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Because most gifted programs require a teacher with a master's degree, student teachers are not often seen in a gifted classroom or aware of how to get a G/T degree.
As schools evaluate their declining budgets, some gifted programs are getting decreased during the course day and regular classroom teachers are becoming responsible for gifted programming through inclusion. It is increasingly important that student teachers are involved in gifted classrooms with experienced gifted education teachers.
Observing and Student Teaching in Gifted Classrooms
Unless a teacher was in a gifted education program in school, many teachers do not have an awareness of gifted programs. It is important that pre-service teachers are exposed to gifted students in the regular classroom and the gifted classroom so that they can see what gifted education is all about, and how distinctively different gifted students become when they are separated into a group of similar-ability peers.
Even if a person is going to teach right out of college (and gifted jobs are rare), student teaching in a gifted classroom prepares pre-service teachers for working with gifted students in the regular classroom, as well offering preparation for teaching advanced level and advanced placement classes.
When pre-service teachers are getting their assignments for student teaching, they should request some observation hours with the gifted education program. Observation students and student teachers should go to pull-out programs and see how those programs function, with the delicate and intricate balancing act of scheduling. They should see full day programs, where available, and see how one-hour elective programs work.
Requirements for Teaching Gifted Education
States vary on their requirements for teaching gifted ed, but it is a safe bet to say that a teacher needs more than the 3 hour undergraduate class on exceptional students. Most states require work beyond a bachelor's degree, and there are many master's and doctoral programs for people who want to become trained teachers working with gifted students.
Online Courses for Gifted Education
It is possible to get a Master's degree in teaching gifted students by working through online degree programs. It is important to look at the quality and reputation of the school; all-online schools do not seem to carry the weight of a brick-and-mortar university that also happens to offer online courses.
The University of Connecticut offers an online Master's class in gifted ed; the classes could be used as part of an independent study course at another university, or students can travel to Connecticut for the two week Confratute workshop and complete other classes online. The University of Connecticut's program is well-known and well-respected among gifted educators, because UConn is the home of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
The quality of gifted programs depend significantly on the quality of the teachers. If pre-service teachers are exposed to gifted classrooms, they can begin teaching in regular classrooms and learn more about gifted students as they work with them. Then, they can teach in their assigned classes and complete master's work, possibly through online classes, and continue to help build a field that is so important to the children and parents that are served by gifted education programs.
Originally posted on Suite101 on March 2nd, 2009
It is exciting to find a book that lends itself to creative thinking, simple research, and logical reasoning. This picture book allows students to think and create.
Enrichment teachers know the value of a well-timed picture book. Many gifted students read early, so they move on to chapter books quickly and miss a lot of the fun art of picture books. Also, picture books allow the whole class to enjoy a story and art together. The best picture books allow a class to go beyond the covers and create something new, and Roger McGough's Until I Met Dudley does just that.
A Summary of Until I Met Dudley
McGough's book is written in a pattern students will quickly pick up on. The innocent narrator offers an imaginative explanation for a common household appliance, and then Dudley offers a technical explanation on the following pages. Because the art is done by the legendary Chris Riddell, it is both playful and precise. When the narrator details how cats lick dishes clean inside a dishwasher, the art is fun and detailed. When Dudley explains how a dishwasher actually works, the art is technical with bright, happy lines.
Using Until I Met Dudley to Encourage Creative Thinking
After students have seen and heard Until I Met Dudley, many of them will want to make their own similar stories. This is the perfect chance for teachers to develop creative thinking skills. Instruct students to fluently list mechanical objects that they want to learn more about, and then have them come up with a creative explanation of how it works. It is important that teachers allow students a wide range of possible springboards. Many students will choose musical instruments and toys, which is fine. Although everything in the book plugs in, the objects students choose do not need to be limited to electrical appliances.
Students should sketch out a picture of the creative explanation, and then then write a short narrative (about a paragraph, like the book) to connect the picture to the back story.
Using Until I Met Dudley to Encourage Simple Research
Once students have created the creative explanation, it is time to research the real explanation. Even if students think they know how, teachers should insist they look up the technical points because Until I Met Dudley is a very precise book and students will need to echo that exactness. The book The Way Things Work by David Macaulay and the website for How Stuff Works is an excellent resource for students.
After students have learned the actual workings of the object, they need to create a detailed diagram and explain how it works, again writing a short paragraph that echoes Dudley's style of explaining.
