choice. Students can choose from sports, clubs, and after school activities that interest them.

When it comes to high ability learners, we have to be keenly aware that they are in the right classroom level that matches their ability. I found a joint statement that NAGC and NMSA (National Middle School Association) wrote in order to challenge schools, parents, and councilors to make sure they are meeting the needs of these learners.

To ensure that high ability learners are getting their needs met we have to look at creative ways to met them. Here are a couple examples of accommodations:

  • Long Distance Learning: If a high ability learner needs to take high school / college classes in middle school this is a great way to solve that.
  • On-Line Classes: If you high school or district offers online classes for high school credit. High ability learners would benefit from this.
  • Subject / Grade Acceleration: Moving a high ability learner a whole grade or just in a subject.
  • Independent Studies: Allowing a high ability learner to learn a subject on their on at their own pace is a great way to met the need to challenge students. (MOOCs are great for this since they are usually sponsored by a college.)
  • Participating in School and/or community based clubs: Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, Chess Clubs, Spelling and Geography Bees, Astronomy Clubs,and such: Allowing high ability learners to take part in programs listed above is a great way to met the needs of high ability learners.

All of the accommodations  listed above that would be effective and successful will only happen when parents, teachers, administrators, and councilors work together to make high ability learners challenged during school and after school. In middle school specifically, several of the accommodations listed above would work much easier the more parents and teachers talk and discuss the needs of their children.

In your middle school, what are some accommodations you have seen that have been successful? Share those in the comment sections below.

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.

The Importance of Gifted Education in Preschools

istock_000038208034_medium-20160503141924q75dx720y432u1r1ggcPreschool is not an area in which I am most familiar with so I have to refer to my wife who is an Early Childhood Education Instructor at our high school. She has taught me a lot about what is importance of early education instruction in toddlers and preschoolers, and why it is important to constantly observe children. They show you what they know.

One aspect that is important when it comes to preschool is to communicate with parents about how their child is at home, and letting parents know how their child is at school. By having that open communication teachers and parents can get a whole picture of the child.

Early Childhood Educators know what the average toddler and preschooler should be doing by every age. Some times a few children will stick out because of their talents. Here are a few characteristics that preschool teachers and parents should notice because these aspects are possible indicators of giftedness.

The child:

  • has an advanced vocabulary at an early age
  • can read words beyond the expected age
  • has rational thoughts on adult topics, or topics not normally associated with young children (examples like the meaning of life, and death)
  • can think and explain abstract concepts
  • passes developmental milestones quickly
  • has a rapid language and concept development acquisition
  •  can understand family relationships at an early age, (mommy’s mommy is grandmother; daddy’s daddy is grandfather)
  • can be very impulsive and over reactive
  • has a high level of curiosity

When parents and early childhood educators notice multiple aspects listed above there needs to be an intervention to make sure the child is put into gifted services. The best form for this is acceleration. In our schools we will quickly accelerate students who accelerate in music, the arts, and even sports. We need to be more fluid with our academic classes as well. I believe this also applies for preschool students as well as the elementary, middle, and high school students.

Research shows that the earlier children start school the better chances of these children to have an increased academic success in elementary school and it widens further in middle and high school. It also shows that if high ability students aren’t able to accelerate at the level they need to they can begin to show behavior problems. Finally, research also shows that if parents create a learning environment that is fun can make a huge difference to learning throughout the child’s life.

There are 6 things that teachers and parents can do to help find or develop high ability children.

  1. Actively look for areas of talent strength
  2. Encourage toddlers to play, invent, and pretend / Expose young children to enrichment activities like going to museums, and zoos
  3. Teach responsibility to young children.
  4. Parents and teachers should model the desired behaviors they want to see in young children
  5.  Read to children often, and everyday using a variety of books and topics
  6. Expose children to skill related skills early by doing activities that are fun and exciting

Young children need to be exposed to new and exciting learning opportunities often. The more parents and teachers do this they are making an investment for a better life for their children.

What does your school do to help find and nurture high ability preschoolers?

 I used Parenting Gifted Children book from NAGC as a resource for this post. I encourage you to check it out.

Mentoring Gifted Children

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As the school year starts, one thing that my school does is a very good program called “Little Spartans, Big Spartans.” This program is designed after the Little Brothers, Big Brothers program. I really this program for the fact that it gives our high school students the chance to volunteer their time during the school day and work with children in middle and elementary school.

As this program gets rolling it out I started to think about the type of mentorships that would be successful for gifted children. Before you can begin to set up mentorships for gifted children we have to make sure the child is mature enough. The student should be an independent learner, a  diligent worker, and have a passion to learn more about a subject matter that is beyond the school walls. The student must have the temperament to understand that the person mentoring them is a profession in the field they are interested in and go in wanting to learn from them as much as possible. When the student takes this into view the mentorship will be successful.

