Tag Archives: gifted students

Extension is Absoultely Needed to Foster Growth

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the difference between extension and enrichment.  In that post, I wrote this:

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.

I absolutely believe that extension activities are important not only in the regular classroom, but also in the gifted classroom. We have to stretch our students minds, skills. and strengths to help them to become better students. Taking that thought one step further, we need to stretch them to be productive citizens in whatever field they choose to do in society.

What I like about extension activities is the fact they are leveled to the student. So if your gifted student needs to be stretched in an area it is leveled for that type of child. It’s a great way to use differentiation in any classroom. So what does differentiation look like in the gifted classroom? I think that is something that isn’t looked at often enough. According to the Queensland Educational Department they believe in the following (I do as well):

For gifted and talented students you can:

  • Adjust tasks so they are required to process more complex and abstract information from a variety of sources. (content)
  • Use a faster pace –this still means providing clear instruction and scaffolding –but with few repetitions. (process)
  • Challenge and support students to set learning goals and develop higher-order thinking skills including problem-solving strategies, critical and creative thinking, and self-reflection. (process)
  • Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate imaginative, innovative and rigorous responses that may involve extended outcomes. (product)
  • Encourage students to pursue their interests in independent inquiries and negotiated tasks. Provide flexible groupings to enable collaborative work with students of the same or higher ability; or with shared interests. (learning environment)

The fourth one down is one I want to focus on: Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate imaginative, innovative and rigorous responses that may involve extended outcomes. Extension activities have to happen to help our gifted students, but to also help our regular education students to demonstrate the processes they learned in the lesson that was taught. Every teacher should be thinking of extension lessons or ideas for the content they are teaching. They should stratify these extension lessons to meet the needs of special education students, regular education students, and gifted education students. I know these lessons are hard to make, and take a lot of time to do, but not doing them would be an injustice for all students. I am not saying that every lesson needs to have an extension activity. Teachers familiar with the curriculum know which standards need to have or should have an extension activity. It seems that in an age where we measure students growth in all kinds of assessments throughout the year we should be doing something to help them grow. I feel that one of those “somethings” are extension activities.

How do you feel about teachers doing extension activities in the regular and gifted classrooms? What kinds of extension activities do you do in your classroom? What have you done that works or didn’t work? Is there a formula to make a great extension activity for all students?



Being a Blowhorn

My students tell me I talk to much. That’s fine. I love to teach. I love connecting with students, and getting to know them. I do this, because I want to know them. I have several of them on my Instagram and Twitter. Several of them follow our Classroom Facebook page. I believe that knowing students in and out of the classroom is important. I learn a lot about them from their Instagram, and what they talk about on twitter. The other aspect of that is they get to know me in and out of the classroom.

Many ask why I focus on making meaningful connections with my students. The answer to that is easy. Its easier to stand up and be a voice, a blow horn, or an advocate when you are invested in someone. If you are invested, then those you stand up for are more than numbers or blank faces they are close people. They are connected to you. You feel obligated to do your best for them. That’s how I feel about my students. They are my children.

Being an advocate is like being a blow horn. You are trying to get noticed, to give instruction, or give warnings. I call my self a blow horn. When you are a blow horn, you are rallying to troops around. In my case, I am trying to make sure that my students are getting what they need in their regular classes, and parents are getting information that will beefit their children. I am making sure parents and students  have someone they can talk to when they want to have some experiences like summer camps, internships, or starting a parent group. They can count on me to help them as much as I can.

Being an advocate isn’t always easy. You have to be tactful, calculating, and sometimes cunning. Sometimes I hear my students complaining about a situation in a class they are in, and they are bored, under-challenged, or not engaged. I will try to meet that teacher, and suggest things to do with my students. It has to be done it tactfully. No teacher wants to be told they aren’t meeting the needs of their students. So informing others that their gifted students need to be pushed and stretched has to be done in a way that helps the teacher and students.

What I love about being an advocate is the fact that I get to share my passion, knowledge, and experience about and for gifted children. I try to be an open door for my colleagues to come in and talk about what I can do to help them, or to collaborate with them. I can I share my point of view. I don’t always get to meet with other teachers because of my teaching schedule, but when I do they will hear my views.

