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:
When matching for some form of curriculum compaction or acceleration, the following tables may help to guide your choices:
When matching for some form of independent learning, the following table may help guide your choice:
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:
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.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.