The benefits of being in a mentor / mentee relationship are many, but here are a few that I feel are most important:

Benefits for the Mentee:

  • Student gets real world experience
  • Students get an increased knowledge base of the topic or subject
  • Students can get an increased passion for the topic or subject
  • Student gets a role model
  • Student can show growth in an area of giftedness (academic, leadership, creativity, visual arts, and / or performing arts)

Benefits for the Menor:

  • Mentor can have the opportunity to share their passion for their area or interest
  • Mentor can have the satisfaction of helping another who may be interested in going into the same field as them, which makes someone’s life better
  • Mentor gets the chance the chance to have a 1- on-1 relationship with a young person
  • Mentor gets the chance to mold a young person’s perception of their area or passion

To have a successful mentor program, students and mentors just can’t be thrown together. There must be set goals, and objectives that must be met so success can be measured. Communication must be open between mentor and mentee.

Mentorships can be a very successful program within your school or community. It has to be done carefully, purposefully, and with the utmost importance. It needs to be gotten tight the first time.

 

PACES Next Meeting: April 7th

PACES is the Parents of Allen County Exceptional Students This Gifted Parent Support Group meets once a month with various topics. They meet at The Met which is in downtown Lima, Ohio. If you want more information email Judy Chaffins at judy.chaffins@allencountyesc.org or check out their new Facebook!

April 7th PACES Meeting: Allen County Parents of Exceptional Students Presents: David Elam and Brian Conatser David and Brian will speak on the topic of productive struggle and what it means for our children in school today.

The meeting will be April 7th at the Met at 7pm. I hope to see you there.

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The Social and Emtional Needs of Gifted Children

ACES Poster 1.1 (2)

The other night I had the chance to go to the first ACES (Allen County Excpetional Students) meeting. There was a good showing by many of the schools from around Allen County. Judy Chaffins, the DIrector of Gifted Serivces for Allen County and Brittnay Collier, Professor at Ohio State Lima did a great job of presenting information about the social and emotional needs of gifted children. 

Parents, I  hope that in the future you will be able to join this meeting. The next meeting is March 3 at 7pm at the Met. The topic fot March is Anxiety in Children. As teachers and parents of gifted children we know this is an important topic. 

ACES is going to be a great resource for parents, teachers and advocates for gifted children, Below I am providing the PowerPoint they showed, and a great article as well.

Myths of Gifted Social and emotional Needs

PowerPoint of ACES Social and Emotional Needs Presentation

There’s Something that Spoke to Me

This week as I was reading some of the blogs in my Feedly feed, I was struck with three different blogs that spoke to me in different ways: Gone, his Love of Learning is Gone,  Why so many Teachers don’t “get it” about Gifted Education, and What Students Remember Most about their TeachersEach of these blogs has a theme. That over all theme is this: teachers can either be a positive force or a negative force in the life of a child.

Before I continue, I would suggest you read the previously mentioned impressive blog posts. The writers have a great sense about children, and education. After reading these blogs, I came to some of my own conclusions about the relationship between teachers and students. Teachers and parents need to be a PATCH for their children.

Positive. Teachers must be a positive force in our students lives. School should never be a place where are students dread to go. To make it more personal, students shouldn’t dread to come to your classroom. Teachers, including me, need to continue to do create lessons that are engaging and challenging.  Not only should our classroom be a positive place, our demeanor should be as well. Don’t look down on students, or berate them. Lift them up, and help them see their strengths and view their weaknesses as a way to improve not as a negative.

Authentic. Teachers need to be authentic with students. I have mentioned before, I let my students know when I make mistakes, or feel I failed in some way. They need need to see that. Being your self, and letting students know you are real is important. I can remember when I was teaching 3rd grade, and I had a student ask me what I did at night at the school. It cracked me up, but I realized after that comment that I really didn’t talk much about my family life. After that I began to discuss some of my experiences with my children they may relate to.

Trusting. One aspect I have noticed about teachers when I was a regular education teacher, and as I am a current gifted education teacher is some doubt the giftedness of their students. Just because a gifted students doesn’t perform well in your class doesn’t mean that student has to prove their giftedness to you. If your gifted student isn’t performing up to par in your class you need to investigate. Trust their parents and intervention specialists to help you. Not all gifted students excel in all areas. That doesn’t mean they aren’t gifted.

Cheer. We need to support our students in the classroom and out. If our students are in sports go watch. If you students are in a spelling bee, or quiz bowl go see them. Students love to see their teachers at their events. Now I am not saying you have to go to everything. Many of us have our own children who are active in sports and academic activities. But do your best to see your students every now and then. I know first hand, they will love it.

Hew. As parents and teachers our job is hew the best possible student we can. We need to give them the best experiences we can in and out of the classroom. We need to let them experience 21st century experiences like ‘Mystery Skyping’ another class, or participate in a Google Hangout. Parents and teachers need to try to expose our children and students to as many real experiences like field trips and guest speakers as we can. By giving our students real and technological experiences we are shaping their view of the world. We are letting them see the world is bigger than the classroom, and their hometown. To hew a student teachers can’t do it alone. It has to be something that parents and teachers do together.

In conclusion, to be a PATCH you have to be active in your student’s academic life. It isn’t easy. What are going to be a PATCH for your students? How do you see it?