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Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Gifted For All!

Gifted for All

Students taking ownership of their learning, developing their strengths and pursuing their passions, gaining transferable life skills, creating real-world products for real audiences.
The more I study gifted education, the more I believe the strategies and approaches used for gifted children could greatly benefit the entire education world.

Too often, gifted education is mistakenly considered a privilege of the elite group of children in a school or the really smart kids." By upon closer reflection, you will realize that the research-based practices for gifted students are strategies that can be used to help all students become more engaged and more effective in their school lives.

The approach used for gifted education is a different path, however, that could make some educators, and those responsible for establishing school policies and programs, a little uncomfortable. It involves allowing students to pursue their interests and choose topics that set them on fire. This path requires them to act like professionals in the real-world, using technology, research skills, and investigative thinking. Rather than simply rely on standardized test scores, gifted strategies ask young people to create relevant products and to share those products with real, not captive, audiences.

Let me provide an example:

Several years ago, when I taught language arts at a middle school, I struggled to capture my students attention. One day, while reading the newspaper, I came across an article about a young girl, who lost her mother to a drunk driving accident. I brought the article to class and asked the students to read it. After witnessing their reactions to the sad news, I asked them to brainstorm ways to help. They came up with all kinds of valid ideas, including conducting a school-wide coin collection, holding a bake sale, and asking the community to donate to the girls collection fund. Once we had a plan, I helped the students think about the kind of products they could use to reach their audience. We discussed creating flyers, posters, radio announcements, letters to the newspaper, and more.

The students went to work on designing their products, knowing that they would be used to help further the cause. Suddenly, language arts became relevant. They instinctively understood the importance of using correct spelling and grammar and necessity to create professional products. I asked them to rewrite their letters and content, trying to summarize their message and keep it interesting. Again, the skill of persuasive writing took on a whole new meaning, after we discussed how they had to somehow convince people to part with their hard-earned money when giving a donation.

Their products reached a wide-audience, going beyond the schools student body, as numerous articles and letters about their project began appearing in the local newspapers.

The students also were able to see firsthand the effect of their work, which involved raising over $2,000 for the girls donation fund. Perhaps more importantly, during the process, my classes learned all kind of transferable skills such as investigating, designing, organizing, decision-making and advertising.

As demonstrated, this approach to education really works and can be implemented in general education classrooms. But it requires moving away from what gifted expert, Joseph Renzulli, calls schoolhouse learning, which involves memorizing information and repeating it back through standardized testing.

To conclude this blog, Id like to leave you with a few simple strategies used in gifted education that can be implemented in any classroom:

  • * Develop lessons based on student interests and passions. Take inventory of what your students like to do or what topics concern or interest them, then, base your lessons around those topics.
  • * Require students to create authentic, real-world products, and in the process, allow them to utilize their learning strengths and preferred modes of learning. For example, rather than just create a PowerPoint, students could create a documentary, write a play, or build a 3-D model to demonstrate learning.
  • * Allow students to present their products and schoolwork to real audiences that have a shared interest. For instance, students researching the problem of texting while driving could present their findings to the local Sheriffs Office or state lawmakers.

To comment on this blog or share your ideas, please visit the Innovative Teaching group at http://community.educationworld.comcontent/gifted-all-0?gid=NTEyMQ==