Give more challenge not more work

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?

Originally Posted on Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

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Working with Parents to Support High Ability Learners

middle-school

A version of this was posted originally posted on Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

This week our 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.

What accommodations do we do as a school district you would like to see more of, or is there an accommodation we haven’t thought of?

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Importance of Self Advocacy

Originally posted on Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

I 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?

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Selection of Gifted Children for Gifted Services

Part 3 of 3 of the Gifted Nomination, Gifted Screening, and Selection for Gifted Services

As was mentioned in the previous post, students who scores a 129 or higher (Superior Cognitive Abilities) are automatically placed in gifted services. If a student falls into the Creative Thinking Abilities category then we have to further test.

In our district we use two different checklists that the State of Ohio allows us to use. The first is the GATES (Gifted And Talented Evaluation scale. The GATES is a checklist done by the classroom teacher(s). The score for this must be 83 or higher to be placed in a gifted program. We also use the SRBCSS (Scale for Rating and Behavior Checklists of Superior Students) to help screen students. The SRBCSS checklist is also done by the classroom teacher(s) and to qualify for gifted services a student must score 51 or higher.

The gifted department will test 100% of the students in 2nd and 5th grade, but the additional screening will only happen generally to about 25% of the students. This additional screening is always based on their CogAT test scores.

Once the gifted department gets all the scores parents are notified if their child has qualified or not for gifted services. There is also a letter that goes out to indicate there needs to be more testing. Then final list of students who qualify for gifted services a letter goes out to parents and teachers to let them know their child/student has qualified for gifted services.

If you have a question about the whole process of how a student gets into a gifted program please let one of the gifted intervention specialist know. They can answer all your questions.

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Screening of Gifted Students

Part 2 of 3 of the Gifted Nomination, Gifted Screening, and Selection for Gifted Services.

Once all of the nomination process is complete, the second phase begins. The second phase is the screening. In our district we test every 2nd and 5th grader. We use the CogAT test. According to the CogAT website:

The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is a group-administered aptitude test for grades K-12 used to estimate students’ reasoning and problem solving skills. Unlike assessment tests which measure what a student has already learned, aptitude tests are designed to measure intellectual ability, focusing on analytic and problem solving skills rather than specific knowledge.

Once we have the test results from this we get a print out of all the students scores. The gifted department then goes through the scores to find students who have screening scores above 111. Students will fall into 2 categories:

  • Superior Cognitive Abilities (CogAT screening score of 114 and an identification score of 129 or higher)
  • Creative Thinking Abilities (CogAT screening score of 113)

The idea of the whole grade screening is to find as many gifted children as possible since the nomination of individual students can be hit and miss. This way two whole grades are tested, and we have data on several hundred students.

When an individual student was nominated for gifted screening we use one of two other testing materials. We will use either the Otis Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), or the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT2). We use these tests because they are the best fit our children. Both tests are based on patters, pictures, and probabilities which children in urban settings do best with. If a student scores a 126 or higher on the OLSAT and a 126 or higher on the NNAT2 then the student falls into the Superior Cognitive Ability category. If a student scores 110 -125 on the OLSAT or a score of 109-125 on the NNAT2 the student falls into the category of Creative Ability. The selection process will be the same for these students as the ones who take and qualify with the CogAT.

If you have any questions about the screening process please feel free to contact your gifted intervention specialist.

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Nomination of Gifted Children

Part 1 of 3 of the Gifted Nomination, Gifted Screening, and Selection for Gifted Services.

When starting the process of finding gifted children for gifted services you start with the nomination process. The nomination process is an important aspect of gifted education. There are a few ways a student can be nominated for gifted testing:

  • Parents can ask regular classroom teachers, gifted intervention specialists, or school psychologists to have their child tested if they believe they see some gifted characteristics in their children.
  • Teachers can ask gifted intervention specialists, or school psychologists to have their students tested because they feel that student or students are achieving above other students, or they feel they that student is learning faster than the average student.
  • Students can nominate themselves if they feel they need to be tested for gifted services. This is called self-advocacy.

All students who exhibit some, or little gifted tendencies should be considered for gifted services. Every student has the right to be tested for gifted services. Students from every group, and subgroup should have access to gifted education nomination for testing. Students in regular education and special education should be included. This process can be started any day of the year, and for every grade.

Just as a side note: every year in our district we test every 2nd and 5th grader in order to find students who would be able to qualify for gifted services.

Here is a great resource (below as a .pdf file) for testing and identification  from the book Identifying Gifted Students: a practical guide by Susan K. Johnsen: office-for-civil-rights-checklist-for-assessment-of-gifted-programs.

Research shows that parents are the resource when trying to identify gifted children. They know their children, and see them in multiple settings where they can show their giftedness. The next best resource is the regular education teacher. Research shows when regular education teachers have professional development on the characteristics of gifted children they are twice as likely to nominate children for gifted services. (Which is why the gifted department is trying to help educate regular education teachers on gifted education.)

