The Queensland Government's document 'Framework for Gifted Education' offers a helpful broad definition of giftedness:
Students who are gifted excel, or are capable of excelling, in one or more areas such as
a) General intelligence,
b) Specific academic studies,
c) Visual and performing arts, Physical ability,
d) Creative thinking,
e) Interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
Giftedness in a student is commonly characterised by an advanced pace of learning, quality of thinking or capability for remarkably high standards of performance compared to students of the same age.
In relation to the narrower understanding of general academic giftedness, the following well-known definition by Joseph Renzulli is helpful.
Giftedness consists of an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits:
Above average general abilities
High levels of task commitment
High levels of creativity
How do I recognise giftedness in my children?
|6yr old drawing of Blue Tongue via eyes of a predator|
- The ability to invent or create novel or original things, or look at their world in unusual ways.
- The desire and ability to investigate their immediate world, to see the unusual and observe things that others don't notice.
- Extreme curiosity demonstrated by experimentation, investigation and in depth study.
- Using extended vocabulary, complex sentence structure and varied language forms.
- Understanding and using imagery and metaphorical language at a young age (often under 5 years).
- Exploring varied interests often at depth, well beyond their years.
- Being able to learn rapidly and easily compared to other children.
- Gaining great pleasure and excitement when they are learning new and difficult things.
- Outstanding memory demonstrated by encyclopaedic recall.
- A desire to spend time with older children or adults and to learn with and from them.
- Being able to cope with the introduction of many new ideas, sometimes simultaneously.
- Wanting to spend large amounts of time learning about a favourite topic.
- Capable of generating many solutions to verbal or mathematical problems.
- Enjoying and seeking out frequent intellectual challenges.
- Demonstrating unusual imagination that is stimulated easily and sometimes independently.
- Ability to generate multiple ideas and solutions to problems.
- Showing preparedness to question assumed knowledge or ways of doing things.
- Often preferring individual work rather than group work and able to work well independently.
- Demonstrating a highly mature and unusual sense of humour.
- Sometimes having expectations of themselves that are too demanding and unrealistic.
- Demonstrating single-mindedness and extreme determination when pursuing interests.
How do I support a gifted child?
There are two main approaches to meeting the needs of the gifted.
a) Acceleration - This involves allowing students to complete curriculum faster, or to advance through school more rapidly, based on their readiness, motivation and capability. It allows the pace of instruction to be adjusted to meet their needs and, it offers new more appropriate challenges.
b) Enrichment - This involves the modification of the curriculum to allow gifted learners to explore topics in greater depth or breadth, to permit the use of varied skills, and generally to promote a higher level of thinking, investigation and exploration. It often involves integration of varied learning areas, creative outcomes and products, and the use of supplementary materials beyond the normal range.
|Drawing by Jacob just 4 years after a trip to the aquarium. Drawing is from the unusual vantage point of the fish & shows his view of 'Grandad looking into the aquarium', as seen by the fish.|
While there are classes set up for extremely gifted children and some schools that establish specific groups for gifted and talented children, for most gifted children, the mainstream classroom is where they spend most of their time. Both acceleration and enrichment usually occurs within mainstream schools and at times under the sponsorship of external organisations.
Joseph Renzulli's Triad Model has been influential for schools and parents that have tried to provide enrichment for children. His triad suggests three types of enrichment:
Type 1 - General Interest/Exploratory Activities. These offer a wide range of experiences, e.g. excursions, guest experts, clubs, special classes etc.
Type 2 - Group Training Activities. These aim to develop thinking skills and include activities that facilitate experimentation, analysis, classification skills, critical thinking and communication.
Type 3 - Individual & Small Group Investigation and Problem Solving. This type allows children to apply the skills acquired in Type 1 & 2 to real life problems of interest to them. They then present their findings in some form to other, e.g. written reports, video presentation, website, debate, a journal etc.
The reality for many parents of gifted children is that they end up having to make a lot of effort themselves to provide for their gifted child. In the rest of this post I will suggest a number simple ways to enrich the education of the gifted. While all of these ideas could be seen as relevant for children of average ability, they offer additional opportunities for the gifted.
1. Ensure that the child experiences a rich and stimulating life outside school.
This could include:
- Opportunities to play and learn with other gifted children, older children and adults who have similar interests and can stimulate their imagination, offer new experiences, and challenge them with new areas of learning.
- Lots of first-hand experiences, including visits to museums, zoos, galleries, musical performance and drama, film, outdoor exploration, keeping and studying pets, nature walks, and gardening.
- Providing opportunities for hobbies that offer depth of new learning, for example, collecting rocks, stamps, chess, photograph, movie making, astronomy, and animation.
- Introducing them to varied ways to respond to learning or present knowledge (e.g. creative arts, drama, video and audio presentations, public presentations etc).
2. Provide opportunities for children to extend their knowledge in areas of special interest.
This might include:
- Project-based work.
