For my assignment, I got the opportunity to learn more about exceptional learners. I took an in depth look at what defines a child as gifted, how the life course of the gifted can be described, and some options for educating students who are gifted. I began by taking a look at what defines a child as “gifted”. Our book describes gifted children as those that have a combination of an extreme talent in subjects such as music, mathematics, and art, and an above average intelligence, which is usually defined as an IQ of 130 or higher (Santrock 217).
Academic, intellectual, visual and performing arts, leadership and creative are the five areas of giftedness as recognized by the US government. Giftedkids. about. com provides us with a chart that uses a child’s IQ to diagnose just how highly gifted they are. It defines mildly gifted as a child having an IQ of 115-129, moderately gifted as 130-144, highly gifted as 145-159, exceptionally gifted as 160-179, and profoundly gifted as 180.
The farther a child is away from an IQ of 100, whether it be to the right or the left, the more of the need there is for special education because most of us fall between an IQ of 85 and 115, with the norm averaging out at 100. In our text, three characteristics of gifted children are defined by an expert on creativity and giftedness; Ellen Winner (217). The first of these three characteristics is precocity. Because gifted children are often able to learn more effortlessly and master certain skills much earlier than their peers, they often become precocious.
The second characteristic that Winner points out, is marching to their own drummer. Gifted children can sometimes resist particular instruction from a teacher because they have found their own methods of learning that works best for them so they simply continue with that method. They are very strong individuals and thrive on individual learning. A passion to master is the last characteristic. Internal motivation is something that is engrained in a gifted child. They do not need to be motivated by others to remain focused when they are learning a subject in their domain.
While researching options for educating students who are gifted, I came across varying opinions. The Internet offers various online educations geared specifically for gifted children. Some feel that this is the option that best ensures that the student will get the attention that they need, and that by learning in an environment built entirely for them, they will be able to stay focused and not fall behind due to boredom like they would in a traditional classroom. While an online education that is centered on one-on-one learning may be beneficial to some gifted children, many can flourish and grow even more in a mixed environment.
We cannot forget that all children, despite their differences, have the same basic needs. For some, taking them out of a traditional learning environment will create withdrawn individuals. Our text provides us with four options to allow a gifted student access to individualized learning plans without being removed from a regular classroom. This is done through special classes, acceleration and enrichment in the regular classroom setting, mentor and apprenticeship programs, and work/study and/or community-service programs (Hertzog 219).
The first option, special classes, is the most common method used when teaching gifted children. In my school district, we had a program entitled AGP. Students were referred by teachers, and then tested into the program. Twice a week we were pulled out of class to attend meetings and workshops that mostly consisted of learning good study habits and organization skills. In elementary school, we were pulled out of class during individual time in a lesson, and in high school, our meetings took place over lunch and the period before.
Although our district utilized this method by pulling students out of class during the day, other schools hold meetings after school or in the summer to avoid missing class. The next method discussed is acceleration and enrichment in the regular classroom setting. An example of this could be having a child that is showing enormous progress skip a grade level. While being the perfect option for some, this method has its fair share of disadvantages. I read more about this concept on a website called “brainy-child. om” that provides parents with information on their child growth and development in order for them to make informed decisions. On a blog on the website, a mom expressed her concern for her 9 year old daughters well being in regards to skipping the fifth grade.
Dr. Sandhu, an educational psychology expert helps her in making this decision. In response to the mom’s plea for guidance, she says, “The way I see it, ideally the decision to accelerate should be mutual, the child, parents, and school officials all agreeing that it would serve the child well…Explain that being the ‘best’ is not everything and that doing ones est is all that is required” (Sandhu). Mentor and apprenticeship programs is the third method discussed. This method is thought to provide a gifted student with the challenges and motivation that they need (219). It is important for gifted children out there to feel like they fit in even though they realize they are different. Having a mentor is a good way for a gifted child to feel like they can relate to someone.
There are many resources out there for this kind of relationship and it has become increasingly obvious that parents of gifted children need someone to turn to for guidance as well. The last method, work/study and/or community-service programs go along with the prior method. Schools are always looking for ways to motivate gifted children, as well as connect them with others who can relate to their lives. Some of these kinds of programs allow gifted children to tutor other children, which can translate to their role in a regular classroom setting during their school day.