SBISD GT Book Study
Coming from a counseling background I tend to select the strategies that include “active listening” (page 84) without problem solving solutions verbiage back to the student. Adolescents want to be heard…really heard and understood. This can be especially true of gifted students who already feel as though they do not fit in with other students. Some gifted children become unmotivated or disengaged in participating in a classroom environment even those they have knowledge of the material. The reasons behind this unsettling behavior can be numerous, but capitalizing on one’s listening skills will assist students in feeling confident with themselves, with you and your ability to associate and work with them and their educational needs.
This year I think I have done a better job at offering "choice and variety." (page 87) These choices have allowed students choice of topics, book titles, and technology. I give a choice in seating arrangements, centers and groups. Most of our projects have given the students leeway in how they choose to present a topic. When we write, I often give a suggested prompt to guide them, but they may write on one of their own if they choose. While I hope this gives the student more interest and ownership in their work, I also think it frees me from feeling the responsibility of trying to find a topic that will interest everyone. I have read some of my best work from students who found their own topics that incorporated the skill being taught. My GT kids often go off in writing on a topic that I would have never suggested, giving me a rich insight of their possibilities. For me...this is a stretch from where we all read the same material, read the same book, and wrote on the same topic.
I have been working on the "Build on What they Know" (page 84) and "Encourage Participation"(page 85)and will continue to strenghten them in my classroom. Both these stratigies are extremely important for learning Math.
Chapter 4; Helpling Students Overcome Barriers to Learning has a lot of insightful yet common information. The science behind the learning is cutting edge and should be shared with students. The ideas behind what are good practices to make learning more assessable are best practices that we have been working on at WAIS for quite a while now with results like dock on the bay has experienced in her class. I think that we too often take for granted that your students understand what is or isn't going on their heads while they are learning. It is such a "on demand" process they we rarely stop on reflect on the attributes of learning. There is a lot here to help us remember important learning cycle components and bring them back to the forefront as we plan for all of our learners.
On page 87, two of the strategies are "Make the Information Relevant" and "Offer Choice and Variety." Both of these I try to embed in the robotics curriculum to provide for differentiation and increased interest for all students. I see how these are very important for our GT students. On page 91, "Offer Chances to Express Curiosity" is one that I work to include in culminating projects for robotics and technology application classes by letting the students design specifics about their tasks as long as they are school appropriate.
Tiggeronmars stated that adolescents want to be heard and that "Active Listening" was the strategy they tended to use. I agree that many of our GT students can feel as if they don't fit in. They can also feel that they just are given more work which they perceive as busy work rather than truly valued work based on their abilities. If we can do a better job of using active listening and really understand we can help them realize greater potential.
This year I have also tried to incorporate additional differentiated learning in my classroom. Some of the things I do that are also mentioned in chapter 4 are asking open ended questions verbally in my class lessons and discussions and I have also created a blog for each grade level where students are able to answer an open ended question each week in the target language. I offer more choice and variety in my classroom in center activities, vocabulary lessons, project topics and presentations. For example, I provide students with a list of "choice activities" and allow them to choose topics and assignments that they are interested in. Students seem to enjoy having a choice and therefore take more ownership in their work and become more autonomous learners.
I have tried to reduce stress on my students by giving them( page 87 " Offer Choice and Variety" ) choices on which problems they what for classwork or homework. I find that giving the students this choice helps them complete their assignments better. This year I have also asked my students to write questions that should be included on their quizzes and explain why they should be included in their quiz. I have also tried to include more open ended questions on their work that doesn't necessarily require numerical computation but require students to tell me the process.I find by giving students choices they tend to perform better in my math classes.
There were many ideas in Chapter 4 for to helping gifted students oversome barriers to learning which would help in the classroom. On page 85, the book suggests offering experiences that are enjoyable, relevant and challenging. It also talks about the importance of destressing the environment. On page 83, there are strategies that also provide emotional support.Dr. Willis explains how to set individual goals based on the abilities of the students, this way they can see their own progress. On page 85, classroom participation with open ended questions is discussed. These strategies are less threatening to the student and I believe the students would be more engaged.
I agree with tiggeronmars' post on the importance of active listening. It is imortant in both counseling and teaching, especially teaching gifted students. Actually this is true with any communication. If someone isn't really listening to what I am saying, why bother saying anything? When individuals know that someone is really listening to them, many barriers can be oversome.
As a science teacher, the strategy I connect with the most was keeping information relevant. I always try to find a way to help my students understand why what we are learning can be important to them. Dockonthebay commented how she has offered more choice and variety for her students. I have moved toward student choice products and find that some students exceed my expectations while others need more guidence. I like how she gives a suggested writing topic for those students who struggle.
My favorite strategy is on page 85, "Encourage Participation, Not Perfection."I think we do a disservice to students when we fail to teach them the importance of failure, as well as success. Creating situtations where students can explore their creativity is as important, if not more important, then giving them a chance to find the "right" answer.The fear of failure, or worse - the fear of success, often stunts the desire for learning. Engaging the students in discussions teaches them to search for meaning, not just for answers.
In response to Mr. C's comments on Feb 21st, 12:15pm-I too have seen the advantages of giving the students a choice in assignments.However, I've also had trouble implimenting it regularly in my classroom. It becomes much more challenging to grade objectively when the students choose different assignments. Perhaps there is a certain value in more subjective grading, but it opens up to a delicate and dangerous path when parents of students start to compare their grades and their students' assignments.One parent, upon realizing that a second parent's son got a higher grade for doing an "easier" assignment could become extremely defensive, if not letigious. It's partly the reason why standardized tests and grading standards in general were created. By leveling the playing field, we cripple creativity, but spare ourselves from legal action.
