This is a professional development blog. We'll be discussing books we read as a group. Our discussions will be focused on gifted children.
Schools are responsible for not adopting a "let the gifted fend for themselves" attitude: GTs need differentiation, which does not mean MORE work along the same lines. GTs need some of the empowerment that comes from choice and are capable of that choice. Groupwork is often motivating, so teachers must be prepared to tolerate positive noise, messy rooms, and a facilitator's role.I personally would ask for under 35 gts per class, It is very hard to move areound the room with more, and GTs MUST! Schools make the mistake, it seems, of thinking a student is GT or not--across the curriculum, and that he/she never changes.
I would include two main ideas. The first is that giftedness includes a wide variety of students from various backgrounds (both racial and socioeconomical). Secondly, I would point out that the way to have gifted students perform well and succeed is through differentiated instruction.
In the textbook on pages 101 and 103 there are discussions and examples about what differentiated instruction should not look like and what it might. I think a discussion that sufficient thought should go into what GT students will be asked to accomplish and what teaching they will need in a well scaffolded lesson would be a worthwhile topic for the faculty. Also, mention of teacher analysis while planning lessons and the necessity for an additional section for small groups are important.
Small groups, eh? I agree with you. I had 35 in my GT Freshman English last year. Or are you talking about subgrups within a diverse class?
The author says,"equity in education is essential and a new understanding about the nature of giftedness are forcing changes in how children are identified and served p.105. A child from any race or social economic group may qualify as gifted.Grades, homework completion, and test scores may not indentify the gift student. Curriculum specifically designed to encourage their creativity is needed.
Thirty-five GT students in one class is SO many children! Subgroups! Is it possible to do that with the limited time available? It sounds like a necessity just to manage the environment. Today on the book channel Dr. Bill Ouchi discussed his new book "The Secret of TSL" (total student load), where he finds that a lower student load on teachers results in higher academic performance. Thirty-five students in one class is TOO many in my opinion.
First, I would include a discussion on understanding the social and emotional needs of gifted students. Next, I would discuss the importance of differentiating the curriculum to meet the intellectual needs of the GT student, as stated on page 99, classroom instruction should “challenge students in their ‘zone of proximal development’—that is, just far enough above their comfort level to ensure that they are neither bored not inordinately frustrated.”
The mystery model is hiding in the back of mary p.'s statement above. The page she references elaborates on a global test that was used to identify GT students, a test (THE mystery) that had no direct relationship with student performance in school. Identification processes have evolved since then, but are they good enough? At UHCL there was a department years ago that focused on curriculum for GTs. I wonder what happened to it. Looking back, much of the curriculum they offered then (1980s)would be outdated for many regular education classes today.
I would share two quotes. First, that all students need to be challenged in the "zone of proximal development" - "just far enough above their comfort level to ensure that they are neither bored nor inordinately frustrated." (pg 99) Then, that "Teachers would not hesitate to modify their instructional methods to accommodate a lower-ability child who is not capable of learning the way average-ability students do. The same consideration must be afforded to exceptionally bright students who are hampered by an unchallenging curriculum." (pg 108) We should be concerned about motivating all students to learn and achieve. Too often when we talk of differentiating, it is understood to mean for the student who has not met the state's minimum standards. It would be a hard sell at a faculty meeting. When most of a school's time and money is spent on TAKS goals, teachers tend to focus mostly on getting everyone to the minimum TAKS level.
I would discuss the concept of the "zone of proximal development." The book touts that "finding the best match between the child and learning challenge is essential if the student is to be motivated to learn and achieve in school." It seems that this should be the first question we ask when a student is not performing at the level we believe possible. However, differentiation on a daily basis is a daunting task for teachers of 90+ students. It seems that there are more resources to address the special education population and modify their curriculum than there are for the gifted and higher-achieving students.
It's funny that this is the question, I just left an admin team meeting where we discussed the need for differenciation in the classroom.The most important thing to discuss is that differenciation does not just include more work. Each GT student has areas of interest, we need to let them have some selection/choice in independent projects that enrich what is going on in the classroom.
