Welcome to a collection of thoughts, questions and interesting links relating to giftedness ..............
You may also like to check out my website where you will find more information for children, parents and teachers.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Programs for our Gifted?........ or for our Talented???

Just recently I was working in a regional area, speaking with parents and working with children. The same issues seem to arise regardless of whether I am in the city or in one of the regional or country towns I visit.

The question of whether a child will be, or should be, included in a pull-out opportunity run in the school invariably comes up in discussion.

Often the students who are selected for pull out programs or gifted extension opportunities are those who are achieving at a high level. These are talented students.

Students who have been identified as gifted but are not achieving to the level of their potential (who are by definition underachieving) are much less likely to be included in the same opportunities.

So are our gifted programs really for our gifted students or are they for our talented students?

More important than what might be right, is that we are clear about who we are making the opportunity available for. If we are actually catering for talented students, we should say so. If the opportunities are for gifted students, the type of programs that might be needed may well be different. These would likely include some students who were achieving at a high level, along with some whose potential had not been tapped as yet. These might be students who don’t put a lot on paper, whose skills are in areas that see less opportunity day to day in the regular classroom. It might include children who were still learning how to make good decisions or to choose between the multitudes of ideas or options they could envisage, or who were hands on, problem based learners.

The programs schools run often have to be developed within constraints or staffing availability or expertise. But I think it is important that even with these constraints that schools are clear in their own minds about who they are offering opportunities to. Calling it a ‘gifted program’ but only including high achievers is bound to leave both parents and gifted (but not high achieving) students somewhat disillusioned. Programs for ‘gifted’ students should include those identified but not yet achieving highly. It should also offer opportunities to gifted students with learning difficulties (twice exceptional students). But not necessarily for all these students at the same time, in the same group.

Offering a selection of programs for gifted students with strengths in non verbal domains, as well as for those with strengths in verbal and written domains will ensure that both the gifted and the talented have a chance to access opportunities to extend and enrich their learning.

Without the opportunity it is be much harder to become talented……

Friday, August 27, 2010

The problem of handwriting

One of the most common reasons that parents report for their identified gifted (often highly gifted) child not being included in extension groups running at school is that their writing is not good enough / neat enough / fast enough………

While I may not advocate for including a child in a pull out writing group if they were not a ‘writer’ or didn’t at least like writing, excluding a child because their handwriting is considered poor (often meaning it is not at the level of their verbal interactions or their measured potential) may be keeping the child from an opportunity that they really would benefit from.

Of course, it may not be quite so convenient to have a student or students who don’t write with ease in this sort of group. But there are a number of ways to support them in their writing, perhaps by allowing them to type their work or to record their work for later transcription. This then allows them to work on refining their ideas, developing their writing skills without the constraint of slow or poor writing.

For young children who are just beginning to write, including them in a group where others are already writing and where they can see writing has a purpose (beyond completing pages of hand writing practice) can make all the difference.

If a child had physical disability that impacted on their writing, we would be quick to make sure they had the chance to access opportunities to develop their potential. If they are gifted but don’t write neatly, less often do parents report that supports are put in place…… No doubt that is frustrating for everyone.

Friday, August 20, 2010


I thought this quote may ring true for some people

The fact that students differ may be inconvenient, but it is inescapable. Adapting to that diversity is the inevitable price of productivity, high standards, and fairness to kids. Theodore Sizer

Monday, August 16, 2010

Many ways to be gifted

Recently my father in law passed away. Max was a rare man of many talents. He grew up and was educated in a small country school. His hand writing was pretty difficult to read, his spelling wasn’t great and I am pretty sure his school reports weren’t glowing with regards to his academic aptitude. Max left High school at 16 and being good with his hands, started a carpentry apprenticeship.

Max was inquisitive and went on to be highly successful, developing a wide array of skills, earning a long list of awards and accolades and making discoveries that changed our history books. By any measure he was a very smart and successful man.

But how was this if he didn’t shine at school?

Smart comes in many guises.

By practical application of his ability to look afresh at things and see the connections between ideas, Max was a discoverer and one who earned public recognition. At one point I recent times his business card declared him to be an ‘adventurer’.

He was the first man to dive on the ship wreck of the Batavia which had lain for 334 years below the sea off the Western Australian coast. By setting aside assumptions and looking with fresh eyes at the information available and then applying the information in a practical way to the world he realised that others were looking in the wrong place. (see Islands of Angry Ghosts by Hugh Edwards for more of that story).

With the same sort of thinking he co-led a small expedition to Dirk Hartog Island in January 1998 which located the French coin left by the French in 1772 along with the proclamation of possession of WA by the French. He found the information he needed to pinpoint the search location in a child’s book in the local library and the team had picked up the artifact containing the coin within 20 minutes of beginning their search. (The Museum with much greater resources had made a number of unsuccessful expeditions prior to his search).

The fresh and creative way he looked at every day problems and nutted out solutions was a real talent. Perseverance and the willingness to research thoroughly was a skill he cultivated especially when some projects extended over many years. The wisdom to know when to ignore expectations was perhaps also a valuable skill. Max was still working on some projects, in one case pursuing a theory he felt strongly convinced of, although it was contrary to popular opinion. Time will tell on that project.

Robert Sternberg’s view is that giftedness requires more than just high IQ. That Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity and the synthesis of these traits (he refers to it as WICS) are needed. He refers to this as Applied Intelligence and his research has shown that students with this range of characteristics do far better in College than those who gain entry on IQ alone.

I would be guessing but it is quite likely that they also fare better in real life.

If you would like to find out more about the adventures of Max, you might enjoy his biography Treasures, Tragedies and Triumphs of the Batavia Coast by Max Cramer (available in some libraries and various places in and around Geraldton)

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