Monday, March 14, 2016

The Importance of Gifted Education

What is gifted education and why is it important? The state of Illinois's definition of Giftedness reads: "gifted and talented children" means children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with other children and youth of their age, experience, and environment. A child shall be considered gifted and talented in any area of aptitude, and specifically, in language arts and mathematics, by scoring in the top 5% locally in that area of aptitude.

There are several myths about gifted children, but one that particularly stands out in my mind is: Gifted children don't need help, they'll do fine on their own. The National Association for Gifted Children put this myth in perspective by stating: "Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach?" Teachers must play a crucial role in developing gifted students' abilities in order to help them reach their full potential. Not receiving the attention they need, can be detrimental to their learning. Gifted children can suffer from low achievement, boredom, frustration, and much more if they are not given the opportunity to prosper.

Gifted Specialists in our district are constantly looking and researching ways to extend and expand students' thinking. Below are some ways I assist teachers with differentiation for the gifted learners in their mainstream classroom.

Mrs. White (3rd grade teacher) and I spend a lot of time collaborating and planning for guided math. I push into her classroom during guided math to work with the gifted students at the independent station. Most gifted students usually grasp concepts quickly, but I find it is difficult for them to explain their thinking. In guided math, one thing I offer students is the opportunity to answer higher level journal prompts where they have to explain their thinking and reasoning.

I also have the opportunity to meet with the gifted students in Mrs. White's class to challenge them in reading. The past few weeks the students have been working on an analytical reading of a non-fiction story from the Jacob's Ladder comprehension program. As a group we read and analyzed the story four different times, but each time for a different purpose. Currently, the students are working on answering the Jacob's Ladder questions that pertain to the story. These questions involve higher order thinking skills.

The fourth grade teachers and I collaborate on ways to reach the needs of their gifted learners. One way I do this is by creating a choice board for the gifted students to complete when they finish their assigned math work. The choice boards include short projects, problem solving questions, logic problems, and challenging games.

I also am able to pull out my 4th grade math students three times a week. The past few weeks they have been working on a bakery fraction project (Teachers Pay Teachers) that includes a deeper understanding of the current skills they are working on in class, in addition to a few new concepts!

I push into Ms. Watz's 6th grade class each day for vocabulary building with the gifted students. I work with the students in a small group using Caesar's English I. The program gives the students a better understanding of the English language and how words have evolved. The students read the lesson and are assigned to fill out vocabulary webs (that I received from another Gifted Specialist) to dissect all parts of each word. Within the book there are lessons for the students to complete that involve synonyms, antonyms, analyzing vocabulary words in sentences from famous novels, and much more!

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