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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 2, October 2007

Teacher tips:
Making gifted education work for students

By Charlene Watts

Ask gifted/talented kids about school and most will be quick to say that it’s their number one hassle in life. It’s boring. It’s too easy. It’s repetitious. It’s irrelevant. It’s blah, blah, blah. And the reason schoolwork may be all of these things is because it doesn’t match their intellectual interests and capabilities. What can teachers do about it?

Acceleration allows students to jump to a higher level of class work than their ages would ordinarily dictate. Students may skip a particular class or an entire grade. Many studies show that when they’re allowed to learn at their own pace, students feel better about themselves, are more motivated and creative, and are more socially integrated.

School enrichment programs are designed to replace or extend the regular school curriculum. The goal of enrichment should be to help students work on higher-level skills, such as divergent and evaluative thinking, problem solving, and creativity. These skills can be taught through debates and discussions, research, or simulations.

Independent study
When students want to "do their own thing," an independent study may be just the ticket. Working at their own pace in a program of special interest, with a mentor or teacher as a guide, independent study programs usually require a plan that includes:

  • the object of study
  • a list of goals/objectives
  • a list of activities to achieve the goals
  • a final project.

Study plans often take the form of a contract and may have credit available through the Board Authority Authorization (BAA) process.

Advanced placement (AP)
Advanced placement classes may be appropriate for students who are looking for greater academic challenges and more opportunities. Is your school too small to offer AP or does it offer it only on a limited scale? No problem. Calculus students may take the AP exam without having taken the AP calculus course. And, there are no age or grade restrictions on who can take the exams. For more information, go to www.ap.ca.

Weighted grades and transcripts
Many students are given the option of taking secondary school courses at the honours level. Ask the principal or guidance counsellor what rewards exist for students who take honours level courses.

Mentorships enable gifted students to be paired with a student or an adult who is an expert in a particular area of study or profession they would like to pursue.

Early college entrance
Early college entrance is a time-tested strategy that is available to many gifted secondary school students. The dual enrolment option allows students to take college courses at a local university/college while attending secondary school.

Seminars and minicourses
These increasingly common classes are for students, gifted or not, with similar interests and abilities. Classes may be offered during or after school, or on weekends.

The ideas are adapted from The Gifted Kid’s Survival Guide for Ages 11–18, Judy Galbraith and The Gifted Kids Survival Guide II, James Delisle and Judy Galbraith. Delisle was the featured presenter at the 2007 fall conference of the Association for Educators of Gifted, Talented, and Creative Children (AEGTCCBC) in BC.

Charlene Watts is president of the AEGTCCBC PSA, the Bulkley Valley Teachers’ Association, and a member of the BCTF Professional Issues Advisory Committee.

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