When a student is nominated the instruments used should be fair and culturally appropriate. To be culturally appropriate means that the instrument ensures the student understands the purpose and nature of the test; minimizes language; include practice items; and present novel problems instead of narrow school related information.

Finally when nominating a child for gifted testing it is good to use as multiple sources. Teachers should be getting information for their own curriculum through tests, and quizzes; from parents who see their students acting differently from the school setting; and from the student themselves. Let the student tell the teacher some reasons why they feel they need to be tested for gifted services.

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The Purpose of Grouping

Over the past weekend I read a position paper on grouping from the National Association for Gifted Children.  I thought that I would discuss some of the high points of this position paper.

Grouping gifted students is one of the foundation practices of gifted education. There are many different types of grouping strategies that can be done that can produce positive results. The optics of groups is what can be interpreted as “elitist” or creates the illusion that this group of gifted children may think too highly of themselves, or it may be perceived that grouping gifted children harms the struggling students. None of this is shown in recent research.

There are four purposes for grouping:

to ease the delivery of appropriately differentiated curriculum to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate the use of appropriately differentiated instructional strategies to learners with similar educational needs;

to facilitate addressing the differential affective needs of these children in the most conductive manner;

to allow for learners of similar abilities or performance levels to learn from each other.

The overall aching affect of the strategy of grouping is to create the least restrictive environment possible for learning to take place. This also allows schools to channel challenging course work to these students.

Grouping Practices

There are two types of grouping: full time and part time, and they each have strategies that can fall into performance based or abilities based groups. Performance based group option is based on grouping students with similar achievement levels. Ability based group option is based on grouping students based on intelligence, ability, or aptitude tests.

Full Time Ability group options:

  • Full time gifted program
  • Self-contained gifted classroom
  • Special / Magnet school for the gifted
  • Cluster grouping: (top 5-8 gifted students at a grade level are placed in a mixed ability classroom as a small group, and are provided with appropriate differentiated instruction.

Research shows that using full time ability grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/3 years to 2 years growth. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Part time Ability Group options

  • Pull out/send out/withdrawal/resource room enrichment groups: gifted students are removed from their regular classroom for specific time each week to work on differentiated activities such as critical thinking, problem solving, and extensions of the general curriculum.
  • Like-ability cooperative groups within classrooms: when a teacher decided to use cooperative learning groups in a mixed ability groups with usually the 3-4 highest ability students being grouped together.  They are given appropriately differentiated expectations and assessments.

Research shows that using part time ability grouping strategies  could yield students growth levels of growth of more than a year in creativity, and critical thinking skills in subjects that are focused on during the pull out. There will be some positive gains in social maturity and cognition, along with more participation in extracurricular activities.

Performance groupings that meet daily (subject specific)

  • Cluster performance grouping: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject like math or language arts are placed in a mixed ability classroom and are provided with differentiated instruction in that core subject.
  • Regrouping for specific instruction: top performing gifted students in a specific core subject are placed in a high performance classroom and provided with accelerated and enriched content and skills from that core subject.

Research shows that using performance based grouping strategies across all subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 years to 1 3/4 years growth depending on the content that is .

Performance grouping options that do not meet daily:

  • Within-class / flexible grouping: a teacher of a mixed ability class divides the class into groups according to their “readiness” for the curriculum to be taught.
  • Like-performing cooperative learning groups: when a teacher decides to use cooperative learning groups places the highest 3-4 performing students in their own group receiving differentiated instruction and assessments.
  • Performance based pull out/ send out/ withdrawal/ resource room enrichment classes: the top performing students in a core subject are removed from the regular classroom to work on more challenging and complex content and skills based on the core subject.

Research shows that using part time performance grouping strategies for specific subjects could yield students growth levels of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 years growth depending on the subject.

Schools should have many grouping options available to students from pre-school to high school. How schools decide to group will be based on what is the culture of the school. The options chosen by schools and teachers will have to fit the culture of the school. What ever option that is chosen is ensure that gifted students achieve at their highest potential.

Grouping students together is a way to allow gifted students access to learning at the level and complexity that is needed. It allows gifted students to make social connections with same aged peers who think and learn like them.

 

Originally Posted on Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

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Not All Gifted Children Test Well

The beginning of the  school year is always busy for me. This is the time of year many parents contact me to test their child to see if they qualify for gifted services. Many parents tell me their child is gifted, but tests don’t always show it. I always try to reassure parents that I try to create a peaceful and stress free environment. After testing and scoring, I come to the same result as the parent. The child didn’t test well. So I have to use more than just one instrument to see if a child is gifted or not.

