Saturday, June 18, 2011

Gifted Awareness Week

Today marks the end of Gifted Awareness Week for 2011 in New Zealand. My hope is that it also marks the start of a new era of action for all those who are working with students of promise. I leave the last word to the children that I had the privilege of working with today.
My question ... What would you like teachers to know about you ?
And a sample of student responses...
-I can come up with good ideas if I am given time to think
(aged 10)
-I find normal school things too easy and I want to be challenged.
(aged 10)
- I'd like them to find out how I learn, why I learn the way that I do, and to understand my life outside school.
(aged 13)
- I'd like them to know that I am very eager to learn.
(aged 7)

So there you are, teachers. Over to you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Provoking change

Provocative questions are designed to motivate action or to bring about a change in perception or current response. They provide a focus for discussion or controversy, but they do set us thinking in ways that move us from where we are today towards where we want to be in the future. They reflect the need for an open, accepting learning environment. Independence, open-endedness and complexity are at the centre of the process. There are four components to the challenge of creating a change in perception.
• Defining the desired direction.
• Reflecting on the status quo and developing tolerance for ambiguity
• Recognising the authenticity of the challenge presented
• Taking responsibility for one’s actions.
Gifted Awareness week provides a starting point for thinking about where we want to go in supporting gifted learners. We have the opportunity to reflect on where we are at the moment. Current research and the students themselves are telling us that their learning would be improved if we were to create a more responsive child-centred learning environment in our schools that reflects the individuality, identity and culture of the student. It is time to put into place our resolutions and to take responsibility for the outcomes in a structured and reflective way.
Einstein was right. ‘The thinking that got us where we are today is not the thinking that is needed to get us to where we want to be.’ Our learning environment has become wider. We need to ask ourselves ...
What can we learn about ourselves by understanding others ?
How can one person make a difference ?
(Note that this question is not ... Can one person make a difference ?’ There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that it can be done and gifted students are often the ones to show the way. If you can’t see the way yourself, then don’t get in the way of someone who can and does.)
For questions to use in the classroom visit . The title to search for is ‘Provocative Questions... expanding horizons for thinking.’ By Elaine Le Sueur and Robyn Boswell.
For help to meet a specific student's needs, visit and find out more about the LSSNA (Le Sueur Student Needs Analysis)

The link to go back to Gifted Awareness week blog tour...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recognising a gifted sense of humour

One of the anecdotal ways for recognising a gifted child is the ability to notice how things are related in a more abstract way than most. However, relating behaviour to the appropriate system is often perceived, rather than logical. It accounts for the intuitive leaps in thinking made by creative individuals who have their minds open to alternatives. Frequently there is room for humour. A keen sense of humour is a characteristic of giftedness.
The Washington Post runs an annual contest asking readers to take any word from the dictionary, and then to alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter and supplying a new definition. This is a great challenge for able students... challenge your student to create a new dictionary!
Examples :
Remaindeer (n) (re-mayn-deer)
Members of santa’s force who are not needed at Christmas
Coffer (n) (coff- er)
The person who coughs over everyone
Coffee is the person coughed on.
Once you have laughed at these, however, look for the logic that underpins the perceptions ! Nobody ‘s feelings are hurt by such parodies because everyone laughs at the joke, not at a victim. Gifted children often make links to the ‘grey areas’ of language such as innuendo and allusion. Being able to do this takes a good knowledge base, intuition and the ability to reason.

Test your own ability to relate information to the appropriate system...
Give 6 four-letter words ending in –OUR
Give 5 four-letter words ending in –OIL
Give 4 four-letter words ending in –ORD
Give 3 five-letter words ending in –ENSE
Give 2 five-letter words ending in –LOTH
Give 1 four-letter word ending in –ENY
No ... I’m not supplying answers. Accept the challenge and keep trying !
For more ‘Tools 4 Talent Development ‘ see my publications under this name at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A SUPER learning environment