I liked CStricklands comment on encouraging all students to achieve....sometimes it is very difficult to motivate all students. After reading this book and specifically these chapters, I realize how much of an impact the teacher has on a students final achievement...using motivation...many of my GT students are extremely sensitive to every comment...we need to find ways to keep students motivated, whether they are GT or just trying to meet minimum standards.
a.bresslers comment - meeting the social/emotional needs of students is so on target...and pushing them just before they hit frustration....sometimes I think the lack of motivation for a GT student is that "things come to easy"...then when something is difficult they just shut down, we need to keep them almost at the "target heart rate" to keep them coming back for more. It is so difficult to do this at times as our focus is on raising the test scores for all.
I would list the three bullets on page 97 as the agenda, with special emphasis on the first small bullet, “A rigid, unbending curriculum, with little or no differentiation for gifted learners.” It just seems as thought the No Child Left Behind philosophy is doing exactly that, leaving the gifted students behind because we are trying to fit students that do think outside the box into small neat test orientated box. The quote on page 99 sums it up, “All the emphasis on the right answers is also having an effect on how students study and learn across the curriculum. They often go on the internet to find one specific answer to one specific question and have no interest in additional research or connecting what they’ve discovered to a larger context.” We have beat them down to looking for one answer instead of innovative answers to real problems.
As many others have stated above, I would stress the social and emotional needs of the gifted students and drive home the importance of differentiation. While there are many things that we aren't able to help the kids with in the social and emotional category, there are many that ARE in our realm. And there are so many of these kids who just need someone to talk to about what is going on in their lives. Joella's story on page 93 is a classic case. A little bit of time and effort on the teacher's part made all the difference. Differentiation has been talked about more and more at my school lately, but I'm not sure all the teachers really get what that means. I think we need to talk about what it is and what it isn't. And the benefits for all students, not just the gifted kids or the special ed kids. If a teacher is truly differentiating, the rewards will be tremendous! As stated on page 101, every student is engaged in inquiry that is personally meaningful. What more could you want as an educator?
in response to oliverl, as a librarian, I completely and totally hate that we have beat them down, as you say, to finding one answer and not exploring. I get so frustrated when I see that happening and when kids aren't even the least bit interested in finding out more! Why is it so hard to go one step further?
In response to CStrickland and rcelibrarian - The "zone of proximal development" is the target. Or it should be. Keeping kids comfortable, but not really. Pushing them just a little beyond what they would normally do. These should be the things we are doing! And in so doing, we would keep them motivated.
I would have the tables discuss what differentiated instruction looks like to our special education students and then have a open discussion on applying that to our gifted and talented students. I think we need more training in the area of just how far to let the kids explore their interests, and what that might typically look like within the confines of a regular ed. classroom. I feel stress to keep up the pace on all my students and to make sure that we are doing what is expected of us that I am very leery of differentiated instruction for the many GT kids in my classroom. I love to have the kids explore their interests more- I just need to know more about what that might look like and still be ok with people observing my classroom.
The two sections that I would really like to touch on if I were to give a talk would be differentiating instruction and the politics of giftedness. On page 101, "Some teachers believe that they are challenging gifted students appropriately if they simple give them mroe work or "reward" them with enrichment activites after they have completed specific assignments required for all students." This is powerful, especially where it goes on to say the students are punished for being gifted. No wonder motivation is lacking. As a teacher, I would like more training in this area to avoid this problem. The second section on politics is striking because "some of the inequities in identifying gifted children come from over-reliance on achievement tests, which tend to favor economically advantaged children and those who test well." (Pg. 105). How sad!!!! I do thing we are better addressing this issue, but I know we need to change our perception as well as our parents' perception of what giftedness is.
In response to rcelibrarianI agree that for some GT students learning may come easily and when challenged they may shut down. Sometimes we forget that the GT student may struggle with new learning and we just go full steam ahead without monitoring his/her progress or understanding. I am a first grade teacher and this is my first year to have an identified GT student in my class…earlier in the nine weeks I was shocked to see the student crying because I had challenged him/her. I realized that I need to be aware and attentive of the student’s emotional needs and to be aware of the student’s “target heart rate” in order to keep him/her motivated.
I agree with K.Kavanagh's point that we should rethink the politics that goes with the inequalites in identifying gifted and talented students. I have nominated so many truly bright and gifted students in the past and they always seem to fall through the cracks. We need to rework the way we identify gifted and talented because I think many different minority groups are getting cheated from the experience.
CStrickland read my mind. If we are going to present at a faculty meeting we need to make all of the points here, but within the context of meeting the TEKS and moving forward from there. All it seems I hear is test, test, test, and to sell something new, I know that I would have to show first how it would help my kids make commended and then how it would help the GT students. Actually meeting GT needs are secondary.