- Library research.
- Digital Storytelling (see my previous post here).
- Learning a musical instrument.
- Learning a new language.
3. Introduce a variety of enrichment activities at regular intervals
While it isn't possible for any teacher or parent to offer individual activities for gifted children there are many wonderful activities that all children will enjoy which can also accommodate the needs of the gifted. The following are some examples of the types of enrichment activities I mean.
a) Story in a Box strategy
1. A group of 5-7 year-olds might explore the objects in a box and try to tell a joint story or simply take turns creating individual stories. You could allow them to supplement the box with a dress-up box if there is a need for children to become specific characters or take on roles.
2. A group of 6-12 year old children might discuss the objects and then prepare a joint monologue to be presented to others (with the objects used as artefacts or aids). Alternatively, a group story or picture book could be produced based on the objects.
3. The box of objects might simply be used to create a digital story (individually or in groups). Have a look at Daniel Meadows' 'Scissors' video to see what might be produced, as well as my previous post on digital storytelling (here). This approach could also be used with high school children.
You can read a longer post on this topic here.
b) Using a book as the focus for an excursion to its setting
I wrote a post back in January 2009 (here) about a family excursion to explore part of Sydney that was the setting for the wonderful book 'My Place' (Nadia Wheatley & Donna Rawlins). 'My Place' was published in 1987 for distribution in Australia’s bicentennial year (1988) and makes a strong statement about the fact that Indigenous Australians were here for thousands of years before white settlement (there isn't space to unpack this). It is a very clever book that takes one suburban block (and the surrounding area) and tells the story of this place in reverse chronological sequence, decade by decade, from 1988 back to 1788 when the first British Fleet landed at Botany Bay. The overall meaning of the book is shaped by multiple narrative recounts of the families who have lived in this spot, 'my Place' and the changing nature of the physical landscape and built environment.
Our excursion as a family around the streets of Tempe and St Peters in Sydney enriched my appreciation of the book and my grandchildren's sense of the place. As well, it gave my grandchildren a great introduction to Australia's history since white settlement in 1788 and it deepened our understanding of the book. The book has been used as the basis of a television series that screened recently in Australia (here).
There are many other wonderful books that are situated in specific places that can be explored after, before or during the reading of a book. Here are three more.
c) Offering Stimulating Firsthand experiences
I have written previously about the 'The Language Experience Approach' to literacy on this blog (here). Typically, it occurs when a teacher or parent opportunistically seizes an experience as a basis for learning. Many are basic:
- The squelch of mud between toes on a wet day in the back yard
- Running on a sandy beach for the first time
- Watching a worm wiggle in the palm of a small hand
- Building a cubby house from boxes in the back yard
- Watching a bird build its nest in a tree in the playground in spring
- Doing hand painting
- Observing chickens as they grow bigger day by day
The approach has four main elements:
- Sharing an experience
- Talking about the experience
- Making some record of the experience (words, pictures, sound recording, photographs, video)
- Finally, using the recorded experience for further reading, discussion and the stimulation of further writing
As a keen blogger I know the various benefits of blogging as I'm sure do the readers of this blog. But how might we make better use of blogging with children? Many teachers have already experimented with blogging for children, as have some parents. Most children don't need to be convinced of the wonder and worth of the Internet, but could we make better use of the Blogosphere?
There seem some obvious reasons for using blogs in the classroom or at home:
1. The act of writing a blog post can lead to significant research and related learning. For example, it is an excellent way to develop web comprehension and research skills.
2. Blogs offer authentic readers and audiences for children. So much classroom writing is simply for the teacher 'as examiner', but blogs offer 'real' readers who will respond as learners and fellow writers. This is powerful.
3. Blogs can offer a means for children of many nationalities to communicate and share their ideas across the globe.
4. Blogging can offer a wonderful means for children to practice a second language.
5. Using blogs as creators as well as consumers highlights the need for children to consider issues such as truth and fiction, privacy, copyright and so on.
You can read my post on 'Children as Bloggers' here.
e) Using film making and animation
The Klutz Book of Animation' by John Cassidy and Nicholas Berger. It is excellent aid for young filmmakers. The book provides step by step guidance to primary aged children to make simple animations using a video camera (as simple as a web cam), a computer and a variety of props, objects, plasticine and so on. The publishers provide a number of videos online that teach children the fundamentals of animation and filmmaking (here). At the Klutz site you can download free instructional videos (here), free sound effects (here) and sample videos made by children (here). Below is a sample using the Klutz methodology. This is a great resource for young filmmakers. Steven Spielberg would have loved to have this as a child.
You can read a full post on animation and film making tools for children here.
It is important that truly gifted and talented children be identified and supported through varied forms of enrichment. To teach classes to the middle and ignore giftedness is as wrong as ignoring students with learning disabilities. The gifted can become just as frustrated with inappropriate learning tasks as students who have learning difficulties.