Giftedness is a state of being. Gifted children are not better than everyone else. Neither are they worse. Just different. Anne Marie Roeper states that our behaviours are governed by attitude and attitudes result from perceptions of the world and basic needs. Gifted children think and feel more intensely than other children. Their unique perspectives about life impact on their interactions with others of the same age, but these differences are normal within gifted. They are not necessarily accepted or understood or even recognised as they attempt to make sense of the world and create connections.
A fortunate case of overhearing, totally unprompted ... a six year old talking to a new child in her class... You will be OK. Everyone feels nervous when they start something new. I will be your friend until you can decide for yourself if you want me to be one... a perfect example of her heightened understanding that it takes time and effort to build bridges between ourselves and others. The result was a teacher’s increased awareness that she had a child with a unique ability to create relationships with others. She spoke privately to the student later, telling her that she overheard and appreciated what she had said, thanking her for making the new child’s day easier. She also determined to provide more opportunities for leadership for that student in the future. That teacher demonstrated what can be accomplished to meet the needs of a gifted learner by recognising exceptionality both in behaviour and perception.
So what is the optimum SUPER learning environment for gifted learners?
Support for the child’s special interests
Understanding of the phases of development
Protection from hostility and ridicule.Find like minded peers
Empathy with the student’s deep feelings. Encourage him/her to find ways to deal with personal challenges
Respect for the child’s uniqueness.Introduce him/her to role models.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Making a difference.

For the seeds of greatness to flourish, the conditions need to be conducive. ALL seeds need a supportive environment... the nourishment that provides the energy for growth, an atmosphere that allows it to breathe, and an environmental trigger such as sunlight to encourage them to move beyond a state of dormancy. Even seeds from the same plant germinate over a range of conditions if they are favourable. However, no-one would expect that all seeds will grow in exactly the same way and produce exactly the same results. As gardeners, we have it within our capability to make a difference for gifted children because we have the power to create ripples that will change the seed’s world for the better. Gifted children are like exotic seeds. They don’t come with instructions on the packet. Their traits are not easily measured.They are very different from each other so there is no single ability to look for as they are striving to take their place in the sunlight, and they won’t all bloom at the same time, or in some cases, at all.
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. ~Henry Adams
Teachers are not just those in schools. We are all role models to someone. Have you tended your garden yet today?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gifted Awareness Week, 2011

Tall poppies. High Fliers. Rising Stars. Odd bods. Creative thinkers. Bright sparks...
Who are we talking about when we refer to the term gifted/ talented children ?
How do I know that what I mean by these terms is the same as the meaning that you ascribe to them ? Defining terms is no easy task when no single definition is accepted by everyone, or even accepted by the majority. In Linda Silverman’s work with parents at the Gifted Development Center in Colorado, she has found that women tend to perceive giftedness as developmental advancement, and are concerned with how this faster development will impact on the child’s relationships with others, while men place all the emphasis on achievement. Neither of these views are complete in themselves in helping to arrive at a convergence because giftedness and talent are fluid concepts that look different in different contexts and cultures.
Francoys Gagné distinguishes between the two terms as being two ends of a continuum with natural exceptionality acting as the ‘raw material’ which is translated into talent as a result of systematic learning and practicing. While there is potential for a child to demonstrate exceptionality (talent) in an area if the environment is conducive to doing so, there is a distinction between what a child is capable of achieving and what he /she will achieve, and this is helped or hindered by a range of other physical and psychological catalysts such as the child’s temperament, motivation and volition, and by environmental influences. Family, people, culture and chance events all have a part to play and can change the course of talent development.
My own view as an educator is that there are children who are exceptional and demonstrate high performance and there are those who we may or may not recognise have the potential to do so. All children benefit from a classroom climate that is accepting and nurturing and should be given opportunities for creativity and challenge BUT we need to increase our understanding of how gifted children think and act in order to be in a position to provide optimal educational experiences aligned to their specific learning needs so that the right ‘buttons’ are pushed to enable them to pursue their dreams in the world of the future. I believe we should be striving for creative solutions to enhance engagement rather than simply bemoaning the tall poppy syndrome and making excuses. Gifted awareness week needs to be a time for reflection followed by personal action. Our gifted children are often forced to wait for their classmates to catch up in the classroom. They can’t afford to wait while the education community procrastinates indefinitely.