In response to Katie KavanaghI totally agree that gifted students are being punished for being gifted. In many situations the GT student is overworked, not challenged and is often given the position of being teacher assistant. This goes back to the importance of differentiation for ALL students….finding that zone of proximal development. There is a grave misconception among parents at our school as to what constitutes giftedness. I am proud to say as a Title I school, our counselor has done a wonderful job reaching out and explaining to the parents and community what giftedness truly is.
I think that the passage on p. 99 "the number one school-related problem facing gifted children: lack of fit" explains the issue most succinctly to me and is what I would bring to my colleagues. That classroom instruction should challenge students in their "zone of proximal development" is essential to serving the needs of GT students. I think it is very important for students to learn perseverance in problem solving and intellectual discipline. This will not happen if the curriculum is not meaningful and challenging enough.
It is no secret that some of our students are unmotivated in regards to their learning and/or participating in school activities. Some of them seem to have a daily goal of keeping it from being a secret:) But, I wonder when exactly this began, and what caused the drying up of certain students’ motivation to learn. More importantly, what can we do to counteract this lack in motivation and improve student learning and academic success? Just a few ideas (from the perspective of a HS teacher):1. Could we exempt identified GT students from the TAKS or Study Hall Intervention period? It seems that these students would be better served in an Intervention class that allowed them to Independent Study, interact with other GT students, or receive awareness training/small groups session on S/E or N/N topics. I recognize that some of these students may not have performed well on some part of the TAKS, but research supports the negative effects this type of classroom experience can have on a GT student’s motivation and view of the “school” experience.2. I have no idea how to this will be received, but here it goes...we are provided with tons of quality professional development and quality resources, but no time to actually sit down and plan/create/prep lessons with them. We (teachers) are expected to do this on our own time (after countless other required non-instructional duties). I really feel like lesson prep/design/planning/customization is the Holy Grail in improving learning and student motivation. If teachers had SACRED time to sit down with other teachers and apply new instructional strategies/skills, the classroom learning experience could be elevated to immeasurable heights. That being said, is it not possible to have “practicum or lab type” professional development sessions? Sessions in which teachers could attend, receive PDLC credit, and apply skills learned in ActivBoard training or GT Training or SIOP training or “???? training” to create lessons/differentiation activities/lesson plans that they will use in their classrooms. The trade off could be that those who attend would have to submit lessons/activites/etc. to some kind of repository that would available to all educators in the district.
I would do a make and take on resources and ideas for differentiation. Our district does a wonderful job in testing the GT and sharing “what is giftedness”. I would use pages 101-103 as an introduction and guide to what differentiated instruction is. It would be my goal to focus more on the ease of differentiation their curriculum through menus that allow the students choice and challenge. I would want my teachers to walk out with a resource they could implement and use the very next day in their classroom.
I would begin with a paraphrase of p 101, paragraph 2. “When students are not learning, understanding and expanding key concepts at the level in which they are capable, motivation may decline.” All of us need a review of the rationale for differentiating instruction, as well as fresh ‘how to’s” for this purpose.I would also include the ‘mastery’ perspective, with options described on p 108 as ‘subject-specific acceleration in the student’s areas of talent, whole-grade acceleration, mentors, cross-grade classrooms, or a combination of these.”
Vygotsky's zone of proximal development has been the backbone of the elementary language arts curriculum here in SBISD since before I came to the district in 2001. My question to my elementary faculty would be: You know this. What is stopping you from implementing it for every child in your classroom?
If I were to present at a faculty meeting...I guess that I might want to discuss HOW to differentiate in the real world. I think that having a discussion between teachers that have a vast amount of experience and teachers that have recently graduated could result in some solutions. Then I would challenge the administrators to help make it happen. The teachers cannot do all that is required of them and differentiate (teach or offer multiple lessons in each class) without some sort of assistance.
"Differentiated instruction is good for all children because a differentiated curriculum ensures that each child, from those who are struggling to those who are advanced, is provided with learning challenges that stretch his abilities but do not overwhelm them."If I were to present to my faculty about "School Reasons for Loss of Motivation," I would focus on differentiated instruction. I think most teachers know that differentiated instruction is ideal, but they struggle with how to implement that in their classroom. Maybe the faculty could break up into small groups and share ways they have successfully differentiated or a speaker could come in and train the faculty or give them tips that relate to their subject area.
