What do you think? More recess, less, or none?

What??!! Recess isn’t mandated? I just read an article that a break in the day for children is not required by law. I am in shock and had no idea. I just assumed since in the adult world, breaks are mandatory, it would be the same for little bodies. Nope. Since the push for testing and assessments, it seems that other facets (like social skills from recess) of the lives of children are not as important to develop?

Recess is vital in my opinion. Not just for a mental break but for social interactions, imaginary play, games, and there is a lot of research about the benefits of just moving our bodies around.

If adults want a break during the day at work, don’t you think children do too?!

Educators Issue a Call for Mandatory Recess

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Gifted Children Are Not Always What You Expect

Gifted children are often misunderstood or not what people expect. I think often the stereotypical “nerd” or “geek” is what our culture think when they hear “gifted”. I also believe the average opinion is that it is easier to parent these children. They are academically higher so they should be easier to reason with, better behaved, and have a mild temperament. I am not saying parenting gifted children is easier or harder- just not what might be expected. These children are often intense, extremely sensitive, and emotional. But they also have a keen insight, sense of humor, quick to learn, and I love working with them.

I just read an article written by a gifted teacher (thanks LeeAnn for sharing) about what she wants other people to know about these children. photo (8)

Testing Too Much?

One of my gripes as an educator is students are tested way too much. I do think there is a time and a place for assessments and evaluations. They offer information for educators of strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement, or proficiency. It also offers information for parents and the effectiveness of educational programs. There is no way around testing or assessing students. But, there is a point at which it is way too much and especially when they are not used or reviewed by the actual teachers.

At what point do we realize enough is enough? Young students are stressed and anxious about the tests and there is a huge waste of instructional time conducting these. One day a few years ago, I counted up that some students spend 10 days participating in standardized testing (and this doesn’t include the classroom assessments or quizzes). What?? How many adults want to take 10 days of testing for their jobs? Much less spend hours a day sitting at a desk bubbling in circles? No wonder some of our kids hate school.

However, I do think that the blame is misplaced. This is my opinion but I don’t know if it is Common Core to blame. It is how it is approached and assessed. Not the actual curriculum. I just read this article about a school system standing up for the students. Good for them.

http://news.yahoo.com/boycotters-might-winning-battle-over-standardized-testing-210516376.html

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Raising A Gifted Boy Reader- Parent’s Perspective