How Until I Met Dudley Encourages Logical ReasoningIn both the creative and the logical explanations, students need to present a logical flow of cause and effect to show how something works. The book is so thorough that students will find themselves developing logical skills simply through the art of creating and discussing diagrams.
Teachers should allow at least four hours for this activity, depending on what research resources are available. Binding the pages to create a class version of Until I Met Dudley will tie the whole thing together and offer something to share with parents as they are learning more about the enrichment program and demonstrating how students think, create, and learn individually.
Until I Met Dudley: How Everyday Things Really Work (ISBN: 0711211299) was published by Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd in 1999 and is still readily available. It was written by Roger McGough and illustrated by Chris Riddell.
Originally posted on Suite101 on June 23rd, 2009
Gifted students love words and laughter; one of the hallmarks of a gifted child is a clever sense of humor. Kids can create Mad Lib games online.
Mad Libs are one of the great gifts to offer an enrichment classroom, because they are fun 5-minute activities that help build language arts and collaboration skills. Mad Libs are especially fun for gifted students, because they enjoy using a wide vocabulary and have strong prediction skills.
Wacky Web Tales: Online Mad Libs
One of the most fun and interesting Mad Libs sites is Education Place. Their Wacky Web Tales are listed for kids in grade three and above, but younger gifted kids would enjoy using them, especially if teachers or stronger readers helped them understand some of the finer grammar terms.
Wacky Web Tales has a large and growing collection of tales of a variety of sizes. Some of them are well-suited for holiday use. In order to use them, students need to understand grammar terms such as adjective, verb, and pronoun.
To use the site, students:
Because Education Place is sponsored by textbook manufacturer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, all of the Wacky Web Mad Libs are school and age appropriate, although students can quickly make them inappropriate by adding non-school sanctioned language. It is important that teachers supervise what students are typing.
Creating Mad Libs for a Friend Online
Older students who are comfortable using email will enjoy Iwiletter's MadLetter , which gives students detailed, step-by-step instructions on creating a MadLetter to send to a friend. Students can create the categories for the Mad Lib-type letters and email the letter to a friend. Creating the letters requires some time for typing; many students will use the bracket key for the first time.
Additional Uses for MadLetter
Teachers can create Mad Libs to email to their students using MadLetter, which could be a fun way to enhance a unit of study or keep in touch over breaks, and students can make MadLetters to email their parents.
After a Madletter is sent in email, the friend can quickly access it and answer it. There are pre-written letters on the site, but they are designed for general use, not school use. Teachers should encourage students to use MadLetter to create their own Mad Libs to share with a friend, and use Wacky Web Tales for pre-designed Mad Libs.
Because gifted students have a desire to create, enjoy word-play, and have expansive vocabularies, Mad Lib type activities are the perfect way to play and learn. If teachers want to offer pre-made, school-appropriate Mad Lib experiences, the online collection at Wacky Web Tales is perfect. When students are ready to create their own Mad Libs to share with a friend, Iwiletter's MadLetter is the perfect tool.
Originally posted on Suite101 on April 2nd, 2009
In 1882, Oscar Wilde toured America. One story from his journey indicates that the flippant 19th century superstar had more than one modern view of the world.
The typical education of Oscar Wilde sums up so succinctly that the Power Point writes itself: “Irish Childhood”, “Literary Genius”, “Victorian Celebrity”, “Scandal”, “Trial”, “Hard Labor”, “Penniless Death”. Wilde's story is well-known, well-hashed, and well-mourned. Even he wrote, in his haunting apology, De Profundis, “ I had disgraced [my family's name] eternally. I had made it a low by-word among low people...The gods had given me almost everything. But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease.” Oscar Wilde insights of himself make an excellent summary of what students learn about the great playwright.
Wilde in America
In 1882, The New York Times reported updates on Wilde's lectures of America. Much like David Sedaris today, Wilde had standing room only when he gave readings and spoke at universities. The Times records the typical reaction of fans meeting a beloved celebrity, noting disdainfully that“students frequently applauded passages which required no notice whatsoever.” Wilde focused his speech on the importance of incorporating nature and beauty into art, saying, “there is nothing in flowers or foliage too humble or insignificant.” The article, “ Oscar Wilde in New Haven ”, reads like a Victorian TMZ.com, and the series following Wilde provides fascinating reading for his fanbase of today.
Wilde in the American South
On July 9, 1882, The New York Times picked up a news story originally published by Georgia's Atlanta Constitution. The original article, “ Oscar Wilde and his Negro Valet ”, shows the casual language that modern readers, of course, find shockingly racist, and the story is easily retold in today's conventionally acceptable terms of conversation.