I'm with s. acevedo, wonderweiss, and cstrickland:It would be a hard sell to get our faculty's attention when there are so many other pressures (TAKS, TEKS, etc.) to deal with. That's why I believe that teachers need specific guidance on how to differentiate in their subject area. So many trainings are so general that it's hard for teachers to see how they can use what is taught in their classrooms. I love s. acevedo's idea of using meeting time to plan differentiated curriculum. We spend so much staff development time listening to great ideas, but it seems like we rarely have time to actually put what we know is good teaching into action.
I like sharon g.'s idea: "I would have the tables discuss what differentiated instruction looks like to our special education students and then have a open discussion on applying that to our gifted and talented students." So many of our teachers are more familiar with differentiation for sped kids than for G/T kids, so approaching it that way might help them to see the importance of differentiation.
What I would include in a faculty meeting would be the reasons that differentiated curriculum is so important for a GT student and more specifically what effective differentiation would really look like, with examples, for a GT child. It appears to me that many teachers truly believe that differentiation is giving the GT students more work in addition to the work already assigned to everyone. They don’t seem to see both the unfairness in this practice as well as how demoralizing and ineffective this practice can be for a GT child. Many times they don’t realize how “ not useful” and how truly boring it is for the GT child to first have to complete the work assigned to all students. Sometimes I feel that what supposedly intelligent teachers assign for GT students to complete is just truly “a crying shame” for these kids.
In responding to s acevedo’s comment regarding “practicum or lab type: professional development courses—I totally agree with her that there seems to be little time for teachers to apply new knowledge and develop curriculum based upon new learning and training. Her suggestion of needing professional development credit for time spent in planning new lessons and units of study is well stated. Teachers are currently given so much new information, processes, and procedures to acquire and implement. Therefore it seems appropriate that they be given professional growth time and credit for “sacred time” spent in applying new knowledge in developing new curricular strategies and lessons.
Responding to oliverl, I completely agree that our gifted students are losing the ability to think critically. We force them in to the box of doing well on TAKS and having to choose only one answer. They are so trained to look for the one answer and don't want to explore other ideas. Part of that stems from the expectation of school administrators who want to raise the level of commended scores. Spending time getting these kids perfect scores on a minimal skills test such as TAKS is a waste of their ability.
Re Kandel's fan responding to hassidg's comment about her class of 35 GT students in her class:I completely agree with the author of "The Secret of TSL" (eventhough I haven't read the book and I couldn't figure out how to underline the title in this box). This is a no-brainer. I have seen this repeatedly in mixed G/T/PreAP Chem classes, the smaller classes (smaller from the beginning of the semester because of scheduling issues) will have higher academic performance and fewer failures. When you start out with more than 28 in a class, you have a much higher percentage of students that fail/perform poorly. It never fails to happen.
Reading Kandel's fan comment regarding small groups, I thought about my activities in my own classroom. When we have labs, I am able to put students in small groups (usually 4 at a lab table) and then walk around and visit with each group separately as the lab progresses. It is at this time I am best able to get to know my students. Often I will be able to differentiate instruction in this situation because I am able to pose different questions to different groups or just to individual students, depending on their grasp of concepts, etc. This is one area where I can generate a lot of quality discussion and really assess each student's understanding and mastery.
I would talk about page 97: A rigid, unbending curriculum, with little or no differentiation for gifted learners. I have a big sign outside my classroom: Flexibility is the hallmark of a differentiated classroom. I say in my mind, Flexibility is a sign of mental health, as I challenge myself to go with the flow. We must be willing to plan something different this year, and create new opportunities.
Responding to S. Acevedo, who said:If teachers had SACRED time to sit down with other teachers and apply new instructional strategies/skills, the classroom learning experience could be elevated to immeasurable heights.Wow! What a great quote from you! Yes, I often am bewildered when my supplies come in after a couple of months of training. I might not have time to remember--what were these used for? I notice the same of other teachers. We go to the trainings. Talk that day. Then when the opportunity arises, we tend to do what we've always done. It takes going that extra mile...when it could be a planned event for all. A sacred time to apply new strategies and techniques would go hand in hand with us being accountable for the use of time and materials invested in us.