I think for me, pg. 88, Providing Levels of Learning would help my me in my classroom the most. I liked this strategy because I like that the author states that you may need to "sell" the topic for the day or parts of the unit you find that will intrigue your students the most. "This will prime their interest, and once you have their interest, they will be open to the opportunities that you offer that will add appropriate individualized challenge to the unit". (pg.88) This resonated with me because often times Geometry is labeled as dry or boring when in fact it has many real-life uses. I find that if you can get students interested in something where they can actually see the math applied, then it may pique there interest and get them to dig deeper. The GT student may find that they can delve deeper if they find something within the topic that they want to research further or learn more about. Giving a project that lets them explore your topic further and deeper may develop their understanding. This can be a way for them to have "experential" learning as the book talks about so often.Mr. C: I would like to offer more choice in my classroom. As I do it agree that when given choices, students tend to care more, because they were given the choice and well it makes them feel empowered by getting to choose. I just have not gotten there yet as I have found when I have given my students' choices they choose unwisely. And I like Mr. Maddocks worry about parents making comparisons about grades or grading.
Although the idea of changing up activities during a class period is not something new,it is nice to have the scientific data that backs up the reason for having a variety of learning opportunities. As explaining on p. 78 "In general, to keep students of middle school age alert and engaged, three to five-minute syn-naps should be scheduled after every 30 minutes of concentrated learning. During these breaks, the newly learned material has the opportunity to go from short-term to long-term memory while students replenish their supply of neurotransmitters." This should be kept in mind for all students and not just those that are identified as gifted.
I would like to commend all the posters who are giving their students choice in their assignments. Although I am no longer a classroom teacher this would make me nervous and there were very few times when I offered students the chance to move out on their own. As Mr. Maddocks stated it also presents a problem when it comes to grading. How does one grade assignments which may not exactly be equal, but I guess this could be addressed in the beginning when students are choosing. I recently had a conversation with the parent of one of our gifted 7th graders that argues for the point of offering choice. This parent was concerned about the amount of homework her daughter had to do each night. The student had already mastered the concept being taught in one of her classes but, was still expected to do 15-20 additional problems over the same concept as homework. Since the student is a perfectionist she took a great deal of time showing her work on each problem. In this case wouldn't it be better to let the student choose some other assignment that would help her build on something that she had already mastered.
There were many good ideas in Chapter 4, but the one that resonated the most with me was on page 78, restorative breaks which the author called "syn-naps". To keep middle school students alert and engaged, they need 3 to 5 minute syn-naps after every 30 minutes of learning. I know that as an adult I can't sit still and learn for 90 minutes. I believe that it is important to give variety throughout the class period, otherwise students can easily tune out.
In response to Mr. Maddocks, I completely agree with you when you say that we fail to teach students the importance of failure. I find that we as educators want students to always feel success. However, if they never have to truly grapple with anything, we are not providing them with the skills of resilience and persistence that will carry them through the tough spots in life.
Valerie H... I emphasize choice with my students. This way, students of varying levels are able to find their niche. Those that thrive on creativity can incorporate that, others that love using technology are able to do so. I use open ended questions in the blog assignment. The essay questions are broad enough to give students choices in the information they choose to create their answer.
As to Steve's comment on letting a student who has already mastered the concepts being allowed to continue on to another and not have to repeat the drills. I agree with this. It would be great to have more training on how to get all of these pre-tests and then how to monitor the student who goes on to another project. Then you also have the issue of the student not wanting to do "extra work." Often projects that are of a higher level require more of an effort and higher expectation.
Valerie H commenting on Amy's comment on syn-naps... I know I get caught up in trying to get everything done in what seems to me a short amount of time and forget that it would really help all students, not just GT students, to take a short break and let the information "soak" in and allow students to do something with the knowledge so they remember it longer.
I agree with Valerie, I also give my students choice in class. It does help with the students finding their own success. With regard to what Steve stated above and choices presented to the students...the choices should be similar and the end result, the grade, should be based on a collective common within the choices given...
I also agree with Andew regarding "encourage participation such that perfection is not required or is not even possible"...I have a couple of students who currently feel pressure to turn in only their most perfect work while in the end sometimes not turning in anythinbg at all because they feel like it will not be good enough. I have had several conversations with one studetn and his parents about this concern. We are working on helping him to overcome this conflict. It is actually sad to me when an extremely bright student does not turn in work due conflict within regarding perfection.
I like the strategy on p. 88, "Provide levels of learning", where they are different levels of options for students for various projects, some being on level, and others being more advanced. I think it is one way to differentiate, and our GT students as well as our high achievers would rise to the challenge. I can easily see incorporating this concept into some previously created projects/web quests, etc.
"choice and variety." (page 87)
I've tried the "levels of learning" that Travel Bug mentioned. It works well and students enjoy having choices.
Page 85..."To avoid creating stressful situations for students who are perfectionists...encourage participation..." I also like the suggestions in this section -- using open-ended questions when in class discussion.
In response to Elizabeth H, I agree that working with our students to develop individual goals would be very worthwhile to do with our kids. I think it would be important to revisit those goals, perhaps every six weeks, and have them write new ones when they have mastered one of their goals. I think all of our students would feel that sense of accomplishment that hopefully would motivate them to work hard to achieve that next level of success.
In response to Mr. Maddocks and Amy H, kids do need to fail sometimes in order to learn . It is unfortunate many GT kids have not developed the skills to deal with failure.
As to Steve's comment on students who have mastered the material go ahead without repeating, I think it's a great idea if it can be implemented effectively. I find it very difficult when our classes have ability levels are so mixed.