Wilde's agent purchased three first class tickets and three sleeping car tickets for a train from Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia. When Mr. Thweatt, an employee of the train, discovered that one set of tickets was to be used by Wilde's black servant, he offered to refund the ticket. The New York Times states that, “Mr. Wilde and his servant both declined to change the programme they had marked out.” Later, Wilde objected to Mr. Thweatt's interference and “persisted” in allowing his servant to enjoy first class seating.
The story does not have an especially admirable ending; there is certainly no remarkable Rosa Parks moment. The porter of the train appears and warns of a threatening “mob” that will gather when the train reaches Jonesboro, and Mr. Wilde and his servant unhappily relented and exchanged the ticket. There is far more to Oscar Wilde's sense of loyalty than readers generally learn from a quick introduction in an English anthology, and perhaps history owes Wilde a bit more than a reputation for clever wording and scandalous trials.
Originally posted on Suite101 on July 16th, 2008
Just as the Emmys give Hollywood a chance to honor their own, public school employees have AEW as a chance to recognize all hard-working public school employees.
NEA, the National Education Association, encourages schools and communities to set aside one week in November to honor the people who make schools run smoothly. One way to increase a sense of appreciation within the public schools is to have students recognize the importance of the cogs in the wheel.
A Week of Celebration
By breaking up the celebrations into moments across the week, students will have the benefits of thanking those who serve them without a loss of instructional time. Schools can divide up the week so that each day highlights a special contribution or a special group.
Some of the groups to be honored include: school board members, administrators, teachers, librarians, counselors, parents, substitutes, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and staff members. There are more groups to recognize than days of the week, so some clever scheduling is required.
Honoring School Board Members and Administrators
Most districts have more schools than school board members, so including school board members in daily activities seamlessly integrates them into American Education Week. For example, a school board member could lead the Pledge of Allegiance at a different school every day, and eat school lunch in the cafeteria of different schools each day.
At the board building level and the school building level, administrators deserve recognition and appreciation. Rather than ask the PTA to spend money on mugs or other token gifts, thank you notes from parents, teachers, and students are meaningful gifts that will be truly appreciated. Asking students to write one idea or fact that was learned in school and one activity or event that was enjoyed in school will help administrators see that they are, in fact, succeeding with every child.
Faculty and Staff Appreciation
Having students write letters to teachers from previous years is a fun way to help teachers feel appreciated. A happy voice from the past is always welcome. Supply donations are a useful way to recognize the importance of teachers and their classroom needs. It is important to remember special service teachers, such as speech path teachers, because they greatly impact education.
All staff members, from the friendly face in the office to the bus driver who waves goodbye at the end of the day, deserve recognition and appreciation. Thank you notes are appreciated by everyone, and specifically mentioning how that person's job contributes makes the message personal and touching. School office staff and cafeteria staff are often responsible for decorating their areas for the holidays, so some holiday decorations might be useful.
Students Need Appreciation, TooIt is important to include students as a group needing appreciation, and they are an easy group to thank because students are generally very willing to share ideas of how to add some magic to the school days. Having a school game hour or a movie during lunch adds fun without taking too much time away from instruction.
Because American Education Week was originally organized by the teacher's union, it makes sense that it is a resource for all participants, whether they are union members or not. The NEA has a long list of suggestions, from "cutesy" ideas of giving ice cream bars to people with the message "you're cool" to more involved community ideas in a week of grateful living.
Originally posted on Suite101 on September 30th, 2008
Most parents want to be supportive participants in their children's classes, but they want the classroom teacher to provide opportunities to be involved.
Teachers who involve parents in their class activities will find that they have increased parent support at home, because parents have a deeper understanding of what their children are experiencing in the classroom. According to researchers Kathleen Cotton and Karen Reed Wikelund, "the more intensively parents are involved in their children's learning, the more beneficial are the achievement effects. This holds true for all types of parent involvement in children's learning and for all types and ages of students." Even as students get older, teachers can find meaningful ways for parents to be involved in their classes.
Parents of Upper-Grade Children
In early elementary, parent volunteers are eager and plentiful. As students get older, parents often become less involved. Perhaps they have younger children in other classes, perhaps their children are less enthusiastic about seeing their parents at school, and perhaps schools offer fewer opportunities to be involved in school. Teachers can create a parent community in upper-grades by reaching parents in new ways and involving them in the classroom on different levels.
