The Essential Question, “What elements should distinguish effective curricula for gifted students in middle school?” that begins Chapter 5 is a topic I try to address with a fresh outlook every year. This chapter has succinctly stated elements that are most effective for designing curriculum for gifted students. I agree that using the Understanding by Design model of designing curriculum is very successful (or Backwards Design). Starting with a challenging assignment may not in the end produce the desired results unless the teacher has investigated and plotted the assessment to make sure there is congruity and relevance to the challenging assignment. Having theme based assignments or as I integrate social studies and language arts, a yearly theme, keeps students as well as curricula focused. Student should be allowed and encouraged to explore beyond the assignment or topic of discussion and present the results of that exploration back to the class. Teachers need to be flexible in allowing new ideas to be presented and to act more as a facilitator and less of the instructional talking head. Choice should be offered in a non-threatening venue. While a “whatever you want” cannot be the case, the teacher can produce a careful researched list of topics, books, etc. that will offer choice to the middle school student. Given the diversity of giftedness, choice in the area of assignment, project, or assessment should be factored into curricula. One area that is hard to control is how to challenge the gifted student. One student may never know when to stop a project or paper – the over achievers. Conversely, the under-achiever will be satisfied with the minimum requirements. So how does the teacher craft curricula with the depth and complexity that will challenge all students? The answer can be found in the Table 5.1 that addresses the need to have Standards-Imbedded into the GT curricula. Some highlights are to accelerate and enrich your program using above grade level standards, thematically based content, essential questions, integrated instruction, and a variety of assessments. The challenge is for the teacher to maintain high standards, focus, and be persistent in spite of state test demands and time constraints. Every year I am frustrated by not getting everything “covered” only to receive emails from 9th grade students the next year saying how helpful the work they did was to them already. This Chapter further emphasizes the need for teachers to make gifted education and students the priority and not the state test.
In response to Eleanor on July 2ndI love that you mentioned backwards design. This is something that I have only tried a couple of times, and while it is difficult, it was great seeing the fruit of my labor. I also completely agree with you when you mention teachers needing to be more flexible. Unfortunately we have some teachers who are stuck in their ways "This is the way I have been doing it successfully for years, this is how I will keep doing it" these kind of statements are so discouraging to me because I know that the students in that classroom are not getting to express themselves, and in turn, not taking an ownership in the learning like they could be. Ryan Harvey
I agree with both comments by Eleanor and Ryan - July 2, July 14. I too find teachers that are set in their ways and not wanting to change. It also turns into the GT teacher constantly giving projects for the students to do because since they are GT they are suppose to do projects all the time. These two teaching strategies creates a closed environment that gifted students are unable to express their individuality in or challenge themselves since the lessons/outcomes have already been set.
L. Howard "What resources are available to support instruction and curriculum development for gifted students in middle school?"--One resource that has interdisciplinary units for gifted students is "The Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary" ( Kindle Location 2336)--Guidelines for using Socratic Seminars which engage students in high level dialogue can be found in Copeland (2005), and http://www.journeytoexcellence.org--Ideas for conducting simulations and roleplaying can be found on "Interact" at http://www.teachinteract.com --Model of critical and creative thinking can be found at http://www.critiicalthinking.org --For problem based learning and creative problem solving ideas, there is the Future Problem Solving Program International (http://www.fpspi.org), Destination ImagiNation, and Odyssey of the Mind--The Texas Performance Standards Project has a series of units that combine the four core content areas with research skills and culminating projects (http://www.texaspsp.org) I plan on trying these various resources with my students this year. It sounds like these would give ideas that will help build rigor into our program for our gifted students.
In response to Travelingbug on July 6th, I agree that one of the best resources for supporting gifted student curriculum is The Center for Gifted Education. While I knew about this resource, this book study reminded me of how very current and relevant that site is especially for interdisciplinary units. All the resources Travelingbug listed help the GT teacher stay focused on what is best for the GT learner.
What Instructional strategies are most effective for gifted students in middle school?An important thing is mentioned when looking at scores etc. of our gifted kids, we cannot just look at a standardized test an assume that is truly what our students know about a specific subject. As we know, some of our brightest students are horrible test takers. This among many other things emphasizes the need for multiple learning strategies. - Group learning is a great focus on this topic presented in this chapter. Simulations and role playing learning is a great way to learn a topic while working on "Teamwork and interpersonal skills" The students after completion analyze the exchange, and make connections to their learning for long term learning. - Problem Based Learning is an idea that is pretty familiar with most teachers by now I believe. The students are presented with problems and they have to figure out how to solve them while connecting it to the concept. "A well-chosen problem makes a connection between the content and the student's lives, interests, and concerns". -Independent study and learning contracts,mastery learning, curriculum compacting and even direct instruction were also strategies discussed in chapter 5. Ryan Harvey
The Essential Question, “What elements should distinguish effective curricula for gifted students in middle school?” I believe that gifted students get so much more out of a lesson/subject when they are allowed to do independent study. This allows them to make connections between what is being studied and their everyday life. Anytime you can get a student to apply and expand what they have learned to benefit them in everyday life you have increased their total amount of learning. As mentioned on page 131...I like the use of menus. These allow students to broaden their learning as well as keeping them on a contract of learning. Not every gifted student has the same motivations or interests. These menus allow students to show their understanding of topics in a individualized and creative way. Menus are also great when used cross curricular.