I like S Acevedo's ideas for planning time to really work on differentiation of instruction. I think that would be a great time to really explore Sharon G's query of just how far can you let the gt students go with their interests. I think the main thing that has to happen with professional development is follow-up. It does no good to just have a one-shot deal with no follow up. The impact is non-existent with that approach--and yet, that's the norm, unfortunately.
I agree with Angele Bressler when she responded to rcelibrarian that we need to find the balance between challenging our gift students and not creating to much stress that they may shutdown (target heart rate).
In responce to sasha luther, I would love to have more concrete ideas for differenciating instruction that I could take into the classroom today. This is my first year to have GT students in a Texas History class. It is exciting.
I believe that there are two issues that must be addressed. 1) Training teachers for social/emotional "special needs"- of GT students and not just picking on them since they might be very good at something2) creating a curriculum that will keep them engaged, / challenged enough to keep coming back for more, but also allow for some of the classmates to fill in knowledge gaps in certain areas of the class material.So many meetings around the lunch table are so derogatory about the GT student and how if they are as good as they think they are then they should be able to make a 100 on all items, and not need any assistance. If they are so good they should be able to sit and take notes for hours and not need anything else to motivate them. If they are so good ---- And by creating a curriculum that keeps them engaged enough in the class so they are learning something new every day you will keep raising the bar so that you have a successful program.
re: lguidry and class sizesI agree. When I have a class of students at 25 or lower I am able to work with them more individually and in small groups and higher success rate seems to develop. But when the group exceeds 30 in one of these pre-ap/gt mixes, more seem to fail out ( less than 70 for just the Pre-ap student) due to less time spent with them. And then the GT students start to drop out too if they have a failing grade instead of us all trying to find a solution to the problem and becoming a success in the class.
hassidg said... Schools are responsible for not adopting a "let the gifted fend for themselves" attitude: GTs need differentiation, which does not mean MORE work along the same lines. GTs need some of the empowerment that comes from choice and are capable of that choice. Groupwork is often motivating, so teachers must be prepared to tolerate positive noise, messy rooms...I really agree with this statement. You can't expect to teach these kids and think outside the box and have a quiet, orderly classroom! They need to be able to express themselves.
I would focus on what others have already said like the "zone of proximal development" but also for educators to pay attention to the needs that gifted children have since the goal is for them to excel and maintain their motivation as well. I wold emphazise for educators to remember that gifted does not always mean in everything because for teachers that have little knowledge on the characteristics of a gifted child may not completely recognize them since some like to "hide" in the classroom setting.
responding to Acevedo, I believe that sharing skills and knowledge in our teaching community is super important because sometimes colleagues can share an idea that might work for some of the children in our classrooms. Sometimes having a different point of view on something can help us think out of the box as well so having follow ups after trainings wouuld be a fabulous idea to help each other.
responding to Oliver, I completely agree that it is crucial for our children to know how to think critically, but the reality is that the pressure we have sometimes causes for some educators to teach the kids to be good at selecting answers but not really know how they got the answer and that definately needs to change.
In a faculty meeting I include the most important thing that we all know:Differentiating instruction " A differentiated classroom offers instructional choices based on each child readiness to learn, are of interest, and /or learning style" p. 100. We must must provide all our student GT and non GT with learning challenges so they can do.
If presenting at a faculty meeting with the topic of school reasons for loss of motivation I would include the following:1) divide the group into four groups (say one for each corner of the room)…in one corner group I would ask them to think of all the things they know about education of the past (the old school way of teaching) the second group would list where they think education is headed…or what works) …the third group would discuss differentiation (what it means…what works & what does not work) …the fourth group would tackle what they know about school reasons for the lack of motivation…and what they know about gifted students.2) After the reporting from the breakout sessions and filling in any gaps in learning (if need be) I would ask the faculty members to examine the meaning of the following quote, “Kids need to learn how to learn, and some schools aren’t teaching that anymore, And it’s the gifted children who suffer the most from this kind of constricted thinking. In their talent areas, they’re not so concerned with the right answer. They want to think. They want to examine all of the answers. They want to study widely and understand deeply. So in many cases they just don’t just fit in.” (Page 99)3) Lastly, they would get into teams (either subject or grade level) and discuss how the could use differentiation within their classroom using more complex challenges, pre-test out, greater depth, students choices in what and/or how they learn faster pace…just to name a few.. It seems that educators are hesitating to use differentiation in their classroom. 4) This is a brief overview…of course it would depend on the faculty…and how much chocolate I could provide.