May 11, 2001,
Recognising gifted students
Are you honest with yourself?
Recognising gifted students
A few years ago I went to the college from which I had received my degree in education to attend an interactive weekend course in teaching gifted students. As I entered the classroom, I thought to myself, "Iíve had a lot of bright students in the past, but I donít believe Iíve ever taught one who was truly gifted." By the time I left, I had identified at least six of my former students as "gifted" ó and of these, only two belonged to the group I had considered "bright."
I realised that as a teacher I had failed to recognise gifted students. In the first place, I had not been consciously looking for gifted students. I was more concerned with detecting handicaps, such as learning disabilities and visual or hearing impairments. It was this end of the classroom spectrum that preoccupied me. It never occurred to me that children with extraordinary abilities might also be suffering for not being able to realise their full potential through the regular school programme.
Furthermore, when asked to look for gifted students, I would watch out for obvious manifestations: precocious reading ability, capacious memory, advanced vocabulary, extraordinary talent in a specific artistic field or academic area.
These might have resulted in my identifying high achievers like Ramanjeet and Nafisa, who learned things exceptionally quickly and easily. However, I must have missed students like Pranjay, a seemingly average student whose natural leadership ability and sensitivity towards others prompted his classmates to seek direction from him whenever they were in a jam; Andrew whose perfectionism and fondness for details made it impossible for him to finish an assignment within the given amount of time; and Puja, whose inexhaustible reserves of creative energy, gave her the title of the clown of the class.
Teachers ask students who finish their work early, to use the extra time to read or draw. Glad to see them happily occupied, they turn to give the rest of the students extra help. But the teachers rarely follow up by asking the "brighter" students what they had read or drawn during that time. In short, we leave these students to their own devices.
We consciously deny our gifted students a special curriculum that permits individual self-expression because it seems undemocratic to set them apart. We feel it is in their own interest as well as in the interest of their classmates, that they blend with the group.
But it is possible to cater to the needs of gifted individuals in a class without neglecting or harming the other children. It is possible for a gifted child to be part of a curriculum that is specially appropriate to his or her individual needs... and at the same time to be an active participant of the classroom curriculum as a whole.
The first consideration to be kept in mind while designing a curriculum suited to the needs of gifted students is the need to give exposure. The gifted students should have access to a wide range of sensory stimuli ó in the form of trips, films, books, records, pictures, charts, maps, art and cooking sessions.
When a student makes a strong, positive response to a particular learning experience, that experience can form the basis of an independent study or project. For example, if a child is exceptionally good in a subject, he or she could do a project that would require deeper study in that particular stream.
When independent studies like this are undertaken by gifted students, certain considerations like the time that will be allotted to them and the degree to which they will replace the regular curriculum must be worked out by the student and teacher in accordance with the general learning needs of the students and with the existing structure of the classroom. Some gifted students may, for example, need to do maths with their classmates but may be so advanced in language skills that they could use the class reading time for an independent study.
In order to allow their ideas to be carried out, gifted students need a certain amount of privacy and some blocks of time in which to work on their independent studies.
Are you honest with yourself?
IT is one thing to lie to other people, but do you tell yourself the truth? Can you admit to yourself when you are wrong? Or do you always convince yourself you are right? Do this quiz to find out how truthful you are... about yourself:
1. You fail your driving test. Do you think it is because:
(a) your driving is terrible?
(b) you have not had enough lessons?
(c) you were just very unlucky?
(d) you should have passed but the examiner did not like you?
2. Youíre overdrawn at the bank. Is it because:
(a) you must have made a mistake ó youíve got loads of money?
(b) you spent over your limit this month?
(c) you are completely incompetent when it comes to managing your finances?
(d) you have no idea?
3. You have a party and only half the people you invited turn up. Do you think:
(a) they got the wrong day?
(b) no one likes you?
(c) itís too far away for them to come?
(d) that it sometimes happens, whoever you are?
4. A stranger offers to buy you a coffee. Do you think:
(a) he is interested in you?
(b) he is lonely?
(c) he feels sorry for you?
(d) he is trying to seduce you?
5. You are stood up on your first night out with a new man/woman. Is it because:
(a) your last boy/girlfriend was his/her best friend?
(b) you are boring?
(c) they must have been in an accident?
(d) they just got cold feet?
6. You miss out on a super job you really wanted. Is it because:
(a) you are overqualified?
(b) you made a mess of the interview?
(c) you were not right for the job?
(d) they could tell you are a half-wit?
7. You get the part you wanted in the local drama club production. Is it because:
(a) your father is the director?
(b) you are a brilliant performer?
(c) you worked hard to get the part?
(d) it was a complete fluke?
8. The opposite sex does not seem to notice you anymore. Is it because:
(a) you are wearing a T-shirt with a rude slogan on it?
(b) you are getting older?
(c) they never noticed you anyway?
(d) they must be blind?
9. You have just had a terrible haircut. Friends comments on how nice it looks. Is it because:
(a) they are lying, and sniggering behind your back really?
(b) it is not too bad after all?
(c) whatever the haircut, you still look beautiful?
(d) they are just being polite?
10. You meet a handsome man at a party who spends all evening talking to your friend, but keeps looking at you. Is it because:
(a) you have a huge spot on your nose?
(b) he cannot make up his mind whether it is you or your friend he is interested in?
(c) he is simply impressed by your stunning looks?
(d) he wants you to go away so he can get closer to your friend?
1. (a)20 (b)15 (c)10 (d)5
2. (a)5 (b)15 (c)20 (d)10
3. (a)5 (b)20 (c)10 (d)15
4. (a)15 (b)10 (c)20 (d)5
5. (a)10 (b)20 (c)5 (d)15
6. (a)5 (b)15 (c)10 (d)20
7. (a)10 (b)5 (c)15 (d)20
8. (a)15 (b)10 (c)20 (d)5
9. (a)20 (b)15 (c)5 (d)10
10.(a)20 (b)10 (c) 5 (d)15
What your score means:
50-85: Talk about living in a world of make-believe. Telling lies to yourself is a recipe for disaster. A little honesty would make your life a lot easier and make you a much nicer person. But there is hope for you yet. You were honest enough to land yourself in this category so thatís a start.
90-125: You donít always separate fact from fantasy ó but on the whole you are honest with yourself. You always have an excuse up your sleeve to make things easier for yourself.
130-165: You certainly believe honesty is the best policy. Your friends and relatives probably agree that the picture you have of yourself is fair and accurate. You realise that we all have mixed feelings about whatever we do.
170-200: Your idea of honesty means you have to paint a black picture of yourself. Give yourself a break. Try and recognise your good points and you will find others will like you better for it. Donít be so hypercritical... no one else is. (AF)
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