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Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Obsessed-Part 2

Last week~ I wrote about gifted children have the tendency to become obsessed with a particular area and topic (http://community.educationworld.comcontent/obsessed) and warned teachers not to discourage this traitwhich can be found in highly successful people~ whove made major contributions to society-- but rather help students find healthy ways to develop it.

The remainder of this blog will be dedicated to sharing some tips I would like to share based on my experience of working with gifted children who exhibit obsessive behavior.

USE THEIR OBSESSION AS A LAUNCHING PAD

A students love for a particular topic can lead to many wonderful results. Use this passion to help propel the students achievement. Take reading for example. If a child loves riding horses~ help them locate books on horses. Have them study the life cycle of horses. Share stories about taking care of horses~ horse racing competitions~ medical treatments of horses. When a student is highly enthusiastic about an area~ they tend to demonstrate more focus and stamina~ which can help them navigate more complex texts. I know what some teachers reading this blog will say: but I cant get them to read anything else. But the fact is~ they are reading. They might be reading more books than other students. So take that habit of reading and gently persuade them to expand their reading selections. Maybe they can start to read some fictional stories involving horses~ such as Black Beauty. Then~ maybe they can read about other animals. Then~ suggest that the read a book about veterinarians. Soon~ you might find the student is expanding their selections~ but you cannot force this process.

CHANNEL THEIR INTERESTS

Students need an outlet for their obsessions. They need to be taught how to further explore and develop their interest. A great way to help them channel their energy is to teach them how to research a topic. This allows them to become experts in their area of interest~ and in the process~ teaches them many valuable skills they will use throughout their academic career. I begin by having them simply list questions they have about the topic. I ask them what else to you want to know about this topic? What are you curious about? Once they create a plan~ I teach them to locate answers using texts~ Internet sources~ and people. I also teach them to confirm facts and check the validity of sources~ much the same way an investigative reporter would. Once theyve completed their research~ we discuss how they would like to share their findings~ which can be through speeches~ writing~ video and other technology~ models and other mediums.
EXPOSE THEM TO NEW EXPERIENCES

Teach students that having a passion or intense interest is perfectly acceptable~ but in order to grow as an individual~ they should seek out new knowledge and experiences. For instance~ I have a student who excels academically~ but his guardians recently took him to climb trees and go hikingand he had a blast. Exposing students to new experiences help them develop new interests~ new skills~ and to make new connections to the world; it also teaches them to take an occasional break from their obsessions~ which can be healthy.
TEACH TIME MANAGEMENT

Use their intense interest as a means to teach children time-management skills. For example~ if all Johnny wants to do is read about sharks when he gets home~ tell him that if he successfully completes his homework first~ without wasting time~ he will save time for his hobby or interest. We have to teach kids that by becoming effective~ we save time for the things we really enjoy and love to do.
Remember~ highly successful people find their obsession in life and focus their energies and talents around it. We must teach children that is O.K. to fall in love with a topic~ but that we must learn to manage that passion in a healthy manner.
Thank you~
Steve