Written by: Amy Sherman
My 8th grader has a teacher who is  trying to differentiate in the classroom by allowing kids to choose books from a grade leveled reading website and answer the online questions for points.  She’s doing her best with 30 kids 5 times a day. The problem is: none of the books that he reads are ever on the site – he usually reads adult non-fiction. So he has his sixth grade sister use the site to find books which she has read – usually a few years ago – and then she answers the questions for him!   Also, the questions are simple yes/no answers to see if the book was actually read.
Well, so I try to find enrichment classes around town, only to discover that there are a plethora of math, robotics and science enrichment classes – but nothing that revolves around reading, speaking, debate,  thinking and comparing or history literature studies. Nothing – all math, legos, science, and more math.  In order to find what I’m looking for to help him stay challenged; I have to hire a high school or college professor for a one-on-one class!
All this work on my part is coming too late though – He has this firmly engrained belief that he should not do anything different with his mind and talent. It’s not cool. 
Let’s just say I’ve read a LOT of articles and books on giftedness over the past 13 years, give or take. So something has to be pretty “wow” to, well, make me go “wow,” or in other words make my “I Wish I Could Have Read This Years Ago; It Would Have Explained/Helped So Much” list.
An Interview with Roland S. Persson:  The Talent of Being Inconvenient (First Published in The SENG Update Newsletter, June 2010) is one such article.  Dr. Persson looks like a member of the World Wrestling Federation or the older brother of Mr. Clean, but is in fact a Professor of Educational Psychology at Jönköpping University in Sweden, where his research focuses on giftedness, with an emphasis on social context and the gifted individual in society.
So what blew me away in this interview?   It’s the first time I’ve heard someone provide a coherent framework for understanding that which I’ve been clumsily trying to put forward these past 2.5 years in this blog, namely that verbally* gifted kids (and by extension I guess, adults) have it harder vis a vis their artistically and mathematically/science gifted peers.  (*IMO, verbal giftedness goes beyond facility with reading and writing.  It is sophisticated vocabulary, persuasive argument, deep interest in–and the precocious ability to question, analyse and think critically about–philosophical, ethical, moral, sociological, political and historical issues.)
“Geeky” mathiness–particularly among boys–is what our society typically reads as “gifted.”  By and large our school systems are pretty successful in meeting that need.  Not perfect, but there is a greater openness to and ability to provide acceleration, as well as a burgeoning math/science pipeline in place to foster and reward this type of gift (think math competitions, science camps, scholarships and mentorships, etc.).  Musical artistic talent too tends to be celebrated and rewarded. It’s “okay” for kids to be prodigies in these realms and it feels like summer programs for kids are chock-a-block with theater and art opportunities.
Meanwhile verbal talent is seen as somehow commonplace (“Everyone catches up by third grade and learns how to read”), thus serving as the source of endless frustration for parents trying to work within school systems to find appropriate educational pathways. Frankly, I bought into the mainstream construct too.  It was only in the wake of a CTY SET ceremony that the reality was spelled out for me.  “Just look at the awards program,” this gifted expert told me.  “There is an entire page, four columns in small type of kids who made SET in math (700+ on the Math portion of the SAT before the age of 13).  Meanwhile, there is a quarter of a page, two columns in larger type of kids who reached the same mark on the Verbal section.”
Okaaaay.  Light bulb going off.  It explained why even in gatherings of EG/PG kids, my kid still had a hard time finding “people.”  There truly aren’t that many.  Throw is the gender skew at the very far right of the bell curve and there really aren’t that many.
But back to Dr. Persson (whose research/writing I’m now going to have to seek out).  My “aha” in the interview was his Hero, Nerd and Martyr taxonomy of giftedness.  He writes:
Somewhat simplistically, perhaps, I construed societal functions as Maintenance, Escape, and Change, typified by the more common parlance expressions of Nerd, Hero, and Martyr…. Gifted individuals interested in, for example, technology, medicine, or finance—“the nerds”—all serve supportive functions in society. They are rarely controversial because their skills contribute towards maintaining society, its leaders on all levels, and its power structure as a whole. Also individuals gifted in sports, music, and the arts are much appreciated. A few are rewarded more for the moments of release from stress that their gifts offer. They allow us for a moment to escape into a very positive experience. As scientists, we go to great lengths to study the constituents of their skills.
However, when it comes to gifted individuals having the potential to change the social world by their knowledge and insight, they are rarely as appreciated as their colleagues more devoted to maintenance and escape. We tend to fail to realize the consequences of having an uncanny grasp of cause and effect, so typical of the academically gifted. When confronted with certain conditions and decisions, the gifted individual is very good at understanding what the outcome will be. However, being one voice in a group of others less equipped to foresee the results and problems, who in the group is inclined to listen and acknowledge the single and voice differing in opinion and conclusion? If this individual is being contrary to the leadership, harassment and being contrary to the leadership, harassment and persecution are sure to follow in one way or
another. Interestingly, it rarely matters whether the gifted individual is right or wrong; he or she poses a threat to the credibility of authority. Again, history is full of examples, and “martyr” is sadly an appropriate term.
The greater the prestige to be lost, the more severe the battle to retain dominance and authority.
Or, as Ellen Winner (1996) put it Gifted Children: The gifted are risk-takers with a desire to shake things up. Most of all they have the desire to set things straight, to alter the status quo and shake up established tradition. Creators do not accept the prevailing view. They are oppositional and discontented.

