Question 1: How can gifted children be served in a regular classroom?
Question 2: How do I find out if my child is gifted?
Question 3: My child is gifted. What do I do now?
Question 4: What is the social impact of being labeled as gifted?
Question 5: Why should I get involved with Michigan Association for Gifted Children?
As difficult as it may be at times, every teacher needs to be sure that the learning needs of all the students in his or her class are met, including those who have advanced abilities. Using assessment data to identify their learning needs helps teachers to differentiate and match instruction to those needs. It is NOT sufficient to have gifted students simply work on their own or assist other children. These options should only be used rarely, and they are not likely to produce the “year’s growth for a year’s instruction” that Michigan now requires for all students. However, for those gifted students who are self-directed learners, curriculum compacting, independent studies and learning contracts can be used while keeping time management and goal-setting in mind.
When students have already mastered much of the material in a unit before it is taught, curriculum compacting is an especially good option to allow students to learn only what they need. Click on the following link for a helpful PowerPoint on compacting: Curriculum Compacting. Additional information on learning contracts is at http://www.eht.k12.nj.us/~Jonesj/Differentiated%20Instruction/Learning%20Contracts.htm.
It is important to remember that advanced students need the guidance of a wise teacher to set learning goals and to monitor progress toward meeting those goals. All possible options should be considered, including accelerating students to a higher grade level for some or all of their instruction when it is appropriate. Schools will attract and retain students whose needs they serve well!
Check out the Resources section of our website for more ideas and sources for information on differentiation, and remember that gifted students need regular opportunities to work with others who are at similar levels of readiness to theirs in order to be challenged appropriately.
If you suspect your child is gifted you probably have already noticed some of the traits common to gifted children. A few of the characteristics you may have noticed are a large vocabulary, extreme curiosity, intensity of emotions, boredom with routines and a strong need for precision often demonstrated by the frequent and early use of the word “actually.” Gifted children may be able to read early or be interested in numbers early. If your child is in school, his or her academic performance may support your suspicions. However, gifted children in the wrong academic setting may not perform up to their intellectual potential.
So what can you do in order to get more information? Some parents choose to find a licensed professional, usually a psychologist, who does IQ testing and has experience testing gifted children. Intelligence tests are designed to measure general intellectual ability. Although there are no standard IQ levels of intellectual giftedness, some experts suggest the following IQ ranges: Mildly gifted: 115 to 129; Moderately gifted: 130 to 144; Highly gifted: 145 to 159; Exceptionally gifted: 160 +. Once your child’s testing is complete it is critical to have a chance to discuss the findings with the testing professional to help answer all of your questions and interpret the results. If your suspicions are confirmed, you will need to educate yourself on the unique academic and social emotional needs of gifted children, so that you can become a strong advocate for your child. The Michigan Association for Gifted Children will continue to be a valuable resource to you and your child, and we hope to share in your family’s journey.
Once your child has been identified as gifted, either by a teacher, school district, psychologist, or other testing program, your journey into the world of gifted education has just begun. There are several beginning steps you can take to get you started.
First, talk to other parents of gifted students in your school. Parents, teachers, administrators, and even your own children can help you to find them. Other parents are often the best source of information regarding what is going on in your school building or district. Then broaden your horizons to talk to others across your region or state. Build a support system by joining the Michigan Association for Gifted Children and the local chapter in your area. Having other parents to talk to will be a great informational and emotional resource.
Second, talk to your child’s teacher, counselor, gifted coordinator, curriculum director, principal, superintendent – anyone at your school district who will sit down with you to discuss what your classroom, building, and district have to offer gifted students. Bring a paper and pen – you’ll want to take notes.
Third, read, read, read. Read anything you can get your hands on regarding gifted education. You may want to start with Karen Roger’s Re-Forming Gifted Education, Guiding the Gifted Child by James Webb, Elizabeth Meckstroth, and Stephanie Tolan, or A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children by James Webb, Janet Gore, Edward Amend, and Arlene DeVries. Look under the resources section of this website for links to additional websites, articles, and more books. Educating yourself on the ins and outs of gifted education will make you the best possible advocate for your child.
Fourth, know your child. You will want to be able to verbalize clearly to others about what your child knows, how they learn or process information (best mode of taking in information), and sensitivities that affect them (light, sound, smells, physical movement). Journaling information with dates added makes this easier. Include their reading material with comments on comprehension, as well as noting leaps of logic. Look for surprising conclusions that just ‘happen’ – answers to questions and conclusions drawn that just pop out because it came to them without seeming to spend time calculating.
Fifth, normalize the educational day of your gifted child by doing what you can to ensure…
- The student learns something NEW every day
- The curriculum is rigorous enough that the child has to stretch
- The work is substantial enough that a strong work ethic is learned
- Study and organizational skills are required
- Difficult problems are presented, requiring the development of strategies to solve them
- The student has true peers, not just age peers
- Education is satisfying enough that the child wants to become a lifelong learner
Last (but not least), get involved in whatever ways are most meaningful to you, whether that’s at your local school, in your school district, in your region, or in the state.
Simply “being gifted“ has a social impact, anyway. By definition, gifted children differ from others. Gifted children need to have regular contact with others who are like them so that they can find out that it’s all right to be bright, to be sensitive, and to care deeply about things that others of their age may not be interested in.
Gifted children may need different friends for different reasons – some to talk about ideas with, some to play sports with, some to be silly with, and some to go to school with. Sometimes, these groups will overlap and sometimes they won’t, and that’s okay.
If at least some of the time gifted children have a chance to be with others who speak their language, who understand them and are enough like them in interests and abilities, they can be more comfortable with being themselves. This also helps them find out that they actually don’t know it all – that there are others who have a lot of knowledge, too – a humbling experience for gifted kids who have always found themselves ahead of everyone else of their own age.
So, the answer is "yes." Being gifted has a social impact. Even though all children may be alike in many other ways, those who are gifted have some specific social needs related to being different from others.
The Michigan Association for Gifted Children is your resource and support network, wherever you are in Michigan and whatever role you play in the lives of gifted children. We are professional educators, parents – anyone who is interested in becoming involved – banded together and dedicated to making today and tomorrow better for gifted kids who are growing up in Michigan.
At a time when even long-term successful programs are being eliminated from the schools, our volunteer group is even more important. Being a member keeps you connected to what is happening about and for gifted children in Michigan. Your dues help support advocacy at the state and local level, and reminds educators and legislators that we do have gifted children in our state, and they too have needs.
On a more personal level, membership gives you a lifeline to others who have expert knowledge and share your convictions. We provide online and in person opportunities to ask questions and share with those who have faced your challenges and others who are currently parenting, teaching, or advocating for “our kids.” Use us as a support system; everyone deserves a peer group!