Gifted Issues

Excerpts from Reaching Gifted Children (Education Week chat) Guests: Karen Isaacson and Tamara Fisher, the co-authors of Intelligent Life in the Classroom—Smart Kids & Their Teachers

On Self Advocacy:

…I tell my kids that if they are going to self-advocate, they need to follow the 3 P’s: 1) Be polite (don’t say “this is boring.” 2) Do it in private (not in front of the rest of the class.) And 3) Provide proof (that they’ve actually mastered the content.)

On Mixed Ability Classrooms:

Question from Pat Cernadas, Middle School EFL teacher:
How can gifted children benefit from a mixed abilities classroom like the ones I have in my school?

Karen Isaacson:
They can learn to appreciate other children’s gifts! They can also learn how different abilities and different gifts compliment each other.

On Under Identification of Minorities (Not much help here and I found the statement “I suppose it does happen” offensive as a near dismissal of a well documented and serious problem – tjm):

I’m not sure what to suggest. I suppose it does happen, but I feel grateful not to have encountered much of that in my district. I suppose changing those low expectations may take a gradual process that would include their coming to know a gifted minority student and then extrapolating out that yes, there are gifted students of such-and-such minority. I wish I had more ideas to offer you on that portion of your question. Perhaps with new identification methods, this obstacle can be overcome.

On Pull Outs:

Question from Vicki Templet, mom of three and former teacher:
What is your opinion on the way schools label children as Talented and Gifted, pulling them out of regular class for a full day every week? Is the special service worth the labeling stigma, especially in the elementary grades?

Karen Isaacson:
Yes, the special service is worth it, in my opinion. One of the biggest needs of these children is to have an opportunity to meet together with other children to whom they can relate. I do think some care should be taken as to how the label is handled and the feelings of the individual child. In our elementary school, we refer to the program as “Extended Studies.” This seems to work well.

More on Differentiation and Pull Outs:

Tamara Fisher:
…The kinds of services provided by pull-out programs varies greatly, so one would need to look into just what kind of pull-out services a particular school/program offered to know if it would be appropriate for a particular gifted student. Nonetheless, pull-out programs can often have the flexibility to adapt to differing student needs, and they are a great means by which to work with gifted students on social/emotional needs. Inclusion with differentiation by the teacher is an equally viable option, provided the teacher has had some training in just what to do. (Most teachers don’t learn these strategies in college, at least not in relation to how they apply to gifted students, so some assistance in the beginning is realistic to plan on.) I have found that once teachers begin differentiating, most of them love it and wish they had known how to do it all along. One great thing about differentiation in the classroom is that it is good for all kids, meaning not just the gifted students benefit from it.

Thomas J. Mertz

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