Not the Gifted Child I Was Expecting

Illustrated by Buck Jones, 2002. All rights reserved

As students and teachers settle into new routines with one another, teachers are beginning the process of creating IPP goals for their coded students. 42, 43, 54, 80… each one means something different and figuring out learning goals to be implemented into all the other expectations and initiatives can be a daunting process. To assist teachers, I had students complete checklists in reference to their learning styles as well as identify some possible accommodations that they felt would assist their learning. It was very interesting to see the number of students whose learning inventories indicated they were visual learners. Linda Silverman’s work with the Gifted Development Center has included a great deal of research on Visual Spatial Learners (VSL). If you go to her website it is very interesting to see the difference between auditory sequential learners and visual spatial learners. I think it is a “must see” list for every teacher or parent who thinks to themselves “this was not the gifted child I was expecting.” While some students are well developed in both domains, the strong VSL’s often leave us wondering how to harness their gifts. The website offers some great links to explore.

As I reviewed the types of accommodation that students were asking for there were a good number asking for what you might expect from a gifted child: for things to move more quickly or to work at a higher level. There were also quite a few who wanted more opportunities to access computer based instruction and still others who wanted variety. And then there were those who asked to design their own assignments and learning experiences. I explored this form of differentiation while completing my masters thesis as I have always been curious about “ways of knowing” that do not fit neatly into our assessment practices. What I learned is that “knowing” can be deeply embedded in a vast array of connections and the access point for all that knowing can be different for each of us. As we can’t be experts in all the ways of knowing, it can be daunting to have students explore how they make meaning in unique ways. (I know how to assess an essay, but a tattoo or a rap?) It was through my own experience of songwriting my way through a thesis that I discovered not only the importance of being able to access your “meaning making” place, but also the rewarding experience of exploring how you got there. (In my world, the song comes first and then I work backwards through what it was that brought me to write it.) My advice for teachers? When you allow students to design their own project around a concept, don’t worry about how to mark the project. Instead focus on the conversation that explores the process. I have been amazed by where this journey with students has taken me.

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