How to Annoy a Gifted Child

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I LOVED working with gifted students in my gifted resource room and classroom. They are intense, perfectionist, funny, and enjoy challenges. They could also get annoyed quickly and sometimes didn’t hesitate to tell me all about it- even if I didn’t want to hear it. I learned over the years to help guide them in how to express this frustration or annoyance. I taught them how to try to be constructive and understanding towards other students. Sometimes I was successful. 

I recently came across this article my partner and I hung up in our classroom by our desk. We also shared it with some of the classroom teachers we worked with at the school. I felt it was important to remind myself of why these children got annoyed so I could be more understanding. 

Top-Ten-Ways-to-Annoy-a-Gifted-Child

Asynchronous Development with Gifted Students

Asynchronous development (refers to uneven intellectual, physical, and emotional development) in gifted students is a tricky thing for parents and educators. Expectations for behavior based on abilities can make it confusing. For example, if your second grade child can explain multiplication of fractions and decimals (which is a fifth/grade skill), then you might expect they can behave and rationalize like a fifth grade child. Wrong! They are still emotionally a second grader.

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As a parent it is frustrating when they can explain the ages of dinosaurs at six years old but still throw a temper tantrum about wearing jeans instead of leggings. The knowledge of asynchronous development is essential in understanding how and why your child acts, thinks and feels- whether it might be developmentally delayed, average, or advanced.

I always recommend to any parent that comes to me for resources or advice to research this topic. I have yet to meet a gifted child that doesn’t exhibit this characteristic. 

Few resources:

Article on Asynchronous Development posted by SENG (one of my favorite websites for parents)

Asynchrony: A New Definition of Giftedness

Your Great Interest

By: Diane Rowe

In Stephen King’s Different Seasons, the novella Apt Pupil contains a quote that resonates with me: “You see something for the first time, and right away you know you have found YOUR GREAT INTEREST. It’s like a key turning in a lock.” I think that everyone should have at least one great interest, and as parents it is our responsibility to give our children the opportunities to find the lock for their particular key.

Sometimes a great interest reveals itself at a very young age. My oldest daughter got on her first horse when she was four and has parlayed that love into a fulfilling part-time business in addition to a full time college load. My youngest daughter took a more circuitous route, exploring roller skating, dance, gymnastics, soccer, volleyball – moving from one activity to the next – without really settling on anything until she started playing an instrument. She is now in her final year of high school, and her marching band is the only band in North Carolina to have achieved semi-finals in Grand Nationals twice.

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Why is this important in understanding a gifted child? It aligns with the three-ring conception of giftedness (my favorite definition), developed by Joseph Renzulli. In this definition, above average ability, creativity, and task commitment are equals in determining excellence. Of the three, I believe task commitment is key. Many people demonstrate a great capacity for sitting down to work and getting the job done, but when you add “your great interest” into the mix, that’s when opportunities for excellence appear. It’s the four year old who gets off the horse and asks, “can I do that again?”, or the eighth grader who, in her final middle school band concert, stands at the microphone and says that she’s going to dedicate the next four years of her life to her band.

three ring conception of giftedness

So, what can we do to help a child discover his or her great interest? First, listen when your child expresses an interest in something. Do a little digging – Where did she hear about this? Would she like to see/do/try it? Next, if the interest seems to be there, do some research together: read a book, watch a video clip, see a show/sporting event, explore a bit. Then, if the interest continues, find an opportunity for some hands-on experience. Is there a way to take a short class or a trial lesson before making a longer commitment? When your child is ready to commit to a new activity, make sure that the end date is clearly defined: “You are a part of this team now, and your coach and teammates need your best effort throughout the season”. No quitting in the middle of something! If you have to coax and cajole someone small to get ready, or if you hear groans when you say “it’s time to go”, then that’s a really good indication that activity is not one that your child needs to pursue. But if your child has given the longer trial his or her best effort and is still enthusiastic, then you both will be able to determine if it’s a good idea to put further resources into the interest, or if it was simply a passing fancy.

