Creativity, Gifted Education, literacy, teaching

Adding challenge to a passion project

Passion projects are a bit of a buzz word and can be lots of fun for students to take part in – they get to choose what they study and also how the present it.

But are they learning?

When we create passion projects we need to make sure that there is:

  • Challenge
  • Limited amount of ‘googling’
  • Questions that extend beyond the basic facts for more able students

I have used KAPLAN prompts to drive my students towards more challenge in their projects – to seek the how and the why and question why things just are!

Please feel free to download this resource to use in your classroom today

Gifted Education, mathematics, numeracy, Parenting, teaching

Programming for challenge

When we start a new year or a new topic most teachers are lucky enough to be given a program from the year before to use. This can be fantastic as it saves time and also inspires ideas for the current year but there are many things we need to do before we use the program and it goes beyond just reading through and tweaking.

Always pretest

Pre test your students and consider if this program suits them at all. Does the topic need to be changed? Will they engage with the activities and are the activities differentiated to suit the needs of the current class?

Pre testing is vital for all KLA’s so that we are prepared to challenge every student in the different subject areas not just in their ability but also how they view the world through the different topic areas we are presenting to them.

How are they challenged?

How are the students being challenged in the program? Are they being challenged through the questions being asked or the skills they will develop?

Are you using Higher Order thinking stems for enrich their thinking and which model works best? 

What level is the challenge?

If there is challenge and differentiation – great but at what level?

Again, you need to consider the students in your class and think if the level being presented to them in the current program is really for them

Will the main topic generate passion for learning?

The curriculum is much more flexible than we think and as the classroom teacher you need to consider which topic will really excite your learners.

Instead of just looking at ‘living things’ can your more able students look at ‘dangerous living things’?

Instead of just writing a book review – review a book review site instead and create your own. 

How limited does the topic of space need to be? Can you go beyond just the planets in the solar system and discuss how people could live on these orbiting bodies.

It does take time to create new programs and also look through existing ones but when we do, our students enjoy learning and engage with us and this is worth the time spent!

Gifted Education, mathematics, Parenting, teaching

Asking open ended questions

Open ended questions and activities are what gets kids moving, excited and engaged.

Asking open ended questions

What are open ended questions?

Open ended questions are those that have a myriad of responses. Open ended questions allow us to embrace different ways of thinking and responding and can often, at times, waken our own thinking up as we learn to see how others think.

For example – in maths lessons at home or at school show them some triangles and ask them: Is it a triangle or not? Why? What is our fixed definition of triangle and is this always correct?

This can then lead into what triangles can and cannot be through seeing what is in real life.

Another open ended task could be as simple as run your own ‘lemonade and cupcake stall’. For younger students they may simply work out prices and how many they need to cook/make. Older students will need to work out the cost of making these things to factor into the cost along with their own labour fees! Through this activity the students are learning how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

So do we need to do away with drill and practise? 

Not necessarily  but we MUST cut down on it. Worksheets for every child in the class are not supporting anyone as the only sense of value children will see is if they can finish the task.

Drill and practise can be done in open ended ways – not just worksheets of the same addition style problem. Play games, make a maze with the answers, talk about the best solutions, link to real world activities – go beyond silence and repetition just for the sake of it.

Children do need to practise to get better at things BUT they need to see value also.

How does this support Gifted students? 

Many gifted students, although they will need support when a new concept is given to them, will pick it up quickly so there is not point asking for repetition.

Gifted students see more value in those open ended tasks as they can see where it applies in their own lives, they can add their own twist to it and they can be challenged.

Check in with your own classroom teaching or your students teachers and ask how they are allowing bright and gifted students to shine. How are they adding excitement to learning? How are they engaging and growing young minds.

What are your thoughts? 

Gifted Education, mathematics, numeracy

Ease off the drill and practice

In this time of remote learning I have noticed one of my children has been set a lot of drill and practice activities for mathematics.

Drill and practice has a place, even for our bright and gifted students – but not an overload.

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Once a person has understood the concept, drill and practice is no longer necessary –  as they understand!

