Tips for Parents: Preparing Schools for your Highly Gifted Child
Rogers, K.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development
2004

This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Karen Rogers, who discusses ways to determine the best matches between a child’s documented educational needs and the provisions a school might be able to offer.

During the seminar presented in August, 2004, several mentions were made of how to determine the best matches between a child's documented educational needs and the provisions a school might be able to offer. In the tables presented here, my best thinking about how to systematically make such matches is presented. Note that the school you are dealing with may not offer each of these options, but among the ones it does offer, you can ask for the best fit for your child. As discussed in the seminar, however, it is probably better to go into the school with 1-2 options as your best fits and then once a follow-up session has been scheduled to see how these options are working out, you may be able to ask for more. In general, there are four priorities, which you will ultimately wish to incorporate into your child's plan:

Priority 1: Grouping inside the school and grouping outside the school.
The grouping should be by ability or performance while in school and could include at least one of the following forms: (a) performance grouping for specific subject instruction, (b) within class grouping for specific units or topics, (c) a send-out or pull-out/resource room program, (d) cluster grouped classroom, and (e) like-ability cooperative, differentiated learning tasks within the classroom for specific topics, units, or subject areas. (See Re-forming Gifted Education for the specifics of these choices.) Grouping outside of school should include some of the following: (a) interest clubs, (b) academic competition teams, (c) non-academic competitions (Destination Imagination, chess, etc.), (d) talent clubs, (e) talent performances/ exhibitions. (f) extracurricular field trips. The opportunities with these should be to group with others of similar interests and passions as well as with others of varying ages.

Priority 2: Compacting the Regular Curriculum.
This can be done through the formal "compacting" process, by grade telescoping, picking up the pace of content presentation, credit for prior learning, and a variety of forms of subject-based and grade-based acceleration options. (See Re-forming Gifted Education for an exhaustive list of these options and their definitions.- In many cases, the child may benefit greatly from being allowed to progress through 1.5 to 2 years' curriculum each year, and without some form of compacting or acceleration, this will be almost impossible to accomplish in the regular classroom.

Priority 3: Providing Opportunities for Individual Learning.
Suggested learning experiences for the child should be built upon the child's preferences for self-paced learning, independent study, guided discovery, and higher order thinking whenever possible. This will involve the gifted resource teachers at school to identify appropriate studies and to teach the skills of self-directed learning, but the child's own interests can dictate in which field or area the individual studies will occur. Supervision of the independent work must be systemic, with regular, corrective feedback to the child about his or her progress in the individual study being undertaken.

Priority 4: Providing Appropriate Learning Experiences in School.
In the areas of the child's talents, there are some "rules" to ensure that the learning is appropriate. For example, in math and science, the pacing of content and skills learning should be two to three times faster than the regular class pace and the drill and practice of mastered content and skills should be reduced considerably. Making social studies, reading, science and the humanities more appropriate, these disciplines must be taught by their big ideas and concepts and each concept should be taught in its entirety in a whole-to-part organization of the content. Learning new content must be a focus of learning in these areas, not just processing and thinking, and for the child's talent area(s), the content must present a daily, direct challenge, not just be something that occurs sporadically. In general, no matter what the content area, the content itself must be modified to become more abstract, more intricate and complex, relate to human issues and social problems, teach about the methods used in the field under study, and make connections thematically across disciplines. The processes of learning and thinking must be modified sot the child learns to see the value of some group products but also learns the skills of effective, independent self-directed learning. And, the products required of the child should be varied, not just another oral or written report (or diorama!).

When attempting to identify the "best" grouping option (Priority One), the following charts may help:

Matching for Ability Grouping
Data Source Characteristics Necessary
Cognitive Functioning Is processing/achieving well above most others at grade level
Learning Strengths Learns easily and well in most subjects at school
Learning Preferences Prefers to work at a fast pace, though not necessarily alone
Personal Characteristics Academically motivated, comfortable with competition, self-accepting
Interests and Attitudes Likes academic work even outside of school
Books/Enrichment Experiences Reads a wide variety and at advanced levels

Matching for Performance Grouping
Data Source Characteristics Necessary
Cognitive Functioning Is achieving well above others at current grade level
Learning Strengths Learns quickly and easily in most academic areas
Learning Preferences Prefers fast-paced, challenging work, though not necessarily alone
Personal Characteristics Academically motivated, accepting of others, self-accepting, independent
Interests and Attitudes Likes academic work even outside of school
Books/Enrichment Experiences Reads a wide variety and at advanced levels

When matching for some form of curriculum compaction or acceleration, the following tables may help to guide your choices:

