Tag Archives: challenges

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.

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How many Watermelons will fill a Volkswagen?

Do you know how many watermelons it would take to fill a Volkswagen? How would you figure that out? What challenges would your students have to figure that out? How creative would your students need to be to figure that out? My students would ask why would you want to know.

While I was at Edcamp over the weekend, I participated in a session where the topic was “how do we get students to change their mindsets to take on challenges”,  and this was a very informative session. There were so many different types of teachers (high school, middle school, elementary) and each had their own view of what to do with their students when it came to challenges, and how to change their mindset to see challenges at positives not something that is a negative.

Many teachers discussed how their students face challenges. Somtimes its all about motivation when it comes to students and facing challenges. Most have students, like mine at times, who shut down when the challenges seemed to be too difficult. Most of the discussion centered on how teachers can be creative in ways they present challenges to students. Sometimes you just have to hide those challenges in a way that is presented in a fun way. Challenges has to have a real world skill application like those posed in project based learning projects. When students see some cross over from school to real life the lessons they learn from those challenges will more likely stick with them. The challenges that teachers face is creating those challenges to fit standards, and yet stretch our students to grow intellectually, and give them real life lessons.

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Another session I went to that really stuck with me was “how to be creative in the world of restrictive education.” This one was very interesting to me for the fact that our school lives have aspects of things we can control and not control. We made a list of all of the things that keep us from being creative. Many we have control over; many we don’t.  (You can zoom in on the picture above to see the list.)

This conversation was very informative for me just because I found that I am not the only one who struggles to understand creativity. We had a debate about  creativity being something your are born with, or being born with the ability to be creative. We looked at creativity on the teacher side,and the student side. Some quoted from Carol Dweck’s book Mind set, which I haven’t read yet, but on Amazon, here is the book synopsis:

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea–the power of our mindset.

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success–but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals–personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.

(The discussion of talent also created a debate. We talked about how talent and creativity aren’t necessarily the same thing, or exclusive of each other. We had to develop a working definition of not only creativity but also talent.)

We found that as teachers most of what we face everyday in some form can be influenced by us to either be a hinderance or a stepping stone. It’s all about mindset. No matter what you are faced with you will have to chose if it is an obstacle or stepping stone. Once you do that you will find you don’t have too many obstacles that will hinder your creativity.

One aspect we focused on was social media to help with getting over many of the aspects we listed on the white board. Some of the best resources teachers can use is Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook,and Instagram. I know personally and professionally, social media has given me many different ideas and resources to help me create my units for gifted students.

So to sum things up, what is hindering your creativity? What do you have influence on? What are those aspects that you don’t have influence on, but can make as an asset for your creativity? Remember, this kind of thinking isn’t that “sexy” or “edgy” retrospective thing, but it can change how you view things about your creativity, and that will benefit your students.

So go out there and fill that Volkswagen with watermelons.