But, how can a child who is gifted not test well? There are several ideas as to why a child doesn’t test well. Parents and teachers know some students don’t test well, but know they are smarter than the test results.

If you know a child is gifted, and isn’t a great test taker here are some ideas as to why they may not test well.

  1. Motivation. Some students have motivation and some don’t. If a student has a lack of motivation then doing well on a test is the last thing the child will do well on.
  2. Intra-Stress. Sometimes a student will not test well, because inside they are too stressed out. It doesn’t matter that the environment is peaceful and stress-free, some students will still battle their own stress.
  3. Perfectionism. Some students feel they need to be perfect in everything. This particularly comes out during timed testing. Children who suffer from perfectionism want to answer every question correctly sometimes will not test well. They get stuck on a question and can’t move on.
  4. Over-thinking. Gifted children are smart, but sometimes they overthink things. Students who overthink on tests don’t do well on multiple choice tests (which most gifted tests are). Gifted children make connections differently. When they can’t use their thinking skills to create something unique, they struggle.

 

To help children overcome these aspects teachers and parents need to help them overcome these shortfalls. When dealing with motivation or lack thereof, try to spark intrinsic motivation. Use their hobbies and passions to your advantage. Use the idea that doing well now will help them in the future to get into a college or university they are interested in going to.

To help a student who has stress issues teach them techniques that will help them center themselves. Help them to recognize when the internal stress is creeping up, and how to control it.

A student who has an issue with perfectionism needs to understand that making mistakes isn’t a big of deal they perceived it to be. To help them understand this place the student in simulations that they will make mistakes or fail. They will see and feel that they survived. This idea isn’t just with tests. This is an aspect of life. Children who suffer with perfectionism need to know at some point they will make mistakes in life. It matters how they handle the mistake and move on.

For students who  just overthink things on tests help them understand they don’t have to fish for an answer. Most multiple choice tests are straightforward. Just as in life, somethings are just that…straightforward. Once the test is over students will look back, and realize not fishing for a unique answer was the best decision.

As the school year goes on, and you begin to see some of the aspects listed above I hope that you can give these children, and parents some help.

What are some other aspects do you find in students who don’t test well.

For this post, I used the awesome resource Parenting Gifted Children by Jennifer L. Jolly, Ph.D., Donald J. Treffinger, Ph.D., Tracy Ford Inman, and Joan Franklin Smutny, Ph.D. 

Posted originally on Ramblings of A Gifted Teacher.

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Gifted Placements Matter

One aspect of Gifted Education is to find, identify, and service children who are gifted. To follow the mentioned sequence gifted intervention specialists need to work with classroom teachers to to get as much input on a student as possible.

Gifted intervention specialists should look to classroom teachers to help with finding talent, and to help with the placement of students. I was reading Dr. Jim Delisle’s book When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers, and he gives 3 tips for successful placements of gifted children:

  1. All placements in a gifted program should be considered tentative, with the fit between the child’s needs and the program’s offerings being the bottom line criterion for continued placement. Bad match? Look for something better.
  2. All placements in a gifted program should be considered voluntary.  No one should have to act gifted if they don’t want to.
  3. The names of students selected for a gifted program should be shared with the students’ teachers, who should be asked if they know of any other children who might be considered for placement. Teachers cannot remove a student’s name from this list, since this is a sure way to eliminate perceived underachievers and troublemakers.

My personal feeling is that this is correct. I believe that we have to be an advocate for gifted children. Not all gifted children will benefit from a pullout program, or a placement in a full grade or subject acceleration. We need to be flexible, and looking out for the best placement for the success of gifted children.

Once the placement process is complete, we need to make sure we are supportive of the student. When a student is in a pullout program the student will miss some classroom instruction. It doesn’t help when classroom teachers dump all the work that a student missed while in a pull out program. Teachers both Regular Education and Gifted Education need to come up with a common sense solution to help gifted students not get over whelmed with the a ton of extra work. When students are in a pull out program classroom teachers may need to readjust when they plan to take tests or quizzes. I would also suggest the use of pre-tests to see what material all students have mastered. This may help with some curriculum compacting for gifted students during a unit the teacher is covering.

For students who are not in pullout programs,but in an accelerated placement classroom teachers need to monitor the academic progress of the student for several weeks. How the student fits in emotionally also needs to be monitored. If it seems the student isn’t mature enough of handle the new accelerated class placement, then a new placement will need to be provided as an alternative.

What we need to remember that if the placement doesn’t fit we need to change it right away. Success of the student in a placement that will challenge the student is what is important.

Originally Posted on Ramblings of a Gifted Teacher

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Gifted and a Teenager

This video goes along with the this month’s post on Identifying Gifted children. You can view that post by clicking on the Monthly Gifted Ideas tab. As a middle school teacher, and the parent of a gifted children, I can relate to many of the things that Dr. Delisle has to say.

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