Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Fireflies" in ASL

My students are currently finishing an ASL unit, and we've been using this video in class. The featured signer is neither deaf nor completely fluent in American Sign language, but this video still helps kids connect ASL to popular culture: not to mention that they also think it's really cool to be able to sign along with the radio.

And, by the way, I LOVE TeacherTube :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Myths About Gifted Education – Part 1

**This will be a two-part post because I'm in the process of moving and changing our internet setup, so it will take awhile to get the whole thing finished.

The National Association for Gifted Children (
NAGC) condensed this list from a series of pieces, beginning with a 1982 issue of Gifted Child Quarterly, and I have reposted it word-for-word here. I see and hear so many of these myths tossed around by students, parents, and fellow educators, and I often think they are simply rationalizations we use to avoid giving our best to these children and/or expecting them to give their best in our classrooms. We spend a lot of time teaching kids up from the bottom, and not very much time teaching kids up from the top, though every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her highest possible level of academic growth in our public schools, regardless of the starting point.

Italics represent my emphasis, and * represents my additions.


Gifted students don’t need help; they’ll do fine on their own.

Would you send a star athlete to train for the Olympics without a coach? Gifted students need guidance from well-trained teachers who challenge and support them in order to fully develop their abilities. Many gifted students may be so far ahead of their same-age peers that they know more than half of the grade-level curriculum before the school year begins. Their resulting boredom and frustration can lead to low achievement, despondency, or unhealthy work habits. The role of the teacher is crucial for spotting and nurturing talents in school.

*This is such a common attitude! While many students may, indeed, turn out “fine”, they need help cultivating their talents just like everyone else. We’re going for “excellent”, not “fine”.

Teachers challenge all the students, so gifted kids will be fine in the regular classroom.

Although teachers try to challenge all students they are frequently unfamiliar with the needs of gifted children and do not know how to best serve them in the classroom. The National Research Center on Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) found that
61% of classroom teachers had no training in teaching highly able students, limiting the challenging educational opportunities offered to advanced learners.[1] A more recent national study conducted by the Fordham Institute found that 58% of teachers have received no professional development focused on teaching academically advanced students in the past few years. Taken together, these reports confirm what many families have known: not all teachers are able to recognize and support gifted learners.

*A current education buzzword is “differentiation”: in other words, adjusting content, process, and environment to give students the correct amount and level of work for their intellectual abilities and potential. While most teachers attempt to do this, and some do it quite well, it is often not feasible for students to truly learn at their own paces when those paces are highly accelerated. Unfortunately, many gifted students end up without relevant lesson extensions and, instead, read books for large portions of their classes. Let me emphasize that there is nothing wrong with reading, either at school or at home. However, since high-ability students generally have the capacity to make great academic achievements, we as teachers should be giving them the opportunity to do this during class.

Gifted students make everyone else in the class smarter by providing a role model or a challenge.

In reality, average or below-average students do not look to the gifted students in the class as role models. They are more likely to model their behavior on those who have similar capabilities and are coping well in school. Seeing a student at a similar performance level succeed motivates students because it adds to their own sense of ability. Watching or relying on someone who is expected to succeed does little to increase a struggling student’s sense of self-confidence.
[2] Similarly, gifted students benefit from classroom interactions with peers at similar performance levels.

All children are gifted.

While all children are special and deserving, not all children have exceptional academic gifts that require additional or different support in school. Interestingly, most people readily accept that there are gifted children in performing arts or athletics whose talents are so far above those of others their age that they require additional or different training or coaching. It is important to understand that these same characteristics and differences apply to academically gifted students who need support and guidance to reach their full potential.

Acceleration placement options are socially harmful for gifted students.


Academically gifted students often feel bored or out of place with their age peers and naturally gravitate towards older students who are more similar as “intellectual peers.” Studies have shown that many students are happier with older students who share their interest than they are with children the same age.[3] Therefore, acceleration placement options such as early entrance to Kindergarten, grade skipping, or early exit should be considered for these students.

[1] Archambault, F. S., Westberg, K. L., Brown, S. W., Hallmark, B. W., Emmons, C. L., & Zhang, W. (1993). Regular classroom practices with gifted students: Results of a national survey of classroom teachers (#93102). Storrs, CT: the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
[2] Fiedler, E.D., Lange, R. E., Winebrenner, S. (1993). In search of reality: Unraveling the myths about tracking, ability grouping, and the gifted. Roper Review, (16), 4-7.
[3] Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M.U.M. (2004). A nation deceived: How schools hold back America's brightest students. Iowa City: University of Iowa.


Stay tuned for the rest of the list; there are still six myths to go!


Related Posts with Thumbnails