(L.Howard) In reply to Laura Boyd on July 16, 2014I agree with you that giving our gifted students time to do independent study is very important. It gives them greater freedom and choice to go beyond the limits of our curriculum. I used menus with my classes sometimes this year as part of workshop time. My kids really seemed to enjoy having the choice of what assignment to work on during that time. After reading this book, I think, I am going to try to differentiate the menus more, so that my different levels of students, including my gifted students, have challenge at their appropriate level. My question, if any of you can help, is how do I set my grade book up for different assignments for different groups of students. If any of you have tried this and can share, I would really appreciate the suggestions.
In response to Laura Boyd on July 16th- The elements that distinguish effective curricula for gifted students would be as you stated allowing students to make connections and expand what they have learned. I also like the menu idea and I am going to try and use them cross curricular.
What instructional strategies are most effective for gifted students in middle school?There are many instructional strategies that are discussed in Chapter 5, all of which have a common theme--higher-level thinking. The strategies that stood out to me are: Socratic Seminars, Simulations, and Problem-Based Learning (PBL).Socratic Seminars are designed to engage students in high-level dialogue about a particular topic or reading selection. Because students are actively participating, they may serve as authentic assessments if used with an appropriate rubric. The teacher would initially serve as the seminar leader, however, the eventual goal is that a student may be able to take over as seminar leader. (p. 125-6)Simulations allow opportunities to integrate current curriculum, authentic assessment, and active participation. It provides a unique way for students to be engaged in learning. Again, the teacher acts as the facilitator, choosing roles for students and managing the material and resources available. The idea is that students will have an opportunity to apply advanced knowledge and problem solve in different situations. (p. 126-8)Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is necessary when direct instruction is necessary. It is a way for you to keep the students engaged in what you are teaching, while making them think at a higher level. The teacher formulates questions based on the current curriculum, matching students' skills and content required. It should be a question that they may be able to connect with current issues or interests that they may have as middle school students. (p. 128-30)
And when you tie in the next chapter on differentiation, it really makes sense. If we vary the reading assignments we give kids (based on their reading levels) all kids feel successful during the Socratic Seminar.
The one essential question I would like to address from Chapter 5 : What instructional strategies are most effective for gifted students in middle school? Choice and challenge are essential for gifted students. Choice will allow the student to engage and collaborate on topics that interest them. This will allow challenge in complex and various ways to meet in depth learning. Students are driven when they have choice of subject.
What instructional strategies are most effective for gifted students in middle school? First off, I found this section worth the price of the book. A concise place where you can find all the practical information for classroom strategies. I have tried Socratic Seminar, but I never thought about varying my readings, so that students of different reading levels can still feel successful in the discussion. She goes on to discuss Independent Study and Learning Contracts as well as Mastery Learning and Curriculum Compacting. Her quote from Thomas Guskey sums up the point about “enrichment work”.We must recognize that students involved in enrichment activities also have special learning needs. Furthermore, involving these fast learners in busywork just to keep them occupied is detrimental to their learning progress. High-quality enrichment activities are essential to these students;’ learning and to the mastery learning process. (p. 132)Her section on curriculum compacting was equally as interesting. Not only does this move those kids further along that need it, but it also gives us the freedom to give individual attention to those kids that come to us with certain deficiencies. She finished the section with a nod to direct instruction. With GT kids, this is a strategies that needs judicious application. I have learned that with all middle school kids (especially sixth graders) it should be limited to ten or fifteen minutes. After that, they’re lost.
The two most effective instructional strategies that I read about in the chapter and feel are a must in the classroom are: - Socratic Circles – page 126: This creates an outlet for the gifted students to not only discover/discuss/debate things from peers within the class on a topic but also creates an environment in the classroom that encourages various opinions. A must in the GT classroom in order to foster a love of exploring and a common need for acceptance/understanding.- Direct Instruction – page 138: “a single presentation is often all that is necessary, rather than the repetitions of multiple modalities.” I know that as a gifted teacher we need to challenge and let the students grow on their own. However I also like that even the author states (above) that direct instruction is also, at times, necessary. Not all items can be or should be explored with excess.
What elements should distinguish effective curricula for gifted students in middle school? I feel that the statement on p. 101 that "Both choice and challenge are essential to appropriate curricula for gifted students." hit the nail on the head. I like how the author presented various curricular models, all of which stress the need for content relevance and flexibility. For me, I feel that the Parallel Curriculum Model (p. 101 ...) with its different components is particularly useful. (PV)