Welcome to a collection of thoughts, questions and interesting links relating to giftedness ..............
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Lessons about identifying gifted students learned from making grape jam

Recently my grape vine was laden with fruit, far more than we could possibly eat. The family jam pot, the one used by my mother and grandmother, was dusted off and the fruit washed and weighed and jars cleaned and prepared. Making grape jam takes several hours and much stirring. There is plenty of time for thinking as you stir. Our grapes, although sweet and delicious, have seeds which need to be skimmed off the surface as the jam cooks.

As I watched over the bubbling mixture and the seeds rolling on the currents, it reminded me of the need for an ongoing process of identifying gifted children. Just like gifted children, some seeds are easy to see, they are evident right away and easy to skim off. Others don’t come to light until later. When the seeds do come to the surface they tend to cluster together, mostly at the edge. If you observe carefully you can work out the places they are most likely to gather. Some you see briefly and then wonder where they went as they become go back below the surface, invisible once again. Some you have to look more closely for as they are ‘hiding’ in with the froth on the surface. For some a spoon is the best way to catch then, for others it requires some extra tools as well.

Even after several hours of cooking, stirring and skimming and a collection of hundreds of seeds, there are still some that remain in the jam that have not been skimmed off. Perhaps they just haven’t come to the surface, or perhaps they did but went unnoticed.

Not all our gifted children are easy to spot. Not all of them want to be identified. Sometimes though, we just don’t look in the right places. Sometimes we stop looking too soon. Like the seeds in my jam, gifted children tend to gather together and if you know where to look you might find them, even if they aren’t making themselves obvious elsewhere or in other ways.

If we rely on a one off identification process we are likely to miss the ones who need more time to mature or develop their confidence before they are seen. If we use a single method or only look in one place, we will also miss some, perhaps many, of the gifted children who come by us.

There is no perfect method for identifying gifted students. We need to be continually vigilant, to use as many methods as we have available and remember that gifted children are perhaps the best identifiers of other gifted children that we have.

And if we use all the resources at our disposal and keep continually looking for gifted students, some may still slip through the net. Like the jam, the fewer seeds remaining hidden at the end of the process, the better the result.

(just in case you were worried that being skimmed off was not a good outcome, the seeds recovered from my jam are cleaned, washed and crushed for use in a body scrub. Their ‘talents’ are not wasted)

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