Advocacy takes several shapes. They don’t always have to be direct connection between students and teacher. Sometimes it with the public. Advocating is like a form of persuasion. You have to influence someone to get what you need. Sometimes advocacy is writing letters to the editor of your paper, or testifying in a state committee hearing, or going on a local morning show to plead your case.

Advocacy is also helping. Forming parent groups though SENG, or at your local school is one way that parents and schools can work together for the betterment of gifted students. Letting parents know what the gifted program is like, and why it exists is important. It also a good way for parents to find out what their school is offering gifted students like early college classes in high school, to post secondary education options from the local high school. It’s always good to have parents, teachers, and administrators making the suggestions for rules about acceleration of students for whole grade or subject.

Finally, advocacy is being informed. Letting parents, teachers, and administrators about some of the resources on the internet, classes or seminars / webinars, or blogs,books and magazines is an important aspect of advocacy. Parents and GISs need to stay aware of what is going on in the area of Gifted Education so they can share it with others and with administrators.  Joining a gifted association like Ohio Association for Gifted Children, or your state Gifted Association is a great place to start. You could also join the National Association for Gifted Children as well to see what is going on nationally in Gifted Education. Joining a tweetchat on twitter or a gifted related Facebook page, or following several bloggers who write about gifted issues is a great place to start collecting resources to be an informed advocate.

How are you being an advocate for your gifted children? What have you done that has worked? What have you done that didn’t work? PLease share your experiences in the comment section below, or better yet, join the #gtbloghop and post your blog on Twitter using the #gtbloghop hashtag.


Bottoming Out

How to Be Amazingly Good at Asking Questions

How much of a push do you push your gifted students? How deep into a subject do you expect them to go? How deep do you expect them to go before they bottom out?

I ask those questions, because those are the ones I am asking myself lately. One aspect that I am having my students do with their projects is to have them do a dry run presentation with an adult before they do their final presentation with me. One teacher in my building made the comment that it seemed like my students really worked hard and dove deep in a project. This teacher also asked me how I get them to do this level of work, when they don’t do that kind of work in some of their core classes. I told him that I think our students our students are being superficially challenged, but not to dig deeper into a subject. I suggested that being challenged and diving deeper are two different things. He disagreed which is where our conversation ended. I believe that students can be challenged and not dive deeper into a subject, and vise versa. I feel that to as teachers we need to do both challenge and encourage diving deeper in extension projects.

Which leads me into this post.

Yesterday, I talked about the fostering the love of learning. I try to create a classroom that is exciting, and open to learning. I try to create units I think my students would like. BUT…do my students bottom out while doing their projects? I am not sure if they do to my satisfaction.

One element of my class I feel is really important is asking questions. I feel that my students do better with a facilitator type classroom than in a teacher centered classroom. In a facilitator classroom asking the right questions is vital. Here is a few things that I am working on to help me help my students to bottom out.

  • Don’t ask simple one word questions.
  • Ask questions that move students from factual to conceptual.
  • Ask questions that help students to make connections to prior knowledge about concepts and skills. 
  • Give students time to respond.
  • Ask follow-up questions.

Asking the right questions is only part of this process of bottoming out. It is important for facilitators to ask deeper questions, but it is also important to give students the direction, materials, and skills to go deeper on their own. Facilitators need to show students how to find valuable resources. Honing research skills is a life long skill that will help them in life. Linked with that is organizing materials so they can see connections and directions.

One aspect that I am incorporating in to my classroom is using mind maps. Mind maps can be very helpful when figuring out the parts of a project. Students can ask questions and link those questions to other questions or places to look to the answers. Mind maps are so versatile and can be used in so many different ways. I am not sure why I haven’t really done this before.  There are also mind maps apps for the iPad, or google tablets. There are also many different websites students can use that could be linked to their Google Docs.

Here is a few mind map resources.




Here is a great website for mind map iPad apps.

One thing that I tell the regular education teachers in my building that challenging gifted children doesn’t have to be a challenge for you. You don’t have to know the answers. Give them extension assignments. assignments that help them dive deeper into an area of what you are teaching. Give them a few questions to start. Let them develop their own ideas and direction they want to go, and let them be creative in the product they design. By placing fewer restrictions on them it will allow them to be free to look at ulterior view points, and look at facts from different angles.