Depending on a tween to bring home letters to parents is risky if the child is reluctant to have his or her parents in the classroom. Mailing newsletters, updating classroom websites, and using email lists are excellent ways to "eliminate the middleman" and reach parents directly. Due to budget restrictions, some districts may be reluctant to have mass mailouts, but teachers can often include newsletters with grade-check mailouts or other school handouts.
Many schools have webspace available for teachers, but if that is not an option, there are free internet resources for teachers. Many of the blog-hosting sites are free, and a blog is an easy way to update parents on classroom needs and opportunities. Blogger.com and Wordpress.com are free, popular, and easy to use. For a more comprehensive page, education World also offers a list of free websites that allow teachers to create homepages for their classrooms.
Beyond Field Trips and Class Parties
Putting all these well-intentioned parents to use is easy with a little brainstorming. Many parents enjoy helping with classroom displays, decorating desks, creating bulletin boards, and hanging up work samples and student art. This gives them a chance to be in the classroom and enjoy the atmosphere without having to be in charge of any children. Parents also like coming up and reading with students, guest speaking, and helping make class run more smoothly. If teachers are playing games to prepare for a big test, parents can come help monitor activities and be leaders. Teachers can also depend on parents to help judge classroom contests, be an audience for students presentations, and take pictures of classroom activities in action.
Everyone wins when parents increase involvement in the classroom. Students who see their parents and teachers working together and feeling supported will realize that classrooms are communities that extend beyond school boundaries.
Originally posted Suite101 on September 4th, 2008
Students who leave the regular classroom for gifted classroom often discover they are in a distinctly different learning environment.
Creating and maintaining a positive learning environment in the gifted classroom is essential for student success. Gifted classrooms are often a haven for g/t kids; they are able to reveal sides of their personalities in the increased comfort that is borne of being in a homogeneous group. However, the group is only homogeneous to a degree, and soon conflicts abound. It is important to establish rules and visit them frequently, as new students are often identified and placed mid-year.
Developing Classroom Rules With Student Input
Because many gifted students stay with the same teacher for several years, it is to the students' benefit if the teacher makes broad rules that can be adjusted as time goes by. Some teachers like to involve students in creating classroom rules, but because gifted education involves frequent additions after the start of school, it seems unfair to create rules without some of the participants. It may be better to have student input on procedures related to rules, and revisit those procedures on a regular basis. For example, if one rule is that students must bring supplies to class, the class may vote on procedures to deal with students that do not bring supplies. Should the students bring extra supplies to loan out to one another? Should the empty-handed student have to return to his or her locker to get supplies?
Developing Classroom Rules Without Student Input
Having rules established when students walk in, and posting rules on the wall, helps establish boundaries for students. The rules of the gifted classroom can be discussed with parents during placement into the program. To create rules, the teacher should consider the duration of the program and activities in the classroom.
Duration Impacts Classroom Rules
If students are coming to a pull-out classroom once or twice a week, the classroom rules need to be easy to remember. A lot of rules will lead to a lot of overwhelmed students. If they are allowed to use their pencils in their other classes but only pens in the gifted classroom, the teacher should have a supply of pens. It is not easy for children to remember rules of a class they attend infrequently. Classes that meet daily are able to have more rules, but again, any rules that are atypical for the student's general experience should be highlighted on a regular basis.
Activities Impact Classroom Rules
Preserving student safety and teacher sanity should be the primary goal of rules. If students are not safe, they will not learn. If teachers are uncomfortable with the amount of movement and noise in a room, the quality of their teaching may reflect their discomfort. It is best to have a rules that everyone can understand and follow. Rules should be given with situations and procedures to help students understand the how to follow the rule.
Gifted classrooms have more flexibility than regular classrooms, but students need rules to take advantage of the opportunities a flexible classroom offers. A supportive classroom has boundaries, and boundaries designed with g/t kids in mind will actually increase the sense of flexibility in the classroom.
Originally posted on Suite101 on September 5th, 2008
Reading two books, giving kids notebooks, and providing photos and art supplies will help make a follow-up activities that are worthy of putting in a museum!
Going to a museum can be more meaningful and impacting if kids know what they will be doing with all the visual information they soak up. Gifted kids are usually great with museums. They read all the display cards, they study the exhibits, and without guidance, they end up exhausted and overloaded with information.
Books to Read Before Going to the Museum
Three books really set kids up to do great work upon returning from a museum. They help prepare kids for what to pay attention to at the museum, what details to look for, and what to create upon the return to the gifted classroom.