Matching for Compacting
Data Source Characteristics Necessary
Cognitive Functioning Is achieving at substantially higher level in some subjects than most classmates
Learning Strengths Pre-assessment shows actual levels of mastery in subject or subjects
Learning Preferences Willing to work alone or in small groups on self-instructional tasks
Personal Characteristics Motivated to learn, persistent, independent
Interests and Attitudes Has high interest in area to be compacted, boredom with routine learning
Books/Enrichment Experiences Reads deeply in specific area of strength

Matching for Grade-Based Acceleration
Data Source Characteristics Necessary
Cognitive Functioning Needs to learn more in a year than 1 year's curriculum in most subjects
Learning Strengths Shows strengths in every academic area
Learning Preferences Prefers to work alone and at own pace
Personal Characteristics Is independent and persistent
Interests and Attitudes Likes academic work, has wide-ranging interests
Books/Enrichment Experiences Often reads books well beyond age and "appropriately developmental" level

Matching for Subject-Based Acceleration
Data Source Characteristics Necessary
Cognitive Functioning Is performing well above age peers in specific academic area or areas
Learning Strengths More than 2 grades ahead in specific area or areas
Learning Preferences Enjoys a variety of delivery methods and challenges in that specific area
Personal Characteristics Is self-directed, independent, and motivated to learn
Interests and Attitudes Has a strong passion in specific area(s) with little time to pursue this outside of school
Books/Enrichment Experiences Reads extensively in specific passion area

When matching for some form of independent learning, the following table may help guide your choice:

Matching for Independent Learning
Data Source Characteristics Necessary
Cognitive Functioning Is processing, and achieving, well beyond grade level in specific academic area
Learning Strengths Strong planning and organization skills, as well as in specific subject
Learning Preferences Enjoys a variety of delivery methods and challenges
Personal Characteristics Is self-directed, independent, and motivated to learn
Interests and Attitudes Has strong specific interests, time to supplement learning outside of school
Books/Enrichment Experiences Reads deeply in specific interest, strength

When matching for "appropriate" learning experiences in curriculum areas, the following tables may help with the subject areas for trying the instructional delivery strategies and curriculum modifications listed:

Matching Instructional Delivery with Subject Areas
Strategy Subjects the Research Supports for Strategy Other Possibilities
Fast Pacing Math, Science, Foreign Language Target teaching of gaps
In-depth learning, Concept-based learning Science, Humanities, Social Studies Language Arts
Whole-to-part content organization Math, Science Literature, Social Studies
Elimination of drill and repitition Math, Science, Spelling, Geography Language Arts, Social Studies
Self-instructional learning Math, Spelling, Geography Some areas of Social Studies
Reflection and Analysis Science, Humanities, Literature Language Arts, Social Studies

Matching Content Differentiation with Disciplines
Strategy Subjects the Research Supports for Strategy Other Possibilities
Content Abstraction Science, Literature History, Humanities
Content Complexity Science, Literature Social Studies, Math
Multi-Disciplinary Literature, Humanities, Social Studies Science, Math
Study of People Science, Social Studies LIterature, Humanities
Methods of Inquiry Science, Social Studies Humanities

Matching Process Differentiation with Disciplines
Strategy Subjects the Research Supports for Strategy Other Possibilities
Open-endedness Literature, Humanities, Science Social Studies
Proof and reasoning Science, Math Literature, Social Studies
Higher order thinking Literature, Science Social Studies, Language Arts, Humanities
Memory Work Math, Science, History, Literature Language Arts, Social Studies, Perceptual Tasks
Communication Skills Language Arts, Humanities Social Studies
Planning, Research, Organization, Test-taking Science, Social Studies Literature, Humanities

Matching Curriculum Delivery Differentiation with Disciplines
Strategy Subjects the Research Supports for Strategy Other Possibilities
Real world problems Social Studies, Science Literature, Humanities, Math
Transformational Products Science, Social Studies Literature, Humanities
The "Classics" Literature, Humanities Science
Social issues, Ethics, Discussions Science, Social Studies Literature, Humanities
Problem-based tasks and projects Science, Social Studies, Math Literature, History
Service Learning Social Studies, Scienc Language Arts
Arts-infused curriculum integration History, Foreign Language, Literature Science, Humanities

Once you have identified the essential provisions your child needs, put them in what you consider your order of priority. Take the top two provisions on your list, accompanied with the data you have collected on your child and talk with the school administrator about how these two could be implemented for your child. Be sure that your focus begins with developing the easily recognized gifts or talents your child has and plan for daily challenge in those areas. Later requests or second level priorities will ask for development in high motivation areas or lesser talent areas and may only require 1 to 2 times a week challenge. No matter how carefully and systematically you have set out this plan for your family, getting it all implemented by the school will probably be difficult and ultimately will be a compromise reached among parent, student, and school


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