It’s the same here in my pull-out program. I give them some direction. depending on the student I will do some scaffolding, and more direction. When giving extension projects or project-based (PBL) units it is important to know your students. It is also important to show students where their strengths are, and teach them how to make those stronger.

I go back to the question…how to get students to bottom out of an extension project or PBL unit? I don’t think that it is possible. I think there are so many roads in and out of a subject that the farther in you go, there is more roads you find. I think it is important to show students that there are many roads, and to explore the roads that lead them to the most success educationally and personally.

How much of a push do you push your gifted students? How deep into a subject do you expect them to go? How deep do you expect them to go before they bottom out?



Letting Students Set Their Own Goals

Do you set goals for your students? I do. I feel like it is important to set goals particularly when doing big projects like we do in my class. There are all kinds of goals. There are short-term goals, long-term goals, and S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific-Measureable-Attainable-Relavant-Time-bound).

I started out this year setting daily goals for my students as a whole class. I felt I needed to make sure they worked until their goal was completed. For the first several weeks we sat down as a class and set the daily goal and a plan to achieve that goal. They put that information in the project log that I created for each student. They fill part of it out at the beginning of class. At the end of class they write down what they actually got done, and what they were struggling with if anything for that day. This way when they start class the next day they know where they have to start, and what they may need help on to complete their project.

Since our Christmas break, I have begun to have students make their own goals, and plans for achievement. I have found that students are taking more of an ownership of their work, and began to really take their goals more seriously. I think one of the reasons this is happening is because some of my students really enjoy seeing the plans for the day, and monitoring their own progress.

I feel it is important for my gifted students to have the experience of setting goals and meeting those goals. That’s a real life skill that they need to master when they are out in the work force. I also feel it is important for my gifted students to be able to break down their goals into smaller manageable parts. When students set smaller goals, it helps to set them up for success since those goals are attainable.

The ability to set small manageable goals helps to focus my students’ abilities and energy. They aren’t scatter-brained, and wasting time and energy. They can see the process unfold before them, and they can monitor their own progress though their projects. I also think this skill is a good strategy when dealing with perfectionism. Those gifted students who suffer from perfectionism who have mastered the idea of creating smaller goals, and breaking their projects into smaller parts will have success in controlling their tendencies.

Do you have students set goals or do you set the goals for the day?

Creativity is not about Paintbrushes and Poems

I was going through our school library magazines this morning and came across a stack of them that the librarian was putting away. I saw a magazine, Scholastic Instructor the 2011 Holiday edition, and it in there is an article called Challenge your Top Students: 10 ways to meet the needs of your advanced learners-and help the rest of your class, too. by Joan Franklin Smutny. In this article are ten very good ideas to help challenge your gifted students in the regular classroom.

Her list is as follows:

  • Allow Choice

  • integrate Technology

  • Let Kids Work Together

  • Accommodate Pace

  • Determine Prior Knowledge

  • Encourage Goal Setting

  • Teach Creatively

  • Independent Learning Projects

  • Follow their Interests

  • Encourage Self Assessment

Joan does a great job going into details on what regular education teachers can do to help gifted students. I want to focus and expand a little bit on what she discusses on teaching creatively. Joan begins to say that to teach creatively you need to focus on 6 general principles:

Explore: Point out the hidden, less traveled paths and warn against set patterns.

Create: Assign work that requires creative and imaginative thinking.

Envision: Nurture boldness in vision and endeavor.

Support: Support students’ trust in their creative powers

Improve: Give them opportunities to correct errors, refine visions, improve and elaborate.

Exhibit: Find venues for students to show, demonstrate, perform or exhibit.

Creativity has two sides.

One side of the coin is students. Many students look at creativity as something artists, musicians, and writers have. I borrowed her subtitle of this section from her article for my title, because it really goes with what I tell my students. There is no limit to creativity. So you are not an artist. Its alright. You have creativity in the form of creating an app or program on the computer, or your Mindcraft city is so elaborate that you make it look like something off of Google Maps.