Teachers need to move these students onto using these skills in real world situations, problem solve with them, see how they work in our every day lives.

Children can be accelerated through the grades in one subject such as mathematics, and this may involve some more drill and practice so they understand the topic further, but it still needs to be minimal.

For bright and gifted students, all drill and practise does is demotivate them. Anything we understand well becomes repetitive and boring, even as adults.

We switch off, we no longer enjoy the topic and that’s when mistakes happen.

Mistakes in drill and practice activities should not be penalised unless it is obvious the student has misunderstood something.

Too often teachers seek perfection and this is something we cannot ask of our students who clearly understand what is being asked of them. Mistakes are a normal part of learning.

So what should schools and teachers be doing whilst remote learning?

  • Give students real world activities. This way they can apply the basic skills that have been mastered on the worksheet or in the computer game.

Here are some great links for you to give to your children so they are engaged and are learning.

  • National Geographic at home

https://www.natgeokids.com/au/teacher-category/maths/

  • Taronga Zoo

https://taronga.org.au/education/digital-programs-online-resources/zoo-mathematics

  • Nrich Mathematics

https://nrich.maths.org/9993

  • Edutopia

https://www.edutopia.org/article/7-real-world-math-strategies

  • Scholastic Maths magazine

https://math.scholastic.com

 

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Are gifted children healthy?

Interesting article about the physical and mental health of gifted children.

Studies show that our gifted children are often highly active, social and mentally healthy.

We just need to ensure the right support network is around them, like minded peers and various options for them is the key

https://www.nagc.org/blog/are-gifted-kids-healthy

Gifted Education, teaching

Are there underachievers in your classroom? Part One.

An underachiever is a student who is not achieving to their potential.

The underachieving gifted student is too common in classrooms today due to various factors , of which many we can change.

Why underachieving gifted students?

Many might think if a student is gifted then they find work easy, always want to do their best and are happy.

But this isn’t always the case.

In a school context, underachievement occurs when there is a discrepancy between expected achievement given one’s academic potential and actual performance that one demonstrates.

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Identification isn’t done well

Many teachers may not be equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to identify a gifted underachiever. Gifted underachievers often come about due to:

  • a curriculum that is not challenging enough (so what is the point in trying?)
  • they want to fit in with their peers(friends over grades)
  • Perfectionism (I’d rather get one sentence correct than a whole page of mess)
  • Lack of support at home (no one cares how well I do anyway)

So what can we do?

  • Ensure teachers have adequate support so they feel comfortable identifying gifted students and then challenging them (I can help here – educateempower1@gmail.com)
  • Ensure adequate and regular testing is done all year round from Kindergarten.
  • Ensure that the curriculum always has options for students to be challenged.
  • Ensure the curriculum is open ended, hands on and tailored to more students needs and learning styles.

Watch out for Part 2 of underachieving students soon – or sign up to my email list!

 

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Building resilient learners

Without considering learning difficulties or underachievement, many gifted students cruise through their schooling years.

I come across many gifted students who just cannot cope with a challenging task – although they are gifted, have tested highly or are anecdotal extremely able.

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They cry, they misbehave, they say ‘I’m hopeless’ at the drop of a challenging hat.

Although school is fun, there are friends and great activities – School is easy. There is little challenge.

And this poses a problem.

These children NEED to be challenged on a daily basis and many schools are doing these students a disservice by always giving them work they can achieve easily.

Without challenge, students never feel a sense of failure.

Without challenge, students do not need to change their way of thinking.

Without challenge, students do not need to build resilience

Without challenge, students do not know how to problem solve. 

Every teacher, in every classroom needs to set the bar just that bit higher. They need to pre test students to understand what they know so they can give them learning opportunities where they will be challenged.

When students are challenged they may fail, but they can work out solutions to fix that problem.

When students are challenged they understand how to deal with mistakes and failure and build up resilience.

When students are challenged they feel a better sense of achievement. 

It is too often I teach gifted students who get easily upset in pullout programs or misbehave because they are being challenged. They do not know how to stretch themselves or deal with mistakes.