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Great interests are not always fixed; my equestrienne took a detour through dance before focusing on her four-footed friends, and my musician may be putting down the piccolo temporarily as she gets ready to move on to college. But each of my gifted girls has had the joy of being part of something greater than themselves. They have experienced delayed gratification, and have seen their skills increase through sustained effort over time. They have triumphed, failed, and triumphed again. They have done the work necessary to get the job done, but with a joy that has allowed their spirits to soar.

Diane’s great interest in musical theater began at the age of three when she got down off the stage after her first dance recital and said “I want to go back up there”. That interest turned into a career, with over 20 years teaching dance/theater and 10 years as a gifted education teacher.

Teaching Academically Gifted Children to Relax?!

Last week I took a week off of the blog- and I missed it. I found that I wanted to find resources, articles, and information to share. I might not have many “followers” but I do this because I love it. But, I still needed to have a few things off my plate for the week to focus on a my to-do list.

Help Your Child Relax

I consistently struggle with wanting to do it all and not knowing when to stop or say no. I think this is very common in gifted children too. They might not want to admit they can’t do it all or have difficult time just relaxing. Their little minds are always racing so they feel that physically they have to be in motion. It is our jobs as educators and parents to teach these children how to relax and just “take it easy”. It is a skill that comes naturally to some but not many gifted individuals.

Here are a few articles for parents to help teach your gifted child how to relax (or any child!)

Stress- Learning to Relax

How to Help Students Relax When They’re Feeling Stressed

Help Your Child Relax *

*Image from here

Gifted Children on Reality TV?

When I first heard Lifetime was making a series about gifted children, I was elated. Hopeful they would truly document some of the struggles parents experience with gifted children, or the difficulties (yes they do have them) for these children. I wanted parents of all children to know that parenting gifted children has ups and downs just like all kids.

Anyways- I did read a blog post about the show and I am so discouraged. Although I am not sure why I am surprised since it is reality tv- exploiting the stereotype and truly not reflecting real life.

Here is one blurb from the blog post by Gifted Unschooling I think sums it up great:

From my perspective, the show is borderline child abuse; however, sensationalism doesn’t factor in the impact to a child’s psyche. It is entirely misrepresentative of what truly profoundly gifted children and geniuses are like. The show exploits the concept of giftedness and genius which, by the way, are not the same thing. Most children, no matter how brilliant they are, are not necessarily going to be eminent and contribute to society in a positive and meaningful way and therefore, it is entirely premature to coin them as geniuses. Even if a child who has attained a specific IQ number coincided with a certain view of the term genius, this show does nothing to emulate the nature of a genius, prodigy or profoundly gifted child. Genius is not quantifiable.

Check out the whole blog in its entirity–  reminder of how low reality show goes to earn money.

Interest Intensity: Snakes, Lizards, Iguanas, Oh MY!

Academically gifted students often have interests that can be different of chronological peers. Not any better or worse, just different. They can also be intense about these- reading everything, watching videos, and only wanting to talk about that specific topic. Maybe on the verge of obsession. It is like a thirst that is unquenchable. The hard part for these students is they might not be able to find other friends that like to talk about them or understand. As young children, they get confused on why others don’t share this interest. When these children get older, they learn to hide these interests for fear of ridicule.

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My son intense interest is reptiles. He LOVES anything to do with reptiles- especially snakes. I always prided myself on being a little bit of a tomboy but learning about snakes was never on my list of interests. Now, at bedtime we read Audubon books or watch YouTube videos about snakes. We have even watched a video on two headed snakes.

Well, this weekend is the annual Repticon in Raleigh (a showcase of reptiles) and I can not be more thrilled. No- I don’t care much about what we might see there. But I will love to see my son’s face and his excitement.