Welcome to a collection of thoughts, questions and interesting links relating to giftedness ..............
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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Surviving and Thriving at Work Home and School

Thriving is a little more complicated than surviving isn't it? Knowing what makes the difference so you can get the best results via the shortest route can really make a difference especially when life is busy and the demands of a household with the added intensity of giftedness is added on top.

While I was sorting out my books for the Book Sale recently I found one I had forgotten about. It is a great book with lots of information about making the most of what we have got, called Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work School and Home by John Medina.

His short list of the 12 Rules he believes we all should know are

EXERCISE Rule #1 – Exercise boosts brain power

SURVIVAL Rule #2 – The human brain evolved, too.

WIRING Rule #3 – Every brain is wired differently

ATTENTION Rule #4 – We don’t pay attention to boring things

SHORT TERM MEMORY Rule #5 – Repeat to remember

LONG TERM MEMORY Rule #6 – Remember to repeat

SLEEP Rule #7 – sleep well, think well

STRESS Rule #8 – Stressed brains don’t learn the same way

SENSORY INTEGRATION Rule #9 - Stimulate more of the senses

VISION Rule #10 – Vision trumps all other senses

GENDER Rule #11 – Male and female brains are different

EXPLORATION Rule #12 - We are powerful and natural explorers

A nice easy list to remember, perhaps not so easy to put all of them into practice at once, but it is worth aiming for. Helping our kids to remember them too might mean more thriving rather than simply surviving for them too.

(If you are interested in reading more, this book will be available in round 2 of the book sale next week. It is a hard cover book and comes with a DVD)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The dangers of speed

I came across a warning about the dangers of mistaking speed for efficiency in an article in a business newsletter (Is speed killing our communication skills?) but in many ways it applies equally well as a warning about education. Perhaps business is just catching up with what education has been doing for ages.

The immediacy with which we can now communicate has placed an increasing focus on speed, for better or worse. Why do we think fast is better? Have we mistaken speed for understanding (and in the case of business for efficiency)? Is it better to have an answer however shallow rather than to think.

The concern about the effect the Internet with its ready answer to any question has on our ability to think is gathering speed, but perhaps the problem is not so much the ready access to answers but the fact that we value ready answers over thought out ones.

Is speed at mental computation an adequate indicator of maths ability? While it is a part of a balanced program and it is important to know basic facts readily, asking students to demonstrate the skill in an arbitrary time limit (I wonder has anyone measured whether 2 minutes is the best time, or whether 5 or 7 be more appropriate) might actually hinder some children’s learning, establishing a belief that they aren’t good at maths, influencing their effort and enthusiasm in future. Some students respond well to competition and timed situations and thrive on the pressure to bring out their best. Others have a different reaction.  The focus on timed tests as a standard measure of how much a child knows also clearly spells out to children that ‘faster is smarter’.  Our ‘smartest’ students by this measure are the best test takers, not necessarily the brightest students.

‘Thinking Time’ is a rare thing in a classroom, despite its proven value in getting beyond superficial thinking or narrow answers.  A teacher posing an open question but insisting that no-one answers for 30 seconds would be an unfamiliar experience for most kids.

Divergence is not highly valued, it is more convenient (and therefore faster or more efficient) for everyone to behave the same way or produce the same product.

Our reflective kids who need to consider things from many angles before feeling ready to contribute often feel they don’t have time to answer or contribute to discussions, teacher often comment that these kids appear to be ‘somewhere else’ or a little bit behind the conversation, with the implied message that they aren’t that clever (or not fast enough to be clever)

Our divergent kids often have off the wall ideas to contribute but many quickly learn that these are less welcomed than the expected answer, which allows the teacher to continue on the planned path of a lesson. They may come into their own if there is a brainstorming opportunity, but often these are also cut short at the point where the initial ideas dry up, rather than waiting for the deeper more considered ideas to have time to come to the fore.

The need for children to develop thinking skills, to be innovative or demonstrate creativity is clear when employers are spending time and money re-igniting these skills in adults. They need not be add-ons to the regular curriculum, if we shift the emphasis away from speed and begin to appreciate depth of understanding as a measure of learning.

Friday, August 5, 2011

How challenge can reduce stress

A while ago I worked with a family with a young girl who had completely turned off learning at school (at home it was a different story although she was selective in her interests and increasingly preferred to know she would succeed even at home). Her teachers were concerned about her anxiety levels and the way she was (not) coping with year level content.

After a thorough investigation looking at potential, achievement levels and other background information the family arranged for their daughter to be accelerated to the next year level. The change of expectations, finding the bar had been raised (along with an expectation that she could manage the work at that level) and being offered more meaningful challenge led to higher achievement levels as we expected but also to her parents noticing that her stress levels reduced and that she was coping better, even at the times when things were not still challenging enough. Had the focus simply been on the emotional state of the child without an appreciation of what might be happening at a chemical level in her brain, the opportunity she needed to turn things around might have been denied.

Making decisions about what is best for a child does need to include the whole child, but it also needs to consider the whole picture. Focussing on one aspect without consideration of it’s place in the whole is a bit like putting a band aid on a blister but not removing the stone from your shoe.

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