Teachers of every grade need to constantly challenge their students in some way so that they grow every day and become stronger believers in their own abilities.

Visit my facebook page for some great discussions and ways that I can help you as a parent or teacher to challenge these students with my online or face to face course.

Educate Empower Gifted: https://www.facebook.com/groups/293988788179957/

 

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Supporting your gifted students from Non-English speaking backgrounds.

 

In every school there will be students from a Non English speaking background and from this group there will be gifted students. We need to outline, in every school policy:

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What a Gifted NESB student looks like.

 

 

  • Acquire the new language at a faster than typical rate,
  • Demonstrate an ability to code switch or translate at an advanced level,
  • Show aptitude for negotiating between cultures,
  • Display inventive leadership and/or imaginative qualities,
  • Read significantly beyond grade level in the heritage language,
  • Effectively assume adult responsibilities at a young age,
  • Problem-solve in creative, nonconforming ways.

 

How do we assess these students to test if they are gifted?

 

  • Teacher observations
  • Pre assessments using different methods apart from pen and paper (try conversation in their mother tongue, drawing their knowledge)
  • Discussions with parents in mother tongue on students early development.

 

How do we support  Gifted student from a NESB?

  • Ensure the curriculum is enriched to the ability they can work at.
  • Ensure the curriculum is culturally sensitive where needed.
  • Develop an Individual learning plan that could involve self directed learning
  • Support the student where needed in the English language.
  • Make sure all teachers have PD in who gifted students are
  • Regularly communicate with parents to make sure they know how to support their child at home.

 

https://www.edutopia.org/article/identifying-and-supporting-gifted-ells

 

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Parent and school partnerships.

Partnerships such as those that Pfeiffer’s discussions help forge between parents and educators can help minimize the differences between the treatment that athletically gifted and the academically gifted students receive. But what about the glory? What can academically gifted students do that will bring them the rewards and recognition that those who excel athletically often receive? The answer is competition, and there are plenty of competitions open to those who excel in areas such as mathematics, science, geography, writing, and the arts.

There is nothing more important than a good quality partnership between a school and the parents of the students they teach.

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In an article I discovered this week by Linda Neumann, it outlines the importance of deepening that connection so that academically gifted students receive just as much support as our athletically gifted students.

 

Although this article is dated 2011, I would argue that this disparity still exists in terms of how society sees gifts and the importance of gifts.

As educators we need to ensure that ALL gifts are catered for in the best way we can within the school we teach in.

 

As parents we need to advocate for our gifted students to ensure that there are as many provisions for them as possible. If the school cannot have all these provisions on site, there are many great places to go to both online and in person.

 

We also need to ensure there is regular communication between parents and teachers to ensure everyone knows how to support the student in every aspect of their education.

 

 

Read the whole article here: https://www.sengifted.org/post/finding-the-glory-on-and-off-the-playing-field

 

Gifted Education, Parenting, teaching

Building and nurturing resilience in highly gifted children

Many gifted students, due to their higher sensitivities have difficulty ignoring complex situations.

Resilience is rarely innate – it is a learnt behaviour.

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Resilience is cultivated when the children hear the school & teacher being talked about positively.

When the child is praised for their interests and strengths and who they are (personality) this can give them confidence to believe in who they are – not focus on their underachievement or boredom at school.

What you can do:

  • Talk positively about the school environment with your child whilst listening to their problems.

 

  • Talk to the school and your child’s teachers as often as you need to – we need to work together.

 

  • Find others in the community that have similar interests. Mentoring and group work with like minded individuals help gifted students to flourish. 

 

  • Try to deal with any issues in a positive manner.

 

  • Nurture your child’s inner resources (what they are good at – sewing, reading, researching, building etc)

 

  • Help your child to focus on the present – focus on each day and what can be achieved in that day rather than worrying about making it through the whole year. Focus on one good thing that happened during the day rather than focus on the negative.

 

Contact me if you are interested in school PD sessions for parents and teachers.

vanessaryanrendall@gmail.com