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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Fable

I came across this quote recently and it reminded me of this Fable about an animal school.

One time the animals had a school. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying and swimming, and all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was good in swimming, better than his instructor, and he made passing grades in flying, but was practically hopeless in running. He was made to stay after school and drop his swimming class in order to practice running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming. But, average is acceptable, so nobody worried about that but the duck.

The eagle was considered a problem pupil and was disciplined severely. He beat all the others to the top of the tree in the climbing class, but he had used his own way of getting there.

The rabbit started out at the top of his class in running, but had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school on account of so much make-up work in swimming.

The squirrel led the climbing class, but his flying teacher made him start his flying lessons from the ground instead of the top of the tree, and he developed charley horses from overexertion at the take off and began getting C's in climbing and D's in running.

The practical prairie dogs apprenticed their off-springs to a badger when the school authorities refused to add digging to the curriculum.

At the end of the year, an eel that could swim well, run, climb, and fly a little was made valedictorian.

This Fable appeared in The Instructor  in April 1968, I downloaded a copy some years ago but you can still find it online here

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Why must studying history involve remembering a procession of dates, they are numbers and they all look the same and is it really important to remember that something happened on a certain date rather than what it happened before and after?
My daughter posted this comment on Facebook recently as she was studying for a history ‘interrogation’ on European History, in Italian. In the typical fashion of a visual learner, history as a subject at school is not her strong suit, she loves the stories but finds the details difficult.

It occurred to me that history is recalled in one of two (or perhaps more) ways. For some people the dates matter, they provide a structure to order things by. For others it is the sequence, not the actual dates, which matters. These people are the storytellers. Time may be a fluid concept for them but the details of the stories are readily remembered, one leading to the next.

For generations storytelling was the way that wisdom, life lessons and history was passed from one generation to the next. In some cultures this continues today. School based education tends to focus on the details; remembering the dates and being able to recall them often takes a higher priority (and value) than ‘the story’. Will the push to ‘educate’ children in indigenous cultures where storytelling and the traditional culture is strong make their life ‘better’? *

Storytelling also provides an avenue for linking events in ways other than a strictly time sequenced order, for seeing the bigger picture. At a time when information can be accessed almost instantly, my feeling is that seeing the bigger picture and drawing the details and messagge together may be of more value in the long term. Which come to think of it, is a theme which also pops up in Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World. 

*To see more on this idea visit Schooling the World

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

They need Different Work, not MOTS (More Of The Same)

'Terrific, well done. As your reward for finishing fast, here is another worksheet'

I have spoken to young children who have told me they had realised that getting 19 or 20 out of 20 in maths meant more maths, actually not just more maths but 'more of the same maths', so they made sure they scored highly enough to keep everyone happy, but not highly enough to be rewarded with another worksheet. They figure if they can already do it, why do they need more practice? They have a point.

I have also spoken to many gifted children who love the challenge of difficult work, but who are frustrated by having to show they can do the easy stuff first. By the time they get to the more challenging material, they are not so enthusiastic any more, their brain has wandered to more engaging past times. And I have seen many gifted children who make careless mistakes on easy tasks which don't demand their full attention, only to find that their results mean they are not offered the more challenging material which would really make their eyes shine.
Sometimes a teacher will take to heart requests from parents for something that challenges their child and provide something more difficult. For Homework. Which still usually means the child does what the rest of the class is doing and then they take the hard stuff home to do.

There is no surer way to turn off the passion for learning than rewarding completion of an easy task with more work, especially if the other children (who probably have more need for the practice) are not also going to be doing this 'more' work.

A fundamental characteristic of giftedness is the ease and speed of learning. Even moderately gifted children learn at 2 or 3 times the pace of more average ability students. For highly gifted and beyond it can me 4 times the pace (or up to 8 times the pace of the weakest students). This means they need less practice. It means they need to move on to new material more quickly. Research has shown that their learning is improved by working at this faster pace*.

There is no doubt that parents are excellent teachers; their children learned many things from them before they began school. However, if children are at school to learn, then bringing home new material to learn and master as homework while still working through regular class material at school suggests some further discussion about giftedness might be needed and that parents may have another opportunity to take the role of leading learning, this time with their child's teachers.

It is important that every child works at a level appropriate to their learning needs. The gifted are no exception. The key difference is that their needs are unlikely to be the same as the bulk of the class. Completing the easy stuff before they have a chance to work at the appropriate level isn't something we would ask all children to do. For gifted students it just doesn't make sense. In fact it doesn't make sense for any student.

 *The excerpt below is from Karen Rogers's Research Synthesis on Gifted Provisions
Research on Instructional Delivery: Pacing, Process Modifications
  • The learning rate of children above 130 IQ is approximately 8 times faster than for children below 70 IQ
  • Gifted students are significantly more likely to retain science and mathematics content accurately when taught 2-3 times faster than "normal" class pace.
  • Gifted students are significantly more likely to forget or mislearn science and mathematics content when they must drill and review it more than 2-3 times

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