Using The Night at the Museum for Creative Writing
Students will already be familiar with the movie adaptations of Night at the Museum, which lends itself nicely to a museum scavenger hunt. The book is different than the museum. The characters not as developed, and the picture book is actually a mystery that the night guard, Larry, must solve: what happens to the dinosaurs.
The follow- up activity for this book will be for students to create their own Night at the Museum story based on exhibits at their museum. After reading the short picture book, instruct students:
Using When Pigasso Met Mootise for Replacement Art and Creative Writing
Two animals, a pig who creates brilliant, abstract art and a cow who splashes color across inventive lines, become competitive friends in Nina Laden's beautiful story about the real life friendship and tribulations of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. The art is based on actual Picasso and Matisse paintings, but the humans of the originals have been replaced by animals.
The follow-up activity for this book will be for students to recreate art with something else in the place of people (or the reverse), so students should be prepare to find pictures that lend themselves to being redrawn. Instruct students to:
Back in the Classroom
Although students will be tempted to make their own picture books, that is an activity that really depends on available work time and student ability. Gifted kids like to get immersed in projects, so creating books could become an option for free-choice centers after the original class books are made. The goal of the projects is to start with picture books, go to a museum, and create something new that can be shared in the classroom.
If students are able to bring cameras, remind them to take pictures with the flash off. Otherwise, they can usually print out displays from the museum website or they can even draw pictures. If students are not able to go on the field trip, the Museum of Modern Art in New York has a lovely virtual museum with a lot of odd and beautiful works, including the art from When Pigasso Met Mootise, online for exploration.
The Night at the Museum (0764136313) by Milan Trenc was published by Barron's Educational Series in November, 2006.
When Pigasso Met Mootise (0811811212) by Nina Laden was published by Chronicle Books in July, 1998.
Originally posted on Suite101 July 7th, 2009
Helping gifted and talented students choose appropriate reading materials is a tricky road; gifted children tend to read voraciously and at high levels.
These reading habits are understandable characteristics of giftedness; gifted children are cognitively more developed than is normally expected. However, gifted readers need guidance in book selection. A child reading at a college level is not necessarily ready for college material. Just because a ten year old can comprehend Anne Rice's writing does not mean that a ten year old is ready to meet the Vampire Lestat.
This, then, becomes the difficulty for parents. Students of all reading abilities tend to enjoy books about people slightly older than they are, so a ten year old will relate to and be interested in books about thirteen year olds more than books about twenty year olds. Finding books written at a high interest high ability level requires time and work.
Choosing BooksDoing an advanced book search at Amazon.com and highlighting the appropriate age range is one tool. Amazon also provides book reviews, and reading those reviews is an excellent start. The reviews are usually written by adults, but sometimes there are child reviews. If there are no child reviews, beware: this is not a book for children.
Sorting through reviews can be time consuming, and teen readers can finish books and return them to the public library before their parents see them. Reading the back of the book or the book jacket yields a lot of information, as does flipping through. However, the best approach is just to ask your child one question, “If this book was a movie, what would you rate it?”
Whatever the answer – even the safe “G” rating – should be followed up with discussion. This widens those narrowing lines of communication, gives parents insight into their children, and helps promote communication skills in general.
High Ability ReadersJust because a child is involved in a higher-level book does not mean it should be taken away, of course. Knowing that a child is reading a book with death, violence, or illicit activities means that parents need to read the book, too. If that is not possible – and it often is not – parents need to open the door for conversations. Children may leave books with inaccurate perceptions, and it is not unheard of for children to have nightmares from the frightening book they fell asleep reading.
Sometimes gifted children need to hear, “We'll put this book up until your life experience catches up to your reading level.” When parents say that, they need to drive directly to the library or bookstore and find a book that is of the appropriate interest level. Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series is more a more appropriate vampire series than Interview with a Vampire or Dracula.
Parents as ReadersParents should not discount non-fiction as a reading choice. Adults have a blend of non-fiction and fiction reading; children tend to read non-fiction books as assignments and fiction as free choice reading. Parents may want to share their own reading choices, not as material to be read, but as examples of genre. If parents are reading National Geographic, then National Geographic Kids is an obvious connection for children. Teachers can use parent newsletters to help keep parents up to date on books.
Often non-fiction, especially historical readings, are often as fascinating as historical fiction without the elevated drama that requires some life experience to appreciate. Helping gifted children pick out appropriate reading materials helps keep them in common experience with their peers and helps preserve childhood a little longer, which are admirable goals in themselves.
Originally posted on Suite101 on July 15th, 2008
Ally Sharp is a teacher, writer and editor, and technology trainer.