On the other side of that coin, is the teacher. We need to look at “outside of the box thinking” when it comes to advanced learners. Teachers, and I include myself, need to stop worrying about how much work it takes to create something that a small group of students would work on and focus on the fact that we are there for the students.

We need to take our own creativity and focus it to challenge students. We need to look at our curriculum differently. We should see the State Standards as the minimum requirements, and work up. The State Standards are the foundation of what we do, and our creativity are the bricks we use to build our fort of fun.

For regular education teachers the easiest thing to do is to create extension projects for advanced learners. The last thing these students need is just more busy work since they get done early. That will kill their creativity, and their love of learning. Give them a project based on your subject, but give them the choice of where to take that project. Don’t do more paper and pencil work. Have them use their imagination. Let them work in small groups to collaborate and create. At that point you move from teacher to facilitator as you support your students creativity.

You may say, as I do, I am not that creative. One aspect of creativity is an attitude. If you think your aren’t creative you are limiting yourself. The other aspect of creativity is to take what is out there, and adjusting it to meet your needs.  Use social media in your classroom. Create accounts on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and find ideas that you can incorporate into your classroom. Millions of minds together are always better than one alone. Search the internet to find resources and ideas from websites. There are millions of pages out there to help you no matter what grade or subject you teach.

Remember, when you limit your creativity you are limiting your students as well.

What are you doing to foster creativity in your professional life and in the life of your students?

Teaching or Facilitating: That’s the Question

This morning my Assistant Principal come in and observed me as part of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES Rubric).  He sat in my room for close to an hour. He saw my teaching style, and what my students were doing. He observed the classroom environment, and how I interact with students.  Some of you are probably familiar with this because many other states are doing something similar in teacher evaluations.

After the evaluation, he and I began a short conversation about the differences between teaching and facilitating. He noticed that I stayed more in the role of facilitator with my gifted students than lead teacher. I have found that my gifted students achieve more when I help to lead them down the road to success than when I drag them. This isn’t to say I just give them free rein on their assignments. Some need more one on one time with me than others. Some students are very goal oriented which leads to a great work ethic. Some are easily distracted. Those students I work more closely with.

tfs wordle

I feel that it is my job to ask questions. Some are leading questions, but most are open-ended questions where they will need to explain to me the reasoning being their actions or processes of their assignment.

Let me show you the differences in teaching and facilitating.

Teaching: The process where the teacher leads a group of students in acquiring new skills and/or knowledge. Did you see it there? The teacher leads. Teaching is where the teacher is in control of the one-way flow of information. Many teachers including my self had relied on this method. It’s very traditional. At times, this method is necessary, but it should not be the only method you use when teaching.

Facilitating: The process where the teacher helps a group of students learn together in acquiring new skills and/or knowledge. Did you see it there? The teacher helps. Facilitating the binary flow of information. Facilitating isn’t one way flow of learning. . It flows back and forth. Instead of using one mind, you collectively use all minds in learning.

When you really delve into the teaching verses facilitating paradigm you really have to look at who is at the center of your class. If you are a teacher in the teaching paradigm, then you are the center of your classroom. Everything should revolve around you. If you are a teacher in the facilitating paradigm them the students are the center of your classroom. Everything should revolve around them. (Here is a chart of what I mean.)

One of the main differences in teaching and facilitating that I believe is the most important is the role of the students. In teaching the role of the students is to sit and listen. They are the passive, and not part of the learning process. When a teacher is facilitating the role of the students is to be actively engaged. They are part of the learning process.

How do you move from teaching to facilitating? You have to let go. You have to change your thinking from being the focus to your students being the focus. You have to sharpen your questioning skills. You have to allow students to use their prior knowledge they learned, and show them how to apply it to whatever you are doing in your classroom. Remember facilitators teach. They just do it in a way that involves the students allowing them to be creative. By allowing your students to be creative allows you to just as creative, and it makes your class so much more enjoyable.

So the question is: are you stuck in the teaching paradigm or are you a facilitator? Are you transitioning from one to another? Let me know what your expereinces are.

(The Wordle is the text of this post.)

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?