Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Six Ways Teachers Can Meet Bright and Gifted Students' Needs in a Regular Class

I have a special place in my heart for bright and gifted kids. They have great potential to abet humankind but policies in many of today's elementary schools make it difficult to  provide them even with an appropriate-level education.

In a small attempt to help, I've created this seven-minute video of tips teachers can use to meet bright and gifted kids' needs in a regular class...without having to do undue additional work. It's below.

And below it, is an adaptation of the script. That's a bit more detailed and nuanced than would be appropriate for the video. 

As always, I welcome your comments.

Six Ways Teachers Can Better Meet Bright and Gifted Kids’ Needs

All children are entitled to an appropriate education, to not be bored too much of the time.

But in today's mixed-ability classes and with pressures to focus on low achievers, bright and gifted kids often get shortchanged.

And that's understandable. Perhaps you think they'll do okay without much attention. Alas, there are many brilliant failures. Perhaps you know one. And that's unfortunate because our bright and gifted kids are the most likely to cure our diseases, design helpful new products, and be wise corporate, non-profit, and government leaders. 

Here are six ways teachers can better meet bright and gifted kids’ needs in a regular class without incurring undue additional work.

1. Cluster group: You may be reluctant to divide your class into ability-based groups because of the extra work of creating a separate lesson for each group. But even if each group has the same lesson, a bright/gifted group discussing it among themselves can be more interesting and result in more learning. For example, if a class is discussing the causes of the Civil War, rather than forcing bright kids listen to lots of low-level comments, discussing it among themselves would likely be more interesting and engender more growth. A teacher might designate one student to lead each group’s discussion.

2. Encourage students to propose an alternate assignment. Invite bright and gifted kids (and perhaps others) to propose an alternate assignment they’d find more challenging and interesting. For example, if the standard homework assignment is to write a summary of a short story’s plot, a gifted child might propose, for example, writing a character’s backstory. With younger children, the teacher might well have to propose the alternate assignment.

3. Make gifted kids your assistant teacher…occasionally. Yes, a student reading on a fourth-grade level develops tolerance and patience by helping a slower child learn to read The Cat in the Hat but is thereby denied the right to learn new things. It’s usually best to have gifted students coach others on that which they themselves need solidifying. For example, if they’ve quickly learned how to estimate the probability of drawing a particular playing card in a poker hand, they could probably benefit by teaching that to a weaker student(s.)

4. Have gifted kids teach lessons to a group or even the entire class.  This goes a step beyond the previous tip. Teach one or more of your gifted kids how to teach a lesson. For example, you might teach them this model for teaching a new concept: 1. Explain why the concept is important.  2. Explain the new concept. 3. Give an example. 4. Walk the class through an example. 5. Have the class do an example on their own. 6. Give feedback on the example. 7. Summarize.  Using that model, have your "student teachers" teach a lesson to a group or even to the entire class.

5. Allow students to join a higher-grade’s class for one or more subjects.

6. Consider having a gifted child skip one or more grades. There's good evidence that acceleration can be of great value if the receiving teacher is welcoming of the idea and the child is capable and motivated, even if lacking in social skills. There’s just too great an advantage of being in a class in which much more of the instruction is appropriately leveled. Social deficits can be mitigated by pairing the child with a popular child in the higher grade. That child can teach the accelerating child the ropes, help her or him make friends, and the accelerating child starts out with the advantage of being associated with a popular child.

It makes me sad to see so many bright and gifted kids sit stultified for six hours a day, five days a week, for years. They deserve better and so does society.


Anonymous said...

What a cool animation? What did you use to create it?

A question: What do you do about grade skipping for gifted kids who are academically "ahead" but socially "behind?"
-Your Reader in PA

Marty Nemko said...

I created the text, did the voiceovers, and specified what I wanted drawn when. But I don't have the expertise to create the drawings and put the pieces together. So I hired I feel good about the job they did.

Marty Nemko said...

Re grade skipping, often it can be addressed through a combination of pairing the accelerated child with a popular child in the new class. Also, it helps to watch your child in action--for example, on the school yard or when a kid comes over and give in-the-moment feedback.

And of course, that probably is not a perfect solution. But for many although not all kids, it's better for them to struggle a bit socially than to be bored in school all the time. My bias is: When in doubt, try acceleration.

Dorothy Salmon said...

Very nice work Marty.. I would guess you and your beautiful wife have shared Sir Ken Robbinson videos in the past and yours is wonderful..

You go Marty!

Dorothy, one of your biggest fans!

Napa Community Network said...

Marty thanks for your contribution to making a difference for gifted kids. I would love to see a conversation among teachers as to their top ways to differentiate and keep it simple. Personally, I'm not a fan of tutoring as a core strategy -- but you explain in your extended script an appropriate context for it. Thanks again,
Debbie Alter-Starr